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Archive for December, 2007

We went on a little tour via rickety taxi this week. One of our stops, as planned was the vestiges of a slave camp very near the Burkina Faso- Ghana border. This camp was active in the later 16th century up to about 1840 or so. The truth of the matter is, warfaring tribes captured one another’s people to take to the slave camp. In return they would get ammunition or guns. So this activity was proliferated by the desire to get guns to maintain your power against enemies. The white men were awaiting the arrival on slaves on the coast where they were put on ships destined for a  variety of places ranging form European countries , the  Caribbean and , of course, the the good ol’ U. S. of A.

Below you see the only activity that remotely resembled pleasure. The most musical and mild slaves were forced to entertain the slave-holders  by treating them to drumming on this particular rock that truly resonates beautifully. The songs sung are uplifting and positive for the salve-holders. The dancing adds a festive dimension.

 Drummers demonstrating slave camp ‘entertainment’

As far we we could tell from the information given to us by a guide (whose grandfather passed some of the history to his grandson before passing), in all other respects the slaves were treated worse than any farm animal. They had to grind holes in the rock to make a dish of sort for food and then survival of the fittest on who would eat. They wore no clothes. They were given only enough water, and sometimes not even that. If a slave attempted to escape, the consequence was being tied to a rock facing the sun all day long with periodic whippings. The result was always death. Those that were picked by slave traders were forced to walk to the coast – like walking across Oregon.  I continue to be aghast at how humans treat humans in the course of history.

Now a days, Ghana is perhaps more civil than many parts of the world. Greeting, helping strangers helping mothers with small children, etc. seems to be a general theme and I am not talking just about helping the now and then white man or woman from Oregon.

-David Stone 

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Good friends and motos

It has been one of those African test of patience and to some part physical endurance, but ( ‘donno’ drum roll here would be appropriate) WE HAVE A MOTO! To those who need a translation this is a motorcycle. Most here are of the 125 cc variety made either i China or Korea. I am led to believe that our Sukida was made in Korea.  I gave it test drive yesterday and it feel great, aply handling the ever-changing terrain of any road used. So, can you tell? I am happy, esp, because this means we have new-found freedom to go places such as Bolga ( 30 minutes) Nangoodi ( 10 minutes) Pelungo (30 minutes) or Papa (50 minutes). ….. you won’t find any of these destination on a map or probably anywhere else but a tourist guide such as Bradt. Bradt is the best for Africa in our opinion.

Good friends …. it is because of the efforts of Emmanuel Ontoyen that we found a reliable moto. They have an interesting unspoken price system in many establishments in Bolga. If you are white, it is assumed you can afford more, which is a pretty accurate conclusion. So they tend to raise the price esp. on high ticket purchases. While I shop I have fun insisting to the storekeeper that indeed I am black and Arabarka! ( lower price,please)! We both smile about this and sometimes they agree to assist me in a reduced price. Store-owners are poor in American standards but are not really bad off compared to the people we hope to help. So all the more money we can have to assist farmers and students the better. Ok .. it is fun bargaining too, I admit it. Back to Emmanuel, I played no part in the negotiations on the price of the moto. He did it all then brought the man to me, we sat down at a ‘spot- outside drinking place ( I did not drink Jackson students!) -and readily accepted the good and fair price of about $475. Here it is fair. In the states, I think it would be an absolute steal. I wouldn’t know as I never operate a moto in the states. Slight pun intended here as  avoiding unfenced animals crossing the road causes many accidents. I resolve to be careful. -David Stone 

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December 25, 2007 Greetings from the village of Kongo on our 10th day in Ghana.   One of our goals this trip is to help farmers to increase their yields and better feed their families.  Nearly everyone here farms in the wet season; growing millet, guinea corn and ground nuts.  Though hunger in the dry season has probably always been a problem, due to improvements in health care and lack of family planning, most farmers cannot grow enough to feed their growing families. It was quite distressing to see families get hungrier as the dry season progressed on our last visit.  We have been walking to many of the farms in the area with the intention of finding out what the farmers think would help them most.  Farmers with land in the valleys are able to dig shallow wells, 10-20 feet, and then farm throughout the dry season.  The dry season farmers say their greatest need is for water pumps and fencing.  Though it is hard to believe, there are no fences here.  The wet season farmers build a flimsy barrier of millet stalks and then sleep in their fields to keep out the cows and goats.  These “year round” farmers are the skinniest bunch of men you have ever seen.  Fertilizers and improved seeds (a.k.a. more expensive) would help in the wet season.  We have several meetings within the next week to speak with local officials and an aid agency called “Technoserve” regarding help with framing practices.  Our friends and family may be wondering what Lisa and David know about farming.  A valid point, actually hardly anything at all.  We hope to learn fast and combine our funds and efforts with others that have the technical and agricultural expertise.  Thanks to all of you that donated money and purchased th leather briefcases, I think your money will be put to good use here.  DJ is the only one who has actually worked much on a steady basis so far.  The new priests here are from India, they heave purchased 7 used computers in Accra (the capital of Ghana) and have plans to open a computing center.  DJ is able to give a big boost to this endeavor.  He has managed to get five of the computers operational and is teaching computer classes from 9-12 each morning.  At the insistence of the priests, the cost of class is $3 for two weeks.  Most of his students have finished senior secondary school.  David and I are providing “scholarships” for a few students that cannot afford even that small fee. 

