Sunday, August 11, 2013

Last Blog


My last week :( I have been dreading this week, for well 9 weeks.

For my last week in Ghana it is the PANAFEST, which is the Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance. I liked to think this was Africa’s way of saying goodbye to me. But really this is a time for there to be remembrance and celebration for all ancestors who suffered on the way to the castle, in the castle, on the ships, and once the ships landed. Each day there are many activities. On the first day the president came to speak at the castle, which was really nice because the streets were cleaned, yet it was all in Fante and I could not understand. One day that was really special to me was the candlelight visual at the Cape Coast Castle. Upon arrival candles were handed out and the drums played softly. Then all of the speakers, presenters, chiefs, and some elders from villages walked out of the door of the dungeon. The choir was absolutely beautiful and the dances were like I have never seen before. There were poems read that were amazing and Martin Luther Kings I Have a Dream speech was acted out and spoken. This was a very powerful and inspiring night.   


On Monday I did not feel like going to work because I said goodbye to so many people. Yet, walking in and giving a lesson on person-first language made me realize that I have to keep a positive attitude.            (Lesson: A person is a person before they are anything else, so if you are describing someone say the person with the yellow shirt instead of the yellow shirted person. This is more inclusive so individual’s differences are not pointed out before acknowledging that they are human too.)  Now that my project was done with the interns that I worked with I fully joined the project on Non-Government Organizations. This was rewarding because I started this project on the side when I first got here, to get it started for these interns.  The goal was to create a workshop and invite all the NGOs to learn about NGOs, teach about fundraising in Ghana, explain the process of report writing, and network. Speaking at this meeting was fun because I could tell the individuals that attended understood the importance in all of the aspects.

I went to 11 communities that were all involved in Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP). These 11 communities were chosen to have some individuals receive a card that will allow them to get small payments for a little extra help each month. Although, this month is the first month in about 6 that the money has actually came. My job that day was to tell the communities, with an interpreter, where and when they can get their last manual payment. I also was fortunate enough to be able to register more individual from the different communities. Then I gave them good news that it will be added to an account now so they can get the money whenever they please.  The communities were ecstatic with all the Fante that I knew and made these trips really fun!

Thursday I took off work to buy a Polytank for the village Asemanso. This is a clean source of water that will be available for everyone in the community that will be good for over 20 years. The water is filtered and will allow an individual to get a large portion of water at one time. There was a little more work that needed to be put into buying one, than I originally thought. Buying it was easy after going to the bank but I needed to find a reasonable priced truck to drive the huge black cylinder to the village. Then I had to go buy a few tubes and technical stuff so that it would work. I am going into social work not pluming so please forgive my professional terms. I know that the community will be able to have better health and live a little easier do to this clean source of water. I am just so grateful that I got to meet so many of the wonderful individuals in the community.

At night I cooked for all of the ProWorld participants that are still here. This was a nice little taste of America before coming home to try the real thing. I made Alfredo pasta, mango salsa with plantain chips, and a frozen peanut butter and banana dish. They loved it and were very grateful.
Friday was my last day at work and I got my little party that was unfortunately cut short due to my doctor’s visit in the morning. I had a little something going on with my stomach so I am glad I went even though I was hesitant to go back. I am fine though :)

Not Goodbye Weekend

This is not my goodbye weekend because I do not want to leave and I am even tearing up writing this sentence.

 Friday I went to my really good friend’s masque for prayer. This was different than what I am used to on my Sunday services. It is Ramadan and I went to the service when everyone was ending their fasting for the day. After the fast was broken the men stayed downstairs and the women went upstairs. It was a beautiful building and overlooked the town so I am glad that I am a girl. I had someone to watch as we did the particular motions for prayer and she did not speak much English, but was very impressed with me being able to keep up. I am really grateful I was welcomed by the community, even though many of the individuals saw me on my way to church.

On Friday night I also went to a funeral where only black and red are worn. Funerals last three days in Ghana and are always Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The body is buried on Sunday and on Saturday it is a full day event of prayer and mourning. Arriving on Friday, luckily having a black dress, I walked into this large open tent with many chairs in rows and sat with my friend. After many songs that we sang and danced to, it was time to greet every family member. The family members were all in a line into a building where the women’s open casket was. She was dressed like a queen and was in a very detailed casket, which she picked out. (Side note: the caskets here that I have seen being sold on the side of the road are extremely interesting. I have seen caskets of rocket ships, airplanes, painted oceans, Club and Star beer bottles, and some with diamonds all over.)  This experience was very interesting and made me want my funeral to be nothing besides the Ghana Friday’s, with all of the singing and dancing.

After seeing one life end it was really refreshing going to a wedding on Saturday to see new lives begin. Waking up early was worth it to experience the beautiful wedding where I had the opportunity of riding in the car right behind the newly married to the reception.  That night we went to the beach at night because the stars were especially gorgeous for my roommates last night. To get to the beach we had to walk through town to get there and I usually love town. Although, walking into town was not as fun as usual because there were many people sleeping outside of the shops, where many did not even have mosquito nets. This made me really sad and it was really hard to walk past, especially after seeing so many of them during the day as they greet me with the biggest smiles.  

Sunday was church, but this service was not like the others because it was for me. There was a lot of English spoken and the songs were all ones that I could recognize. I even had a speaking part as I did the second reading. This was fun because a few weeks ago I taught them the phrase,” God is good, all the time,” from St. Alexander’s and Deacon Mark and they repeatedly said it as I was walking up to the podium. Wanting to ensure that everyone understood I even spoke some of it in Fante. Finishing the service the church presented me with a gift as I spoke my parting words.

Going into town the last time to say goodbye, to some of the shop owners, did not seem real because I passed by them about 10 times a day and got to know many of them. Dad I know you are not surprised as you can see my bank account. But the best part of this trip to town was the taxi ride home. I was the first one in so I sat in the front seat and greeted the driver speaking a little Fante. He was so surprised and really started to try to get to know me. Once he started asking a few questions the song “no air” by Jordin Sparks came on. We started belting out the words, laughing and dancing. He had his music plugged in and he only played songs that I knew.  As he picked up other passengers on the way, everyone in our car sang any song that came on. He then dropped me off on my house 5 minutes up the hill with no charge he just thanked me for making his day.  

