Saturday Feb. 25 Day 1: We arrived on a Saturday after a 2 hour bus ride. We were the second village group to get off and we were warmly welcomed by many children who were eager to help take our bags to the headquarters. We got in settled down and ate lunch. Then AG and Simon took us to our homestays. Compound-mean woman-OLD woman. Dog-Hope! The walls in my room were painted blue but were dirty dirty…I had a bed which was surprising, and an orange couch! I took a 30min nap before I went back for dinner. I got a little turned around my first time of getting to the lawyer house. My neighboor, Auntie Hannah helped me by telling me to turn right by the mango tree. We all had dinner and went to bed early.
Sunday Feb. 26 Day 2: Breakfast was at 8am everyday. And it was always delicious. I bought coffee in Kumasi, worried that there wouldn’t be any. But there was always enough, they defintiley pampered us. We went to Catholic Church with Auntie Grace and arrived during the tail end. We had to all stand up and introduce ourselves which was great. At the end the church had a potluck auction. We bought palm nut oil and red plantains for red red (YUM!). Then a woman bought us garden eggs and another woman bought us yams. It was a blast! After lunch Annie, Aleah, Grace and I were in an exploring mood and started on a walk. We probably had around 15 kids under 9 years old tagging along with us. We had no idea where we were going….but they didn’t seem to mind. AG told us we could look at farms and such, but when we tried going into a pathway the kids said “Don’t stray there.” They were really against us going anywhere but the main road. About halfway we decided to walk all the way to Nyinampong the village where another group was. It was about a 2 hr. walk there because it was midday (bad idea!) and we were hot. But it was great and we chilled with them for awhile before walking back.
Monday Feb. 27 Day 3: This was the day I got real sick. After lunch Annie, Grace and I went with Simon to Mampong, the closest city. It was only a 30 min. drive and half of the trip was even on concrete! What a luxury…I went to get my phone fixed for the second time. (I’ve had to fix it 3 times already, spending a total of 27 Cedis…) As I was sitting and waiting I began to feel uncomfortable and extremely hot. Then it just became progressively worse very quickly; including chills and heat flashes. I thought that going to the bathroom might help so I asked where the closest public bathroom was. The public bathroom is a new business in Ghana, trying to keep the streets clean. So, after about 10 min. or so of an older woman asking around and coming and going, she points to a man on a motorcycle. And I ask, “Go with him?” And she nudged me towards him. I hesitantly got on, partly because one: I was scared beyond anything; two: my stomach began cramping up pretty badly and three: I was wearing a dress. So, finally I’m on and cluching on to this man’s shirt and he zooms through the people and the taxi’s to the bathroom. At one point I thought we arrived but instead we had to slow down so much because we were going off the road into people’s yard and in between houses etc. After about a 5min. ride I scrambled off and ran into the building, but I had to pay and didn’t know so I was searching for my wallet when the man just gave the bathroom attendent 5 pesewaw. I thanked him and ran in. I was at first using a squat toilet and after about 10 min. a woman comes in and asks how I’m doing. After the waves of cramps and unsuccess of bowel movement, I replied in Twi that my stomach is paining me. She laughed and said to come to the other toilets, which were “American” toilets. I thanked her profusely and spent another 15min. in there. I came out of the bathroom and was so embarassed because the motorcycle man was waiting patiently for me and I got on. When he dropped me off I tried giving him 1 Cedi, but he wouldn’t take it. The bathroom situation didn’t help me at all and I was feeling worse once we got into the taxi heading back to Benim. At Benim when we began walking back to headquarters I got the worse cramps and fell onto my hands and knees, unable to move. Annie, Grace, Simon and children were all standing over me and helping me out. Finally I got up and trudged back to HQ where I took some Kaolin, which is a natural Ghanaian laxative. So, I took two capfulls of that and layed on my back for 10 sec, left side for 10 sec and right side for 10 sec. Then almost immediately I got up and ran to the toilet. Then everything was SO much better-I felt like a new woman. That has been my worst bout with sickness so far. Thank God! We left with some apatesche, which we communally drank half off that night. So, at least the day ended on a good note!
