Posted tagged ‘Ghana’

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

March 18, 2019

The sun and the blue sky are still hanging around as is the chill. Every day this week is predicted to be in the 40’s, spring on Cape Cod.

St. Patrick’s day was wonderful. Dinner was superb though I’m not sure superb is the right adjective to describe corn beef and cabbage, a hearty meal. Everything cooked perfectly. The Irish soda bread and the Kerry butter completed the meal. Dessert was scrumptious. I didn’t eat it last night, but I had a piece for breakfast. I wonder if it is still called dessert if you eat it in the morning.

I found more shoots popping their heads above the ground. I count them as wonders. I watch their progress every morning. I saw a bit of yellow yesterday. I’m thinking a daffodil.

I am always thankful to Peace Corps for having assigned me to Bolgatanga. Every day was amazement filled with sounds, sights and feelings that I ever knew existed before living in Ghana. It was all a wonder of unexpected beauty.

I loved sleeping outside in the back of my house. My mattress, dragged from my bedroom, was a necessity as the backyard was concrete with a few big rocks which weren’t removed when the house was built and the concrete laid. I slept outside mostly during the dry season. I’d lie on my back and look at the sky. It was always spectacular with so many stars the nights were never dark. They were filled with shadows. Not a night went by without a falling star streaking across the sky. I oohed and ahed every one of them. They were never commonplace.

I have the same sense of wonder when there are meteor showers here. I take out a chair, something to drink, usually coffee, and I watch the sky. I still ooh and ah.

I can’t imagine a life without a sense of wonder, without seeing the joy of every day.

“I don’t take the movies seriously, and anyone who does is in for a headache.”

February 24, 2019

The rain is heavy at times. It beats against the roof and windows. The wind is getting stronger. The pine trees feel it the most, and their tops bend and sway.

The Hotel d’Bull, the best place to stay in Bolgatanga during my Peace Corps days, had a huge courtyard. I saw a boxing match there once. They erected a ring right in the middle of the courtyard. The boxers had names like Kofi Mohammed Ali and Sugar Ray Atiah. Mostly the boxers just danced around the ring throwing only a few punches, but in one bout a boxer got hit more than a few times. All of a sudden from the corner came a towel thrown into the ring. I always thought throwing in the towel was a metaphor.

The back wall of the courtyard was white so they could show movies. I saw my first Bollywood film on that wall. I don’t remember the name of the film, but I do remember how awful I thought it was, but awful didn’t matter. I stayed for the entire film. Entertainment was a rarity in Bolga. The scene I remember the most was a shower scene. Our hero was lathering and singing. I had no idea what he was singing. The songs had no subtitles.

The most expensive seating for movies was on the roof where a few small round metal tables and chairs were the orchestra seats. The roof overlooked the courtyard. The seats didn’t cost much, maybe 10 or 20 pesewas, so we always sat there. We’d order drinks and some food. The waitress would bring us water and soap in a small bowl so we could wash our hands before dining. I always ordered coke. The Hotel d’Bull was one of the few places where they served cold coke. We’d eat kabobs: some were beef and a couple were liver. They were cooked over charcoal, as was most Ghanaian food, but I figure I can call them barbecued anyway. I didn’t even mind the liver.

My outdoor movie nights remind me of Ghana. We have the best seats, and we’re sitting at a round table. As in Ghana, the movies are sometimes really awful, but we love them. The big differences are I never serve liver, even barbecued liver, and clean hands are up to you.

“There’s no consciousness without senses and memories.”

February 22, 2019

I woke up early to a lovely day, sunny and warm, in the 40’s. Only a little snow remains in my backyard under the pine trees where the sun doesn’t reach. The snow has paw prints.

My dusting yesterday took forever, and I’m not even done yet; regardless, I feel accomplished. There were five dirty, dusty wipes on the floor when I stopped. I’m on such a roll I’ll finish the two remaining shelves this afternoon. I’ll need to wear sunglasses in this room when I’m finally finished.

My house in Ghana had a corrugated tin roof. The whole house was made of concrete. The house, inside and outside, was painted white. The eating area, which was the back room had a table, two chairs, and the fridge. The room had one full wall facing the concrete backyard and screened windows across the wall. In the middle of the two banks of screens was the back door to the yard where the water tap, the toilet, cooking area and shower were. The cooking room had a stove which was seldom used as we couldn’t get gas. Wood charcoal was what we used for cooking. The toilet room was sometimes shared with a sitting hen. She used to try to peck my feet if I got too close. The shower room had a single tap of cold water and a tiny window with wooden slats. I used to keep my bath stuff on the sill of the window. The house didn’t have a whole lot of furniture, but I had enough.

