Friday, July 29, 2011

The Worst Part of Ghana

I just figured out what the worst part of my trip has been. It hasn't been the heat (actually I heard it's hotter at home,) mosquitoes, cold showers, or the dust. It is/was having to say goodbye.

Since Sunday I've shed a lot of tears saying goodbye to my new friends and family. At church Rev. Perry made an announcement that I was leaving and invited me to the front so they could pray for safe travels, while tears streamed downed my face. A new friend from church Louis, who is an artist, gave me the most beautiful fabric and a painting both done by him as a farewell present. Both of these I will treasure always. The fabric he dyed himself and I LOVE it, it's purple and blue and has the traditional royal stools around the bottom. The painting is of the beach and fisherman from the area where I was living which I loved to watched when I was there, it's a portrait of my home in Ghana.

Monday I brought over diapers, baby wipes, powder, toys and some other needed items (Thank you cousin Jen!) When it was time to go and say goodbye for the last time I was biting my tongue so hard so that I would not burst into tears. It was like the babies knew that I would not be returning. Princess cried when I put her down (usually not the case), Agogo grabbed onto my leg, and Prince kept his arms up to be picked up again. I broke my heart to walk away.

The hardest goodbye though was to my host family. All day the little girls wanted to sit on my lap and spend time with me. Forgive sat on my bed while I packed and just kept looking at her hands not saying anything. When Simon said ok let's go and we started carrying out my bags that's when I saw Pearl sitting in the sand crying and Forgive came running over for a hug to which Pearl followed continuing to cry and that's when I lost it. I told them to be good girls and walked to the car where Bless and Celesting were and I saw Bless had tears in her eyes we all hugged and I said goodbye to my family tears running down my face.

I knew leaving Africa would be hard but I never thought it would be this hard. I'm grateful to have met such wonderful people, and thank God for Facebook so I can keep in touch. I am also happy to have another adventure awaiting me in Tanzania!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Until Tanzania

Well friends, tomorrow I give back the computer and start organizing and packing for the next step in this adventure, travel a bit in Ghana then fly to Tanzania. I am not sure what kind of computer / wi-fi access I will have after tomorrow so if you don't see any posts for a while don't worry. I will try very hard to get more stories and updates up as often as possible. I was presently surprised by the ease to access the web in Ghana so hopefully it will be the same in Tanzania. Till then.... Kwaheri (goodbye in Swahili, I'm trying to practice!)

A Found Farewell to My Host Family

When I first arrived I talked about Bless, my host sister who is “my manager” as one of my new friends calls her, but I haven’t talked much about the rest of my host family so I figured I would introduce some of them.

Where I am living is sort of like a complex with one main house being the “go to” house, this is where I am staying. Madame Celesting owns the house which is very much a western style house, it has running water, kitchen, small refrigerator, 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Within the gate is also 2 other buildings that houses many of her extended family with about 4 or 5 apartments in them. Though I have not been in any of the houses from what I can gather they only have a couple of rooms each. Most of the cooking is done in my host mother’s house or at the fire pit outside. In the middle of the yard is an outdoor sitting area and a well where we all fetch water.

After much time I think I have figured out whom all belongs to whom. In Ghanaian culture everyone is considered “sister or brother” even if they are not actually their sister or brother.

Celesting is the matriarch of the family; she has no children of her own but takes care of many of her nieces and nephews. She is one of 11 children of which 6 of them are still alive and 3 of them live within the gate and one right around the corner. Bless is actually her niece but when Bless was only 2 her father died and for most of her life Celesting has taken care of her. Also, Ester my other “sister” is her niece and though her mother lives within the gate she mostly stays here in the house.

