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.

​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.

If there’s such a thing as a perfect day, today might have been it. One aspect of my time here that I really haven’t talked about yet is the other volunteers. People are here from all over the world, and getting to know them has been a lot of fun. I’m constantly amazed by how well we can relate to one another even when we come from such different places. I also feel like I’ve known them all for much longer than 5 days… Just seeing that number is kind of throwing me off. But when you live and work together, friendships develop much faster than in normal life, and the group dynamic right now is incredibly good.

A few people left this week, but I want to briefly mention the ones who are sticking around so that I can refer to them by name. Two volunteers were already in the house when we got there, Avy (Hong Kong) and Fernanda (Mexico). They both played big roles in getting the summer school going and are awesome with the kids. Amber (Belgium), Maria (Portugal), and Nicolas (France) started at the same time as I did, and they all work at the farm with me in the mornings. Nicolas and I are teaching buddies, and Maria and I have been running together. Amber is helping at the medical clinic.

They’re all absolutely hilarious, and we also work well together which is a huge blessing. People share ideas and help each other, and we can be far more effective in helping the kids because of that.

Anyway, back to business. At the farm this morning, Nicolas showed us how to plant some seeds that he brought from France. We spent a couple hours making “nests” for the seeds- digging a hole and loosening the dirt inside of it to make it easier for the new plants to break through and grow roots. It wasn’t as labor intensive as the other days which was a welcome break.

Our fantastic hokey pokey lesson
Then, school went so well!! We’ve been working on coming up with more fun ways of teaching the kids. We did the hokey pokey to help teach them about nouns, adjectives, and verbs in English class and did some activities with shapes in Math. The kids were so good and I think they had fun and learned a thing or two.

After class, Maria had face paint that she used to give them some war paint, and they absolutely loved it. Seeing them get excited about such “little” things definitely makes you stop and think. Something may seem small to you, but you don’t know how it looks to someone else. In my mind, it was so simple, but for those kids, that was a big thing. It makes me rethink my previous ideas about not being able to make a real difference in such a small time. I think that you have to live as if your every action will have some lasting impact on the people around you, and whether it’s positive or negative is up to you.

Some of the kids showing off their war paint
The rest of the day was spent hanging out, watching the Frankadua soccer team play against a neighboring town, and after dark, having a farewell bonfire for the volunteers who are leaving this weekend. A bunch of the kids and locals came too, and the night was filled with Ghanaian music and dancing and good conversations.


This weekend, we’re headed to Cape Coast to do some touristing. I should go pack before it gets much later! So much for getting to bed early… (it’s almost midnight)