New Volunteers… Huh?

Guess what time of the month it is? New volunteer time! How weird is that? Here I am, getting ready to leave, and we have three new people who I’ll see for three days. To them, I’ll be that girl whose name they can’t remember but oh yeah, there was someone here when they arrived who didn’t stick around for long.

I took some final shots of Nico’s plants. Look at how huge the courgette is! No actual food is growing yet though 😦

Yara is having a struggle this week with waking up, so she didn’t make it to the farm again. It was just Nick, Anna, me, and a field of weeds. No no, not a fun machete field of weeds. A not fun hoe field of weeds. It’s really too bad that it wasn’t something exciting because after Yara found out what we did there, she felt like she was the smart one for not going.

I decided that it was in my best interests today to not go to school. As much as I want to pretend I’m not, I’m leaving on Sunday, and I need to start organizing my stuff and pulling myself together. I could put it off, but I know that this is one of those things that always takes longer than you think, and I don’t want to have to spend my entire last weekend packing.

Pumpkin vine! It’s huge too, but no pumpkins yet.

Sure enough, I ended up organizing things for most of the morning. I also took some time to make info sheets for the volunteer binder we’re making. Basically, there’s not much of a system for passing down information, so I’m writing down some notes about the weekend trips and how much tros, hotels, food, etc. cost, where to stay, how to get there, and so on. It seems ridiculous that people have to keep figuring everything out from scratch when there have been plenty of people before them who have done the same things.
The most exciting thing of the day was that Andy has the battery I need! He brought some of those battery powered tea lights for romantic dinners with Gaby (plus a Day of the Dead altar) and had some extra batteries, so he gave me one! I’m going to take it with me to school tomorrow and see if I can get that one computer working 100%. I didn’t know where in Ghana I’d find a 3V puck battery, but I can say that I definitely didn’t expect one of the volunteers to have one.

Andy and Gaby’s Day of the Dead altar, dedicated to Luke and James. They put it out on the porch and the kids got really freaked out by it because you don’t joke about things like spirits and curses and stuff here. I thought it was pretty funny though.

The new volunteers came at around 3PM with Evans. We have three newbies: Ricardo (US, Agriculture!, 2 weeks), Magdalena (Spain, Medical, 2 weeks), and Amy (England, Sports, 1 week). They seem cool, but I’m finding it hard to put in much of an effort considering I’m leaving so soon. Weird. It still hasn’t sunk in yet.

Daylong at the Farm

 

The plants we sowed during my second week are actually growing corn now!!

Goodbye, long weekend. Hello, 5AM wake up for physical labor. These early mornings really don’t get any easier. If anything, they’re getting worse. When Amber and Nico were here, we left the house pretty close to 5:30 each morning. Now, it’s more like 5:45… or so. Ugh it’s just horrible waking up, especially when no one else in my room is getting up (which is just Avy now… Amber used to sleep above me and her bed has become my organizational shelf since she left).
Even worse today was that we had a morning of hoeing around corn again. I definitely don’t mind it mentally like I used to, but my back hates it. We also had the fun challenge of hoeing around the pumpkin and courgette (which I just googled and apparently it’s zucchini… Nico and Amber didn’t know how to translate it into English and I guess I never thought of just looking it up. Yeah I’m going to keep calling it courgette in honor of him.) plants which was hard because they’re huge vines spread all over the ground. The chance of chopping the weeds and not the plants we want is slim, so I mostly left the weeds close to the vine (yes, I realize that kind of defeats the purpose of getting rid of weeds so they don’t steal the nutrients from the good plants, but there’s too much ground to cover and too many plants to get into that level of detail).

Piglets!

The piglets are MUCH cuter than they were on Thursday. These last four days have been good to them. Unfortunately, we’re down to 7 from 10. Hopefully the remaining ones all make it! Life is hard as a newborn piglet. Besides all of the normal struggles that come with just trying to get their bearings in the world, they have other things to worry about… the mother sat on one of them on Thursday. It survived in the short term, but I think that’s probably one of the ones we lost ☹ . Fingers crossed for only good news from the little piggies from here on out.

Before… Only the left side was finished, the front was halfway, and others weren’t even started.

After.. I filled in the front and the right side and worked on the gutter a bit.