Medaase Pa Pa Pa Ghana (Thank you very much)

I have learned so much coming to Ghana about myself, other people, different cultures, my future, and how to treat people. My motto in life has always been you get what you give. It is easy going into a place with the mindset, I will change the world but if that is ones mindset nothing will get done. One must work with the culture and adapt to the process of getting work completed. If I did not write the new bye-law, do inspections of Day-Care Centers, collect child support, buy a Polytank, enlighten NGO’s, solve family civil cases,  give educational presentations, or get involved with LEAP, I would be perfectly happy. I would have been so pleased because of all the lifelong lessons that I will be taking away from this. If anyone asks me how my trip was it would be the people that I would want to talk about. My experience would not have been the same without staff and participants at ProWorld, people at work, home stay family, community members, friends I made, the little kids on the street, and the perfect strangers who had the openhearted attitude that I love. I feel like I am going to come back home and pick up random kids on the street, try to share taxis, barter with the clerk over a price at a store, come a little late thinking I am on GMT, greet everyone I make eye contact expecting a response, or even speak a little Fante to try to get something I want. All of these things will not work, as I need to keep reminding myself! I am beyond words trying to explain how grateful I am for this experience and know that even if I go back, when I go back, I will not have the same remarkable experience again. Another amazing journey indeed, but one cannot travel in the same river twice having the same unique experience. Going to America and having Chipotle seems unreal and I know that I will experience extreme reverse cultural shock.

Looking back you see with great clarity that what once appeared as difficulties now reveal themselves as blessings.

Aba Lydia 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Help. Fix. or Serve.


The summer is coming to an end and I cannot believe it! Since I wake up so early here, I feel like the days are so long because so much can be done. 


I was not feeling well for a while and a number of other participants got typhoid and malaria, so I wanted to make sure that my sickness was not either of those.  I went to the doctors to get checked for both because it is only 12 cedis. First walking in saying I want those tests, the nurse looked at me as I was put into the lab room for a blood sample. After some time the nurse that was taking my blood came in and spilled a little sanitizer on the table. He then cleaned the whole desk before he looked to take my blood. Yet, he could not find my vain, looked at me and said, “Lydia, you have too much skin.” I had to burst out laughing and as he stared he took the blood from the top of my hand. After an hour sitting outside, at dusk with the mosquitos, another nurse came to me and said that I had malaria and suggested that I talked to the doctor. After I read the sheet she gave me I began to stand up as she walked back over to me saying that I do not have anything. Confused and relieved I went to the doctor to see if he had any suggestions on what to do about me not feeling well. He stated that in psychology if your friends are sick you could feel sick and you should go to someone that can handle that issue. I decided to leave after being called fat and crazy. From that day on I found a running partner and I go on runs every evening, which is on a really beautiful path with a lot of trees and not a lot of noise.


I created a movie sharing the special of the day for Max and Emily’s, a local sandwich shop.  At this restaurant I had to have the sandwich out before 12 minutes after the order was taken. Yet, here I have been to restaurants where it takes 3 hours, after pre-ordering. These are the stories to tell because as we were waiting the toilet flooded the entire restaurant and lights went out. I will never complain about my food being “a little too….anything!”

Also, I have learned how to cook a traditional porridge. My sister and I were on the porch with the coal burning little frying pan for many hours. We then cooked groundnuts, corn, and a few other types of nuts. I could only think of the song “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” It took about three hours to cook them and then it was time to take of the skin of the groundnuts. After three and a half hours of cooking, I carried the finished product on my head to the corn mill with Joyce, my roommate, and sister. The walk to the corn mill was a lot longer with the heavy bucket on my head. The finished product after being put through the mill 5 times tasted a little like Cheerios. Yet, the next morning the porridge did not taste like Cheerios.


For the last week with Emily and Lashae we went on inspections with the Assembly Members and did a few inspections with them to teach them the procedure. This was easy because we typed out a checklist of all of the requirements that the new bye-law presents. It was interesting to do this because all of the Assembly Members wanted to welcome me their home and tell me all about their lives.  The pride in their voices was really inspiring. 

One thing that is awesome about my boss, Amofa, is that if I have a passion to do something he will help me make it possible. A passion of mine is educating others on issues of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. My involvement as a SAPA, Sexual Aggression Peer Advocate, allows me to be involved at school. Yet, this week I was able to do a presentation on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to a group of individuals from both genders with a wide range of ages. The questions afterwards made me realize that these individuals did not know of a place where they could ask questions and openly talk about their experiences. This was particular hard due to the fact that many individuals believe that the man of the house still has all of the power. Empowering individuals is such a huge service that needs to be done in Ghana.

I had the opportunity to go to Aboom, which is a school for individuals with special needs. This smaller school was inside of another larger Methodist school. There was a program going on that day to try to get the school to be more aware of individuals with all types of different needs. I was sent there to do a report on the program and was very pleased. Yet, it did make me so angry how the other kids treated the students on the way into the program. The individuals at the school were full of energy and smiles; I can definitely say that I got my dance lessons in.

I received my passport in case anyone else was worried about that! On Thursday night in ProWorld GCI class I learned about more service learning.  Many definitions of service learning were given such as service is proactive versus reactive and a way of life. We discussed the differences in helving vs. serving vs. fixing. As we want to ensure the action and mindset of the correct one to help the community, not necessarily the word itself. Collectively we agreed that fixing had a form of judgment, as something needed to be fixed and the way it is being done is incorrect. That helping someone, it can be perceived as they are weak and need the help because they cannot do it on their own.  Whereas serving someone, would be seeing a person as a whole individual, one that we can service, as we are profoundly connected to and willing to trust. This was a great way to end the Thursday discussions.    


Queen Mother!  My close friend, Mackenzie, was dubbed Nana hemma (Queen Mother) of Asemanso, a village that she visits a few times a week. This is a process that is somewhat similar to a weeding, where I was like her maid of honor.  Everyone that came to the village was first welcomed and greeted as we exited the TroTro by the whole community. Then we split into group to do Life Straws, which is 40 cedi ($20) tube with a filter on the top that is hung from the ceiling for the families clean drinking, bathing, cooking, and washing water. This sounds great as they are but they are small and if the filter is used for all of those needs and if used incorrectly, which is easy to do, the dirty water can come out. Once many families received the Life Straws it was time to start the ceremony.

