Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Home at last

I am now a PCV and I am now at site, after three long days of travel from our training site.  (Day 1: homestay to Kumasi.  Day 2: got up at 3 AM to catch a Metro Mass bus to Bolga, but that didn't work so well, with all the Christmas-time traffic, didn't leave Kumasi until noon.  Dawn stood in a line that did not move for 4 hours.  We wanted to get to Bolga that day, but we had to move to a back-up option since after all those hours we found out the Bolga bus was "spoiled," so we got on the next bus to Tamale with the help of a Ghanaian who got us tickets.  Day 3:  Get a tro to Bolga, meet up with our counterparts, go HOME.  Finally.)
These first few weeks/months have been a lot of settling-in.  Buying lots of household things (a mattress, then another mattress because the first one was a piece of crap that I sink right through, stove, cylinder and gas, nails, rope, utensils and dishes and pots, lamps since I don't have electricity, buckets for bathing and doing laundry, a bike), organizing my room and kitchen the way I want it.  Still waiting for my house to be done, we'll see when that happens. 
On Christmas I went to Bolga market with Ran and Rob, since it was market day.  We just roamed around town, had banku and groundnut soup with a piece of chicken for lunch.  That was my low-key holiday.  The day after Christmas we biked about 25 minutes to Yakoti, Ran's village. We talked under a nice, shady tree and ate lunch prepared by Cletus' wife (the wife of Ran's counterpart), had some pito and box wine to go along with the meal.  Later in the afternoon we went to the Yakoti chief's palace, where Ran lives.  There were a lot of people we had to greet, considering the chief has four wives, and they all live in this compound with all their children.  It was a little overwhelming.  Then they served us pito and pork in light soup, in case we weren't full enough from lunch, but we were told we must eat or we would offend.
Then we went to greet the chief and elders formally.  We sat outside of the compound in plastic chairs in front of the chief, who sat on a ledge about the elders who sat around him below.  He entered this meeting area surrounded by community members, dancing and making high, shrill calls, as five drummers played around them.  There was one man in particular who was very drunk and was dancing and stumbling around.  Rob and I sat their utterly amazed that he didn't eat dirt; at one point the drummers were playing in a semi-circle, backs to the drunk man who was right behind them, and as the drummers were about the leap backwards, Rob turned to me and said the drunk man is going to go flying...I pictured it all in my head, but somehow he avoided the drummers leaping back, it was amazing.
So Ran, Rob, Christopher, Cletus and I sat as our counterparts formally greeted the chief and introduced us to him and why we were here.  Then the drumming and dancing continued.  The drummers had these drums that had two drum heads on opposite sides, which strings attached between the two drum heads.  They could control the pitch of the drum by pulling or pushing on the strings, very cool.
Then we went back to Ran's room to greet more people, with yet more pito.  We finally were able to go outside and watching the dancing in the compound's courtyard.  It seemed to be some sort of dance-off, with a big crowd gathered around the dancers and drummers.  The drummers would determine by the beat they played whether the boys or girls could dance, but mostly they played beats for the girls because they were much better dancers than the boys.  The dancing was very jerky, with violent arm and leg movements up and down, it did not look very comfortable.  If the crowd really liked the person dancing in the center, they would place a one cedi bill on their foreheads so that they would keep on dancing.  Of course Cletus and Christopher wanted me to try.  Haha, heck no.  At one point Cletus turned to me and told me that he would never let his son dance like this, because he could easily be bewitched.  Interesting.
The next day was Kongo market, and there were a lot of people in town for the festivities, but unfortunately they didn't have the traditional dancing like they had the night before in Yakoti.  Christopher says that this traditional dancing and drumming is disappearing, which made me sad.  But Kongo will always have very large speakers that can blast popular Ghanaian music for all hours of the night.
On New Years, the section of Kongo called Pitanga had a meeting, I guess for the inauguration of an association.  What association, I have no idea.  There were many influential people from the community there to speak- a doctor, a handyman, the District Chief Executive...at one point, I was introduced to the whole crowd and had to stand up in front of all these people, but luckily I wasn't asked to say anything.  And since it was New Years, I got many special greeting from different people, usually along the lines of "may we both be here this time next year" or "may God give us a good year" or "may God give you a child by this time next year,"  which was the first time since being in Ghana that the subject of children has come up, suprisingly.  There was also a few "may we have a child by this time next year" or "may you have twins by this time next year."  Whoa there.  At first I was taken aback, but then I remembered I was in Ghana, and every woman is either pregnant or has a child wrapped around there back, and if they don't have a child, people ask why they don't have a child and say they need to have babies.  So very quickly I came up with some responses that would make the comments go away, like "Well, if I have a child, then Peace Corps will send me home" and "I don't think my husband would like me having someone else's child."  Ususally that did the trick.
After a few weeks, I finally started to cook for myself.  Took a while to get the regulator to hook up to the cylinder.  I had several people look at it to try to hook it up properly, and I even took the regulator to Bolga to test in out on another cylinder, and it worked fine...so I finally just fixed the problem myself and duct-taped the regulator to the cylinder.  Bingo.  I told Christopher about how I fixed my regulator-cylinder problem, and I told him about all the things I have set up in my room and compound without any tools, and he responded, "You should have been a man!"  I guess I'll take that as a compliment.
Before I got the stove to work, I was so anxious to cook, I made about the only thing possible with only tomatoes, onions, garlic and salt: salsa.  It was about the most delicious thing I had tasted in my life; by that point, my body was repulsing all Ghanaian food.  But now with my stove, the food has gotten even better: soups and stews with beans and veggies, eggs (NOT fried, which is the only way they make them here, other than hard-boiled), oats, tea and coffee, pasta sauces, potatoes (expensive, but sooo worth it), salad... I have to get pretty creative since I use mostly tomatoes and onions in nearly everything I eat.
My days are taken up by going to the markets (Bolga, Kongo and sometimes Pelungu), cooking, doing laundry, sweeping my room and veranda (you have to sweep every single day because it is SO DUSTY), drinking pito, bucket bathes, running in the mornings when not many people are awake and its still relatively cool, although its not cool anymore even at night since we're into hot season, yay.  I also hang out with Alice, Cletus' wife, at there house in Kongo, which is about a minute walk from my house.  Sometimes I'll help her cook food, and if Cletus, Christopher or Esther are around, we'll get some pito to drink.  This week I went to Christopher's family house to drink pito and cook with Esther.  She taught me how to make jollof rice and okra stew, and I stirred tzet!  I also have started playing football with the men in my community that play in the market square.  Its a lot of fun, but I have a lot of practicing to do.  USA Women's Soccer Team here I come! Just kidding.
At the end of January and beginning of February, there was lots going on with the African Cup of Nations.  Ghana made it to the semifinals, but lost to Zambia, who ended up winning the cup.  It was a great final game against the Ivory Coast.  Now I'm looking forward to the qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics. 
Esther took me to Kong-Gorug primary last week, so for at least this month I'm going to go to the school twice a week and do some activities with the kids.  More to come on that.  Also more to come on market days and a more lengthy description of the food.
My days are certainly getting busier, but what I like most about each new day is that I never really know what I'm going to do.  One day I may sit and drink pito and talk all day; another day I'll spend in Bolga visting other volunteers; another day I'll go through market, talking with the women I buy food from; maybe I'll bike to Zanlerigu with Alice, or bike to Pelungu market; and then many times I just sit in my room and read all day.  I like the spontaneity of each day.  I'm someone who always plans, who always needs a plan, but here, plans don't exist.  Time almost doesn't exist.  Its good for me.

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