The houses were concrete so they couldn’t be eaten by termites and other insects, but my school had one building made of wood where there was science equipment. No one could explain why it was wooden. My students aptly called it the wooden building. They were amazed that most of our homes were made of wood and weren’t being eaten.

So much of my time in Ghana even after all these years is easily recalled. They stay bright in my memory drawers, even a memory as small as a wooden building.

“I once spent a year in Philadelphia, I think it was on a Sunday.”

January 27, 2019

It’s cold but it is winter after all. The sun was bright earlier this morning, but clouds are in and out, white clouds, though, which don’t hide the light. Snow has a remote chance later in the morning.

I’m watching the send-off for the Patriots. Thirty Five Thousand people are in Gillette Stadium. Most of them are wearing Patriot’s gear. Send-offs aren’t unusual around here. Crowds even gather to send off the Red Sox equipment trucks to spring training. Even more than robins, those trucks are a sign that spring is coming.

When I was a kid, Sunday was a boring day, the most boring day of all. Nothing was opened. We had to stay around the house. My father monopolized the TV to watch football. None us watched with him. He was always a screamer and sometimes rose out of his chair to yell at the team as if they could hear him. When I was older, my mother and I would sit at the kitchen table and play word games. We didn’t need to watch the TV to follow the game play. We just listened to my father.

My mother cooked my favorite Sunday dinner on Saturday, the day before I left for Peace Corps training. She served roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy and baby peas. We didn’t talk all that much. My parents were sort of still in shock that I was leaving for two years, and I was going to Africa, a totally unknown place to all of us. That scared them. I was more excited than scared. My parents drove me to Logan Airport. My father had purchased a plane ticket for me. Peace Corps had sent a bus ticket to Philadelphia, and my father said no way. We walked together to the gate where my parents and I said goodbye. I looked back once and waved. My mother was crying. I know I’ve told this story before, but it is a favorite of mine. I found my seat and started to put all my carry-ons away. There were so many my seat mate asked me if I was running away from home. I told him I was headed to Peace Corps training in Africa. He bought me a couple of drinks. That memory always gives me a chuckle.

“While the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man’s humanity to man.”

January 22, 2019

This morning is polar opposite yesterday’s. I forgot to leave the storm door open a bit so the button was stuck again. I whacked it a few times, and it gave. As I opened the door, I could hear drips. By normal winter weather standards today is cold at 24˚, but the front of the house faces east so the sun shines directly on the bushes. It was the ice dripping. My computer worked this morning. Life is good.

We got a bit of snow last night but so little that Henry’s paw prints go through the snow to the deck. I wore my slippers to get the papers, and they only had snow on the soles. I cleared my windshield and side windows using my protected newspapers, but there was still a thin layer of snow on them. The windows are now totally clear.

I have to go out today, and I don’t even mind. I suppose I could wait until tomorrow as it will be in the 40’s, but I have been house bound far too long. Henry needs a visit to the vets for nail cutting and his distemper shot so I’ll take him. I also need a few groceries. As for inside, it is time to vacuum. Henry’s fur is again in clumps on the floor. I wish he wasn’t afraid of being brushed.

My austere life begins. My hope is to get back to Ghana in 2021, fifty years after my Peace Corps service ended. I have to start saving money. This month I managed my first deposit to my empty savings account which used to be full and healthy but is now is a mere shadow of itself drained by so many expenses. My friends Bill and Peg and I will travel together. We had the most amazing time when we were there in 2016. I am already excited by the thought of going back to Ghana.

I watched a video of women from Northern Ghana singing I Can’t Keep Quiet in English and Dagbani. I’ve posted it here for you. I didn’t know a single woman in the video, but I know them all. They are my students. They are my Ghanaian family. They are the market sellers always willing to dash a bit. They are the aunties along the sides of the roads selling fruit or plantain chips and Guinea fowl. They are the village women carrying huge bundles on their heads. They are the mothers toting children on their backs. They are one of the reasons I love Ghana and hold it close.

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.

