Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We Embark on Our Final Retreat and Dance Away Our Final Dinner

Oh so near the end… Ugh, can’t talk about that yet.  Let’s just focus on the fun stuff that’s happened these last few days.

Another quiet, but productive morning finishing the last blog update, my awards, reading, and listening to music.  Joined Margot and Nathan for a quick lunch, then the three of us retreated to Margot’s room to send an email to Margot’s contact for Awa, and I stole music from Nathan (that boy has so much stinkin’ music!!!) ^^  At 3:30, we regrouped under the stairs to take pictures with those lovely ladies.  Nancy wasn’t there, but we snapped a few with Bernice and little Ama J  Margot and I then spent the next hour singing and doing laundry.  Wonderful.  ^^
Snowy Mountain curry at Roland’s with that delicious Chinese salad, as well as carrot cake and pumpkin pie for dessert.  Yum! J  Twas our last group dinner… L  But we spent the whole time sharing highlights from Free Week, so it was tons of fun.  Nathan, Margot, and I stayed after to ask Roland about more options for Awa, and he gave them some good sources.  Praying they pan out.  The three of us plus Awa crashed in my room for a bit while they figured some more things out.  I mostly packed while they spoke French, but was just nice to be there. J
Also received four of our six grades tonight.  Happiness. ^^

Internet worked wonderfully for uploading pictures to my blog (so go check those out :P).  Hung out under the stairs with Nathan and then later Margot before we grabbed our bags and piled onto the bus for our final trip to Akropong.  We stopped by the woodcarver’s market where I finished my shopping and my money. ^^”  There was a fun mix up with rooms and the girls nearly had to room in a guest house way down the road from Akrofi (we had even moved in), but we all ended up in the Akrofi dorms, for which I am glad. J
Spent the afternoon reflecting on what we’ve learned this semester and doing charades about how our lives will change when we return home.  Most fun. ^^  Dinner conversation was nearly-falling-off-your-chair hilarious.
In the evening, we had group affirmation.  Oh, I don’t know where to start.  I was so touched by everything everyone said.  I won’t go on about it here, but suffice it to say that if I ever need a pick-me-up, I just need to flip to this page of my journal. ^^
The Ghana awards went wonderfully and people loved them, with the slight hitch that I misplaced Kristi and Nick’s.  I felt horrid, but they were both cool and loved just know what it was.
ALSO, I received an e-mail this morning that Grand Rapids Public Museum wants me to interview for the internship!!! :D

Oh, rough morning.  My stomach was trying to reject something, so I missed most of the Akrofi graduation.  Took an hour-and-a-half nap instead and felt worlds better.
The afternoon was spent speculating on our reception once we return home and evaluating the semester (verbal and written evals!).  Dinner hosted hilarious conversation once again (and there were fries! :D).  Afterwards, Nathan, Anna, and I facilitated a final bible study/worship session where we wrote down (and then burned) a burden we had been carrying in Ghana that we wanted to leave behind.  We broke into groups of three to discuss and pray over them, and then sang songs.  We then gave Roland the Gye Nyame we all signed and watched videos from Free Week.  So fun!
Gave my testimony to the whole group tonight.  It went quite well and good questions were asked.  J  Before bed, Margot and I had a huge heart-to-heart about boys; it was wonderful, but I wish I could give her advice from experience.

Said out goodbyes to Akropong and Akrofi this morning.  I loved the circle of returning at the end of the semester and was sad to leave it; the atmosphere is just so peaceful (and the air so cool! ^^”).
Took a nap upon our return and fooled around until lunch.  I had originally intended to walk to the Night Market, but the moment I walk out the door, it began pouring, so I headed under the stairs for some bread.  Nathan and Margot joined not long after and we spent about an hour bagging bread for Awa and Nancy.  We didn’t really talk, but it was just so peaceful and comfortable.  I never wanted it to end.
I stuck around to walk Nancy, Bernice, and Awa to the final dinner for all our NGOs, professors, and friends.  It was a delightful evening.  Good food, fun dances, so many friends, and much picture-taking.  In one, Bernice and I were sitting and Nancy threw herself down on me to be in the picture, too.  It was adorable, and I was hit by just how much I loved these ladies.  Also, the audience cheered for Nathan and I in Bema (one of the dances).  Nathan said it was because of your sass. :P
Oh!  I also drove Roland’s car because Awa wasn’t feeling well and thus didn’t want to walk the long way back.  I can now say I’ve driven in Ghana!  :D Given, it was on campus, but the cars are still fast and the roads still pretty bad.  I was on such a high afterwards. ^^”
Spent the rest of the night in Nathan’s room with Margot and Awa.  They had intended to set up an email and Skype for Awa, but it turned into a nap-fest. ^^”  With Twizzlers. :P  Good, lazy, reflective conversation, me squatting there for a bit longer than intended because my roommate was AWOL with the room key, then bed about 1.  Good night. J

Quote of the Few Days:
Well, not so much a quote, but just all the lovely things little Ama says.  Whether they are explanations or cute small child talk.  I love her to pieces! ^^

Ways to Pray:
Not that I don’t love all you at home, and I’m sure I will be so excited once my plane touches down, but I am loath to leave Ghana.  With each passing hour, I grow more anxious, because I know many of my adventures and conversations are my last.  I have experienced such selfless and unhindered love from both the ladies here in Ghana and friends within the Calvin group.  I don’t want this atmosphere to end.  So… just prayer for smooth good-byes.  It will be hard, but I want to do them well.

