Saturday, December 26, 2009

An African Christmas

On Tuesday, Carolyn and I went to town to finish up our Christmas shopping. Being 3 days away from Christmas meant the markets were packed! Here's a picture of Christmas shopping Ghanaian-style...and this wasn't even in the busiest part! Yikes...let's just say, we were glad to be done by the end of the day! On the 23rd and 24th, I spent almost all day baking and decorating Christmas cookies. On Wednesday I baked for 10 hours! The kids and I made over 1,000 cutout cookies! It was lots of fun as the kids loved it, but extremely tiring too. I went to bed at 8:30 that night and slept like a baby! Here are some pictures:

The next day, Christmas Eve, we decorated the cookies and then that night after a “lantern-lit” Christmas Eve service, we went caroling in the village and passed out the cookies. It was interesting to say the least…a bit difficult to keep track of 50 kids in the dark and have them pass out cookies while singing…but it was a neat experience, nonetheless.
Bequin and Bismarck by the Christmas treeAfter caroling, we came back to enjoy some punch and cookies!
Christmas morning! The girls and boys each got a foosball table to put in their dorms.

Then, each child got a "Ghana-go-bag" full of both fun and practical goodies. Each child got a special gift, in addition to socks, underwear, a handkerchief, pillow, candy, cookies, etc. It was fun to be able to be a part of spreading that see the excitement on their faces over their gift was priceless! Thank you to those of you have have supported me financially and have allowed these children to be blessed this Christmas! We appreciate you and thank God so much for you!!!
Abby & I
I couldn’t help but think this Christmas season that although it didn’t “feel” like the kind of Christmas that I’m use to…snowy and cold, full of Christmas goodies, church Christmas programs, parties with friends and family gatherings…it was probably a much more accurate Christmas in terms of what it was like when Jesus was born. As we walked through the village and saw goats and chickens running around under the starry sky, while families were huddled around a small lantern outside their thatched roof mud huts, I wondered if this is what Bethlehem was like. We even had to take the kids for a census during the first week of December! So, although it was hard to be away from my family, knowing my parents will be on African soil in just 12 days made it a little easier!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fun in the Sun!

Fauzia and I
Today was such a fun day! :) Because of the generosity of one of my supporters (Thank You!), we were able to take the girls swimming today to the pool at a hotel in town, as an early Christmas present. To say they enjoyed themselves would be an understatement. It was an afternoon of constant, "Miss this!", "Miss Dana, should I come?", etc. Whether they were 2, 12, 14, or 16, they were so excited to be held and bounced around in the water. Their excitement just made for such a fun, enjoyable day...can't wait to take the boys next week!

MaaAbena, the bathing beauty...what a cutie!

The "baby pool" was a hit for young and old kids alike!

Comfort and I
And my favorite quote of the day came at lunch-time...very sincerely, Georgina asked, "Miss Dana, if you eat plenty, will you sink?" :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Life lately has been full of buying, sorting, planning, and organizing Christmas presents and festivities, which is no easy task when you're buying for 50 kids! However, we're coming along and enjoying ourselves along the way. Today we took most of our kids from the home to the street ministry in Nsawam that Pastor Sammy leads every Sunday afternoon. He had a great message today that I'd like to share with you-- hoping it will cause you to think about the true meaning of Christmas. I know it made me think. He made up a song (It's sung to the tune of "Angels We Have Heard on High".), which goes like this:

"Have you ever had a birthday,
Where all of the friends you know,
Just gave presents to each other,
But they brought not one for you?

This is what we do to Jesus,
Sent to save us from our sins.
As we celebrate this Christmas,
Don't forget to give to Him!"

So's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas...buying gifts, making cookies, singing songs, having parties, etc. that we forget that we're actually celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. What could be more wonderful or more important than this? It's often said that the true meaning of the holiday is giving selflessly to others. While this is good and modeled after God's selfless act of giving us His Son, it's still not really the true meaning of Christmas. The pure purpose of Christmas is to celebrate our Savior, who came and lived a flawless, selfless life, suffered, died, and rose again because He loves US! That's the true meaning of Christmas and something worth celebrating! :)

So, as you finish up your Christmas shopping and holiday parties, baking, and celebrating, what will you give to Jesus for his 2009th birthday?!

Here's a few pictures from our time at the street ministry today. We had about 30 kids gathered at the train station praising God and listening to the Christmas message. At the end we gave them each a bag of goodies-- candies, a pencil, eraser, whistle, and cookies-- and a beanie baby. It brought tears to my eyes to see them so excited over this gift. There smiles were wide and there was lots of laughing and God be the glory!

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, filled with all the best things of the Christmas season (including fudge!)! May His love, joy, and peace be yours this Christmas and always!

Water Bag Update

We're over 1/2 way to our goal, and that calls for a WATER PARTY! :) (Pictures coming soon...after the event, that is!) :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 be Jolly...

I think I've mentioned before my tendency to save EVERYTHING since I've been here in Africa. I'm always trying to think of uses for things that would normally be thrown away...plastic bottles, tin cans, toilet paper rolls, shoe boxes, etc...I was starting to feel like a junk collector, when viola...I found a fun use for something! The kids have been enjoying making Christmas tree decorations out of the toilet paper are some pictures:
Even the little ones had fun coloring! Here's Victoria, who's now home with her mother.

And...the lights went out while we were working!!!

Here's the decorated (and very tipsy) Christmas tree! :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Tis the Season...

Today was the last day of school before Christmas, so we celebrated with the kids, as we won't see the village kids until after the New Year. Each class sang a song or recited a poem, and we celebrated with meat pies and chicken with our rice for lunch! :) Then, we were able to give a small gift to each of the kids in the, were they excited when they saw us carrying the boxes!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow Day, African Style

Hard to believe it gets that cold in Africa, huh? haha...JUST kidding! However, on a side note to the actual story, it did get cold last night...and it was wonderful! I woke up very cold, and tried to go back to sleep, but finally forced myself to get up and get a blanket! I couldn't believe it, and then when I looked at the thermometer, I really couldn't believe was 73 degrees! What's happening to my thick, Wisconsin blood?!? I think I'll turn into a permanent icicle when I go back! :) I was ashamed of myself, but I'll tell ya, it was a glorious feeling to be cold! :)

Ok, back to the's funny because with all this talk of snow back home, a friend from home had just e-mailed last night about the fact that they may have a snow day this week. I got to thinking that there's no way that school could be cancelled here. We don't have snow like at home, and we don't have typhoons like in HK, so what else could there be? The kids all live within walking distance, and I guess if the teachers were prevented from coming in from town, that would be the only thing that could do it. Well, I guess I was wrong.

