New Volunteers!

​I had such a productive morning! I took a little time to sleep in (ah, the luxury!) before getting up, sweeping the whole house and the porch, doing a big load of laundry, and sitting to wait for the new volunteers. Nick was sending me text updates of their location throughout the morning, and I got more and more excited with each passing minute. Okay, I’ll be honest… I was mostly excited for the oatmeal butterscotch cookies my mom baked and sent with Nick (thanks Mom!!), but I was also at least a little excited to see him.

When the tro pulled up and I saw him through the window, I realized just how much I had been looking forward to him coming. I’m enjoying meeting so many new people here, but there’s something special about sharing a new experience with an old friend. I spent the rest of the day helping the new volunteers get acclimated, catching up with Nick, and continuing to organize myself and my stuff. Oh yeah… and eating cookies. So many cookies! I think I’m going to gain back the 20 pounds I’ve lost since I got here.

The new volunteers are Nick (!!!, USA, Sports, 8 weeks), Luke (UK, Sports, 2 weeks), Gaby (Mexico, Medical, 4 weeks), Andy (UK, Medical, 4 weeks), and Lily (Australia, Teaching, 4 weeks). The house is getting filled up! We have 10 people now. I’m happy to say that since we only have 6 girls, 4 are in the other room because it’s bigger, and Avy and I still have our own room! I think this is going to be a good group.

Goat, Cake, and Computers

I had a chance to redeem myself at the farm today. We had to finish sowing the rest of the field, so I promised myself that I would be more careful and went for it. Today it felt like I was born with a machete in my hand, and I made it through the morning without any major injuries.

Hole progress shot!

Nico and I stayed after again to keep working on the poop hole (a place for them to convert pig poop into fertilizer for the farm). It must seem like this is taking forever, but you have to understand our circumstances. First, the dirt is more like clay, so it’s heavier and stickier than regular dirt. Second, the tools we have aren’t exactly ideal. We consistently have two shovels. One is sharp and somewhat effective at cutting through the soil, but it has a broken handle which is only about 1’-6” long. The other is completely worthless for cutting through soil. It has to be really loose and soft in order to get anything onto the shovel. We also have a pickaxe, so usually we use that first to dig up the ground and then go through afterwards with the shovels. It’s slow work. One time, we also had an unbroken, effective shovel, but apparently someone borrowed that one and hasn’t given it back yet. I honestly think that with good shovels, we would finish this hole in half the time that it’s taken us. But alas, we don’t have good shovels, and so here we are, making progress at a slow crawl.

Once we couldn’t take any more digging, Nico and I headed back to the house, ate breakfast, and headed back out, this time to EP. During our meeting on Tuesday, the principal brought up the fact that only two of their computers (out of either 8 or 10, I’m not sure) were working by the end of the year and asked if anyone could help fix them. Nico and I volunteered even though neither of us would claim to have advanced computer fixing knowledge, but we figured that we probably know more than most people in Frankadua. Either way, it was worth seeing what we could do to help.


The lab with Nico hard at work

When we got into the “computer lab”, it was pretty clear why none of the computers were working. I don’t think that a single one of them had the computer connected to a monitor, and half of the computers and monitors weren’t plugged in. The other half were plugged into power strips that didn’t work. We managed to get three working right away, just from correcting the plug situation. We opened up another computer and basically played spot the differences with one of the computers that worked. Each time we saw something that was different, we stole a part from another computer or tweaked whatever needed tweaking until it matched. Neither of us had any clue what we were doing, but we got another computer to start working! Now we have four that turn on, and all of them have some software bugs that need to be worked out. I’m feeling pretty good about what we’ve done so far though, and I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get them running smoothly.