Alright, the next time I post will be in the States!!!  With pictures. J

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Free Week Offers Us Bonfires, Beaches, and Breaking of Rules

Free days!!!  Yup, school is out and I have had about two weeks to do all manner of fun stuff with amazing people.  Every day held something fun and exciting and awesome, so let’s not waste time on prefaces. J

Lazy day!  First in a long while.  The water was running again this morning, so I took a real shower.  So nice. ;)  Stephanie Sandberg, who will be leading next year’s group, is here for about a week to sort out logistics for next Fall, so a bunch of us stood around in the dorm and talked with her in the morning.  I spent the afternoon finishing Fellowship and then napping.
Roland invited us to dinner, so I spent 30 minutes running around the dorm coordinating transportation and times. (Oh, funny story: As soon as Roland and Stephanie left the room this morning, after inviting us to dinner, Ali mouthed “free food,” and all four of them – Ali, Shannon, Paola, and Josh – jumped up simultaneously and did the happy dance.  It was the funniest, most coordinated spontaneous thing I’ve ever seen. ^^”)
We ate at Zion Thai in Osu.  So utterly amazing.  My Pad Thai had the perfect level of spiciness.  Paola’s sweet and sour stir-fry was simply delicious, as was Nathan’s curry.  Gotta love communal eating. ^^”  And the best part: it was free!
And guess what else.  I SKYPED EMILY AND LAUREN TONIGHT!!!!!!!!! :D  Best time ever!  Oh, I miss them to pieces.  Laughed so much and finally received a tour of the apartment.  It’s sweet. J

Wow, today was an adventure.  Spent the morning after the other groups headed out reading and sketching.  After lunch Nathan and I watched some behind the scenes for Fellowship (‘cause we’re cool like that ;P) before the four of us (Margot, Nathan, Ali Carpenter, and I) embarked for Madina.
The first fun part was the initial tro-tro.  Nathan and I hopped on one that squeaked and swayed all down the dirt roads, rather like a ground-level rollercoaster.  Then, the little girl sitting next to Nathan was nodding off and ended up resting her head on his arm.  So precious! ^^  But then the tro-tro stopped and the mate opened the door, which promptly fell off. ^^”  Kinda funny, though I felt bad for laughing…
We located the girls, then spent the next 30-40 minutes wandering the twisted “streets” of Madina, before heading to Osu.  On the first tro-tro, I sat in an aisle seat without a back, so it was fun trying not to fall on Nathan behind me every time the tro-tro lurched.  Shopping took about an hour or so.  When we first arrived in Osu, we ran into the grocery store by the bus stop.  Not only was the store ridiculously western, but it was absolutely decked out in Christmas decorations.  Santa and everything.  Definitely wasn’t prepared for that…
We had dinner at the smoothie place and shared most embarrassing stories.  Fun stuff.  Best reactions ever!  On the way back, we actually rode on the same tro-tro the five of us took to Osu the very first day.  That was pretty awesome. J
Returned to campus and promptly gathered in Nathan room for a movie and bonfire.  Yeah, a legit bonfire on his balcony.  It started small.  We used hand sanitizer, which is so cool to burn because you can’t see it, but the flames are there all the same.  Blue flames, too. J  Then we moved onto the main event.  We had previously decided to burn some of our Poli Sci and Twi notes.  Nathan then volunteered his guitar for fuel.  Don’t worry, he hates that thing.  So, we composed a spontaneous and utterly hilarious farewell song to the guitar, after which he proceeded to break it into pieces.  We piled everything up in the center of the balcony, then lit it. J  Oh, what is it about fire that is so intensely satisfying? ^^”  And Ali Carpenter’s enthusiasm just makes my life so happy sometimes.

Finished the night with Star Trek.  We may not be travelling, but I think our week is definitely going to be the best. J

Day 100!  Wow, what a milestone.  Slept ‘til 9 for the first time this whole semester, which was glorious. ^^”  Obviously, I needed it.  The water was running, too!
Margot, Nathan, and I met around 10 to walk to the breakfast place, then proceeded to spend the next 2 ½ hours exploring campus. J  We found new buildings and what we think may have been the botanical gardens; whatever it was, it featured a bush labeled “shrubbery.”  Seriously. ^^

Afterwards, we returned to the breakfast place for iced Milo ‘cause it was so stinking hot..  I downed that thing!
Lazy afternoon Skype-chatting Mom and reading.  We weren’t going to have dinner until 7, so I spent a while in Margot’s room while she did laundry before we met in the lobby.  The hiking group was back for a day, so they joined us in eating at the French-Mediterranean restaurant.  It was quite tasty, but a lot of money from small portions.  Apparently that’s the French way.  Nathan and I split the smallest salad in the world (unwittingly, we thought it’d be a lot bigger and it was expensive, so…), but our stomachs were saved by endless bread and olives. ^^”  Then, the owner found us as we were leaving and gave us free drinks because we were students needed to study and “to study you need to drink.” Lol :D
Then, we watched Fellowship! :D  Love it.
Beach day! :D  Spent the day at Labodi Beach with Nathan, Margot, and Awa.  It was Awa’s first time swimming, so we mostly took pictures and waded in the shallow water because she was terrified of the tide. ^^”  I really wish I could speak to her more easily, what with her only speaking French and Twi.  Oh well, she’s still a joy. J

Restful afternoon.  Stuffed my drum bag full of sheets and sent it off with Kristi’s mom.  I could have given that woman a huge hug for bringing it back with her.  Now to pray the “fragile” signs are respected… ^^”  Shall miss that thing until we are reunited in Interim. :P
Dinner at Tickle’s and then more Fellowship!  But first Margot and Awa came by to get pictures, and Awa spent the next 30 minutes ripping on the French book a bought for 5 cedi.  She then decided to teach me some phrases herself and did such a good job explaining.  Nathan only had to help out a little bit.  So much fun. J

