Monday, July 13, 2009

Grand opening...grand catastrophe!

Life is quiet and uneventful here in the village. My cell phone is slowly dying on me so most days are passing without communicating with any other white people. Its strange and a bit lonely. Well, rainy season is now in full swing. Life is very quiet, drenched, and cold…well as cold as it can be in Ghana. It has rained everyday for over 2 weeks now. The past 4 days it has rained straight. During the rainy season the power is off much more frequently, lately it’s been off more than it’s been on. I spend a lot of time reading books, writing letters, and cleaning. I clean my room several times a week just out of boredom. Most Ghanaians don’t work when it rains…there isn’t much to do when it rains. We sit under the huts and cook or just wait and watch. When there is a break in the rain I used it to burn my trash or run and buy anything that I’m in need of…phone credits or food mostly. Doing my wash has become quite difficult, I find it best to do a little bit every few days and when ever the sun comes out I put my clothes out to dry for a few hours. It takes days to dry them. I even hang them on lines insides.
The western region is experiencing the worst rainy season it’s had in the past ten years this year. Everything is beginning to flood! This picture is a picture of my landlord, Ataku’s, farm it has flooded and the plants are all dying. Many people are beginning to loose their farms. Nzulezo, the village build on stilts above the lake has flooded. All it’s residents are still living there, fortunately the water has not become unbearable there yet. Many homes are starting to flood slowly as the water rises a few inches every day. The only road to my market town has washed out and can't be passed by cars now. The only other way out of my village the water has risen to the cars bumper. I hope I will be able to make it back to my village. It’s hard to see natural disaster happen in areas that already struggle just to get by.
My landlord is doing well. 2 weeks ago his pig had 10 babies so he was very excited after trying to have them for over a year. He was very disappointed when all 10 babies died within 3 days of their birth. Ataku says it was because of the rain, I guess he was right because 2 days after they died their pens were flooded. The water is now 20 feet off my back porch.
Enough of the sad news! The village is starting to fish again! The first of the boats are starting to go out and the fish that have been pulled in are amazing. They are the largest catches I’ve seen since I came here. It’s so exciting! When the nets are pulled in the whole village goes to see what the catch is like this year.
The kittens are doing fine, getting big and becoming trouble makers. They should both have new homes by now but the Ghanaian who promised to take Lucky is still in Cote D’Ivory. The kittens recently moved outside after a life in my room. My room is about 12X12 and its just too small for 3 cats and me. The liter box became too much to keep up with and my rooms was starting to smell. The kitten are able to climb on my bed now so I would wake up to liter box sand in my bed and cats attacking my feet. The mother cat got in the habit of brings rats into my room in the middle of the night. After 5 nights straight of waking up to throw the dead rat outside and her dragging it back in several times I had had enough. One of the final straws that broke the camels back was when I came home from work to little white paw prints all over my room. The kittens found their way on to my desk and got into the ashes from the mosquito coil I burn every night and had a ball. So they are now outside and they come to my window and cry for hours for me to bring them in. Its heart breaking but they are getting used to being outside. They are still adorable and come in every now and again for a few hours.
Yesterday was the grand opening of our visitor center in Ebonloa. We had been planning it for months and finally it is over and every second of it was difficult. We spent weeks preparing for the opening, painting, weeding, and preparing the gift shop. The visitor center looked amazing, we even spent the day before the opening decorating with ribbons and balloons. We spent the whole night before the opening praying the rain would take a day off but I guess we didn’t pray hard enough. It rained all day! The roads were covered in mud and even rivers of water. The opening ceremony started 2 hours late. We had chiefs from all over, representatives from the French embassy, the Ghana tourist board, Ghana TV, COSPE and Italian NGO, and many other VIPs. The show did go on… with wires to the loud speakers running through puddles and a generator running on high the opening prayers started. The poured a bottle of gin on the ground during the prayer to bless the opening…what a waste, I know. The drummers and dancers still preformed even out in the mud. During the middle of the ceremony chickens started walking around in the middle of all the tents. There was even a cock fight that interrupted one of the key speakers. 9 cars got stuck in the mud one of which needed to be moved during the presentation so there was a huge commotion during the presentation to push a car out of mud. The power went out during the ceremony also before we switched to the generator so the microphone and speakers were out in the middle of someone’s speech. Little kids ran in front of the VIP table during the whole ceremony covered in mud and in there underwear unaware that it was in appropriate. Every time something would go wrong…or something would be in appropriate according to the Western World’s etiquette the reps from the French embassy and I would look at each other and smiles. It was fun having someone there who also thought so of this was outrageous and someone who could laugh at some of the crazy cultural differences with me. At the end of the day when the ceremony was over and everyone’s best clothing and beautiful cloth has been splattered in mud the center was open. It was great to get home and shower off layers of mud and dirt after pushing several car out of huge mud puddles.
I'm sorry I wasn't able to post pictures, the internet is just too slow. I will update soon with stories and pictures of President Obama's visit to Ghana. It was amazing. I will also come back and add some cool pictures I have. I love you and miss you all!

