Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Job Shadow

On June 16th, a Monday, I left Bodada for Saviefe Gbogame.  I took a taxi from Bodada to Jasikan, a trotro from Jasikan to Hohoe, and a small bus from Hohoe to Ho.  In total the trip took around three hours, but it felt longer than that because the roads are full of potholes and my bus was stopped at a police checkpoint for 15 minutes because our driver did not have his proper license or insurance or something.  Once in Ho, I called Mike Shoup, a current volunteer stationed in Saviefe Gbogame, to pick me up from the taxi station.  Mike was in Ho because he had helped another trainee (Sam who will takes Mike's place when he finishes in a few weeks) get to her shadow site.  I made better time than Mike had expected, so we went to the Vodafone internet cafe.
After that we went to a little spot that Mike frequents when he's in Ho and chatted about life as a Peace Corps Volunteer and our lives back in America.  Mike has integrated really well into his community: he's fluent in Ewe (although he would tell you he's not), he knows everyone in town, and he's got a group of guy friends, mostly other teachers, who refer to themselves as Parliament (Mike is of course the foreign minister).  I told Mike about my pre-Ghana life, and it turns out that we had pretty similar stories.  There are a lot of similarities between the two of us, and if I end up like Mike in two years then I'll be pretty happy.
We took a small, cramped bus to Saviefe Gbogame, and I know I complain about the roads a lot, but this road was the worst I've been on so far.  It took us over an hour to travel about 30 km (I think that's probably a high estimate).  The town is pretty small, but small towns are good for PCVs because you can actually feel at home if you make an effort.  Mike also has a pretty sweet home with a grass yard and toilets (no running water, but you just dump a bucket full down the hole to flush), and Mike has a great landlord who lives there too.  He says that they have really become his second family.  That night I just met some of Mike's friends, and we took it pretty easy.
The next day I visited Mike's school, but it really was not that exciting because it was end of term exam week in Ghana.  The Ministry of Education requires a standard end of term exam for all Ghanaian students, and the tests are full of typos, terrible questions, and just flat out incorrect English.  For example, one question on the Information and Communication Technology test asked students the number of buttons in the navigation panel of a factory settings version of Internet Explorer.  Not only is the number completely useless even if you have a computer in front of you, but also the tests don't always include answer keys.  Mike just gives out bonus points for terrible questions, so the math test for Form 2 had five bonus points (on a test with 40 questions).  I graded most of those (maybe 3/4 of them) and the scores ranged from 9 to 22 (that's including the 5 bonus points).  Also, I got to look at some solutions students gave for the essay and short answer portion of their social studies final, and it was pretty bad...maybe half the class got 0's (grading extremely generously).
After school Mike and I went to a neighboring town to visit a friend of Mike's from Bodada, visited an akpeteshi distillery, and hung out with Parliament until David (another trainee) got into town that night.  Hanging out with Parliament entails sitting around a circle in plastic chairs talking and drinking.  It was a lot of fun talking and drinking with those guys, and I hope I can get a similar group of Ghanaian friends in Bodada. 
It was pretty late when David showed up because he had a rough time getting to Saviefe.  He's technically in the Volta Region, but he's outside of the main Volta strip on the East side of Ghana.  His site is in Bejemsi which is northwest of Kete Krachi in between the two northern forks of Lake Volta, so he has to travel by ferry to get anywhere in the South.  Turns out that all the ferries are currently broken, so he had to take a big canoe across the Eastern part to get into the rest of Volta.  Then he had a terrible time waiting for taxis and trotros to fill on his way to Saviefe; I think he told me it took him 13 hours total (and that's just traveling within the Volta Region)!
David arrived around 8 and was starving, and so was I because Mike and I hadn't eaten since 10:30 that morning.  Mike had been arranging a special feast for us, and unlike most plans he tries to make this one ended up happening.  Mike's best friend is a rasta who doesn't smoke weed (he drinks though) and is an amazing cook, so whenever they have something special Rasta Mensah is involved.  I'll just come right out and say it now, we ate cat, and it was delicious.  I'm glad we weren't there for the killing and butchering, but I would have liked to watched them cook the meat.  Apparently the deep fry it in red oil (palm oil pressed from the palm nuts), but I don't know anything else that went into the thick stew that we ate with kenke (corn flour steamed in either corn husk or banana leaves, I can't remember which one it is).  Although we all had a pretty good buzz from drinking all afternoon on empty stomachs, I don't think that's the only reason the meat was so sweet and tender; I think cat meat is probably just really good (deep frying it obviously helps too).