Then there are my two cuties Pearl (on the right) and Forgive (on the left.) These two girls are 3 and 5 years old and love to follow me around. Whenever they see me coming they come running over and they always want to sit on my lap, pet my arm (I think they think my skin will feel different) and have me take photos of them. I can’t understand them and they can’t understand me but somehow we know how to communicate. The only thing Forgives says to me is “picture, picture” and Pearl just always tells me that she is fine. I am pretty sure they think they are leaving with me as for a little while it was a threat when they would misbehave that I was going to take them to America with me that was when they were scared of me, now I am afraid they are convinced they are going. I have also heard Forgive tell her friends that I am HER Yavous (at least that is what I suspect she is saying.) There are many others that come and go, mostly teens that are in boarding school and come home on the weekend but it is a very close family and they all rely on each other. Everyone has been very welcoming to me, I will miss them when I leave.

Volunteering a Wonderful Cultural Experience

Tuesday I will leave Denu. I will say goodbye to my host family and my new friends. I will spend a few days traveling to Cape Cost, Komaski National Park and Accra with Simon the director of STAESA. The past three weeks have been an amazing cultural experience that I could have never experiences if I had just come to travel. I have taken in all aspects of the culture, still working on the language though.

Here are some of the highlights that I may or may not have already mentioned:

• I’ve made about 1000 concrete blocks with fine cement and sand
• Eaten fish for almost every meal, including the occasional bone by mistake, and in the process I learned
how to take the scales off.
• Learned how to make Banku (a traditional meal that is made of grounded corn, eaten with your hands
and served with stews, soup, and anything else that you desire)
• Taken and survived a “Tro-Tro” often sometimes with 6 people sometimes with 16 (all the same size van)
• Peeled mangos the size of my head
• Worshiped at a church that is nothing like any of the churches that I have ever been to at home, and with
that I’ve met some wonderful people.
• Been to market day many times and seen everything under the sun
sold on the street
• Worn the traditional and modern Africa wear
• Become a pro at changing diapers, both cloth and pampers
• Learned that when you feel a little homesick a child coming to sit on
your lap makes everything better
• Tried Star and Club Beer (both made in Ghana – taste the same as American Beer)
• Eaten “Red Red” (beans and fried plantains) on the beach
• Been to a Celebration of Life (or as we call them funerals) VERY
different then in the US!
• Learned to communicate with the kids that I live with even though we don’t speak the same language
• Fetched water from a well
• Hand washed all of my clothes
• Found and embraced “yogurt” or what we call fudgecicles
• Fed a monkey a banana and walked in a rain forest
• Have learned to automatically wave when someone yells “Yavous” (aka white)
• And finally even in Ghana one of the first things a new friend says to you is “are you on facebook?”

50 Bags of Cement = 1000 Concrete Blocks

2 weeks, 4 blisters, lots of Ibuprofen, hot sunny days, a great farmers tan, 50 bags of cement, who knows how much sand but it was a lot……. we have completed the block making project for my time here. We finish about 1000 blocks to be used for the walls of the school. This will not be enough to complete the school as it will be three stories, but it is a huge accomplishment making it one step closer to completion.Remember when I said we had to make 300? Well… something was lost in the translation part and Kwaku meant about 300 that day not total!!

There were some obstacles along the way mainly the fact that cement is not readily available so sometimes that meant we only had 4 or 5 bags for the day or it none at all. Timing, a work crew of two sometimes three would carry each bag about half a mile one by one on their heads to bring them to the work site because no one owns a car here and the taxis charge a lot to transport cement. I am strong but I couldn’t even lift the bags to pour out the cement much less carry one on my head!
Plus there was nowhere to store it so we could only bring to the site what we could finish that day. Construction in Ghana is nothing like the US, which I’m sure you all knew, you do not go to Home Depot in a pick-up truck and get it all the supplies you need or follow any type of safety regulations, the boys worked in flip flops or no shoes at all – OSHA would have a field day! The other thing as I have mentioned in previous posts is you build when there is money available, my program fee helped covered the cost of 50 bags of cement which was $600 Ghana Cedis (about $400 US) so from what I understand they will stop building for a couple of weeks until the next volunteers arrive and they have more money and help.

