Saturday, November 29, 2008

I just read that post and it sounds like I hate life! Sorry about that. Things are beyond great 95% of the time and I get to do things everyday that are absolutely amazing. I've laughed at some things harder here than I ever have in my life, except at the Brian Regan concert.

Thanksgiving in Ghana

Holidays away from home suck, no way around it, but at least we had the other volunteers, or so we thought. PC decided to have 24 of them leave at 6 am on Thanksgiving to go to Accra to open their bank accounts. My bank, Barclay’s, didn’t need me to be there in person so I stayed behind with the few remaining PCT’s. We had planned on having Thanksgiving meal at like 1. They didn’t get back until 6 pm. So many people had gone that left getting the turkey to the pride of Jenison Adam Falk (visiting from Cape Coast!), Maria, and me. When I say getting the turkey I mean going to a turkey farmer, picking out a bird, killing it, feathering it, cutting it up, and baking it.
Maria actually ended up being the one to cut its throat but Adam and I did our share of the dirty work. It was honestly pretty cool to go through the entire process of preparing a turkey and then eating it in the same day. Despite having only like 17 people preparing food we still managed to piece together a delicious meal of turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with Halloween peeps on top, apple pies, plantain chips and salsa. After dinner, Adam showed Ghana dance moves they’ve never seen before.
It was great to have someone from home here but just plain weird. He’s been here 4 months and we’ve been here 2 but he’s leaving in a few weeks, we’re leaving in a few years. He’s sad that he’s leaving so soon and we try not to think about how far away that day is. It made for some great conversations. I’m jealous that he’ll be home for Christmas....and the next one. Maria and I were dead silent when he played I’ll be Home for Christmas on his harmonica in my room. He’s jealous of how immersed we get into the culture. We really didn’t do too much, just talked a lot, but I’m extremely happy he stayed with us.
Things are much easier at training when I have the other PCT’s and get mail once a week. You never know how much mail means until you get it I guess. I mean emails and such are great but I’d even put mail over phone calls. The Sports Illustrated that Aunt Ann sent me has a long waiting list for it (I didn’t tell them about the M&Ms) and thanks to Aunt Sue many PCT’s now know that Lumen Christi killed Onsted. They’ll win it all next year. Some of them also got to see how ridiculous I looked in middle school thanks to Annie’s picture of Mrs. Loveland’s 8th grade homeroom class. Pa, Grandma, and Sister sent me a letter that almost had me in tears, in a good way.
There’s a sense of nervousness with the PCT’s. We all know in 2 weeks it’s time to be on our own and do what we came here to do. We have our huge language final on Friday and then from there training’s basically done, the final soccer match is Saturday, I’m starting my taper.

One of my counterpart’s name is Mr. Agba and I pronounce it like Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars and always say, “IT’S A TRAP!” to him, I don’t think he gets it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good Times

Christmas lights on the bungalow! The kids love the lights at night.

Kwoko, my little brother, can make any day a good day. Notice the headphones aren't plugged in but he loves gadgets.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I think I ran to Togo

SorryI haven't been online or gotten mail in over a week so I'm way behindon everything. I have to start off by saying that my little brother atmy homestay who I play catch with every night is a lefty. I realized this about 2 weeks into our nightly routine when he missed a ball, tracked it down with his glove off and and chucked it back to me withhis left hand. His siblings said, "Of course Kwoko is a left." Here Iam making a kid who is a little slow to start play catch oppositehanded. When I told my real dad that he wanted to send a lefty glovebut by the time it got here I'd be at site for good.

Last Monday wetook off to the Bunso Cocoa College, not as great as it sounds, for our Counterpart Workshop. These were probably the 2 boringest days of mylife, but I did get to hang out with one of my counterparts, Oscar. He and I have the biggest height difference of any PCT/counterpart but we were both born on a Thursday (meaning we are called Yao) so we are brothers apparently. He is a great Kente weaver but his father, Mr. Agbais the best weaver in Volta and arguably the world. Mr.Agba will be the first to tell you that so he reminds me of coach sometimes, great, jk. He has been to expos in Paris, NY, and Denmark. Overall he's a really great guy and takes care of me though. We left for Kpetoe together and I was estatic to get to site and see my bungalow.

The trip across Ghana flew by, when I got there Mr. Agba was waiting to meet me. We chopped and talked for a while before they took me to my bungalow. It's nothing flashy, that's for sure, and it's rather small but I'm slowly starting to make it a home. When I got there it smelled, still does some and there are definitely like 12 bats living in the ceiling. On the upside the volunteer before me left me just about every type of household item I'll need (after I wash them). I do have an usually flushing toilet and a cold shower, but whowould want a hot one here?

