Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year! I can't believe it's 2006!

The following post I wrote a couple hours ago and am now at the internet cafe posting. However, I have read my emails and want to answer a few questions that people have asked. Please, feel free to ask questions because as things become more and more "normal" to me I may forget to say certain things.

Okay - no, I have not lost weight. The Ghanaian diet consists of a lot of carbohydrates and in my village meat and vegetables can be hard to come by. So, I am the same (I think) as when I left the states. With that said, I also have no mirror except the little pocket one I brought with me - I use it to pluck my eyebrows (yes, despite being in Africa I still must do this). Speaking of hair - as many know I am a hairy person, particularly my arms (thank you Schweizer genes). This was for many periods of my life a very embarrassing matter. I am finding out though that hairiness is seen in a different view. The children love my hairy arms and sometimes I find young girls petting my arms, sideburns or neck (at how low my hairline goes). I also had my homestay sister, Dorothy, tell me to stop shaving my legs, that the hair was nice. I, of course, laughed because in America this is no the case. I will also admit that I did go on atleast a three week hiatus of shaving, but have since gotten somewhat back on track (sort of).

As for clothes - mainly I wear skirts and t-shirts. I have one Ghanaian dress that my homestay family made me that I wear for nice things (church or something where everyone dresses up). I am no longer wearing pants often. Since I've been in village I've only worn pants to go to the bush or to farm. I also wear flip flops every day. I bought some here that are appropriate. I had (and still have a little) Chaco tan on my feet. If I can ever post pictures you will see what I mean. Skirts and dresses below the knee are what most women wear in Ghana. I don't mind as they are cooler and (something Peace Corps doesn't tell you) it is easier to pee with a skirt on when it is hot outside. For example, while traveling long distances (not far by the way the crow flies but far because this is Ghana) you may have to urinate on the roadside or in a urinal facility. You run much less of a chance of getting yourself if you have a skirt and not pants. Okay, enough of that advice. The unfortunate part of clothes here is that in my village it is very humid (and we're entering the dry season) and one of my shirts has already molded. I'm not sure how it happened but it has. I really don't need to worry about it though because it happens with many people's things. Enough about that.

Now, here is my entry -
I am finally in Cape Coast again. I am actually on my way to Accra but will head there tomorrow morning. I have been in Mesomagor (the official spelling) for over three weeks. That included Christmas and New Year’s. When I first arrived in village I told myself to make it until January 5th, when the National Youth Art Show will be in Accra, at the National Museum. Some of the Peace Corps teachers have students that will have art displayed so they have been promoting it and I thought it would be a great opportunity to make it to Accra and do various things. I knew if I could make it to the short term goal of the 5th, I could then go on. There was only one day in the past three and a half weeks that I thought “I can’t do this.” It was in my first week. I made it through and here I am. My next goal will be to make it to March, to see the solar eclipse. Small goals will hopefully get me to two years.

Mesomagor has been nice. For the most part I enjoy it. It’s quite and basic. There is no electricity so I usually try to force myself to stay up until 9:00 pm. The sun typically goes down around 6 or 6:30. I get up around 6:00 am, although sometimes I lay in bed for a little while longer. Once I get up I cook breakfast, which is usually oats with coffee (thank you Dixie), tea, or Milo, a chocolate drink they have here. I also listen to the radio and get the news, mostly African news, from BBC or VOA.

Once that part of the day is over I will try to do something with the community. On Christmas Eve I went with some of the community to a cocoa seed harvest. It was a lot of fun. Twenty to thirty members of the community were there pulling the seeds out of the cocoa. It’s pretty grimy but it was a good time. Everyone was singing, joking and celebrating. The wife of the owner of the cocoa made lunch for everyone (this is normal if you help someone on their farm, they will give you food). It was really nice.

I have been to the farm a few times, with various people. If nothing is going on I will stay at home and read, write, play solitaire (with actual cards) or hang out with some of the children.

One day I was looking at a magazine, People, that mom sent to me. One of the boys in JSS (middle school) came by. He saw me looking at it and also wanted to. I let him and some of his reactions were so funny. First, there was an ad for America’s Next Top Model and he was shocked that they were “wearing nothing.” I personally find this funny because there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see a man, boy or girl peeing anywhere or a woman with no shirt on. He also was shocked at an ad for cigarettes, for women. He was like “she’s smoking, but she can’t.” Women here do not smoke in public, if at all. I rarely see men smoke too. The boy couldn’t understand this. Then there was a picture of a woman by a pool in a bikini. He asked me if that’s how we “white people” bathe, with those clothes on. I, of course, said no, that she was having leisure time by a pool or a beach. It was interesting but I had to explain that these people are rich and famous, like singers or football (soccer) players.

My afternoon usually consists of walking around greeting people or sitting with someone at their house. If there is nothing to do I will sweep the area where I live. This is something that I couldn’t understand when I first got to Ghana; everyone sweeps their dirt (usually there is no grass) everyday, with hand-held brooms. This, however, gives me something to do and makes the yard look nice. So, I’ll do this and then around 4 or 4:30 I’ll shower (bucket bath) and start cooking food. Usually I eat rice or noodles. I’ve been able to experiment a little.

On Christmas day I ended up eating spaghetti noodles with alfredo sauce. The packet was from the states; Dixie brought it and passed it on to me. It was quite delicious. Unfortunately I was being harassed by some children so I ate inside. There was a football match between the churches and I live right by the school so many children, not from the village, had come over to stare at me. For the most part the children that live in Mesomagor are really sweet and don’t bother me. They call me Sister Sarah or Obruni Sarah; mostly the younger ones call me Obruni Sarah.

Because I am in the first three months I really can’t start any projects. This is a time when you really have to learn about the community and let them get used to you. Already some of my original observations or thoughts have been challenged, which is good. I am anxious to get to the three month mark so I can start doing a little bit more. Life is slow though, which at times is really nice and other times frustrating. One day at a time….


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm so glad to have heard from you. it sounds like you are on quite the "search for self expedition", sarah. i hope that in the near future you have reached some form of self actualization, and, again..i hope to continue to hear from you. miss ya, love ya.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

Wow! Your high school english comp. teacher would be proud of you! You are a very good writer! Your sharing of feelings and observations is indeed very interesting. The news from AGD land is that the Director's offices and the walls and bathrooms were painted (pale yellow) over the Holidays!! We miss you and thanks for sharing! Leave your legs alone!

Mr. Gale

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sister Sarah, I love that! I am glad to hear you are doing so well. I hope you have pictures soon. Things are crazy here at IHQ and home. I think I would love a slow pace right about now. Take care of yourself and keep blogging!


9:16 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Sarah, I finally read your blog. I'm sorry I'm way behind! What an exciting journey!! I am sure you're having a good time!! I think about you often and will check on you more often!! You're in my thoughts and prayers!! Love, Megan Ellett Parcel

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,
i miss you lots. it's very interesting to hear what all you do and how the people react too you. what do you do about watching tv? will you stay busy once you start your job? i can't wait to see pictures. can't wait to see you again, make sure you stop by Indiana. love you anne

12:03 PM  

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