All in all I’m very proud of the work that we accomplished, I was hoping to be able to build some of the walls but it just wasn’t in the cards, we didn’t have enough blocks. However, knowing that they can at least start on the walls of the school because of the work that I helped accomplish which makes it all worth the sore muscles, blisters, sunburned shoulders and weathered skin. I will end this post with a quote I read today:

“Do not let yourselves be discouraged or embittered by the smallness of the success you are likely to achieve in trying to make life better. You would not be able in a single generation, to create an earthy paradise. Who could expect that? But, if you could make life ever s better, you will have done splendidly, and your lives will have been worthwhile.”~ Arnold Toynbee~

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Few More Photos

A friend of Bless' let me borrow his computer this weekend so since I have it I want to make the most of it, here are some more random photos...

This is at a school in Denu, I have to walk through the school yard every morning and afternoon to and from the construction site. The children all yell "Yavous, Yavous" (which means white) and on this particular day I had my camera out so they all wanted me to take a photo.

I took this on our journey to the waterfall, I just thought the scene was pretty.....that's all I got for this one.

This photo I actually took my 2nd day in Ghana after it rained like crazy. Since there is no real drainage system here people go out after a storm and sweep the water away.

I went to the beach on Wednesday evening and I watched as a few teams of fishermen gathered their gear for a few days off.

This fun friend hangs out at the construction site along with about 10 other of his friends but he's the biggest so I think he's in charge! Of course I'm rarely the biggest and I'm always in charge..... :)

New York * Paris * Milan &....... Denu ?

When I was preparing to come to Ghana the director of STAESA told me that while I was in Ghana I should ask my host sister about getting an African dress made. She introduced me to Dilah, a friend of hers that is a seamstress. We went to the market to pick out fabric and then decided on a style and she made a beautiful dress for the US equivalent of $5.00. It was a little weird having someone else besides my mother make me clothes but she is a great job, you can see it in the picture. The dress style that we chose is more of a modern style that those in their 20s typically wear.

On Wednesday morning, Dilah paid me another visit because my host mother had commissioned her to make me two more outfits. The orange, blue and green top and skirt are more of the traditional style and then the gray and purple one is based on the style I picked but a little different so I would have another option. Needless to say we had quite the fashion show in the living room that morning and I am so thankful to Dilah and my host mother for these dresses. Plus I will be plenty ready for Tanzania!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Volunteer Turned Tourist 

This week I was able to spend some time seeing other parts of Ghana, a very nice change of pace. Thursday we found out that the cement delivery for the day was not going to happen so we didn't work. Honestly I was relieved because after 3 full days of moving bricks, shoveling and mixing concrete in the hot sun my body ached. I was going to go back to Good Shepherd but my host mother told me that since there was no work she was going to take me to her hometown, Keta.
Keta is only about 20mins away but it was great to see another town. Keta a "sea town" and the beaches were beautiful. As we drove into town there were many fishing boats along the shore. The problem with Keta is the sea erosion, many buildings have been destroyed and the residents have had to relocate. When visiting family I noticed that many homes are now made of palm leaves instead of concrete like Denu or Alfao. The most interesting part of the trip to Keta was Fort Prinzenstein, a Dutch fort used during the slave trade. Ghana was one of the primary countries where Europeans captured and enslaved Ghanaians to sell overseas. This is one of the forts where they would bring the slaves before they were sent across the ocean. It was amazing to be able to hear the history retold and to stand in a room where slaves were once held. This is something I can't even put into words. The fort is only partially there now as again sea erosion has damaged the majority of it, but to hear history from the other side was pretty incredible.
Yesterday, I went on an adventure with Bless to the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and the Wli Waterfall-both big tourist attractions in Ghana; how do I know - white people, everywhere (Bless kept calling them my friends and asking me if I knew them :) I'm pretty sure this monkey is thinking “holy crap white people!” but who knows :)