Kpetoe itself is an awesome town I think. It's much larger than I expected but it's spread out. The town just has a beat to it, it's fun just to walk around. Mr Agba tells methat I where I run in the morning the left side of the road is Togo and the right is Ghana, I don't think that's true but still cool. MrAbga already has a loom ready for me to learn how to do Kente which is sweet. When he and I travel around we walk like 5 mins, get a Coke, greet people and repeat inserting a Gennius for Coke sometimes. That's what I'll be doing for the first 3 monthes suppositly. One day we wentway out to his farm, it's really relaxing out there, I drank and ate 3 coconuts directly off the tree, sometimes life is great here!

Othertimes it's flat out the loneliest I've ever and hopefully will ever be. When these times come out of nowhere I'm starting to have coping methods. 1st of which is get out of your room. Sitting there will get you nowhere. Saturday I had to get out so I decided to go to the Catholic church and say hey to the priest and tell him I'd be living here starting Dec 13th. When I got there there were some cars and tents set up. An usher came up to me and said "you are welcome" andtook me to be seated. I got sat in the first row of the "invitedguests" section. Turns out I walked into the 75th anniversary celebration, a 5 hour event hosted by the Bishop of Ho with easily like 2,000 people. It was very fun though a tad long, I think I'll like the Catholic church here alot, it's kinda like home.

There is much to do in Kpetoe and at the same time I feel hopeless about my primary project. I already think I have land to build a basketball court. If I can get rims and balls I think I can get poles, pavement, and paint. Coaching that would beawesome. There is also a 12 piece brass band that came out and playedfor me while Mr Agba was getting his hair cut. I've seen them playing at 2 community events already. They have 12 instruments but 55 kids in the class. The man who teaches them was taught by a lady from Nebraska! I'd like to get them another set of 12 eventually. Both of these are good projects because they will take time and I have plenty of that usually.

My primary project is just plain intimadating. These guys are good at what they do. They want a museum for their kente, which would be a great thing. My job is to look for ways to fund this project apparently. Between that and some work with exporting I'm pretty worried, these aren't the problems I had in accounting class.

SundayI wasn't doing too well but my friend Julie came and visited and thenafter that I sat outside and did laundry. People started coming up. After I finished I started writing down their names so I can learn them. If the kids knew my name they got a piece of candy, I'm gonna buy friends here but it's already working. I'm just gonna need more candy.

Sundays always end well with a call from home, too bad no Lumen team but ours can beat Oakridge. I go back to training on Wednesdayand will celebrate Thanksgiving with the trainees, Adam Falk will bejoining us from Cape Coast University so I'm excited to see a fellowLaker.

Currently I'm in Ho. This is my 2nd attempt at posting this blog. We just came from a SUPERMARKET! I kid you not, you would laugh at it but we were going nuts! Think like a party store with random stuff. Looks like I won't have to have everything sent from home. I only made one purchase though, CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. I might not be able to eat tomorrow but dang it my bungalow will have lights.

"It's no longer the White House, it's the Black House." A man in Kpetoe about the US elections, they love it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Teaching AIDS to Primary Level 6 children in Africa was easily one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. We went in there with great information and a pretty solid lesson plan. After about 2 minutes we had to throw it all out the window. We had to take it down to the extreme basics. It was rough at first but by the end we were really starting to get through to them. The few concepts they had heard about AIDS were so random and out there that half of our time was spent denying rumors. I can see that this is one area that I can definitely work on while I'm here.
We also met up with some Susu, or private savings groups, through the District Assembly. Everyone thinks that NGO's are an a amazing thing, and 3 of 4 are, but they do have their downsides. All the collectors wanted to know was how much money we were going to give them. When we asked what their biggest problem was they answered finding the right NGO's to get money from. They have become so reliant on these programs. PC does not come with financial aid, we're here to teach them sustainable skills so that someday they won't need all these NGO's. My job over the next 2 years will be to teach my counterparts enough basic business skills that I myself will become obsolete by the end of my service.
Things have been really great lately even though we did lose the first person out of our group. He was a good bud of mine and it's weird to think that it could be me home already. I'm really lucky to have a great host family here and above all great friends and family back home (today's mail was awesome). My 8 year old brother here, Kwoko, is like instant joy when I need it. He may be a little slow, I won't lie. We have a handshake and we've been playing catch lately every night, complete with Momma Aggie cheering, "YAAA Kwoko and Dan!" When the guys come over to play rummy we give him the 2 jokers and he's in heaven. He's pretty much a celebrity with the volunteers since both Adam and I love the kid.
This week I got to accomplish a few firsts. I watched my first pirated movie. In the large cities they sell these movies that are like 42 random movies in one and they're only 3 cedi. We watched Prince Caspian and it's really funny when people on the tape get up at the theatre to use the bathroom. I also had a conversation in 4 languages in a day, english, german, twi, and eve. I felt like my head was going to explode.
Next week should also be exciting as I get to open my Barclay's bank account, brittish bank=cool right? Thursday I also leave to go to my site for the first time. I will be staying there for a week and then coming back to complete training. Throw in the December election that I tried to hide from mom and it's a pretty exciting time for us. I think of you guys back home a lot and really randomly honestly. My fellow volunteers are pretty jealous of some of the stuff I get in the mail, you guys rock.

