Sunday, December 23, 2012

Playing Catch Up Since September!

Since September we have had busy days helping over 850 PEF students, and working with them is sheer delight. Having been here 15 months, we've gotten to know so many of them and watched them diligently pay back their loans with sometimes small monthly payments, to larger amounts, depending on circumstances. Typical of a parting comment is, "I am so much grateful. I want to pay back this money so another student can have the same happiness." Pretty rewarding. Our office work can be tiring - after retirement we have jumped right back into the work place. However, we manage to break up the stress with visits/outings that give us some great variety. We've grown to really love Ghana.
On Dec 1st, our ward (Kwabenya) had their own "Helping Hands" service project: cleaning the local community hospital. We had a huge turnout with many helping hands. The hospital was so grateful for the ward's efforts, it did a free screening a few weeks later at the church to reciprocate.
There wasn't a place that our ward members did not clean -- if there was a corner -they were in it, a hallway - got it, steps, walls, bathrooms, levelers - got them all.
Our wonderful ward -- they showed up on one of the hottest, most humid days and donated hours for service. To change our pace a little, in the middle of December, we had a chance to drive 3 hours further west to the garden spot of Ghana -- Cape Coast. Annette and Dago Klein, Jane and Lee Curtis, and Barb and Mark Taylor made the experience all the better because they were with us.
Annette Klein, Barb Taylor, and me (Dago Klein, photographer). We're heading out on the Cape Coast Canopy Walk which was built in the 60's as a way for researchers to observe the wildlife. The jungle is so thick that it successfully hides over 250 elephants, monkeys, and some big cats. Our guide said visitors can hear the animals in the early mornings or late in the evenings, but rarely are they seen.
On the Canopy Walk (Me.. leader. I'm never a leader.) It was just awesome to be above the tops of the trees. The hike up to the rope bridges was a little steep in places, and the path was made of very jagged rocks, so that in the rain and mist visitors will not slip and slide.
My faithful followers. We could hear the calls of the tropical birds and see bright yellow butterflies higher up that we thought they could fly. There were also large bumps on the sides of the trees- these were ant homes. Amazing. We felt like National Geographic explorers.
It looks a little scary, but it wasn't, just a little unstable. The Canopy Walk was an hour away from our resort, known for the tropical grounds and ocean views. What an incredible experience.
Sunrise at Coconut Grove - with every wave that rolled out, one problem went with it.
The resort has one of the five golf courses that are in Ghana. If one plays early in morning, the caddies move the donkey and horses out of the way. Africa. David, the High Commissioner,organized the First Annual Cape Coast Scramble. The rules were liberal: first tee, hit till you're happy; one underhand throw is legal; mulligans were doled out according to experience....SO FUN.
Annette Klein hit THE perfect shot right into the crocodile pond -- he is now labeled "The Ball Eater."
Dear friends. We left Coconut Grove for a 5 minute ride to Elmina Bay Resort for dinner. What an great evening with Curis's, Kleins, and Taylors.
On our last morning, I got up early to walk and check out another sunrise. There were only a few people out -- truly a Zen moment.
The notice on the blackboard got our attention. It could have been labeled: Don't ask...this is what we don't have." The "etc." at the bottom was the best. The week following our Cape Coast trip we had visitors from Nigeria. One couple was the Jennings, the PEF couple assigned to Nigeria, also several employees from Welfare. We had 3 days of in-service (and Ghanaian lunch). We have tried it, it is nice, and we probably won't hunt for a Ghanaian restaurant when we get home.
Just had a dinner with the visiting PEF couple from Nigeria and others on the Welfare Committee. The next week was a big one for our dear friend and "boss," Fred Dei Oppong. He graduated with his MBA from GIMPA,( Ghana Institute of Management and Public Aministration) We were honored to proof-read his final paper for him - that is what retired English teachers do - and we are so impressed with his expertise.
The Graduate and his family: Nancy, Fred, Papa, Enshlaba
The campus is huge and very beautiful. The graduates were gorgeous, all dressed up in the most beautiful outfits. The intermediate entertainment was a drum performance that left one's head pounding like the drums - and the decibels had to be off the chart, but Ghanaians seem to love it.After leaving the graduation ceremony we took some time to see areas of the campus. Even though there are many buildings, there are still areas that are open and show the natural beauty where there are no buildings yet.
Taking our own tour of the campus...back to our car. There are a few fabulous restaurants here - one is Captain Hook's.
Celebrating my birthday with good friends! The food was delicious (seafood!), the decorations were awesome (which is unique because Ghanaians typically do not put up trees or have Santa visit), and the company was the best. This will be one of my favorite memories. We got some gifts for the families of Ben Gibbah and Fred Dei-Oppong. Santa hats werre part of the gift-giving.
David and Ben in their Santa hats -- Ben wore it all day, Best Sport Award.
Finally, we are starting to gear up for the end. As we were driving today, we realize how Ghana has grown on us, little scary how normal things like this are starting to look.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Parents to Africa