To start Mackenzie and I went to meet the chief and get her into her coordination outfit, along with 10 other women dressing her. She had 5 pieces of clothe wrapped around her, to make her fat. And then one over top of them tied like a toga with many gold rings, necklaces, anklets, bracelets, sandals and even a crown with gold on it. After the huge parade into the ceremony where she was fanned, Mackenzie vowed that this would always be her village and the schnapps was poured onto the ground. Many tribal dances, songs, and traditions were done before the Queen had to do an outfit switch. The ten women and I all went back to the room to dress Mackenzie in the kentay clothes that the village was giving her to keep. This was a really rewarding experience and I am very thankful that I was able to be involved in it.


Saturday the 20th was our day to continue the Impact Project! The project is building the clinic and it was a lot of fun. I could defiantly see a lot of improvement made on the last experience. There were trenches that we dug, after we carried the water on our heads for the miles, and built the cement blocks.

On Sunday the 21st I was just living the life of a Ghanaian woman. I went to church, like I do about every weekend and it was 4 1/2 a half hours. It was nice as the pastor was having everything translated. After church I did my laundry and taught my new roommate, Joyce, to do hers. It was weird to think that I was teaching someone to do laundry by hand.  Then it was time to cook, which I love learning to do. It was FuFu night so I pounded the Fufu and made the light soup.

On the 27th I went to a beach cleanup early in the morning. A group of about ten of us went to a local beach at 6 am to clean up the trash. This is something that truly needs to be done. After the cleanup I went around visiting all of the individuals that have made my experience, as Mackenzie went to say goodbye to them. At dusk about five of us girls went to a radio station to see how it was managed here in Ghana. At the station, Cape 93.3, we were put in front of microphones and had a blast. There may or may not have been a “that’s what she said joke” on Ghana’s air. Yet, putting 5 giggly American girls on live air what can be expected. The thought of it being culturally unacceptable was taken into consideration, but as sarcasm or any jokes like that are not used here we were assured that it was good and will be laughed at by those who understand. At night we said Goodbye to each other with another rooftop hangout that looks over the main part of town, on top of one of the homestay family’s homes.

This weekend, and especially the 28th, was a really tough because it was all the participants that I came in with last weekend in Ghana.  As I said see you soon to all of them I thought of what huge impacts that they made on the individuals and communities in Ghana and on me.
I am not thinking about that next week is my last week because it will just seem unreal. I have forgotten what it is like in America and have been told I am officially a Ghanaian.

Until next week,

Aba Lydia 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Relationships Matter... Take the Time

Hello from my new life.

I have become so use to life here that it almost feels taboo to be writing a blog, because I do not normally do it.

It takes a village to raise a child, and I have a large village at home in the United States that raised me. But it is really my homestay family and the neighborhood I’m in here in Ghana that helped me realize more about myself. 


I had the opportunity to go on a long walk with my brother Kofi, and my little brother Papa. During this walk, I got to see the hospitals where the doctors work and live, and I learned about all the different trees and plants where the natural resources grow. On this walk, I also had to pick up a snail that was the size of my head!

I call my homestay mom my sister, because she is very young and I talk to her like a talk a sister. She is pregnant with her second child, and deeply wishes for a girl. Sister is such a hard worker! She would be cooking everything from scratch, taking care of my little 2 year old brother, doing laundry (by hand), and cleaning the house all at the same time. Here I thought that my biological mother was the only wonder woman on earth, but it turns out there are two.

My brother Kofi is my homestay father, who is also very young. He wants to become a famous artist in R&B, or as it is known here, High Life. He shows me a lot about the culture here and really tries to make sure that I experience Ghanaian life.

Papa, my two-year-old brother, had malaria, and I got to take him to the doctor. My sister has dubbed him “Professor in Crying”, because he cannot go even a few minutes without crying. Sometimes, that is my wakeup call at 5 am. Despite the crying, he is very sweet, and makes my day when he curls up in bed to wake me, or gives me energy while playing futbal, which is allowed in the house. 

On Saturday the 29th, I had to say goodbye to my roommate, Megan. I realized how much a person can influence your life in only 4 weeks, as she showed me how two people can truly care about each other. I can now say that I have a new sister to talk to and visit in Iowa.  

My family has a lot of friends that have little kids who come over to play, and I learned a new style of jump rope. It’s where two people loosely tie a rope around them to form a circle, with a little space between them. I learned songs in Fante that you sing while you jump over the rope for a few hours. The kids also taught me some of the Ghanaian dances that they learn in school. I am very grateful that I get to live in the neighborhood that I do, walking up the hill.


RIGHT/LEFT: Here a huge thing that I have not mentioned yet is that one must ALWAYS use their right hand to be respectful. If you are buying something, handing something to another person, eating, or anything, you must use your right hand. This is respectful, because you handle your items with your right and wipe your business with your left. Never wanting to be disrespectful, I had to learn and adapt to this very quickly.

TIME: Time is really an artificial construct, and it does not really exist here the way it does in America. In Ghana, there is only GMT (Ghanian Man Time), and everyone needs to be flexible while they are here. This laid back time works really well for me, but creates some interesting situations for those who need to always have the plan followed. My only concern is coming back to America and still thinking that I am on GMT. I had many of the interns and everyone in the office take the Myers Briggs test, and I thank the Leadership Camp and Steely Pegg for inspiring me to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the people that I work with so that we can work well together. Interestingly enough, many people whom I work with that are J’s for judgment, which makes it interesting for me as a P (perceiver).

GMT stems from the strength and importance of relationships here. One would forgo being somewhere on time in order to catch up with an old friend, or even someone they are simply passing by. Time here seems to go by so slowly, but in a peaceful way. The other day, I just stopped to watch a bird eat a worm, which I can’t say I have ever done before. I also watched a group of 10 children playing together as they tried to blow a rubber duck from one end of a puddle to the other. This is also reflected in a certain ring-back tone, which says in little girl’s voice, “Look up at the sky. Big, beautiful, Ghana sky. Take a deep breath… and enjoy yourself. Take the time to call a friend.”

