The Second Half of April

I comment on this often, but it never ceases to amaze me. Time here operates differently. At my previous job, time worked pretty much the same. I woke up, got ready, went to work, worked, lunch, worked some more. Around 3pm time would slow down until it was time to leave. I would go home, make dinner?, and fiddle around on the internets. Each day is so different here , no routine, maybe that’s why time is so wonky. The typical feeling is that each day drags on forever, but that weeks fly by. Months are over in what seems like a heartbeat. For instance, April? What was that?! It just disappeared. I can’t even remember March.

Nowadays, I find myself battling with time. I keep dragging my feet into the sand and hoping that time will stand still just for a bit. Cashew season is coming to a close – what will I do then?!. The group of volunteers who came in 2010 are leaving in a month to three months – they have such valuable knowledge and they are so much fun, I am going to miss them a lot. I will have to regroup and work on different things – but I like my routine! Time won’t listen to my whining complaints though and will continue to chug along. So, let’s get to what I originally planned to write about shall we?

The last two weeks (this one included) have been a total rollercoaster.

I get home from All Vol on Monday. Tuesday, I wake up exhausted from sleeping 12 hours. I go to the office to do some work and to chat with Cynthia. Or maybe I just slept all day Tuesday and it was Wednesday I went to work. Either way, I didn’t feel good. I started to feel shitty, but I figured it was my body punishing me for All Vol and for my long day of travel. I started to get worse. Fever, body aches, joint aches, headache, sore throat, cough, chills, and straight up delirium. The next few days I just laid in bed, watched movies, and slept. At least that’s all I remember doing. I can’t remember eating or how I procured food – but I guess I ate? The Peace Corps doc diagnosed me with the dreaded malaria – so I started taking the pills. I started to feel better on the second day of the pills. I felt almost human again on the third day. I had one day where I felt fine and the next day, I started to feel sick again. Everything came back, but not as bad. I developed a rash. I kept taking OTC meds for the symptoms and eventually I started to feel better, ironically enough on World Malaria Day. Who knows if it was actually malaria or maybe dengue. Either way, I feel better now – hopefully, knock on wood, cross your fingers, pray to every god out there. So moral of the story, I lost an entire week of my life. When I think back to last week, I honestly have trouble remembering anything. I remember walking to the office twice in one day. I remember texting a few people. After that it is all hazy. Hazy is a lie, it is a giant black hole in my memory. I can’t remember it at all. Yes, there are parts of my life that I can’t remember – like being 8. But that’s natural as you age. To forget an entire week of your life when it happened last week. It is a little scary, but I figure it was just the delirium from the constant fever.

So let’s move on to this week, which luckily, I remember much better! Except for Monday, I had to look at my running to-do list to remember what I did. Now it is coming back to me.

Monday – I spent the entire day at the office. I helped them figure out some things about money. The chairman showed up, so he got to see me actually working at the office. I got my 37th husband, the chief, and I made a crapton of phone calls. Basically, I actually worked that day. Yay for working!

Tuesday – I traveled to Bamboi and Bui, two sites we are considering for new volunteers. For some reason, Bamboi always reminds me of Bambi. I always expect to see furry forest creatures when I go there. Or at least a deer singing. Is that really too much to ask from a community? In Bamboi, we pulled up to the chief’s palace and there was a HUGE crowd gathered around. We were so excited that maybe this was for us and they actually got the community together for a meeting. NOPE. Just a couple of gold miners polluting the water, so the chief gave them an ultimatum. The chief is this short little man with awesome hair and a really cool accent. I think he lives in Boston? maybe most of the time. He was dressed in his full chief outfit, which I haven’t seen a chief actually wearing a full 10yards of kente, so I was really excited.

Side track! Did you know that kente is really pretty expensive. Kente is made in strips about the width of 3inches. You sew together the strips to make yards of fabric, that you can then use to make clothes from. The price of strips varies but it can be anywhere from 4cd to 15cd. I can’t remember how many strips it takes to make a yard, but for the full 10 yards for men it can cost almost 600cd. Even now kente is seen sorta as a status symbol. Which double side track, there is a type of fabric here called piecey piecey. Tailors save their scraps and then sell them by the pound. Some tailors buy the scraps and sew them together to make 2 yards of fabric. The two yards sell for just 5cd, which is an amazing price. Piecey piecey used to be just for the poor. It was seen as a symbol of poverty, that all you can afford is scraps. Nowadays though people are doing really cool things with piecey piecey, plus they see the white people love it. I was talking to my counterpart and she said these days piecey piecey is slowly becoming a status symbol. Fascinating. Anyway, back to my main story.

We waited for the chief to finish his meeting in his palace with his big ass chairs and giant drums. It was very surreal. He then gave us a tour of where a volunteer might live and we talked to a few people about arranging a meeting. Onward to Bui.

