Posted tagged ‘Africa’

“Life is a fairy tale. Live it with wonder and amazement.”

November 22, 2016

Last night was winter. It was cold and windy. My sweatshirt wasn’t quite enough. North of us got a little snow. Thankfully, we were spared. It’s bad enough the temperature is below freezing without adding snow. Today too is really cold. My heat is blasting.

For some reason, the first few days of Ghana popped into my head from my memory drawers. We were all staying at a school in Winneba. The only view of the town was from the second floor balcony of the dorm. I could see rusted metal roofs and palm trees. That was it. It could have been many places, but on the way to my first language class, I saw geckos scurrying away from me. They were green and the first ones I’d ever seen. I remember looking at them and realizing I really am in Africa. It is one of my most vivid memories. I can still picture where I was standing. I remember the whitewashed cement wall about waist high, its flat top and the greenery close to the building and the steps. The wonder of that moment is something I haven’t ever forgotten and is still a delight. Just imagine being in Africa.

I have a few things to do today so I have to brave the cold. This is Gracie’s favorite time of the year because she can ride with me. It’s cold enough that she can wait in the car.

I got a notice for jury service yesterday. I’ve gotten them before and was dismissed three or four times and excused once. For one dismissal they kept us until after lunch when we were told the defendant had taken a plea bargain and we were not needed. That was like a Law and Order moment. Only once did I get so far as to be questioned about my suitability for the jury. I was excused. Come to find out I was excused because I was a school administrator, and the trial centered on some sort of discrimination surrounding the non-rehiring of a female administrator. I guess the prosecutor figured I’d be sympathetic. He was right.

“Never complete. Never whole. White skin and an African soul.”

November 4, 2016

If I pulled out that dusty old dictionary of mine and looked up autumn, I’d find it is a noun defined as,”the third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall, in the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May.” The words in the definition just aren’t enough. What about autumn’s almost indefinable beauty? What about autumn’s colors, its cool, sometimes cold nights, and its warmer mornings? What about a perfect autumn day? Well, I’ve got that one covered: today is the perfect autumn day. The sun is bright. The sky is deep blue but has a few wispy clouds for contrast. The air is warm, long sleeve shirt warm. A slight breeze is enough to drop the brown leaves off the boughs of the oak trees. They slowly flutter to the ground as if they know their time is done. Today is a day to be out and about.

I met two former students the other day. We did the pleasantries and caught up with one another. I met one’s baby and another’s nine year old. They asked what I was doing to stay busy. I described my life as a sloth and I mentioned traveling. They wanted to know where. “Africa,” I told them. “Wow,” was the response from each of them and both mentioned how exciting Africa must have been. I told them about the elephants. Seeing those elephants was nothing short of amazing for me, and they thought seeing elephants had to be the coolest thing.

Those conversations got me thinking. Elephants and game parks aside, going back to Ghana is almost commonplace for me. Were I to go to Mali or Botswana, I would think of each as an unbelievable trip to Africa. Ghana is going home. It is familiar again. I get to see my former students, and we are at ease with each other, the sort of ease which comes from years of friendship. I am not surprised by what I see. The rooster wakes me up, but I can always go back to sleep. I enjoy goat and Guinea fowl as much as beef or chicken. I know Ghanaian food is spicy hot and best eaten with my hand. I am adept at noticing and walking over deposits left by goats and sheep on the streets, the walkways and in the market. All the smells are Ghana to me. Ghanaians smile at me, and I smile back. I even greet them in Hausa and a bit of FraFra.

Though Bolgatanga is bigger and far busier, I just think of it as home. It being in Africa is merely serendipitous.

“The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.”

August 11, 2016

Here I am again, inside the house retreating from the heat. Today will be in the high 80’s on the cape and the 90’s in Boston and north of Boston. My friend Bill sent me the weather from Bolgatanga, Ghana where it will be cooler than here and rainy. What’s with that, cooler in Africa than here?

I could do a couple of errands today, but I won’t. I’m staying housebound by choice. I have food and drink, a semi-full larder, so I’ll be content and cool. I’m even considering baking something.

I hit a wall in watching the Olympics so last night I hunted for something else. It ended up being Cupcake Wars. I traded one boring program for a really boring program, but I’m guessing those cupcakes inspired me to think about baking today. This morning I’ve already watched women’s water polo. That wall is getting closer.

Yesterday I did two loads of laundry. They by themselves are not remarkable, but, for once, I didn’t leave any laundry in the dryer. I am known for leaving laundry in the dryer for up to a week. The clothes come out really wrinkled, but I don’t care.