The day began with a failed attempt to visit a Fair Trade Fair outside Hopeline.  (The boys got the date wrong.)  That’s okay, because Margot crashed in my room all morning and we both took spontaneous naps. ^^
Bernice joined us for lunch at the Night Market for a brief while before heading back.  Nathan, Margot, and I had fun conversations about ways we think, memory, and individual quirks before we trekked to the campus store to buy gifts and the seamstress to pick up Margot’s skirt.  Man, I will never complain about the walks on Calvin’s campus again (though I probably will :P).
After dinner, Ali joined us in watching more Lord of the Rings.  She had never seen them before, so Nathan, Margot, and I reenacted Fellowship for her, which was so stinkin’ funny, but then we just decided to re-watch the movie, as well as the first half of Two Towers. ^^”
Thanksgiving today!!!  If it hadn’t been such a topic of conversation this past week, the day may have passed me by.  Certainly doesn’t feel like the holiday here. ^^”
Slept ‘til 8, showered (finally), and finished up the little “Thankful Notes” I made for the group here before meeting everyone at 10.  Our first destination of the day was Circle, as I had yet to visit and Nathan needed some shoes.  What a place.  The stalls were pressed closer than in Madina (didn’t know that was possible) and was almost entirely covered, which gave it the distinct feeling of being underground.  The men were a bit handsy, but that’s nothing too different.  Honestly, why do they think that would ever garner a positive reaction?
We didn’t stay long, seeking out a tro-tro to Osu.  First stop, Global Mama’s, where we proceeded to spend the next hour or so browsing, mostly because Margot is buying something for every member of her extended family and Ali’s mom is apparently impossible to shop for (after 15 or so shot down suggestions, I understood this to be quite true).  ^^”  It was tons of fun, though.
We did a bit more shopping and bargaining along the street before we headed once again to Zion Thai. J  Margot and I split a spicy carrot salad and I ordered Pad Thai again. Yum! ^^  We shared what we were most thankful for, crazy family stories, and the people in our family we looked up to the most.  So very enjoyable and we were all so full. J  We ever ate around 3:30, so it kinda felt like a Thanksgiving meal… ^^
Ali, Margot, and I rocked out in the back seat of our return trip taxi (earned weird looks, and one one guy came up to the window while we were stuck in traffic and began dancing with us ^^”  So good!)  Called home (well Reno) and finally talked to Dad!!! :D  Mom, too, of course, and for the longest, but it was so good to hear everyone’s voices.  Gabriel’s is changing so much!  I half-lamented to Nathan, who laughed but sympathized. ^^”  Then we watched the second half of Two Towers.
The four of us turned in early because we had planned to gather again at 2am to go star-tripping in the stadium.  Twas my first time and was tons of fun. J  Ali couldn’t make it through the song, and Margot had the funniest collapse.  Then Margot and Nathan has a cartwheeling contest across the grass.  They curved about halfway through and ended up where they started.  Funny thing is, it too them a few minutes to figure out they hadn’t stay straight. ^^”  Then, before we returned to the dorm, Ali decided to cross “jumping off the high dive” from her Ghana bucket list.  Now when I say high dive, I don’t mean like the 20 foot-or-so high dives at home.  No, there are four of them stacked on top of each other here and only the diving team can go off them because the highest is […] meters tall.  Yeah.  The three of us watched (and prepared to run to her aid if anything went wrong) as she climbed through the fence, searched for security guards, then climbs the four flights of stairs to the top diving board.  When a taxi drove past, Margot told me to look inconspicuous.  I told her, “we’re white.” :P  Ali finally jumped and it turned out there was a security guard somewhere, but he just yelled without giving chase.  We suspect he was asleep.  We walked back without a fuss, joking about how we really do glow in the dark. ^^”  Wonderful night!

Slept ‘til 9 after our early morning extravaganza and was lazy most of the day.  Calm lunch, after which Nathan and Ali shared both their testimonies, because Ali wouldn’t be at Green Turtle where it was likely more testimonies would be given.  Before I could share mine, they had to run off to dinner with a lady they had helped through their internship, so I spent the next couple hours reading and beginning to type this blog update (see how long that took me…) before Margot and I accompanied Awa and Grace to a Catholic prayer service/mass.  At least, they said it was a mass.  If so, it was one charismatic mass. ^^”  The message was quite prosperity gospel, but I’m glad I went all the same. J
Dinner at Tickle’s where Margot and I talked about boys, or the lack thereof for my part. ^^”  Afterwards, once the other two had returned, it was my turn to tell the tale of my life.  It went well, if not a bit long.  Good questions and conversation, then early to bed.

Nothing much going on today.  Lazy morning with a bit of packing (seeing how all my souvenir/gifts fit into my bag).  Met the group for lunch at the Night Market, watched the video montage Nathan put together of our bonfire (so good!), then Nathan and I accompanied Bernice to visit Kate, another girl who used to work under the stairs, but is now at Senior High School.  Our visit was short because Kate had a class, but still wonderful.  I just loved how, even though I don’t really know her, she was so kind and welcoming, an embodiment of why I love these ladies so much!  I also played with little Ama (the carpenter’s daughter) under the stairs.  And she finally admitted I was her friend. J
Quiet afternoon reading, watching movies, and Skype-chatting with Mom.  Always good. J  Had dinner with the girls who returned from the orphanage, then some of us watched the first disk of Return of the King.  I love not having an agenda. ^^

