Saturday, February 27, 2010

Party Pants

Your lucky week, I let Katie write up the blog so you don't have to read my writing! Here's what she's got to say:

It definitely is a different culture over here. It is a lot more laid back. If something doesn’t get done today there is always tomorrow or next week. However, everyone has been nothing but nice and polite. I seem to be muddling my way through conversations. Most people here know a little English with some actually being pretty fluent. I, on the other hand, know like maybe 1 or 2 words.

Dan didn’t have to focus on too much work this week which was nice since it then gave us a chance to hang out and travel a little bit. We went to market one day and it’s kinda like Shipshewana. Dan is an excellent bargainer and can always talk someone down in price. We bought matching fabric and had party pants made out of them. They are probably some of the ugliest pants ever but we pull them off nicely.

We went into town to watch a football (soccer) match in town this week on the only TV in town. Words cannot describe the experience. First it’s beyond hot and it’s packed with people. The noise, cheering, and chanting made you think you were in a packed stadium at home except it was louder and had more energy. The best word I can come up with is intense. I have never experienced a sporting event like it before. I don’t think everyone there understands the rules or know what is going on but they love their football and to cheer for their teams.

Thursday we went to Wli falls and it was beautiful. It was a nice little hike up to the falls but definitely worth it. The falls were gorgeous and the water was nice and cool. We actually met some Michigan State students at the falls – what a small world! I guess they are here to do an 8 week internship in Accra but get to do a little traveling before they start. I had on an MSU shirt that day and they recognized me. A few of them even knew where Eaton Rapids and Jackson were!

Two PC teachers brought some of their students yesterday to see Dan and his weavers. We spent the day showing them around the weaving center and the Kente products. It is fascinating to watch and see how fast they can weave and the complexity of their patterns. I think I am going to give it a try before I go but am terrified on messing up all of his hard work.

I’m only half way through the trip and have decided that this is the only way that you should travel Africa. There is no way that you would get immersed in the culture, the people, and the experience if you came here for your first time without having a friend to show you the around the “real” Ghana and not just the tourist spots. I think we are getting a healthy balance of both. Hopefully we will be seeing elephants sometime early next week. Wow, this was a lot harder to write that I thought it would be. Definitely have to give Dan credit for writing the blog week in and week out.

Custom made Party Pants!!

Some pictures from the first leg of the construction of the Visitors' Centre. I (Dan)never thought we'd actually get going on this so it's pretty exciting.

This week we're in search of Elephants!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Basketball Court....ASSEMBLE

My new pattern.

Great Aunt Ann Acker Athletic Arena taking form.

Always avoid alliteration at all costs.
How you transport huge poles over a mile....

This week’s been uber stressful but really fun.
Sick of waiting for the school carpenter to cut 6 inches off 2 boards (2 weeks) I rode my bike stopping at every house with workbenches looking for a carpenter. After like an hour I find Clemens; I think it’s really Clemence but Clemens’ a better name. Clemens doesn’t speak English but he has a hand saw, tape measure, screwdriver, and a manual drill with a huge bit (basically ¼ of what I used to carry in just my tool belt at all times). In no time at all we have the backboards cut and the rims on with my Leatherman being on of the most used tools. I miss my tools.
We go to put the backboards on the poles and the school thinks they should have more metal welded on for support, good idea but no way to move the poles. Enter Ghanaian schoolboys. They carried the poles well over a mile each way to a welder. Then we assembled the boards and the visual arts students painted them. This all took 3 long days which sounds long but I really couldn’t be happier with how quickly we got it done. Thursday our mason decided to show up which was perfect timing and we raised the hoops after digging the holes 2 nights before. “Next Monday” they will start laying the concrete.
This would have been enough for a busy week. The NGO that’s building our visitors’ centre came to start the first phase too. I am riding my bike between work sites all week (exciting since my breaks stopped working). This hasn’t gotten off to such a great start with yet another land dispute but we arranged for and the storage of most materials which is a big step. After a day of painful meetings the settled the debate only later to move the site but the new site is great.
Over 30 guests this week too! We are running out of some stuff but the guys are working hard to restock. Katie comes on Sunday and I’ve been getting ready/pumped for that too. The guys know that while she’s here I’ll do some work but would prefer to have it done before or after. I’ve barely traveled this year so a few days away from site will be great.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

