Posted tagged ‘Bolga’

August 2, 2015

Ryan 1-46

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”

August 2, 2015

I know it is late for me, so late that I almost thought of taking a mini-vacation, but here I am. Earlier I was out on the deck sitting in the shade of the umbrella. The day is another hot one. Gracie, despite lying in the shade, was panting. She wanted in so we both came inside to the AC. She is now comfy and asleep in her crate.

We’re going to the dump later. That’s the only entry on my dance card.

There is something so strongly compelling about going home. When I go back to my old home town, as I still call it after all these years, I take familiar routes, the ones I used to walk. From St. Pat’s to the project there are many changes. Some of the older houses are gone. The railroad tracks too are gone but there is a wide path where they once were. I am sometimes tempted to park my car and follow the path to see if it looks the same. There was a stream where we stopped for water. I wonder if it is still there. The playground where I spent so many summer days disappeared. Where it was is all overgrown now. My house and street look exactly the same except the bushes on the side of my old house are really tall. I don’t know if there is a limit as to how tall they will get. The tops look a bit spindly to me. I always have the urge to get out of the car and walk into the backyard just to peek to see if the in-ground garbage pail is still there, but I figure it would look a bit odd to the current occupants. I wonder what color the walls are now. In my day the living room was green. I suspect the house will look quite small inside to me now. I know the kitchen seemed small even then. Kid’s voices still fill the air on a nice day.

In Bolga, on my trip back after forty years, the first place I went was to my old school grounds to find my house. It was quite easy to find. It needed paint and the back courtyard could not be seen because the current occupants had added to the fence tops to block the view. I wondered about the four doors around the courtyard. I wondered what color they are. Coincidentally they were green when I lived there.

Home is a fluid place. It is both where you live now and all the places you’ve lived before.

“The best mirror is an old friend.”

October 19, 2014

Today is cloudy and chilly. Gracie and I are heading to the dump later. Right now she is having her morning nap and snoring up a storm. Fern is napping beside her on the couch rolled in a ball. Tonight is predicted to be as low as 35˚, sounds like turn on the heat and bundle under the comforter weather to me.

One small item caught my eye in the paper this morning. It seems a teacher from Maine has been put on a 21 day paid leave so she can voluntarily quarantine herself. This was done at the request of some of the school’s parents. It seems the teacher went to a conference in Dallas. The closest she got to the hospital with ebola cases was 10 miles.

My friends are coming tomorrow so Coffee is going on hiatus from today until Thursday. They are friends from my Peace Corps days, and I met them during staging, the first time we were all together, in Philadelphia. They were supposed to be posted 100 miles from me, making them my neighbors, but Peg was pregnant and Peace Corps wanted them close to Accra and the office. I always stopped to visit them on my way home from Accra. They were on the second floor of a house with no water. It was a run to the outhouses in the backyard. I was impressed when Bill used to carry his own water in buckets. During our second year, they transferred to my school and we each lived on one side of a duplex. We had motorcycles and made lots of trips together around Bolga. When we did, I carried Peg on mine and Bill carried Kevin, their son, on his. We had supper together every night and most nights played word or card games and had an ongoing paddle ball championship until the elastic on the red ball broke. We could each paddle well into the hundreds when that happened. We were ready if it ever became an Olympic sport.

We share a love for Ghana and for each other. The memories of our time together are sweet.

“Pensive they sit, and roll their languid eyes.”

February 8, 2014

It’s still winter. I still live in New England. It’s still cold.

Before I go to bed every night, I send the dog outside to do the last of her night’s business then I shut off lights. Before I went upstairs last night, I pretty much did the same thing, but the light in the kitchen was already off and the dog was back inside so we went to bed. When I came downstairs late this morning, I noticed I had left the back door open all night. Right away I thought of the woman and the raccoon. In yesterday’s paper was the story of a woman who was awakened by a raccoon chewing her lips and face. She managed to throw it to the floor and lock it in the bedroom. The raccoon was captured and found to be rabid. The woman started rabies shots right away and also had to get several stitches on her face. It seems the raccoon got into the house through the cat door. Gracie’s door is even bigger than that so I’m thinking lions and tigers and bears, oh my, but actually I believe we’re safe as the 6 foot back fence will keep out most critters. I do pity the woman those shots. When I first got to Ghana, we had shot day, including a rabies shot. As the vaccine went into my arm, my knees buckled and I think I yelped or even screamed. I’m not sure which. The pain blotted my memory.

I’m going to count yesterday as productive. I did a load of laundry, went to have blood drawn and stopped at two stores. In one I bought doo-dads. I bought some watch faces and can’t tell you why. They were just neat looking.

