Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Follow up state side....

So many of you have shared that you enjoyed the group emails, so I decided to pass this along to you. Our NGO, non-governmental organization, Sabre Charitable Trust, based in England, has an exciting blog site of their most recent project, a transcontinental journey with volunteers. To check it out go to...

I was greeted at the Tucson airport by Tiffany's family, Jim, and Zac, who had flown in from Minneapolis to surprise me. It took me over a week to get back on a normal schedule with sleep and such. All of the conveniences that I use to take for granted are now greatly appreciated. Like running water, hot showers, washing machines, AC and steady electricity. There was major culture shock when I visited the first grocery store and mall. I have a new lens on my eyes! Everything looks different.

Creating a photo album and CD presentations have helped me to relive my most memorable experience in Ghana. I received a cellphone call from one special friend in the village this week for my birthday. What a joy!!!

Our plan to create an educational scholarship fund for students in our village to go to secondary school and college has been well supported by many of our friends. We have handcrafted photo cards to raise monies. The pictures sell themselves and are hard to resist. We learned of the impossibility for village students to continue their education without financial backing. As perpetual educators, Mary and I heard our calling.

My wish to you and yours is to have a Happy Thanksgiving and remember to be thankful for the many blessings in your lives!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nantu Yei...Goodbye from Ghana!

Memoaha....Fante "good afternoon" for the final time from Ghana!

I have arrived safely in the capital city of Accra by Metro bus, after a 3 hour ride from Adjeikrom in the cool, hilly, lush Eastern Region. I have had the most remarkable adventure for 7 weeks and have 1300 photos that only begin to capture the wonder of Ghana and its people. We will meet again I am confident!!

Since last I wrote so much has happened....last Wednesday we were invited to meet with the chief of Besease, a village of approximately 3,000. About 12 elders joined the chief, seated on an Akan sacred stool with a furskin, on a stage surrounded by interested villagers who were in the audience in an open air thatched community center. We were invited as guests and treated with great curiosity and respect. Asked to introduce ourselves at the beginning gave us the perfect opportunity to share our appreciation of the Ghanaians and their efforts to foster education in the villages. Later that day I modeled some teaching for our volunteer counterparts from the UK who have little or no experience teaching. We have met many young adults from all over the world who are here with NGOs trying to make a difference. It is extremely humbling.

On Thursday morning we personalized bucket hats with the KG2 kids in our village which was simply adorable. The idea was Tiffany's, and it was priceless! We found ourselves wandering the village with the sheep trying to capture pictures of the sights which we have grown to love and perhaps take for granted. Especially the children of the village who have endeared themselves to us. I even learned of the vacant ghost house which is visited only by the priest. I peeked inside but witnesses no ghosts. Ghanaians are very superstitious, as I learned on the school day when I arrived at 8 in the morning to the exorcizing of spirits in the JHS 3 class caused by the appearance of the white owl. It was said to have no point of entry in a room which had many that I could see. The kids proceeded to empty the room of all furnishings so they would not be influenced by the evil forces. Sorry if I have alrady shared this stor y, but it made a great impression on me.

Friday was the most tearful day of our stay; the final full day at Brenu. The 350 Primary and JHS students gathered in the heat of the day, but that's every day, to thank us in song and celebration. The Headmaster presented us with small gifts and shared with the students our intent to establish a scholarship fund to assist graduating students to further their education. He spoke of David Cudjoe, their alumnus from last spring, who had the highest aggregate examination score of all children in the Ayensudo Circuit. He has begun his studies to become a doctor but has 2 farmers for parents who make little or nothing.

Saturday early morning we packed and headed off in a taxi for Cape Coast. From their we traveled on 3 tro-tros, jam packed vans, to Aburi in the Eastern Region. It is a village with a magnificent Botanical Garden which was establish over 100 years ago by the British when Ghana was a colony. Acres and acres of exotic plants and trees requiring 2 days to see it all. Informative signs with scientific names, medicinal uses, and countries of origin made the experiece richer. In addition, we stayed at the delapidated guest whcih was used as a sanatorium for the British officers in the late 1800's. The town of Aburi is also known for its wood carvers, so we visited the stalls with a young escort, enjoying the crude studios behind the stalls where the artists were at work. It was so memorable, and we bought a few select items.

Sunday afternoon we taxied farther north to the village of Adjeikrom, where my friends from Western Kentucky University hail. We stayed with a loving family who took us in as their own teaching us their language, Crobo, and preparing local cuisine with plants from their farm. We visited the 2 room schoolhouse, called Kentucky Academy, which my friends were responsible for building. Our 16 year old hostess brought us around the village to meet her curious friends and to the mountain stream where the children gather their water in aluminium bowls and plastic buckets. Wow, we were awed by the dramatic change of scenery away from the coast, where we have lived for 7 weeks. Yesterday we spent most of the day touring WACRI, West Africa Cacao Research Institute, learning about the 5 departments of the enormous modern facility which explores the economy, fermentation, growing conditions, interbreeding, cloning, pesticides, distribution, shade con ditions, pathology of cacao, coffee, cashews, and more. The amount of information was at times daunting, but our young guide was very patient in answering our questions.