In other news, I am finally determined to finish the poop hole (a hole for them to put the pig poop/other organic matter in and eventually use for fertilizer). Previously, I was determined to procrastinate on the poop hole for as long as possible. I think now I’m just sick of it (even more than before), and I don’t want to have to worry about working on it during my last week (which is next week… AHHHH!). I went back in the afternoon and put in a solid two and a half hours of work until it started getting dark. Three out of four sides are finished! I anticipate one more day of work (and by that I mean, I am only working on it one more day and I’ll stay there for as long as I need to in order to finish).
In celebration of my progress, I just had some post-dinner Fan Ice, hot chocolate, and bread. Yes, all at the same time. That’s pretty close to the ultimate Lara food dream, and here it’s probably as close as I’m going to get. I’m going to bed now because I (as you might guess) have a stomachache, and I’d much rather be asleep while my body hates me.

Power Outage

Today. Was. Hot. Okay, to be fair, it wasn’t any hotter than usual, but the power was out all day which means the fans weren’t working which means we were all dying.

Little Nico is getting so big! I think I’ve talked about him before, but this pig just roams free on the farm. They took him out of his pen because the other pigs were eating all of the food and he wasn’t getting any. Amber named him after Nico because why not. Anyway, the time out of the pen has been good for him. He’s bulking up.

Everything was fine when we work up at 5AM to go to the farm. Anna, Nick, and Yara all came today! They were rewarded with a fun-filled morning of hoeing around cassava plants. We chopped all of the weeds and also had to do the thing where you gather some weed fragments and dirt around the base of each to protect the plant and keep the moisture in.
I actually don’t hate hoeing anymore. I mean, I’m never going to celebrate when I see John pull the hoes out of the storage room, but I didn’t mind the work this morning. It seems like that’s the case with most of the farm work… First I hate it, then I don’t mind it, and then I find something that I like less. Currently, hoeing is still at the bottom, but it wasn’t so bad today. It does hurt my back though when we do it too many days in a row.

The corn is getting so big! I’ll have to take a picture with me in it so you can have a height reference.

By the time we got back to the house for breakfast, the power was out. This is pretty normal, so no one thought anything of it until it was STILL out hours later. I don’t think I’ve talked about the power outages since the very first time one of them happened… I would say that we lose power 2-3 times per week, on average. There are some weeks where it seems like it goes out every day. Usually though, it’s back on within an hour or so. This, by the way, is one of those things that I’m just totally used to now. At home, the power goes out and people freak out. Here, the power goes out, I go to my room to get my flashlight, and we all go on doing whatever we were doing before.
Anyway, today the power was out in the whole town for the ENTIRE day. We were all laying around trying to make do with paper fans and ice cream. The word on the street was that it got shut off because they were doing some work, so I was hoping that meant it would be back on once it got dark. No such luck. It came on for about 10 seconds at 6PM, just long enough for everyone to celebrate, before going back out again until 8PM. I’m just happy that it was on before bedtime because sleeping here without a fan = the sweatiest night of your life.

Parent Teacher Meeting

​The morning started off with hoeing again, and this time was even worse than yesterday. With the eggplants, all we had to do was kill the weeds. Today, we were working around the corn, and we had to kill the weeds and move them/some dirt around the base of each corn stalk to help keep the moisture in and protect the plants. There are so many plants because they’re only about a foot apart, and the progress was incredibly slow. At least Clarina and Anna were there with me because it would have been a million times worse by myself. All I can say is, no one is going to complain about sowing again after this.

The whole school in one classroom for worship. I’m still not sure that you can see from this picture how crazy packed the room is.

School was a little different today because it was the parent teacher meeting (during school hours, of course). Avy and I helped in P3 for part of the morning because their teacher was at the meeting (along with all of the other teachers as well, but we can’t teach 8 classes), and I eventually went to sit in at the meeting. Even though every meeting I’ve been to here has been exhausting, I think it’s important for us to have at least one person representing the group at them. Then it’s more like we’re trying to be a part of the community rather than just existing alongside it.

The parent teacher meeting was no exception; it was long and exhausting. The difference with this one was that it was in Ewe, so I didn’t understand anything. The headmaster sat next to me and translated a little bit, but it was more like people would talk for 10 minutes and he would turn to me and say, “now they’re talking about PTA dues”. Ten minutes later, “they’re still talking about PTA dues”. Ten minutes later, “now they’re telling the parents that they should make sure their kids have all the school supplies they need.” So even with that, I still didn’t really know what was happening.

