Monday, January 7, 2013

"Winter" Break

It's been one full month since I last blogged.  As much as I would like to say, "I'll blog more." I have a feeling that this will be the norm.  Maybe as I run out of television shows to watch (currently watching Doctor Who and really enjoying it), I'll blog more, but who knows.  Luckily I have a pretty good memory, so I should be able to get into some detail.
Last time I wrote it was election day, but due to some technical difficulties (voting machines and fingerprint scanners breaking), voting continued on Saturday.  The election was really close, and the last constituency could have swung the vote either way, but in the end the incumbent John Mahama won.  Mahama is associated with the New Democratic Congress party (NDC), and leaned heavily on the votes from Volta Region, Accra, and the northern regions to win.  His main opponent Nana Akuffo Addo was the New Patriotic Party's candidate, and he didn't take the loss very well.  He made the comment, "All die be die." which some people took as a call for violence, and he made lots of claims about being cheated out of the election.  (My favorite theory was that the NDC hired Chinese hackers to change NPP votes).  Some NPP supporters protested in Kumasi and Accra, but I don't think anything turned violent.  Today is the Inauguration Day, so most people agree that this will end the talk of foul play cheating.
The end of school wasn't too eventful.  The continuous assessment forms for recording grades suddenly made their appearance, so all of the teachers had to scramble to record and calculate end of term grades.  I hope that this term we'll have them the whole time so I can record selected homework as I grade it.  The students spent the second to last day of school moving sand from the stream to a house so they can plaster the inside and outside walls to make my computer lab.  Since I haven't heard any word about it, I'm assuming that no more work has been done.  We raised money for the lab one day in church though, and I think we got over 200 Ghana Cedis.
I traveled around Bodada a little bit: jogging almost to Jasikan, jogging half way to Amenor, walking a little ways on the Teteman road.  It was good to get out of the house, but I still didn't do as much as I had hoped.  My walks on the Teteman road were nice because the pastor joined me in the evenings, and we had some good chats.  Another time I ran into the former headmaster of my school Gyamebi, and we went to visit his palm wine farmer friend named Ski-Doo (okay it's actually 'Squito -like mosquito- but it sounded like Skidoe, and I prefer to think of him as Ski-doo).  I'm fascinated by palm wine farming, and after asking a lot of questions and watching Squito intently, I asked if I could watch him tap some fresh trees that he had recently felled.  So one Sunday morning I went over to his house at 5:00am (he lives close to town so he has to collect it early because people will come and steal his palm if he lets it sit) and we walked to his farm.  As it turned out he didn't have all of the tools necessary to properly trim the fronds, so I had to settle for trying my had at cutting the tapped tree and drinking the sweet palm wine.
One day I went to the Ewe village of Awoma (about 15km away from Bodada going towards Kute) to visit one of my students Kofi Agamah Prince who also lives in the compound with me and the pastor.  Awoma is a small village with one school (primary and junior high) and a large Muslim population.  I got there in the morning because I had hoped to do some farming, but it turns out that they weren't going to farm that day, so I helped put the metal roofing on a kitchen.  That afternoon Prince took me out to his farm and gave me a bunch of ginger and papaya, then his mother cooked us a big lunch.  His mom was the happiest that I came to visit, so she took me around to visit all of the EP church members in the village.  We ended up walking around for a good two hours, and I was ready to fall asleep by the time we got back.  They were really disappointed that I didn't stay for dinner and spend the night, but I had already told the pastor that I would be back that night for fufu.  It was a great trip because I don't get to see true village life in Bodada; in fact people consider it a very big town (population of around 1,500, supposedly).  Awoma doesn't have any pipe water, electricity, or paved roads, but the people are no less friendly to a white person who can speak a little Ewe.
Christmas came next, and although I've heard it can be a difficult time for volunteers, it didn't feel too different to me.  I miss the cold and the snow, but because the Harmattan has set in I get chilly nights that have forced me to use a second sheet to keep warm.  Last night I even shut my door to keep out the breeze (I still left the window open, so it got nice and cool).  I've been loving Harmattan because the dusk-to-dawn temperature is perfect, but Ghanaians freeze.  Most people around me have broken out their sweaters and winter coats, and they don't understand how I stay warm walking around at 6:30am in shorts and a t-shirt.  If only they could experience a nice Midwestern winter...
I went to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  The Christmas Eve service was pretty short, and five different groups of people just sang songs.  The pastor had told me that singing was pretty much the only reason for the Christmas Eve service, so I told him that I would sing them my favorite Christmas song, "Silent Night."  When he announced that the congregation should expect a song from me before we closed for the night, the few people who were there (30 or 40 only) clapped for me.  I was pretty nervous since I was just going to sing it by myself, but I knew that people wouldn't mind the quality and they would just be happy that I was singing.  However, just before it was my turn, the youth group (of whom only 2 showed up) sang "Yen Agyen Kwa," the Twi language version of "Silent Night."  My thunder was instantly stolen.  The whole congregation joined in, and I sang along too.  Then it was my turn, and I stood up and walked to the front of the church and told them that even though they just sang my favorite Christmas song, I was going to sing it again, but in English.  Of course I started way off key, which wouldn't have been as much of a problem if I were singing solo, but the keyboardist knew the song and was playing along, so it sounded terrible.  I just laughed and asked him to restart, and I got it right the next time.  Everyone clapped when I finished and there were shouts of "Wofa Yaw!" so I just laughed and waved.  Then to top it off, we sang another song before leaving for the night, and guess what it was...yep, "Yen Agyen Kwa"...again.  So all in all we sang it three times that night.  Not to mention the time that we sang it the next day at the Christmas Day service, which by the way lasted a good three and a half hours.  I recorded the Christmas Day version and quickly made a movie with the pictures I took that day, and I posted it to YouTube.  Here's the link if you want to check it out:
You'll notice that the end of the video is a picture of a respectable pastor and a goofy looking man from the '80s with a nice mullet and a terrible moustache, and I'm sorry to say that it's me.  Or at least me from two weeks ago.  The mullet looks the same now, but the moustache has gotten a bit thicker.  I've posted an updated picture on Facebook for your enjoyment.  If you were able to remember anything before that picture, you might have noticed some nice waterfall pictures.  That's the famous Wli Waterfalls.  Shortly after Christmas I made a quick day trip there and hiked up to the upper falls.  The hike is pretty steep since Ghanaians don't really believe in switchbacks, but the upper falls are pretty cool.  I'm not sure how high they are because the "guides" who go up with you don't really know much information about the area and mostly just try to get money from you.  That was a fun trip, and anyone who visits me can easily visit Wli.  Did I mention you can swim in the pools formed by the waterfalls?  Well you can, but as you get closer to the water, it gets windier and windier until the water is stinging your whole body.  It's what I imagine a hurricane to feel like.
My most recent day trip was down to the Gulf of Guinea near Keta for New Year's Eve.  I couldn't stay for too long because it's a long trip, but it was a lot of fun.  Great waves (I need to learn how to surf) and a beautiful beach.
The second term of school "starts" tomorrow, but who knows when we'll start effective teaching (aka teachers and students show up on time), it might be a while.  15 more weeks of school.  I think I'll become a dedicated ICT teacher and work on getting the computer lab open and the laptops set up so students can't destroy them.  Who knows.  You probably were drawn here from Facebook, but I've uploaded a couple more pictures there for your enjoyment.