Happy Birthday Avy!

 

Piglets!!!

It’s Avy birthday!! Woowoowoo!! Guess what her most exciting birthday present was? Malaria! Yup, I couldn’t make that up. She hasn’t been feeling very well recently, so she took a trip to the clinic this morning to get tested. She only has one plus (out of four), so it’s the least severe, but it’s still malaria. I have to say that she’s handling it quite well. She said, “I’ve been saying that I want to get malaria just once before I leave because the kids get it all the time, and I want to know what it feels like. So I guess this is just the universe giving me a twisted birthday present.” Like I said, she’s handing it well. She’s also taking a lot of drugs, so I think that helps.

Look how tall the corn is! 5′-7″ Lara shown for reference.

Speaking of birthdays, we had a surprise at the farm this morning… PIGLETS!! 10 of them! They were born last night, and they’re adorable. Okay, that’s not totally true. They’re pretty weird looking, and they’re still working on the whole “moving” thing… think robot hairless cats. But not a new, high-tech robot. More like a robot with some loose wires that looks like it might collapse at any second. If my judgement wasn’t clouded by the fact that they’re baby animals and, as such, are automatically considered cute, I would probably say that they’re kind of gross looking. No worries though, I’m sure they’ll grow into adorable little piggies! Besides watching the pigs, we did more machete weeding, but that’s really not important.

On the walk home after dropping off the sawdust. Check out that sky!

In the afternoon, Joe came by with 5 ½ big bags of sawdust for us to take to the farm for the piglets. I tried to carry mine on my head with no hands and totally failed. Joe said that my hair moves too much, and I think that’s true. It slides around on top of my head when it’s in a ponytail. The only way I’ll be able to perfect the head-carrying technique is to cut my hair off or get cornrows. Ugh. I’ll keep working on an alternate plan because neither of those are options. Meanwhile, John was riding a child-sized bike with his sawdust sack on his head like it was no big deal. I asked him how and he said, “you just put it on your head and ride.” Great, thanks. That’s my new ultimate goal, but I’m not under any misconception that I’ll be able to get there without intensive training and probably without living here for another 20 years. Luckily, a yevu (white person) carrying anything on his or her head, even with hands, really excites the locals, so we gained a lot of fans as we walked through the village.

Village cake. The best thing ever.

Village cake, post additional nutella decorations. The cake lady was upset that we didn’t give her any coloring to make the icing flashy, but I think it was better this way. Mosquito candle on the side.

I had to run over to the cake lady’s house when we got back from the farm to pick up the cake. When I got back to the house, I sent spies in to verify Avy’s location and creeped in the back door. We left it in the other girls’ room until after dinner when Yara and Lily brought it out with a lit mosquito candle for Avy to blow out (we have birthday candles, but Avy is the only one who knows where they are which obviously doesn’t help). All of my fears about her catching on to our plans were totally unnecessary. She had no idea! I also made her a card and had all of the current volunteers sign it, plus asked the past volunteers I know to send me notes from them to write in. It all ended up working out so well!

We had a chill night in after that (mostly because the cake was amazing but sooo heavy and none of us could move), just playing cards and hanging out. It reminded me of the early days of being here when we used to play cards all the time and were always spending time all together. It was really nice. I can’t speak for Avy, but in my opinion (which is clearly the most important in this situation), it was a successful birthday!

Machete Day!!

​When we got to the farm this morning and John asked me if we wanted to use the hoes or the machetes, I thought it had to be a trick question. Why on earth would he think for a second that we would choose the hoes? I instantly answered, “machetes,” without even consulting the others, but luckily they confirmed later that they all wanted the same thing. Phew.

Kind of “before” picture… More like an “in progress after I realized I hasn’t taken a before picture” picture.

After


It’s a good hint that we’re going to get to do something fun with the machetes when they take the time to sharpen them. When we do things like sowing corn with them, there’s no need for them to be sharp. When we do things like chopping down dead corn stalks, we need sharp machetes. Today, we got to chop down tall weeds in another field that I didn’t know was part of our farm. I really need to stop pretending that I know anything about where our farm starts and ends because every time I’m sure I’ve finally gotten it, we go somewhere else that I didn’t know existed and my head explodes. It’s painful having your head explode so many times… but seriously, how could we have gone 6 weeks in the same parts of the farm and now in the last 4, the area we’ve covered has at least doubled what I knew about before? Sorry, I digress.
We got to chop down some tall weeds, and chopping things with a machete is one of my favorite farm activities. I feel like I’m doing what I was born for (this is the Ghanaian inside of me talking). It really is satisfying though… until you look down and realize that you have a million blisters and your hands hate you. This is another one of those “Did I have gloves? Yes. Did I wear my gloves? Of course not.” situations.

I obviously didn’t take any pictures of the work we did at the clinic… But I did take this picture of some of the adorable kittens they currently have there. Priorities.

I was feeling invigorated when we left the farm, which was good because the next stop after breakfast was the clinic for another day of construction work. The task of the day was to make more blocks! Nick, James, and I got to help mix the cement/sand/water together, pack it into the molds to make the block shape, and push perfectly formed blocks like little concrete [sand]castles onto the ground to dry. Nick and I missed some of the beginning work because of the farm, but we spent about 3 hours there and made 300 blocks total! How did my hands feel by the end? Ha. Haha. Hahaha. Horrible. But you can’t show weakness in front of the guys! So I pretended I was fine and tried to adjust what I was doing so that I could spread the abuse out over my whole hand.
You’ll also be happy to know that the “Princess” nickname is now officially a thing. ALL of the masons have started calling me Princess Lara, plus some other various people in town. I just go along with it because that’s way easier than trying to fight it. Plus, who doesn’t want to be a princess?

Everyone went to Juapong in the afternoon because it’s market day there! A bunch of us wanted to buy fabric, and Avy’s birthday is tomorrow, so I had to secretly buy supplies for her surprise birthday cake. I got in touch with the same woman who made the cake for Evans’s birthday, and this time I asked for it to just be a chocolate cake because the last one was a swirl, and the chocolate part was so much better (though they were both good). Anyway, I was hoping that Avy wouldn’t come with us, but no such luck. Instead, we had to make up some clever stories to split up and sneak around the market, hoping she wouldn’t see us. There was one close call when I was trying to buy eggs and had to stop mid-sentence to run away from the egg stand, but I think we’re okay. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow! And hopefully she’s a good sport and plays along even if she knows.

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!