Language: Learning Fante is always interesting, as we do on every other Thursday night with the ProWorld interns. Week 5 was particularly interesting, because we got to decide what we wanted to learn and then have it translated into English. One of them was, “I will not marry you”, which is “Me re nnwar”. These phrases are always very helpful, but can sometimes be confusing. For example, “Me fi wo” means, “I miss you”, but cannot be mistaken with “Me fie wo” which means, “I want to deeply kiss you”, or, “Me afi” which is, “I’ve thrown up”. So, I’ve decided not to use these because if you know me, I tend to jumble my words.  

Holiday: There was holiday July 1st, to celebrate Republic Day. Walking into town, I learned about the activities that Ghanaians do on their holiday. I also learned a little more about their relationships; how many Ghanaian men hesitate to take women out, because many women will buy a meal and then buy a whole other meal to take home with them. If the man does not pay for it, he is considered broke, and many women would not want to marry him. I was also able to teach many Ghanaians what Americans do on the 4th of July, and what we celebrate. We had a party at ProWorld with “American” food, a full bowl of guacamole, and karaoke. None of us were used to all of the sugar provided.

Immigration Process: I had the lovely chance to go to the immigration office, since I’ll be staying here for over 60 days. All I had to do was bring 40 cedis and my passport, which they will hold in order to let me stay longer. This process is similar to what taxi drivers can do at police check points – just pay off the officer, either to get a special privilege or to get away with not having the proper paperwork. 

Religion: In Ghana, it seems that the only fear is God. If someone does something wrong, it is believed that karma will eventually come around to punish the person. This makes some conversations really interesting, especially when I do something wrong, because I know some individuals think that I will pay if I don’t repent. Some people that I have met have openly discussed their atheist beliefs with Ghanaians, who share their own views on their religion.

Beliefs: It is believed that the Gods convene on Wednesday to discuss, so nobody drums on this day to give them some quiet time. It is also a day to think about the well-being of the town, since the Gods will decide how to treat the community members for the rest of the week. No fishing happens on Tuesday, since this is the day that the Sea Gods come out for their own meeting, and the boats and nets would disturb them.  There is no farming on Fridays, because otherwise, the Gods will act unfavorably towards the crops. In the month of August, no funerals, drumming, or FuFu pounding occurs after 6pm, to allow the Gods to prepare for the many festivals that occur during September. It is also believed that spiders do not bite. I know this because I have woken up with 6 huge spider bites on my bottom and 4 on my legs, and got laughed at by anyone I told I told this to. They told me that they were mosquito bites. Also, one should only sleep on their side, not on their stomach or back, because a spirit could sit on them and not allow them to move or talk when they wake up. Another thing I got scolded for was not telling my new roommate, Joyce, about the area where the people find out your name, shake your hand, and put you under a spell. Many of these people also are known to own dwarfs. There are also some good people that know how to call dwarfs as well. Dwarfs as in little creatures one could call, give a command to, and which can go through a door without unlocking it.


I love talking to new people wherever I go and learning about their lives. Yet, talking is also a great opportunity to enlighten others on your knowledge. Sitting on long rides with strangers is my favorite time to find out what individuals think of America. Enlightening people on how many states there are and how America is a huge melting pot is one of my favorite topics. I never realized what that meant until I came here, and now that I am here, I no longer identify as a Michigander, only as an American.

I also had the opportunity to teach about what a haunted house is. If you think about the concept of a haunted house – something that I LOVE – it is really strange. We pay 20 dollars, or 40 cedis, to have people dress up in costumes, run around with dangerous tools, and try to scare us. The Ghanaians I was explaining this to could not stop laughing!

I love my time here and just counted the days… I only have 20 days left in Ghana. It’s been a good ride so far, but I have yet to run out of gas. In more ways than one.

Today you shall behave, as if this is the day you will be remembered!

Aba Lydia 

Charity vs. Change

Good Morning! Good Afternoon! Good Evening! 

Greeting everyone is one thing that I love most, because you can see how much it brightens an individual’s day and is something I will take home with me.

The weather is one thing that I will not miss, as I was told that I will stop sweating after 10 days. I am on week 7, and I am currently still dripping in sweat.  I really was able to notice how blazing hot it was when the fan in my broke, for almost a week.

I am putting food as the first section of my blog because I am an American. I’ve noticed that many Americans, including myself, view food as not just something to eat only when hungry, but also as something fun.


The food really takes a lot of time getting used to, and honestly I cannot even say that I am used to it yet. I have talked a little about FuFu, which is the ball of dough made from cassava and plantains, which is served with soup and swallowed, not chewed. There is also banku, another dough ball, which is very starchy, and made with cassava and corn. Banku is very filling, and is served in huge portions, and just remember, nothing can be wasted. Actually, all of the food is really filling, until it’s not, and then you’re starving. A lot of the food does not agree with my stomach, because I’m not used to it, so I often find myself hungry because I am overly particular about the kind of food I will eat, like the other Americans here. Mostly for breakfast, I get bread, hot water, and some type of mix-in powder, like coffee or cocoa mix. My lunch is packed for me every day, and it switches between noodles, rice, “sandwiches”, and meat, but remember that it all is always is prepared with palm oil.

One very interesting experience I had with food was on one of the host family’s roof tops, where I celebrated my friend’s birthday with a home-cooked dinner prepared by her host mother. This was the first time I ever had gizzards, and they were pretty good.

Sometimes at work we have kenkey parties! Kenkey is a big ball of fermented corn that you eat with fish and hot red sauce made with palm oil and peppers. We take the kenkey and dip it into the sauce and take some fish, too. The fish are eaten with their heads still on and the bones still in; I have not been brave enough to try this.  

On the weekends, I always set aside time to learn how to make some of the traditional dishes. I cannot tell you how many groundnuts I have skinned, how many different types of nuts I have cooked, how much rice I have boiled, how many fish tails/heads/guts I have ripped off with my hands, or how many times I have stirred soup and pounded FuFu. This time is really special to me, because I get to learn how to cook and get to know my host sister better.


