Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps’

“I told myself that I was going to live the rest of my life as if it were Saturday.”

September 30, 2017

During the night, I grabbed the afghan as my house had gotten so cold. This morning it was 66˚. I admit I turned on the heat for a while until the house was warmer. Putting on a sweatshirt also helped. The sun was out when Gracie and I got the papers. Now the sky is cloudy, and rain is predicted for this afternoon and evening. I have nowhere I have to be today, and I’m glad.

Saturday has always been my favorite day. When I was a kid, I had the whole day to do what I wanted. Breakfast and favorite programs were first then I was out the door. Mostly I rode my bike so I could explore more. No part of town was out of riding reach. The best end of town was the zoo. It didn’t cost anything in those days. Sometimes we’d ride to the next town over and bike around Lake Quannapowitt. Other times we had no destination. We just rode around town and checked out our favorite places like the house of the newspaper and rag man which had a huge porch and an out-building, both filled with papers. We’d check out the town barn and the horses. On warm days, the firemen sat outside the station in front of the engine bays, and we’d stop to talk with them. They’d let us go check out the fire engines. We’d ride down the hilly driveway to the schoolyard then skid in the sand along the sides of the yard just for the fun of it. I don’t remember ever being bored, even in winter we found stuff to do.

When I was in Ghana, I’d go into town on a Saturday and roam the market hoping to find something unexpected. When I’d finished, I’d sit and have a cold Coke at the one place which had a fridge. It was the last store in a line of stores on the main street. It had a few tables and chairs outside. It was there an American guy stopped to talk to me. He wanted to know where the bare-breasted women were. I was angry and horrified. I told him so. He quickly left. I never ran into him again.

When I was working, I wanted one free day to do whatever I wanted. Saturday was the perfect choice, the historical choice. Once in a while I’d grocery shop on Saturday and once a month I’d dust and vacuum, but mostly Saturday was for fun.

Now I always say every day is Saturday.

 

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“Marshmallow Fluff is the greatest thing ever invented”

September 17, 2017

I apologize for yesterday, and I thank you for worrying as I know I usually let you know. I slept later than I intended and had time for getting dressed, a quick cup of coffee, feeding the animals and taking Gracie out. It was International Festival Day at the local college, and I was at the Peace Corps table all day. Luckily I had packed what I wanted to use to decorate the table so I just grabbed the stuff and left. When I got home, I napped.

A couple of people who stopped at the PC table were surprised to find Peace Corps still existed. I guess we don’t do a great job advocating for ourselves. One man stopped and asked me if I knew who he was. I did, just by his question. Twice before I had met him, asked his name and country of service. Each time he answered a bit testily that he was with me in Ghana. I still didn’t recognize him this time either but said, “Gary?” and he smiled. I had guessed right.

It is a bright, beautiful day now, but it started out foggy, a fog which hovered around the lower limbs of the trees and atop the roads, covered the bridge and hung just above the ocean. When I was a kid, that was the scariest fog. It hid the sidewalks. Noises were amplified and footsteps echoed. We’d run if we heard someone behind us. We never knew who or, even worse, what was behind us. It could have been the man with the hook or some mass murderer looking for another victim so we ran as fast as we could. It never occurred to us the footsteps might be from something benign. In the fog it could only have been something scary and evil.

The paper today had a page devoted to Marshmallow Fluff which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. About 7 million pounds of Fluff is sold each year which is mind boggling given how light Fluff is. Fluff has only 4 ingredients: corn syrup, sugar, dried egg white and vanilla. When I was growing up, we always had Fluff in the cabinet because a fluffernutter was a quick snack: thin on the peanut butter, thick on the Fluff. The only problem was being careful not to tear the soft bread when slathering the Fluff. 50% of all Fluff is sold in New England and Upstate New York. I still keep Fluff in the cabinet. I never know when I might just want a quick snack.

“Be music always. Keep changing the keys, tones, pitch, and volume of each of the songs you create along your life’s journey and play on.”