The Monkey Sanctuary was a lot of fun, I got to feed a monkey a banana right from my hand, I mean I held it while he peeled it and then ate it!! They come right up to you but as soon as your banana is gone so are they. After this we went to the Wli waterfall which falls from the highest mountain in Ghana. It's about an hour hike in through the rainforest. As I walked I just kept looking around among the bamboo, cocoa trees and coffee plants I never thought I
would actually have a chance to walk around a tropical rainforest, though I didn't se any animals I could hear many calls from birds that probably stay away from the trails.

and coffee plants I never thought I would actually have a chance to walk around a tropical rainforest, though I didn't se any animals I could The waterfall was roaring I took some photos but it was so strong everything was wet even when standing pretty far away, so we didn't stay too long especially since it started to thunder. Remember when I said rainforest...there's a reason it's called that because in an instant the sky opens up and downpours!!!! Everything was soaked, luckily the inside of the camera bag stayed relatively dry, but we were soaked and looked like we actually went swimming. I felt so bad for our driver who was going to stay back and we convinced him no too. With the rain comes mud and the little taxi cab that brought us there almost didn't take us out. We had to get a group together to push us out and then ride 4 hours home soaking wet. When we got home and were freezing Bless asked me if this how New York is...Cold?

Even with the rain I had a great time. It was nice to see the difference is climate that Ghana has to offer and with this the different ways people live. Many houses in the northern part of the Volta Region (which is where I am) are made with mud bricks and grass type roofs also instead of palm leaves for fencing they use the bamboo because it's readily available. There is also a lot less trash maybe because there are less people in one given area. It was a nice weekend trip and I can't wait till I get to see more of Ghana in a week! Oh yea I'm at the half way point of my time in Ghana, time is flying by! Till next time – Miadogo! (till tomorrow)

Friday, July 15, 2011

More Photos

Here are a couple more photos

The first is how they carry their babies around. I'm amazed every time I see a woman wrap up her baby it's only 2 maybe 3 tucks and folds.

The other is a woman at the market,she is "filtering" dried corn

Some Photos

I figured while I can I would post photos, the connection is slow so I can't post a lot, The first 2 are from the beach near my house and the third is my host mother's nephew at their farm. Hopefully more to come soon, enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let Block Making Commence!!!

I have begun work on the orphanage...sort of...yesterday I went to the site and we moved the already dried blocks so we would have space to make more blocks. We must have moved about 300 blocks 35lbs blocks into piles, needless to say I was a bit sore today. We only worked for a couple hours, which at first I was disappointed in but this morning my arms an back were thankful. Since I was done at the site by noon I went back to the orphanage to play with the babies some more. When I walked in my little buddy Prince looked at me smiled and put his arms up to be held, I was glad I made good use of my time and went over. 

Today we started making blocks, finally. We used 2 bags of cement mixed with sand and put the mixture into a mold to make the blocks. We made about 35-40 and tomorrow when ten more bags of cement are delivered we will work all day starting at 6:30am so it won't be too hot.  The goal is to make about 300-400 blocks once Kwaku and I found a rhythm it goes pretty fast so I think if we work all day the rest of the week we should be fine. Next Wednesday the other group from America comes so we want to be ready to build the walls of the school. 

When I signed up to do a construction project I knew I would have to prove myself. Even when I volunteer in the US I have to spend at least one day proving I can lift more than 10 pounds, use power tools, and do minor construction projects. I figured I would have to work twice as hard here as the culture is very different and women don't work on a construction site.  At first Kwaku the site manager didn't let me do a lot but I just watched what he did and the followed suit I moved bricks with him and then  took the shovel from the pile to mix and mold the cement, and he couldn't argue. Today when we were done he looked at me and said, "you hard worker, I like this." Point proven - time to get things done for Africa!