Regarding my work, there is a new certification requirement for physicians from other countries working in Ghana.  Consequently, I am going through some unanticipated bureaucratic processes before beginning work. Lucky for me, one of the priests in the vicinity is having some back problems and may be able to expedite things a bit.  In the meantime, I have helped a little with some prenatal care and have been assisting with paperwork, something I swore to avoid while here!  There is quite a bit the clinic must do for end of year reporting.  There are several changes at the clinic; most significantly testing and treatment for HIV disease.  ART drugs are now available ten miles away at the Bolga hospital.  The cost is about $10/month/person.  All pregnant women are tested for free and trtment is also free during pregnancy.  There is a small charge for others to be tested. I look forward to getting involved with this aspect of care at the clinic.  Another change is the staffing, they have a much needed additional nurse on staff.  Thirdly, all children receive an antimalarial treatment regimen between the ages of 3 months and 2 years. The nurses report this significantly reduces the cases of malaria in children.

 

Dec 26

 

Things are looking up!  I have been approved to work at the clinic for the next 3 months.  I began by helping with the antenatal clinic (prenatal care) this morning and will start seeing chiropractic patients .  next Tuesday.  The midwife, Beatrice, was testing all the pregnant patients for HIV disease today.  The fifth patient, a very thin woman looking about 10 years older than her stated age of 26 yrs, was HIV positive with the blood screening, so a different test was also done.  The patient was positive on both tests.  Both tests involve  drop of blood, collected by sticking a finger tip.  Within 10 minutes of starting the office visit, Beatrice was delivering the news to a 26 year old pregnant woman that she was HIV positive.  It was all done in the local language, so I didn’t follow much of the conversation.  I do know that her medical history includes multiple pregnancies, but only one child is still living.  Beatrice has asked her to come to a meeting of people living with HIV disease; that is where ART treatment will be explained (ART treatment can be started at 28 weeks of pregnancy and greatly reduces the risk of transmission to the baby) and ways to discuss the disease with the family members will be broached.  Though I have not yet seen it, Beatrice says that people that are HIV positive are often stigmatized in the local community.  To complicate things further, she may not be the only wife.  Polygamy is fairly common in all parts of Ghana.  What a challenging situation for this young woman.

 

Lisa

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With a hearty ‘Ho Ho Ho!” Merry Christmas from the land of warm people  and hot sun! We have attempted to live up to the high standards of humble travel remaining resolutely silent as we travel for hours on public transport sitting of rickety hard seats and , for this long-legged humanoid, no leg space. Most take the quiet approach with determined courage, but there is an alternative some Ghanaians choose, that is to humorously complain vociferously to the ticket-taker/conductor accusing him of taking some of the profits home to celebrate a rich Christmas with his family. In actuality, that is a possibility as there is really no verification of where the money does go. All in all, however, the people are usually truly very honest and helpful to one another. With no aisle available on the bus as it is filled with people, when a mother and small child get on, the small child is passed gently for person to person. The mother takes it for granted that this is done and does not bother to check the welfare of her baby. The advertised ‘air-conditioned but obviously not’ bus also features a good pause in time to watch what is outside. I saw 20 foot termite towers apparently created by the secretion of the termites themselves. I marvel at the sight of the mud hunts in large number, this being the mainstay for how people live, esp. farmers. They last no more than 10 years and then must rebuild again – the mud huts, not the farmers. The farmers last about 60 years, then because of the extremely hard work must give it up and hope their children take over. That is likely as the families are usually large here – I am guessing averaging four to five kids per family.

The three travelers, David Revell, my dear wife Lisa Revell and myself are doing well, Thank you. By the way I just learned that you can not respond to our website (thanks to Liz Kobs), so I offer to you our email revellstone@yahoo.com.

Well I have had enough time uncrinkle my body from the  sardine shape taken while on the bus for the last three hours, so I guess it is time to go eat some fried yams with guinea fowl.   -David Stone

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Our names are Britney Zell and Kristi Lin. We are Girl Scouts in San Diego County. We are currently working on the Girl Scout Silver Award, which is based on developing a further appreciation of the struggles that less fortunate people face in everyday life, and helping them to overcome these challenges through a service project.