(Blogger admits some faults -- and paragraph breaking is one of them. Sorry, for the HUGE, long paragraph. My version had indents and breaks.) Soon after we got here (almost a year ago), Missy's (daugher-in-law's), friend, Rachel, asked us to contact a young man she knew while she was here in Ghana a few years ago. His name was Godfred, and he was 12 or 13 at the time. He was a cute, cute young man, and she thought he could use the church. They have remained good friends and have been able to stay in touch. After some delays, she got his phone number, I called him, and we visited several times (he's now 16). He came to the temple complex to visit, and I gave the sister missionaries his number and turned things over to them. We stayed in touch off and on, but he wasn't really interested in the "lessons," which is understandable; he seemed mostly to want American friends. This last week, he called and said he was getting baptized! No way. He told us today that a wile back he was at the market (these are outdoor vendor stalls), and the sister missionaries (a new set) approached him - the result was today. His baptism was very , very cool. He was in the front, we were in the back, and he came to hug us. We gave him a ride to his home afterwards, (these are rather rudimentary places to live -- his home reminded me of the wooden houses in Pirates of the Caribbean ride, without the water, and without the stilts), and introduced us to his 2-year-old sister, Mary, his 22-year-old uncle, and his 16-year-old cousin. They were so polite and generous to us. In the picture, Godfred is the one in a white T-shirt and some worn shorts. And, his face just radiates goodness - he just wants to do good things. David left a little money with the Ward Mission Leader to help Godfred get some church things. Next week he will be confirmed. The Ward Mission Leader conducted and is going on a mission soon. He opened with, "We are so much grateful...," and welcomed everyone. Later he said, "You will be glad you came and wasted your time here with us today." Their phrasing is just awesome. We sang 4 complete hymns before the baptism started, acapella, because there are only limited keyboards around, and always one person sings by him/herself the first 5-6 measures to give us the pitch, then the music leader says, "1...2...Sing," and everyone sings...loudly. In harmony. I was sitting with a new senior sister missionary, and her husband was sitting behind us with David. The closing song was, "Now Let us Rejoice," and people sing so loud, I can't hear myself...subsequently, I tend to make up notes. But behind me I could hear David singing baritone, and always on pitch because that is what he does. When I wander off a note, I can listen to him, and he brings me right back on...which is the story of our whole mission. It just made me feel good to hear him singing. The sister missionaries here are just darling -- all 2 inches of them. They are the thinnest little things, and dress way cute. Oh, they are sweet. When we walked into the building, they escorted us to the baptism room, and they were so supportive of the brothers running the meeting. No American sisters will be sent here, so they are all from other places in Africa. We are early...but we are already starting to say, "When we get home, let's ______________ (fill in the blank). There is a funny part: Godfred is yet a little limited in his English skills, so when he called, he told me he was getting baptized on Saturday. "What time, Godfred?" "Saturday, at 12:00." We repeated this conversation 3 times. We arranged our Saturday to include the baptism, and NO ONE was there. I called Godfred, "Godfred, we are at the church..." "Please, I am coming." This is how they phrase everything, with "please" in front. He walked from his home to meet us at the church. We were thinking we were just early -- come to find out the baptism was for today. Sunday. We were, however, thanked today for being on time, and David said, "Well, actually, we have been on time twice...we started yesterday. Africa.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Random and a wedding...

