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Archive for January, 2008

As I account for my students in Kongo Senior Secondary what some of the differences are between here in north Ghana and life in the states, specifically, Portland in my fine state of Oregon, I reflect on how it is here, for us as we lead our daily lives.

We discover all too often that our mighty moto needs  more service. The kickstand has now been repaired two times. But is done ‘while you wait’ and how very low cost. It is nearly embarrassing how little some things cost. Internet is something we take for granted in the states. Here, we drove our moto to Bolga three times intending to spend a couple of hours on internet, email, web site …… it is not a ‘ take for granted’ thing here. Along with everyone else we breath deeply and just carry on with our lives.

I suppose the mini-challenge that is most notable for me is maybe not so ‘mini’ but many. That is …… waiting. People wait for buses to fill before leaving ( more than one hour), they wait for class to start ( the teacher’s moto ran out of petrol), they wait for pay ( one health worker has not been paid for last month) and we wait for meetings to start. It is hard for me to break the attitude to arrive  somewhat on time for a 2:00 meeting ( maybe 2:05) . I should just relax! That meeting will be starting at 3:30, maybe 4! But because we are , to some degree, in charge of organizing these meetings for assisting the communities, we feel the need to be there, should by chance it start on time. So we while away the time with the other 10 people who are there …….waiting . Maybe this is a good time to pause for reflection.        –David Stone

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Scenes from Bolga

Scenes from a day in Bolgatanga.

A weekly malfunction of the moto is becoming all to predictable. Recently the stand cracked and would not hold the moto upright when parked, in addition the stand hit on the road at the smallest bump. Today the rear brakes suddenly ceased to unction. They have gotten to know us well at the repair shop, which is also the same shop where we purchased the moto, used, a month ago. The repair shop is at the bottom of a steep road embankment about 15 feet long and cannot easily be ridden up or down, I guess this helps to prevent theft of the twenty motorcycles under repair that lay in the dirt, under a tree, at the bottom of the embankment. The owner of the shop comes up to the road to see what is wrong and then drives the moto down to the shop himself. The ground at the shop is covered with oil and discarded parts, the same goes for the men working there. A tree limb is ringed with a dozen tires. A nearby “stream” is a thick, mucky gray-green. Fortunately repairs are cheap, $3 and forty minutes later the stand is welded back on and we are off to get fruit in the market. The cost to replace the rear brake shoe was a mere $2.50.

The market is truly a shopping experience, Crowded with open air market shops, customers of all ages are on foot, motorcycle, and bicycle. Wandering livestock, from fowl to full grown cows. add interest and obstacles. You do need to watch where you step! The noise, crowds and seeming chaos are intimidating to the novice, but for those of us who enjoy grocery shopping, it is an experience to look forward to. On this day I was hoping to find raisins, known simply as “dried fruits” in the market. I started in a shop where I bought them 2 years ago. This shop is now selling little individual packets, about enough for a bowl of oatmeal, hand wrapped in plastic at a price equivalent to 50 cents. Much as I like raisins on my oatmeal, the thought of contaminated hands, think typhoid/cholera/hepatitis, is enough send me looking elsewhere. Fortunately a little girl at the shop says she knows of a shop nearby where they have large packages of raisins. Indeed, the shop has factory sealed, imported raisins for $4/half pound. Exorbitantly expensive, but probably the only packaged raisins for many, many miles. The purchase is made and the little girl given “dash” (a tip).

After a purchase of local bananas, which are absolutely delicious and dirt cheap, we slowly weave our way out of the market past women selling beans, rice, and millet from large basins. As we stroll by, a sheep takes a bite of millet flour from one of the basins, prompting the market woman to leap to her feet brandishing a large stick. The sheep and the woman lunge through the crowd, and after a minute she manages to get close enough to give the sheep several hefty whacks. Such good entertainment causes the shoppers to stop and watch, with both laughter and cheering as the chase concludes.

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mrs-rosers-level-6-class.jpgTime  TIme has passed indeed since a great group of 6th graders form MS Roser’s class put on a very successful fundraising drive to earn money for pocket dictionaries for high school students in northern most Ghana (don’t let the word ‘north’ throw you – we are not too far from the equator). In fact those 6th graders are now very able 7th graders. My wife, Lisa has successfully put the bove picture of these esteemed students. Kudos to both her and the aforementioned!

It has been a continuous but totally unproductive effort on my part just make an order of books take place here in Bolgatanga. In fact, I have been to probably every bookstore in town. There is always something that has prevented any action from taking place ( boss not there, no phone minutes available to call order, bookstore closed all day, to name a few).