The very next day (today) I got ready for school and headed down toward school only to have Papa Jim call me up and tell me that we weren't having school today, because all three generators were down and we didn't have any water! We couldn't flush the toilets and just didn't have enough extra water to have 60 more kids around. I thought that was ironic, since the village kids don't even have flush toilets EVER, but apparently the health department wouldn't approve.
So, that definitely changed the direction of my day. This morning we stencilled Christmas cards with GLITTER! (As you can see from the picture of beautiful Regina, they had more fun getting it on their faces than their cards, but what's the fun in glitter if you don't make a MESS!?!) :) haha...It was one of those moments I wished I could've been a kid and "played" myself! Then, this afternoon I worked on the Christmas baggies we're putting together for the village kids...hard to believe there's only 2 school days left until Christmas break!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Never a Dull Moment...

Today was one of those days that turned out way differently than was a "normal" day in the fact that I didn't have any special here's what one "normal" day looks like:

I slept in until 7:20, which is super late for me here...half the day is pretty much gone by that time! :) We had no water last night or this morning as all of our generators are broken. Thankfully, we were able to rent one for the day today, so we were able to pump some water again!
Then, I started tying some Christmas goodie bags that Carolyn and I had put together last night. Then, since our school doesn't have a copy machine, we pretty much do without, but occasionally I make a few. Well, it turns out today I wanted to make LOTS for next week and some clubs I have planned for Christmas vacation, so I decided to run to Medie quick to make some copies...and there began adventure #1! Medie is just less than 2 miles down the road, so while I knew it would take awhile to run the copies, I wasn't expecting to have to go to 5 copy stores to get 1/2 of them done! :) The one in Medie had a paper jam that they couldn't fix, so that was out of business. So, I hopped into the van and drove to Nsawam (about 10 minutes away). The first place made a few copies, but then it stopped working, so they sent me to another place (shop #3). They wanted to charge me twice what I pay in Medie, so I decided to only make a few. Then, as I was bargaining with him, he said that next time I came back he'd give them to me for the price I wanted. So, I said, "So, if I walk out to the road and come back, will you give them to me for 5 pesewas?" "Yes, yes, madam...whatever you want." I started laughing and then finally persuaded him that that was ridiculous and that he should give me them for that price right now. So, that was a deal...and the power went out! :) On to shop #4 which was down the road only to find out they were out of toner! To give up or not give up? That was the question...Oh, I was close, but figured I'd have to go through the same thing another day if I came again, so why not keep on keepin' on?! 5th time's a charm, I guess! This shop was a good find...everything went smoothly, it just took a couple of hours to make all the copies...and it wasn't THAT many (maybe 500 in all). Three hours later, I was finished...well, actually I gave up halfway, because I was tired of waiting and it was getting a little pricy! Yikes....I'm pretty sure I'll never complain about making copies at a future school!!!

When I got back, I had a little bit of downtime as the kids were in siesta. I had fun stenciling some Christmas cards! Then, the kids really wanted to go for a walk, so we did that and they had fun splashing around in the water again, as you can see in the picture! This time the was a bit too shallow and smelly for me! :) As we were walking through the village on the way home, one of the kids said, "Miss Dana, look there's your name!" I didn't believe it, but sure enough someone had carved my name into their home...the "Boys Ghetto" less! haha...that was a surprise and kind of interesting...I must really be working my way into their village with my reading at night. :) That continues to be a highlight of my day to go read to them and then just walk around in the village for a little bit....there's sooo many kids!
Well, we weren't back for long, when one of the village kids came running in Mama Carolyn's apartment crying that her father had dropped something on his eye and couldn't see. Her father is a guard at the home and sent her over for help. We weren't really sure what had happened, but just then Jim had gotten home in the van, so we all piled in and drove over to their home. We found Prince (her father) lying on the floor in his home in severe pain. It turns out that he didn't really drop something ON his eye, but something got IN his eye. He was cutting down a tree in his yard, and some sap from a tree apparently squirted into his eye. We tried to flush it out but that didn't seem to be was hard to feel so powerless when he was in such pain, but we did about all we could and then headed home.
It was store time! We opened the store for the kids to buy whatever goodies they wanted, and by the time that was finished I was so ready to be in my apartment by myself! It was a crazy, full, adventuresome day!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pictures & Randomness

Here's some of the nursery kids during break time...I just can't get enough of long as I don't have to teach them! :)

A couple of times a week a few men come in to teach the kids Ghanaian cultural dances and drumming. On Sunday they got to perform at a church nearby. I was really looking forward to going to a more rural church, but it definitely didn't turn out as expected. For one, it was a Catholic church, which really surprised me, because there aren't many of those in Ghana. Second, during the second part of the service they had an auction, which I didn't necessarily agree with. They sold everything from pictures to glass dishes to live goats and chickens (in baskets with vegetables). It was very bizarre! Kind of strange to hear a goat during church! The timing of the whole ordeal didn't seem very appropriate, but the kids did a great job, nonetheless. They made me proud! :)

And finally..."The ants go marching 2 (million) by 2 (million)...horrah...horrah...the ants go marching..." As I was walking to the dorms one night recently, I stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing this insane number of ants blocking my view. (The dark lines that look like tree roots are all ants!!!) I could've just stepped over them, but they somehow always seem to find a way onto my skin, and they're the nasty biting kind. And...if you read my previous post about my encounters with the lower forms of creation, you'll know that ants and I don't get all! It was quite a crazy thing to see, though. We got out our RAID spray and had a hay day! :) Ants no more! We definitely didn't want those buggers in our apartments. Speaking of which...I'm proud of myself, as I opened my precious chunk of Velveeta cheese that's left, only to find ants had gotten inside the box and ZipLoc bag. Some were still crawling around, while others had died on the cheese. I decided the cheese was too valuable, cut them off, and away I went! Progress... :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Unwelcome Visitor

As I glanced up at my kitchen wall a couple of nights ago, I froze in my tracks and wasn't sure whether to scream and run or not move at all. Turns out I was stunned silent, and after I snuck out of the kitchen I had to call Mama Carolyn to help me kill the beast. I hope none of its friends are hanging around. I've gotten use to all the lizards both in and outside, but spiders and I just don't get along. :)

Orange Pickin'...

...or should I say "green" picking?! This morning we went for a walk, and on the way back we stopped by one of the student's houses. Her family has a poultry farm and lots of land, so the kids love going there. As soon as we came, Stella (the student) ran out with her cutglass in hand, grabbed her boots out of one of the chicken coops, and off the kids ran down the path into the "bush". Then, the orange picking frenzy began. Kids were everywhere, and of course the boys were all up in the trees, as the picture above shows. The kids filled bags, their shirts, hands, and whatever they could find with oranges! The strange thing is that their oranges have a green peel instead of orange! It was very generous of them to share with us! In the picture on the right, I was trying to balance the oranges on my head, but as you can see by the look on my face, I have lots of practice ahead of me. How the women here (and even the kids) can walk miles with huge loads balanced on their heads is beyond me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Wonder Of It All

Tonight as I headed to the girls' dorm to read, I heard their Chris Tomlin music blaring from a mile away! I thought they probably wouldn't be too interested in any story that interrupted their music and dance time, but I was wrong. They quickly turned the music down and gathered around me as I found a spot on the floor. I started reading to them from a book with a bunch of Bible stories for kids. Tonight's was about Creation, and as I finished reading, the song "How God is Our God" by Chris Tomlin was playing in the background...coincidence? I think not. So, I asked them to share things that made them realize how amazing and great our God is. It was so neat to listen to them share. I was blessed by the wonder of children, as they were genuinely filled with awe over how the sun rotates around the earth, eyelashes, ears and hearing, how hair keeps on growing after you cut it, roots of plants, and many more.

