Posted tagged ‘Peace Corps training’

“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.

“There are no such things as curses; only people and their decisions”

October 7, 2017

The sun predicted for today has yet to appear. It is cloudy and damp. I could feel the moisture in the air when Gracie and I went out to get the papers. It made me feel a bit chilly and I wished I had put on a sweatshirt. The house, though, with all the doors and windows closed is warm.

We’re going out today, Gracie and I, to the dump, the market and Agway. My trunk is filled with trash from Thursday’s great cabinet clean-out. Gracie needs canned food and a treat or two, and I need the essentials for life: bread, coffee and cream.

My friends are coming on Tuesday for a couple of days. These are the friends I traveled with to Ghana last year. We first met in 1969 at Peace Corps staging in Philadelphia at the Hotel Sylvania. Staging is the first time the whole group of trainees get together before leaving for in-country training, and it is where we got shots, had interviews and were introduced to PC staff from Ghana. Right away we became friends and co-conspirators. The three of us skipped some of the orientation to tour Philadelphia. It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing. They were supposed to be posted in Tamale, a city 100 miles from Bolga. That would have made us neighbors. Instead, after Peace Corps found out Peg was pregnant, they were posted to New Tafo, in the south. I visited them every time I went south, and we traveled together. Just before our second year, there was an open post at my school. They were willing to join me in Bolga, and the principal agreed to make the request to Peace Corps so we became neighbors living in a duplex on the school compound. Bill had a red motorcycle. I had a grey one. We used to take day trips around Bolga. He’d take Kevin, their son, and I’d take Peg. We had adventures. I remember a couple of picnics during school holidays, one by a watering hole and another in the hills of Tongo where school boys stood and watched us the whole time. It was there an old man threatened us with the gods because he claimed we had desecrated a sacred rock by putting our small charcoal burned on it. The schoolboys said he just wanted money. We decided to take our chances. As we were leaving, Bill’s motorcycle stopped dead. It just quit running. We sort of chuckle and hoped the old man didn’t see us. The motorcycle did start right away, but it gave us pause.

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.”

August 6, 2017

Today is an absolute delight. The humidity is gone, the sun is squint your eyes bright and there is a cool breeze. I even had to shut the window behind me as I found the breeze cold on my back. I opened the other window in here and both doors to let all that wonderful fresh air into the house. It is a deck day, a wonderful deck day.

Tonight is movie night. I think I’ll have a sweatshirt at the ready as it will be in the low 60’s. Even though it is early August, the weather hints at fall.

My neighbor barbecues chicken wings every Sunday. He doesn’t use any sauce. He never has any sides. His wife sits on the deck and keeps him company. If he sees me, he shouts for me to join him and his wife. I did one Sunday, the Sunday he barbecued Brazilian kielbasa especially for me. His wife made caipirinhas, a Brazilian drink I love. They call me Miss Kath.

I was taught Hausa during my Peace Corps training. It is a language indigenous to Niger but is also a Sub-Saharan trade language. There are even Hausa traders. I used to shop at their stalls on High Street. When I used Hausa, I got better deals. The man who oversaw the Peace Corps hostel spoke Hausa. He loved that I spoke his language. On the first floor of the hostel there were two sleeping rooms for women: one had a bathroom while the other was much smaller and didn’t. I was there once when very few volunteers were. He gave me a key to the big room and put everyone else in the small room. He hated what he called Yama Yama women who left powder all over the bathroom floor. Yama Yama women are street walkers so that was quite an insult. The other day Grace Awae, the former student I have spent so much time with, send hello from Facebook. I wrote back in Hausa: Ina kwana? Yaya kake? Good morning and how are you. She wrote Ina lafiya, I am fine.

I have a few deck clean-ups before tonight, mostly bird poop. I also have to clean the table. I’m making muhammara, a dish I learned to make in Marrakech. The original dish I had planned, shredded chicken phyllo rolls, has to be postponed as I don’t have the right ingredients. I thought I did. I have cheese and crackers and meatballs from last week which are now defrosting. We’ll have plenty.

If I were ten again, I’d be at the beach with my family. I’d be eating grainy sandwiches, probably bologna, and eating watermelon and some Oreos. I’d walk the beach to find shells and I’d swim in the warm tidal pools. I loved the summer Sundays of my childhood.

“And believe me, a good piece of chicken can make anybody believe in the existence of God.”

June 27, 2017

What was a lovely summer morning with a cooling breeze has become a cloudy day with a dark sky, a rain threatening sky. I shut the window behind me as I felt a bit chilly. The breeze has turned cold.