Slept in, again. J  Took a shower, worked on the blog (copying is so tedious…), walked around, hung out under the stairs, but mostly laid on my bed listening to music.  Little Ama and Nadu (Nancy’s daughter) were under the stairs again, so I spent an hour playing with them. J  Then I sketched in Margot’s room while she worked on preparing her computer for Awa until we headed to the mall.  It was a welcome change of pace.
We ate at Pizza Inn, had desert at Creamy Inn (ice cream! :D), and walked around the mall a bit exploring the many stores and rocking out (publically) to the American music. ^^”
Upon our return, we gather in Margot’s room (because there is a breeze!) to watch the final disk of Return of the King, but first we had a spontaneous dance party.  All we had was my music (which doesn’t have much pop/dance music), but we still had tons of fun. J
After the movie, the three of us had Alvaro’s down at Tickle’s while waiting for Awa to pack up shop, then re-reunited in Margot’s room.  Nathan showed me some beautiful music while Margot taught Awa how to use the computer.  We also shared a small meal of chicken and rice.  Awa is so great!  When she starts laughing, she nearly dies of it, and she laughs at the tiniest things.  Like when Margot cracked her back, Awa was on the ground in hysterics. ^^”
Off to Green Turtle tomorrow.  Even though swapping stories with the group will be great, we all agreed postponing out departure and having an extra day here was wonderful. J

Late to bed, early to rise. :P  Woke at 4:55 with less than 5 hours of sleep in my arsenal.  But it was all good.  Posted Happy Birthday on Jacob’s wall and did a little laundry so I’ll have clean clothes waiting for me upon my return.  Not bad for 5 in the morning. ;)
The trip to Takoradi was long, but fairly uneventful.  Margot muscled her way into a tro-tro like a Ghanaian, we caught one of those rare tro-tro straight to Keneshi, and our fast car to Takoradi was air-conditioned.  Nice. J  We did have to wait about an hour-and-a-half for the final tro-tro to Green Turtle Lodge, but overall, we made pretty good time.
Green Turtle is nice.  The huts are cute and the beach lovely.  Food is great, though, a bit pricy.  Everyone was so excited to see us.  Margot and I, as the last girls to arrive, are bunking with the boys in the dormitory, which was pretty amusing; though there was a rooming mix up and we had a couple up there with us which meant we were short a bed.  It all worked out, though, and Nick slept in his hammock out on the beach.
Margot, Nathan, and I spent a good 30-40 minutes in the water while everyone else lounged.  You could definitely tell who had or hadn’t been on the beach all week. ^^”  Margot retaught me how to the boogie board, which I performed with little success. ^^”  Still had tons of fun in the waves, anyhow.

A great storm rolled in, so we gathered around the bar for Happy Hour and I had my first ever shot.  Well, apparently it was half a shot, but it still burned. ^^”  The group played Telephone Pictionary, which was hilarious as always, though some of the familiar group tensions quickly became apparent.  Oh well.
Split a yummy vegetable sauté in peanut sauce with Margot, played Ninja in the dark on the sand with her, Nathan, and Nick (which I won, and Nick totally threw himself on Nathan by accident :P), and I walked along the water by myself and sang to the waves at the top of my lungs. J
Fun conversation with the other lodgers, then turned in EARLY (by which I mean 8:00). ^^

One week until we leave.  I’m such a jumbled mess of excitement and sadness.
The beach is amazing; it reminds me so much of New Brighton.  I haven’t worn shoes since we arrived yesterday afternoon. J  The sand is soft, the air cool, and the breeze wonderful.  The water is a bit warm for my taste, but the showers here are fantastic.  The morning was pretty lazy; I was actually rather restless.  I woke at 6 and sat on the beach for the next while sketching.  Almost everyone had the French Toast for breakfast (so much food!), then some of us played Apples to Apples or just milled about.

I finally jumped into the water after lunch.  Some of the girls played Red Rover in the shallow end.  So funny! ^^”  The rest of the afternoon was a mixture of milling about, talking, sketching, and swimming.  Oh and playing ping pong with Margot, Nathan, and Caitlin, though I wasn’t much in the way of competition.  ^^”  After battling the waves again, I took a lovely shower and my hair feels so wonderful.  I know I mention showers a lot, but seriously people, you don’t understand just how amazing and rare a true shower is here.
Oh, and I also stole Two Towers (the book) from Nathan while the boys were having beers, and read in the hammock.  So lovely. J
After dinner (chicken with this amazing, spicy avocado and mango salsa over rice) a bunch of us went star-tripping on the beach, as well as played several other hilarious spinning games.  I practically did a belly flop on the sand and I’m pretty sure it looked as ridiculous as it felt. :D  But so did everyone else! ^^  Then we took a moonlit walk along the shore.  Mmmm. J
It’s lovely to fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.

Walked along the beach this morning a last time before the entire group headed out.

A tro-tro arrived just after 7 and we all piled in, somehow managing to squish 15 people and luggage, plus the driver and mate, into a car intended to carry only 12 people including staff.  The driver apparently had to bribe his way past the police barrier.  0.0”  Twas fun.  Shannon told stories and Josh stuck his head out the window like a dog and was hit by several tree branches. :P  A fast car and one more tro-tro later, it was 1:45 and we were back on campus.  Not bad.
Hung out a bit under the stairs, then worked on this post (honestly people, it’s 6 pages long… single-spaced), as well as a few other projects all afternoon.  I also tried to wash off all the sand with only limited success. ^^”
After dinner, I play cards with Katie, Cassie, Paola, and Shannon and discussed the real-life dynamics of Katie’s flying home early dream.  We decided that if the group had to choose the one person who could go home a few days early, it would come down to Margot, Katie, and Krista, Margot would give the space up, then Katie and Krista would duke it out, and Krista would win. :P  Fun stuff.  Then I watched Rent for the first time with almost all the girls.  Such a good movie with amazing.  It’s going to be stuck in my head all week. ^^”
Quote of the Week-and-a-half:
Margot counting all the relatives she needs to buy for: “… But I have fives aunts… who is she?  Oh Aunt Carol.”
"Are you trying to be a wizard?" - Katie
"I do not try.  I simply am." - Cassie

Ways to Pray:
Welp, everything’s winding down, so I guess that nothing bad happens these last couple of days.  People are antsy, so prayer that tensions don’t rise too much and we still all like each other by the time we return from out final retreat in Akropong. ^^”
Oh, and prayer for Awa.  Margot and Nathan have several leads, but nothing definite and only a few more days with her before helped becomes intensely more difficult.  Also, prayer for how I can help, because I feel led to also lend assistance, but I'm already so removed from her just because of the language barrier and I don't know what exactly to contribute.