So the family that lives in my compound is from Bui. Bui is also a national park and the name of a brand new GIANT dam they are building. So, the oldest brother, Iman comes with us to Bui. We get to the dam location and we are stopped by security and the police. They want to know what some white people and a black dude are doing trying to see the dam. Well, we aren’t actually going for the dam we are going to the town of Bui, which was apparently very hard for them to believe. Finally, we get Iman’s dad Nana on the phone – he just so happens to be the chief of Bui. He says the magic words and they let us through. Passing by the dam, I get a chance to see how big it is. When I heard about the dam I thought it wasn’t going to be anything major. You know, an Oklahoma dam. WRONG. Here is a picture I snuck.

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So yeah, it is a rather large dam. We then drove through the section the Chinese have built as offices, dorms, and workshops. It was so strange. There is just this mini city that has sprung up out of nowhere. We keep driving and finally get out of the construction zone. A few Chinese engineers wave excitedly at us and we start down the road to Bui. Except, it looks really weird, the road is very much a bush road and there is nothing here. Iman tells the driver to turn around, we go back to the gate and ask which way to Bui. They direct us in the opposite way. So we are making our way down an obviously new road. We end up landing in this total twilight zone. There is a community sprung up out of nowhere on top of this hill with all brand new houses. They are colorful, bright green, yellow, pink. But they are new and they are nice. We see a sign. Bui Resettlement.

We finally find the actual place, sit down, and talk to the elders. Bui has been resettled because of the dam. Either the government of Ghana or the Chinese, who are building the dam, paid for this new town to be constructed. NO WONDER my family doesn’t live there anymore. The entire town was just picked up and moved elsewhere. The spot Bui is now has no trees, is on top of a hill, and doesn’t really have much of anything. No shops, no stores, it was so eerie. They are planning to build a market though and a few other things. It was incredibly quiet there and I felt like I was in a different world. After seeing the housing the volunteer would be given, I almost volunteered myself to move there. Two rooms, a shower room, toilet, storage room, and a veranda that looks out over the mountains. You can see the dam from the veranda. It is quiet, quaint, and the veranda is pretty private. It would be such a great place to escape. What I really love about the town is the fact that everyone has to start over – which sounds really bad when I think about it. All their farms were at the dam location, they were near the water. Their farms are destroyed. The government gave them land so they have a fresh start. A cashew volunteer could make a huge difference in this town, showing them best practices for starting a new farm. It could be right from the get-go, not going in and fixing things, but making it right from the start. That would be such a great opportunity. The whole town just fascinates me. So, finally we left the town and made our way back home. That was Tuesday.

Wednesday – I traveled to Kintampo to recharge credit on a phone that we have been having trouble getting a hold of. When I found out they weren’t actually using the phone at all to buy cashew, I went ahead and took it back. If it took me over a month to track them down to just put credit on the phone, imagine trying to get the phone back after the season. Executive decision was made and now the phone was back with me. I went with a friend to Kintampo. He had to do some work in a neighboring village, so I waited at the main office. I helped the buying clerk use the phone to purchase some cashew. It was really fun. Sometimes I wish I was a buying station clerk. I love using the SAP prototype application, I would be such a great buyer. I would be so fast. Pipe dreams, anyway.

Thursday – I went to the batik market in Techiman early in the morning. I bought 12 yards of fabric! All sorts of different types, patterns, and colors. There was one I saw that I literally saw it, pointed, and said “me pe” I want. I have never in my life bought anything so quickly or decisively. I ended up with a beautiful red and orange print with big typical symbols, a purple and seafoam green abstract one, a lime green and white with swirly symbols, a grey with orange and white (my favorite), and one that’s an interesting shade of brown with white and green sword symbols. I made out like a bandit and now my tailor is going to have some fun! I just have to figure out what I am going to do with the ones I only bought 2 yards of. 3 yards is a dress. 4 yards is a prom dress. You can make a skirt, shirt, or really basic dress out of 2 yards. There are just too many options and I can’t decide.

Later in the day Thursday, I traveled to Sampa to meet up with Chase and Chad. I was going to help out with a smartphone training Friday, so I decided to come the night before. I’m glad I came because I am the most familiar with the phones and I powered through updating all of them with the new software and changing the settings. I am sure Chad and Chase would have figured it out perfectly, but it was sorta like cheating bringing me in to spin around in a circle and poof make everything work. Actually that pretty much sums up everything I do in this country. Yeah.