Books are on the table in front of me as is the TV remote. They represent the day’s diversions, things to keep me busy, things to help the day pass.

When I was a kid, I’d be bored by the middle of August. I had done all the fun things several times, and they had begun to lose their luster. The afternoons were often too hot to do much. I remember being at the park and sitting in the shade. We played some checkers at the table and worked gimp. I remember painting a tray for my mother. We couldn’t play softball. Little kids couldn’t use the slide and seesaw because of the heat. The metal slide would have burned the backs of their legs. August is always hot and humid.

Every month I get a report from my electric company on my usage and how it compares to my neighbors’ usage. My sister in Colorado happened to mention her report to me as her husband, Rod, showed her they were the highest in the neighborhood. I said mine was too. We both decided we didn’t care. We want to live comfortably: cool in summer and warm in winter. I’m sending my next one to Rod so he’ll see they are not alone.

Tonight after midnight the Perseids meteor shower will begin, but the best viewing is after 1 AM or even later. There will be an unusually high number of meteors tonight anywhere from 160 to 200 meteors per hour. The suggestion is to lie on your back and look straight up. Drinking caffein to stay awake was another suggestion. I’m thinking iced coffee.

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

May 9, 2015

Gracie drools when I am eating something she’d like. She often even makes bubbles which hang from her jowls. The bubbles are sometimes doubled, with the smaller on top, which I think takes talent, but why am I talking about drool is probably running through your heads. It is all because I am watching a really bad science fiction movie called Age of Tomorrow. The queen alien drools constantly while eating human captives. I figure the director thought she looked more menacing with her sharp teeth and the drool. The main general just made an Independence Day knock off speech because they are going to invade the alien home planet to save captive humans still on the menu and to kill the aliens who are bent on total human destruction. The good guys used an alien craft they captured to get our heroes to the planet. Sound familiar? Bullets don’t kill the aliens, but the army keeps shooting. A fireman is part of the rescue because his daughter is being held. He is carrying an axe. It works. The really awful movie just ended. The humans didn’t win for a change, but the main character said, with his axe in hand, “This isn’t over yet.” I pray that doesn’t mean a sequel.

I have switched to a 1950’s B&W movie called The Lost Volcano starring Johnny Sheffield better known as Boy in the Tarzan movies. It takes place in Africa, has lots of vine swinging, a pet monkey who understands English and Bomba, as Johnny is known, wears a loin cloth. The white bwana is capturing wild animals. Bomba is freeing them from their cages. Bwana’s son plays with Bomba but doesn’t believe Bomba is real. He calls him a legend like the man raised by apes.

I feel ten again watching Saturday TV especially this black and white movie. The only changes fifty plus years have made are I had coffee instead of cereal, and I sat on the couch instead of on the floor inches from the TV screen.

As for the weather report, today is chilly and cloudy. I have no plans whatsoever that take me out of the house. I do have plants to water, bird feeders to fill and a bed to make. Sounds like a full day to me.

“When I mentioned my early morning waking to the old witch down the street, she explained that this is the time the “ceiling is the thinnest,” the moment that the earth’s creatures have the greatest access to the heavens… It is a magical time, or so she said.”

April 21, 2015

Today is cloudy, but the day is so light the sun must be hidden behind the grey. Earlier, morning fog covered all the bushes and the lower branches of the trees. It’s warm, far warmer than I expected. Despite the clouds, I think it’s a nice day. The street cleaner rumbled by a couple of times sweeping the winter storm sand to the sides of the street. It is not a quiet truck.

My morning routine seldom differs. I wake up whenever, feed the cats, let the dog out, put the coffee on, go out and get the papers and yesterday’s mail, give Gracie her morning treats then grab a cup of coffee and settle in with the papers. I like my mornings.

No matter where I am, the mornings are different from the rest of the day. If I’m on a trip, I love to get up really early and wander the streets. I get to watch the day unfold. People sweep. Shopkeepers wear white aprons and have long-handled brooms. Africans wear colorful cloths and have hard grass brooms with no handles. They have to bend to use them. In cities, trucks stop in streets to unload goods for stores and restaurants. In one hotel my room’s window faced a side street where the trucks parked. They were my wake-up call every morning. In Santa Fe I sat on a bench and watched the Indians set up their wares while I munched on pastry and drank coffee. It was so early the square was empty of other people. At Gettysburg, I was awake before the park opened so I waited and was the first that morning to wander the battlefield. It was covered in ground fog. It was quiet as befitting a memorial.