December 20, 2018

Today is a beautiful winter’s day. The sky is a bit overcast, but it is in the 40’s anyway. I’m glad I have a few errands to get me outside, including the dump. Henry needs food, both canned and dry, biscuits and bully sticks to keep him busy. I also need to fill the bird feeders and wrap a few presents. My friends and I are going out for Thai food then we’ll exchange gifts, usually a January event for us.

Last night I sat in the living room just to look at the tree and all the decorations. I decided the room was beautiful. It is gently lit. Light comes from the tree and from a huge basket by the fireplace in which sits a plastic fifties light-up Santa and a decorated gourd with white lights shining through small holes. Two trees sit on different tables. One is a driftwood tree on the big table and the other is a stark white branch tree on the table behind the nativity. Both have white lights. My dining room too is lovely. Most of the light comes from my scrub pine tree in the corner and another fifties plastic Santa in front of it. A small set of lights is in the centerpiece among the ornaments and the pomegranates. The small red ornaments shine.

At Christmas in Ghana where I lived in the Upper Region, in Bolgatanga, it was harmattan time. Hot, dry dusty winds blowing off the desert left every surface gritty. The days were usually in the high 90’s or even over 100˚. The nights were cold, down to the 70’s. I had a wool blanket on my bed, the same one which hangs from the couch back in the living room. My mother had sent decorations and a tiny tree. She even sent a paper brick fireplace for my wall. I hung my stocking on it. I was not looking forward to Christmas, my first away from home. Patrick, another volunteer, and I decided to have a party on Christmas Eve. Bolga was not on anyone’s list to visit except during school holidays when volunteers were in town looking to go north into what is now Burkina Faso and Niger. I baked cookies for the first time ever. We bought Star beer. The other volunteers also bought food, a tradition when visiting another volunteer, and beer. We sang carols. We celebrated together. It was a wonderful Christmas.

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, designed or removed from production.”

September 10, 2018

Oh no, it’s cloudy. It’s so dark you need the light to read. Rain is predicted. Every now and then the wind blows so strongly even the big branches are tossed.

The windows are closed. The back door is open for Henry, and I can feel a chill when the wind blows through it.

My dance card has been empty for a while. I have a meeting tomorrow at the library but that’s it for the week. I am still hoping for another movie night. The Lady in White, not to be confused with the Collins’ novel The Woman in White, will be the last movie. It’s a good one.

I have a list of projects, a list which has been around a while. I want to catalog the Christmas gifts I’ve bought, organize the cabinet under the sink upstairs, clean the tile grout in the kitchen and go through the big cabinet to check dates on the jars and cans. I suspect after reading the list you can totally understand why it has been around so long.

I don’t collect shoes, but I do seem to have a large number of them. The reason for the large number is partly because I don’t throw any away until they are beyond repair. I used to have several pairs of heels, short heels, which I donated to the Salvation Army when I retired. Most of my shoes are built for comfort. My favorites for winter are the wool clogs which I have in four different colors. In summer, it’s always sandals. I have a new pair of red sneakers, the first shoes I’ve bought in years. I love the bright red.

In Ghana, nothing gets thrown away. It all gets repurposed. My sandals were resoled with pieces of tire. My rice from the market was wrapped in the Sunday New York Times, my meat in banana leaves. Old bottles held palm or groundnut oil. Old cans were good for storing stuff and for scooping water. Paper helped start cooking fires. I learned so much in Ghana about the country, its wonderful people and about myself. Peace Corps volunteers always say we get more than we give. Even learning to repurpose was part of the getting.

“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.”

September 9, 2018

I slept late, until close to ten. I swear it is because subconsciously I knew the weather was the same as it has been. That I had to snuggle under the warm comforter last night was reason enough to stay in bed, but I dragged myself downstairs, let Henry out, started my coffee, went to get the papers and fed Maddie and Henry. The morning ritual changes little from day to day. The grey clouds change little from day to day. The dampness changes little from day to day. This is my world right now. The only bright spot, figuratively as we haven’t seen the sun in eons, is I have more books to read, more books to take me away from the daily chores and the weather.

Every Sunday I chat with my sister in Colorado. Today she asked me if I had done my laundry yet. I haven’t.