The service project that we began is based on the earlier travels of Lisa and David (Britney’s aunt and uncle), and includes collecting shoes and shipping them to children in Kongo, the small village in northern Ghana to which Lisa and David have traveled. Although education there is inexpensive, the children must have shoes in order to be allowed to attend school.

We collected almost 300 pairs of shoes, but then faced the problem of shipping them. We had counted on being able to ship the shoes to Africa by boat through the US Postal Service, which would have decreased the cost greatly. However, since USPS wasn’t offering that alternative anymore, it looked as though we would have to pay nearly 3,000 dollars to send them by plane.

We began to write letters to charities and shipping companies, hoping for a decreased shipping cost. We even knitted over 25 scarves and folded origami to sell as a fundraiser. Through these profits and donations, we raised over $400. Then, finally, the Ghanaian Association of San Diego came to our aid. They offered to ship our shoes free of charge to Accra, where someone from Kongo could pick them up. We were relieved and thankful! Now we could send all of the money we earned to help Ghana in other ways!

We would like to say a big thank you to Lisa and David, who made this project possible, and who are improving the quality of our world, one society at a time. 

As a side note, David and I, as well as my sister Sharon, searched the internet and made phone calls trying to get shipping for the shoes at a reasonable cost.  We were not successful.  The entire shoe project would have fallen apart were it not for the girls’ perserverance.  We can’t wait to receive and distribute the shoes!  Lisa and David

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Good evening from Tamale, where we are choking on a haze of wildfire smoke and exhaust, occasionally punctuated by riper smells. Tamale is a stopping point for us en route to Mole National Park, where I hope to ride an elephant and possibly punch a crocodile in the face.

My role for this blog post is to give a newcomer’s perspective to living and traveling in Ghana. So far, it has been a strange mixture of the utterly alien and the disappointingly mundane.

The details of daily life and traditional culture here are the most alien to me. The peasant farmers in the Kongo area live in very basic and small mud huts with thatched roofs, have no modern amenities, and have essentially no money.

The least alien aspect for me is how much the people here are like people back home. Their values are not much different than ours, other than being much friendlier than Americans. It’s easy to relate to the people that speak English well. As I told my mom one night, they’re just “people doing what people do,” and they’re more like me than I expected. Maybe expecting otherwise was just youthful naivete.

I can’t fail to mention the cuisine, which as you all know is an area of great interest for me. I discovered that I love the traditional dish of beans and plantains (a banana-like fruit), and the local staples of rice and guinea fowl are just fine.

To Kristin and Mike: this place is totally posh. I don’t know what you were so worked up about. Wink wink.

Peace out from the Motherland!

DJ / Dave

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We  have arrived. After having been here for 1/2 year in 2005-06, it truly seems like coming home again. We do not have our same accomodations  as before. The Catholic Mission has permitted us to stay on their grounds for at least two months time. Sorry if any of this is reiterated by fellow bloggers David Revell and Lisa Revell; one is my wife, the other, my stepson. I leave it to you to figure out which is which. Boy! Making your self understood while teaching English to 10-13 year olds will be an interesting endeavor of which I am greatly looking forward to. Now, how is that previous sentence, you grammatical aficionados? Please do not be too hard on me! I am really an experienced band and music teacher doing what seems most important here in north Ghana – that is, teaching English. You see, it is the official language of this former British colony, but in reality, where we live, a minority speak it. This means we are struggling to learn the local non-written language, Nab’t.  The ability to speak and write English greatly increases one’s chance to prosper.More on that later. I was just distracted. I am in Bolgatanga, the nearest town to use internet. A brass band on top of a bus just came tooting by. It is election time here. Ghana is a democracy. The current vice-president is in town. With that comes lots of fanfare, speeches and hooplah. Same as home, the speeches tell you how good things will be if they are elected. and then …….. well, let us say there is not much change here since our stay here two years ago. On the positive side, one thing that has improved is the healthcare. Two years ago, healthcare for HIV was pretty much ignored in the Catholic run health center in Kongo. Now, they adminster the appropriate drugs to those in need. Lisa who will be working there, if all plans go into effect, and is very happy to hear this news.

Back to the brass band passing by, I brought a trombone with me. my plan is to give class lessons on it – I have five mouthpieces – then leave it here. I will leave it in Bolga as there is small Brass Society here. I must go now, I am happily going to a student book store to buy one English dictionary and barter over the cost of buying 200 more. I can do this because …MS.KOBES 6TH GRADE CLASS DID FUNDRAISING FOR THIS CAUSE! Bravo to you and all kids at Jackson Middle School School in Portland, Oregon Message to class: Thank you soooooo much. I will give you more news as time passes. Later …David Stone

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