Tuesday, September 29, 2009

a year in africa by the numbers

exactly 1 year ago today we stepped off the plan in Accra
42 Peace Corps Trainees arrived
40 Peace Corps Volunteers Swore in
40 are still here
I've had:
4 hot showers (3 of which when Meg Hub paid for hotel rooms)
44 books read
18,061 pages read
49.48 pages/day
261 games of minesweeper won on expert
1 woman driver out of all the cars I've been in
1 cell phone tower
20 hours longest time in a tro tro in a day
1 cinnamon roll
200+ morning runs
1 marathon ran
4:43 marathon
43 minutes off my goal
0 times wearing jeans
368 days without hugging mom
15 months since Tripp and I have lost in darts
over 25 countries represented in tourists at my site
5,836 cedi sold of kente (recorded)
2 bear fights with Adam Luck
1 US presidents hand shook
1 first ladies hand shook
1 goat hit on bike
1 crooked nose from hitting goat on bike
1 chicken break in
1 lion attack near my village
3 Skype conversations with family
0 baseball games attended
$4,000ish donated towards basketball court so far
1 kente pattern designed and named by me
365 days in the same Adidas sandals
75 ish buckets of laundry by hand
1/3 of my clothes ruined until i learned how to wash better
5 languages attempted to be used in conversations in 1 day

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My water’s been out for a few days which just means living off the water in my barrel for a while. I only have a few cups since usually I do dishes after each meal because the ants will attack if you don’t. With water out I didn’t do dishes after dinner last night and only had one cup for this morning. After my run I made up some Propel and a neighbor boy about 6 years old comes up to me. They like to try American things so I go to make him some Propel and realize I’m outta cups. So I grab my Michigan double shot glass and fill it up with Propel (which is clear) for him, hand it to him, and we hit glasses on my front porch. As soon as we go to drink my neighbor comes out of his bungalow. “For Daniel, It is too early for that and he is too young!”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some Kente Festival Pictures (before batteries died and I picked a fight with Brits and Germans)

Yes, that is strips of kente

Bright's speed caught in picture

imagine this on a full court.
Being away from site for almost 2 weeks can be overwhelming. It was refreshing and reminded me of how great I have it in Kpetoe. However, it also exposes just how daunting of a task that PC and the likes have taken up. I’m very partial but I truly believe PC goes about development the right way. It’s definitely not the easy or short way.
We don’t come offering money, we offer trainers/facilitators. Often we don’t get to see our results and yet we spend the longest time here. While we’re forming groups and trying to transfer knowledge NGO’s are constructing buildings and donating vehicles. It can be extremely frustrating when people don’t want to work for something because they think that someone else should come and do it for them. Luckily I don’t deal with this too much but lots of PCVs do. The others leave infrastructure and buildings, what will we leave?
These are just the tip of what PCVs deal with. If you don’t like sports or carpentry and want to have a long conversation with me pros and cons of development is a good choice. With this much time to think sometimes stuff just gets to ya. I say all this because I just got to catch up with about half of my group and I’m hoping it’s just a phase but overall we’re just not that happy. No one has gone home yet but it looks like that will be changing relatively soon. A year away from home is a long time especially when you don’t have that many concrete accomplishments. We all miss people and know we’re not even half way done.
At the same time I look at how our group has changed and what small changes we’ve helped to bring about and I’m honestly pretty proud. We can eat just about anything, picked up new hobbies, languages, and friends and really have had some successes. The cultural exchange is there just by us living alone in our communities. Our health volunteers have done HIV/AIDs camps, programs, and even dramas. Our environment volunteers have planted millions of seeds and aided in alternative livelihood projects. We business volunteers have the most range to our work but we’ve had our share of things to write home about too. I may not have done much but when you add it to the little things the rest of the group has also done…then we’re making progress. It’s slow and frustrating but we’re going about it the right way.
You’re probably like after all that dependency talk you’re getting your family and friends to build a basketball court? Defense: It’s not something they need to survive, it’s for the kids, and HIV/AIDs awareness is something that I truly believe we need to continue to do. I want to do that in a fun way. Also, have you seen “The Air Up There”?.