My student Grace called this morning. She is trying to finish her house in Bolga. In Ghana houses are finished a bit at a time when money is available. Her house only needs a roof for the outside to be finished. Grace said when I next come to Bolga I have to stay with her. I said I would if she made jollof rice, Guinea fowl and kelewele. She laughed and said she would. I’m hoping I can go back in 2015 so I need to start saving money: no more doo-dads and no more shopping. The trip is expensive so austerity is my new life-style.

Okay, I just re-read this to check for errors. I have decided my life is boring when laundry is part of the conversation.

“One man’s fish is another man’s poisson”

July 6, 2013

Boston is officially suffering through a heat wave. We aren’t because the cape is a few degrees cooler. Today will be 88˚, but the humidity is making the weather even more unbearable. Walk around outside and it smothers you, draws the life right out of your body. I, however, will never suffer that fate. I have become a hermit in the comfort of my air-conditioned home. Yesterday I went out about three times to the deck. The first time was to water the plants and the other two times were to warm up my feet. Yup, the AC forced me to put on socks. I felt sort of silly.

Gracie loves being in the cool house. She goes outside and squats then runs right back to the door to be let inside. The cats, however, have a different take on the AC. They find sun spots on the floor from the windows and sit there taking in the warmth. Fern, especially, misses the warmth. Usually in the morning she would lie in the sun streaming through the front door and sleep so deeply I could hear her small snores.  The poor babies will have to wait a bit before it is cool enough to turn off the AC and open doors and windows.

Where I lived in Ghana was about as far from the ocean as you could get and still be in Ghana. The only fish you could find in the Bolga market was smoked and dried and looked disgusting, almost leathery. I didn’t even try it. It always seemed a bit strange to me that many Ghanaians actually preferred the dried fish to fresh. I used to think it was because they didn’t get fresh fish, but Grace, who lives in Accra, which is right on the ocean, buys dried fish. She won’t eat it fresh, thought the whole idea was a bit disgusting, but for those of us who love fish the Ghanaian seaside is like paradise. Some of the best fish dinners can be bought at small thatched huts along the shore. The huts have a few tables with benches, always a bit unsteady on the sand, and brightly colored umbrellas with beer logos to shield diners from the hot sun. The owners, who are generally the cooks, buy the fish right off the boats. The fish is usually wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over charcoal. The taste is amazing. Red snapper is my favorite.

In Togo, a country bordering Ghana, I had my first taste of barbecued lobster. It was dinner on the patio of a fairly large, sort of posh hotel, where we could never afford to stay but eating on the patio was within the budget of a Peace Corps volunteer: translation-it was inexpensive, maybe even cheap. My friend Ralph and I sat under an umbrella and watched as the lobster was cut down the middle then cooked. It was delicious.

Our mid-tour conference was at Dixcove, a neat little fishing village down the coast from Accra. We stayed in small cottages right on the ocean. I don’t remember anything about the technical parts of the conference, but I remember the rock lobster. We’d went to the village and paid a few guys small money to dive for the rock lobsters then we paid to have them cooked. Eating them was a divine experience I’ll never forget.

“One who roams the channels after dark, searching for buried treasure.”

January 8, 2013

When I woke up, I thought it was raining. I could hear steady drips from the eaves, but I was delightfully surprised when I saw the sun and a blue sky. The day is warm, winter warm, and the drips are from the roof as the rest of the ice melts. The birds are at the feeders which I filled yesterday. I watched them for a while from the kitchen window while my coffee was brewing.

Yesterday was a weird sort of day. As I said, I filled the feeders and while on the deck I also emptied ice off the furniture covers. In the house I wanted to find spots for a few new items. One is a picture I bought on my first trip to Ghana which had gouges on its frame so I finally had it reframed. I walked around the house looking for a spot. I finally found one, hammered a small nail, hung the picture, stood back and realized the picture was too high. I pulled out the nail, hammered it into a lowered spot, stood back and decided it was perfect. Meanwhile, I have new runner on the table, a Christmas gift from my sister. It is a runner with African designs and is beautiful, but it’s dark so I decided I needed to change the decorative stuff on the table to lighter “stuff” so I went hunting. In the process of hunting I found a wooden house which lights up and has been in the same spot for years. I never light it up so I decided to move it. I went to a small table in the dark side of the living room, but there was Ghanaian cloth from my ceremony on it so I moved the cloth to the couch for the meantime. The small house was just right for the table. It was lit last night and gave that side of the room just enough ambient light. Meanwhile, what to do with the cloth? I got my huge Bolga baskets which is on the lower shelf of a big table and is filled with a carved gourd, tea lights and all sorts of candles. I took those out and put the cloth in which worked out just fine. The only problem was the tea lights and the gourd. I looked and decided to clean out a basket in this room, and that’s where I put the teas lights. Still with me here? Left over from all this juggling was the etched gourd from Ghana which had been in the big basket and a wooden box with a votive holder and candles which had also been in the basket. (I did say it was a huge basket.) I walked around trying to figure out where to put both of those. By this time, I’d been at this weird little game for over an hour. I put the gourd back in the baskets over the cloth. That seems to defeat the purpose of showing off the cloth so I took the gourd out. I did check out some wall space, but it’s a big gourd. I never did find a spot so it’s on the couch waiting for me to start all over. I don’t remember where I put the wooden box, but I’m sure it will show up sometime, probably later when I walk around the house trying to decide where to put the gourd.