When I lived in Ghana, I never had sloth days. I was always up early and dressed early. Coffee was first then breakfast then teaching. It was a daily pattern just as my days now have a pattern, but every day in Ghana and the pattern of every day was amazing. Roosters often woke me up. I could hear my students sweeping the school compound then I could hear water flowing from the taps into their metal buckets as my students stood in line for their morning bucket baths. I often had my second mug (giant mug) of coffee sitting on the steps in the front of my house. Small children walking to school stopped and greeted me. “Good Morning, Sir.” English was new to them, and they were learning greetings first, the same as I did in French and Spanish. Their teacher was a man. If it was market day, I went into town. I loved market day. It was like a country fair and even more but without the rides. I loved wandering among the tables, among the rows selling everything: fruit, cloth, chickens, eggs, vegetables, juju beads, pots and pans and bruni wa wu (used clothing translated as dead white man’s clothes). Sometimes I found a treasure. Once it was a small watermelon.

“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.”

September 1, 2018

Today is again glorious, cool and dry. The sun is strong. The sky is blue and unmarred by clouds. I’m going to sit on the deck and take it all in because by Sunday the ugly humidity will be back.

Today is the meteorological end of summer, and Labor Day is the unofficial end but none of that matters to Mother Nature. She will continue to blast us with heat and humidity until fall can finally work its way past her. I’m hoping it will be soon. Fall is my favorite season.

In Ghana we had the dry season and the rainy season. I lived where the dry season was hotter than any other place in Ghana, but now it is the rainy season there so the temperature in Bolga, my other home town, is the lowest it will be all year. It has been in the high 70’s and the mid 80’s there, and rain has fallen just about every day. It is odd to see it cooler in West Africa than it is here.

During my early Peace Corps days, I missed fall, the snow at Christmas and the freshness of spring. I missed flowers. But the longer I lived there, the more I came to love the changes in Ghana’s weather. The rains came intermittently in September. The fields and grasses began to turn brown. Every day seemed hotter than the previous one. By the end of September, it was the high 80’s. In October it was the high 90’s. The worst months, February through April, usually reached 100˚ or more. My favorite month was December. The days were hot, but the nights were cold in comparison. I needed a blanket. It was Bolga’s snow at Christmas. In May the rains started. The grasses turned green. The fields were filled with the young shoots of millet, maize and sorghum. The trees were green with leaves. It was spring, Ghanaian style. The market was overloaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. The tomatoes were luscious.

It has been a long, long while since I lived in Ghana so I have forgotten the horrific heat, those days over 100˚.  Back then I seldom complained. I took my cold shower late, jumped into bed and fell asleep. Now I complain and moan and turn on the air conditioner.

That’s the way it was there, and now that’s the way it is here.

“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?”

August 30, 2018

The heat is still horrific. This is the worst it’s been in my memory. My friend Bill wondered if it is hotter here than in Bolgatanga, Ghana where we both lived. Some days I believe it is.

This is the rainy season in Ghana, but it isn’t the rainy season here. We haven’t seen rain in a while, especially that drenching rain I remember in Ghana. Luckily my irrigation system has kept the lawn and garden green. The plants in the deck pots have to be watered almost every day or they wilt. I understand wilting. I wilt every time I go outside. It is not a pretty sight.

When I was younger, I could tolerate the heat here in the house far better. I didn’t even have a fan. I used to sleep downstairs on the couch, and I kept the back door open all night. That was enough. Now, it would never be enough.

When I was a kid, I slept through the hottest nights because I was exhausted, because the swelter of every summer day didn’t matter, didn’t slow me down, didn’t stop me from having fun. I rode my bike, played softball, walked to the pool and hung around outside with friends. I was a kid so being sweaty and dirty was no never mind. The sprinkler was my summer shower. That it was cold water was the best part.

My mother always had a pitcher of ZaRex in the fridge. It was cheaper than making lemonade and tasted better than Kool-Aid. The pitcher she used the most was blue aluminum. The glasses were also aluminum but were a variety of colors. She had a couple of glass pitchers, one smaller than the other. I found their duplicates in an antique store and bought them both. I’m heavy into nostalgia.

My mother didn’t use her stove or oven a whole lot in the summer because the small kitchen held the heat. Sandwiches were acceptable supper food. My dad barbecued on weekends but my mother never did during the week. Everyone knew barbecuing was a man’s job. That my father sometimes set himself on fire was just an acceptable risk.

I have a doctor’s appointment in Hyannis today. I’m not happy with going outside. That my car has AC doesn’t matter. It’s just the idea of it.