This weekend Bless and I are going to Howay, to see the monkey sanctuary and a big waterfall, it will be good to travel a bit and see other parts of Ghana, I just hope it doesn't rain! I also hope to get to an actual computer soon so I can upload some photos for all of you to see. I haven't been able to take too many "around town" as most people don't want any photos and if they allow it they want money except for children who want me to take hundreds of photos of them :) 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Good Shepherd's Happy Children's Home Orphanage

Yesterday was my last volunteer day at the orphanage. Over the last few days I've become very attached to the babies, especially Prince because he is a little bit of a bad boy, but he's also full of love and just wants to be held and snuggled. It's so sad to think that all three of them were just left; Prince was found on the beach, Agogo on the side of the road in a plastic bag and Princess on a rooftop. It's a miracle that they are alive and healthy. They are very lucky to have Madame Ester who cares a great deal for them.

Yesterday none of them would sleep at the same time and I swear we were always doing a diaper change, which is normal but hard as they use cloth diapers because the orphanage can't afford to buy throw away diapers like we use in the United States. The cloth diaper system wouldn't be so bad if they had enough for multiple changing’s. There are only 6 cloth diapers and 3 babies, so as soon as you change them you have to do wash (by hand) and hang the diapers to dry. As soon as the unused diapers are dry it's time to change someone else again, so sometime next week I'm going to find a place to buy both types of diapers so they can at least use the throw away diapers at night and give Ester a little break in the morning.

I was able to meet the pastor from the church that runs the orphanage, Pastor Christen. He came by to play with the babies because he had a meeting with a gentleman that he hopes will help fund the new building and grounds for the orphanage. They have 4 acres of land near the current orphanage that they would like to build a new facility on so that they can take in more children and have a better school area. Currently, Good Shepherd serves 42 children but would like to have the space and staff to serve 100. The classroom area is outside on a concrete slab, which luckily enough has a roof. The children are broken up into four or five levels (not ages, but education level) they each have a corner of the concrete slab where they meet for lessons, and there is not much room for them to play. The new facility will have an enclosed school with separate classrooms and a computer center. The dorms will have housing for 100 students, staff and a volunteer house so people can come and stay at the orphanage when they volunteer. They also have plans for a football (soccer) field and a volleyball court so the students can have room to run.

One thing I have learned that in Africa they don't raise money and then build, they build what they can as they raise the money. Sometimes it takes many, many years for things to be completed because organizations run out of money. As I traveled from Accra, when I first arrived, I noticed many unfinished buildings along the way and this is why. This orphanage is funded primarily from a Baptist church in Alabama. Pastor Christen hopes he can raise the funds to finish by the end of 2012. This has also been the case with the orphanage that I will begin working on tomorrow. They started building in 2009 and they hope be done by the end of this year but they have a ways to go and they can only work when they have funds and volunteers.

Tomorrow I buy 50 bags of concrete and it will cost about $1,400 US Dollars, once that runs out the work will stop until more volunteers come. The reason picked this organization is because about 1/2 of the $1400 is from my program fee which goes directly to this project many other organizations only give a small percentage to the actual project and the rest is administrative. I am learning a lot here and I am so happy to be experiencing all that I am, including having an entire fish put on my dinner plate tonight, that's right head to tail all bones included!!!!!

For a little more info on the foundation that supports this orphanage:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Sights and Sounds of Denu/Alfao

Now that I've had a couple of days here, and the whirlwind part is over, I've really started looking around especially since my last 3 days I have spent a lot of time in taxis going back an forth from Denu to Aflao.

As I mentioned in the intro I am near the ocean so everything is sand and dirt, it's red sand so it looks a lot like Sedona, AZ. I feel like I am always covered in it, between the sunscreen and bug spray it just stick to everything. It is very dusty here except when it rains and then it's very muddy. Madame Ester, from the orphanage, explained that when they built Alfao they just started building with no plan. This means there is no type of drainage so when it rains it floods, everything closes and the power goes out. Parts of Alfao have been without power for 4 days, including the orphanage. I also got to experience “road construction” today, which means a big dump truck drops off a load of dirt and the a bulldozer spreads it and that's it. Which is why the cars in Ghana are so beat up and when they break done they are just left on the side or in the middle of the road.

