Saturday, January 21, 2012

The very last three weeks of pre-service training, ever

When we arrived back to homestay, after a month of traveling, it was back to language sessions and lots of debriefing and a couple of exams.  Our big LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) was in the last week of training, so we all scrambled to get our language up to par.
We had a cooking practical on Saturday morning.  My language group decided to cook banku with groundnut soup, kontomire stew with yam, and salad.  The day before we all went to the market in New Tafo to get all of the necessary ingedients with our language instructor, Ida.  It was the obroni parade through the market; Ida even admitted she accepted a higher price for the yams that what she would have paid alone, since she was surrounded by six white people.  We bought kontomire (a leafy green), fresh tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic, onions, groundnut paste, chicken, charcoal, yams, corn and cassava doughs (for the banku), cabbage, lettuce, carrots, cucumber and salad cream.  I bought tin tomato and tin mackerel from my homestay mom's store to contribute.
Our group cooked with the Twi language group in the gassy area next to Caitlin's mom's spot.  We had two charcoal pots which we lit fires in, so it was kind of like a barbeque!  (Beer included.)  With the help of Ida, everyone got to practice crushing peppers, garlic and tomatoes with a mortar and pestle, stirring the banku with a big wooden stick and chopping and washing ingredients for the salad and stews.  Our food turned out wonderfully!  Even the Ghanaians enjoyed what we prepared.
The next day Mike, Chase and I decided to go learn how palm wine and apateshie are made, so we walked to a palm tree plantation in the bush in Anyinasin, not far from our homestays.  The owners were very nice and helpful- the showed us their operation and shared palm wine and apateshie with us.  Basic process:  fall the palm trees, collect palm wine straight from tree trunks, collect palm wine into big barrels, distill wine to make apateshie (a very hard liquor, not unlike rubbing alcohol).  I sipped palm wine from a calabash as we walked through the plantation and were shown this process, step by step.  Mike and I originally decided to do our PPP (Personal Project Presentation) on music in Ghana, but once we got to see this, we quickly decided to do our presentation on palm wine/apateshie.
At one point, the man who showed us around gave us a small hot pepper to eat with the palm wine- the intense burning makes you drink the palm wine REAL fast.  (This same man spoke much better English than the owners of the farm, which is why he took us through, but in the process, he got very drunk.  Then things definitely got weird.  Later we found out he wasn't even connected to the operation, he just saw white people and took advantage.)  We bought some palm wine and apateshie to take to our presentation the following day to share with everyone.  Palm wine ferments VERY fast though, so we had to be careful about securing the lid to the palm wine container.  You could not go more than a few minutes without the lid exploding off.
Monday we had our PPPs- we learned about FGM (female genital mutilation), a former Ghanaian president, the significance of colors and designs on fabric, music (mostly hi-life and hip-life), funerals, storytelling, tribal facial markings, conflict resolution in communities, among many other interesting topics. 
In addition to our language classes, in the afternoons we had drumming and dancing practice for our swearing-in ceremony.  We had to learn two African dances for the event.  Junior and senior high students came to help teach us the dances, and drum for us.  At first I was very hesitant, but it actually was a lot of fun!  I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did.  Yes, we made total fools of ourselves, day after day during rehersal, but it was fun.  There was no way we would ever, or will ever, look as good dancing as the Ghanaians. 
Then, at long last, we made it to the final week of training.  Monday we had our LPIs.  My test was scheduled for 8:30, but we were delayed for an hour because the tape recorder did not work.  (Our language tests recordings are sent to D.C. to be reviewed.)  Of course.  That is exactly why you always, ALWAYS, bring a book with you anywhere you go.  The Anyinasin crew relaxed after all our tests were done, it felt good.
Tuesday we all got up early to go to the bank.  It is crucial to get there at least an hour before the bank opens so you can join the already long line.   Surprisingly the bank opened right at 8:30.  And that's when the madness really started.  People rushed to one counter to check their balance, while the rest of the line waited in chairs for the next available teller.  (Ghanaians aren't too strict when it comes to lines or queues or any sort of order, especially when it comes to money, transportation, or anything free.  You learn very fast to push and fight like hell right back.  Every man for himself.)  Despite the line, we got through pretty quickly.  Then we had final interviews at the hub office for the remainder of the day.  We were supposed to have a football match, trainers vs. trainees, but it didn't happen.  Never found out why.  You can imagine my huge disappointment.
Wednesday was our final swearing-in rehersal, then our last Fireside Chat with CD Mike.  Which leads us right into Thursday- swearing-in!  The invitations to our homestay parents said that the ceremony began at 9 AM, but this is Ghana, so we knew we would not actually start until 10.  The U.S. Ambassador to Ghana came, very cool, and I think the DCE (District Chief Executive) of the area came as well, which brought along some of the local media.  A few of us even got interviewed after the ceremony.  Swearing-in was held at the Anyinasin Presby Church, the first time having the ceremony here, so the community was very proud.  All of our parents came, from both Anyinasin and Masse, two guests allowed per trainee.  Our homestay parents were all acknowledged individually, then they enjoyed our language group performances and of course the dancing.  Since the church is located next to the school, ALL of the schoolchildren came out of their classrooms to watch us dance, so that added many more people watching us, in addition to the ambassador, DCE, new crews and homestay parents.  Somehow I wasn't nervous or embarrassed, I just embraced the situation. 
Afterwards, we shared lunch with our guests, then continued the celebration at Caitlin's mom's spot in town.  It was a bittersweet last night at homestay- training was over and we were now official volunteers, but it was hard leave Auntie Rose, since I do not know when I will see her again because I live so far away.  But we all felt it was time- time to go to site, time to go to our homes, time to start the work. 

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