This week was a nice break from the dreaded Dry Season. It only rained for about 10 seconds on Thursday but the air was a little thinner and cooler. Friday it stayed cool and then it even rained for a few minutes. I walked across town and my shirt wasn’t drenched in sweat; it was great. Dry Season will last for a couple more months so any break is great.
We sold 3 smaller cloths this week which for this time of year is very good. Our biggest ones are Men’s cloths; 19 strips wide and double long strips so roughly 6x11 feet. Instead of saving up for one (anywhere from $200-$400) like I had planned I decided to go big and try to weave my own, perhaps not my wisest choice ever due to my weaving speed. Bright can finish a men’s cloth of the pattern I’m doing in 2 months with 6 day weeks dawn to dusk. I weave 5 days a week for like 2-6 hours and have a few out of town meetings coming up. The guys are taking bets on how long ranging from 2-6 months. If I finish it before I go home (9 months) I’ll be happy.
The international marketing class back home looks like it will really help us out. They are even designing a website for us. This is huge because there is very little information on the net for traveling in Ghana and that’s where everyone goes for everything. This is the type of stuff that I can’t do at all. They said they’ll make it easy to update so I can do that while I’m here and train one of the guys to after I leave. They even planned on an online kente store which is so tempting but I just don’t think we have the product consistency or technology to handle that. Mukaila is one of the few people in town with email and he checks it like once every 3 months.As you can see, summer months are huge and that the little advertising we've done has made a difference just in the time I've been here.
As great as sales are, this is really what matters; the number of people exposed to kente. The tourist community is based on word of mouth here so making sure these visitors have a positive experience is equally important as to actually selling if not more so.
As of this week every piece of the basketball court is at the school. Monday we’re supposed to assemble the backboards and rims and have it paved (they say) by the end of the week. The plan is to have it paved by the time my friend Katie comes and visits for 2 weeks next Sunday. That way she can help me paint it (you’ll be put to work if you visit). We might try to head up to Mole National Park which is our biggest wildlife reserve where we’d surely see elephants, warthogs, and hopefully no snakes. It’s at least 2 days travel each way though so maybe we’ll stay by the coast drinking coconuts on the beach. Enjoy your snow!
That reminds me, check out Ghana’s lone competitor in the Winter Olympics Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, a skier nicknamed the Snow Leopard.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Not an apprentice anymore

8 strips outta the 20 some I wove of this pattern.

Despite never enjoying it a friend convinced me to do Sunday’s 2nd reading at church on short notice. He gave me a slip of paper with 1st Corinthians 12:31, 13:13 on it. “Wow, I’ll do it if it’s that short.” “Yes, it’s small small.”
I do the whole procession in and it’s been lights out for days so no microphone; both not favorites. I go and read my lines that didn’t make too much sense but lots of the bible is like that to me and was pleased because I didn’t stutter and was audible. I even spoke slower and remembered to say “The word of the Lord” unlike last time. The Eve translation was going on a bit longer than mine I noticed. Things are just longer in Eve right? A lot longer….? Like 10 times longer?
Turns out it was 12:31-13:13, not 12:31, 13:13. Who would think it was just 2 verses? Me.
I read: “Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts. Best of all, however, is the following way. (skip to 13:13) Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
I skipped 12 verses about Love that are like the most read verses at weddings. You know the whole Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous, it’s eternal stuff. I kinda like my version better.

Projects are moving a little bit again which is a vast improvement over the last few weeks.
The NGO building our visitor’s centre came to Kpetoe for a meeting to approve the land and agree on our signboards and their location. The say by end of the month the signboards will be ready and by end of the year the visitor’s centre will be done. These seem a bit ambitious considering how long it takes me to get things done here but they have a little more push than me hopefully.The big men approving the site for the centre.

After almost a month of searching we got the 6 loads of sand we needed to take the next step on the basketball court.
Hard to see but they are paving the road to market so the entire thing is lined w/dirt, hense the lack of availability of trucks.

Sunday was a huge football day for my teams. It was a great atmosphere but Arsenal got owned by Man U and the Blackstars lost in the championship match of the African Cup of Nations. At least the Blackstars looked good.

“Your lizard looks like a goat.”-Bright about a Motif on the cloth I just finished.
the lizard is red in the middleish.

Warning: over 2 mins long. just skip to the end if you want to see what i'm actually weaving