The open road!

I went for another bike ride today! Everlasting, my teacher friend with the bike, is out of town for the weekend, so he told me I could borrow his bike again! I did another 6AM wake up to avoid having too many cars on the road, and I road all the way to Sanga, a town past Asikuma (the town containing one of the orphanages and where I biked last time). The distance was something like 16 miles round trip, and I’m more than happy with that considering my bike and my lack of fitness.

I wish every bike ride was so scenic.

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a day when you wake up early! I got back from my ride, stretched and did some other exercises, and still had time to eat breakfast and get ready to leave for church at 8:45. Nick, Andy, and Gaby came with me this week. My new friend, Elisha (from the clinic), preached about the importance of prayer. After the service was over, he came over, said hi to me, and welcomed the new volunteers. I think this means we’re actually friends! Or maybe not, but I’ve decided that we are, so he’s going to have to live with that.

Hooray for 6AM traffic-less streets!

In the afternoon, we all headed to… you guessed it… the soccer field! The senior team didn’t have a game this week, so instead, the two younger teams (under 17 and under 15 maybe?) played back to back. I think they both won? If I’m being honest, I didn’t see a single goal. I really see soccer games as more of a social event than something to actually watch. I caught up with one of the senior high girls who has been out of town for school, talked to some of the other volunteers, and basically did anything except watch soccer. The mason from Friday, Senyo, has taken it upon himself to find me a husband (“someone with good character”) before I leave, so we’ll see how that goes. All in all, I’d say it was a successful day of soccer games!
James, Yara, Anna, and Avy all came back today from their weekend trips, so the night was spent going over information for tomorrow and doing more of the usual “getting to know you” small talk. I’ll be happy when this phase is over and we’re back to the point where everyone feels comfortable around each other.

Okay so I probably shouldn’t have been taking a selfie, and I clearly know that because my eyes are filled with worry and fear. But I’m still alive so that means it’s fine.

I woke up early this morning and went for a bike ride!!! As much as I hated waking up earlier than I had to, I did NOT want to bike on the road during the day when there are more cars. Since there’s only one paved road in town, my options for non-dirt routes are limited to the busiest street. I figured that at 6AM, it would be light but it wouldn’t be too hot or crowded on the road yet. If I put it off until later in the day, there’s no way I would have mustered up the courage to go. We can pretend that I had a helmet and that there’s a huge shoulder on the road, if that makes you feel any better.

Some of the scenery along the road. Yes *wink*wink* I stopped the bike to take this picture.

The open road!

I decided to bike away from town and towards the orphanage because I think that way is a little less populated. I went for about an hour, did around 11 miles, and made it all the way to Asikuma, the town where the orphanage is. Even though it was early, plenty of people were awake, and I was apparently quite the spectacle, a yevu on a bike. Some guy even took a picture. I would equate it to one time in Philly when I saw Benjamin Franklin on a bicycle. I thought it was funny and ridiculous, and most of the locals seemed to think the same about me.
Avy proving that it’s possible for a girl to know how to use a saw.

Don’t worry, this is way safer than it looks… But anyway, they said they knew what they were doing.

Stabilizing the back

It’s amazing how much time there is in the day when you get up early! I got back to the house and still had time to do some stretching and a workout before breakfast and church. We went back to Agnes’s church (it’s looking like that’s going to be our church home) and brought all of the new volunteers with us. The setup of the chairs was different AGAIN, which means it’s never been the same twice in all the times I’ve been there. This week was really fun. I can tell that people are starting to remember me, and I’m beginning to feel like they’re accepting me (not that they were ever unwelcoming or anything, but like they’re seeing me as an actual part of the community rather than just a one-time visitor).
Putting in the shelf supports.

The finished product!!

