Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The fully blocked foundation. This court ain't going nowhere.

Entire court dug out

Getting the trench dug

The court is moving along nicely. They finished the blocks which will make for a very strong foundation. We are still having some issues locating poles but everything else is going well. Next step is to have the kids fill in the space between the bricks and then comes the laying of the court itself. It’s cool to ride out there and see where the project is each day.
The Trade Fair in Ho last week was pretty nice. Think Jackson County Fair but without elephant ears or a Vainner winning largest sunflower head. I’m not sure how much our district sold, it wasn’t a ton, but we got our name out there a little more. I didn’t do too much work for it but was still in Ho for a little bit of most days. That cut down on my weaving but was still fun.
Meg Hub’s dad sent me a package which was perfectly awesome. I mention this because it also had tons of pictures from when Meg Hub visited me here for the kids. Pictures might not seem like much to us but these kids were going nuts. Singing and dancing and showing everyone nuts. I guess you have to realize that theses are their first picture of themselves and will probably be the only pictures they’ll have of their youth. That’s sad but makes these mean a ton to them.
Wednesday I head down to Accra for Thanksgiving! Last year Maria and I killed the turkey for our group and this year the US ambassador is having some PCVs come to his house for dinner AND we get to stay with embassy employees! A little different than last year. That means super nice house probably which could mean NFL game on satellite. I can’t watch the huge Grand Valley or Lumen Christi games which stinks but watching the Lions would be awesome. I’ll also be purchasing the rims for the court at the mall while I’m there. Then I’ll go back to site on Friday to take care of stuff for the court only to have to come back to Accra on Sunday-Thursday next week for my Mid-Service Medical.
They do a few tests, send us to some dentist, and just check up on us now that we have under a year left. One of my best buds Marcus will be down there with me so it’ll be fun. We’ll probably go to the only movie theatre and to the only sports bar in the country and have internet every day. Does life get any better? Oh it does, it’s almost Christmas Season!!! Christmas is always amazing but this year it means home for 3 weeks!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Taken this very morning, setting african blog posting records. This is Bright's loom set up at the Trade Fair. He stole my seat pad because mine is a lot newer than his, jerk.

I am under orders from some big donors to take LOTS of pictures of the Basketball court being built so here are some:

Bricks for the foundation

Truck dropping one of the loads of sand.

This court is for them and they're glad to help.

Land after clearing

Part of the planning committee

Land before clearing.

The site of the court, directly behind the Secondary School
The court is coming along very nicely, well for Africa. The land was cleared and fairly leveled by the school kids in no time, which was awesome to see them all out there excited about the project. Mukaila wants this to be around for a long time and is making sure things are done correctly. That means right now they have formed bricks that will be the base for the court so that it doesn’t sag and crack. We’ve had 10 truck loads of sand and stones delivered and have a platform made for all the cement work. Things were flying until we ran into our current problem. There are no poles to be found in all of southern Volta region for some reason. Today we’re going to look some more but we have to have the poles before we lay the cement so this could be our first (of many I’m sure) delay.
It’s extremely weird to be on the other side of things. I’ve done construction in the States for like 7 years but started as the grunt and then ended as crew chief, never the guy paying for it but rather building it. If I wanted things to go faster I would just work harder. So far I’ve lifted 2 bags of cement and they yelled at me for doing that. They call me “sir” or “Mister Daniel” and have me look at things and approve them. I don’t like it, give me my 20 ounce Craftsman hammer with straight claw (think I miss my tools much?).
On the weaving side of things today we packed up Bright’s loom and hauled it to Ho for the Volta Region Trade Fair. Not sure how it’ll all turn out but they have a very nice set up at the parade grounds and people are coming from all over. They were just opening the stalls this morning but I thought it was really cool. This week I’ll be splitting time in Ho and Kpetoe. I don’t think I’ll actually be doing too much work in either but it’ll be nice to mix things up a little.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things are starting to get going on the basketball court. Mukaila has been so clutch. He sets up all the meetings with the artisans and even drives me to see them and when appropriate he negotiates stubbornly all while continuing his big man job at the District Assembly.
The nice thing about working at a school, especially in Ghana, is that the kids are used to doing work. Usually they do work for others but this is so they can get a court so they don't complain a bit. I can only imagine if Lumen asked us to clear ground for a new football field (good luck in playoffs this week!). They cleared the entire area of bush, trees, and weeded it in a day. Today and tomorrow they're leveling the land. Bright and Joshua were almost upset when they found out they wouldn't have to organize the weavers to do daybreak labor. I'll try to get some pictures but I've been running around getting stuff.
I was very impressed with my Barclay's bank. Usually if I go in to get money out they see I'm white, see my name isn't Ghanaian, give me my money, and say "Thanks Thomas" (they don't do middle names much here so they get confused. However when I went in to get more money than I'll make off my living allowance for my 2 years here they didn't just hand it over.
They kept apologizing about having me do my sloppy signature one more time. Then I went and talked to the manager, and he said I wasn't wearing glasses, I showed him I had contacts in. He called Peace Corps. In typical PC manner the first 5 numbers we tried didn't go through. Finally our awesome secretary answered. She verified I should be getting money out and that I was "very tall, white, and had the bushiest hair." I don't think my hair is that bushy.
Plan is to get materials delivered this week and hopefully get going w/the concrete on Monday. This is Africa however so if we do it within 2 weeks I'll be happy. Either way it's great to be moving forward.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hippo attack stops vacation