Tuesday Feb. 28 Day 4: This day we took our tour of Benim and visited a part of the village that is techically voluntarily isolated because they didn’t practice circumsion. They also had their own school (two buildings) that we visited. Then we went down to a “stream” that Benim got it’s name from. It looked more like a swamp…we also tried cacao off the tree for the first time. It’s a white creamy substance around a seed the size of a pumpkin seed. It’s not super sweet but it tastes almost like candy at the same time. Then we visited the other schools in the village and they were marching. They were practicing for Independence Day on March. 6. We joined in with the practice, but was just laughed at, in good humor. Later that night we had an activity planned but a storm ended up cancelling all plans. For about a couple hours it just poured. Everyone also started their Mini ISP this day. I chose dressmaking/seamstress to study. Auntie Grace found Obayaa, a 25 year old seamstress, who I could apprentice with. I started out with non-participation observation. So I sat (she always made sure I was sitting) and watched her make a Presby dress for the Independence Day march. The seamstresses here use old Singer machines, that are hand crank. It was memorizing to watch her work with such fluent and steady hands.
Wednesday Feb. 29 Day 5: After a quick lunch of rice balls and peanut soup (not my favorite) I went with Obayaa to Mampong for market day. I went to get fabric to learn and make myself dresses and to observe Obayaa interacting with the fabric sellers. The set-up and atmosphere of the market was similar to that of Farmers Markets in the States. There were stands everywhere, mostly selling produce, and people everywhere selling and buying. The women sellers often called out to me to buy their tomatoes or onions. I had to politely decline many times, saying I didn’t need anything. Obayaa haleped me pick out fabric. Two of which she chose and I didn’t exactly like, but said anyways. Then I chose one that I absolutely love! I then went around with her while she did a few errands. We were there for about a couple hours. That night we had story-telling night. Aleah told Little Red Riding Hood, then Simon shared some Ghanaian stories.
Friday Mar. 2 Day 7: This day I didn’t work very much on my ISP because Obayaa went to the farm. Instead I conducted interviews; in the end I had 4 total with Obayaa, her apprentice, Margaret, one of Obayaa’s customers and Obayaa’s master. In the morning we went to an apatesche distillory. Basically you collect the liquid from the palm tree which then goes into a huge metal bin and boils at a very hot temperature. The condensation from the palm wine goes down in a twisted copper tube under water, in a stream, the coil wraps back up and drips into a bucket. After the palm wine is distilled the first time, the process is repeated, then apatesche is made. I think it’s this double distilling that makes the apateshce very alcoholic. Ghanaians like to say it’s 98% alcohol, but it’s hard to say because it’s never been measured. Before dinner Aleah sold dried fish, which she carried on her head. She had to yell out “Fish (but in Twi), One Cedi.” There were also a massive amount of flies around them, which made the whole scenerio even more funny. As we were walking through town (I was just documenting) people would stop what they were doing and laugh so hard. It was really great. She only sold one; it’s a hard life, being a fish seller. Later that night Aleah, Jesse, Annie and I finished off the apatesche. Since there’s so much alcohol in the apatesche I only needed a tiny bit to feel the effects. It was a quiet night though, playing with glow-sticks and taking long-exposure photos. Then the four of us had a sleepover in the headquarters.
Saturday Mar. 3 Day 8: This morning I didn’t feel too well. I think it was a combination of being hungover and being a little sick. I ended up throwing up twice…So, this was our lazy day. I only left Headquarters twice. I pretty much worked on typing my ISP, which ended up being 17 pages (!).