I have also started reading the names of all the shops as I walk or ride around. Ghana is a very religious country so almost every shop name includes something religious in the title. Examples: Sweet Jesus Hair Braiding and Weaves, Jesus Has Done It Dresses, God is Good Hardware, and The Wise Men Banking and Wire Transfers.

The sad thing about this area is the garbage. There are mini "dumps" everywhere and littering is normal. Even going to bathroom on the side of road is a normal and regular occurrence. There are signs up that look new trying to educate the community but it will take a while.

Ok back to being positive, Bless and I went to the market today that was coolest thing I've seen so far. It makes all US farmers markets look pathetic. They had everything: fruits, veggies, fish, nuts, chickens and goats (yes alive and yes for sale as food not pets) candy, drinks, house hold items, fabrics, the list could go on forever. We bought roasted peanuts, which were amazing probably because they were not a hybrid or processed. For those of you who were worried about me not having peanut butter I had a candy (ground nut cake) that taste just like it only hard. We also bought veggies and fruit to eat tonight (don't worry fruit with skin that has to be peeled plus it will washed it is boiled water.) Speaking of water the purified water comes in bags and not bottles which is very interesting, they kind of look like sandwich bags and are very inexpensive.

Lastly the coolest thing I've done in Ghana thus far is drink coconut water straight from the coconut and eating the coconut meat. Bless used a crazy sword to open the coconut right up with no problem - seriously coconut in one hand sword in the other two swings and done!

The next two days I will be at the orphanage playing with the babies then on Friday I will be meeting with the construction manager and purchasing the cement so that Monday I can begin making bricks. Hopefully, there will be a little traveling this weekend. I'll keep you posted. Till next time!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Orphanage

Today I started volunteering. The first week STAESA has me helping at Good Shepherd Happy Children’s Home Orphanage in the town if Alfao, which is a 15min taxi, ride from the house. It's only about 3miles but the road is real bad so it takes a little longer to get there.

When I arrived many of the children said, "you're welcome Madame" which is there way of saying hello. I worked with Madame Ester, in the infant room with 3 babies: Prince, Princess and Agogo)

This orphanage usually doesn't have babies but they had no where else to go so they were brought here. The orphanage has 42 total kids living there and 6 children that attend school during the day but return home after lessons are done.

It was nice to be able to help Ester, as I don't think that she gets too much of a brake. I will be at this orphanage all week then I will start brick making. The organization wants me to adjust to the heat and sun before working all day outside, which I appreciate. Right now the temperature is about the same as home, with a little more humidity but the temperature doesn't drop too much at night. So for all of you who asked if it was going to be hot, yes it is but not that bad.

I am blessed to have Bless

Bless is my host sister she is 22 and my tour guide / guardian while I am here. She cooked for me this morning then just as we were getting ready to go to church, it started to downpour so we post-pone until the rain let up enough to walk to the taxi stop. Here when church is an all day affair and though it "starts" at 9am no one is there until 10am, and we didn't arrive until about 11am. We went to the Lighthouse Chapel International church where everyone was singing and yelling and dancing all around. Bless tried to teach me one of the dances but I'm pretty sure it looked like I was doing the chicken dance. Everyone greeted and welcomed me - when the preacher asked if there were visitors I didn't even have to raise my hand he just looked at me and asked my name. I then stayed after church while Bless had choir rehearsal and played with some of the children. I also met Aaron who works at a medical office where he treats people with infections and is working hard to bring better drinking water to the town (good person to get to know - just in case.)

After church we returned home to eat - so far I've had pasta, rice, bread, eggs, veggies -that are kind of stir fried, and fish (with bones and I think one piece on the serving dish still had it's eye- I didn't take that piece)

After dinner, Bless taught me how to de-scale and prepare fish, another thing to add to the resume.

