Posted tagged ‘Ghana’

“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.

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.”

June 22, 2018

What a beautiful day! The sun is bright, a little breeze ruffles the leaves, the humidity is gone, and the air is comfortable at 70˚. My biggest chore today is to hose down the deck, the table and chairs. They are covered with leaves, small branches and parts of acorns. Under the chairs is still some pollen the jet spray should wash away. The birds have been busy so the feeders need seed. The suet feeder was opened by a spawn so it too needs to be refilled.

Forty nine years ago today, a Sunday, the greatest adventure of my life began. Forty nine years ago today I said goodbye to my parents and headed to Philadelphia for Peace Corps Ghana staging. My father drove the three of us, him, my mother and me, to Logan Airport. It was a quiet ride with little conversation. None of us dared to say anything. At Logan, we stood around the gate saying our goodbyes. My mother’s hug was a bit tight. As I walked down the jetway, I turned and waved. They waved too. That was our last goodbye.

When I got on the plane, I was loaded down with carry-ons. My 80 pounds of luggage, filled with clothes and stuff like sheets, towels, a few pans and spices, had been checked. When I sat down, my seat mate asked me if I was running away from home. I told him the Peace Corps. He bought me drinks. I landed in Philadelphia and went to the taxi line. I noticed a guy wearing a button-down collar shirt and a pair of khakis. Around him was more luggage than one guy needed for a trip to Philadelphia. I asked him if he was going to the Hotel Sylvania. He was. I had just met my first fellow trainee. We shared a cab.

Downstairs at the hotel I stood in line to register. I had my fingerprints with me, the last piece of my file. I registered. At that same desk, they gave me my large manila envelope filled with information about Ghana, the staging schedule including a one on one with a psychologist, training information and my room key. I got to my room and unpacked a few things, enough for the five days we’d be in Philadelphia. My roommate never showed. I found that amazing. How could she not show after the long process of being invited to train for Ghana?

Our first meeting on Sunday night was just introductions, more specific instructions and an overview of the rest of staging. They gave us a per diem, but I don’t remember how much. I do remember finding my way to the dentist to have my teeth checked, the yellow fever shot they gave each of us and the first session. It was so unexpectedly boring. I decided to skip sessions and see Philadelphia. That’s when I met Bill and Peg. We became friends and co-conspirators. We toured Philadelphia. I remember the Liberty Bell and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We were originally told we’d have to make our own way to New York for the flight. It made no sense to us and eventually no sense to the staff so we loaded luggage and boarded busses to the Philadelphia airport. It was a TWA charter flight to Accra. I was nervous, a little scared, a lot curious and even more thrilled. I was going to Africa.

“I made a sandwich out of things. I’m an American. We can eat anything as long as it’s between two pieces of bread.”

June 5, 2018

The dump was fairly empty today. I was horrified to see one bag of my trash had maggots. That one had been in the trunk since Thursday. Seeing those crawling maggots whizzed me back in time to my childhood. Our house had an outside garbage pail. It was in the ground with a metal flip top you opened with your foot. The pail usually had maggots. My mother had a triangular plastic garbage holder which she kept in the corner of the sink. She’d nab one of us to empty the garbage outside. I hated to touch it afraid I’d get garbage on my hand. Every week the garbage man came to empty it. I couldn’t think of a worse job. Even the truck smelled bad.

Today is lovely. It is cool, in the high 60’s, and so sunny the light glints off the leaves and shines through the branches. The breeze is cool but not chilling. A short sleeve is enough. I have one more errand I couldn’t do yesterday in the rain, those flowers. I saw my neighbor, also my landscaper, this morning and alerted him to the flowers which will need planting. He told me not to worry. I won’t.

When I was a kid, I was always busy in the summers. I was seldom home. I used to pack a lunch and take it with me. It was bologna if there was any left, but sometimes I had to use peanut butter and Fluff, but I never saw it as a second choice. Bologna was a neat sandwich. Fluff was not. Usually it seeped out the sides unto my fingers when I held my sandwich to eat it, and I often had a fluff mustache. It was sticky.

In Ghana, I used groundnut paste, peanut butter paste to us. It was thick and was a soup base for groundnut stew. I ate it as a snack on bread with jelly, but I had to thin the paste or it would tear the bread. I used groundnut oil to do that. My cupboard was never bare of groundnut paste.

I still love peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches. The only difference is I’m much neater now.

“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.”

May 24, 2018

Yesterday was so lovely my friends and I had dinner on their deck. It was a summer dinner of hot dogs, watermelon and fresh corn. We played Phase 10, but toward the end of the game, the cold wind arrived. We were done. Summer was over.

Last night thunder rumbled then the rain came, a heavy rain at first then just a constant rain of smaller drops. When I fell asleep, it was still raining, but this morning is beautiful though chilly, in the low 60’s.

I have three stops today. I still have to get my dump sticker, the car needs to be inspected and I have PT for my arm.

The only items on my to do list are the dump and then Agway to buy flowers and herbs. The heading on the list is Friday.

When I was in Ghana, an occasional evening treat was a Coke and a Cadbury candy bar. The DPW near my house had a store. It was one of the few places with cold Coke. My favorite Cadbury was the Fruit & Nut Milk Chocolate Bar. I still buy one every now and then just for the memory.

My memory drawers are loaded. I don’t know why some events and people become memories and get saved while others never do and are forgotten as soon as they happen. I remember the plane ride to Ghana. It was a TWA charter. I sat toward the back by the window. I remember we flew over the Cape. When the plane stopped in Madrid to refuel and change the crew, we got out to stretch. I remember the airport. I also remember getting back into my seat and finding the seat belt caught somewhere. I didn’t use it again. I remember looking out and seeing the Sahara. I also remember my first view of Ghana from the window, and I remember landing. I have a mental picture of my first dinner during training at Winneba. The plate was white. The food was mostly green and white. I didn’t eat it.

Each one of those memories is a snapshot, a colorful, vibrant snapshot which doesn’t seem to fade over time so I get to visit those memories over and over. I never tire of seeing them.