On Wednesday, June 26th, I did not go to work. Instead, I had the opportunity to go to a village called Ayedwe that ProWorld decided we were going to partner with. This first visit was just to do introductions with ProWorld and the village and to tour the village and discover the needs that the elders felt were most important. As the five of us toured the village of 400 people, we were welcomed and given fresh coconut to drink. Once finished, they cut it open and gave us the white part. There are chiefs and co-chiefs, and after I offered my coconut to the co-chief, by saying, “Atow me,” or, “You’re invited,” he said that he would marry me. On our tour, we discovered that there were only two tin roofs in the entire village, while the rest were made out of straw, which serves as an extra challenge to the people during the rainy season. We discovered that they needed clean water, because their “bo-ho”, or clean water pump, is now spitting out clay particles. It was put in only 2 years ago. Palm oil is the biggest income generator for this community. We learned what else you can make from a palm tree. We got to see where the alcohol comes out of to make a sweet wine called “palm wine”, or if fermented for a few made, it makes “apatache,” a hard liquor. After drinking a few too many water sachets and too much coconut juice, I had the opportunity to see their bathroom, which is essentially a small, outdoor closet with rocks in the middle. The only reason I got to use this bathroom was because I was a guest. The entire village uses a bathroom that they created, which is a large, rectangular hole in the ground with pieces of plywood arranged like a ladder so that you put your feet on the wood, squat over the hole, and go. This is separated between men and women. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the women’s room was cleaner than the men’s.  

On Friday, July 12th, we went back to the Ayedwe village. This time, 10 ProWorld interns came along to do the community assessment. We all split up and formed small groups of community members. My group consisted of 14 members and my translator. I started the discussion off with an ice breaker, where everyone said their age and did their favorite traditional dance. For an entire half an hour, I was smiling, and in a different world, dancing and singing. After that, we talked about the different challenges the community members were having. The challenges ranged from clean water, to play equipment for the kids, to the need for a school and electricity machines, to the need for more tin roofs. Then, we took a vote on what they believed to be the most crucial of the needs. We voted by placing dry beans on symbols that represented each need. The top choice was the need for a palm oil machine, followed by a community center, and the third was electricity and lights. After lunch, we discussed the solutions, which would empower them to take ownership, by providing resources themselves, as well as getting help from ProWorld. This is the difference between charity and change. To show his appreciation for my time and efforts, and because men just tend to like me because of my womanly physique, my group leader handed me a pineapple to take home with me. Thanks. The pineapple was covered in man-eating ants. Not only was I covered in ant bites, but I also had to try to explain to the rest of the group why I was the only one to receive a pineapple, which I couldn’t do.


During work in the office, we went through all the child custody cases to figure out why the families split up, and how the split affects the children. Two cases that really stuck out to me were about the dad thinking that the mom was a witch. In both cases, they really emphasized the belief of spirits and voodoo that many Ghanaians have. Also, the second top reason for parents splitting up was that a spouse cheated, or that one suspected the other of being unfaithful.

Friday, the 28th, ended in a heart-warming way because we went to find the boy’s parents (the one found in the orphanage in Accra!!!) Emily, Lashae, Augustine, and I went to many schools looking for him. The only information we had to go off of was that the boy’s mom was called Mama P, that the boy was in class 3 (third grade), and that he used to stay with a seamstress called Mama Essi. After many of those we asked at the schools told us they had never heard of the boy, a little boy appeared saying that he knew of a seamstress named Mama Essi. He followed him as he led us through the rocky hills to get to her workshop. At first, Mama Essi did not know what we were talking about, so we decided to head back to the office, feeling defeated. But when we looked back, we saw Mama Essi running after us, waving her arms. She hurriedly  led us to an elderly lady sitting a little ways up a hill, in a room, crying and screaming the boy’s name. The tears of happiness from knowing that her grandchild was still alive filled me with overwhelming joy, and I even began to tear up a little myself.

Four more interns have joined us in the office. Their main focus is on NGOs in the Cape Coast Area. Before their arrival, Emily, Lasahe and I decided to decorate the office with inspiring quotes. These quotes brighten up the office and allow for an educational and motivational experience for all of the individuals coming into our workplace.

At work, we had the opportunity to go to a school to investigate a custody case of a boy. We also asked questions about education in Ghana in general, and whether there was any program that would help children who have extra financial needs at the school. To our surprise, we found that the boy was no longer at the school, and that the Headmaster did not know where or whether he went to school. A lot was discovered about the education system in Ghana, like how caning is frowned upon nowadays, yet still often happens to children who “deserve it”. Another interesting finding was that the students have to pay for everything to attend school: uniforms, admission, books, exams, and even teachers’ salaries. Presently, there are programs in place to help the children who have extra financial needs, which the government helps to provide.

On Friday the 5th, my coworkers and I got ready for our meeting, which was on the 10th, by watching videos on how to inspire others. We wanted to learn how to inspire the Assembly Members to accept our proposed bye-law.

The following week was presentation week, which meant that we needed to get the folders, printed versions of the meeting agenda, the proposed bye-law, and the Day-Care Centre checklist to hand out, as well as getting the room arranged. We gave our presentation on the 10th, and the Assembly Members arrived on Ghana time. They were very pleased with the incentive that we offered them for handing in their reports to our office. We made sure to emphasize the “Why” aspect of the need for them to do inspections, the “How” to do it, and “What” they needed to do.

The President of the Deaf Persons Association comes into our office quite frequently. Since I can't read sign language except for the alphabet, he writes me little notes, which usually say something to the effect of, "You should come eat with me sometime, I'm going to marry you soon". The director of our Department, Madam Felicia, has already started planning our wedding. Congratulations, Mom! 


On Saturday the 29th, I went with 10 interns to take an adventure to Busua, a beach town. We had an interesting adventure with a drop taxi on our way there, because no trip is really a trip unless you get lost a few times. We got lost and ended up in a city called Dick’s Cove. And Mom, don’t listen, but I went on a little questionable bridge over the water. When we finally got there, it was absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a hotel for 12 cedis per person, so 6 U.S. dollars a night! If you walked out the back door of the hotel, you were on the beach. Down the beach a little ways, there was a surf shop that was also a diner. At this diner, you sat outside on the beach and my friends and I ordered big burritos that were 10 cedis each. This is an enormous amount of money for food in Ghana, and it was not Chipotle by any means. But when hunger calls, you gotta answer it. That night, at the surf shop, there was a bonfire on the beach, so we sat there until dawn.