Our workshop

I stayed for about 2 hours until lunchtime when I was happy to have an excuse to duck out. At that point, they were just electing PTA officials (aka probably nominating people for jobs they didn’t want), so I didn’t feel bad leaving. All in all though, I felt like it was a productive meeting. There were maybe 80 parents there… they told us to expect 30, so I thought that was pretty good! The parents also mostly seemed attentive and engaged (though I don’t know what they were saying so I could be wrong). I left feeling encouraged!

Trying to stabilize the desks and chairs but actually just bending nails.

Avy, Clarina, Anna, Yara, and I went back after school ended to get started on our desk repair project. I think I mentioned this before, but the desks at the school aren’t in very good condition. Many of them are missing pieces and have random nails sticking out, and all of them wobble. We bought some nails last week to see what we could do with those, and if we need to buy some wood in the long run, we’ll do that later.

We had only been working for maybe 20 minutes when some guy randomly came and started helping us. After about an hour, we were out of nails, and Avy went on a quest for more. Our biggest shortage was of hammers, so when she saw a couple of guys carrying shovels, she asked them if they had hammers (because apparently having one tool means that you must have them all). They said yes and that they would bring them to the school. Better yet, they brought their hammers and stayed to help! The one guy was actually a carpenter, so he was awesome and we learned a lot from him.

Some of our unexpected coworkers

The only thing that stopped us was the fact that got dark around 6PM. We weren’t originally planning to stay that long, but when you have 4 local volunteers helping and there’s a lot being accomplished, you don’t stop until you have to. We fixed all of the desks in the P2 room, plus the ones from the rest of the school that were in really bad shape. Some of them are definitely in need of additional wood. We’ll take an inventory of the pieces that are missing or broken and see how much it will cost to replace them. The nails went a long way though, so we’ll call it a successful day! It was nice to do something helpful that wasn’t expensive, and it was even better because we had some people from the community working with us.

Food Donation to Pink

It was back to the farm this morning! The only person who came with me today was Anna, and I give her credit for sticking with it. She was rewarded with a fun morning of… hoeing! My old friend, how I’ve missed you. We hoed around some eggplants, and at one point she said, “I wish we were planting corn.” Ha! She now understands my opinion about the four days of sowing last week. It wasn’t actually that horrible because there weren’t too many weeds to cut through, and the field we were working on was small enough to finish in one day.

This is the school at the Pink program orphanage.

We had a fun day ahead after breakfast! Yesterday, some of the other volunteers went to the farm and picked eggplants from the field we planted corn over to be taken to one of the other orphanages supported by our organization (the Pink program). We had a whole crew with us for this trip – Anna, Yara, Clarina, Evans, Joe, Jamie, and me. We took a tro to the town where the orphanage is, Dodowa, and from there, everyone except for Evans and me packed into a taxi with the food for the last part of the trip. He and I walked about 20-25 minutes to get there, which wasn’t too bad except that it was really hot, the sun was out, and there was NO shade.

Front row – Jamie, Clarina, Anna Back row – Yara, me, and the second-in-command at the orphanage

After making the donation, we ate lunch with the two Pink volunteers before heading back to Frankadua. Evans went back to Accra, Joe had already left, and Jamie was transferring to Pink, so our group was down to Anna, Yara, Clarina, and me. We took a tro to Kpong and then had to switch to another one for the rest of the trip. The second tro sat in the station for probably 45 minutes until it filled up, which once upon a time might have bothered me, but now I’m the queen of patience. It didn’t hurt that a bofrot lady AND a fan ice guy came by around the same time, so I double fisted a donut and some ice cream and was perfectly content to wait.

After we got back, we all practiced carrying things on our head! I’m determined to figure it out.

When we finally got back, James said that he went to the clinic again, and he does have malaria. It’s a mild case – they rank it out of 4 pluses with 4 being the worst, and he only had 1 plus. Still though, it’s miserable. He’s taking the anti-malaria meds that you’re supposed to take, but they don’t actually guarantee that you won’t get malaria. If you get it, it’s just usually a milder case than it could have been. Some people don’t take them because they “don’t really work”, but my opinion is that it’s not worth taking the chance, and anything is better than nothing. Hopefully he starts getting better soon because it’s definitely not fun.