Adam Luck's man purse pattern woven by Dan Vainner, watch out Coach.

Aladdin and Jasmine. Actually he wasn't supposed to be Jasmine but his costume was so close it had to be.

Creepy huge statue of Mary on the mountainside at the Grotto.

This is Julie next to the SMALLER statue and that statue is on it's knees.

October was the hardest month I’ve had since February. We were between steps on all our projects and it’s been miserably hot. I thought I needed a vacation so Kevin, PCV, and I were planning on going to the coasts of Togo and Benin and relax for a few days to break out of it.
Nothing here is easy or goes to plan however. It took 3 entire days for me to collect and submit the stuff for my vacation request due to signatures, printing (lack there of), power outages, and emails. After some discrepancy it got approved; we’re ready to go. Not so much. Kevin calls me on Friday and is like “I don’t think I can go man, a hippo bite me.” I thought he was joking; not in Africa.
There was a hippo in his village and everyone was watching it when it started to come towards them. Kevin tripped while people were fleeing and doesn’t really remember much after that. Hippos kill a lot of people here so we are very lucky Kevin is ok but he is pretty shook up (rightfully so). The big bite on his butt required lots of stitches. Boys will be boys and Adam Luck and I call him “Hippobottomous.” Too soon? Anyways, no go to Togo. To make myself feel better I decided to use the money I woulda spent on visas to go to the mall and buy lots of stuff. My entire bill, with lunch, was only 22 Cedi (~$17) not even close to a visa. I’m pretty used to this PC living apparently.
Not going is fine however because as of this morning I have the funding in my account for the basketball court! I got all the official paper work from Washington and was reminded just how many people donated and how fast it filled. The generosity of people back home is enough to break any bad mood.
A few articles have been published on what I’m doing over here. It’s a lot of pressure because I really don’t do much but they are much appreciated. The Global Connections one I submitted a write-up for and was the only one I was aware of before my parents read it. I have no idea who did the Lumen Christi Alum Newsletter one or the Faith Magazine one. Whoever did didn’t miss a beat about my projects and I’m impressed, very. My quotes are pretty cocky but I like that. I’m not some saint and people give me too much credit.
Speaking of Saints, Julie and I visited Amber one day and went to the biggest Catholic Grotto in West Africa which was really creepy/cool. There were all the Stations of the Cross life-size and a statue of Mary that was GINORMOUS. It looks like November will be a much better month than October. And how many people can say that a hippo biting someone's butt prevented their vacation!