6.30.2018 Ashanti Region, Ghana
It is hard to believe it is the end of June. Next week marks the end of official site integration and everyone from my training group will meet in Kumasi, the regional capital, for Reconnect IST. This week long training will be a chance to debrief about our experiences and receive additional information about things like applying for grants. When I think back over this past month, I am amazed by how much has happened and how fast time has gone by. Every week I feel myself becoming more comfortable and more connected to this place. It’s starting to feel like home.
My most exciting update is that I have become the parent to a three month old puppy named Gyata and a kitten (unknown age) named Max. The two of them together are a handful, but they add an enormous amount of love and excitement to my life. The only downside is they love to fight. I am constantly having to separate them in different rooms, and I can never leave them home alone together. The biggest instigator is actually the cat, who likes to jump on the dog’s back and face while she is sleeping, even though she is more than twice his size. Both of them love to snuggle with me, especially the cat who climbs and sits on my shoulders while I work on the computer. I take the dog on one, sometimes two walks a day, and it gives me a chance to greet my community members on their way to farm. The kids are fascinated by the dog, and now when ever I go out, they ask me where she is. Nobody has mentioned it, but I imagine they find it quite strange to see me walking the dog on a leash. The cat desperately wants to be an outdoor cat, but since he hasn’t gotten his vaccinations yet I have been keeping him inside. He is getting bolder with his attempts to escape though. To get away from the dog, he sleeps in my bicycle basket or on the top of my mosquito net like it is his personal hammock. The two of them have such big personalities, and they alternate between driving me crazy and keeping me laughing with their antics. It has been a real crash course in puppy training. If anyone has any puppy tips, please send them my way, especially for biting and potty training. I have lost two toothbrushes, three pairs of flip flops, and the cord to my USB fan to Gyata. Though we have a long way to go with behavior, she is a quick learner and really super sweet when she wants to be.
I have also started weekly cooking classes that I am really excited about me. My Peace Corps Counterpart, Evelyn, offered to teach me how to make local foods, and I am so glad I took her up on it. She comes with me to the market on Tuesday, and shows me where to buy the ingredients. Then on Wednesday, she comes to my house, teaches me how to cook, and then we eat together. So far I have learned how to make Kontomire Stew and Boiled Yams, Groundnut Soup with Rice Balls, and Jollof Rice. Next week, we are making Waakye, which is a dish with rice and beans. I am enjoying getting to know her better, and becoming more knowledgable about such an important part of the culture, food. Knowing that I don’t like to eat meat, we have adapted most of the meals to be vegetarian. Although she says you can’t make soup without meat, so I’ve had to compromise a little. In the past weeks, I have also started Twi lessons with the teacher at the JHS. He is confident that with his help I will be reading, writing, and speaking Twi well in no time. I’d truly like to be able to communicate better with all of the people in my community, so I hope it works out. We are starting at the beginning, but moving quickly. Already I am feeling more confident, and my community seems excited to help me too.
As for my work, I helped with two child welfare clinics this month, helping record vaccinations and the nutrition status of children. Ghana is in the process of switching to the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) from the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), so it interesting for me to see the process and how they educate the mothers about the new vaccine. I visited the Senior High School in my community for the first time, and discovered another potential opportunity to collaborate. It is a small private school with plans to expand this September. I observed a class taught by the headmaster, and I was impressed first by how he was able to teach science labs to his students without any materials and second by how he went well beyond the lesson to instill self-worth and self-confidence into the students. The school is lacking a library, a computer lab, and a science lab, but the teachers and students are committed nevertheless. The teachers I have met here and their commitment to helping their students is amazing. Going to the school and working with the kids is my favorite activity. I have had two sessions with the JHS’s Girls’ Club where we covered how to make reusable menstrual pads and hygiene habits. They are so energetic and receptive to learning. This month I hope to plan a lesson on nutrition before the term ends at the end of July. Finally, I hosted a community meeting to go over the results of the needs assessment I conducted when I first arrived at site. I felt surprisingly comfortable speaking in front of the group, but I think that it helped that I had a translator. We did some priority ranking and determined that building a clinic in the community should be the first priority.
This month, I hope to focus more on my fitness goals. I signed up for a 10K race in Accra that will take place at the end of October. Between now and then I plan to turn the daily puppy walks into runs. We will see how Gyata feels about running. I am hoping it will keep her from eating things along the way. I am also finally getting to my garden since the gate is finished now thanks to the help of some guys in the community. This past week I started digging the holes and berms to guide water through the garden. I need to weed, set up the beds, and then I’ll be ready to plant. I plan to start with some local vegetables like garden egg (eggplant), peppe, and Ayoyo (a leafy green). I also have tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, basil, and luffa (like the sponge, apparently it is a plant). I am excited to see how it turns out. I imagine that this next month is going to fly by like the last. Follow me on Instagram for more regular updates.