We started our day today at 4 am and have settled in for a clean shower and good night's sleep before our international trip back to America. I will need months to digest all that we have done and to sort and cull my collection of photos. My perception on life has been changed in innumerable ways just by knowing the people of Ghana. They are truly remarkable, resilient, and loving. The conditions in which they live make this difficult at times to understand. I go home with so many new friends, and have received far more than I could ever have given. Thank you again to all of the support you have given me. Your love and prayers have surrounded me on this journey.

Keep Ghana's peace and prosperity in your prayers as well. Their election is in December, and they need a forward thinking and moving leader.

Lots of love, Akua Linda

Friday, October 24, 2008

Maybe Our Final Installment?

Mary having a lesson from one of the members of the Kukyekukyeku Bamboo Orchestra (pronounced Cuchi-cuchi-koo!)

The fisherman at Brenu just about to go out for the day

Mary on the canopy walkway at Kakum

The chief's meeting at Besease

Linda atop a pile of cocoa pods

Hungry croc en route to Kakum National Park

KG2 kids avidly learning doing an alphabet activity

One week remains in Ghana!!!

What a whirlwind week we have had since I last wrote to you. On Friday Mary and I were taken with our newest volunteer to Kakum National Park just north of Cape Coast for an overnight stay. Enroute there we stopped at a crocodile stocked manmade lake where we were as close as 3 feet to the crocs on a slightly raised platform. Very scary, but I took some amazing photos. We had lunch there, and I kept looking fearfully over my shoulder as the restaurant has no walls.

We walked the 350 meter canopy walk 30 meters above the magnificent rainforest. Yes, even with my horrific fear of heights, I was successful in traversing the 7 separate suspended rope/cable walks. They are so narrow that only one slim person can fit the width. Many Americans would be refused entry I think. Heard many birds but viewed no exotic wildlife. Apparently several species of monkeys and antelope live there, but we saw none. Kakum is enormous, about 357 square kilometers.

We then drove to Mesomagor, a remote village of a few hundred people with no electricity or running water. Our guesthouse had an open pit toilet and our dormitory style sleeping arrangement was sweltering hot. The villag is know for their Bamboo Orchestra, so they performed for us an ohour concert at night. The entire village turned out, but there was one camping lantern, so we could not see them. I took many photos with a flash that turned out, so I saw the visual part the following morning. The auditory was sensational, and we bought a CD to share in America. Mary took a 30 minute lesson on Sat morning and did a fine job with her musical talent. The musicians were impressed. All of the instruments are cut bamboo pounded onto rock hard wooden blocks.

Also, on Saturday we walked for 2 hours into the Eastern entrance of Kakum National Park with a local guide. We were informed of the many medicinal ways in which the trees and plants are used. We saw loads if cocoa trees with the pods in various stages of ripeness. Ghana is the world's 3rd largest producer of cocoa. One awful thing happened. We had a 2 minute, seemed like hours, assault by large biting black ants.Our guard was armed with a machete and rifle, but those did not help with the ants. We saw lots of evidence of the elephants, but no elephant. Thank heavens.

Until we meet again.....lots of love, Linda

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Winding Down in Ghana....

This could be my last group email to all of you faithful followers. I will have so much to share upon my return to America. The pictures are priceless, and we will share them in true Ghanaian fashion. If you have not already, checkout our blog,

Mary and I had a local seamstress fashion us dresses for Sunday church. We were feeling out of place and have had great fun with our dresses.

I thought you might enjoy the description of a typical day in Brenu Akyinim:

5:30 - early morning walk to see the sunrise along the road with hunters and farmers with rifles and hoes;serenaded by a chorus of birds, insects, frogs and the thunder of the sea

7:00 - breakfast after a refreshing shower and a 5 minute walk to the outdoor table by the sea

8-2:00 - school day begun with drums and marching into class, a stone building with open spaces for windows

2:30 - lunch, our big meal of chicken or fish for the day with vegetables fresh from the farm

4-6:30 - time to relax, plan, read, journal, hand wash clothes to hang on the clothesline

7:00 - dinner followed by talking or card playing a local game called "Spa", great fun!!!

9:00 - early to bed as we have a single bulb for light in our room; just happy to have electricity

Today was a little out of the ordinary. When I arrived at my library, I discovered all 90 JHSers were gathered in one room with the Headmaster. In a booming voice he was casting away evil spirits brought on by the white owl that appeared in the classroom, with no apparent place of enty before the building was opened. Keep in mind that the walls do not meet the corrugated aluminum roof, allowing plenty of space for a bird to slip through. One girl was sprinkling hopy water on the gathering from a bucket of water. The children then proceeded to move all of the classroom's furnishings to a vacant room next to Mary's music room. Headmaster informed me that students would avoid entering this room until the pastors exorcised the room of all evil spirits some time next week.

