Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My new pattern

The maroon and gold pattern is the hard one that I used to break like 37 strings while doing.

Let’s see this week I wove, worked out, and read…a lot. That’s about it. Really changing the world eh? Highlight of the week was probably the Spam sandwich I had compliments of Mrs. MegHub. It was delicious; which I think means I need to go home.
Still waiting on the transfer for the basketball court money. We did finalize, or at least I think we did, the location for our visitors’ center which took months. We’re hoping to be able to start building the court after I get back from Togo and Benin Nov 8th if we have the money. Hopefully around then the construction manager will come and approve the site for the visitors’ center too. Ideally the court is built by the time I go to the States for the holidays but that’s not very likely. I want to be able to show people who donated the finished product that they funded in like record time.
Togo and Benin should be a nice break though. Kevin and I don’t really have an agenda but they are French colonies so the food is better. We’re gonna stay close to the coast and there’s voodoo villages, who doesn’t love witchdoctors and beaches? I know I do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My closest PCV neighbor, Julie, works with an NGO and found this as proof of the amazing work and cultural understanding she been able to promote in her time here in ghana. the following is a VACANCY flyer she found this morning that her counterpart typed up. this is how the counterpart views her job:

If not for her hard work there would be nothing crossed off, though she does need to work on their speaking good english.
Friday night in the Under 20 World Cup Final the Ghana Black Satellites (Sr national team is the Black Stars and Women’s team is the Black Starlets) played Brazil. This match was HUGE here; everyone stopped whatever they were doing to watch it. Ghana didn’t play their normal exciting game of quick crosses and athletic deflections, Brazil was in control. Just before half Ghana even lost a man due to a questionable red card and would have to play down one man the rest of the match. They somehow held on for regulation and 30 minutes of OT to force a shootout. Tension in the TV hut was high.
Twice during the first 5 attempts it looked like Ghana had lost. All Brazil had to do was score but our keeper stopped one and a player kicked the ball inches over the net. After 7 shots finally Ghana won and the chaos started. Singing, dancing and chanting while the showed them receiving their medals and then it all moved to the streets. Parading up and down our main street with drums and any noisemaker they could find. In Accra apparently the partying didn’t stop until 4 am. This was the first time an African nation had won any World Cup. Keep your eyes on the Black Stars come South Africa 2010, we’re ready.
Other than that it’s been extremely hot and power has been out a lot. Sunday the entire country didn’t have power. We’ve been trying to find a better location for the visitors centre but have really struggled with that. The current spot is almost 5k out of town and is just ridiculous if you ask me. If we build there it pretty much will be useless so hopefully we can secure better land. Between waiting on that and hoping that PC transfers the funds for the b-ball court I’m lucky we’ve had some fun guests lately and that I have hobbies. It took me a few days to get the hang of it but now my next pattern is coming along nicely. A guy from Accra said I was the “hottest weaver in town” since lots of people stop in to watch a white guy weaving a medium level pattern.

“It may be the strings are not strong.”-Bright from his loom on why my strings kept breaking while I tried a hard technique.
“It’s you.”-Bright after pulling on the strings to test their strength.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Some of the strips of Obama sewn into a cloth.

