Site Announcements and Updates

So, my site announcement. Here is how it went: so we had training beforehand and all of us were really excited and nervous about announcements. Finally after lunch they brought us over to the side and under the outdoor pavilion they had sketched out in chalk a map of Ghana with all the regions. They had traditional drums going and then our ACPD started announcing. He started with the Upper East region which border Burkina Faso. There were a lot of people assigned to up there. I think maybe 6 or 7. It is a small region so they all had to squeeze into their region on the map. Then Upper West and my good friend Janette was placed in Upper West. Everyone who got their sites had their heads buried in their papers we were given that described your job, your location, your housing, and the assignment. Then they called the Northern region and a few people went there. Finally, Brong-Ahafo was called and they told us that everyone in Brong-Ahafo would be working with cashews. I started to get excited because this was the region I wanted. Four people were called to Brong-Ahafo, then the ACPD started describing a site that had a lot of marketing involved and the PCVL, Mikey looked at me. I knew it was my site! They called my name and I was probably grinning from ear to ear. I got my packet and tore it open. I didn’t really pay attention afterwards to anyone else’s assignments. I was reading through my packet, mainly skimming and the first thing I saw was flushing toilet. HOLLA. Then I read my own house, electricity, and pipe-borne water. And it was like the heavens parted and released Peace Corps paradise. I continued to read that my language would be the one we had already started learning, which was awesome. And that my town was actually a city and has a population of 40,000 people. I was in complete shock. Did I really join the Peace Corps or was I joining the palace staff? Then Mikey tells me that my house is owned by a guy who never uses it, so he has a caretaker that watches over the house, basically a landlord/security guard. And that’s when I about died. I was so excited. When we were standing on the map of announcements, I was jumping up and down and dancing. I truly could not have asked for a more perfect site. AND I was working with cashews. I LOVE CASHEWS! Honey roasted cashews from Whole Foods – yummy! Especially since I pay about 10 bucks a pound for them. Talk about value adding. So needless to say, I got the best site amenities wise and location. I have a really good feeling that my house is going to be a popular spot for people to come visit. If it is a house, I will probably have an extra bedroom. I can’t wait to visit my site and see what I will need to buy. I think if I can save enough of my walkaround allowance, I will buy a fridge. We get settling in allowance, to cover furnishing your place, but I think a fridge is above and beyond. I want to be able to buy some furniture, get some cabinets made, and get some little touches that will make it feel like a home. I mean I am going to be living there for 2 years, maybe more if I really like it.

So far, I love Ghana. This country is absolutely amazing. The people are incredibly friendly, the terrain is so different from Oklahoma. The land is lush and green. You can see so many stars at night. The rains (god bless the rains down in Africa) are spectacular deluges. The weather is hot and sticky, but it makes taking cold bucket baths feel like Christmas morning each time. While I miss ice cream, cheese, and my dog, I really think that Ghana is my second home. Every day reinforces why I came here and that I made the right decision. There is always something small that hits you and I think – I am living in Africa, learning a language spoken by probably less than 17 million people (about the population of Florida I think). I am meeting incredible people, creating wonderful stories and memories, and I know that I will be able to affect some form of change, even if it is very tiny. I already taught my host sister about guinea worms and how to properly wash your hands. Every day is a new day filled with new experiences and new exciting things to learn. I love it here. I hate to admit it, but I think so far I like Ghana more than Oklahoma.

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6 thoughts on “Site Announcements and Updates

  1. Hi! I just stumbled on your blog and have been reading through your posts and I LOVED this one :). Your description of Ghana is awesome! I just got my invitation to Ghana yesterday for the Health program, and I am really really excited! My staging date is February 4, so I still have almost 6 months to go before departure, but I am already starting to stress out about it haha, so I can’t even imagine how you did everything in 7 weeks! Your site sounds amazing! So much better than anything I thought would be available to volunteers. I was wondering if you could tell me how available cell phone and internet services are in Ghana in general for communication with home? I’ve been looking through your packing lists in preparation for making my own, but if you have any suggestions or tips for me as I am getting ready for this exciting journey, I would greatly appreciate them!

    • Congratulations on being invited to Ghana. I’ve truly loved my experience here, both the good and the bad. I can’t believe they give that much notice now – 6 months, crazy!
      Like all good things, my original site ended up being better in writing than it was in reality. I did enjoy having running water though, but in the end it didn’t work out and I was moved. Now I live in typical PCV housing – one small room with a tiny porch for cooking. I use a latrine and have to fetch water. Despite the housing being a step down, my new site is much better. Most PCVs have sites similar to my current one.

      As far as cell phone service goes, it is pretty good. I’m sitting here on my bed with high speed internet through a modem. The main carrier in country MTN is incredibly frustrating, but it works most of the time. I live in a fairly big town now though, so I have the problem of tower congestion. I call home frequently (once a week) and it isn’t too expensive. I can talk on the phone for an hour and spend about 5cd.

      I’d highly recommend setting aside a box of kitchen supplies to mail yourself. Nonstick pans, good spatulas, and spices truly help! Also, take half as many clothes as you think you need. Pack what you want to bring then take half of it away. Clothes are incredibly cheap here, easy to find, and easy to get made. I bought jeans at the market and I wear them all the time, only 10cd. I brought way too many American clothes with me. I’ve given almost all of them away, the only things I’ve kept are the tank tops and two t-shirts. The underwear has been invaluable though, but mainly because I hate doing laundry. Toiletries are hard to find here though, especially shampoo. When you pack, you are technically packing for the first 6 months. You aren’t allowed to leave site during the first 3, so you need to be prepared for 6 months. OTC meds are easy to get here. Don’t get 10 passport pictures made, you just need 2 extra for your bank account. I’d suggest the Clement’s Insurance. And finally, bring a good attitude. Attitude is everything here. The culture can be rough and grating, but if you look at everything as a learning experience you’ll go far.