Sunday Mar. 4 Day 9: This morning we went to the Presby church, everyone except for the two guys that is. Everything in Ghana is loud, no matter where you go. The speakers were turned up so loud and the man and women singing weren’t very good. It was painful, quite literally. The theme for the day was about people with disabilites. A relevant and important topic, especially since there isn’t much government support for people with disabilites at work or in school. We all gave a small donation to the church and danced on out of there. After lunch a lady came in to out HQ with a large basket of shoes on her head. She wanted 8 Cedis for sandals, but I didn’t need them that badly. Later on I sat at the “Parliment House,” which were just benches under a large tree. And on the benches it was carved “Parliment House.” So, I sat there reading Franny and Zooey and writing in my journal. People were constantly staring at me. It took me a while to realize why. It’s because Ghanaians don’t sit and read outside, or ever, really. I didn’t feel uncomfortable, I just felt like I should’ve been talking to people instead of reading.
Monday Mar. 5 Day 10: This day I worked on my ISP with interviews and I finished another dress. I asked Grace, who was in the village with me, to show Obayaa her dress, because I really liked the simple style. Mine ended up being a little more poofy than I had hoped for, but it’s still really pretty. I think Obayaa thought I had the hang of using the sewing machine because she kept telling me to hurry up and go faster. It’s hard working under pressure!
Tuesday Mar. 6 Day 11: Today was Independence Day! Everyone had the day off in order to participate in and watch the Sixth March, at the school. Nyinampong, the next village over, came over and celebrated with us. It was a hot hot day and we sat under a tarp near the village elders and school administration. There were about 15 different groups from various churches and schools. Some just did the basic march, and others added a little flair to their procession when they stopped in front of the elders. Then apparently Auntie Grace put us on the list to march, so we had to get up and march in front of everyone…it was awful! But the crowd was having a BLAST. We decided to do the Azonto in front of the elders, which is Ghana’s dance, and everyone knows it. “When in doubt, do the Azonto,” is a favorite saying. So, we did that and the crowd (mostly women) went CRAZY beyond belief. I wish I filmed how loud it got with people laughing and cheering. Then the crowd started closing in on us because people were pushing around to see us and take photos…it was just maddness. From then on, anytime any of us would walk through the village, they would chant “Azonto, azonto, azonto.” I’m glad we were able to give them a good memory!
Wednesday Mar. 7 Day 12: Market Day! All of us went to the market, and met the other village, Nama, there. I went on the internet, which was in either Scandinavian or Finnish, or something. It was also horriably slow, something that I should be used to by now, but am not. I got some gifts for my ‘landlord’ and thread for Obayaa as a thank you gift. Bought a delicious dough ball, which is much tastier than a doughnut because it doesn’t have any added sugar or frosting; just deep-fried. Then, while about 8 or 9 girls were sitting and waiting at the meeting spot a man came up to us and started taking our photo. He didn’t say anything and didn’t ask, just approached us with his phone outstretched in his hand. Then some of the girls immideately and forcefully told him to stop, gyae, repeatedley. Eventually he put his phone down but was smiling and didn’t see how or why the girls were upset. He said “Why are you all sitting here?” And something about how we take photos of Ghanaians…It turned into a big argument and I think both parties were having a difficulty understanding each other. There was also a language barrier that didn’t help the situation…Eventually Annie got up and talked to him one-on-one and he left. I think it was strange for him to see a number of white girls sitting together and I’m sure it’s not something Ghanaians see everyday. And also, not much would’ve happened with a poor quality photo on his phone. But on the flip side it was very rude and a violation of our space to approach us like that, and he wasn’t stopping when 4 girls were shouting at him to stop….
Thursday Mar. 8 Day 13: Last night at the village. When I got up this morning I felt a little dizzy and had a headache, so I layed down for the morning. Then after lunch I started making one more thing-which I can’t say because it’s for Dad and Kim’s wedding gift-and I had to finish the next morning because it was getting too dark. Also, we all just finsiehd up interviews and started the typing/writing of the ISP. Then like all good college students, we celebrated our last night together. We went down to a “spot” (bar) and got Stars, Clubs, and another darker beer. It was great fun, we played Jungle Speed, a game that everyone should check out and took lots of memorable photos. Then we all slept over at the HQ together for the last night in Benim.