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

December 31, 2012

Today being the last day of the year and all I took a leisurely morning. First of all I woke up late, we’re talking 9:45 late, took my shower and then had an extra cup of coffee while reading the papers. I watched the birds from the window. It was like a convention of birds. One feeder had five goldfinches while other birds hovered just outside of it waiting for their seats at the counter. I felt bad for the doves as I had nothing for them. I have to go to Agway later to get Gracie food, sunflower seeds and thistle so I’ll also pick up a bag of assorted seeds to throw down for the doves. I’m so glad I filled the feeders the other day as the birds aren’t likely to find anything to eat with the snow.

Nope, I haven’t made a single resolution. Last year was a great year, and I didn’t make any resolutions then either. I’ll just let my life meander. That seems to work just fine.

I would like a trip this new year, but I have to go somewhere close and cheap. The last two Ghana trips depleted my savings, and I need some time to rebuild. Also, I’d like one more trip to Ghana, probably my last, in a couple of years, and that’s another reason for close and cheap. My friends Bill and Peg are going back to Ghana and Bolga in the fall. They mentioned that Duane, another volunteer with us from way back, would also like to go Ghana but he hasn’t yet planned the when. He was posted about 100 miles from us in Tamale, and I used to see him on my trips there, to the “big” city. He’ll have a bit of culture shock when he sees how big Tamale has gotten. It even has a store which sells real cheese.

I have no plans for tonight. My sister and I were laughing about that. In the old days, neither one of us would have been caught dead at home on New Year’s Eve. We’d be partying some place or many places, and we’d be wearing those silly hats and blowing horns. Tonight I’ll celebrate at home and be quite content. I’m thinking a bit of champagne and maybe even some shrimp. Just because I’m home doesn’t mean I can’t spoil myself!

Happy New Year, my friends. May this year be the best year!

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.”

December 18, 2012

As I was walking downstairs this morning, I could smell the Christmas tree. I smiled. I love that smell and can’t think of no better way to greet the morning. Right away I went over and turned on the tree lights. They brightened the room and chased away the clouds and the rain.

Yesterday Gracie and I went about doing a couple of errands. She got her nails trimmed, and while I waited, I bought her a few surprises for Christmas. I also stopped at a favorite bakery to get cookies to bring to the library for this week’s Christmas open house. The bakery owner, whom I see all the time, was there and asked what I was looking for. I told him about the open house and the library. He said he loved libraries and then he gave me three packages of his cookies as a gift to the library. How kind that was! How generous! I am forever thankful for the goodness in people.

I got a call from my friend Bill who had somehow managed to track down Patrick, another volunteer with whom we had served in Bolga. I had looked for Patrick for a while but never found him. Bill found a story in an Iowan newspaper about Patrick and send an e-mail last September asking if the Patrick he’d found was our Patrick, but Bill didn’t get an answer until now when Patrick called him. Pat’s memory is a bit fuzzy. He barely remembered Ghana let alone any of us. He asked Bill if there wasn’t also a gal in Bolga. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say gal. Bill told him I was that gal. I had to chuckle as did Bill. I have Patrick’s phone number and am aimin’ to give that galoot a call. I’ll introduce myself as a gal he knew from way back when.

I have a story I like to tell this time of year about my first Christmas in Ghana, my very first ever away from home. I was   homesick and sad. My mother tried to help so she sent me a small tree, ornaments from our family tree, brick crepe paper so I could make a fireplace and a small stocking to hang. I decorated my house but it didn’t help much. Besides, the weather was all wrong. It was the harmattan, the driest time of the year with a hot, dusty wind which blew each day and covered every surface in my house with sand. The heels of my feet cracked from the dryness, and I had to walk on tiptoes until the skin hardened. The only redeeming parts of the harmattan were the nights. They were cold, put a wool blanket on the bed cold. I’d leave all my windows open so I could snuggle under my blanket. It felt a bit like winter.