It sooned turned to asking ME questions...rhetorical, I think...and hope...."Where does the sun go at night?", "How did God make our throats?", "Where does the moon stay?" As adults, I guess we learn to take these things for granted (or we learn the scientific explanations), when really, each one of these things is nothing short of a miracle. Of course there's a scientific reason for the fact that although the earth is sphere-shaped we don't fall's called gravity. But, God designed gravity and it's pretty amazing. Sure...the earth rotates around the sun each day, causing day and night, but it still boggles my mind to think that as I type this e-mail at 9 o'clock at night, my HK friends are getting up for work (It's 5 a.m.) or people back home are finishing their work days (3 p.m.). I loved "wondering" and being in awe right along with the kids.

I hope I never lose the sense of wonder that is so obvious in children. I hope I never stop being amazed at the fact that God has created a universe that is so incredibly huge and diverse that it's impossible to wrap our minds around. He's created people who are so intricate and complex that only a Mastermind could design.

Psalm 19
1The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat. (Ain't that the truth!?!)

Then, my visit concluded with a little dance party and a group hug, which literally brought all of us into a pile on the floor. My first reaction was to be upset that they had got so rowdy that we all fell down, but upon "surveying the scene" and seeing that no one was hurt-- even the little 1st grader that I landed on top of-- I couldn't help but laugh. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seeing God in Pink Chickens & Trash

Just about everyday here it seems like I hop on a rollercoaster, hang on tight, and get ready for the ups and the downs that the day will surely bring. There are moments where I cannot imagine being anywhere else, as I'm coming to really love these kids and I see glimpses of progress, and then there are moments where I cannot imagine being here until June. These conflicting moments are interspersed within the same day and it makes me feel like I'm going crazy! haha...but I'm pretty sure it's just getting use to a new culture and experiencing new values, communication systems, ways of doing things, etc. However, God is good, and in the moments where I feel homesick or frustrated, He always seems to send a situation or a person or word of encouragement my way. It's the little things that can turn my day around, and I thank God for those little things!

For example, one night this week I went for a jog, just to get out a few minutes before dark. It had been a long day and I was feeling rather lethargic, but after a self-pep talk, I decided to go, despite my desire not to. Once I get going, it always refreshes me and makes me feel more energetic. On my way back, I'm usually greeted by some of the village kids who go to school at Haven of Hope or their siblings. You just can't help but smile when you see little 3, 4, and 5-year old African children running towards you yelling either "Yevu" (another name for white person in Ewe- the local language) or "Miss Dana, Miss Dana...". It's automatic. Any frustrations seem to be wiped away by their joy and hugs! They're precious.

Well, sorry to make a short story long, but this particular night, I happened to walk back by one of the childrens' houses, and what did I see? Pink chickens! And I mean PINK! (Well, you can see for yourself!) I originally thought they did that to distinguish their chickens from their neighbors, but later found out they rub this dye on them to prevent the hawks from swooping down and snatching them! You learn something new every day!

Then, one of the boys in kindergarten tossed me a small bag of trash, and there began our new entertainment....I throw the bag of trash while all three siblings giggle and push and wrestle (in a friendly manner) to try to catch it. Wow...I can't tell you the last time I saw so much joy and excitement over a bag of trash. I'm telling's the little things. :) You just have to look.

Although I've heard and believed it before, since being here, I've really realized that "things" do not make you happy. I've met people who have nothing more than the clothes on their backs, but they are very full of joy from the Lord. I work with children every day who have very little, but are thankful to be getting a good education and a meal. Not once have I heard a student from the village complain about what was being served for lunch. I think sometimes the more we have, the less grateful we become. This seems natural, as Jesus says in Luke 12:15, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

This world is not our home. It's only temporary, so let's chase after things that will last for eternity...the things of God! "For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."

Here's the update on our "Water Bag Challenge": 3,504.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Calling All Beautiful Boys!

Quote of the day: After reading to the girls tonight, one of them asked me if I had a boyfriend. Upon hearing “no”, they said, “Oh, when you go back to America, will you choose one?” I explained that it didn’t exactly work like that, but they persisted: “When you come to choose, choose a beauuuuuuuuuuutiful one.” :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Taxi Anyone?

Every once and awhile I get to play taxi driver if Daniel's out somewhere else. Today was one of those days. We take two groups of teachers and students either home or out to the main road to catch a ride home. It's not very far distance-wise...less than 2 miles each way. However, the pot-hole filled roads don't really lend themselves to high speeds! :) So, the whole endeavor takes about 50 minutes. I actually enjoy it, as it's kind of relaxing and forces me to get out for a bit...and the bonus today was that because the road is under major construction, there are lots of workers around, so there are actually people out selling things. Today there was a man selling FanIce, which is my new favorite treat...vanilla ice cream in a bag! Yum!!! You bite off the corner and then suck it up through the hole. :)

All of the students walking home from other schools get a kick out of the "oburoni" driving the van, and therefore, shout "Oburoni" followed by big smiles and laughter...but over the last few days, I've gotten away from the "oburoni" label and moved on to "white girl". It's pretty funny to actually be addressed as "white girl"...think people could get away with that in America?!?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2 Days in the Life...

It was a pretty laid back weekend here for me. I spent most of the day on Saturday around the home. We have a store open for the kids on Saturday mornings, as we’re trying to teach them the value of things and that they need to work if they want to buy things. Then, we made a quick trip to Nsawam with Brother Richard for him to mix the bread. I’ve included a picture of the bread mixing place, not to be confused with a “bakery”. The first time I went with him, we were talking and he said he wanted to show me where they mix the bread, so I said, “Oh, so it’s like a bakery?” “Yes, madam.” Ha! As you can see, this is not necessarily what I expected when I heard the word “bakery”! But the bread tastes good nonetheless. I just prefer not to think about where it came from!

After that I helped form the bread into rolls. Then, it was time for some basketball action with some of the boys, which was a lot of fun. It’s been way too long since we’ve done that. I was energized after that and went for a quick jog, and miracle of miracles…I think it was the first time I didn’t have kids trailing behind me. As much as I love them, it was kind of nice to have a peaceful job by myself.

