We recently got to spend five days visiting our sight. One of the Peace Corp’s motto’s is “we go the extra kilometer that nobody has gone before.” And they are not joking… Getting to site was a piece of work and while there we found out that we are the first foreigners to live there.. ever! At least that this generation remembers. Everyone was extremely hospitable and excited to have us. Somebody cooked for us every meal and whenever we needed something they would send someone to get it for us. We could get used to that lifestyle 😉
While visiting, we got to meet many, many people and got to begin the conversation about what the community’s health/sanitation needs are. We had a formal introduction to the chief and elders. We got to introduce ourselves and received his blessing as welcomed visitors in the village. They said once we return we will have a big party and naming ceremony. He told everyone to think of Ghanaian names for us and then they will vote.
We also got to visit the local health clinic where we learned about the most common ailments they treat. For our area (and most of Ghana) the top five are: 1. Malaria 2. Diarrhea 3. Acute Respiratory Infections 4. Motor Vehicle Accidents 5. Skin Diseases. They gave us a tour and shared with us some of the current challenges with the clinic. One of them is space- it’s extremely small and crowded. I’ll take pictures next time, but it’s amazing how sometimes two women are able to give birth in a tiny 7×7 room with no ac and very few amenities. Another challenge is medicine. Apparently the warehouse they source from caught fire recently, so they have had a difficult time getting the medicine they need. They do frequent health outreaches, so I think one of our projects will be helping out with those.
We toured the town and met the headmaster of every school. There are four – two primary level and two junior highs. There are no senior highs in the community which is an issue because its quite expensive to get daily transport to another community.
On a different note, the headmasters seemed eager to have us. They said there will be plenty of work for us as health volunteers in the school. When we finish technical training we will meet with them again and talk about ideas and implementation.
Later that day, we got to participate in our first funeral. There was lots of drumming, dancing and food. They made Chris and I get out in the middle of the drum circle and attempt to dance, which had them cracking up for days. After that every time I walked somewhere, without fail, someone would come running up to me laughing while doing some very strange arm movements. It’s unfortunate that I know exactly what they are talking about.. .
On our last night, as we were each packing our single bag (we vowed to never travel with more than one backpack again) we had more unexpected visitors appear at our door (there’s a pattern here). Some members from our community showed up with a live rooster and guinea fowl. They presented them as welcoming gifts and then instructed us to take them with us on our four hour bus ride the following day to have for supper. My first question was “can we just keep them as pets?” I received blank stares, as I’m not sure people know what a “pet” is here in Ghana. We ended up negotiating that they would go ahead and prepare the guinea fowl for us to take and we would all eat the rooster together once we returned. The following morning when we got to the bus depot we may or may not have traded our guinea fowl meat for ice cream… The truth is we didn’t think it would make it anyway, so instead we opted for a refreshing treat and made some trotro driver’s day.
We are looking forward to returning to our site and beginning our 2 year journey there. We are the first Peace Corps volunteers to ever be at our site, so that will come with it’s unique challenges and pros. The people are extremely kind and hospitable (we ate lots and lots of fufu, wachie, and tizit). The heat is quite startling at first, but they say this is the hottest month of the year, so I think we can roll with it. It’s also extremely dry and dusty (it’s the end of the dry season). So if anyone wants to send us lotion, you will keep us from returning to the U.S. as part raisin. Ok, well this is getting long enough. We love and miss everyone.