Sunday, I woke up and went for a walk on the beach right outside our hotel. I walked in town and saw a kind of quality of life that I had never encountered before. We also paid a man to catch and cook 4 lobsters for us for 15 cedis each, which is only 7 dollars per lobster. Yet, the most interesting part of the day was when Mike, a staff member with one arm, taught me how to surf. And, for all those wondering, yes, I did get up on a wave – over 10 times!

The following Saturday, the 6th, the ProWorld interns and volunteers made a soccer net out of the empty water sachets. Water sachets are plastic bags full of water, which are commonly thrown on the floor once they’re empty, so we decided to recycle them by making a soccer net. The net will be given to the village that ProWorld has decided to partner with, Ayadwe, and I cannot wait to give it to them. That day, I went to make fabric, which was an interesting process. You take a stamp that you like, dip it in hot wax, press it onto the fabric as many times as you want to make a pattern, then you dye it the way you like with colors. This is called “batiking”.

That Sunday, I woke up at 5 in the morning because there was an unusually large amount of goats and chickens outside. I helped make breakfast before our church service. Church was very interesting that day, because Sister was the priest who gave the sermon and led all of the songs. I was so proud of her, because even though I didn’t understand a lot of it, all of the members of the church loved it. I did understand when she said, “God is joyful, so you should live your life happy”. I also got my new sister from California named Joyce that day. I went to pick her up and gave her an orientation and a tour of the house. There was a futbol game on TV, so it seemed like the whole town welcomed her, as you could hear cheering everywhere you went. Since futbol is such a big sport here, everyone was with their friends watching it.

Saturday the 13th, I travelled to a village to see a rock shrine.  It took us two hours to get there, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the shrine. But being flexible is important, so we decided to take a tour of the small village of about 400 people at the base of the mountain. To my surprise, the village was very developed as it had a clinic, a corn mill, a palm nut machine, many different religions, and everyone spoke good English. During our tour, a crowd of people followed us. This would have been fine with me, but I think it disturbed the wedding that was going on, since weddings are day-long events in which the whole village is invited. It says a lot about the culture here, that we just rolled up into the village unannounced, yet people took the time out of their day to show us around and to make us feel comfortable.

I woke up at 5 am again that Sunday, this time being woken by my sister who was cleaning the entire house, so I started to get ready to go on a HIV/AIDS race. To start off the race, all the participants got on the basketball court to do stretches and, if you’ve learned anything about me from my posts, you might have already guessed that these stretches soon turned into dances. Everyone loved when the obronis did the dances. Then we formed a huge circle, which turned into a chain, and we did the cha-cha all the way to the starting line. At the end of the race, some speakers educated us about the importance of HIV/AIDS research, which gave me hope for the future
There are three answers to every problem, accept it, if you can’t accept it, change it, if you cant change it, let it go.


Aba Lydia 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's My Price?


I am sorry I have not written in a while, I have been having too much fun! I tried to break my experiences into sections so that you don’t have to read about everything.  

Nyame na adom (By God’s grace I am fine) I think Ghana is the most religious country in the world!


Ghanaians are the most inventive and the strongest people in the world, or at least the people I have met. This is saying a lot coming from me, because at my family camps with our neighborhood every summer, I have seen awesome creations that come from few resources.

I had to think of a way to describe Ghanaians’ strength, and looking around, I’ve found so much strength. For instance, there is no such thing as a stroller here because all of the women carry children up until about the age of four on their backs with 2 yards of cotton. Women swing the child under their arm to put the child on their back, and then take the fabric to tie it around themselves as well as the child, tucking in the extra fabric. This takes the women a total of about 20 seconds and my sister said I could try it with my two year old brother soon. Another thing that is different is that there are no shopping carts or grocery stores. Women buy food almost every day and then have to make a dinner for the family with it. All of the meat is fresh, usually bought with the head still on, especially fish! I asked my sister how she felt about seeing a goat or chicken run around the house one day then knowing that you are eating it the next and she laughed because it is very normal. Shopping carts are also not needed because everyone puts the items on their head with a small piece of cloth rolled in a spiral. All I can say is it is HARD and one needs really good balance in order to do this.

I say Ghanaians are inventive because there are not a lot of resources available here but they make the most out of every situation. I saw a man with a broken umbrella one day and the next he was carrying it with a small bottle attached to the top for better support and weight. Another example is with the kids, they would take a string, stick, water bag, and a stone to make a small car to pull around to play with. Also, talking to my sister I know she does not like if anything goes to waste so we save a lot and start a fire or something else that is beneficial.

I have officially been in Ghana for four weeks today. The days are flying by but I feel like I have been here a lot longer than I actually have, I want to move here.


I last wrote after my presentation on Wednesday the 13th, and since then I have had a few interesting things happen to me at work. I had to say goodbye to a colleague who goes to school 2 hours away from me in Michigan, it is funny because it took us coming all the way to Africa, to meet each other. I also learned that Ghanaians do not like Monday mornings as there were not a lot of people out. The lights went out for a few days at the work place due to unpaid bills that made reports and papers more difficult to write. It was interesting typing up all 90 of the non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) visions, because it enlightened me on what the people want to see changed in the community. The five main themes the visions shared are women’s empowerment, children’s education, providing resources to those in need, disease education mainly with AIDS/HIV, and Religion.

 I also had the opportunity to go on a case where I had to go to this 3rd grader’s school to find his parents because he was found at an orphanage 4 hours away in Accra. Unfortunately, there was not enough information, so my co-worker Augustine and I were not able to locate the parents of the child. At work I sat in on my first child custody case and it was in Fante so I did not understand. Yet, when it was translated to me, I realized how complicated it was and it sounded like it could be a reality television show on it. I made two agendas for Day-Care Center meetings and it is different because here after every meeting refreshments are expected. Work ethics in Ghana are different because people do not get paid on time, so there is a lack of motivation.  For example, in the past 6 months for a government office. This is not anyone’s fault, just when people don’t pay taxes and there is a lack of enforcement, there is a glitch in the system.  I love work because I feel like change is occurring, even if it is small bits at a time.