Today was a momentous day in my “Ghana career”! I ventured into town by tro-tro (big van-like public transportation) by myself for the first time…and I survived! Everyone is very friendly and helpful when you ask for directions, so I did that a couple of times and was able to enjoy going to church, the pool, and then the mall for some internet time. It was a good day, and I must say…it feels good to feel like I’m starting to get my bearings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Encounters with the Lower Forms of Creation...

That's right...a few of those "lower forms of Creation" (aka insects) have gotten the best of me lately! The second and more serious one was a mischievious mosquito (which I don't even remember biting me) that gave me the wonderful gift of malaria. Saturday night when I was ready for bed at 7 pm, I thought I was just tired after a long day...thought I was getting lame in my old age. :) Well, then about 9 pm, when I really did head for bed, I was feeling pretty queasy, but didn't think much of it. I slept a few hours and was up most of the rest of the night being sick...not fun. So, the next about 24 hours were pretty rough. I had to work up enough strength for about 2 hours just to sit up and take my pills with some food...then, another few hours to get up to go to the bathroom. When I finally made that journey, it was quite the 12 foot venture. By the end, I was starting to black out and as Mama Carolyn was talking to me, my hearing was going in and out. Yikes! I spent a good couple days in bed, and although the first two days were rough, I do feel very blessed to have gotten over it so quickly. I was on antimalarials and then started the treatment right away, so supposedly that helps make the symptoms less severe. Praise God! I know I'm feeling better now, because chocolate actually sounds good! :)

The first insect that warrants a story is a little more humorous...although not at the time. I had just finished reading a bedtime story to the boys in their dorm and was headed back to my apartment. Trust me, my eyes are always scanning the ground for snakes, or more recently--frogs! Well, apparently I missed the ants. I suddenly felt a sharp pinching sensation on my toe and looked down to see a big ol' ant on my toe. Man...those things sure can bite! So, if you know me well, you know that bugs and I don't necessarily get along. In fact, you could even say I'm extremely wimpy when it comes to dealing with any living creature other than humans and plants. :) So, because of the severe biting pain, I did try to grab it off, while being disturbed by the fact that I was actually touching an ant...heaven forbid! :) haha...well, I couldn't get it off (could've been due to my wimpy attempt, as I definitely didn't want to actually have to grab it by both sides! ;)), so I decided to hobble over to Mama Carolyn's apartment to have her help me. If you could've heard me, you probably would've thought I was being attacked by a snake or a wild lion-- definitely not an ant! So, I (literally) hobbled along, all the while "oww...eeee...ahhh"ing! Then, another bite would come, along with some more sound effects! But...with Mama Carolyn's help, we were able to get both of them off quite easily. :) So, I'm a wimp! However, to my defense, those ants are seriously wicked...and they really do hurt! haha...okay, hopefully that gave you a smile after the malaria downer. :) Thanks for all your encouragement and prayers while I was sick...God is good!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Torn Up

Today as I sat in one of the classrooms, I finally realized why living here has been so difficult at times...I'm a fairly sensitive person, and being here--witnessing injustice and poverty in very real ways firsthand--has allowed me to have pieces of my heart torn apart just about every day.

Take this morning, for example. I went in to a classroom, where the teacher showed little effort to teach students who are eager to learn and whose futures depend on getting a good education. In fact, when I arrived the teacher wasn't even there, and they told me that they had done nothing in the first 45 minutes of class. :(

Then, it was break time and I had two boys (both about 15 years old) come up to me to tell me they were hungry. So I had them come up to my apartment to get a snack and come to find out that one of the boys' mother had left him and his brother for about a week and a half to visit family in another part of the country. She didn't leave any money for food, and when I asked him how he'd eat, he told me that his brother would try to sell things, and if he sold enough, they'd have money for food; if not, there would be no food.

Next I was sitting in another classroom when a new student who came to our school about a week ago was brought into the classroom with a desk-- interrupting the class, as the teacher who brought him in announced that he couldn't do the work in P4, so he'd have to join P2. The boy looked so embarrassed and just put his head down on his desk in shame. This boy was abandoned by his parents and has been being taken care of by a woman in the village who cannot walk and must push herself along on her belly to get places.

Well, that's just the start of my morning...all of this happened by about 10:30 and I just get feeling so frustrated inside. It's like seeing "Compassion" ads live and feeling so powerless over a whole society...a whole system so in need.

Being here has truly been a lesson in humility. I came thinking I could "change the world" and already am realizing that the issues here are so complex that one person cannot change everything. However, I'm also learning how important encouragement and love are to these kids and how I'm called to be generous. Before sending out the disciples, Jesus tells them, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8b). Although I may not be able to change the world, I can obey Jesus' call to give freely...whether that's of my time and energy, a hug, a word of encouragement, a smile, some food, or just a moment of my day to spend time with a child who needs it. After all, what have I done to deserve to be in my position over theirs? is only by the grace of God.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Water Bag Challenge

I'm a teacher through and through...I just can't help myself! Even on days off of school, I like to find some "teachable moment" to take advantage of. The kids had off of school both Friday and today (Monday) for mid-term break. We ended up staying around the home, and the kids love going on walks, so today we went for a nice long one.

As I mentioned before, we drink our water out of 500 mL plastic bags, which they call "rubbers". As a math activity to teach the concept of place value and just big number sense in general, I had the idea of have the kids collect water bags, working toward a goal of 10,000! They litter the roads, ditches, and "yards" just about everywhere, so I thought it could be a good way to teach the kids to "help keep Ghana clean" while also learning math! I know, I'm a nerd! :)

So, on our walk, I challenged the kids to each pick up 10. There were 34 of us so that'd make 340. I thought that'd be a pretty good start. Well, apparently I highly underestimated my crew, as we spend hours today grouping them in piles of 10, then putting 10 groups of ten together to make a hundred, etc, until we had reached...2,963!!! Wow...I couldn't believe it!

I'll have to keep you updated on our progress as we aim for 10,000!

In the back of this picture you can see a beautiful sunset: one thing I need to take advantage of more often! Today was really, really hot (90), but with extremely high humidity; then about 3:30, the temperature dropped from 90 to 79 in about 5 minutes as the rain poured down...what a welcome sight that was! :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009


It's been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote and I can honestly say that life is beginning to seem more and more "normal" everyday. I'm not sure if anything's really changed or if I'm just finally getting use to the Ghanaian lifestyle and last minute changes that are a part of every day.

Things at school continue to be interesting as I train and work with the teachers. However, I've started tutoring one 3rd grade boy after school and that has been a real blessing and an encouragement to me. I'm also planning on starting some math clubs after school to give struggling students some extra practice and support. Please pray that those go well!

Today I had my first opportunity to go to the street ministry downtown which is where many of the children who now live at the home lived before coming here. Many of them have one, or in some cases even both, of their parents still living, but their parents were living on the streets, or under the veranda of this train station, and couldn't afford to clothe, feed, and educate them. Every Sunday afternoon, some of ECM's staff go down to the train station to share a Bible lesson, songs, and a meal with the many children gathered there. It was crazy to see the vast multitude of children there without any parents. Many of their mothers spend their days out on the streets selling items-- leaving their young children to fend for themselves.