The next day (Wednesday) we went to school with Mike again, and just lounged around reading and watching movies.  Apparently that's a pretty typical day for Mike, and he said he's gotten really good at just sitting and doing nothing. Then we had snake for dinner.  It was also good, but not as good as the cat.
On Thursday Kate Mansfield came to visit me and hang out in Saviefe Gbogame.  For those of you who don't know who she is, Kate is a fellow Decorah person who's a year younger than me, and I know her because everyone in Decorah knows everyone else.  Kate's going to start her 5th year at UW Madison, and was in Sokode Gbogame (45 min bus ride from Saviefe Gbogame) volunteering at an orphanage with a few other people.  So Kate and her friend Vanessa got on the bus and met us in Saviefe around 8:00am.
We immediately went out to a palm wine farm to see the process and sample some of the local drink.  Palm wine is made by cutting down a palm tree, cutting off all the green parts, cutting a hole in the trunk to collect the watery sap, and collecting the liquid in a jug.  It's all very unscientific, but very cool.  Apparently a single tree can produce wine for weeks varying between four liters of wine (litres in Ghana) in the beginning and as little as 2 liters towards the end.  You could still collect the liquid produced by the tree after it stops producing a significant amount; however, the liquid begins fermenting as soon as it leaves the tree leaving you with extremely strong (maybe 20% alcohol) wine by the time your jug fills.
We went early in the morning so the wine we sampled would be fresh, thus very sweet and fruity.  And it definitely was sweet!  The "wine" had very little alcohol and tasted as sweet as soda.  The flavor was slightly fruity, but the sweetness overpowered the unique fruitiness of the wine.  We tried some of the slightly more fermented stuff also (I had taken a few drinks of that on previous days), and the unique palm wine flavor comes through more strongly.  As I'm writing this about a week after the fact, I can't recall the taste and flavors, so I can't give you a good foodie description.
This farm was also an akpeteshi distillery, but he wasn't currently distilling anything.  It looked like a moon-shining operation that you would find in the Appalachians: oil barrel with a fire underneath (for boiling the wine), copper tubing to collect the alcohol vapor, and two barrels of water through which the copper tubing runs and is coiled (to cool the alcohol back into a liquid), and the end of the tube where the alcohol drips out.  The first batch of liquid that comes out of the still is just wood alcohol, so that gets thrown out.   It's just pure akpeteshi flowing out of the tap after that.
For the rest of the day we just hung out and visited with people.  This involves drinking, and I probably drank a little too much.  I ended up falling asleep at 6:30, but it was a fun day.  The next morning David and I took the bus to Ho, then boarded a large trotro to Koforidua, and then took taxis and trotros back to Anyinasin.  All in all the trip took a bit over 5 hours, but it seemed like less time.  For the next few weeks everyone will be focusing on learning their site languages, so that's Ewe for me.  It's going well, so I should have no problem passing my interview exam.
I swear the next blog post will be about food.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Site Visit Part 2

Yesterday, Friday, I returned to Anyinasin from my site visit and job shadow trip.  It's nice to be back, but at the same time I'm really looking forward to going back to Bodada.
Last Saturday I met two of the three chiefs and two of three queen mothers in Bodada with the help of my counterpart and my headmaster.  I met one of the queen mothers who was just sitting in a store, went to the stool chief's house, met another queen mother, and then went to visit the chief of Bodada-Buem.  I didn't end up meeting the paramount chief or one of the queen mothers, but I don't remember which queen mother I didn't meet.  The paramount chief is basically the head chief of the area, but the stool chief has similar authority.  I'm not really sure what the difference is, but here's what I do know: every town has a chief (like a king-mayor, chiefdom is inherited); every region has a paramount chief (I think he's elected from the other chiefs but I'm not sure); and stool chiefs rule over regions as well.  The paramount chief and stool chiefs work together, but I don't know where the stand on the hierarchy.  I'm pretty sure that the paramount chief rules over a group of people, in this case it's the Buem people, and they choose the site for the paramount chief based on the safety and protection an area can offer.  Since Bodada is in the middle of the Buem area, and it's between two mountains, it's a very secure location.  I found this information fascinating, but I've probably bored many of you reading this already.
