Archive for February, 2008

(edited 2/29: Images have been added -DR)

The Diplomat is one of our favorite restaurants in which to enjoy a nice lunch when we go to town on Fridays. Notice the rather sophisticated sign and somewhat pretentious name. Inside is fairly nice too; simple but clean, with actual plastered and painted walls, ceiling fans, and plastic table cloths.

The Diplomatt

The kitchen, however, is straight from typical West Africa. Women cook outside over wood fires in back of the restaurant. The woman in the picture is covering a large basin of cooked chicken parts. Others are washing dishes outside in tubs.

The Diplomatt Kitchen

Prices are a little expensive for Northern Ghana but quite good compared to the US- $2.80 for a large plate of shredded chicken and rice or $1.80 for “Red Red” (red beans and plantains, one of DJ’s favorite local foods). Add 40 cents if you want a coke. Despite the primitive kitchen, the local lunch food has Taco Bell beat all to heck!

Saturday we left early for a relaxing adventure to the village of Shiaga, located about 10 miles away. Most of the trip would be on what is an average dirt road with washed out bridges, rocks, bumps and gullies. A regular car would not make it on this road, but it is OK for a motorcycle or 4 wheel drive vehicle. If all went well, it would take about us 1 hour to get there.

We had barely left the house when the moto engine suddenly stopped for no apparent reason. We coasted into our small local repair shop, they replaced a spark plug and we proceeded on our way. After two miles, the engine stopped again. By this time we were on the dirt road, more or less in he middle of nowhere. By a stroke of good fortune, it was market day in a village about 3 miles further along the road, so there was an occasional moto going that way. After a few motos stopped to help and quite a bit of fiddling, the moto started again and went another 3 miles before stopping. By then were were within pushing distance of Pelungu, a village large enough to have a repair shop. Pelungu is at the end of n active electrical transmission line, just installed within the last year. Consequently, I was able to get a wonderfully cold Coca Cola from a shop in one of the mud buildings during the wait.

A picture of David and the mechanics was taken just before the moto was completely disemboweled, but can’t seem to get it posted (edit: see below for the image). After one hour of work on the fuel line, filters, carburetor, etc. we drove off and the engine died again. We pushed it back to the repair shop for round two. At this point the engine was placed under scrutiny, spark plugs were cleaned again and many other important things seemed to happen. In the end, we paid a total of $3, and the engine still dies unpredictably, but not quite as often. We did make it all the way to Shiaga, where we visited friends and had lunch. We did make it back home, though the moto engine continued to die at random intervals.

Moto problems

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BIg contributors to education in GHANA! Many thanks Ms.Kob’s class

These students went to great effort in November and December of 2007 raise money for students in Ghana. A long tim in coming as things tend to move at their own pace in this part of the world, but this writer, one David Stone, is happy to announce that every student in th high school where I volunteer teach is receiving a an Oxford pocket ditionary! This is truly a significant thing ; in the final year, all students take a national test that dtermones if they can continue with further educaton or not. If not, many doors close on options for a good livlihood. Thes dictionaries will improve immeasurably their chances of passing the test. Letters have been sent to Ms. Kob’s class by many of the recipients expressing gratitude. As the one dispersing the dictionaries, I can tell you this gesture is heartfelt and much appreciated. I only wish someday, some of these students or perhaps Ms. Kob’s herself can come hre to experience the wonderful peole in this beautiful but very dry land in northern Ghana. There is a balance of about 75 dollars. With permission form the students , I am thining it appropriate to give that to a older widow lady whose house burned. She cares for three students at the primary level. All books and one uniform were burned. They have no place to sleep except outside. That balence can build one roof for one room. What do you think, Ms. Kob’s class. Is it a “go”?

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David sidling up to dromadariesDavid sidling up to dromadaries

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Greetings web-looker! I encapsulate this with a quotation from an unknown author, at least to me: “The camels are coming!”