Because many of the children at Haven of Hope came from here, they still have family around that area, so we asked Felicia (the Ghanaian woman who leads the street ministry) to contact some of the parents of the children to let them know that we'd be bringing their children this afternoon. When I went around yesterday to tell the children (about 10 of them) who'd be going today, you'd think they just won the lottery! They were singing, jumping up and down, and their smiles were a mile wide. One of the boys told me on the way there today that he didn't remember the last time he saw his mother. She came to visit him at the home about 6 or 7 years ago, but he said he hasn't seen her since then. The parents are free to visit at any time and many of them only live an hour away, yet very few come to visit. They've even been told they'd be reimbursed for transporation costs, which is about 75 cents. It blows my mind!

So, we pulled up to the train station and were immediately swarmed with beautiful faces of children wanting to be loved. We waited patiently for the parents to come, and I was so excited to see them reunite. After the excitement of yesterday's news that they could come, I was shocked by what I saw. One of the little girls just sat in the van as her father was at the window and her mother stood back about 10 feet away. Finally, we asked her to come out and she did, but there were no big hugs, smiles, or even words exchanged. It broke my heart. There were a couple of more reunions like this; then there were a few that did seem happy to see their children. I can't imagine what it must be like to have someone else tell you all about your child and how they're doing.

Finally, it was the situation of the third group of children that really broke me down...the children who had gotten their hopes up only to wait and wait and wait and have no one come to see them. The little boy I mentioned earlier who hadn't seen his mother since he was about 2 was one of them. I just wanted to give them a big ol' squeeze and let them know that they are loved beyond measure. It really did break my heart. I was glad to have had the opportunity to go today, because I think it will allow me to understand the kids a little bit better-- knowing where they came from and trying to understand (in just a small way) some of the emotions that they face everyday because of their past. I just pray that God will use me to be an encouragement to these children who feel abandoned and unimportant. May they truly receive and believe the message that God made them uniquely for a purpose and that He loves them very much...and that we do too!

Hope you are all doing well and enjoying the cool, crisp, fresh fall air (in the States) or the lower humidity level in HK! (I think you sent it all over here! :)) If this tells you anything, usually I lay on top of all my covers at night, because it's so warm, but this week I woke up a couple of nights and was cold and put my sheet on. It was 81 degrees! :) will I ever again face the snow???

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Day on the Town

Today felt like 3 days packed into one! By 8 am, I felt like I had a ½ day behind me already! I woke up at 5 am, which is now early for me since I discovered that the wonderful eye covering contraption that they gave me on the airplane allows me to sleep past the sunrise! However, this morning I was up before the sunrise. I felt, once again, like I had gone back in time about 100 years! I lit my candle so I could see and hung my flashlight on the door as I took a shower.

Then, Mama Carolyn and I traveled to the train station just down the road about a mile and a half in Kotaku. We rounded the corner of the train station (that looks in such tough shape that in the US it would be condemned) to find many ladies dressed in their bright colored dresses with babies slung on their back and with big, huge bowls of greens and different produce that they’d sell for the day. We took a seat to wait for the train which was scheduled to arrive at 6 am. Sure enough it came, we got on, and enjoyed about an hour and a half ride to Accra. I would say it was neat to be able to watch the world wake up, but the truth is that when I sleep until 6:30 am each morning, I am in the extreme minority. Ghana seems to wake up with the sun, and by 6:00, people are out and about selling, stores are open, women are cooking and doing laundry, children are taking “baths”…their world is very much alive as I crawl out of bed! Nevertheless, it was neat to witness a piece of their everyday lives as I gazed out the windows of the train.

When we got to Accra we met up with Abby, who helped us do the shopping for the kids, which is the reason we went into town. We still had about 20 pairs of shoes left to buy and also needed to get socks and undies for all 50 kids! What a task that is…where are Wal-Mart and Target when you need them?!? We finished our shopping by about 11:30, and the highlight for me was finding a bunch of empty shoeboxes outside one of the shops. I asked if they were going to use them and they said no, so I snatched them up…not quite sure what I’ll do with them, but I’m really getting into this being resourceful thing, and I’m starting to save everything from my tin cans to toilet paper rolls to water bags!!!

After our shopping excursion, we headed to the mall by taxi to meet up with Papa Jim who’d drove into town separately. Since I didn’t have much shopping to do at the mall, I decided to hop on the internet, which was a real treat. Since it’s faster than my internet connection at home, I was able to chat with some friends and students in Hong Kong! Although 30 minutes wasn’t long enough to manage all those conversations, it was a good ‘lil dose of love. I miss them all so much!

Then, we had to treat ourselves to some good ol’ Chinese food and ice cream before heading home! We got home about 5 pm, and I was just beat! I must be getting old or something!

P.S. The picture is random, but one important thing about going to town is rationing the amount of liquid you consume, because there are never public restrooms!!! Or so we thought...although we had to pay, we were so relieved to see this "urination station"! On another random note, when asking to go to the bathroom, the students say, "Ms. Dana...please...I'm going to urinate." That one took me a little while to get use to! I'm still trying (most likely in vain) to train them to ask, "May I please use the bathroom?" Wish me luck! :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Step at a Time...

Praise God for the small, but encouraging, bits of progress made lately. In terms of math, the kids here really struggle. Most of them failed math last year and still struggle with the basic facts-- even in 6th grade. This makes learning higher level concepts pretty difficult. Part of my job here is to train the teachers and coach them on how to teach math more effectively. I was also hoping to start some type of math club after school to help the students catch up on important concepts they've missed through games and other activities. However, upon coming here and realizing the extreme need for learning math, I've been almost paralyzed. It's as if the need is too great and every idea I come up with seems to small-- too insignificant-- to make any difference at all. However, I know you can't get anywhere by standing still, so on Saturday I rounded up some of the P5 & P6 kids and had my first math club. I'd say it was a success, considering I said we'd meet for maybe 45 minutes and after 2 hours, I had to kick the kids out! They wanted more! So, I'm still throwing around ideas on how to best serve all of the students and how to use my time most effectively with the clubs. It looks like I may have different grade levels meet after school on certain days.

I was also encouraged by a one-on-one tutoring session with a third grade boy today. His confidence and self-esteem is quite low, partially because he's getting teased by classmates for doing poorly in math. Today I did some informal assessment to see where he's at and then had a short tutoring session. It was encouraging to hear that he had told Papa Jim that he really enjoyed that time and even learned something! We have a long ways to go, but I'm praying that God will not only use this opportunity to improve his math skills but also to improve his confidence. He's such a sweet boy, and it's encouraging to me to think that even if I make a difference for one child while I'm here, my time here was well spent.