My new laundry setup

The entire afternoon was spent on laundry. I finally think I’ve perfected the technique. Step 1 was an overnight soak of EVERYTHING which helped with the smell issues. Then I had three buckets, one soap and two rinse, so that I can actually get the suds out of everything. Finally, I bought a laundry bar (basically a bar of soap) that smells awesome, and I scrubbed the crap out of everything with it. After I was finished, my clothes actually smelled good! Unlike last time, but we don’t talk about that anymore. I’m a hand washing laundry pro (though all of the kids still laughed at me because it took me so long).

Happy birthday Evans!

Right as I was wrapping up my laundry, the new volunteers arrived! We have two new people, Isabel (US, 10 weeks, teaching) and Tolu (Canada, 1 week, medical). I’m feeling good about them already. They kind of had to just jump right in because we were celebrating Evans’s birthday (he’s on staff with the organization). Sosane found a woman in town who could bake a cake (apparently she has a tin oven in.her house?), and she and Avy shopped for ingredients for a birthday cake for him. It looked funny, but it tasted awesome.

The cake in all of its glory

Somehow, the mini birthday party evolved into a real party because James, Nico, and Amber bought a goat and they were cooking it on the front porch. I guess everyone invited a few people because before we knew it, the entire porch was filled with people, some from the farm, some from the clinic, some just from around town. There, of course, was also a bonfire. I don’t think anyone was planning on having an actual party, but I’m glad it happened because it ended up being a lot of fun. There’s nothing like an impromptu goat party to kick off the weekend!

Reunion in P3/P4!

​We had a new task at the farm today! It’s always exciting when we get to do something different, and this time it was putting fertilizer around the eggplants. John showed us how they usually do it, by digging a hole about a finger length from the plant and putting some fertilizer in. Nico immediately disapproved. He said that there are two problems with doing it that way. First, if none of the roots are under the hole you dig, all of the fertilizer is just wasted. Second, if some of the roots ARE under the hole, the fertilizer might be too much for them and they’ll burn. So either way, it’s really not the best thing for the plant. Nico told us to dig more of a U-shaped trench around the stem and put the fertilizer in there. He still wasn’t completely happy with that solution, and we decided that we needed to have a farm meeting later to talk about what to do in the future.

Fertilizer loop

School was also exciting because Nico and I were reunited! Isabel and Sosane took over P2 for me, and I got to move back up to P3/P4! I was happy to be back, but at the same time, I was in the groove of teaching P2. It’s hard to adjust between teaching the different levels because you have to re-learn where the kids are skill-wise and adjust your thinking.
I read the kids a story in English class, and we asked them questions about it to work on reading comprehension. The story was taken from one of their textbooks, but honestly, the writing in the books is so bad that I don’t know how the kids are supposed to learn how to write properly. I read it out loud and modified it as I went so that it would make sense. Besides the numerous grammatical issues, some parts were so unclear that I didn’t understand what they were even trying to say. I wish I could just go through the book with a red pen and correct everything.

Our corn is growing! You can see the rows of little corn plants

The afternoon was spent doing laundry. I think that #1 on my list of things I miss from home is a washing machine. The list really isn’t that long, but laundry definitely makes the cut (also, seat belts, clean fingernails, flush toilets, and recycling). It probably took me 2-3 hours, and I can’t confidently say that any of my clothes are any cleaner than they were when I started. Hooray!
We had our farm meeting after dinner, and Nico presented his case against the single hole fertilizer technique. Joe (the guy in charge of the farm and logistics at the volunteer house) and John agreed to let us use Nico’s U technique instead. Nico also wanted to talk about a new way to use the pig poop (he’s an agricultural engineer, so unlike me he knows something about plants). They’re currently gathering it and using it somewhat, but he wants to dig a new hole for it (aka a new poop pit) and said that theyneed to mix in dry and wet leaves to make it a really good natural fertilizer for the farm. Apparently the soil is already good here, so he thinks that between that and the pig poop mixture, they won’t need to buy fertilizer anymore. They agreed to give it a try which is exciting but also means that we now have to dig a 3m x 3m x 1.5m hole. Things to look forward to! We’ll start Thursday afternoon probably.

