Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ghana Q & A Part 1

A lovely bowl of plantains and a leafy sauce of some sort that has been cooked for several days...

Bagging a sweet "juice" aka sugar water w/ artificial flavoring drink that my family makes and sells.

From left to right: Innocent, Iris, and Jessica.

Apple tree in Washington, Coconut tree in Sunyani!

Looking out at the rusty metal roofs of a residential part of Sunyani. Note the small mosque in the center.

Hello again everyone,
To start with, I hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving! I was drooling all day just thinking about turkey and mashed potatoes and apple pie... It will taste so amazing next year I am sure. Well, since I last wrote, things have been going well for me here in Sunyani. School is still definitely the most trying aspect to my life here, but I am really enjoying life with my family, which makes up for the hours of agony in school. I know I have written very little to date about my family, but it is my plan to write the whole next newsletter on my family life, hopefully in two or three weeks. As far as today, as I said last time this will Ghana Q & A edition! Thanks so much to all of you who sent me questions, unfortunately I can only work in a few today, but somewhere down the line I am planning to do Ghana Q & A part two.

What kind of smells do you encounter day to day in Ghana?

After being here for nearly three months, the smells here now seem very commonplace to me. When I first arrived however, that was not so, smell was HUGE, because well, Ghana is a pretty smelly place. There are several prevalent smells that infest my nose on a daily basis. Walking through town is probably the most aroma rich part of my day, as there are tons of food vendors selling food like meat kabobs, fried rice, fried plantains, and many others. Unfortunately, those nice food smells are also mixed with a healthy helping of exhaust, as well as the wonderful smell of garbage filled open sewers. Lining all the roads, there are these big cement gutters, and it seems they were poorly designed because they are always full of stagnant water mixed with garbage, rotting food and vegetables, and probably a fair dose of urine. Another very prevalent smell is smoke. Ghanaians love fire, and use it for cooking and burning pretty much anything. The cooking fires aren't so bad, as they are usually just burning charcoal, and plus the smell of cooking food is always pleasant. The smoke that I find slightly less pleasant though, is the smoke created by the burning of plastic, and of piles of green grass and leaves. The other day I came home and my host mom was throwing some old phones and tires into a fire outside our house, yuck can you say carcinogens?! As prevalent as the smells I've mentioned are, the thing that probably fills my nose the most is lovely, red african dust, but I guess maybe that doesn't quite qualify as a smell..

I'd love to know about other AFS kids there, from what countries, how often do you get together, and how do you feel the local support is, like is anyone unhappy with a placement, etc.
There are three other AFS students in Sunyani, two who are participating in the high school year program like me, and one who is taking part in the shorter community service program. The girl who is doing community service is named Barbel and is from Italy, and because she is not attending school I do not see her very often. The other two are Rich from Tenesee, and Iris from Belgium, and they are both wonderful people. Rich lives about a five minutes walk from my house, so I spend a lot of time with him, and I definitely am thankful for his company. Iris lives in a different part of town, but we still see her every school day since we are all in the same class at Twene Amanfo. As far as support, it is somewhat minimal. Our contact person here is actually Rich's 29 year old host brother, and although he is a very kind, nice guy, he hasn't organized too many activities or anything of the sort yet. I know though, that if we were in trouble or needed help he would be there for us in a second. As far as support from the national office, Rich and I have heard from them twice, and Iris hasn't heard from them at all. This doesn't really bother me as I haven't really needed any help, but what does bother me is that for the whole ten months they only have one group activity planned for us. Ghana does have poor roads and such, but still, I think they could do a bit better than that. All of us were lucky enough to be placed with great families, so there have been no problems there.

Internal Family relationships -- how the children relate to their parents and vice-versa.

I'll cover this more in my post on my family, but I'll go over it briefly here. Wow, family relationships are crazy here compared to what I know at home, or at least they are with my host family. The biggest thing I would say, is that there is really no visable affection showed between my host parents and siblings. It seems that they interact more as maybe a boss and an employee do, a boss who doesn't feel much affection for his employees. Beyond telling her kids to do chores or reprimanding them, my Mom really does not talk to my host sisters and bros, and certainly doesn't ever hug or kiss them. My host dad lives in Accra during the week, and when he is home on the weekends he barely talks to anyone. In the few words he has said to me he has of course been polite, but today for instance, all I got was "good morning." This has been a bit tough for me, because I come from such a wonderful, loving family, and it has taken me a while to get used to the fact that I am never going to really feel like this is my family.

How has Obama's win been viewed there?
Obama's win has been huge in Ghana, and throughout the whole of Africa as well. As they rightly should, people here are very proud that "one of them," as they view it, has been elected as president of the most powerful country in the world. Before the election, tons of people asked Rich and I if we supported Obama, and now even after he has won people continue to ask us if we support him and if we are happy he won. It is a little amusing at times though, because as much enthusiasm as they have for him, very few people know anything about him. Like before the election, most people I talked to did not know who he was running against, and I even got some funny and kind of confusing questions like: "Is Barack Obama from the U.S.?" Or one particularly funny one, "Is Barack Obama a man or a woman?" That said, there are also many well informed people who when I spoke to them knew a surprising amount about him and the state of U.S. politics. One teacher right after the election came to our class and spoke with us, saying that "George Bush is a bush man!," and that it will do the U.S. a ton of good to have change and a new administration in control. I have to say, I agree completely, and common, who can't laugh at "George Bush is a Bush man!"

Friday, November 7, 2008

More Pictures!

The Sunyani Municipal Hospital. Its closed on sundays..

The neighborhood football pitch.

My host sister Mamia pounding the traditional dish "fufu" w/ one of my host bros. Fufu is served in a spicy sauce and you swallow it immediately w/out chewing. Not one of my faves..

A village outside of Sunyani.

The neighborhood garbage bin

My host bro's Oraku and Kweku cutting up some freshly killed chicken.

One of the roads I run on near my home. It is very nice and scenic until a truck or bus goes by at 100 mph and makes me swallow lungfulls of dust.

On the left is my host brother BB and fellow AFSer Iris from Belgium. On the right is Iris' host sister Alice, and my fellow American AFSer Rich, from Tennessee.

My host brother Solo, and my adorable 2 year old host sister Angel.