Early mornings here on the Cape are quiet in the summer. The tourists are late risers. I sometimes go out to breakfast but most times I get coffee and take a ride. I watch quahoggers raking the river bottom while seagulls swoop and fly in circles over their heads hoping for a handout. Seagulls are always loud.

I know I’ve told you before, but I love African mornings most of all. They are filled with the smells of charcoal fires and the sounds of women pounding their mortar with pestles to make fufu. The sound is rhythmic. Everyone is up early in Ghana, even I was. I hated to miss any part of the morning.

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

October 13, 2014

No jumping out of bed into the shower this morning, not with the house at 61˚. I was cozy under the comforter, but I should have realized how cold the house was as Gracie was leaning on me on one side and Fern was leaning on the other. The house is now 68˚ so I have turned off the heat. It is supposed to get warmer starting today.

Columbus Day was really yesterday. I used to get it off from school every year unless it happened to be a Sunday. Back then holidays stayed put.

Kids grow up believing in all sorts of stuff. I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I knew there were ghosts and witches and men with hooks instead of hands. Tinker Bell was real because she used to fly over the field below my house with her light blinking as she flew. Most times she was with a bunch of friends. I was easily amazed by the world around me. I loved watching the yellow and black caterpillars walk on a tree limb, and I knew they’d be butterflies some day. I watched the progression of tadpoles into frogs at the swamp. I got to go behind the scenes at the zoo because my brother and I befriended a zoo keeper. I fed some of the animals, even the elephant. I never tired of watching the cows at the dairy farm or the horses running in the field near my house. Life was filled to the brim with adventure and wonder.

When I got older, a teenager, my friends and I had the best fun. We celebrated Mardi Gras, sneaked food upstairs into the library, left school early with permission from the addled nun who taught the class, bowled, played miniature golf, went to the drive-in and had hay rides in the fall. We even went square dancing once. They were all adults but they decided to let us stay. It was so much fun to learn to do-si-do. The world wasn’t as filled with wonder, but I was having too much fun to notice.

College was so many things. It was great friends, a lot of partying and classes here and there. I loved college, but it too lacked that sense of wonder I had as a kid. I’d figured the older we all got, the fewer wonders there were to see. I can’t believe how wrong I was.

I know it was Africa where I found my lost sense of wonder. The people, the colors, the languages, the markets, the night sky were all amazing. Everywhere I went I saw something new, something remarkable. I learned again to look at the world with wide eyes.

I am still filled with that sense of wonder. It’s like a huge gift which never stops giving. I notice everything and stop sometimes along the road to get an eyeful, to fill my soul with all the beauty I can see. Sometimes it is as simple as a marsh with tall reeds or geese flying in formation. It is so wonderful having that kid back!

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

September 20, 2014

Being under the covers did no good. They were too skimpy and the house was too cold. I jumped out of bed, put on my slippers, my sweatshirt and my around the house pants then ran downstairs and turned on the heat. It was 62˚. I got my coffee and warmed my hands around the cup. Soon enough the house was cozy.

When I was a kid, I could make something out of nothing. Life was an adventure. A walk became a trek or a safari. The train tracks were a trip into the unknown. The woods were deep and harbored creatures which shied from humans, but we knew they were there. The old fallen tree trunk was a spaceship or even a pirate ship. A tree branch was a sword. We followed paths we’d never been on before. They were narrow and overhung with branches you had to hold and push aside. If you let go of the branch, the person behind you got whacked. That was never a good idea.

My life is still an adventure. I’ve been lucky in that way. I don’t see spaceships any more, but I have seen parts of the world I could never have imagined. I remember the house in Ecuador where Guinea pigs were running around then I found out they were a popular dish called cuy. The bus stopped in the Sierra Nevada mountains for lunch, and I had the best trout I have ever eaten. The other passengers pointed to it on the menu to make sure we ordered it. Sunsets give me pause everywhere. A starry sky is one of the most beautiful of all sights. I saw the Andes covered with snow. I saw bananas and pineapples growing. I have been to Africa.

When I was eleven, I vowed I’d see the world. I still have places to go, but I’m working on it. I love adventures.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

April 27, 2014

Today is the same as yesterday: rainy and damp, the sort of damp which brings a chill. It’s socks and sweatshirt weather.

Today while I was watching the rain fall I realized I have seen wonders all of my life. When I was a little kid, falling snow was mesmerizing. Each flake fell gently and silently and glistened in the street light. I watched from the front window to make sure the street was getting covered. That gave me hope for a snow day. Thunder and lightning never scared me; instead, I was delighted. The flickering black and white TV screen was like magic. Every day brought delights some as lowly as a grasshopper caught in a jar and others as lofty as an airplane with a white tail.