Friday – we walk to the training site for today’s SAP smartphone prototype application training. Mind you, in Wenchi we took an entire week to do this. We did it in one day in Sampa. It was only 5 buying station clerks though and they caught on incredibly fast. Chad gave an introduction and explained the smartphone. Then I went ahead and walked everyone through step by step on how to use the phone. I actually surprised myself at how much I remembered. I had never taught anyone per say on how to use the phone, so doing the training was definitely new for me. Yes, when we did it in Wenchi I coached my guys – but SAP lead the training. This time it was me and Chad. I think it went over really well. All of the clerks were able to repeat everything on their own when we did practice sessions. I was very impressed at how fast they picked up the app. We split up and went to the field for practice. Since, I was leaving for back home from Sampa – I went to Sampa. I did a few exercises with my guy – who really understood the phone, and decided he was ridiculously proficient. So he took me to the station and I got a Wenchi tro. I sat down in the tro to wait at 1pm. Oh wait, before that at the station I was given some water. It was the most disgusting water I have ever tasted. It was mothball flavored from having sit somewhere with mothballs. Yuck. So, I sit and wait for 30 minutes for the tro to fill. We finally pull out of the station and for some reason stop no kidding 10 feet from where we just were. The driver runs away and goes to buy juice. WTF? A passenger got out and bought some fried yams. Weird. Anyway. We finally start moving. The road from Sampa to Wenchi is half paved. The Sampa side is all dirt and all sorts of problems. We are FLYING down the road when suddenly the tro starts to shake violently and I start praying to everything out there. The driver pulls over looks under the tro and calls a buddy. When I say call I mean screams on the phone because apparently every Ghanaian is taught that in school. They can’t hear you unless you scream. Wow that sounds even more creepy when you read it twice. Go back read that sentence again. Sorry-o. So, everyone gets out of the tro and goes to sit under a tree. I take that as a bad omen. Suddenly the driver signals to everyone and we get back in the tro after 15 minutes of sitting around. We start driving 5mph down the dirt road. We go along for an hour at this pace. It was brutal but hilarious at the same time. We finally make it to the town where the road is paved again. We stop at a welder’s shop. Everyone out. The welders do something under the car. Pretty sure it was an axle. I stand around pissy in the shade. Some idiot keeps saying to whoever would listen, you can drive out of town, but leave the white lady. Little shit. After probably 30 minutes, the welders are satisfied and we all pile back in the tro. On we go, tro is fixed. I listen to music while sitting there sweating my eyes out, but for some reason this tro ride seems longer than usual. Hmm, wonder why. For some reason, my mind won’t wander. I just sat there listening to the music. Normally, I can zone out. Not this time. So what should have been a 1.5 hour ride turned into 3 hours and the last hour felt like 3 in itself. I finally get out in Wenchi. I decide to go to the market and buy some groceries. Only the 4th time I have done this in country. Yeah that’s right. 7 months in and I have only bought groceries 4 times. Try that in America! I get a few small things and then this lady says she has fine fine avocados, someone else vouches for her and actually buys some. A Ghanaian recommendation is as good as any other, sorta, so I go over to her spot and buy 3 avocados for 1.5cd. Big ones. Less than $0.30 a piece for avocados bigger than I have ever seen them. Life is so rough here! I suddenly hear JACKIE. JACKIE! JACKIE! I turn around and don’t see anyone I know. Then I see a hand waving – oh look it is my mom! I didn’t know she sold stuff at the market. I go over to her spot and greet her. We talk a bit in English. All her friends are so impressed that she speaks some English – she has improved a lot since I moved in. I‘m happy that I’m able to increase her street cred with the cassava and yam sellers. I grab a few more things – aka vegetables! and head over to get some delicious rice and chicken. I have only had some small small pineapple to eat that day so I go to my yam seller and get some fried yams and peppe. I am so exhausted, I buck in and get a drop taxi to take me home. Luckily, I chose a guy I have used before. He remembered exactly where I lived so I just lolled out in the back, while he conveniently drove me right to my front door. I drop off my stuff in the kitchen, greet the family. They look concerned at how tired I am. I am tired and filthy. I hop in the shower, which was so glorious I can’t even describe it.

When you are disgusting, covered in sweat, grime, dirt, sunburn, and other people’s BO – a shower with good pressure is like smashing your face into a three-tiered cake with lots of icing and just devouring the whole thing. It is like opening a box of Cheez-Its and watching the rainbow hit you. It is like diving into a chocolate fountain and having to slurp your way out. That shower was magical. My soap scrubber afterwards needed its own shower. I then proceed to pig out and eat my 6 fried yams with peppe and my entire thing of chicken and rice. Then to top it off I ate some almond mms – thanks Martha! and some Cadbury MiniEggs. I was stuffed silly after that. I passed out pretty early last night. I woke up this morning at 5am with some sort of crazy zeal. I look at my phone and notice NINE 9! missed calls. NINE MISSED CALLS?! WTF. Two are from my dad – sorry Dad! I was really tired. And the 7 others are from all different numbers. I have no idea who was calling me last night or how they got my number. No earthly idea. Luckily, I didn’t hear the phone ring at all, so as long as they don’t call back – whatever. I then proceeded to wash dishes this morning at 5:30 and start some laundry.

So there you have it, the last 2 weeks in a nutshell. A giant cashew nut shell. Wow, this was a really long post. Hope you are bored this Saturday! (FYI this post was 3400+ words, which is longer than half my papers in college.) Oh and FYI FYI –I’m considering getting a masters. Just so you know. Maybe.

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