Bless then took me down to see the beach but because of the rain we didn't stay long as the mosquitoes were starting to come out so we went to visit her brother Edward and his wife. We watched some TV (I was grateful for English, even if the programming wasn't the best.) Bless is trying to teach me the local dialect but it's hard to put together - Most people at least understand English. After Edward drove us home, Bless and I looked at the photos I brought and some from her collection. Tomorrow I meet up with Charles to go to the work site for my first day of brick making and hopefully to get a phone. With the heavy rains today Charles couldn't make it into town and most places were closed anyway.


Sorry this is the first you are hearing from me since my departure. It's been a whirlwind and this is the first chance I've had to get to the Internet. Also, I am doing everything from my iPod touch so bare with me.

Friday I left the US feeling every emotion possible from excitement to anxiety with a little bit of sadness when it came time to say goodbye to Chris. When I was standing in line ready to board I met another girl who like me was headed to Ghana by herself to do volunteer work for 2 months so we chatted before the flight and then again after we deplaned so some of my nerves subsided knowing there was someone else having the same feelings as me.

The flight was not bad at all, I slept for 8 of the 11 hours thanks to Dramamine :) and since it was a night flight I'm not feeling any jet lag. When I got through customs, my head started to spin a bit here's the scenario:

People yelling to keep moving while also selecting people to check luggage and randomly asking for passports, then walking through a maze towards the "way out." Once you are at the way out -hundreds of people are waiting taxi drivers, tour groups and tons of individuals with small paper signs and everyone is yelling around while I try to find my name. I see Charles who shakes my hand, grabs my bag and starts walking. We go to the taxi area where he bargains for the perfect price and we get into a car that doesn't look like it can drive more than 5 miles. The taxi then drops us at the "Tro-Tro" stop where the doors open and people just grab your luggage and put it in the Tro- Tro as fast as they can and tell you to hurry get in to which we then sat there for about an hour waiting for more people. 

A Tro-Tro is a 12 passenger van (which they fit 14 into) it also make the AmeriCorps van look like a stretch limo, but it works and they go everywhere it's the main form of transportation in Africa.  We drove about 4 hours from Accra to Denu on both paved and dirt roads. What I learned on this Tro -Tro trip: 
    1. There are barely any road laws in Ghana. 
    2. You can indeed take speed bumps going 50mph - same thing with dirt roads.
    3. Anything and everything is sold at the road side markets from fruit to coffins. 
    4. If someone buys something from the Tro- Tro and the vendor didn't get the right amount money they will run after the van until it stops (not me by the way)
    5. The people of Ghana are extremely warm and friendly - and of course when you say your from America the say "New York City!?!"

Once we were dropped off in Denu we took another quick taxi ride to my new home for the next month (we would have walked but with my bags Charles wanted to take the taxi.) I totally broke the RPM rule of if you pack it, you carry it, Charles carried my camera bag and a boy in the village carried my main bag which I'm pretty sure weighed as much as him even though I told him it was ok he insisted. 

Ok I'm rambling, anyway ...

The house that I am staying at very western style - there is a living/dinning room, small kitchen (but anyone renting in NYC would say huge kitchen) 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. My room is bigger than the one at my Jay Street apartment with a king size bed (sorry Chris) I guess usually married couples stay in this room but since there will be no married couples during my stay I was given the room. I don't want you to get the wrong impression it is very simple here - I have to "fetch" water to use the bathroom and there will never be a hot shower but I am grateful that I have indoor plumbing and a nice room to call my own. 

The family is very nice my host mother Celestine is very kind and two of her "daughters" are here Bless and Ester. Bless is my guardian I'll talk more about her in the next post. The other two "children" are away at school now but will be back at some point during my stay. There are also many extended family members in the same fenced in housing unit and they are all in and out. Celestine is the family representative so they are always looking for her and again everyone is real nice so I'm looking forward to my time here.