When we got back from church, one of the neighbors was on our porch with two saws! He said that his dad would be mad if he let us use them, but he could cut the wood for us. Fine with me! He ended up letting me use the small saw to cut the pieces to reinforce the back, and we helped a little with the big cuts for the shelves. I was just happy to be able to finish the job. We stabilized the back, measured out the shelf heights, nailed in the shelf supports, and we were finished! Now you can actually see all of the books and games we have, and there’s even some space left over! When Joe came over later, we asked him if he regretted doubting us. He said yes, but who knows. I’m just happy that we didn’t talk ourselves up and then get stuck and have to ask for help.

​I’m pretty sure that I got food poisoning yesterday… I don’t know how, but I feel horrible and it makes the most sense.

The only picture I have from church… I don’t really like taking pictures there, but I’ll try to get a better one next week. You can see how cool the setting is though. I love that it’s outside (except for when I’m sweating my brains out, then I momentarily hate that it’s outside)

We woke up around 8AM, ate breakfast, and Nico, Isabel, and I went to church. We went back to Agnes’s church since Amber and I liked it so much last time. Somehow, in two weeks they made huge changes including adding a sound system, drumset, keyboard, and electric guitar into the mix. I was a little bummed because I think I liked it more when it was so simple, but I still enjoyed the service. This week, they talked about how we all have a purpose. God knows what the purpose is, and he’ll reveal it when the time is right. We just need to trust Him, even when it seems like things aren’t going well, because the promise of the future is better than any pain and hard times in the present.

By the time we left church, I was already starting to feel a little icky. I thought that I had a stomachache because I was hungry, but that definitely wasn’t it. After lunch, I just started feeling worse and worse. My stomach felt out of sorts in both directions, I had a headache, and my whole body hurt. Nico, Isabel, and I tried to play Monopoly, and I lasted maybe 20 minutes before saying that I couldn’t keep going. I laid down on our “couch” and passed out. I had a fever and don’t remember much from the rest of the night, aside from people coming over, touching my head, and saying “oh yeah, she’s definitely warm.”

During the night, my fever broke, but we James, Nico, and I still went to the clinic this morning to get tested for malaria, just to be sure (Nico isn’t feeling great either, and James was kind enough to chaperone the invalids). The test for malaria is a finger prick, and they put some dyes on your blood and check it out under a microscope. Nico and I were both negative, thank goodness. The final decision was that it’s something food related, so they gave us some antibiotics and fever reducers and sent us on our way.

I’ve been a total bum today, but I feel like it’s acceptable because I still feel horrible. During our time at the clinic, I was pretty sure my stomach was going to fall out. It’s like a washing machine in there. Nico and I went to soccer training with James just to watch and get out of the house, and I had to leave after about 30 minutes. Hopefully these meds start to kick in soon.

Just to add to the great feelings, Isabel left today for the Gold program because she wants to do childcare and teaching, and we only have the option for teaching here. This last week has been too much. Everyone is leaving, and it’s all happening too close together to give any time to emotionally recover.

Tonight is Nico’s last night, so we were planning to have a mini-bonfire. I’m not sure that’s going to happen anymore since it’s been raining for a few hours now. We’ll probably just hang out on the porch and play some games while pretending that he’s not actually leaving.

​Church today was awesome!! Amber and I went with Agnes, our cook. I don’t know if the one that we went to last week is atypical, but at this church, they had someone translating. We asked after the service if they usually say everything in Ewe and English, and they said, “if we have visitors”… so they just did it for us. It was so nice! Actually understanding some amount of what is happening makes a huge difference. Nico went to another church, and he said that when he got there, they asked for a volunteer from the congregation to sit with him and translate. I guess the one we went to last week really wasn’t the best place to start.

This service was more similar to what I’m used to at home. The whole thing was about an hour and a half. We started off by praying individually about a few different things. I prayed silently but everyone else was shouting theirs out which was pretty cool. I obviously didn’t understand any of it, but you could tell that they were praising God wholeheartedly. We moved into some singing which was all in Ewe, and Amber and I joined in with the clapping. Next, they asked any new people to stand up so that they could be welcomed… it was nice and awkward because it was just Amber and me… and there was some time to walk around and shake hands and greet one another. Then there was more singing, the sermon, singing and offering, and the end!