Each time you meet a chief or queen mother you have to go through the same formal greeting and introduction.  It goes something like this:

                "Good morning chief, how are you today? We mean no ill will and carry with us no bad news.  As you know, many months ago we applied for a Peace Corps Volunteer to come to Bodada and teach at EP JHS.  Thankfully our application was accepted and by God's grace our volunteer has arrived.  His name is Peter Vanney, but he's known as Ofah Yaw (I'm not sure how you spell it, but it means Uncle Yaw).  He's here primarily to work as a teacher, but he's also here to help all of Bodada.  He'll be leaving here on Sunday and will return at the end of August to stay for two years.  He's from America and will be learning our language and getting to know many people in the community. We've come to visit you to gain your blessing and to inform you that he'll be living with us."

So then the chief says, "Yes, you are welcome." and he goes around to shake everyone's hand (in a counterclockwise motion so as to never have the back of his hand facing someone whom he hasn't met [you only shake with your right hand]).  If you're meeting a queen mother, then the ceremony is over; however, if you're meeting a chief you are offered a shot of some alcohol.  In most cases it's akpeteshi, but sometimes the chief will have beer or Schnapps.  It's not impolite at all to decline this drink (just like America some people don't drink alcohol), but I have taken it every time it's been offered.
On Sunday the 15th, I went to church and then hung out with my counterpart and his friend Castro.  Church was a long ordeal, and since the pastor (my landlord) broke his arm on Friday in a motorcycle accident, a few different people gave sermons.  For a while everyone was worried that the pastor might have been seriously injured (you hear motorcycle accident and you know it can be bad), so it was nice to hear that he only broke his arm.  It was completely serendipitous that he broke his arm the day after I arrived, but I couldn't help but think some crazy people might connect the accident to my arrival.  Like I said, I am glad that it is only a broken arm.  Church only lasted a little over 2 hours, but since I had to sit up on the stage the whole time so they could introduce me to the congregation, it seemed a lot longer.  The sermons were mostly in Twi, occasionally they would translate parts into Ewe and Lelemi, but none of it was in English so I didn't understand a bit of it. 
The woman who was leading church in the pastor's stead introduced me as Ofah Yaw to the congregation.  Basically she went through the whole chief speech and then asked me to say a few words.  I thought this situation might arise, so I told them good afternoon in four languages (English, Twi, Ewe, and Lelemi), the crowd loved that. (Rural Ghanaians are almost always happy to see a white person, and they are especially happy to see a white person who can speak some of the local language.)  After that I didn't really have anything else to say; I just told them that I was happy to be in such a nice place and that I looked forward to meeting everyone more when I return in August.  Then they sang a few more songs, and church was over.
Godwin was late to church because he had to run out to one of his friend's farm to pick up a bottle of palm wine.  Palm wine is the fermented liquid inside palm trees, I'm hesitant to call it sap because it's ridiculously sweet and very watery.  I'll explain more about it in a later post, but it's really not too strong, between 5% and 12% alcohol.  Anyway, after church we went to Godwin's house and split a liter of it, and then we went to visit Godwin's good friend Castro.  We hung out there for a while and drank some more palm wine while watching a replay of the Spain-Portugal Euro Cup semifinal.  It was a fun afternoon, and I think I'll get along just fine with those guys once I return to Bodada.  I just hung out an packed up my things that evening and on Monday morning I left Bodada to travel to Saviefe Gbogame for my job shadow.  More on that next time.