      Welcome to PC Ghana!

      • Thanks so much for your reply 🙂 This is so helpful! I think that they give such a long notice now because (from what I’ve gathered from your blog) medical clearance used to be a pre-invitation deal, but is now done after invitations. So once I accept my invitation, I will still have to do all the doctor visits and tests PC requires for medical clearance. Basically my invitation is still conditional, but I’m in good health, so I’m not really worried.
        I have a few more questions, if you don’t mind answering them.
        How safe do you feel in Ghana? My family and friends (and probably myself a little too) are concerned about my safety, so I’d like to ease their concerns as much as I can.
        Would you suggest buying a solar charger? That’s one of the things I’ve kind of been toying with getting for the times when there is no power, but I’m not sure if that’s just a waste of money.
        I’m also curious on what kind of tank tops are acceptable in Ghana? My welcome packet says no spaghetti straps allowed, but are regular thicker (1-2 inches approx.) straps ok? And the same applies to dresses I’m guessing? No spaghetti-strapped ones?
        I’m also really curious on what kind of exercise I could get in Ghana? I am hoping that I’ll be able to go on runs, but at my PC interview I was told that running might not be acceptable by some cultures, or just not really a possibility, for whatever reason.
        And lastly (sorry, this has gotten long haha. I have a lot of questions brewing in my head), I love photography and so right now the only camera I own is a fairly nice one (canon rebel to be exact). Do you think it’s realistic to bring it with me, or should I start looking into getting a cheaper, smaller camera?

        p.s. i really appreciate your obsession with cheese and double-stuffed oreos. I have a feeling that this will be me in the near future. Because i LOVE both.

    • How safe do I feel in Ghana? I’d probably pose that question to other PCVs too, I’m not exactly the best person to answer that question. I’ve had a few safety incidents that were highly unpleasant. One was as a direct result of my project, another was random, and this last one is a product of being white in Ghana. When I first got to country safety was not a concern, however incidents have increased dramatically since the death of the President and elections. Luckily, I’ve never had anything stolen. People are likely to accost you and it seems like robberies (attempted too) have increased, especially in Kumasi. You should always be aware of your surroundings and belongings. Overall though, I feel safe here. Being a white person, your community tends to take ownership of you. If anything happens it is on them because you are theirs to protect. This is especially true in the village. I live in a large town and people tend to think it is funny when something crazy happens to the obroni. That’s why it is really important to befriend your neighbors, they know when something isn’t right. You’ll never feel safe in Kumasi, probably because that city is the hell mouth, but outside of there you are as safe as you are vigilant.

      I’d set money aside to buy one if you discover you don’t have electricity at site, but otherwise leave the solar charger at home. Electricity is fairly common nowadays, it isn’t stable though, so I’d recommend buying a voltage regulator from a bigger town.
      Spaghetti straps are okay for running around your house, but shouldn’t be worn outside of the house. You can get away with a dress with spaghetti straps if you live in the South, not the North. Regular tank tops are fine. I live off of Target’s basic tanks, they hold up really well with hand washing.
      A lot of students here run, especially if they play soccer. You can’t find running shoes here, but people do run. You’ll need to bring longer exercise pants though to cover as much of your thigh as possible. You might attract a small band of children that follow you while you run, but that’s typical. I exercise in my house using the insanity workouts.

      If you love photography, you should bring a nice camera. Just get insurance on it. There’s even a PCV Media group here that you’d probably really enjoy. As with all nice things, make sure that you keep it in a safe place in your house and don’t show it to too many neighbor boys. Don’t trust the kids to touch anything, they tend to point at screens very enthusiastically.

      You should check out my latest post about the food cycle PCVs go through. I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t crave food anymore, not even cheese. Sour cream holds a special place though, there is nothing even resembling it here. I have tons of American food too that I brought back from vacation, I tend to crave the local food more! It’s crazy how much you learn to live without sweets, salty stuff though – you’ll start obsessing over salty foods. That’s a result of dehydration though 🙂

      Keep the questions coming – I’m happy to answer!

  2. Hi! I’ve finally managed to get through almost your entire blog, and I’m back with more questions. To follow up on your suggestion to bring longer pants for running – does it matter if the pants are tight or loose? I have stretchy-type leggings that go past my knees, but they are tight – would that be ok or not ok? Also, would you suggest bringing a present for the family I will be staying with during training? And would you suggest buying an unlocked phone in U.S. to take it to Ghana, or should I just wait to get one in Ghana/how expensive are phones in Ghana?
    Also, I just wanted to tell you that from what I’ve read on your blog, it seems like you’ve had some really tough times during your service, but I am very impressed with your choice to look at everything as a learning opportunity and to keep a good attitude. I can only hope that I will be able to do the same!

    • It doesn’t matter if the pants are tight or not. A lot of people wear yoga pants underneath long tunics, like leggings.

      If you bring a host family gift, make it small. The best thing you could get them is something local or from the market. Bring them a cool cheap watch or something for the entire family. Pictures printed out are the best option once you are at site.

      Phones are expensive in Ghana and Chinese, therefore terrible quality. Bring an unlocked phone if you have one. Having an Android phone has made my life much easier.

      I’ve had my fair share of crap happen to me, in fact I probably had a fair share for five people. If I would have given in or given up, then I would never be able to forgive myself. These crazy situations have made me stronger and the only thing I can do is learn from them!

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