Yesterday I was typing a write-up and a guy comes up to my window and explains to me that there is a big snake just on the other side of my house. My Eve is horrid but “snake” in any language will get my attention. He was just wearing a pair of flip flops and shorts and was holding 2 big sticks. Apparently one of these lethal armaments was for me. “I don’t think so Tim.” I hate snakes more than the Yankees. I went and spun threads the entire morning so I didn’t have to come home.
I wasn’t in too good of a mode last week and some of it was because I was between patterns and not weaving. I walked into the centre and the oldest weaver (like 70 years w/7 teeth) starts giving me a hard time about how he hasn’t seen me in days. I got the message and started getting set up again. You should see my loom now, it looks like an X-Wing cockpit. I went from 4 shuttles, a set of pulleys, 2 crossbars, 16 bobbins, and 4 colors to 8 shuttles, 2 sets of pulleys, 2 pedals, a weight, 4 crossbars, 32 bobbins, and 8 colors. I understand about 65% of my tools right now but it’ll come.
Joshua and Bright keep pushing harder patterns at me and I love it even if I am incredibly slow again until I get the hang of it. They have shown everyone my Obama cloth including tourists. Joshua woke up at 2 am yesterday morning to finish threading my loom for me so he could teach me some techniques before he leaves for the weekend. Then I go to the thread store to get more shuttles and bobbins and the guy won’t take money from me. He says I work hard for them and that he likes my weaving. I don’t work that hard and my weaving is a work in progress but alright.
Ghana is in the Friday finals of the Under 20 World Cup. The games have all been really close and in the afternoon so we listen to them while we weave and when there’s a goal we go find the nearest TV. Grand Valley, the Tigers, and the Red Sox all lost last week so I need Ghana to win this thing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pretty average week at site and it was great. Yesterday I finished my “Obama” cloth which took almost 3 months to do due to travel and my weaving speed. I put in about 5 hours/day in the loom this last week to finish it up. All the guys had bets on when I would finish so I had to make sure Bright or Joshua won. It took over 70,000 passes to make the 12 strips. This cloth is a thicker pattern than most so progress was extremely slow. It was based off a traditional pattern and it’s customary to fire a musket in the air while you’re cutting one of those from your loom. We were in the weaving center so cheers and mock firing of guns (fingers) had to do but it was great. The palm wine guy in town just tapped another tree so we had a calabash each to celebrate. The guys at the thread shop didn’t think I’d be able to do one this hard so I can’t wait to go buy threads for the next level up this week. This one should look pretty sweet, I’m pumped.
On the way back from my morning exploratory bike ride (I’m cutting back on the running so now I go down bush paths on my bike and check out the tiny villages which is really cool) I ran into some Germans here for kente so I showed them around. After lunch they went to leave and a girl gave me her email address and I said, “Oh I’ll email you in case you want more kente.” She laughed and said, “No, that’s in case you ever find yourself in Germany.” Real smooth Dan, real smooth. Maybe it was because this time I didn’t try my German…
When Harry Potter 6 was coming out the kids and I did a HP movie marathon on my front porch. The girls really loved Emma Watson, the girl who plays Hermione, because she was smarter than the boys and better at magic. They think I’m famous cause I met Obama and hang out w/the big men in town so they asked if we could write her. We did and today when I checked my mail I had an autographed picture from Emma in it! The kids are gonna love it when I go back tonight.

Friday, October 2, 2009

some pictures of twister fun!

Really cool sky one night that I tried to capture...not so much

Marathon route
PC hasn’t said a word about it yet but I think the basketball court is fully funded! My mom, the best PCV ever, called me 2 days ago saying the website says it’s funded. AWESOME. They had predicted 6 months to fill one that large but my family and friends did it in 2.5 months, very impressive guys, you rock. We’ll see how long it takes PC to get me the money but hopefully we can get going on this.
Between that and the talk of the visitors’ center and sign boards it’s very exciting at site. A lot of PCVs say how much I’m doing at site but really in a day about all I do is a few hours of work and weave a lot. (I should be starting my next pattern within a week.) People back home funded the court and NCRC is funding the visitors’ center, I’m just the bridge.
Last week was no running water, this week looks like no running water and no power, gotta love dry season coming back. Now with the marathon out of the way I got my bike fixed up and can start lifting again. I’m working on planning a bike ride through Togo into Benin and back but working out the details is pretty hard here. We gotta start traveling because we’re almost ½ done with our service.
Mukaila’s going to visit a friend of the guy I replaced in Washington this January and he’s really pumped about that. I can’t wait until he sees snow. Some of his questions are pretty awesome.
Under 20 World Cup is going on and the Black Satellites, our team, are doing great so far. They just whopped England 4-0. The TV hut was bopping. They won the African Continent earlier this year in some thrillers; they’re a fun team to watch.
Another month down and another record month of sales. The festival helped that however. Hopefully we can keep this up into the tourist off season.