PS These are my school break times if anyone wants to visit me of buy me a ticket back to America: December 14 - January 7, April 19 - May 13, and July 25 - sometime in late August.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lelemi, Twi, and Ewe

Bodada-Buem in the Jasikan District of the Volta Region.  That's where I am now.  This town is actually on the map that Shannon and my dad bought for me, so those of you playing along at home can find it by going north from Hohoe, which is north of Ho. Bodada, meaning "Ancient Stone,"  is a small town (1500 people) in a gorgeous part of Volta.  There are mountains (the ancient stone for which the town is named) to the east and west of the town, but they aren't mountains like the Rockies, more like the coulees near the Mississippi River around LaCrosse or Prarie du Chien.  The scenery honestly reminds me a lot of that area, except for the fact that I am surrounded by rainforest and tropical trees.  I really will try to take some pictures soon.  There is kind of a problem with being busy and having a large camera: I can't just take pictures whenever I see something cool.  It's bulky so I don't carry it with me, which is dumb, because it's not going to make me stick out any more than I already do...I'm the only white person within 40km.
So here in Bodada they speak Lelemi, then Twi is the second most common language, and finally Ewe is the third.  Most people know some English, but everyone is better with all 3 of those other languages than English.  Lelemi is a language of the Buem people who came to this area from the Ashanti region.  I haven't been able to figure out if the Ashanti forced them to leave, or if they were Ashanti who left the rest of their people for whatever reason.  I'll have to ask some of the elders or maybe the chief.  Anyway, when I found out that Ewe was the 3rd language I wanted to switch to learning more Twi, but Ewe will be more useful since Ewe is much more widely spoken.  So when I return to Anyinasin in a week, I'll continue to learn Ewe.  However, I will be able to spend some time learning Lelemi because Justin Akpanja, one of the Peace Corps drivers, is actually from Bodada (and his uncle is the chief!)  Justin was very excited to learn that I was going to Bodada, and I am happy to know that I have already have a friend who is family to the chief.
I met my counterpart teacher on Monday, and he seems quite nice.  His name is Godwin Agbobi (the "gb" sounds mostly like a "b" in Ewe), and he graduated from a college of education five years ago.  He helped me move all of my stuff from Kumasi to Bodada, and thank goodness for that because I probably have about 120lbs of stuff spread between 4 bags.  Did I mention the trip took us about 10 hours?!  And that's not counting the hour and a half we spent waiting for the bus to load in Kumasi.  One of the biggest problems that Ghana has with infrastructure (besides not having enough money to build stuff) is that they don't have highways or interstates or bypasses.  The main highway will take you right through the middle of every town you pass, so you can't just cruise...ever.  And the roads are full of potholes, but still...10 hours to drive halfway across a country the size of Oregon seems ridiculous.  No nevermind, it's just the way things are outside of first-world countries.  Anyway, Godwin is the school's math, science, and ICT (internet and computer technology) teacher, so he's very happy to have me to help share the workload.  He's a bright guy, he speaks English very well, and we've gotten along well so far.
I arrived in town last night around dinner time, and a welcome committee of Evangelical Presbyterians and teachers from EP JHS (Evangelical Presbyterian Junior High School) greeted me upon arrival.  They had been expecting me all day, but they weren't upset at all that I kept them waiting; they were just happy that I was finally here.  I'm staying at the pastor's house, Jean-Paul Agidi, and he's a pretty young man for a pastor.  I'm guessing that he's only in his 30s.  He was joined by the headmaster of my school Headmaster Gyamebi (sounds like "Jah-meh-bee"), most of the teachers from EP JHS (there are only 8 total), and some church elders known as Presbyters.  They already had dinner ready for me, and I was starved after hardly eating all day.  But as tradition demands, we went around and did the formal introductions first.  This is the Ghanaian way, and it was not annoying, I just want people in The States to know that tradition and formal greetings are a big deal.
I only have one room to myself right now, but Pastor Agidi has told me they are going to put up a wall around the outdoor walkway to make a little sitting area and kitchen for me.  The rest of the house is very nice for Ghanaian standards: they have electricity, a tv, satellite dish, refrigerator with freezer, and even a water faucet outside (but no running water inside).
I haven't done much in town yet.  I got a tour in the dark last night, and got a more extensive one today.  It's pretty small, but not tiny.  They have four small JHS's and one senior high school.  My school is one of the smaller ones, and it doesn't have electricity.  When I visited this morning everyone was very excited, and the students especially liked it when I spoke some Twi and Ewe.  They also loved the fact I've eaten fufu and had some apeteshi (distilled palm wine).  The school itself is in a state of disrepair although you can tell that it used to be gorgeous.  It's just a big rectangle with 3 large classrooms and a teachers' lounge/office, but the walkways around the outside are nice and wide.  The school sits atop a bit hill and the roof is supported by cement columns.  It kind of reminds me of a big antebellum mansion in the South of the USA.