The nights in Bolga were quiet. They were bright with stars which seemed to blanket the sky. I was in bed trying to fall asleep on a night close to Christmas when I heard a small boy singing. His voice carried though the night air. It was the only sound I could hear. He sand We Three Kings, every verse. His voice was beautiful. I don’t know where he was. I guessed he lived in a compound near my house, but that didn’t really matter. He gave me one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. He gave Christmas.

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”

October 22, 2012

The weather, other than Friday’s rain, was lovely all weekend. Though I had missed the peak foliage in New Hampshire, in Mont Vernon, there was still enough color to make every view spectacular especially the one from the top of a hill close to Bill and Peg’s house. Stretched out in front of me were rows and rows of trees in reds and yellows. The whole scene, unblemished by wires or houses or roads, made me think impressionism, of a panoramic painting left as a gift for all of us.

Gracie, other than when she jumped out of the car and started running up and down the street as soon as we arrived, was a perfect guest. Bill walked her all over including a 2 and 1/2 mile hike on Saturday and a shorter but more memorable walk on Sunday when Gracie saw her first porcupine and was unfazed. By the end of the weekend, she had settled right in and on Sunday morning was stretched on the couch between Peg and me with her head resting on Peg while she napped and snored.

I hadn’t seen my friends in forty-one years. We were in Bolga together for a year and have the most amazing shared memories. We even have many of the same pictures, and their living room has several of the same Ghanaian crafts I have in mine. Our reunion was seamless, as if I had been with them all along in time. We laughed a lot remembering things like our motorcycle accidents, his and mine were both caused by goats, and the trips we took together to Ouagadougou, Togo and Benin, which was Dahomey in our day. We had dinner together most nights in Bolga, and Bill remembered endless meals of goat. In one picture of theirs, both our motorcycles, his red and mine grey, were parked in front of their side of the duplex. Bill asked why I had parked there as if we could conjure the memory, as if it were just a few weeks ago. The weekend made me realize that Bill and Peg are the dear friends I’ve held tightly in my memories all these years, older, but mostly unchanged.

Greetings from Accra

September 12, 2012

Sunday morning I was awakened at 4 when the air-conditioner went back on  with all its rumbles. I hadn’t heard it go off, but the sound of its return was loud enough to roust me. During the night, the electricity in Bolga and the surrounding villages was turned off at different times for two hours. I suppose it was to conserve electricity but no one knew for certain. “It is what they do,” was the answer to why. Later, around 11, the electricity for the whole country went off. It came back slowly with Bolga being the last around 8 that night.

Well, after I was up so early, I finally stopped reading and got dressed around 6, made my disgusting coffee and went to the roof which is begging to be a patio. All it needs is a table, chairs, an umbrella and mosquito netting. From my perch on high, I watched the morning. I could see and smell the smoke from morning fires. From the compound beside the house I heard a baby cry. Roosters were greeting the day, one to each side of the house, but I couldn’t see them.  On the road I could see a man carrying a table on his head. I wondered about that table. A woman came out of the house, walked into the tall grass and returned in a bit with some eggs. Small girls carried empty then full buckets to and from the bore hole. The air was clear and there was a morning breeze. It was too early yet for the sun to grab the day. Mornings in the village are a joy to watch.

Part II  Meet the Mother of Chiefs

Sunday afternoon I was told to be at the chief’s house at 1:30. As I had met him before, I didn’t know why. When I arrived, four of my students were there. The chief was waiting and explained to me that I would be thanked for teaching these women and for returning to Ghana by a traditional ceremony. I was to become the mother of chiefs and I would be given a new Ghanaian name. I sat in a chair in the middle of the room then was told to stand up and raise my hands over my head. Lillian, a student and one of the wives of the chief, then took a fan on which was cloth, sandals and jewelery.  She passed it around me 4 times then took it and moved it back and forth in front of me 4 times as well. Then she and one of the elders started dressing me in Ghanaian cloth, 3 pieces. First came the skirt, then the top and finally a headpiece of cloth. All of my clothes were now covered by the Ghanaian cloth, the same cloth from which fugus or smocks are made. The chief announced my new name was (phonetically) an a Mah, mother of chiefs.  During all of this, a  photographer had been taking his own pictures and some with my camera. My students were going to order copies. After all of the festivities were finished, the elders accompanied me to my house (substitute car here as the village is too far). They took pictures of me walking to the car and getting in with the help of the elders. The ceremony was finished.

It was amazing. My students had planned it with Lillian and the chief. They had bought the cloth and all the accessories.  I was told that I would always be called by my new name by any FraFras. I couldn’t have been more honored.

On Monday we left late and made it only to Tamale (tam, as in rhymes with arm, a lay). On Tuesday we made it to all the way Accra with only one stop- to see the monkeys. Today we are traveling to Cape Coast and Elimina.

Next journal entry: the monkeys!