Well, there you are.   A wonderful week of randomness and fun, and now we’re coming to the end.  Less than a week!  The excitement of coming home is growing, but the sadness of leaving everything here still lingers.  I will post again at least once, probably twice before next Tuesday.  Until then!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I Vanquish Exams!

I need to find a more creative way to begin these things… ^^”  How about… I’M DONE WITH EXAMS!!!!  Woot!!!  Quite a stressful week, but at last, I have reached Friday! :D  There has been some fun stuff, though, so let me tell you all about it. ;)

At 3:30 Saturday afternoon, I thought to myself, “Wow, it’s 8:30 at home.  At 8:30 this morning, I was doing homework.  Whoa, I’ve been doing homework for over 8 hours!” ^^”  Yup, that was pretty much my day.  But due to my level of productivity, I was able to join in on a little party that night in Nathan and Nick’s room.  We played games and then Truth or Dare, but again, it became pretty uncomfortable at points (there are just some things you don’t need to know about people).  Overall, though, it was a fun evening. J
Sunday morning I woke and immediately began working on my papers.  Attended church with Nathan, Margot, and Bernice at LIC, and then another afternoon of studying.
Margot invited me (and Nathan) to dinner Sunday night with a couple her pastor knew to talk about Awa.  Can’t remember how much I’ve shared, but Awa is one of the girls under the stairs.  She’s from Cote d’Ivoire and staying with her sister while trying to earn money for school.  It’s not going well, though, and after a man offered Awa money for sex, Margot has felt a strong desire to help her earn tuition.
It took us a while to find the place, but we finally located extravagant, resort-like building in which the couple was staying.  It looked like an inside-out hotel.  Seriously, even the ground outside was tiled, and we had to go through security. ^^”  We talked for a bit about Awa and Ghana in general before piling into the car and heading to an Indian restaurant.  I was really confused when we pulled up in from of a gas station, but we followed them around back and discovered this amazing outdoor restaurant and kitchen.  So cool!  We had three different appetizers (chicken in spices, a cheese-something, and fried onions), and then potato dosas with coconut chutney…Oh, so good!!!  Conversation was just delight with the couple and their friends who tagged along.  I think Margot gained a fair bit of insight into Awa’s situation, so it was just wonderful all around. J
Monday was another day full of studying.  Rose at 6:30 and went right to work.  Many a study party and a refreshing shower just before bed.  I am hopefully for exams.

Poli Sci test today.  At first, I thought it had gone really well, but now I’m not so sure, because I finished before most everyone else and wrote significantly less.  But then, I write small and concisely, and I gave it my all, so I can only hope that is apparent to my prof.
I haven’t been feeling very good that last several days, but my stomach was well enough that I could enjoy pizza and carrot cake at Roland’s.  The cake was so moist!!!  And one of the pizzas had steak on it.  Nice.
Also called home for the first time in a while, which was lovely.  Oh, and my computer has been amazing of late.  I’m working off a flash drive, so I think it’s helping.

Such an emotionally trying day.  The morning was relaxing enough.  I studied and picked out pictures to sketch next week (happiness!!!).  Then, the hour before Twi, our Poli Sci prof enters the classroom with our papers and proceeds to tell everyone how disappointed he was in them.  That was fun.  I sunk a foot into my seat and Nathan kept giving me this wide-eyed stare.  I think we were both not trying to laugh from shock and nervousness.  And then the prof went into this whole thing about if you don’t have x-number of points you should worry, because the exam is this much and everything up to this point is this much, but, oh by the way, no one has under x-number of points.  Worst classroom atmosphere ever.
Twi went really well, though, so I felt quite good until Drumming.  My stomach is still yucky, and I was so shaky so I messed up so much in front of everyone.  I know that routine!  Ugh.  Dancing was great, in contrast.  We figured out our routine for the performance at our final dinner, and I’m partnering with Nathan, so this one part of the dance where you have to have a lot of attitude and do this fun chest/fist pump at your partner is going to be super fun! ^^
Finished the Ethnography presentation with Ali and Cassie.  It’s so cool!  But now it’s 11 so I should really get to bed (what’s happened to me???).
Funny story: I had to run back to the dorm for my speakers last minute, so I grabbed a taxi.  On the way back, just as we exited the round-about, the driver crossed himself three times.  Ominous much? ^^”
We gave our presentation today and it went SO well!  They appreciated all our humor. J  Took a nap, finished my last paper, and then I was a free bird!  And I was actually insanely bored.  There weren’t enough free people who had ideas on what to do. ^^”  Read, sketched, then had a mini-dance party/Milo fudge-eating shindig in Stacia’s room.  Fun stuff. J

Final presentations today and now I am free!!!  Quiet afternoon until I went shopping at Global Mamas.  That place is a trap; everything is so cool, but so pricy.  But Paola came, so we all benefitted from her 30% discount, so I saved 27 cedi!  Oh yeah. :D  Split a smoothie and then we all embarked on a search for Heritage Indian restaurant.  Oh. My. Word.  Most flavorful food I’ve had in my life!  I ordered lamb in onion and tomato sauce (with so many amazing spices!) over garlic naam.  I could have died happy.  Pricy, but so incredibly worth it. J