I'll let you know more about Bodada as I learn it,  and the food blog will come once I return to Anyinasin.  Also, Bodada has an MTN tower in town so I have excellent 3G coverage! Hoorah! I'll have internet when I come back here in August.

Friday, July 6, 2012

1 Down, 26 More To Go

So I've officially been in Ghana for one whole month, and it seems crazy.  I've already done so much! I've learned krakra Twi (small small Twi, which means a little), taught at a middle school in Africa for two weeks, and started learning Ewe.  I have a new family and over 50 new friends!  It seems so strange when I think about being at site away from all the other trainees.  We've become a pretty close group, and I feel like I know everyone well.  I'll definitely miss everyone when we split up.   I'm also somewhat used to not having running water.  A shower right now would be fantastic, but bucket bathing is actually quite refreshing.  It would probably be a lot less tolerable if I weren't right by the equator.
That being said, I definitely miss a lot of things about America.  Family, girlfriend, and other friends are at the top (that includes everyone at Magpie by the way), and American culture is right behind them.  It's just so different here than in America that I can't even really describe it in a blog.  Hopefully you can get a sense of all the differences by reading this because I really can't make a simple chart.
I really will write a food and drink blog soon.  For now all you need to know is that the only thing that is the same is that I sometimes have an egg omelet  sandwich for breakfast (not a typical Ghanaian breakfast, but my mom knows that I love it­).  Everything else is different.  They eat a lot of fish here, and the main carbohydrates are cassava, yam, plantain, and rice (which they think is an American food but I laugh because we think of it as an Asian food).
It's also pretty hot here, and since this is the rainy season it rains nearly every day.  I can't wear shorts here.  Occasionally I'll wear some khaki shorts, and I haven't gotten any comments about them.  But I've been told that only punks wear shorts (late teen/early twenty boys), so I mostly wear khaki pants since I'm a professional teacher.  It's really not a big deal unless it's really hot, and contrary to popular belief, I don't actually sweat that much.  Also, I was voted best dressed, so I must be doing something right.
I'm also happy to say that I'm having my first shirts made now.  I bought some fabric with Victoria a couple weeks ago after teaching, and when my mom saw it she brought out some more fabric she had purchased for me.  I'm getting a tunic made from the material I bought, and I'm getting a button-up shirt made from my mother's fabric.  Victoria and I ended up buying the same fabric that day because it's pretty awesome, and it will only be goofy that we have the same fabric for another 2 months.  People might think we're married though because married couples really do dress to match.  My mom and I will also have matching outfits!  We'll be looking very sharp when I swear in.  Pictures will definitely make Facebook and/or this blog once I get the finished product.  I'll also buy some more material that doesn't match anyone else soon.
That's about all that's new.  It's a little frustrating that I learned a bunch of Twi from my family, and now I have to forget it and learn Ewe.  But I'm really not even upset because knowing Twi greetings is very useful if you live in Ghana, regardless of where you live.
Up next: Food or Site Information!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sickness, Setbacks, and Celebrations

Last weekend I didn't really go to a funeral.  Friday night when I was planning on going, it turned out that my family was actually going to the funeral.  Only my brothers Appiah and Kwame were going, and they were going to dance.  As almost everyone will tell you, I'm no dancer (unless I've put back a couple/a lot of drinks...SigEpSigEp!)  Well getting drunk at funerals is totally acceptable here, but as an ambassador (note the small "a") of peace from the United States of America, I would rather not.  Funerals are a big celebration where the dead are honored for their greatness in life, and their failures and shortcomings are forgiven or overlooked.  I did go to a funeral for a few minutes last Saturday morning (June 30), but I didn't get the full experience of dancing and drinking.
On Sunday, I went to the Vodafone internet cafe in Koforidua where the internet is actually decent.  I can get downloads of about 1MB/s, but it takes about 1 hour by taxi and trotro to get there from Anyinasin.  On my way back to Anyinasin, I got some fried rice, spaghetti, and chicken from a street vendor.  I probably wouldn't have bought it normally, but some Ghanaians on the trotro bought some so I figured that it must be good.