When I was older, a teenager, the wonders didn’t cease. My friends and I wandered Harvard Square, went to museums and watched movies at the Orson Wells. We rode toboggans at the golf course and went to drive-in movies for the fun of it. We celebrated Mardi Gras on the third floor of the library with our forbidden food. We felt like rebels. We were there to watch the start of the space race. All of my science fiction stories were coming to life. It was amazing.

College was the wonder of learning new things, of being on my own and of meeting new people from all over the place. My insular life started to disappear. I began to look way beyond my boundaries wondering what was there for me to find. I wanted to experience the unfamiliar, the unexpected and even the uncomfortable.

I couldn’t believe I was actually living in Africa. Everything was a wonder: the colors, the smells and the sounds. Each bus ride was an adventure. Market day was the most fun. I wandered the stalls, bargained and picked out my chicken. The amazing became the commonplace, and I loved every day.

In the summer, I watch the fireflies. In August I sit outside for the meteor shower. I still watch snowflakes fall under the back light. I love Christmas. In my backyard the trees have white lights which shine every night. I love looking at them through the windows. They give the yard a bit of fairyland.

It seems wonder stays with us all of us lives.

“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”

October 11, 2013

Today is cloudy with a chance of rain. We have been and will be in the 60’s the whole of the week. This is fall.

I never learned to play the piano though I took lessons for a short time when I was in the second grade. A nun was my teacher, and I used to walk across the street to one end of the convent for lessons. But because we didn’t have a piano, I could never practice. The nun suggested I might want to explore other interests. I figure she must have told me delicately as my psyche remained unscathed. I never did try another instrument, and a year later my singing career ended when the nun told me to lip sing. I became a listener of music instead of a participant. I have never been disappointed.

I have the soul of a wanderer. Even since I was really young, books of faraway places held my imagination. When I was eleven, I vowed to travel the world. I knew I’d go to South American, the Sahara Desert, markets in African and places where not a soul spoke English. I was never afraid but self-assured. I knew what I was meant to do.

During my senior year in college, I pursued a few different future avenues. I applied to law school and got accepted, and I was even offered a teaching job, but neither of those fit where I saw myself in the future. They were too staid, floating too much in the mainstream. I applied to the Peace Corps in October. That’s how soon I knew what I wanted to do. Where I went wasn’t important. It was the going that counted. That I ended up in Africa was like a dream, a wish come true. After all these years, my heart is still filled with a love for Ghana, for its people, its sounds and smells, its sights and amazing colors. My old vow, my promise, the one I made when I was eleven has been fulfilled not only in Ghana but also in so many other places.

I have always been an idealist. I consider it one of my best traits. I took tap dancing lessons a while back. I’m still filled with dreams.

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”

September 6, 2013

Last night was put an afghan on the bed and close the windows cold. It was a delight. I slept soundly and late, didn’t wake up until 9:30. My mother would have said I must have needed the sleep. I watched the Sox and Yankees until 11:30 then read for an hour. Fern and Gracie stayed close to me in bed. They must have been chilly.

Today is a beautiful day with a feeling of fall about it. The sunlight is sharp and warm, but it drifts in and out of clouds. Fern is stretched in the sun by the front door.

It is so quiet here. The kids are all in school, not a single lawnmower can be heard, the house next door is empty for the season and I don’t think I’ve even heard a car go up the busy street at the end of my road. I like the silence.

My life has been amazing and now and then I think about it and give thanks. The other day I talked to Grace in Accra for a long time and last week I called Rose Atiah in Bolga. I just picked up the phone, called Ghana and spoke to students I taught in 1969. It is still a little mind-boggling to me that I actually lived in Africa for a little over two years. Who gets that lucky?  I worked for 35 years doing something I loved. Granted, I still groaned when the alarm went off at 5, but I never really minded going to work. I never considered it a grind. Every day was somehow different despite the sameness of the tasks. I got to retire early, nine years ago, and I love every day and am seldom bored. I can to sit outside on the deck in the morning with my papers and coffee and linger as long as I want. Who gets that lucky? I have traveled many places in the world and have seen the most glorious sights, pages of my geography books come to life. I dreamed I would travel, and my dreams came true just like in a Disney movie. Cinderella went to the ball. I went to Machu Picchu.

I have one errand left over from yesterday’s long list, but there’s no big hurry. I have all day.