I'm learning-- maybe slowly-- that life (especially in Ghana) is best taken one day at a putting one foot in front of the other. :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Communication Chaos!

As I have mentioned before, communication with the African people here can prove to be quite a challenge. Although at times it's very frustrating, for some reason this week I've been able to find the humor in the out-of-control conversations...maybe because I wasn't directly involved in these situations! :) Here's a few stories that will help you understand a little bit of what it's like...

1. Papa Jim has a friend who's beginning to sell health care products, so he's come around trying to sell some of these to us. He decided to buy some type of aloe product as a supplement to relieve stomach problems. The man who sold him the product told him there would be no side effects with this product, but the next day he called back to see if he's had any side effects.

Papa Jim reminded him that he just told him yesterday that there would be no side effects and decided to play with him a little bit and jokingly said, "Well, I just fell on the ground and starting experiencing tingling in my left arm and chest pains (signs of a heart attack); is that normal?"

The man replied, "Yes. Yes. That's normal."

So Papa Jim continues, "Ok. So even though I fell on the floor and lost consciousness, that's okay?"

"Yes. Yes. That's okay," he said.

As I stood there laughing, Papa Jim repeated the question about losing consciousness and the man replied, "Yes. You can even take more."


2. Mama Carolyn and I saw Daniel, the driver, head toward the gate in the van, and we wanted him to pick up some bread for us while he was out. So, hoping to catch him before he left the compound, we called his answer. Next we quickly dialled the guard's phone, hoping that maybe he could catch him before he went out. The conversation went something like this:

Mama Carolyn: "Hi is Daniel there?"
Samuel (the guard): "Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "Could I talk to him please?"
Samuel: "Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "Hi. Is this Daniel?"
Samuel: "Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "I was just calling to see if you were going out."
Samuel: "Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "Dana and I were wondering if you could pick up some bread for us?"
Samuel: you guessed it..."Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "This isn't Daniel, the driver, is it?"
Samuel: "Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "This is Samuel, isn't it?"
Samuel: "Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "Has Daniel already left?"
Samuel: "Yes."

As you could probably bread for us! :)

3. Mama Carolyn called Mr. Yeboa, a man who is a carpenter and made some desks for the school, to see where his shop is located since it recently moved locations. Here's how it went?

Mama Carolyn: "Hi Mr. Yeboa...I was wondering if you could tell me where your shop is because Papa Jim wanted to come pick up the desks."
Mr. Yeboa: "Yes."
Mama Carolyn: "Okay. Where can we find your shop?"
Mr. Yeboa: "Okay, okay, okay!" Click...

Challenging may be an understatement in terms of communication...thus the title...Communication CHAOS!!! Like I said, I've found it's best just to laugh it off...sometimes easier said than done though.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Number Crunching

Well, it’s been 40 days since I set foot on African terrain! In honor of this momentous anniversary and also due to the fact that I’m a math teacher and just a number guru in general, I thought I’d compose a list of numbers that pertain to my life here in Ghana that you may find interesting!

0—the number of McDonalds in Ghana! (I’m pretty sure this is the first country I’ve been to that hasn’t been invaded by the golden arch!)
1.5—the number of miles some village people walk (one way) to charge their cell phones…and then they have to wait for it to get charged!
1.43—the exchange rate of Ghana cedis to the US dollar
2—the number of poisonous snakes killed since I’ve been here
$2.30—the cost of most canned vegetables (I won’t complain about the fact that it’s much cheaper to buy fresh produce than canned!) J
6:30—time that it gets dark each night
$10—the cost of a small head of broccoli and cauliflower
20—the numbers of minutes it takes to attach a picture to an e-mail
$22—the cost of a large jar of peanut butter
40—the number of days I’ve been here, thus also the number of malaria pills I’ve taken
68—the number of eggs I’ve eaten since I’ve been here
$70—the cost of the game Uno Attack
86—the average daytime temperature right now
90—the number of minutes it takes to get into Accra (even though it’s only like 15 miles away!)
$100—the cost of a black ink cartridge for my computer
$105—the cost of the game Taboo

Don’t worry…I haven’t had to buy any of these outrageously priced items yet!

Please continue to pray for clear communication between the teachers and myself, because although I feel like I’ve seen some improvement in certain teachers, there’s lots of room for improvement! It can be frustrating to explain something and see someone do the complete opposite thing 10 seconds later when it seems like they understood. It leaves me baffled at times. J

Also, just today there was a situation that came up with a couple of the older girls that I’d like to ask prayer for. For whatever reason, the older girls here (ages16-18) haven’t been very welcoming to me. I believe they’re upset with me for not catering to their needs and treating them differently than the other kids. However, I feel like I’ve still been very kind to them and trying to treat them fairly. Today a couple of the girls walked by and directed some rude comments toward me and then when I confronted them, one of them wouldn’t respond at all and the other admitted that although there was no problem between us and I never did anything wrong, she would not be able to say hello to me when I greeted her. So we’re currently dealing with the situation and it will involve some pretty major decisions, so I humbly ask for your prayers that God would give us wisdom and we would act out of love and that the kids would see that we’re making decisions in the best interest of them.

Thanks again for your loving support, prayers, and e-mails. If I haven’t responded to your e-mail, it’s because my computer has been very temperamental lately and I’m lucky to even be able to check my e-mails some days. I still love hearing from you!

Blessings on your week!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Accra Adventures

Wow…what a day! I took the day off from school today to go into Accra to help buy tennis shoes for the kids, get started on renewing my visa, and get some groceries…or so was the plan! J Needless to say, things didn’t go exactly as planned. We hoped to leave by 9 a.m., which then get pushed back to 10, because we had an inspection this morning. Well, since the inspection crew arrived late, I believe we were on the road by about 10 after 12! I could’ve been at school after all. However, it was really nice to have a relaxing morning and to take some time to get ready for tomorrow’s inservice.

Well, we braved many a stores to buy shoes for the kids, which was once again an adventure! We’re getting better, though. We bought 30 of the 48 kids shoes, so we’re getting there. After awhile, style and color preferences tend to fade; if it fits, it looks great! :) Because of our late start and the shoe adventure, we didn’t have time to make it to the immigration office, so it looks like I’ll be doing that next week sometime. We started to head for the mall to get some dinner and groceries, but because of a wrong turn, ended up stuck in traffic for quite awhile! Once we finally got moving, we were pulled off to the side by three policemen who claimed we ran a red light. (Note: If you are not fond of sarcasm, read no further!) Hmm…who would’ve known there was a red light??? The cars in front of us, behind us, and beside us all were charging through the same “red light”. Considering most of the traffic lights here don’t even work (literally…most aren’t lit at all), I have a hard time believing that we really did, or even if we did, it was impossible to see it because of the crazy rush of the traffic and people. However, they said we did, so I guess there was no arguing.