The weekend of June 14th was a really good weekend and I truly felt like a Ghanaian. On Friday I hung out with some people who were Ghanaian and other ProWorld interns/ volunteers. Then on that Saturday it was ProWorld day to do our impact project.  I was scared that I would not be able to go because my roommate locked me in the bathroom. She was brushing her teeth and when she left she just locked it. Our home shares the bathroom with the landlord’s sister’s son, and so it locks from the outside of the door. After 10 minutes of pounding, she finally came back and we made it to the TroTro on time.  From the house we went to a village to build a clinic, because the village currently has one car that goes to and from town; it takes 45 minutes to get to a hospital, on a good day. Since we were starting the building in a new location due to a misunderstanding of the land, we had to make more cement bricks and carry the old ones over. To make bricks one needs a lot of water, sand, and mixture/clay. My job, along with 15 others, was to get the water from a well and bring it to the new spot. Yet, the catch was we had to carry the buckets full of water on our heads and not spill. This was a lot harder than it looked to keep it balanced and carry it the 1 mile there, pour it in the large container, and then go back and do it once more. I was one out of three girls that actually kept it on my head; I am a little stubborn to say the least. Afterwards, we had to shovel the cement into a shape of a brick and begin making the clinic.

 That same weekend I went to church on Sunday where the priest did his sermon in English for me, and church was only three hours this time. Then I learned how to cook palm nut soup that we ate for dinner. I went to the market to buy the fish and got them ready by snapping the tail and head off, picking off the scales, and scooping out the undesirable insides. Once the fish was in and spices were added, the soup sat on the fire while I did my laundry ALL BY HAND!  This took me about three hours because I had to learn the proper way to wash and hang my clothes.

The following weekend on Saturday all of the volunteers and interns planned a trip to see the village on stilts which is called Nzulezu. This took us 4 hours in a TroTro that was meant for a tight fit of 15 that we managed to squeeze 21 into. Upon arrival we were taken on an hour canoe trip where I had a man named 50 cent that helped us row. The beautiful village has 450 individuals in it where each parent has about 10 children. The village is around 600 years old. The village reminded me a lot of some of the other villages because there were still chickens running around although it was built on water. Then 10 of us decided we were going to stay the night at the Axim Beach Hotel on the shore. We got three connecting rooms that had air conditioning and a balcony overlooking the ocean with palm trees that was 25 cedis a person, so 12 US dollars! Spending Sunday on the beach was relaxing and is where I got my first kiss of sun.


I have been learning a lot about the families here as I am part of an amazing one. The marriage ceremonies here are really interesting and there is no such thing as eloping. After the man decides he wants to marry, his parents will go to the woman’s family with a gift and ask permission. If her family is satisfied with what the other family has brought, they will send a list of things and set a price for their daughter for the groom and his family to provide before he can marry the bride. Then after a few days the man and his family will have to buy the gifts and return to woman’s family to hear the decision. If the answer is a “yes”, then they are married and will make it official through the government. This makes me wonder what my price would be? Yet, most commonly this is not when the wedding takes place; it could be after the couple has kids or whenever they decide. There is no such thing as a small wedding and they are really important.  The week before the weeding, the girl stays in her house and does not leave or see her fiancĂ©. There is a lot of cooking going on and all family members not in the area stay over at the house, so it is really full. All weddings are on Saturday and I would really like to attend one.

Here relationships are really important and interesting. The dating is viewed as an opportunity to get to know someone whereas back home one would really get to know the other person before it comes “Facebook official.” When we were talking in the office about relationships, one of my colleagues said she wanted to figure out herself and pursue her dreams and then dedicate her time to a significant other and my boss gave his insight.  Amofa described that relationships overpower materials and then gave an analogy about arms. Two arms grow at the same time, but if one arm grew faster than the other, one arm would always be longer. So in the same way, two people should grow together at the same rate, without one putting more effort into the relationship than the other.  

Walking down the street, I can tell that relationships are important because I could not even count how many times I have been asked for my number or to date someone. At first I thought that everyone wanted to get out, thinking I would take them to America, which made me get a better perception of what people thought of America. Yet, when I started to hang out with a big group of Obrunis, I realized that it was not just because I was white and could take them to America. Confused, my roommate and I asked my sister why this was and she responded that because of my hourglass shape, curves, and smile, Ghanian men are drawn to me. This was definitely a confidence booster coming from a breakup back home, but it is difficult at times.  At police check points, bargaining with taxi drivers, and shopping , the other interns make me talk to get away with having too many people in the car or different situations. This does not bother me, just I have to joke with the other Obrunis that they cannot sell me if they need to. Yet, one uncomfortable situation that stands out is when I walk past a certain man that everyday who really wants to marry me. I thought he was kidding, so I always just smiled – that is, until he bought me a ring and proposed. He was completely serious, and now it is really awkward walking to and from my home.

Yet, looking at custody cases and watching the soap operas with my sister, I am learning that even though relationships are important, they could be a little deceitful. 

Talking about relationships makes me think of all my support groups back home, which reminds me of what I miss and I want to say thank you!

I will be writing more soon.


Aba Lydia 

Friday, June 14, 2013


Hello Medaase (Thank you) for reading this!

I learned what the colors on the Ghana flag mean the yellow means gold, black is for hope, green is the agriculture here, and red is the for the blood of their ancestors. On Saturday the 8th I learned a lot about the red on the flag. 

On Saturday, all of the volunteers and inters went to meet at the ProWorld house at 8 am and went to the Assin Manso. This is the location where slaves we taken from all over Ghana and  walked through this long trail and given their last bath in a river. For respect for the people that walked through this path we took off our shoes to become closer with the ancestors. During their last bath the individuals were shaved so no grey hair would be present when they were being shown and sadly not many made it passed their bath. They then had to walk about a week, chained to a huge group of people, to one of the three castles where they were stored before they were sold.  