July 10, 2017

Okay, a lady walks into a computer store, dead computer in hand. She waits while the technician tries a few things, but there are no easy fixes. She forks over $80.00 and leaves her computer for 3 to 5 days meaning the poor woman faces more time in iPad hell, but she is still a bit hopeful as she knows hope springs eternal. On the way out of the store a line of new computers are all connected and sitting in a row against the wall. She foolishly tries one. It’s magic she thinks. The computer is speedy, the touch needed is a delicate one and it has this changing sort of screen at the top of the keyboard. Wow, she thinks then calls over the guy and asks a few questions. There is still time to run, but she doesn’t. She stays and plays with the computer. In a short while, she walks out of the store with computer in hand, a new MacBook Pro with a 15 inch screen, Siri and all sorts of bells and whistles. The woman is smiling.

Today is a beautiful sunny day. It will be in the low 80’s, tolerable when there is no humidity. The breeze is ever so slight; only the leaves at the end of the branches move up and down. I have doors and windows open. Every now and then the chimes ring. It is the sweetest sound. It is the only sound now.

Earlier, the neighbor’s dog was barking for what seemed hours. Another neighbor had her landscaper mowing her lawn and cutting the front bushes. It was around 8 when the the mower started. I am against raucous noise in the morning.

On my school compound in Ghana the morning sounds at first were so different they woke me far too early, but soon enough they became part of my consciousness, and I didn’t hear them while I slept. Roosters were the first sounds I heard and the first sounds I learned to ignore. Next, I could hear the swish of hand held brooms made of stalks. My students were sweeping the whole compound including the dirt in front of my house. Afterwards, they lined up in front of two spigots to fill buckets with water for their baths.  I could hear the clicking of the buckets, the flowing water and the conversations in the line. By then, I was usually up and dressed and having my first cup of coffee while sitting outside on the small concrete porch in front of my house.

After a while, I took for granted those sounds, but I had stored them away in my memory drawers. When I went back to Ghana, to Bolga, the first morning sound I heard was a rooster. It woke me up, but I just smiled, turned over and went back to sleep.

 

“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”

May 13, 2017

This has been one of those mornings. Gracie has wanted out five times. She comes inside, jumps on the couch then wants down and out again. Maddie meows in a demanding way over and over. I finally reached the end of my patience and told both of them to leave me alone in a not too quiet voice. I felt silly afterward.

A nor’easter will be here tomorrow. Meanwhile we’re living with forever clouds and cold, so cold I was surprised by it on my first outside trip with Grace. I was also surprised to see the guys working on my lawn and gardens. They were spreading mulch in the gardens and reseeding Gracie’s dots. The air smells of the mulch.

The other day I watched a YouTube video about Ghana. I think I smiled all the way through it. I love the country and its amazing people. That seems to grow over time. I have been back three times and would love to go one more, an anniversary trip in 2019, fifty years since I started training, or a trip in 2021, fifty years since my Peace Corps service ended. To get there, I’ll have to scrimp. Each trip was about 6 or 7 thousand or somewhere in between the two. After last fall’s amazing trip, I’m starting with almost nothing, but that’s okay. I like a challenge.

I could go to the dump today, but I’m thinking a sloth day. I watered the plants yesterday and that was it, but I still felt a sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t take much.

I watched The Lone Ranger this morning, one from 1950. I recognized one of the actresses. She also played Penny from Sky King. I think the Lone Ranger is the second best dressed TV hero in black and white, following Paladin, quite the sharp dresser.

I remember Paladin’s business card with the knight chess piece in the middle and Have Gun Will Travel across that middle of the card and the knight. Underneath it said Wire Paladin, San Francisco. When I was young, I thought Wire was his first name. When I was older, I found out that a paladin is a knight.

The Lone Ranger and the Indian chief just ended their conversation each with one open hand raised. The chief said go in peace. Immediately Spock came to mind. The Indian’s gesture was like a live long and prosper from Spock.

Gracie and Maddie are awake. My peace has ended.

“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.”

January 26, 2017

“Rain, rain go away come again another day.” When I was young, I thought this nursery rhyme had a bit of magic about it. If I sang it enough times, the sun would reappear, and I could go out to play. I’m singing it now with the same hope. It has been raining since Monday. The sky alternates between angry clouds and greyish white clouds. The rain is sometimes heavy and other times just a fine mist, spitting rain my mother use to call it. I saw the sun for an hour or so the other day. It gave me a bit of hope.

I do a couple of house chores every day. Yesterday I watered plants, changed my bed and paid my bills. I haven’t gone anywhere, haven’t wanted or needed to. Tomorrow, though, I have a list of errands so Gracie and I will hit the road. Maybe if I cross my fingers and wish for sun, it might work.