Here’s where our adventure really begins…the policeman hops in the back seat of our truck, claiming he’ll need to “arrest” us and take us to his office so he can fill out the paperwork for Papa Jim to go to court tomorrow. So, he directs us through the crazy traffic, and I kept thinking that if he really claimed to try to protect the people, then perhaps something should be done about the fact that no one follows any sort of traffic lane rules, there’s pedestrians running out in front of cars, and a bike that swerved right in front of us. He talks around and around in circles—making it quite obvious what he was after. Then, after leading us off the main road onto some other side roads, he tells us that he’s stopped taking us to the office…I’m still wondering if this “office” even exists! So, instead we go out to the main road again (which we just came from about ½ hour earlier!) and meet up with another policeman who repeats what he heard happened and says he’ll need to fill out the paperwork to go to court tomorrow. So, we agree and wait patiently—knowing the whole time that all they really wanted was a bribe! About 45 minutes after we were “arrested” (ha!) and 5 policemen later, I think they finally realized that we weren’t going to bribe them, and they let us go with a stern, “Next time you see a red light, you better stop!” So much for policemen doing their job!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A "Normal" Day...

I thought I'd share with you a "normal" if those really exist here! :) I woke up around 6 a.m. (That's what happens when you go to bed at 10..and you live near chickens!) The other night I thought about writing a letter to the neighborhood chickens. It would read something like this: "Dear Chickens, Don't you think 3:50 a.m. is a bit too early to be cock-a-doodle-doing!? I do, and would most certainly appreciate it if you could set your alarm clock a little later. Thank you."

I was in my apartment until about 8 a.m. We were planning on going for a jog about that time. So, I went to go round up the kids, but found out they had a farming meeting to plan where they'd plant their garden plots. So...I went in to help Mama Carolyn sort and size shoes for the kids. (We're trying to get all the kids new slippers and tennis shoes, which are desperately needed!) It's not as easy as it sounds when you have 48 kids and whether or not they fit is determined by laying the shoe on top of a tracing of their foot. Anyways, we worked on that until about 9:15.

Then, it was jogging time! We made it to Medie and back...a good 3 miles I'd say!

After a shower and some more shoe sorting it was time to head to Nsawam to take the cook to a place where he gets the bread dough kneaded, buy some more shoes for the kids, and pick up some veggies. Here's a picture of me learning to carry our purchases "African style". As you can see, I still have to use my "training wheels" (hands). The ladies here are amazing...I don't know how they balance those things...sometimes in addition to a baby on their back and another load in their hands!

I'm getting lots of practice with my driving skills these days! I'd have to say that I'm really starting to get the hang of those potholes! We got back around 2:45 and went down to the kitchen to help form the bread into rolls.

After that, it was back to shoe sorting! By about 5:30, we had successfully matched all the kids with some shoes! So we passed them out around 6 and took some pictures to send to the people who donated the money for them.

Then, it was time to make dinner and banana bread! :) it's about 10 pm and the power just went off...must be time for bed!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Take Cover!

"Okay, please send Matilda over nex....ahhh!!! Never mind!" haha...This morning I was sitting in the middle of the activity center doing some math testing, and I saw some really dark clouds rolling in. It was quite obviously going to rain. What I didn't know is that it would come within a matter of seconds and bring a dust storm with it! There was no warning and I soon was trying to shove everything into my bag while being blinded by the dust blowing into my eyes! It started POURING, and since three of the classrooms are in the corners of this open-sided activity center, class was temporarily suspended. :) The water poured in and some kids ran out in it, while others huddled in the corners for protection from the rain and me! :) The rain was so strong that the desks were soaked and even one of the math lessons on the chalkboard was erased from the rain coming in on it! Just another reason to be flexible here in Africa! :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who needs video games...

…when you can just drive in Ghana and experience 10 times the excitement live??? Today I got to live through my very first real-life video game experience. The kitchen crew needed to make a trip to the market in Nsawam (a nearby town). Since neither of the cooks drive (even though they are considerably older than me), they needed someone to take them and to stay in the van to watch the goods as they continued to go out for more. Carolyn was going to go, but since she has a friend visiting I offered to go in her place, because apparently it’s quite the venture…which I soon found out! (I waited in the car for 3 1/2 hours while they shopped! But that was fine; I had a book!)

So, here’s “Ms. Oburoni” (white girl) driving two Africans to the market…seem a bit ironic? I thought so! I was a little nervous, because the drivers and the roads here are crazy, but I thought it’d be fun to give it a try. So, we made it safely to and from the marke. And let me tell you…it was an adventure. I felt like I was playing a video game where you have to navigate your way through all sorts of obstacles in order to be promoted to the next level. You have to watch the biker coming up on the right-hand side, while the taxi scoots by on the left, only inches away…oh, there’s a man walking in front of you…and a pothole…oh, a speed bump!

Here’s a picture of one of the roads we had to go through to get to the market…you see what I’m saying now???

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Village Life

Wow! I can't believe that I've already been here for 3 weeks! Time is flying by. Each week seems to go faster than the last. After 3 weeks I can't believe that I still hadn't been to the village across the road yet! I've been wanting to go there and check it out, but I wasn't really about to prance my way in by myself. :) Today some of the kids wanted to go for a walk; one of the girls lives in the village, so she offered to give me the "grand tour". It was really interesting and eye-opening to see how they live. Bamboo held many of the mud huts together and they had thatched roofs-- just like I pictured. What a simple (yet hard) life they live. As we approached the village well, I couldn't help but think that it felt like I was living back in Jesus' time. Many people were gathered at the well waiting for water. (I pumped a few buckets for some girls there. What a workout! :)) We walked around and observed many women preparing dinner over a small fire outside. I even saw one of our kindergarteners cracking palm nuts for soup. She may not know her numbers yet, but she's mighty good at bringing the rock down on those palm nuts and cracking them open! It's amazing how self-sufficient some of these kids are.

We then went to the village school, and I was floored to see their "Junior Secondary School" (comparable to our middle school). It was a ton of desks lined up outside facing three different directions, but all very close together. One of the three had a chalkboard on the ground leaning up against a tree, but the other two had nothing but desks. I asked her how the teacher demonstrated or taught lessons, and she then told me they didn't even have notebooks yet. It sounds like those may be coming next week. Wow!

I don't know exactly what to make of all this, except to know that I am extremely blessed and am called to share with those in need. If you are reading this, you too are extremely blessed (yes, even wealthy beyond your wildest dreams!) just because you have access to a computer and the internet. What will you do with what God's blessed you with?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dinner Club

Afua, Janet, Abigail, and Douglas eating our yummy food we made at "dinner club". The kids will each sign up for the chance to cook and eat a meal in my apartment, which they love.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Little More African Every Day...

Praise the Lord! Our generator was (temporarily) fixed today, so we had running water again! This was great because I'd been holding off on laundry until the water was running, because I didn't want to carry it all the way from the village. I was afraid I might have to, as I was down to one clean skirt! :) So, today I did laundry, which is done in buckets by hand. I'm so blessed to have many willing volunteers, so I asked 3 kids to come help me, and they loved it! Weird, huh? haha...but it's really not bad at all that way. We got it all done in about 30 minutes!

