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!