Tonight we’re going to a birthday bonfire for one of the guys on the soccer team. It seems like every celebration here involves a bonfire… That’s great and all, but I wish that every bonfire also came with s’mores because seriously, how much better would that be? I should start bringing supplies with me so that when everyone else is drinking their beers, I can be chowing down on toasted marshmallows. Yummm.

Aw Shucks

​Guess what we did at the farm this morning?? My favorite thing… more shucking!! In case you didn’t catch the sarcasm, let me make it very clear. Shucking is the worst. At least today I sat on a brick rather than the ground, so it was a little harder for bugs to climb all over me. With each piece of corn, I felt like I was opening a present that might be great (a critter-free cob) or might be horrifying (BUGS). Just thinking about it is giving me the chills. So. Many. Ants. And little larvae worms. And eggs. And other mystery insects. But on the bright side, food for the orphanage! Obviously not including the ants or worms or eggs.

The morning was made even worse by the fact that I wasn’t feeling great. I think I might have overdone it a little on the s’mores last night… It’s okay though, I’m recovered now. No regrets! Especially when it comes to s’mores.

The laundry setup… Doesn’t the water look fully capable of making things clean? Just kiddinggg

We don’t have summer school on Fridays, so when we got back from the farm and finished breakfast, it was time for my first laundry experience. I put it off as long as possible, but it definitely needed to happen today. The process is what you would expect… you have a pile of dirty clothes, two buckets, and some detergent. One bucket is filled with soapy water and the other is filled with clean. You wash clothes in the soapy bucket and rinse in the clean water bucket until the water is gross, then the clean bucket becomes the soap bucket, and you get new clean water. If it seems like your clothes are definitely not getting clean, then you’re doing it right. I am also fairly certain that I didn’t get all of the soap out of anything. Yayyyy for “clean” clothes! I only have to do this about 5 more times, so I’ll survive (but my clothes may have to be burned after this trip).

Clean laundry hanging out to dry!

Once my laundry was finished and hanging up to dry, Nico, Maria, Fernanda, and I took a group trip to the clinic to visit Amber and check things out. It was cool getting to see what Amber does every day. They also had a scale there, so I weighed myself just to see if I’m eating enough. I’m really hoping that the scale is calibrated WAY differently from the one at home because according to it (after some kg to lb conversions), I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last two weeks. That makes me nervous. It’s okay though! I’ll just have to make some adjustments to my diet moving forward. Better to find out now.

Me, Maria, Nico, and Fernanda with the Frankadua sign on our walk home from the clinic

The moment we had all been ignoring came after lunch… Today was Maria’s last day with us, and she had to leave to head to Accra around 1:30. Saying goodbye to her was a real bummer. I know that this is just the first in a long line of goodbyes that I’ll have to deal with during my time here, and I don’t like thinking about that. I also know that with each new group of volunteers, the dynamic in the house is going to change. I don’t really like thinking about that either. What we have going right now is so close to perfect… I just need to make sure that I’m savoring every moment. And of course the new people could make things even better, but the uncertainty is a little nerve wracking.

Our farewell picture with Maria 😦 (front row: Avy, Maria, Fernanda, back row: me, Nico, Amber)

It already felt different as we walked back to the house. Crazy how big of a difference one person can make. We haven’t had a chance to feel the full weight of Maria’s absence though because right before she left, three volunteers from the Gold program came to spend the weekend with us. With all of the extra people in the house, it’s easy to get distracted by the chaos.

The rest of the day has been mostly uneventful. Fernanda and I went on a quest for wifi, and while we found some, it was painfully slow, and I couldn’t upload any pictures. I think I’ve figured out the situation for uploading pictures on my phone though, so that’s good! It’s a slow process, but I used it for my last few posts and it seems like it’s working.

Anyway, we’re headed to Wli Waterfalls tomorrow and have to get up at 4:45AM (!!!), so I need to get packed and in bed ASAP.