When I was young, I had snow boots but not rain boots. Nobody I knew had them either. I also didn’t have a raincoat or an umbrella. I always got wet. It was the usual thing.

During the rainy season in Ghana, I got wet. Sometimes I had to run from my house to the classroom block when the rain was heavy, but I didn’t mind. The rain was always welcome. I’d even shop in the market while it was raining, but if the rain got really heavy, I’d stand in the doorway of a building or inside a small kiosk until it lightened or stopped. The rain was a gift to make crops grow.

I love the sound of rain. Even when I was kid, I loved the rain beating on my bedroom window. In Ghana the rain on the tin roof of my classroom was sometimes so loud that I couldn’t teach, but I could fall asleep listening to the rain. Its steady beat was comforting in a way, amost like music, maybe even a lullaby.

“Colder by the hour, more dead with every breath.”

January 15, 2017

This morning I just didn’t want to get out of bed. It was 9:15 when I first woke up. Considering how late I went to bed, I figured it was too early to get up so I snuggled under the covers and went back to sleep. I slept until 10. Maddie started howling. Gracie was snoring. I decided the bed was too warm and I was too comfy so I went back to sleep. It was easy. I slept another hour so it was close to 11 when I dragged myself out of bed. I have no guilt at sleeping the morning away. I have no obligations, no errands and no chores though I could do a laundry, but I won’t.

Last night I want the Patriots beat the Texans. It wasn’t the Pats best game as Brady was intercepted and sacked, but my Pats prevailed. The game started late, 8:15, and ended late so my friends and I decided to make it an evening. First, we ate Chinese and played Phase 10, our favorite game. I happened to win. Clare and I alternate winning. Tony hasn’t won since last March. We’re planning a gala for his anniversary of one year without a win. He isn’t looking forward to the festivities.

It was cold last night, 24˚, so today at 34˚ feels warmer. The low this evening will be 19˚. When I lived in Ghana, it was hot and dry in January. It was harmattan. Dust blew over everything. The sun was obscured. Rain was months away. My candle melted without being lit. The water was often turned off. I took bucket baths, and I had to take a few before I got the knack. I got good at it.

During Peace Corps staging, a time when we all came together for nearly a week before leaving for Ghana, I was asked if I minded going to the north. My response was to ask why the question. What was it about the north? The psychologist asking the question didn’t know the answer. I told him I didn’t care where in Ghana I was to be posted. That settled it. I went to the far north, the Upper Region. I even knew before I left staging I was going to be in Bolgatanga. The remote posting areas were filled first. That was Bolga. That was the place with a long dry season when days reached 100˚ or more. I think of that this time of year, the coldest time of year here in New England, but if I were given a choice between the two, the hot, hot dry days or the freezing days and nights, I’d chose the cold. I couldn’t escape the heat, but I can always bundle up to escape the cold.

“If things are getting easier, maybe you’re headed downhill.”

November 13, 2016

Today is a glorious fall day, sunny and warm. Gracie has been outside most of the morning. She knows a good thing when she sees it. Well, I never did get to that laundry. It is still sitting in front of the cellar door, maybe today, maybe not. I do have to make that dump run as the dump is closed the next two days, and my trunk is filled with trash.

Today I am going to grocery shop from the convenience of my home. My refrigerator is pretty empty. I’m down to having eggs for supper.

When I was in Ghana, the Peace Corps sent us the insert The Week in Review from the Sunday New York Times. I didn’t have a radio to listen to the Voice of America and the Ghanaian papers had mostly local news so that insert was the only current news I ever got about the United States. I did get the whole New York Sunday Times as a gift but the issues came months later in groups of four or five. Usually, I didn’t read the news but devoured the rest of the paper. Though so much was happening at home, I was disconnected. My life revolved around Ghana: teaching my classes, shopping in the market, greeting people and continuing to learn Hausa, traveling on vacations and developing friendships with Ghanaians and my fellow volunteers. The United States was just too far away.

On this last trip to Ghana, I did check the news each morning on my iPad. I kept track of the election but little else. That feeling of disconnection returned, and I didn’t mind. I was back to being involved with Ghana: with the heat, with my former students, with my favorite Ghanaian foods, with my bathroom runs (sort of a pun) and with my friends. I was glad for the respite.