Yesterday we did have to go get more water from the village, and I decided it was time to learn the "carry a bucket on your head" trick. It can't be that hard; 8-year-olds do it...right? HAHA! Whew! Let's just say I think by the time we got back I had more water on my face and skirt than what was left in the bucket! :) It's harder than these little kids make it look!

My diet is becoming more and more African as well. As a teacher, I can eat lunch from the cafeteria. However, I'm still a bit selective in the meals I choose to join them for! Although some of the food is good, sometimes it seems like the perfect opportunity to sneak back to my apartment for a little PB&J! Too bad my peanut butter is 1/2 gone already! :)

And finally, I've been trying to learn little phrases of Twi here and there. So far I have:
How are you?
I'm fine.
I'm not fine.
Thank you.
What's your name?
My name is _______.
I would like _____ please. (Now I just need to learn some words to fill in the blank!)
numbers 1-6's a start, but it looks like I have a ways to go!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Our generator at the home has been broken now for two days, which means there's no running water. I've been learning how spoiled we are 90% of the time when we do have water. I've learned that bucket baths aren't so bad after all, but I'm going to need to find a way to do my dishes real soon! :) There's getting to be quite a stack.

We usually can use the rainwater supply for bathing and laundry, but that also ran out today. Therefore, it was time to head to the well! I saw a bunch of kids heading out the gate and thought that looked like a fun adventure for me to join in on. We ended up walking to one place to get water from a river, but apparently it was too muddy, so we walked to another nearby village that had a well. We were able to fill up our buckets by dropping a pail deep down into the well and pulling it up again. Needless to say, it took awhile, and it began pouring rain while we were there, and the thatched roof didn't quite do justice. :) So we just embraced the rain together and got drenched! :) It was actually kind of relaxing to sit there and hang out with the kids. I was trying to learn some Twi (a local language), so they were working on that with me. It was a fun adventure, but I'm thankful for the rain...hopefully the tanks collected enough water for tomorrow...or even better, the generator will get fixed!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Just a Glimpse

Saturday I had the opportunity to travel with Papa Jim and two of the girls at the home to their hometown of Aflao. One of the girls recently lost her mother and wanted to pay respects to her family. At the age of 18, this young girl has quite the past. The marks of her tribe remain etched on her face, hinting at the hardship she's experienced. She was a trokosi slave, which is an African religious practice in which the chief of a village takes in virgin girls to atone for some wrongdoing done by a man in the family. This girl then becomes his slave and is denied many basic human rights; many people are afraid to interact with the trokosi for fear of misfortune coming to them from "the gods". Luckily, this young girl was liberated; however, her family then sold her as a prostitute. She now has a 2 year-old son of her own, and I can only imagine the feelings that she was experiencing as we walked the dirt path back to her village where she grew up...the memories of her past life in the shrine were sure to bring up bitter memories.

We walked into the village and each family unit was fenced off in some way. Here her family was gathered under a palm tree-- her grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and father. The children soon came and joined us...all 24 of them! It was almost surreal. I felt like I was in a movie. I couldn't help but imagine what life was like for them there. It would be a hard life, for sure.

As we went to leave, it was obvious that there was strong emotions. She had left her son in the village and returned back to the van telling us that she was going to stay there. She is an adult and can make that decision if she wishes. However, she must first go through social welfare to get approval. We talked with her about the importance of getting an education and training for a trade, so she would be able to take care of herself and her son. (Because of her past, she is currently in P3.) She wouldn't budge.

After a long talk with her and her family, we found out she wanted to stay in the village because her half-sister also recently lost her mother, and at the age of 8, has no one to care for her. The hard realities that these people face every day blow me away. So, Papa Jim is now going to start working to see if this younger sister can come join us at Haven of Hope. Please pray that the details work out, and pray that the older sister who is at Haven of Hope will have the determination and perseverance to complete schooling and complete some type of vocational training.
Bernice's family lives right down the road, so we were able to also visit her relatives' village which is right on the Atlantic ocean! As you can imagine, many of the men there are fishermen. Here are some of the goods! :)

It was a long day...12 hours on the road and about 4 hours spent there between the two families! However, it was very worth the long trip to get a glimpse of some of the kids' pasts. It helps me to understand them better. Not to mention, I was able to see the Atlantic and experience my first African public toilet...or lack thereof...I'll never complain about China's again! :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A-Maizing Experience

What started out as a fairly slow day turned more interesting this afternoon. A bunch of the boys were gathered around the tractor, begging to play football. However, they were told that if they wanted to eat, it was time to harvest the maize. And these boys like to eat, so the maize harvest trumped football—much to their dismay. I decided to join in the fun, with some apprehension due to the reported snakes around the compound. I put on my longest skirt and my jacket and made my way to the field. Each step I took was with caution, keeping in mind that there could be a snake beneath any piece of grass or stalk of maize. So you can only imagine where my heart went as I heard the boys gasp and say, “snake”. However, their calmness peaked my curiosity as I was convinced it couldn’t be the real thing. As I turned around, there they stood with a cobra snakeskin! They really do exist!!! NOT what I wanted to see! Please pray that God will provide protection…even from the snakes.

I made my way down to the dining hall where some girls graciously volunteered to pick off the tons of little seeds that attached themselves to my skirt (kind of like birdocks). They then asked if I was going to eat with them, so I was able to experience my first true African meal! It was an okra soup with some kind of maize concoction that you dip in the soup and eat it all with your fingers! The kids sure got a kick out of watching me eat it—I don’t know…apparently I’m not a professional yet! :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer, don't go!

I've fallen off the face of the blogging world, and a lot has happened since then. In a nutshell, summer in the US has been amazing...filled with lots of family & friends time. I've had multiple catch-up sessions with friends across the country and feel blessed to have so many great people in my life. Here are a few highlights:

In June I met up with some of my college roommates in Arizona. Here we are at the Grand Canyon.
Mom, dad, and I spent a few days relaxing, biking, picking cherries, etc. in Door County....lots of fun!

I drove out to South Dakota to see Tracy & Liz. Here we are kayaking down the Big Sioux...always a fun adventure with these girls! :)

I earned a free flight from all that flying back and forth to HK, so I went out to visit Ellen in Philly. Then we took a side trip to NYC, which was awesome! :)

Being home was quite different at first, because I needed to learn how to seems like I learned how to do that pretty well, and now I'm back in fast-forward mode as I prepare to leave for Ghana on Monday! It's snuck up so quickly! Relaxing days floating in the pond, playing tennis with my parents, sleeping in, and hanging out with friends have quickly turned into frenzied shopping trips trying to pick up last minute items that would empty my wallet were I to buy them in Africa and packing like crazy. It's going to be quite the feat to get all packed up!