"What if my Tuesday is full?"-Julie in Language class, the Eve word for Tuesday is Blada, our instructor didn't get it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I totally forgot about the fruit here in the last blog! We get fruit as desserts, you do that to anyone in the states and they'd be like what the..? Here we're like heck ya. Pineapple, mango, oranges, tangerines, and apples are all pretty readily available and are pretty much amazing.
Fan Ice is milk and sugar pretty much frozen in a bag. You bite off a corner and suck it out. It comes in vanilla (tastes like frozen frosting), chocolate (those malteds you eat with a wood spoon), and strawberry yogurt (frozen Gogurt). Mikey, in a HUGE Texas accent, has been known to freak out when someone walks by with it. "HEEEY DAN, get Ya'll over here, they's got FANN ICE!" All water that I drink here also comes out of 1/2 liter bags. There is a big problem with this as the country is starting to be covered in trash, I will start using my purifier once I get running water.
The soccer match was a blast. The goals are logs in the ground with one across them usually. The field is mostly dirt. A big crowd came to watch cause there's not much else to do after church on Sunday. The trainers were short on players so I started on their team. The trainers had a 4 to 1 lead at half, one of the goals I scored but was booed by the rest of the volunteers. By half more trainers were there so I switched teams. We still lost but put up a good fight 7 to 3, when I scored in the second half for the trainees the cheers were super loud. This was just a warmup to the final on Dec 3rd. They're bringing in players from Accra but I think we still got a chance.
Tomorrow I get to teach my first AIDs lesson to an actual class. I'm not that nervous about it because I partnered up with a guy Adam, who is basically Kyle Lemoine when he's 26. They're both so similar it's scary. Kyle and I never really had trouble presenting so I'm confident him and I will not either, simple logic right?
They haven't given us our weekly allowance yet from last week so right now I'm poorer than poor. It's kinda fun. We usually get 2 cedis, like 2 dollars, a day and that's a stretch. Anyways things are going very well right now. I love hearing from everyone, please keep that up!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

1/2 through Training

Training is half over and the next half should go by quicker due to some more exciting topics. This morning, after getting text messages from my friends in the states at 4 am (made me laugh), I finally got to do some laundry, I hadn't done any in over a week. Laundry starts by my fetching 5 buckets of water from the well. I put them in big sink dealies, throw in some detergent that's like powerful as heck, and start scrubbing. After about 2 hours of this my hands get torn up worse than from rowing. What idiot brings white socks to Ghana?...that would be me.
I thought there were a few extra kids around the house this morning but did some pushups and bucket bathed it up like a regular day. When I got out there were like 25 girls running around waving clothes and screaming/singing. Turns out my host Aunt was getting married and was using the room next to me to get ready. All of my host relatives were in from all over. That meant my 1 year old niece and 4 year old nephew that had never seen a white person before. The time I spent with them today was really something else. I hope everyone gets the chance to have that much fun with kids.
Traditions coincide with ours and clash with ours at the same time. Some things I really have to train myself not to do. First off, you really can't use your left hand for anything. The left is for cleaning your body. If you shake someone's hand with your left then it's like saying you're poopy roughly. The same goes for waving, which can be hard when someone is on your left. When paying for anything always give and take with your right, which can be uber awkward doing a one handed switch. Also never touch food with your left hand. If you touch it with your left no one else will eat it and they'll think you're crazy for doing so. It sucks for the left handed volunteers.
Another thing with food is whatever you do, don't smell it. That means you think they poisoned it. It's so natural to sniff your food, try to not do it. Whatever I don't eat, my little siblings get to eat. Food here is not very varied. My diet consists of:
breakfast (amazing)
2 fresh eggs with tomato on sweet bread
or rice pourage sometimes.

The rest (usually pretty rough)
Red Red is my favorite, it's beans and plantain.
fried yam or plantain and cabbage
fufu-think raw bread dough dipped in peanut sauce that you shouldn't chew
banku-sour fufu
pasta once in a great while

fish is available but so disgusting I won't even touch it
goat, ginnie hen, chicken, "beef", grass cutter, lamb, snail (it was gross)

Saving Graces:
Fan Ice
plantain chips, I can make them!

