Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps 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.

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”

August 6, 2018

Help!! I am a prisoner in my house. Going outside could mean certain death. Okay, I admit to an exaggeration here but not by much. It is so hot and humid it took my breath away when I went to get the papers. I didn’t even stop to admire the garden. I am now safe and comfortable in my cool house. I will admire the sun from the inside out.

When I was a kid, I don’t think we even had fans in the house. My mother kept the shades down. The living room did feel a touch cooler but not by much. Sometimes we’d go through the sprinkler, get cool and wet then go to bed. I used the same trick in Ghana. I’d take my shower, a cold shower as I had no hot water, just before bed then go to bed still wet. I was air cooled and could fall asleep.

Heat never really bothered me that much when I was a kid. I was out every day all summer, even when it rained. In Ghana, in Bolga, it was always hot, even in the rainy season, but that’s just the way it was and life went on.

I have a great memory of Ghana. One of my friends was terminating (Peace Corps argot for finishing service) earlier than the rest of us were. His school was on strike so there was nothing for him to do. During Easter holiday a few of us met up in Accra by happenstance as we always stayed at the Peace Corps hostel. We decided to go out for drinks and toast our departing friend. We went to a hotel, one of the grand old hotels. We sat in the bar. There were chairs and couches with flowered cushions, not uncommon furniture in Ghana. Fans were on the ceiling and were stirring the air a bit. There was a bank of open windows behind us and outside those windows was a garden of ferns, eucalyptus and frangipani. I had been whisked back in time to a colonial hotel, like in some old movie of long ago times and places. I was living in old Accra for just a little while. Even now I can close my eyes and see the fan, the windows and me sitting on the couch, drink in hand. It is an amazing memory.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

June 18, 2018

The morning is a delight. The wind is from the north. It is sunny but not yet warm though the prediction is for 75˚. Boston and north of Boston will hit the mid-90’s. Some schools even cancelled because of the heat. Few schools are air-conditioned. Friday is the end of the year for many schools including here. I always liked that day.

I don’t remember school lasting this long when I was a kid. I think the public schools always went longer than St. Pat’s. That was one of the perks of going to a Catholic school which sort of made up for having to wear uniforms.

When I was young, some of the nuns scared me. My first grade nun, Sister Redempta, was the scariest because she was the first. I have glimpses of her in my memory bank. I remember her hurrying up the aisle, her veil billowing behind her as she confronted some poor kid. Luckily I was never one of those kids, those poor kids.

Today I find myself reminiscing. I’m thinking about all the places I’ve been. I am generally amazed. When I was a kid, we traveled to Canada, not far into Canada, just to the falls, but that trip was a turning point. It was my first step in fulfilling the vow I had made when I was 11: to travel to more places than Marty Barrett, a classmate who went to England a few times to visit relatives. On that fateful family trip, I saw Niagara Falls, went up Mount Washington, watched ships go through the Eisenhower Locks and stayed at a cottage on the edge of Lake Ontario. I wanted more.

I didn’t take my first plane trip until I was a freshman in college. My father treated me to a flight from Boston to Cape Cod as an Easter gift. I loved everything about that flight: the small plane, the view of the ocean and the landmarks I recognized as we flew over them. I wouldn’t fly again until the flight to Peace Corps staging in Philadelphia and, from there, the flight to Ghana.

I still have that wanderlust. I have more places I want to go, but I am hoping for one last trip to Ghana in 2021, the fiftieth anniversary of the completion of my Peace Corps service. I’m already feeding the coffer.

“The journey is the treasure.”

June 4, 2018

The rain was the first thing I heard when I woke up. It was pounding the window. I could also hear the wind, and from my window, I could see the top tree branches flying left and right. The house was cold. I had left my bedroom window open so my room felt damp and chilly. Henry wanted out at 8 so out he went into the rain. I went back to bed, and when he came back inside, Henry joined me. His fur was all wet. We both slept another hour. Given my druthers, I would have stayed snuggled under the covers, but Henry had a different idea. He started jumping and playing on the bed. I gave up and got out of bed. Henry got his breakfast, the cat got her treats and I got my coffee.

My house is dark. Henry is chewing on one of his toys. I think the cat is by the water dish waiting to meow when I walk by, her reminder to me to change the water. I’m just sitting here thinking and writing. The rain seems to make us all a bit logy.

