The last 10 days of my life feel like two months. From Wenatchee to Washington DC to Accra and now I am at an internet cafe in Kpando, a town of 15,000 East of Lake Volta. In Washington DC we held our staging conference which was filled with ice breakers and and powerpoint presentations on policy and logistics (Boring). I got to meet the other 72 volunteers headed to Ghana in my training group and they are a great group with a lot of fun people. My program Health/Water & Sanitation has 15 total volunteers.
Orientations for the Ghana program are typically held in Philadelphia, so why was this one in Washington DC? The 73 of us were supposed to meet President Obama in the Rose Garden at the White House. That fell through, so as a backup we met Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams, which was still pretty neat. He was a PC volunteer in the Dominican Republic back in the late Sixties, back when Peace Corps did not give you a place to stay and you literally had to go door to door looking for a place to live. Times have changed. Nowadays The staging and training portions of service are extremely guided and specific. One of the biggest problems a lot of volunteers have with their service is the lack of independence during training.
We arrived in Ghana at 130 PM on Wednesday June 8th. It was hot. It was humid. It was a weird feeling setting foot in a place I knew nothing about, but knowing that over the next 2 years it will become my home. For the first five days we stayed just outside Accra at a University where we went over logistics and were introduced to the Peace Corps Ghana staff from Country Director down to Janitor of the main Accra office. We were blessed in all three local religions, just to be safe, and had a celebratory toast of local moonshine. After I regained my vision, I was able to appreciate the incredible landscape I was in. The signature red dirt of Africa, large palm fronds, and piles of garbage all underneath the African sun. Ghana has just begun the rainy season and the first night a thunderstorm took hold, with thunder that literally made people jump. Intense.
The food has been great so far. Oats, fruits and rolls for breakfast, chicken, cabbage, rice, and beans for lunch and dinner with spicy sauce to go over it all. The spice will make you sweat. We were able to enjoy a few cold beers Sunday night as part of our free day. Star Lager is pretty good and reminds me of Harp.
This will probably be the only job I ever have where the four books handed out were; How to be a health care provider in your community, how to take care of yourself, how to cook for yourself, and a 70 page manual on West African snakes. Apparently a few volunteers have claimed to see the Green Mamba which is pretty cool. I went for a run one morning and had to jump over a 12 inch millipede, that was something I had not experienced in Seattle.
Public transportation is very public. You practically sit in another person’s lap while you drive. The minibuses are called tro tros, and the stations are very busy with women running around with anything you can imagine on their head and hawking it to people waiting for the tro to fill up. You can imagine as an obroni, or foreigner, you stick out and are subject to a variety of interesting sales pitches. I had the fortune of a preacher coming into my tro and yelling out a sermon while we were waiting the other day, pretty typical stuff.
Currently I am on “Vision Quest” where you spend time with a current volunteer and he shows you around his projects and you get a feeling for what your life might be like roughly one year from now. I am shadowing a Small Enterprise Development volunteer who works with a womens pottery group and with an irrigated farm project. I will be here in Kpando until Sunday when I go to Kukurantumi to debrief our Vision Quests, meet our home stay families for the next few months, and continue on with our training.
I will try to post again around one week from now. I have loved the first week and am adjusting to the Ghanaian and Peace Corps lifestyle. I apologize for any grammatical errors and/or the generally bad writing. Peace.