Quote of the Week:
Everyone "discussing" where to go to dinner Friday... everyone talking at once with different ideas.
"How about we just go to Ryan's.  I like Ryan's." - Anna
"No!  This is a democracy!" - Josh
"If this is a democracy, we're all screwed." - Krista

Ways to Pray:
Well, first a praise that EXAMS ARE DONE!!!  Still haven't wrapped my head around that.
And, praise for my computer, which has been behaving wonderfully this last week. :)
Hmm, prayer... I have such mixed feelings over leaving.  I don't want to leave.  I truly don't.  I love it here, guys.  Yet, at the same time, I can't help but look forward to Christmas, seeing everyone at home, and then I'm just dying to say hi to everyone at Calvin, again!  So, I guess prayer that I savor every moment I have left here.  That I don't dwell on departure, but enjoy everything up to it the best that I can.  This free week is going to be amazing! ^^

Alrighty, talk to you all again, soon!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Face Computers, Exams, and Some Good-byes

Hello again.  Oh my word, this has probably been the most stressful week thus far, with its multiple, sharp up and downs every day.  There’s definitely a lot to tell…

Lit was intriguing today.  So much societal analysis.  Peoples and Culture explored theatre in Ghana, so it was also quite interesting. J  All around productive day homework-wise, too.
I’m a bit stressed because I need to find a way to bring my drum back.  It’s much larger than I had anticipated and thus does not fit in either of my bags.  A few people have offered tentative space, but I won’t know towards that end when I would have needed to make other arrangements.  Checking it as another bag is $150, so that’s a bit out of the question, and I’m loath to check it as one of my two bags, thus leaving one of my real bags behind.  We’ll see.
Spoke with the Senior Tutor about the toilet, and some guy from the front desk came to check it out and left with the promise that the plumber would come tomorrow “with a blaster and it would all go down.” ^^  We shall see.
Also, can’t believe I’ll be home in a month.  On one hand, I really, truly do not wish to leave.  On the other hand, I can’t wait to see family, celebrate Christmas, and return to Calvin friends.

Good day.  We had a wonderful review in Poli Sci, plus a great discussion on modern historical context.  Happiness. ^^  No Twi, so I had lots of time to do homework.  Skype-chatted briefly with Mom and even Skyped Alyssa with Nathan for a few minutes.  It was hard to hear and rather pixilated, but quite wonderful. J  Breakfast for dinner at Roland’s followed by vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake with Milo fudge. *drooling*
I finally received my Ghanaian skirts today.  They are a tad large, but still wonderful.  I was sorta, really giddy for a spell. ^^”  So much so, in fact, that the plumber not coming couldn’t put a damper on it.
Had quite a scare this morning when my computer shut down and told me I needed to install and operating system.  I freak, but Kristi has the magic touch and brought it back to life.  Praying…
On a happier note, OUR TOILET IS FIXED!!! :D  I was so pumped.  May or may not have called several people… ^^”  But seriously, wouldn’t you?  Used it to.  Happiness… :P
Productive-ish afternoon followed by a stressful Drumming class.  Apparently, our instructor thought our exam was tonight, and Roland was not there to confirm or deny.  Most people did fine, but there were a few who were not prepared, with good reason (we had been gone for 10 days and were under the impression that next week was the exam).  We’ll see.  Dancing was wonderful.  Only Veronica was there, so the atmosphere was much calmer.  The dances were as fun as ever, though my hamstring acted up towards the end, which wasn’t so fun. *shrug*
Josh received a package this morning and shared he dark chocolate.  Win.

Wow, what an emotional day.  We weren’t needed at Adenkrebi, so I was quite productive throughout until I brain-dead and collapsed on my bead, not waking up until an hour later to Cailtin in my room (returning a movie, don’t worry).  I was so confused.  Walked to the Night Market with Margot, then sat at Tickles for 45 minutes just chatting with Margot, Ali Cav, Krista, Nathan, and Jeff.  Fun stuff.
My computer conked out again tonight.  Talked to Dad and decided that it’s a hard drive problem because my computer claims it doesn’t have a hard disk.  This had me in tears for the better part of an hour.  It didn’t work for a long while and I feared re-writing all I had accomplished the last two days for final papers and exam notes until, miracle of miracles, it came back to life long enough for me to put all the essentials on a flash drive.  Thank-you, Lord.  It’s been fine since then; just have to make sure to save everything onto my flash drive, rather than the hard drive.
Last day at Adenkrebi.  It was actually rather anti-climactic.  Daniel had to leave within the first half hour for a meeting, so it was mostly Ataabah and the three of us girls, which was totally okay.  Lots of painting today.  31 items on the front wall, to be exact.  Ataabah sketched everything from oranges to irons to “aeroplanes” to snakes to dice, which we then painted and labeled.  He even had me sketch and paint a person.  Turned out halfway decent, if I do say so myself. ^^”
Homework and a good, long dinner at Tickle’s in the evening.  Hope there is water tomorrow, because I desperately need a shower… ^^”

Quote of the Week:
“…and then you really don’t have room to bend over backwards--” – Jeff
“Yeah, so you don’t get pregnant!” – Anna, referring to an old wives’ tale that if you bend over backwards during a the full moon, you won’t become pregnant, which is definitely NOT what Jeff was talking about at all… :P

Ways to Pray:
Well, my computer is the obvious choice.  I need it to last until the end of this next week at the very least, if not until I return home and can have it quickly looked at.
Exams this week, which is crazy because it’s only the second/third week of November.  Diligence, discipline, and strong memory capacity.  For everyone, just not myself.

