Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas From Ghana!

Hello My Dear Friends,
Well to start with I would just like to wish you all a merry, merry Christmas, and a prosperous new year. May you all enjoy wonderful times with family and friends, as well as lots and lots of wonderful Christmas food and drink. As I sit here in shorts and t-shirt, and as I look outside and see the hot, hazy Ghanaian air, it is hard for me to believe that today is Christmas eve, and that tomorrow is Christmas. Even though we very rarely have a white Christmas in Bellingham, I still asscociate the holiday season with cool, wet, Pacific Northwest weather, so it is taking a bit of work to convince myself that it really is December 24th, despite my sweaty brow and the palm trees outside. The fact that it is already Christmas also just brings home to me how fast the time has flown by here, I remember when I arrived here Christmas seemed ages away, but now I realize just how fast the past 3 1/2 months have zipped by.
Here in Ghana, Christmas is already here, as they celebrate the holiday for pretty much a whole week surrounding the 25th, the dates differ depending on who you ask. Exactly what they define as celebrating Chirstmas however, is a bit of a mystery to me, because so far here in Sunyani there are virtually no indicators that it is Christmas. From the adds I have seen on TV for Christmas sales in Accra in Kumasi I get the impression that the holiday is at least commercially a bigger deal in those places, but the stores that put those commercials out are not present in Sunyani, and walking the streets here I have seen no Christmas items or sales. I think in Ghana people still take the holiday very literally, a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, so a large part of the celebration is just going to church even more often than usual. So far at my house life goes on mostly as it has for the past months, the only difference being that a few family members who were at boarding school have come home. I have asked my brothers what we do here to celebrate, and it sounds as if the extent of celebration is a nice meal here sometime in the next few days. I think that although people here are not confronted with a financial crisis like many people in the U.S. are right now, they are confronted with the reality of living in a developing country. In a family like mine, feeding twenty people each day is enough of an expense, and I'm sure there isn't money left for gifts and other Christmas activities. I think that in many ways though they have it just right, the whole family is here to celebrate and to enjoy eachothers company and some good food, and really isn't that the most important part of the holiday?
I have now been off from school for a week and will be until January 13th, and really this year that is the best Christmas gift I could have received, almost a month off to relax and travel. A week ago today my fellow AFSer Rich and I took our first trip for the break, a day excursion to a nearby monkey sanctuary. It was a wonderful trip, definitely the most excitement I've had so far in my stay here. Not only did we get to see a ton of lively monkeys, but we also got to enjoy a beautiful 250 year old forest, as well as a couple helter skelter taxi rides. We have two other trips planned for the break, the first being a couple days in Kumasi at the beginning of January, hopefully with a few other AFSers from around the country, and then at the end of January AFS is sponsoring a trip to the Volta region, both should be great fun. Here in Sunyani I have fallen into a very regular routine, a routine that when I first got here I would have deemed incredibly boring, but at this point in my stay I am very content with it. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Rich and I go to town at 8am and buy a wonderful breakfast of an egg sandwich and a mug of wannabe coffee, and then after that we come here to the Internet cafe for an hour. The rest of my week is spent chilling at home, and as boring and lame as that may sound, I have come to enjoy my time with my family immensely. A lot of my time is spent with my brothers bagging sachets of purified water and sugary drinks that my family manufactures, in fact last night I was up til three in the morning with them working, yikes! I also have taken a couple fishing trips with my younger brothers to a nearby muddy little creek, where with sticks and string we caught an amazing amount of palm sized little fish, which despite there size, we of course ate. Other than that, my days really are incredibly lazy, I spend a lot of time sitting out in our yard under a big coconut tree, often with a little grey and white cat in my lap who has become a fast friend. Just sitting does sound boring when you say it, but I have learned to enjoy my time under the tree, sometimes a nice breeze is blowing and I can close my eyes and enjoy its cool touch, or if there is no breeze to enjoy then I can just enjoy time with my little feline friend and I can spend time time contemplating this crazy world around me. Usually around twelve or one I take a nap, then around five I head out for my daily five-ish mile run, and really that is the extent of my daily activities. Boring as my routine may sound, I really am learning to enjoy it. I think perhaps that is another Christmas gift I have received this year, the gift of learning to enjoy small things immensely, I wont deny that I am longing for a good day on the ski slopes right now, but it is valuable to learn that I don't necessarily need that kind of excitement to be happy.
Alright, well as it is Christmas eve, I am sure you all have much better things to do than read my ramblings, so I will cut this email off here. Again, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, I am thinking of you all and wish I could be there with you to celebrate and make merry.
Best Wishes,