We've had a few random moments this last week that seemed like good photo opportunities. Then, we were guests at the Wedding of the Year. It.. Was.. a.. .Happening. Huge. We knew it was going to be a memory and a cultural experience, so we were so excited to be invited. Take a look--
First, on our drive to and from our office, some things start to look very ordinary and familiar, since we see them twice a day. But, when traffic comes to a standstill, and I come out of my reverie long enough to focus, I catch myself thinking, "What IS that?" For whatever reason, someone thought this place, alongside the highway, would be an excellent repository for old, dead motorcycles. So, here they rest. No signs of "no dumping here," or, "put old motorcycles here," they just appear out of nowhere, to reside forever more. No one is in charge, no one is watching, but the more I look at them, they look like a Modern Art display. When I think of all the people who rode them, the roads/paths they have traveled, there is a story connected with each one. Kind of cool...and many shapes to study.
Our Thursday night BYU-Idaho college English class has come to an end. This is just half of the class - but oh, they were fun, just sharp kids and quick wits. Our next class will begin in September and we are looking forward to teaching again. Ghana is getting a bargain in us...we're free. The class is already structured, and we just come in to do the grammar/writing part.
lean to the left...lean to the right...
The Wedding Speaker (me) with my friend Jocelyn Sowa. Our friend, Doreen was getting married, and in Ghana, they have a program with speakers. I'm not sure how I got on the list, but this is my 2nd experience as a speaker. Jocelyn also had a part on the program, so we were sitting on the stand together; she kept me giggling... for the 2 hours we waited for the ceremony to begin! Ghanaians don't always adhere to a strict schedule.
David had the camera and gave this lady "The Best Hat Award."
Waiting for the bride to walk the aisle...
David got a picture of Doreen before she headed down the aisle, and she seemed a little stressed with the lateness of the wedding. But, she was beautiful, and everything turned out wonderfully.
After the ceremony and pictures, the wedding party was invited to a gorgeous hotel for a buffet dinner and dancing. There were African dishes as well as continental food -- and it was delicious!
At the end of the dinner, the glow of the candle seemed symbolic of the love and romance in the room.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Over Half-Way....

We are over half-way through our mission..incredible. At first, the time seemed to go by s-o-o-o slowly, mostly because there were so many cultural differences to take in. Living in a different country is massively different than a 2-week visit, where you know you will be home in a short while. Cultural shock is real, but treatable, and you do recover. You arrive at the point that you embrace what was foreign before. Now that we feel more and more accustomed, we are scheduled to do a bit of driving to outlying areas to train/teach the districts how to implement the Perpetual Education Fund. We have our spiel down to a system and feel lot more confident in this second half.
Ben Gibbah and David. Ben is one of our best supporters. He is in the Finance Dept., a wizard,...and a very good friend.
This last weekend we were to visit two different areas: Swedru, then Kpong. The names sound like sneezes to me --- but the countryside is spectacular. Just beautiful.
These tall, straight trees are common.. but that doesn't mean that they become ordinary. I want to stop and take a picture of every single one. Their silhouette against the background is commanding.
On our way to Swedru, we passed this church, I believe it was Methodist, and it resembles a 19th century building with Gothic spires and windows. It almost looked like a page from my Art History book, so I was smitten.
This is the quiet, little Swedru building. We stepped out of the car to hear tropical-sounding birds, feel a soft breeze blowing, and see flowers like waiting bouquets.
On our way to Kpong, we must pass by the Shai Hills Preserve, which is one of the smaller preserves around. Baboons are plentiful inside, but they apparently can hop the fence and wave at the passersby. We stopped to snap pictures, and David was confident I could get out of the car and get closer shots. Uh,...don't think so. I'm good in the car.
We had time before the Kpong meeting to drive 30 minutes further and see the Volta Dam. This blocks up the Volta River to make the largest man-made the world! We drove up a windy road and came out at the mountain lake.
A view of the lake.
A view of the water. the dam
The dam.
We see everything on people's head. Everything. Puppies. Sewing machines. Patio furniture, and now a garden. There ya go. Everything.
Here is the Kpong church. I loved the drive there. It was simply breath-taking and gorgeous. We had a dvd to watch, but it just isn't worth watching one and missing the scenery right outside.
These wonderful,darling people had given up a Saturday to be trained in many different church procedures. We were only part of the meeting, but we were scheduled to teach after lunch, and here they are just starting to gather back together again.
We are all set up to start PEF. It takes us about an hour, then we allow time for questions and answers, which takes up almost another 30 minutes.
Mangoes are my absolute favorite fruit. I love how the road-side vendors display them; they are a work of art. Knowing we are on the "downhill" slide of things, our experiences are becoming a little more precious, note-worthy, profound, memorable. I'm thinking we won't be passing this way again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