Goodbye Tolu

 

Can you spot the eggplants? So many weeds.

Happy goodbye week! Tolu left today, so now we’re down to six of us in the house. There’s still enough going on that you can kind of look past the fact that people are leaving, but I know that won’t last much longer. It’s just a matter of days before the house is practically empty.

Look at our pumpkin plant!!!

The morning started off with hoeing, so I could already tell that it wasn’t going to be a great day. We were back to doing the first field that we did our very first week here, but the weeds this time were even more intense. I seriously can’t believe that I once said shucking corn was worse than hoeing. I must have been delusional! Hoeing is the actual worst because at the end, your back aches, you feel like you barely covered any ground, and you can practically already see the weeds growing back.

It’s a work in progress…

Nico and I stayed late to start installing things in the hole! It’s exciting to do something besides digging, and this part is fun because it’s so much easier to see progress. We put three of the walls in so far, and I think we have a plan for how the roof and the roof supports are going to work. All I can say is, the finished product is definitely not going to be pretty or elegant, but it will be the prettiest poop hole (it’s to convert the farm’s pig poop into fertilizer) in all of Ghana. Hm… that’s kind of a bold claim. I can guarantee that it’ll at least be the prettiest poop hole in all of Frankadua and potentially Ghana and who knows maybe even West Africa.

Nico flirting with the pigs

Tolu left after lunch, and instead of a tro, some businessman in a shiny car (that probably even had working air conditioning!) pulled over and agreed to take him to the airport for only a little more than it would have cost in a tro. Whatttt?!?!? Joe said that sometimes random people will pick up passengers to help pay for gas on longer trips. So basically Tolu hitchhiked to Accra. After Joe explained it, we all kind of looked at him like, “what? Are you sure he’s going to be okay?”, and Joe said, “it’s fine, I could tell the man was good.” Hm. Okay. We have a lot of T.I.A. (This Is Africa) moments here. Basically anytime something happens that is so beyond our realm of comprehension that we have no response, we just say “T.I.A.” and accept it.

Front – Avy, Tolu, Isabel Back – Nico, Amber, me

To continue the happiness and good feelings (sarcasm) that were going on when we got back inside the house, Isabel chose that moment to tell us that she’s leaving tomorrow to go to the Gold program because she wants to do childcare, and we don’t have that here. I spent about half an hour trying to convince her through songs that she should stay (aka I searched “stay” on my phone and played every song that has it in the title) before accepting defeat and the next half hour telling her that Gold has more lizards and spiders and snakes and that they have to carry their shower water half an hour from the well (all true statements). So I guess the leaving parade will continue tomorrow. Ugh.

Mouse Funeral

​I feel about a million times better today. Somehow, after I slept for like 8 hours during the day yesterday, I still managed to sleep through the night with no trouble at all. I guess that means I really needed it and I should probably be getting to bed earlier. I’m still wearing my glasses just in case I did scratch my cornea, but my eye already feels a lot better.

Amber had a bit of a traumatic morning. We have a mouse problem in the house, so they recently set a bunch of traps, including one glue trap. I’m personally not a big fan of glue traps because it takes so long for the mouse to die, and this morning, there was one stuck in it. Amber decided that she was going to save it, so she put on gloves, pulled it off the trap, and tried to clean the glue off. That failed miserably since they use ultra-sticky glue on those things, but she did her best and then put it in a tub to bring to the farm with us. About halfway there, she checked on the mouse, and it was dead. It definitely suffocated in the tub… so it wasn’t exactly the most successful rescue, but at least she tried? When I went to dump the body in the woods, it was completely stuck to the tub. That mouse didn’t stand a chance in the wild. I would say it’s the thought that counts, but in this case, I really don’t think that applies.

Sunset pic from my run!

We hoed at the farm and had classes afterwards, but the mouse was probably the most eventful part of the day until around 3PM when new volunteers came! I was a little nervous because things have been going so well with our group for the last few weeks, but after meeting the new people, I’m feeling confident that the group dynamic is going to be totally fine. We have three new people: James (UK, 8 weeks), Sosane (UK, 3 weeks), and Isabel (Canada, 1 week). It’s kind of weird timing because we’re all leaving for the weekend tomorrow, with the newbies headed to Cape Coast and the rest of us going to Ada Foah.

Time to go pack! It should be a cool weekend.