Okay, don’t know when I’ll talk to you all next.  Maybe mid exams, maybe not until they are over.  Hopefully the pictures load! J

Monday, November 5, 2012

We Endure Witches, Hunt for Elephants, and Cross Borders!

Hello my darlings.  At long last, I have returned to the land of internet!!!  Stacia asked me when was the last time I went for so long without internet, and I couldn’t remember… which is sorta sad, sorta not.  Anywho, let’s hurry on to the long post yet! ;) (And I will definitely be going day-by-day.)

Bright and early, we all piled onto the bus in anticipation of our Northern Excursion.  Our target today was Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.  Along the way, we made three stops at craft villages.  The first was a kente weaving workshop, where we actually had the opportunity to weave some kente ourselves.  Fun stuff, though I know the guy probably had to unweave my work. ^^” 

I bought a neat strip of kente, but I almost didn’t because the vendors were unnecessarily aggressive.  Oh, and we saw a girl having a weave burned into her head.  Ouch!!!
Second stop was at a die-making workshop for stamping the Akan symbols on the kente.  We bought a strip and did some actual stamping. J  Last stop was at another woodcarver’s market, where I bought more than I should have (presents!) and the vendors were doubly overbearing.  Roland explained that because the central tourist season is over, they are more desperate to make sales and are thus overly aggressive.
Another few hours of driving before we arrived at the hotel in the heart of Kumasi.  We walked around town for a bit, then some of us hung out in the hotel lounge before dinner.  And what was for dinner, you may ask?  Pizza!!!  So good. ^^  We finished the night with four rounds of Psychiatrist.  So much laughter.

We didn’t pull out until 10, so I spent a quiet morning in my room listening to music (mostly Wicked ^^), before we sat in the bus for seven straight hours to Tamale.  No, not like the food. “Tom-a-lee.” ;)  The bus ride was pretty chill: read, listened to music, napped, talked to Nathan, and witnessed the insanity of stir-crazy students after six unbroken hours in a bus. ^^”  About half-way through the ride, the terrain changed dramatically.  The mountainous, tropical land became flat and bushy.  There were fewer and fewer big towns, replaced by long stretches of bush-land occasionally broken by villages.  Northern Ghana is a picture of “stereotypical Africa.”
The streets leading to Tamale were lined with thousands of people in anticipation of the president’s arrival later that day.  It was nuts!  And slightly awkward when we were stuck in traffic and were staring through the windows. ^^”
We stayed at a little guest house, arranged in a square with a courtyard in the center.  Four raised pathways lead from each side to an uncovered gazebo-like structure in the middle.  The whole set-up reminded me a lot of the battle stages in Mario-Cart.  Don’t judge. ;P  It was the perfect arena for playing Ninja and Foot-Twister before dinner.  Afterwards, Roland joined us for a round of Psychiatrist.  The sky burst every 5 minutes with silent lightening until the wind suddenly arrived partway through our games.  Then it started raining and it was just so cool. ^^
Paola gave her testimony, followed by another round of Psychiatrist and two games of Truth or Dare with everyone.  It was fun, but in credibly awkward at points. ^^”  And there was a massage train.  Yup.

Spent the day in Yendi, about two hours from where we were staying in Tamale.  And what did we do four days before Halloween?  We visited a witch village.  It was so neat.  This village is inhabited by older women (mostly, there are a few men) and their grandchildren.  The women are all outcasts, accused of being witches due to some misfortune that befell their town.  The children help them make a living, though it’s not much to speak of.
They were all so malnourished and the few male leaders in the community were so well off (relative to the women).

We talked to them for a long while, and at the end we handed out soap, but there wasn’t enough to go around.  Though it was a wonderful experience, many of us couldn’t answer their query of why we were there and left with more questions than with which we entered.
We then met with an NGO that worked as a peace-keeping agent in the surrounding communities.  They had a little dance party in which we were all made to individually participate.  Margot was amazing (a woman stuck a 5 cedi bill to her forehead in appreciation), Josh was a crowd favorite, and the man in charge said I was second only to Margot. ^^  It’s so validating when you have to dance spontaneously, feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, but the crowd cheers and your friends give you fist-bumps.  Yes. J
The bus ride back was once again filled with fun conversation and craziness.  Spaghetti for dinner, followed by a short bible study and another testimony.  I really love that our group is taking the time to go through everyone’s testimony.  I think it’s bringing us closer as a group.
Watched How to Train Your Dragon with Margot and Nathan.  It was Margot’s first time seeing it (and she loved it) and I convinced Nathan of the absolute wonderfulness of the soundtrack. ^^  Stayed up talking with Margot afterwards, which was equally wonderful.  Love that girl.

First a shout out: It was Rachel’s birthday!!! And I missed it… Three people had birthdays while I was gone.  What’s with that…?  Anywho…
Today was a lot of sitting and talking.  In the morning we visited a community benefitting from the service of Presby Agric (they are Presbyterian and work with Agriculture).
They were so welcoming and engaging, and our translator was great because he let the people answer every question.  After lunch, we observed the workings of a youth help center-type NGO.  They take in girls to give them skills in sewing and hair-dressing, and we even visited some of the graduates.  Long, but fun.
More games of various types before turning in early. J  Sleep is a wonderful thing.