From high-tech the age-old tradition of bead-making.

Our "Ipad-Cafe." So many people have ipads here (ordered one!)that our group got together to share apps and "how-to-do-this." It was such fun, and the possibilities seem to be infinite. We met at Jane Curtis's house, hooked the ipad up to the TV, and started "school." (The home-made cinnamon rolls were the advertiser that got us all there!)
Five of us took the day to go visit the TK Bead Factory, owned by Florence __________. It took us an hour to get there, over good roads,..and horrible, rutted muddy ones. Our tour began right at the gate, with the mainstay of the product-- collected, cast-off glass bottles.
The glass fragments are pounded (I could hardly lift the metal post used for this)into a very, very fine powder. This material was so pulverized that we could touch it with our fingers without getting cut at all; it just felt soft.
The powder is mixed with whatever color of glass is desired, placed into molds, then lifted into the kiln. They actually use the remains of termite mounds to form the kiln, and from time to time they crack and have to be repaired. The heat was intense, even standing quite a ways from it. On a typically hot day, this kind of work would be highly uncomfortable.
Molds for the beads. They make their own molds out of clay, which can withstand high temperatures. After pouring the glass into the mold, heating it, then letting it cool, they use a sharp stylist-like-thing to rotate the bead making it round in shape. Then they can extract it from its hole.
These beads are "drying" on thin wires; they look more like modernistic bouquets.
This young worker is breaking etched glass into smaller pieces. He should be in school somewhere; but, on the other hand, he does have job security in a family-owned business. ??
Stringing the beads for different jewelry: Today was such a pleasant temperature, but we tried to imagine doing this in the heat of the day, say in November. Sauna.
The store: eye candy for girls.
The table full of beads...
It is the rainy season here, and we noticed that the workers had set out large basins to catch the rainwater.
Isn't she gorgeous? Florence. She has traveled to India, Europe, and other destinations collecting and trading beads/other items. She has built up her TK Bead Factory to the point that it is on recommended lists of places to visit. She is standing in front of her wood-carved door that depicts Christ knocking on the door, waiting for the occupants to open. (She was very concerned that I understand the message on the door...I loved it.)
The most interesting part, (well, for me) Florence,brought out her collection of 19th century beads, and Jennifer bargained to buy two of the necklaces, (and actually had one re-strung.) They were somewhat expensive, but their history is so interesting. Villagers save these old, "family-made" beads and trade them when they absolutely have nothing else to trade for goods. The original designs can no longer be replicated; the bead-makers don't even know how it was done, so today's patterns are a bit different. The beads started in 300 BCE in Alexandria, showed up in Rome around 300 CE, then flourished in Venice in the 15th century. Unfortunately, many of these beads were used in the slave-trading market - each bead(s) representing a human soul.