We then went in our TroTro again to go to the newest castle that also had the most individuals go through it. Going into the dungeons to see where over 200 people were stored did not seem real because it seems like even 50 people sitting would be extremely overcrowded. Food and water was thrown through the holes up above where the sunlight came out and their bathroom was at their feet. The British built a church up above the dungeons because they believed the church was like heaven and those in the in the dungeons belong down below.  This was an extremely sad day and was emotionally draining day. Yet, that night was my first night eating a full dinner completely with my hands. I had FuFu, which is the texture of uncooked bread that you swallow, and fish that was all in groundnut soup; yes I ate soup with my hands!

Sunday is truly a holy day as 85% of the population is Christian and so I went to church. Church started at 9am and the car to come get my host mom (Sister), host brother (Papa), and roommate (Megan) and I at 10am. I was nervous that we were going to be really late but we got to combined church service that was outside but arriving I was pleased to see that everyone was still singing and dancing. The dancing was a line of about 10 men and then 10 women dancing in a line and yes I went to join the line in front of the 400 people congregation! When I joined the line of dancing people one could say there was uproar of laughter.  Church went until 2:30, so the service was 51/2 hours. After church I played with a group of young girls that hang out near my house and leaned some dances, hand games, and a new form of jumping over a rope. The children hear are so independent and more mature, in my opinion, then the children in America. 
Monday I woke up at 6am to sweep the porch with a broom that is a bunch of long sticks with a rubber band around them. This is a common task that all Ghanaians do in the morning and I really wanted to get more involved with the house chores.

This day was the first day I wrote a list of things that I am missing about home.
Family and friends
Quite or a second alone (I’m ALWAYS being watched)
Central Michigan University
Warm showers or ones that is over 3 minutes, but thankful I get a shower J
Drinking clean water for free
Toilet paper and toilet seats
Paved roads
Fish still alive and in a bowl
Fresh air
Chocolate or anything sweet
Being dry (I’m always wet because of the humidity)

I made this list not to dread what I am missing but to make sure that I am more grateful for all these small of these things when I get back.

Tuesday I got ready for a presentation for Wednesday and went out to dinner and hade a creep with banana and Nutella and it was the first sweet food I have had and it tasted so great!  Yet, before I went to dinner I took one of the interns I work with, and my dear friends, Lashae to the clinic and she found out she has Typhoid. This was a scary thought because if I take one bite of food or a mosquito bites me I could get malaria or typhoid, luckily they know how to treat it really well here.

At work on Wednesday I gave a 20 minute presentation to all of the proprietor/ proprietress (supervisors) of the Day-Cares for the proposal of the new bylaw. It was difficult because I had to talk very slowly due to the language barrier. In The Department we are always looking for ways to improve things and since my focus is the Day-Care centers my focus is make life safer for the children and easier for the Day-Care Attendants.

Work to make a change but make sure it is a change that is sustainable and works WITH the current program.


Aba Lydia 

Loving Life!

Hello! Otse den? (How are you?)

Bokoo (I’m good)

First of all for clarification, everyone here a different birth name but they also have a Fante name for the day of the week they were born on, that is different for the males and females.

I am really good loving Ghana and learning every day! One thing that I have learned here in Cape Coast is that there are always going to a few bumps in the road. If the taxi drivers have taught me anything, it is that when there are bumps in the road you just have to keep on going and not let them slow you down. The drivers also taught me to think about others because it is constantly chaotic traffic, but there is no road rage because the culture understands that everyone has a place to be. Most of the time that I have had the thought, “Is this really happening?” is when I am in the taxis because it is a new adventure every ride. Due to the fact that it is the rainy season here, each car ride is like a roller-coaster, like the old Blue Streak at Cedar Point, on the dirt roads with the huge potholes, which really adds to the adventures.  Once I had a driver pull over and go to the bathroom on the side of the road, another time I got stuck and went backwards on a dirt road going up this huge hill, my taxi has stopped working in the middle of the road, and in the humid cars I almost daily am stuck in the middle seat between two well built individuals. I do not know a lot about cars but I do know that almost every taxi here needs a new alignment and new tires.

I last wrote about Wednesday June 5th when I fell in love with the bag of ice-cream called Fan-Ice and have experienced so many things since then.

On Thursday The Department of Social Welfare, which is where I work, went to visit one of the three orphanages in the area for an unannounced but routine inspection. This was the first time a little girl got scared of me because she probably thought I was a ghost or just has not seen anything like me.  The other interns and I also officially finished the proposal for the bylaw for the Day-Care centers on Thursday that would soon be taken it to the Assembly, which is like the senators in America. Then if the Assembly decides to adopt our changes to the requirements for the centers, they would then encourage the other Assembly members for the different regions in Ghana to do the same. This bylaw was needed because there was a Children's ACT created in 1998 but was not detailed for Day-Care centers, meaning for details the owners of the centers had to look at the law from 1979. We felt the bylaw was needed to keep the communication with the centers and The Department consistent. Also, every Thursday all of the 14 interns get together at 4pm to have Fante lessons or community development discussions, switching off every week, then go out to dinner. I got salad and it was my first vegetable in over a week!

On Friday I did not have work and all of the ProWorld volunteers and interns got to the house and took a trotro, a big van where everyone is squished together, to the Kakum National Park! This park we walked through the rainforest up this really step hill on an unpaved path. Arriving at the top of the mountain everyone walked over the rainforest on seven swaying rope bridges while we were not attached to anything like a harness. Luckily, the bridges had a little bit of rope around them but some of the broken boards did make the walk more adventurous. The sight was so beautiful and the pictures did not justify how truly stunning the walk was. After it was time to go to lunch and we went to Hans Cottage where I was not feeling well so I did not eat but I did get to pet a few alligators. Once lunch was done we went back to Cape Coast and we all had African drumming and dance lessons by the ocean. Everyone was laughing and having a good time, even the 60 Ghanaians watching all of us Obroni’s try to dance and play the drums. Then it only made sense to practice the dancing we all learned at a local dance spot and dinner area. This location is at a gas station with a live band, lots of tables, and it is “the place” to go in the evenings.

A long day is ahead of me on Saturday because we are going to the castle, which is one of the largest slave trades in the world so I have to prepare myself.

Adze pa nkyew (Good night)

Aba Lydia