Monday, June 1, 2009

For Grandma!

For my Grandmother and all other avid birdwatchers who are interested in some of the birds in West Africa that I've seen. All of the pictures were googled because my camera isn't this good, but I've seen them! Birds names is beneath the photo.

African Finfoot

African Jacana
(or Lily Trotter)

Malachite Kingfisher

*One of my favorite birds!

Cattle Egret

Pied Kingfisher

Purple Heron

*One of my favorite pictures

Black Bee-eater

Laughing Dove

Red-eyed Dove

Woodlands Kingfisher

(or Senegal Kingfisher)

Cinnamon Chested Bee-eater

Western Reef Egret

Great White Egret

Little Egret

*Of course I can't tell a difference between any of these Egrets

African Pied Hornbill

Olive-bellied Sunbird

Village Weaver

(or Black headed Weaver)

Their are tons more but I'm out of time! I hope you enjoyed them Grandma and I wish you could be here to see them yourself. Love you and miss you!

Surfs up!

Look at this, 2 blogs posted in less than 1 month. I must be turning over a new leaf! And I'm planning to post 2 today if I have time!

Work has been keeping me very busy for the past few weeks. As a matter of fact work is what's brought me back to the internet so quickly. We are preparing for the grand opening for out new visitor center in Ebonloa. The opening is set for June 26th and we are hoping to get the French Ambassador to come.

In preparation for the opening we are trying to prepare the grounds and put up some fresh paint. I'm in charge of getting the gift shop ready. I'm designing and having furniture made and finding crafts for the shop. I'm at the internet today researching West African birds, sea turtles, sperm and humpback whales, mona monkeys, and information on fishing traps. We've collected bird nests and local fishing traps to decorate the walls along with the information I'm researching. The new visitor center is in the picture on the right. The picture to the left is one of the fishing traps that will be used for decorating the walls. The trap is used to catch mudfish, tilapia, catfish, snakes, and monitor lizards. Yum yum!

Another activity we've started planning is the Amansuri clean up event. The event will include the churches in 8 different communities. We will have a 2 hour clean up competition between the different church groups in each village. We are providing trash bags and gloves to all trash cleaners. Each village will be given rakes and cleaning supplies for participating. The winning church group from each village who collects the most trash will get an event t-shirt. The program will also include environment education in 12 local schools. The picture to the left is one of the villages who will take part in the clean up.

I've been working hard but I've managed to find time to play hard too! A nearby beach resort has had 2 Australians and 3 Americans staying with them for several weeks. I was able to use their surf board and go surfing. I was also invited to stay the night for free for their going away party. One of the owners, my friend Nina, also returned home to the UK for vacation. The going away party was beautiful complete with beach bonfire, fireworks, candle lit dinner, wine, and chicken curry.

While you were all home enjoying a long weekend of bar-b-ques and pool parties we had a funeral in my village. The man who died has spent the last 30 years in Cote D'Ivoire but as tradition calls for he was buried in his home town of Elloyin. My village was invaded by French speaking strangers. I became the biggest attraction in the village again. All the funeral guests were very excited to speak Nzema to me. My house was also invaded by more than 15 new guests. They slept strewn all over the floor in every room of the house. They kept the typical party hours of a traditional Ghanaian funeral, going to bed between midnight and 1am and waking up at 4:30 am for more dancing and drinking. Quite different from the quiet village hours I've adopted, go to bed at 7:30 to 8pm and wake up between 5 and 6am. Unfortunately they made themselves at home and all my plates, cups, bowls, and silver wear disappeared for 4 days. I assumed they would be returned after the funeral and long weekend was over but I was wrong. My landlord very apologetically informed me his guests took off with my kitchen wear to Cote D'Ivoire. I'm eating our of pots with my hands...true Ghanaian style! Oh and the picture on the right are a few Ghanaian kids playing with one of the most popular toys in Ghana. Its a stick pushing 2 of like a remote control car....right?

I believe that is the full 2 week update! I love you and miss you all!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spring time!

For Kime:

Spring is in full bloom in Ghana, rainy season has begun, little babies are running around all over, and bright flowers are blooming everywhere. The best part about spring in Ghana is it marks the beginning of mango season. I probably eat 3 or 4 mangoes a day and they are stacked up on the sides of streets for sale all down the road. the ocean has been "spoiled" according to the villagers, nobody has been fishing for the past 2 months and from what I hear they won't until July. I've been attempting to swim and I admit it's been tough. I can stand in water to my knees with wavers hitting over my head. The waves are huge and the rip tides are strong. I won't be sad when the waves and tides ease up! The fisher men have been repairing their nets for the past 2 months and they are ready for the tight season to be over.