I should have stopped eating it right away when I noticed that it was kind of cold, but...I didn't.  That tro ride was pretty rough; 45 minutes of bouncy roads in the back of a cramped van in which I couldn't even sit straight because I'm too tall with 15 other people did not make my stomach feel too great.  We I got off I knew I needed to get to a toilet pretty quickly lest I wanted to "join the club" aka poop my pants.  It happens often enough to Peace Corps Volunteers that it's just called joining the club, and a few people in my training group have already joined.
I got home with clean underwear, but my brothers immediately started harassing me about going to the funeral.  I said that I wasn't feeling well and needed to use the bathroom and probably lie down for a while.  I told them I needed at least 1 hour.  After 15 minutes they came and knocked on my door and asked me if I was ready to go.  "No, let me sleep for a small time." I said.  Then they told me that my bankou was almost ready (bankou is the fermented corn flour ball that I'm not a huge fan of).  I told them, "Men co didi! I'm sick." (Translation: I'm not going to eat! I'm sick.)  About 10 minutes after that I went outside and vomited.
My brothers kind of (note: in Ghana they don't say "kind of," instead they say "somehow" to mean the same thing) understood that I was sick; they asked me if now I was ready to go to the funeral.  I had to explain that I would not be attending the funeral, and that I needed to stay home because I was vomiting and running (if you are jogging you need to say jogging or training because here running means diarrhea ).  I then went to my room and took a nap.
I awoke to my mom knocking on my door. She had returned from the funeral with her sister, and was trying to get me to go with her.  However, once she saw that I was sick, she asked me what happened and if I had taken medicine.  I managed to explain that I had eaten some fried rice and spaghetti in Koforidua, but I was unable to explain that if I tried to take medicine, I would just vomit everything right back up.  I eventually just left it as yes, I'm going to take medicine.  I did try to drink some water then, but I was still ill.  So about 30 minutes later I went and threw up again.
Enough details though, you get the idea.  I was miserably sick from 3:00pm to 8:00pm in a foreign country because I ate some street food, and I was unable to tell my host family exactly what was happening.  I was pretty unhappy, and I definitely thought, "This wouldn't have happened if I were in America, and being in America would be really nice right now."  My family was genuinely concerned for my health, and there were a few people visiting our house (because of the funeral) and they also seemed genuinely concerned.  It was a pretty tough afternoon for me, but thinking about it now confirms that Ghanaians are just nice people.  Most people seemed worried that I was going to die or needed medical attention, but usually I was able to explain that it was just something I ate making me sick.
Here's a list of some things that are tough and other setbacks I've experienced in no particular order: it's hot, my $5 Walmart speakers broke, my iPod decided to stop working for a day, I had to reinstall Windows7 on my computer because it wouldn't start, my external hard drive decided to quit functioning (but I was able to recover almost everything on it), I have to handwash all of my clothes, it rains almost every day so it takes two days for my clothes to dry, I got food poisoning, I forgot all of my books at home, there's no running water, I have to greet everyone I see because I'm a celebrity, and my house is a 10 minute walk from town.
It's really not that bad, and I've gotten over pretty much everything on the list.  That being said, I do miss running water, constant electricity, nice roads, and American food.
This post is supposed to include some celebrations too, and I think that will be good to lift my spirits a bit after all this talk of sickness and things that kind of suck.  The first and only celebration that I have to talk about is the Ohoum Festival.  No one was able to figure out exactly what it is or why they celebrate, but these are some things we know.  The timing of the festival changes every year depending on the growth of palm trees, but we don't know what they look for or why it depends on palm trees.  For one month no one is allowed to pound fufu, make excessive noise, or play music after dark.  If you live in town this month is noticeably quieter because Ghanaians are pretty loud at night compared to Americans.  When something happens with the palm tree, the chief of Old Tafo and the village elders walk through the stream for a few hundred meters.  Lots of people join them in the stream, and then the whole procession moves to the street and they parade through town.