Yesterday I was able to cross everything off my to do list. That doesn’t usually happen. I felt accomplished.

Gracie got her first tick yesterday. I was patting her ears when I found one on the underside of one ear. It was small and hadn’t embedded yet. I hope it can swim.

I can hear the swishing of the leaves on the oak trees. That is the only sound. I wonder where the birds went.

I once raised chickens. My first laying hen was a gift from a Ghanaian friend. The hen was white and hatched 5 chicks. She was a horrible mother and the chicks began to disappear, eaten by one predator or another. Her second hatching was much the same. I ate her for dinner a couple of nights. Such is the fate of a bad mother hen.

I like to shop at farmers’ markets, especially the one in Bass River. Mostly I buy fresh vegetables though I have also bought cheese, local honey, candles, fresh herbs, desserts, jams and jellies and once some lamb. The market is set up in a circle so I do one loop. It is held every Thursday and Saturday.

One of my favorite places in Ghana was the market in Bolga. Every third day was market day. I had gone to my first market during Peace Corps training. It was a disaster. I got sick from the smells, but, by my live-in in Bawku, three weeks into training, I had stopped noticing. I loved my market. I’d bring my woven shepherd’s bags which stretched and fill them with tomatoes, onions, eggs, garden eggs, okra, oranges, bananas and pineapple. A chicken, bound by its feet, I’d slide onto the handle bar of my motorcycle. Sometimes I’d find a surprise. Once it was a watermelon. I could buy cloth, sandals, pots and pans, dishes, glasses and so much more. I always thought of the market as an adventure.

“An optimist is a fellow who believes a housefly is looking for a way to get out.”

May 27, 2017

We have some blue sky and a sun which can’t quite make up its mind about coming or going. It is also chilly, not a morning chill: it’s just cold.

My dance card is empty today. I do have some Gracie stuff to wash but nothing else. Yesterday’s amazing spurt of industry has left me with nothing needing doing except to put my banners and flags on the fence.

The lawns are green and lush from the rain. Even the leaves seem to glint in the sun which seems to have made up its mind and is staying for the duration. I’ll go on the deck later and empty the water from the furniture covers hoping they’ll dry so they can be put away for the season. Next week is buy my flowers and open the deck week.

My neighborhood is eerily quiet for a Saturday. Once in a while the dogs across the street bark but usually at Grace and me walking to my backyard. I don’t know where all the kids are, but I’m glad they’re missing. I’m happy for the peaceful morning.

My around the house cozy pants have permanent creases from sitting down when I wear them. One crease has given way. I didn’t figure sewing it would work as it wasn’t torn so I did the next best thing. I duct taped the worn area.

Some of the best things I learned in Ghana were to make-do, throw nothing away and repurpose. Tires became soles of shoes and sandals. Beer bottles were filled with palm oil or groundnut oil for sale in the market. Cones made from newspapers held rice for sale. In the butcher’s market, newspapers were used to wrap meat being sold. That mightn’t sound all that healthy, but the butcher’s market was filthy anyway. Newspapers might have been a step up. I always think it’s amazing what I learned to ignore or tolerate during my time in Ghana. Water with floaties (our word for whatever was in the water sold in beer bottles ), food from the street vendors or from the tables of aunties (older women) who were selling along the sides of the roads and, my favorite, eating in a chop bar ( usually a hole in the wall with a few wobbly tables and mismatched chairs serving local food) never gave me pause after my first few months of Peace Corps training. I even shooed flies off my food before I ate it and sifted my flour for as many weevils (small worms) as I could get. The rest just became protein. All of that became a part of life in Ghana and didn’t merit second thoughts.

The tolerance and forbearance I learned are forever a part of me. I admit my standards are definitely higher now, but I’m not squeamish about most things. I still flick flies.

“Some sounds are so exquisite – far more exquisite than anything seen. Daff’s purr there on my rug, for instance – and the snap and crackle of the fire – and the squeaks and scrambles of mice that are having a jamboree behind the wainscot.”

May 21, 2016

Such a beautiful day it is today. We have sun, a breeze and some white clouds hiding the blue. Rain is predicted, but I can’t remember when.

I have a mystery. Every day at different times I find the corner of the living room rug turned up. Nothing is on or under the rug so I don’t understand why, and I certainly don’t know who, but Gracie is tops on my list of suspects. I’m thinking it’s a Gaslight thing.

Today I have little to say. The week was a busy one but it was mostly because of medical appointments for me and Fern. Nothing much to report except Fern needs more potassium. It’s coming in the mail.