My cat gave birth to 2 adorable kittens in my closet last month. They are just getting to the fun age where they wobble around and are very clumsy. They are two total opposites! One is curious and out going, I call her Daredevil, the other is a whip and always hiding, his name is Scared-cat. Scared-cat has a home waiting when he is old enough, he will live with one of my Ghanaian friends, Azaneboah. Azaneboah has named him Lucky and wants to keep him to remember me by.

It's hard to believe I've been living in Ghana for one year and 8 months. 6 1/2 months to go! It felt like last week all of my Ghanaian friends realized I will be leaving soon. My landlord and his family asked when I will be leaving and so did my NGO. Both told me they would cry when I leave. I am excited to get home but it will be hard to leave Ghana. I have bought my close of service (COS) ticket home. I'll be backpacking through West Africa with my good friend Terri, who is also a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Ghana. We will leave Ghana in early November and go through Burkina Faso, Mali, Gambia, and Senegal. We will fly from Senegal to Morocco and explore there for a week before taking a boat across the Gibraltar to Spain. In spin we'll meet up with 8 other PCVs from Ghana and take a 14 day cruise across the Atlantic on our way home. The cruise will stop in Portugal, the Canary Islands, and the Bahamas. It's going to be an amazing trip home. I'll get back to the US in December just in time to relax for the holidays.

(This is part of the crazy crew that will be making trouble on the cruise!!! Taken at my village on a fishing boat!)

Everyone has been asking me what my plans are after PC and I'm not sure to be honest. I'm not even sure where I will end up living but I will figure it all out when I'm home. For now I'm focusing on my work in Ghana and living for the moment. Work has been going great, after distributing the 10,000 copies of the brochure I made last year for the stilt village, Nzulezo. (These pictures are Nzulezo, the stilt village and some of my friends that live there) This year I created 5 different posters to promote new attraction in my area and my NGO has just made 4,000 copies of them. Our most famous attraction is Nzulezo, a village built on stilts above the Amansuri Lake, which is protected by Ghana Wildlife Society, my NGO. You can take a 1 hour canoe ride from Beyin to the village on stilts. There is also the Meandah crocodile pond which you can continue to from Nzulezo an additional 15 minutes. The crocodile pond has a boardwalk nature trail that is 500 meters long. Last time I was there I saw a mona monkey swing across the trail on my walk to the observatory on the crocodile pond. The last time I went to the crocodile pond I stayed the night there to research the crocodiles. The Amansuri wetlands is home to long snout, dwarf, and Nile crocodiles. (To the left is a terrible picture of me at the crocodile pond) We are also promoting a new visitor center at a village called Ebonloa. Ebonloa has a nature trail and is located on the Amansuri Lake as well so you can go to Nzulezo from Ebanloa too. In addition to Ebonloa you can see akepteshie distilleries and learn how the local people brew the local gin. Then there is the sea cruise, taking hand crafted wooden boats with an outboard motor 1 hour to sea and returning. Whale season will begin soon and you can actually see the whales jump from the shore. Another of our attractions is For Apollonia, a trade castle that was also used during the slave trade. (The picture to the right is Caitlin, Sarah, and I on a cannon outside of the castle. To the left is the inside of the castle.) Well you can imagine with all the attractions I'm staying busy. Our project was originally funded by the Dutch government, when that contract ran out the French decided to fund us. Our French funding ended this month and they just visited this week. We are hoping the French Ambassador will continue the funding after the visitor center in Ebonloa opens at the end of June. Oh, I also made post cards for our attractions and we printed 1,0000 copies that we are selling in our gift shops. I will try to send some out to my friends and family. I guess that about wraps up all the work I've been doing for my NGO. I am also working on building latrines for my village in my free time, which I haven't had much of. I will keep you posted on the latrine project as it continues.

Good news, I've managed to stay healthy since I returned from the states in January. I haven't had malaria or any infections this year. I've only had to fight off a little dysentery but I'm back to perfect health. Oh besides the current black eye I have, it's small though. I was riding home from market and I hit the side of my eye on the metal casing around the window of the tro tro. The roads are horrible, almost as bad as the drivers. I was hitting the roof on every bump. I didn't realize I had a black eye because their aren't any mirrors around but everyone in my village was trying to rub the bruise off of my face. They thought it was dirt, they can't exactly see bruises on their skin. They also always try to scratch my freckles off. Haha!

I love you and miss you all and can't wait to be home in December! My Dad decided to get a new hip while I've been gone and now he is acting like he is 20 years old again. Their might not even be work left to do on the house when I get home. My Mom of course is still staying busy at work and trying to keep my Dad in line, a never ending project. My Grandmother just left after spending 3 weeks in Florida with my parents. Congratulations to Griffin who just graduated from the fire academy. He is very happy living in Texas now. I'm missing all of my buddies from A&M who seem to be doing well from what I hear.

