I took the last few weeks off from blogging; it began with my birthday (coupled with a lack of Internet access) and since we haven’t had a day off since, I have fallen behind… A lot has happened in the last few weeks, so I’ll try to catch you all up.
I had a very nice birthday in Maase. It was a busy day beginning with my Language Proficiency Exam. I did much better during my pre-exam the day before, but was still able to get a ranking of Intermediate High, so that’s pleasing. I received my first piece of mail in Ghana just before my birthday too so that was a nice surprise. My parents sent me a birthday card with a homemade puzzle included. The simple things from home bring joy.
My birthday was our last full day in Maase and the next morning we left for “contact persons workshop” in Kumasi. The next morning I learned that I am stationed in the top of the western region and met my contact person, CK. He is a wise 28-year-old from my new village, who worked with the previous volunteer on most of her projects. He is very nice and definitely knows the ropes. We traveled to town from training on Friday. We spent the next several days busily showing me around and introducing me to the elders, chiefs, churches, and schools. It is a big town (estimated population around 10,000). He sent his sisters with food for me while I was visiting and without prompting it was vegetarian (though I don’t know how he knew). He is very conscientious and kind. The town loved the previous volunteer calling her MomBee (short for Madam Baily) and so this is the local version of “obruni” (the southern term for foreigner. At first I wondered if they thought I was the same person, but have since learned MomBee covers all white people here, male or female, old or young…
After a few days at site I headed back to training on my own. This was my first solo adventure in Ghana and I enjoyed the challenge. The morning I was to leave site, I sat in my front porch with my bag packed waiting for my counterpart, CK, to come by and walk me to the station. Once at the station, I grabbed the next tro-tro (minivan) and was headed back toward Kumasi within minutes. The ride to Kumasi takes about 5 hours, so I arrived around 11:30am. I then had to find my way through the crowded city to the Peace Corps sub office. After denying an expensive cab ride, I began walking in the direction indicated to get to my next tro-tro. I felt a bit like I was on the Amazing Race trying to navigate myself with a large hiking pack through a foreign city. People in Ghana are so kind and helped me find my way again and again. I boarded a tro-tro and ended up making it safely to my destination.
The next day the group of trainees that gathered at Kumasi sub office filled yet another tro-tro toward Tamale. This journey took about 8 hours and once we arrived at the Tamale sub office, we immediately boarded a a Peace Corps bus and headed an hour outside of town where we are staying for our offsite technical training.
Offsite training has been very informative. So far I have learned a lot about malaria and nutrition (specifically malnutrition which is a factor in 54% of mortalities under age 5 here in Ghana). These are huge concerns in this country. I’ve also learned about water and sanitation concerns (also a big deal since people are still openly defecating in several areas if this country!) and HIV. People Living with HIV are quite stigmatized by society, so part of my work will be helping to de-stigmatize it, while also promoting safe practices to reduce the infection rate. Ultimately, my Peace Corps service over the next two years will involve a combination of these various concerns. I imagine much of my efforts will involve education as that is where I feel most comfortable.
OK enough for now. I wanted to post an update even though free time had been quite limited. Thanks to all those leaving comments. It’s nice to hear that you are enjoying the blog.