Long day.  Up before 6 so we could head out early for Bolgatanga in the Upper East region.  Met up with a woman named Doris who is plain awesome.  She runs a woman’s empowerment-type NGO and has such a personality. J  We first visited a school that is lands nicer than Adenkrebi, despite the rural setting.  The kindergarteners sang the Ghanaian version of “I’m a Little Tea Pot.”  So cute!  Then we headed to a village that made shea butter from the nuts of a shea butter tree.  That stuff sure makes your skin smooth after stirring it, but boy does it taste awful. ^^”

And guess what?  I rode on a motorbike. :D
After that, we visited a town that serves as a brewery.  They wanted to gift us a cow or a goat as a gift, but seeing as we were in an overcrowded bus, we settled for a guinea-fowl. ^^”  And just a note: the chief of the community has 18 wives… Yup.
It was raining when we reached the retreat, so a bunch of us ran around in the courtyard and played Ninja.  So good.  I also finally had a chance to call home, and I talked for about 30 minutes, which was wonderful. J

Shout out: Alyssa’s birthday!  I was thinking of you!
My word was it hot today.  First stop of the day was at a women’s center and lodging facility.  Didn’t really understand the significance, but their paintings and pottery were pretty fantastic.  The confusion was all forgotten, though, because our next stop was to Burkina Faso!  For those of you not well-versed in African geography, that’s the country above Ghana.  Yes, while in Ghana I went to another country.  Without a passport!  Will definitely be using that next time I play Two Truths and a Lie. ;)  The officials let us cross over for a few minutes without problem.  The best part was walking the strip of No Man’s Land between the two countries, because everyone was like “Where are we?” “Nowhere!” ^^”  I have now been in four countries.  Moving up in life. :P

Then, just to make the day even cooler (figuratively, the sun was still scorching), I sat on a crocodile.  Don’t worry, Mom, he was tame… ish.  We were all careful and the croc behaved because he was receiving a baby chick as a reward.  Quite sad.  The community, Paga, regards believes that no crocodile from the area could ever hurt a human because one once saved the life of an ancestor chief.  Crocodiles are not sacred there and killing a one is the equivalent of killing a human.
Then there was free FanIce with dinner, so it was just all around a great day. J
First - Shout out: Talia’s birthday.  She turned 21 and I couldn’t call her…
Second - November?  What is this?  Where is the semester going?
And now – Returned to Tamale to spend the day with World Vision.  We drove all morning due to a late start and a few detours, but that was okay because I passed the time chatting with Nathan about Lord of the Rings.  Happiness! ^^”
We visited two villages in the afternoon with World Vision.  At the first we split into three groups; mine met was the Mothers-to-Mothers help group.  They were a blast.  They were so talkative and even asked for parenting advice.  When we asked for it in return, they encouraged us strongly not to avoid breast feeding in order to avoid shriveled breasts because, “your breasts are not for advertisement, they’re for your children.”  The best!  They also bestowed the marital advice of “cultivate patience, understand each other, and always be ready to forgive.”  I loved them.

Second trip wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been due to the blazing sun, but we had a look at the farming techniques of another community.  They employed pumps, and water towers, and the drip system for their plots.
Pretty quiet night.  Shower and good conversation with Margot.  I was happy. J

Morning on bus to Mole (pronounced “mol-eh”), where we arrived hours early and thus had lots of free time to explore and swim, though swimming was a mistake because the water was cloudy and it made our hair so waxy.  Had to wash it 4 times before it was back to normal. ^^”
At 3:30 we split up into groups to go on a safari walk through the valley below the hotel.  The hike down was surprisingly quick, and the terrain of the valley varied so much!  There was wetland, open plain, wooded areas, bush… so diverse!  We saw baboons (even a baby!), antelope, warthogs, a great monster-lizard-something, a water buffalo (and I promptly began singing the Veggie Tales song ^^”), lots of birds, and we tracked an elephant.

Unfortunately, we found nothing more of him than is tracks and his poop.  But tracking the elephant was so fun because our guide new what he was doing.  He used tracks, marks, poop, mud on leaves… it felt pretty legit. J
Before dinner all of sat down at the observation point at the edge of the hill, and a baboon sat with us trying to steal our valuables.  It was both exhilarating and terrifying. ^^”  And Ali Carpenter and Margot “hunted” the warthogs wandering around outside our rooms.  Twas most amusing.

Had another safari walk at 6:30 this morning.  Didn’t see much, but it was an enjoyable walk all the same.  And I’m in so much better shape than the beginning of the semester. J
We headed out to Kumasi after a quick breakfast and only made one stop at the oldest mosque in Ghana.  It was rather small with many “spires,” and completely made of mud.  Pretty neat.
Nathan finally finished Fellowship of the Ring, so I had a beautiful distraction from homework for the 7-hour bus ride. :D  Not really, I made myself do some homework.  I still read 199 pages.  Yup.
Pizza for dinner and another quiet evening with Margot and Stacia.

Wow, one month until I leave.  Craziness.
Last day on the bus to Accra, and boy was it a long day.  It was also Josh’s birthday, so we had a fun scavenger hunt on the bus with personality clues and candy. J  We made one quick-ish stop in Nkawkaw in the Eastern Region at a bead-making community.  They made their beads from rocks in the mountain.
Arrived back on campus around 4:00 with high hopes that our toilet had been fixed.  It had been 10 days after all.  Said hopes were subsequently dashed when we found that not only had the plumber not come, but there are now maggots in our toilet.  It is beyond repulsive and I’m am trying so hard not to be frustrated.  It’s not working.
My spirits were lifted, though, when we all went for sushi to celebrate Josh’s birthday.  Delicious California rolls for a great price!
Used the internet for over an hour tonight and stayed up much later than I should have, but I had 50 e-mails on both accounts and even more Facebook notifications. ^^”

Quote for the Week:
“That’s the outfit I feel sexist in.” – Josh, he meant to say “sexiest” while playing Psychiatrist.

Ways to Pray:
Our toilet!!!  Oh please let the plumber come on Tuesday.  Out bathroom just reeks…
Last week of classes and then finals.  Focus, diligence, and many good nights of sleep.
Alright, kudos to all of you that stuck with this massive post to the end.  Will update soon!