Lawnmowers are disturbing the quiet of my neighborhood. Even my lawn is getting mowed though it hardly seemed tall enough to merit the cutting. I understand the attraction of gas powered mowers, but I miss the click clack of hand mowers, another sound from my childhood which has disappeared.

Snow on the TV is long gone. I remember my father adjusting the rabbit ears to get rid of the static sound of the snow. The ears were wrapped in aluminum foil to give the antenna greater reach. Lots of houses had antennas on the roof.

I remember when I was in Morocco and sitting at a table on the top floor of a restaurant in the old city. It seemed every house had a dish attached to its roof or to the side of the roof. Even the calls to prayer were computerized. I remember being in Bawku, Ghana living with a family for three weeks as part of my Peace Corps training. My room was close to the small mosque on the street below my bedroom so I could hear the call to prayer. The one around 3:30 always woke me up, but after a bit, I knew when it would end so I could go back to sleep. The call became part of my night. The singing of the prayer was beautiful.

I am not a Luddite. I have all sorts of machines, mostly in the kitchen, which make my life easier; however, I am saddened at the disappearance of so many things and so many sounds. The click clack always brought my father to mind. He never bought a power mower. I miss the bells on Sunday mornings. I miss the clinking of milk bottles, and I miss the milkman. I could go on and on. It is just one of those days. It all started with the sound of lawnmowers.

“It was not an outhouse resting upon the imagination. It was reality.”

June 18, 2015

Okay, we’re finally home. Gracie and I decided to stay an extra day. Her decision was quick: she got an hour walk every day with Bill. She loved it and left her calling card everywhere they walked on the road. All of Mont Vernon, New Hampshire knows Gracie was there. Peg was forever treating Gracie to ham and other tidbits. Gracie followed Peg and Bill each time one of them moved. I was so spoiled by their care and affection and the wonderful food Peg made that I was almost tempted to follow them too.

Bill, Peg and I were in Ghana together. We met during the week in Philadelphia before we left for training. I joke with them that I was lucky enough to find two people willing to skip out on lectures and presentations. We toured Philadelphia instead. I swear they tempted me off the straight and narrow. They, of course, blame me.

They were supposed to be posted 100 miles from me in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region. I was posted to Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper Region. Given the small number of volunteers in the Northern and Upper Regions the 100 mile proximity would have made them my neighbors, but Peg found out she was pregnant. Peace Corps decided to let them stay but they were moved closer to Accra and the Peace Corps office to a town called Tafo. I visited them and their son Kevin on my way home from Accra, Ghana’s capital, every time I went. They lived without running water and had their own outhouse in the row of outhouses at the back of their building. That’s where I met the night soil man. I was sitting there when I heard a noise from below. I got up and looked down. A man’s head popped in the hole and looked up at me. He said, “Hello, madam,” as he emptied then replaced the night soil bucket. It is still the most interesting first encounter I’ve ever had.

When summer gathers up her robes of glory, And, like a dream, glides away.”

August 23, 2012

The morning is sunny and warm. This room, still in the shade, is cool and comfy. The nights have been dropping to the 60’s, perfect for sleeping, and will be as cool for the next few days. Crossing off items on my before-I-go list continues. Yesterday three bit the dust; already this morning one more is finished. At least three more will be completed by bedtime, and I’ll be left with the big one: packing on Saturday morning.

Last night was the final play of the season. I have no idea where the summer has gone. When I was a kid, summer seemed to last forever filled as it was with days and days of play. I was always surprised when we went shoe shopping, the first sign of summer’s end and the encroachment of the school year.

My favorite summers were when I was a teacher and didn’t work. Those were my traveling days, and I traveled all over, mostly in Europe, with just a few clothes in a backpack. The trips were usually 4 or 5 weeks long, and I went every summer. I had always dreamed of traveling to the ends of the earth to see the pages of my geography book come alive and those summer trips fulfilled my dreams.

My most amazing summer was training in Ghana where I stepped into a brand new world, something I couldn’t have ever imagined. I remember so well those first few days. They were like a dream. Everywhere was green. There were palm trees and there were lizards scurrying across the walkways in front of me. Women dressed in beautiful cloths and carried baskets and buckets on their heads. Little kids followed us. I remember standing just outside my room, on the second floor of the dormitory in Winneba, and looking below at the rusted tin roofs of the houses. I could see goats and I could see people going about their business. I was enthralled.

I love my summers now. My friends and I are usually on the deck, eating, playing games and laughing. We try to stretch the deck season as long as we can and usually last well into long pants and sweatshirt cold nights. The saddest part is when I have to close down in the fall. It’s the adult version of buying new shoes for schools.