But Eureka! I successfully ordered 25 dictionaries at a reduced price! There is the promise of 25 more by Friday! This means that I strap the box of 25 to my moto and deliver them to my class on Wednesday! I only wish I could somehow share how much this gift means to kids learning English as a second language. You see, most speak Frafra, an unwritten language of the area. The level of English understanding can not help but improve with a personal dictionary available at all times. Since many have never had opportunity to use a dictionary I will be spending time teaching them how to use it. These kids are bright; they only lack the chance to prove themselves. Ms. Roser’s class has helped these student ages 17 -19 take a small step in the right direction.  May they walk proudly and prudently, both the student here in far away at Jackson. David Stone

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An Unexpected Marriage

We had a big surprise today!  Richard Alorum, a young man of 25 yrs,That is Richard, now a newlywed, shaking DJs hand has acted as our Fra Fra language teacher for both of our visits to Kongo.  Richard is the oldest male in his house, both his father and an older brother have died  within the last 5 years.  This is usually a position of great responsibility in a Ghanaian household, only Richard has managed to excape mucThat is Richard, now a newlywed, shaking DJs handh of that burden due to a disability.  He apparently had polio as a child and has no use of his left arm/hand and some weakness in his legs.  Though he was forced to quit high school after the deaths due to lack of money, his life has been far more carefree than other young men in the area.  He could not farm and spent a lot of time hanging out in the market.  He was quite hospitable to DJ during his visit, showing him around the village and inviting DJ to visit his house.

Once DJ left, Richard invited David and I to visit as well.  We scheduled to go last Saturday in the morning.  In the meantime, we have seen him at market or at our house nearly every day.  We last had a language lesson on Wednesday and nothing seemed out of the ordinary at that time.  Upon arrival at his house Saturday, what should happen but he introduces us to his wife!!  That’s right, as it turns out he began the process of getting married according to local tradition 3 days prior.  The marriage customs are very complex, but we learned a lot talking to Richard today.  A short time ago, his “father” (actually his dead father’s brother)  told him that as the eldest brother, it was time he married and assume his responsibility as head of the household.  Richard agreed to do so, but by his demeanor and interaction with us Saturday it seems he is less that enthusiastic.  Shortly thereafter (3 days ago) the young lady, who is quite beautiful, moved into Richard’s family house.   Over the next week, Richard’s family will take cola nuts, tobacco, guinea fowl, alcohol, a few goats, and finally some cows to the bride’s family.  If all goes well, the deal will be sealed with a cock delivered to the bride’s family as the final gesture.  His family just married off several of his sisters so that they now have the cows to then transfer onto his bride’s family.  It is all pretty incredible!  Richard is obviously overwhelmed by the responsibility he is expected to assume.  As you can imagine, his family struggles to find money to purchase the numerous dowry items, to help out we have now paid in advance for a lifetime of language lessons.  Last week he was still a kid hanging out in the market and with the white folks, now he has to worry about providing food, shelter, and clothing for is mother, grandmother, younger siblings, and wife. 

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Motorcycle stories

Interesting motorcycle (“moto” in the local jargon) days Incident #1:  David and Lisa are returning from a visit to discuss farming at the Kongo Assemblyman’s house, located about 3 miles off the main road via winding bush path.  The motorcycle ride to get there has been varying degres of uphill on a rocky path.  Thanks to David’s excellent driving ability, the trip was challenging but uneventful.  Kudos to David, the Klamath Falls farm boy who grew up driving motorcycles!   Things are more interesting on the way down.  Unbeknown to Lisa and David, a farmer and his cow are having a struggle regarding whether to cross the path or not.  The farmer has managed to tie a rope around one of the cow’s legs and is pulling the cow across the path and towards his farm.   The farmer is slowly making headway, but things are not going smoothly.  The cow seems stubbornly determined to go in the opposite direction.  With the rope stretched between the cow on one side of the path and the farmer on the other, David and Lisa come down the path and around a corner.  In an instant, they notice the startled face of the farmer, the stubborn cow, and the taught rope stretched across the path directly in front of the moto and approximately 10 inches off the ground.  Lisa thinks the rope will surely become tangled in the moto, resulting in a strong possibility of close bodily contact with the cow’s horns or sharp rocks on the trail.  Somehow, the rope goes under the tires without hesitation.  With a relieved glance at each other and a shrug of the shoulders, David and Lisa continue down the hill, thankful that they will be making it safely back for lunch at their quarters.  The ride down the hill proceeds uninterrupted UNTIL….. Incident #2 David and Lisa have experienced a peaceful five minute ride since the interesting cow incident.  They enjoy the cooling breeze as they proceed down the path on this 90  degree day.  Suddenly, David applies the moto brakes HARD, coming to a jolting, forceful stop.  A local boy riding on a bike behind them has to run off the path into a field on the right to avoid crashing into them.  Fortunately for the biker, the very large snake in front of the moto is crossing to the left side of the path. Everyone, including the snake, emerge unscathed.  Nearly all snakes in the area are venomous. To end the story, David and Lisa make it back to their quarters shortly thereafter.   They have what is becoming rather repetitive lunch of bread and Laughing Cow processed cheese.  It seems a good afternoon to take it easy and avoid further risks to life and limb. 

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