“Local bands in California sing about Michigan.”
-Marcus after asking who sang a song about California of mine.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Conference has been kinda long but very legit overall. Marcus and I have won 2 best of 7 Euchre series making us the best players in the country and it’s been great to catch up with some of the group. The hotel we’re staying at is hilarious. I call it an IKEA store cause everything looks really awesome but doesn’t work.
We had a person living with AIDs here in Ghana come and talk to us a few days ago and that was probably my favorite presentation so far. She was very calm but very powerful. Oscar forgot to bring a belt so on our way here he bought one with a belt buckle that says “NO!” in huge levels. We call it his chastity belt. Some of the statistics and whatnot are really staggering.
I know I’m still no HIV/AIDs expert so when I do the basketball gala and presentations I’ll have some of our more medically inclined PCVs come and present, I’ll ref the games. Gotta do what you do well.
We watched Game 5 of the NBA finals tonight and the commercials were almost as cool as the game.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Festival was pretty slow all week until Friday when all the chiefs and big men went out to a small village with muskets and home brewed Akpeteshie. I didn't think this "Firing of Musketry" sounded all that safe and I ran 22 miles that morning so I took a rain check. When they came back and I saw what state they were in I'd say I made the right choice but they gave me a hard time. Should PEACE Corps volunteers be firing guns anyways?
Rest of the day was just awesome. The national breweries sponsored a street Jamboree Fri and Sat nights. The roads were packed and I won a towel, t-shirt, and Guinness jersey. Saturday was the Grand Durbar complete with VP of Ghana and South Korean (Chrissy musta sent him) Ambassador. They carried all the chiefs and a small girl in canoes from town to the grounds which is now Julie and I's long term goal for next year. There were at least 20-30 obvious tourists and 1,000s of Ghanaians so hopefully the ads we put up helped.
The only negative would be the quality of some of the people that came. I love the people of Kpetoe but not always the big city people. 2 characters from Accra tried to make me pay to take pictures. Our strength is that we don't do crap like that to our tourists so I was not happy. All in Eve (somehow) I asked them where they're from, told them I lived here, and that I'm sure my personal friend, Paramount Chief Nene, would be intrigued to hear about his personal photographer being harassed. They seemed to lose some authority. The next day a friend of mine had 2 phones stolen from her. That stuff never happens in my village and if I would have told Michael and crew they'd still be looking for the culprit.
The next day Oscar and I took off for Kumasi for the HIV/AIDs workshop we're at now The hotel has wifi!!! Doesn't always have water but still awesome. Kpetoe to Kumasi is like Jackson to Grand Rapids. We left at 8:30, 7 cars, 2 breakdowns, and 10 hours later we arrived.
I think I need these 2 weeks of conferences as a break but I'd still rather be at site. Around the 1 year mark it's not supposed to be easy and lately I haven't been quite as excited about being here. Others in my group are similar. We all love it here but have been here so long and are still not even half way home.
Today we had to say what we're doing for HIV/AIDs awareness and I talked about the basketball court plan and how my family raised $1,000 via garage sale. The whole room applauded, wish you guys coulda been here for that. I'm getting some great ideas for how we can maximize the effectiveness of the court once it's built. Alan and Marian are trying to beat me to filling their proposal. They're retired so their friends hopefully don't still have college loans like mine!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It’s Kente Festival time. All over the Agotime Traditional Ruling Area people have pitched in to help. Sounds like a lot of fun but 8 hours of preparation debates in Ewe gets a little old, over 2 hours were spent on the prizes for the Ms. Kente Pageant, they decided not to have a Mr. Kente since no one could challenge me. It’s still going to be really cool with the speed weaving and design contests. The guys want me to enter the speed weaving competition because I’d be the fastest white weaver ever (big accomplishment). It was weird promoting something that you’ve never been to however; we’ll see how it turns out.
The more I work with the big men and Queen Mothers the more I appreciate my weavers. Bright, Francis, Richard, Oscar, Joshua, and the likes are just all around good guys. Joshua weaves all day 6 days a week and then sings in the choir at his church on Sundays. He and Bright are also the first guys to help with any manual labor for our projects or to come cut my grass. If he sees me struggling in my loom he’ll jump out of his and come over and set me straight which can take a while. There are up to 20 weavers in the center at once and they pretty much just weave and chat. They don’t compete against each other for sales but rather sell for each other if they’re not there. When tourists come they just hang up their cloths and get back to work. Their laid back attitude and quality of work are our best selling points. Some strips take up to a day to weave and then they’ll sell them happily for like 4 or 5 cedi (~$3). I’m glad that I get to work with them the most because as much as I’d like to complain they got it rougher and they’re still happy.
Football season has started again and that really helps. Weekdays I’m usually great but weekends alone with nothing to do can get to ya. Back home weekends were nonstop fun, sometimes too much so. I really get into some of the football matches which makes up some for the lack of social life. I was legitimately depressed after Man U came back and beat Arsenal last week, like I was really into that game and so was the rest of the packed TV hut. My dad wouldn’t be too proud to hear that but I promise if the BoSox make the series I’ll go watch the games in Accra, which will start around midnight here. Until then the Blackstars’ World Cup Qualifier Saturday will have to do.
August broke the streak of consecutive increase in attendance months at 6 but still had a solid 50 guests. We did set a new record in sales with 1055 Cedi.
Megan successfully smuggled bootleg Harry Potter 6 DVDs home, my little sister is using hers a ton.