If you were wondering about the marathon here’s my thoughts, it’s long. I put it separate so only people who really wanted to read it would have to:
Running your first marathon in Africa probably isn’t the best idea ever. Despite being a quick twitch athlete (sprinter) I think I trained pretty well with my long weeks of 20 and 22 miles. I was aiming for under 4 hours. We woke up at 3am and eventually ended up at the start line around 5 with the race starting at 5:30. It was quite a variety of runners there. Like 10 of us PCVs, Kenyan runners, Ghanaians, US marines and some expats. It started pretty late with the African sun already up, not good. It was delayed because they didn’t have water ready yet, also not good.
We started off and I settled in about middle of the pack. About 5 mins in I was running with a cute PCV from Mali and she had this satellite watch that told you your mile split. She ran in college and we were at a 8:30. I held that for my 20 miler and it hurt so bad so I knew I wouldn’t make it for 26.2 miles. Push your body to try to stay with cute girl or drop back and play it safe…Rower Dan wouldn’t have thought about it and stayed with her but I told her cya later and dropped back. A German tried to stay with her and I passed him about an hour later, he finished a long time after me.
Most of the run I was completely by myself which I’m told isn’t normal. How do I know what is normal? It’s my first one. Our veterans were not happy with the marathon and it’s very randomly and misplaced KM markers (not miles), drastic ups and downs and obstacles, lack of food (I had 2 halves of bananas the whole run), the hills, heat, lack of direction, and it’s course which lead us through a developing nations capital without closing anything. Dodging tro-tros, venders, and women wider than buses in Accra is a rough way to end a marathon. Also pacing yourself with KMs is much harder than miles. I did the math in my head and knew I had to do 5:40 KMs but try multiplying 27 x 5.40 then convert it to hours and mins after 3 hours of running.
About half way through I felt great, like really great, I had paced myself and passed a lotta people that went out too fast. I don’t think I picked it up but I had long given up on even looking at the wrong markers or my clock. A few kms later I was passing guys on their 17th marathons who said this was by far the worst one ever, thanks guys, very motivating. The whole time I’m expecting Kimmie, our running pro, to pass me with a smile on her face telling me to keep it up. After ages between markers I come up to one that seems way too far from the finish and they only hand me ½ a cup of water. I need electrolytes or something and I’m out of the amazing GU packs. I’m slowing down and hurting like crazy but still passing people and turn a corner and there’s Andrew, a PCV whose goal was 3 hours a ways ahead but barely moving. Catching him had to be the most hilarious site.
We were only 2 white people in the packed streets of Accra and our bodies are cramping and we can barely move. Eventually I catch up with him and I’m dieing, like chest cramping, worst pain ever dieing, but going faster than he is. We’re both competitive and we look at each other. Then my leg massively cramps again and I say “Let’s walk” something I never thought I’d say but I had no choice, my body was done. He was like “Thank God” and we started the most painful and humbling hour of my life. We were 3:32 into it and had we continued running at our average pace would have been done in 28 minutes.
Walking sounds easy but we could barely do that. Every once in a while we would try to “shuffle” but one of us would pull up with a cramp. The KMs seems like an eternity and the streets were packed. I had nothing left. The thing was everyone else must have died too because I think a total of 3 people passed us in over an hour of walking. We turned a corner and could see a far ways and couldn’t see the finish, horrible. Not too much farther there was a hidden turnoff and Julie and Andrea were there cheering for us. These are my only 2 friends within hours of my site, so we do everything together. Julie yells “Only 10 miles left guys!” and I gave her the bird. Just before that we had started shuffling again so when we passed them we picked it up. It was the last like .1 mile and I’m a sprinter so we sprinted. In rowing we used to do 7 ups, which was up a beat every 7 strokes so we did that with steps and crossed the line together looking strong with a time of 4:43. We came in 40th place, 3rd of Ghana PCVs. They got my numbers and the cheering section came to take care of me. Sinae, Julie, Maria, Andrea, and Marcus all took care of me while the rest worked on others finishing. I couldn’t breathe without pain. The rest of the PCVs started to trickle in. When Kimmie came in we knew she had been hurting, she was 1.5 hours over her previous worst time.
At first I was pissed and swore I’d never do one again. That night I partied it off and was the only runner still going somehow at 1 am. The next day we were in tons of pain but I was feeling better. I asked Andy, who had to stop to use the lack of facilities twice why we ever did it and he said, “I dunno but I’m not gonna let Africa beat me like that, I’m gonna get it next year.” I won’t make any promises but I think I will too.
I gotta thank Jen Shen, KTP, and Anne Varner. Without their help I never would have came close to finishing.