Sunday, January 15, 2012

The end of technical training (Nov. 20- 24)

We were all more than happy to get out of Tumu and head to Bolga to meet up with the cashew group.  Although we had to travel on a Sunday, which is normally our free day, luckily the drive was only three hours, so we arrived by lunch.  We actually ended up staying in Kongo at the Catholic mission, where I stayed during site visit.  I didn't even know we were going to stay at my site until the bus ride there, so it was a pleasant surprise!
I really enjoyed walking around town with everyone and showing them my town and where my house is.  Everyone seemed to really like the area, so I hope this means people will come visit me.  One day we walked through Kongo market (which happens every three days; it rotates with the Pelungu and Bolga markets), and I was recognized by some of the women, they yelled "Kongbon! Kongbon!"  So it was nice to be remembered and I enjoyed greeting everyone and using a little bit of the language.  A few of the nights we walked up a nearby hill to star gaze- the night sky is always so clear and vibrant, every star just pops out at you it seems.  The sunsets are not so clear right now since it is harmattan (the winds from the Sahara blow the sand and dust down south, so the skies look smoggy), but at night, the sky clears up and it is very beautiful.  I will enjoy spending my nights looking at the sky, cooling down after the long, hot days.
Our trainings in and around Kongo: Vetiver grass (at Dennis' site), beekeeping, rabbit hutch/beehive construction and dry season farming (in Tono, about an hour from Kongo).
Come Thursday, we got to celebrate our first Thanksgiving in Ghana, at my site!  In the morning we went to Paga (very close to the Burkina Faso border, about an hour from Kongo) to see the crocodiles!!  We all got to take pictures with one of the older crocodiles- we could hold his tail and lean over his back.  At first it was a little nerve-racking, but it was just too cool to pass up!  A couple people in the group even bought live chickens to feed to the crocs, to reward them for entertaining us.  They were so well trained, almost followed commands like a dog.
After lunch back at the mission, we all got to work preparing and cooking our assigned dishes.  Luckily we were able to use the mission's kitchen and the Father's kitchen at his house.  I was on sweet potato casserole duty at the Father's house, which is very big and nice.  It even has a very green lawn in the front (kind of funny).  Terrie, Rob, Chris, Ritchie and I peeled, mashed and mixed the potatoes into shape while listening to Richie's collection of music (which was mostly Britney Spears...I couldn't help but laugh and think that my girlfriend best friend Liz at home would love to hear about this).  The day before, Danny slaughtered (more like hacked at) the turkey that Janette and Caitlin bought for 90 cedis (about $60) at Bolga market the day before.  The little guy had one last day to roam around the Father's big yard before we needed to use it.  I did not partake in the slaughtering, plucking, or gutting, but I still thought it was really cool that our group did all the work for every part of the feast (well, minus actually growing the food).
Come 7 PM, we sat down to our candlelit dinner!  (The power went out, but the candles really set the mood nicely, much better than lights.)  We invited five people from Oregon that were staying at the mission, and our trainers, Richard and Niko, and driver, Ernest.  We even had a theme for dinner- pilgrims and indians.  For the little prep time we had, some people brought together really cute outfits.  For those less creative types, like me, we just grabbed some of the turkey feathers and stuck them in our clothes or hair.  Once we were all seated, Janette said a prayer and then we went around the table and all said what we were thankful for- we unanimously decided we were thankful for our families- both the ones at home and the new one we have in Ghana, and we were all also thankful for the experiences we have had and will have in here.  I was reminded of the Thanksgiving dinner I had in Monteverde, Costa Rica, two years ago; this also made me thankful that I have been able to share this day of thanks with so many amazing people that I am very happy to know and count as very close friends and family.
Then finally, time to eat!  Veggie stew, carrot and cabbage salad, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, biscuits, sauteed turkey (didn't have much, but it was DELISH), and apple pie with FanIce (super sweet vanilla ice cream in a plastic bag) that Ran bought for us all.  We sure had big, delicious feast that we all thoroughly enjoyed for many reasons: we were reminded of home and our families, we were thankful to have been able to make this dinner, and we were very happy to NOT be eating Ghanaian food.  We even had some box wine to add to sip on, courtesy of the winos in our group.  It was my first sip of wine since back in Philadelphia; I knew I would miss wine a whole heck of a lot!  It was a great Thanksgiving we will always remember.
The next day we traveled from Bolga to KSO, which took all day- left Bolga about 9 AM, got to KSO about 8:30 PM.  I got stuck in a jump seat for the whole ride, so it was a very long, uncomfortable day.  But, once we got to KSO, we were happy to see our PCVL, Mikey, and he treated us to barbequed hamburgers with tomatoes, lettuce, ketchup, mayo, REAL cheese and french fries.  We each also had a mineral (Coke, Sprite, Fanta) and a FanIce.  I never drink soda at home, or eat really sugary things, but here I have gotten used to drinking Coke, made with real sugar.  On these hot days, it can be so refreshing.
After dinner we sat around a bonfire (yes its really hot, but having a bonfire is just cool) in the KSO's very nice yard.  It was good to catch up with Mikey and prepare ourselves for the last three weeks of training.  We were all ready to be at site.
Saturday we returned to our homestays in Anyinasin and Masse.  It was nice to be back in a familiar place, with a familiar bed, familiar faces, familiar "OBRONI!!" chants, familiar routine.

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