I think that's all I have for now. Sorry I haven't blogged in such a long time. I promise to post more frequently Kime! I love and miss you all. I hope their aren't too many type-os, I am always in a hurry at the internet. Looking forward to that beer state side.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back to Ghana

I am returning to Ghana after an amazing vacation home. It was a whirlwind of a trip that took me from Cocoa Beach, FL to Austin, TX, College Station, Houston, San Antonio, and even down to Lafayette, LA. I had a great time hanging out with my family in Austin and old college buddies in College Station. I got to visit with some old friends in Houston as well as visit the Fed, my old internship. I had a great time with my friends and family in Cocoa Beach! I want to thank you all for your love and support, I couldn't do it without you! Had a great time seeing you Vicki, John, Erica, Amy, Katy, Hunter, Derek, Susie, the Animals, my friends at the Fed, Mr. Fraga, Sarah, Kime, Frank, Butch, Johnny B, Don, the Pfleugers, Beelers, Hammonds, Cuetos, my folks, my Grandma and everyone else who made my break so wonderful! I enjoyed the company, the amazing food, hot showers, washing machines, air conditioners, warm beaches...well I guess I have that there also! All in all I couldn't have asked for a better vacation!
I'll take this opportunity to upload pictures of Ghana at a fast speed. Each picture is followed by a quick description.The man on the left is my landlord, he is like my father. He has made life in my village so much easier. I owe everything to Ataku!The next few pictures are friends in my village. She happens to be my closest neighbor and favorite cook.The last meal she cooked for me before my Christmas vacation!My little buddies!My favorite porridge maker!More friends!My seamstresses!
My seamstresses shop!The village church! I live behind the church.
I hope you all enjoyed the short tour though my village. Thank you again for all of your supports and letters. Only 11 months left and I'll be home!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Busy, busy, busy!

Life is great in Ghana! Sorry I haven't updated you all in quite a while. As you know I don't make it to the internet often and when I do it is rarely fast enough to upload images. I'm trying right now and so far it seem successful!As for work and my village, things have been going really well! I am planning to have my HIV/AIDS football tournament the weekend of Nov 29-30th. The students will teach HIV/AIDS lessons to the village over a loud system before, after, and during half-time in the local language, Nzema. Also, we will paint and HIV/AIDS mural on the palace wall the week before the tournament. I will keep you posted and take some cool pictures of the students, hopefully everything will go smooth for the first time!I am also working on a Peace Corps Partnership Program(PCPP) proposal to build public latrines and a cultural center in my village. Right now most people go to toilet on the beach, but they are very excited about the latrines! They have all promised that they will use them! Anyways, the PCPP will be posted on the PC website and people can make donations towards the project. They will also send requests for funding to a list of address I give sorry for those of you who start getting PC mail.What else with work...I made a brochure that has been sent to the print. They are making 10,000 copies! For those of you I haven't told, my primary project is marketing for a stilt village, Nzulezo. The money made through the tourism is divided and given back to several communities.The picture below is of an apateshie distilleries, and also the final product, jet fuel! Haha! I've learned to respect it after a few rough nights!

Now I want to tell you my favorite updates! My cat had babies on Halloween! I was in Accra the day they were born and by the time I made it home the 3 kittens were down to 2. I found them wrapped up in a fish net, I guess mom thouht it would be a good place to have them. They had cuts all over them becaue the string had cut through one of their skin. I fed her antibiotics through a syringe for 4 days, 3 times a day and she just had her 2 week birthday. They are both doing fine! Lil' Trooper who was cut the worst still doesn't have full use of one of her paws because it was cut half way though, but she is fine other than that.

Another project I am working on in my village is rabbit rearing, as an altenative proten source for the low fish rations in my village. Well my rabbit just had her first litter, 5 babies! Kojoe is a 16 year old boy in my village who I am teaching about rabbits, he is helping me take care of them. He came and got me when he found blood all over the cage and we got there just in time to see her give birth. She had 6 but one died at birth! All the kids who were watching the birth thought she was having rats. The picture on the left is the babies at 2 days old. The picture below is the babies at one week, alright so much more cute in my opinion!
I also have a new little boyfriend who is looking out for me. His name is Nanka, he is 10 years old and he comes to pick me fresh coconuts every afternoon. Last week it started raining and he ended up taking shelter in our tent and stayed the night. I have to chase him away every night at dark now. He is a sweet heart though!

This picture doesn't show it, but this tree is over 50 feet tall!
The picture below shows the site where our house will be! It is beautiful, it sits just 20 feet from the water on the beach. We watch beautiful sunrises to the left and sunsets on the right. It always has a nice cool breeze blowing too. Well till next time! Peace and love, Mandy