The church location was cool too because it was just a bunch of chairs outside under a tree, and there was a box of instruments that people could take to participate in the music. The whole atmosphere was really chill, and I felt comfortable there, unlike the last church where I felt out of place and lost the entire time.

Our backyard chickens hiding from the rain

The sermon was also exactly what I needed to hear. The pastor talked about how when things are going poorly in your life, it’s easy to remember and call on God and the people who support you through the hard times. Then, once things are going well, you forget about God and take those people for granted again. It’s completely true, and it was a good reminder for me right now.

After church, the rest of the day was mostly uneventful. We went to half of the soccer game until it started raining, and then we sat at home, ate cookies, and drank hot chocolate. Those are the best rainy day activities, in my opinion. If only I also had a couch, fuzzy blanket, and big screen tv…

​This was our first Sunday in Frankadua, so Amber, Nico, and I did what everyone else in town was doing and went to church (after managing to drag ourselves out of bed… my whole body is aching). Church here is quite different than it is at home. Well, at least as far as I could tell, but the whole thing was in Ewe so maybe it was more similar than I think..? But probably not.

The first difference was the length of the service. At home, it’s an hour to an hour and a half. Here, the one we went to today was 3 hours. 3 HOURS. Yes, you read that right. We got there around 9:15 (it started at 9), and people kept trickling in until at least 10:30. Things were still in full swing when we left at 11:30, and I’m pretty sure that it ends at 12. So I guess that’s one similarity and one difference –the service is longer, and just like at home, everyone is late.

Next, there was WAY more singing. It seemed like people were just randomly deciding who was going to start each song, but there must have been some sort of method to it. Sometimes it was the choir, sometimes the people in the front right area, sometimes a group of people from the audience went up. I definitely don’t understand.

The coolest part was when they took offering. They put a bowl at the front of the room, and everyone sang and danced their way up to put their money in the bowl. After everyone was done, the singing and dancing kept going, complete with people running up and down the center aisle, one with a baby strapped to her back (who amazingly slept through the whole thing). It was awesome.

Finally, around about 10AM, they did a couple of scripture readings in English, and a woman delivered what I assume was the message for the day. Every once in a while, she said a few words in English. Not sure if that was for our benefit or if that’s a normal occurrence, but we were definitely the only people there who couldn’t understand Ewe.

Anyway, the whole thing was quite an experience. We went to the church that is associated with the school where we have summer school, but there are a TON of churches in town to choose from. I think I’m going to try to go to a different one each time we’re in Frankadua on Sunday, and I’m interested to see how similar/different they are to each other.

I wish I had gotten a picture as soon as everyone stormed the field, but I was too caught off guard to react quickly. This is after most of the people cleared, but you can still see some running around

The other activity of the day was watching a soccer game (my favorite thing… not). The Frankadua team was playing against one of the best teams in Ghana. Apparently a bunch of the other team’s players are on the Ghanaian national team, so this was a big deal. Fernanda, Amber, Nico, and I got there just before halftime, and Frankadua was down 1-0.

With about 10 minutes left in the second half, Frankadua scored!! Everyone stormed the field like we had just won the game. It was insane. People were running around like chickens with their heads cut off for at least 5 minutes, and I’m sitting there thinking, “aren’t there still 10 minutes left?” I don’t know if goals are always celebrated that enthusiastically or if that was just because of the importance of the game, but it was pretty crazy.

The post game celebration… Just mentally overlay a crazy amount of noise, and you’ll have an accurate depiction of the scene

At the end, with a score of 1-1, the celebration resumed with singing and dancing and people playing drums and trumpets and one annoying vuvuzela. From the looks of the party, you would think we had won the game, and when we left about 15 minutes later, it was still going strong.

All in all, I think today was a pretty good day for my cultural education. Even though I only understood about five words at church and am not the biggest soccer fan, it was really fun doing normal things and feeling like part of the community.