Tomorrow midday we are going to Kakum National Park, a rainforest with a canopy walk on a suspended rope bridge. It is north of Cape Coast, about a 90 minute drive from our village. We will spend the night at a neighboring village where we are scheduled to enjoy a bamboo orchestra. This sounds very exciting!!

Next week we have been invited to attend a chief's meeting in Besease, where 5 young volunteers with Sabre have been placed. The discussion will be about educational practices, including caning which is used freely in both of our villages. When I broached the practice with a young teacher in our village, her reply was, "How do you discipline your students in America?" I offered several ideas, but their practices are deeply ingrained and unlikely to change soon. Perhaps, the next wave of teachers will try new strategies. We have shared the wonderful materials that Walker provided us and have bought others in the city of Cape Coast.

I instructed 2 of my classes to write penpal letters to the Walker Wolves, and I will bring them in November to share. The Brenu kids are so anxious to hear back from you and would appreciate computers and bicycles from you. I asked them to share their dreams, and they did. In the village there are perhaps 12 bicycles shared by all of the children. I have not figured out their system, but it sure seems to work. The tiniest kids will sport around the dirt lots on huge bikes. The only other toy we have seen is a "car", made with a 5" stick, wooden handle, and fisherman's spool for the wheels. The younger kids push them around on their shoulders racing one another.

We have succeeded in staying healthy with our medicines, sunscreen, insect repellant and mosquito nets. I can't wait to get up in the middle of the night and not have to wriggle out of my net. We miss family and friends more as time goes on and are tired of the humidity and heat. It can be very oppressive, although we had about a 2 week respite when it cooled off ever so slightly.

Keep us in your prayers and keep the campaign heading in the direction the BBC has been reporting to our friends in Besease. We have no television or newspaper in Brenu. Very out of touch with the rest of the world.

Lots of love,
Akua Linda

More Photos

Linda admiring the Toa Tree. I think this was in Kumasi. Looks quite similar to a Calabash.

Linda standing in front of the Akan symbol in Kumasi. This symbol means 'Only God' or 'Except God' and is pretty central to Ghanaian life. In the local language it is called Gye Nyame.

Mary standing in front of a couple of typical pieces of art outsidethe Cultural Centre in Kumasi.

Women carrying the world on their heads!

Linda with Robert cycling beside her. Robert is one of the most promising young students with a fantastic grip of English and a real passion for learning.

A mural on one of the old school buildings done by previous volunteers and in need of updating in terms of funds raised!

From the Big City

Greeting from Kumasi, second largest city in Ghana with 1.5 million people. Our adventure just getting here was exhausting. Left our village at 7:30 with our favorite taxi driver. There are checkpoints on the highway (?) where ther is lots of graft. We were stopped by policemen and told that our driver's insurance was expired and that a different taxi would provide us with transport. We would not budge while they hassled our friend. It seems that since we were Brunis (white tourists) he would be allowed to continue after a gave them some money. Very common occurrance. At Cape Coast we hoped to board a bus soon but needed to wait 2 hours before departure. Then the fun began....the roads were horrible with potholes, so we progressed at a snail's pace much of the time. We made one rest stop about 2.5 hours into our trip for snacks and a stretch. When I asked several local ladies for a pay toilet, one l ead me across the road and handed me a huge leaf. All I could do was laugh and use the opportunity in the bush, out of sight of the busload of passengers.

We finally arrived in Kumasi, the garden city, in the heart of the market place, absolutely enormous and bustling. With the help of our guide book and several passersby, we found our hotel. Greeted with a clean room, towels, and soap, we were very happy. Dined and now we are at the neighboring Internet Cafe.

Tomorrow we will explore some sights of the city, then board the bus for our return at noon. It will have been a whirlwind getaway but an adventure nonetheless. The countryside enroute here was hilly and lush and dotted by little villages that all begin to look alike. The government built school are all identical as are the gov't. issued uniforms in gold/brown.

Taught several math lessons this week and shared the algorithm, Lattice Method for multiplication with 2 classes. They love it and floor the entire time. Never in America. One tiny example of the difference in a third world country. Someone told us that families can get insurace for 15 cedis, but the problem is noone caught on fast. During one class, an epileptic child suffered a seizure and lay sprawled on the has 15 cedis.

Most people in our village earn their living, hand to mouth, through fishing, farming, or selling small items from a wooden shipping box. We have no market, so the ladies walk twice a week with their vegetable, kenkey or smoked fish to a neighboring village on the road. We are tucked away at the seaside where noone travels by enroute anywhere. A small number of men go to a nearby city to work. There is a strong tradition to stay in the village generation after generation.

I am past the halfway mark and am missing many people and conveniences of home. We still have travel plans for the next 2 weekends, so I will keep you posted. Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes. They have helped to keep us healthy and happy. But then the village children and women are a wonderful support system for us. They seem at times to be the whole village.

We keep receiving updates on the campaign and feel very encouraged by what we hear. We never see television, so at times we feel very out of touch with America. Life seems simple most days and very routine. Encountered a hunter this week on my early morning walk carrying a rifle in one hand and an antelope in the other. A small one.

Lots of love,