Parades here are pretty cool.  There's lots of drumming, dancing, and waving.  Anyone at Lawrence or who knows Sambistas can think of that kind of drumming.  After the chief passes by, or really whenever you feel like it, you can join the parade.  The chief was carried through town on a big platform, and he would occasionally stand and dance on the platform for a while.  This sent the crowd into a frenzy and everyone would start dancing furiously.  When the parade ends, there's a dancing competition.  I think this is pretty standard, but it might be only for Ohoum.
Most people were nice, but a few weren't so happy to see a bunch of white people parading through town.  Victoria and I also got dragged into a dance spot by our counterpart teacher at RCJHS and immediately felt uncomfortable.  For one the place was packed; we were the only white people there and everyone knew it; and people tried to pickpocket me and take my backpack.  Luckily I didn't have anything in my back pockets, and we left in less than a minute.  It was crazy in there, and we didn't like it.   All in all the festival was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I got to see it and participate.
4th of July Party!  All of us PCTs decided to have a potluck to celebrate Independence Day.  We held the potluck at our favorite spot in town which happens to be owned by Mandee's (a fellow volunteer) mom.  The day before the party I decided that I would make some vegetarian chili, something I've whipped up many times working at Magpie.  I knew it wouldn't be too hard to find tomatoes, beans, onion, chiles, and garlic, but finding cumin proved to be impossible.  Also, I had to settle for some white beans. I'm not sure what kind they were, but that was the only kind available.
I soaked the beans for half a day, and when I returned home at 4:00pm, I was ready to cook.  I should take a little time to explain our kitchen facilities: we have a fire pit (3 walls) that you feed firewood into; we have a charcoal grill with no grill that you just set pots upon, and we have no cutting board (though I brought one!).  Everything works surprisingly well, and my mom is a pro at cutting things in her hands.
I started boiling the beans on the fire pit, roasting the peppers on the charcoal, and prepping my tomatoes, onions, and garlic.  Everything came together nicely, and my family loved me stew.  However, since I couldn't find cumin or get chipotles in adobo sauce, my chili turned into a spicy tomato soup.  As anyone at Magpie will tell you, I have a tendency to overdo the spiciness of soups, and the same thing happened with this chili.  As one fellow teacher put it, "Your chili's on fire!" 
I ended up being late to the party, which I knew would happen because cooking beans and chili takes a lot of time, but my spicy tomato soup was still quite popular.  That brings me to another topic at our 4th of July Potluck, the Trainee survey.  A few girls decided it would be fun to put together an anonymous poll to decide who had the best smile, best eyes, and who was the best dress, and most likely to do certain things...a lot like a high school senior yearbook thing, except we've known each other for less than one month.  Anyway, I pretty much ran the table for the guys: smile (#2), eyes (1), best dressed (1), most likely to get a Ghana tattoo (2), most likely to integrate into the community (1), most likely to become fluent in the language (1), most likely to become a volunteer trainer (2), most likely to become a country director (1)...etc.  There are more but I've already bragged plenty.  I should mention that you could not vote for yourself, so these things were determined by my fellow trainees.  Not going to lie, it made me feel pretty good about myself :)
Then we sang the national anthem, and it was awesome. 'Merica!
Funerals are a big celebration, so I'm sure I'll write about them more once I actually go to one.
I'm excited to announce that my sister Cynthia had her baby the other day (Wednesday).  Because he was born on a Wednesday, he will be named Kwaku.  I already have one brother named Kwaku, but his full name is Kwaku Aguday (I have no idea how to spell it).  They don't name babies until they have a party a week after they are born, but my family is already talking about naming him Kwaku Peter Vanney Anokyewaa!  Apparently they have a family member named Peter, so they aren't naming him only after me, but still...it's pretty cool.  I guess that means I would be the godfather.  I'm not so secretly really excited about this.
Unfortunately I think I won't be around for the naming/birthing celebration because all the Peace Corps Trainees are going to Kumasi to meet our counterpart teachers for our sites.  This means that they'll finally tell us the name of the town/village we'll be teaching in for two years!  After we meet our counterparts everyone will go to their sites for a short visit, and then we'll shadow a current Peace Corps teacher for a few days too.  It's going to be an exciting 2 weeks, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to find internet. Hopefully it's soon!