Today is the first big staff vs trainees soccer match then hopefully bball again tonight or tomorrow. I just love it here sometimes. Tripp used Skype to call me for like 15 cents a minute, might want to look into that, and we talked just like we would back in the states. Nice to see some stuff stays the same no matter where you are.

Cody sent me some pictures and people thought the picture of all the srs in their varsity jackets was from space camp.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My friend Ana from Equador at Boti Falls

A kente weaving structure.

KENTE! I get to learn how to do this hopefully! More importantly though, I get to promote this.

Some Kente products. Notice the bags, those were a previous volunteers idea and they sell like woah. Let me know any new ideas for Kente.

Mud huts with mountains in the background in the Volta Region.

Some of the group on top of a huge bolder during the hike at Boti Falls a while back.

The viewing rock.

Boti Falls, the first waterfall I swam in, there's another one just off to the left of the picture.

My buddy Adam from Vermont and me poising under the 2nd waterfall we've visited. This pose is for Scotty.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween, Elections and Travel

The group is still going strong. No one has ETed (early termination) yet which is basically unheard of. On average you're supposed to loose 30% of your group during training.. We still might loose some, we're only halfway done, but I hope not.
The idea of Halloween doesn't even come close to existing here in Ghana, so what do a bunch of Americans do? We introduce them to our culture, it's the PC way. We had probably the tackiest costumes ever, due to lack of possessions, but the point was still made. Sam and I were Indians, get it, Native Americans?
The next morning we broke into our 3 sectors and took off for field studies. The 13 SED volunteers and 3 trainers piled into our "tour tro" and took off for the Volta Region. That's the region that my site is located at. It's absolutely gorgeous. We went to businesses and tourists sites for 5 days straight. From sites that attract about a person a day to full fledge fruit factories we saw it all. I however don't do well when I'm traveling without a point and had a low day. Sunday I didn't get to go to church, coincidence?, but we did climb a mountain and swam in another waterfall. The hike was a blast and water instantly drops the maturity level of anyone in Africa. When we got back we had a horrible lunch and an even worse dinner though. Food can be directly related to my mood here. That night I wanted to go home. Mom called and I was like "It's HORRIBLE." My phone had horrible or no service and I hadn't been online in a week so I was basically out of touch with everyone. Thankfully I packed the letters I got from Chrissy and the Arnies crew, those helped.
The next day however I woke up, had some fresh eggs and was in a great mood. From there the trip just got better. We saw a few District assemblies and sat in on a lotta really cool stuff. The best part for me was when we went to a Kente village. It was insane, just so awesome! I got so excited I was like jumping for joy. This wasn't my village, it was Steve's, but my village is actually better known for Kente. Here is where I finalized my nickname, "Tuttle". In the movie Volunteers about the PC, John Candy plays a character named Tom Tuttle from Topeka that is so excited about the PC and is beyond prepared. I love it here and I came in having been in West Africa before, able to speak Twi a little, and read up on the history. I also made 2 remarks during "how to start a business" session along the lines of "avoid alliteration at all costs" followed 2 minutes later by "proper placement of prominent products." Thus Tom Tuttle from Topeka works. I called mom that night to let her know I wasn't hating life.
We stayed a night at a very rustic but very beautiful resort on top of a mountain. That night a retired Dutch anthropologist decided to sit next to me while I was reading. He seemed very nice but he hated Americans and Bush. I didn't get defensive but just sat there and listened to him talk. It was pretty interesting actually.
Then we went to the city Ho, which is 15 miles from my site and will be my local large market. I had heard it was everyone's favorite city in Ghana but so far all cities seemed the same. Ho is different, actually kept clean, spread out, and has a store in it that usually has cheese! There's also a spot called the White House where NGO's from all over come and chill. We met a group from Sweden. That night when we were just about at each others throats we showed up to our hotel and it had a pool. We freaked out and played in in for hours. Other guests took pictures of all the crazy white kids.
Today we toured the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, complete with golf course, high school, and police. Cocoa is serious here, 2nd largest producer in the world but best quality. Then I finally got to come back to my host family. I missed them and the comforts of having your own room.
Most important thing now, the election. I can't describe how awesome it was to be in Africa when the first African American president was elected. With the time difference, and we don't do daylights savings so we're now 5 hours ahead, it was cool to wake up and watch it live at 4 AMish. The people here are so excited about it. I won't get into politics but it was an experience I'll never forget.
I think of you guys a lot and due to medications dream about some of you really randomly (Blake and I made our major league debuts with the Texas Rangers against the Tigers a few nights ago. We were carrying bats like oars to the wrong dugout and Jimmy Leland was like, Umm Danny, that's ours. Blake doesn't play baseball.)