I cleaned a basket yesterday, one of three under the table here in the den. It had clumps and more clumps of dust. It had an unopened calendar from 2015. I also found a manila envelope filled with return address labels. Another envelope had a few recipes and a third had nothing. A few books were in the basket, books I haven’t read. My Peace Corps mug book was there. It has pictures and short bios for every volunteer in my training group. We all look so young. The bio gives my age, 21, and my address. It notes I am a graduate of Merrimack College and majored in English and minored in education. During the summers, I worked in the post office. That seems a bit boring especially given the varied experiences of my fellow trainees. It also says in my free time I enjoy softball. That makes me laugh. I hadn’t played softball since high school.

I thumbed through all the pages and memories flooded back, memories of trainees who left during training, those people I never got to know, memories of friends who stayed and, sadly, a memory of one who died in Ghana.

None of us in that mug book knew what was waiting for us. We didn’t know we were about to embark together on the most remarkable journey. I haven’t seen many of the people in that book, but I still have so much affection for them, so many memories of them. I will always be thankful for them, Peace Corps and most especially for Ghana.

“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.

“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”

April 22, 2018

I love this morning. The sun is so very bright and the skies is a cloudless dark blue. The breeze is slight. It is 51˚ right now and won’t get much higher, but I’m okay with that. It is just spring on Cape Cod.

Today is Earth Day. I missed the first one in 1970. I was in Ghana for my second year. Living there was a disconnect from what was happening here at home. I did get the NY Times Week in Review from Peace Corps Ghana, and every three or four months I’d get the Sunday Times, several at once. That subscription had been a gift. But what was going on at home seemed remote despite the papers. There I was living in Bolga, shopping on market days, trying to sleep in the heat, taking cold showers as there was no hot water and teaching for the first time. My life was complex in a whole different way than I knew before Ghana.

The Ghanaians used everything. Nothing was wasted. Tires became the soles of sandals. Newspapers were wrapped around rice and meat bought from the market. Cans were multi-purposed. Anything which could be recycled was. Earth Day was every day in Ghana. It was their way of life.

When I came home, it took a long while to feel comfortable. In Ghana, I had vowed I would live a simpler life at home. That lasted for a while then I got caught up with living here. It took until I had my own home before I began to recycle. It had nothing to do with Earth Day. It was what I had learned in Ghana. I saved cans and bottles and newspaper and magazines. I thought about how the Ghanaians would have loved all of those. They would have thought my bags were treasure troves.

We are going in the wrong direction. The Obama policies to curb climate change and limit pollution have been reversed by Trump, with help from his administration and the Republicans in Congress. Our Earth wasn’t even considered. Profits and politics were. If it had Obama’s name attached in any way, it was gone, erased regardless of the environmental impact. After all, there is no global warming, no climate change. Just ask Pruitt.

“Daffodils are yellow trumpets of spring”

March 9, 2018

If this is a test of my sanity, I am on shaky ground. In Ghana there was a rainy season and a dry season. I knew what to expect and around when to expect it. My friends and I, during the dry season, would look at the sky and wonder if it was going to rain. That was a joke of sorts. We knew the rain wouldn’t come until April. The sun would beat down and dry everything until then. The ground became dust, blown and whirled by the winds from the desert, the harmattan winds. Our lips cracked from the dryness, but it wasn’t unexpected. We were ready for all that heat and no rain.

I haven’t seen the sun in days. The clouds are darker now, a bit more menacing. I need the sun. I want it to be so bright outside I have to squint my eyes. I want to stand on the deck and be warm. My patience is almost gone. I want to scream, “No more! No More!”

Today I have to go to the dump. Gracie would have loved the trip.

My laundry is back to its usual spot, leaning against the cellar door. My plan is to do it today before it grows and takes on a life of its own. That’s what happened the last time. Had I been a character in a Disney movie, my laundry would have been singing and dancing. I’m picturing a conga line of shirts followed by a line of pants doing the can can and singing a catchy tune as they make their way to the washing machine.

My house is nice and clean. Roseana and Lee came yesterday. My contribution was lifting my legs so Lee could vacuum under them. He even put all the trash and recycling bags into the trunk for today’s dump run. I also have a couple of other stops. I have streamlined my to do’s so I waste only a single day.

My garden doesn’t mind the gray days. It still grows. I check it every morning and every morning I notice more and more green shoots have been appearing in my front garden. I see daffodils joining the already blooming crocus or croci if we use Latin’s second declension masculine plural for words ending in us. I had four years of Latin in high school, a feat of no small dimension.