Certain things occur here that simply could not happen anywhere else, short of the African Sahel ( look it up if you don’t know the term ‘sahel’). I am teaching teenager about a most interesting book “Ancestral Sacrifice” when a student who usually pays good attention tells me to look out the door. As I do I see a very large animal passing by the school yard just 5o feet from the classroom. It is , of course, the aforementioned camel! It is white and big and large in stride. Atop sits a colorfully dressed nomad (at least that is my immediate conclusion that later deems correct). I gawk, immediately forgetting I am teaching 27 students. So the students join me in this pastime. The nomad notices our interest so turns about and goes to our door on the camel. He does not speak the local language but does speak some French. Oh goody! I get to speak French! He tells me he is from Burkina Faso , the country just north of Ghana. He asked for money. I am quite used to that and quite used to saying “NO” . Otherwise I would turn from being a vessel of knowledge ( ok .. a little hypoerbole here) and become a vessel of coins, with no peace in my day. I tell him I have none, which coincidentally is true. My pockets only have the main tool for teaching – chaulk.  Later in the day three more nomads show up all riding white camels – sounds rather ghostly does it not? The camels are released but with hobbled  legs to graze where they wish. They cause a spectacle. After teaching choir in the afternoon , I notice that al four are saddling up. I chat with them a bit. They are not looking for work as they know that is impossible. They are enough of an unusual sight to gain some profit. This turns out to be true on this day as I rush home to tell Lisa to grab the camera. We take off to find the camel heading for Bolga. I give them 2 cedis to grant the priviledge of taking a few pictures. You would see the pictures now if we did not have so many problems with internet here. We will try to get in on later. You will like it!  

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A new dress

I went to the dressmaker this week to have a new skirt and bouse made so that I can attend church in style.  It was amusing in that an important part of selecting the style is how well one wants the contours of their buttocks to be displayed when wering the skirt.  Buttocks are far more important here in terms of seductiveness than are breasts.  Don’t worry, I chose a conservative style.  My internet time is ending!

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With  9 minutes left on my time card, here goes! It is so low in connecting! I am teaching English to 6th Grade which means 11 year olds to 16 year olds. I have had some rewarding experiences. I taught present, past, and future tenses today by bringing in my motorcycle to the classroom ( sounds impossilbe and wierd for the states but not difficult here) to demontrate “I will start the moto at 8:15. ……..It is now 8:15. I start the moto………Now it is 8:17. I started the moto at 8:15. ”  Then I explained conjugation of lots of verbs that use the same endings. Have I bored you or do you find it exciting.? More later!! Hello to MS Kob’s class in Portland! More to come for yoy especially! David Stone

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Many of our friends, family, and colleagues  generously purchased Ghanaian leather briefcases or contributed cold cash toward helping farmers in Northern Ghana.  First of all, thank you for trusting David and I to make wise use of the money, $1,600 in all.  We have given careful consideration in determining the best use of the farming funds; looking for projects with the potential of providing long term food security, that are sustainable, and that provide benefit to the greatest number of farming families.      Some of the funds, $400-$500, are set aside for the purchase of treadle pumps for water irrigation.  This will be a pilot project to assist dry season farmers. The pumps have not been used in this region before and are difficult to obtain.  If the pilot project is successful, the NGO Technoserve will finance additional pumps.  We are excited about the possibilities for this project, but the pumps likely will not arrive until after we leave.  Fortunately, Technoserve will take charge of the initial training for farmers and monitor use of the pumps. This leaves $1,100-$1,200 available for another project.  Many of you  have seen our video of the area or have visited this part of Africa.  You probably noticed it is hardly a Garden of Eden.  The top soil is quite thin and rocky, the rains are scarce and unpredictable, and the heat very intense.  These factors lead to low agricultural yields, despite intense amounts of labor.  In talking with farmers and agriculture experts, many think that improved animal husbandry techniques are key in creating better food security for Northern Ghana.  Domesticated animals in this area include goats, sheep, cows, donkeys, fowl, and dogs (not a misprint, large numbers of dogs are bought and sold in the markets for their meat).  In particular, animals are less vulnerable to the frequent floods and droughts that plague agriculture in the traditional growing season.  The farm animals are, however, prone to infectious diseases.  Until recently, farmers routinely lost a large proportion of their livestock and fowls to communicable diseases.   Within the last few years; animal immunizations, dewormers, and antibiotics have trickled into the area.  The few veterinarians in the country have taken notice of studies indicating far better survival rates for livestock on a program of immunizations, deworming, and improved feed.     In light of this information, we have decided to partner with Technoserve in introducing a “guinea fowl project” into four nearby villages; Kongo, Logre, Pelungu and Yakote.  Many people currently raise guinea fowl, but survival  and hatching rates are very low.   It is common for a farmer to lose 80% of his stock to disease before they reach maturity.   To begin this project, ten experienced guinea fowl farmers have been selected by members of each community..  We have had a preliminary meeting with all interested parties in the involved communities.  I was concerned that farmers might be resistant to changing their practices, but this was not the case at all!  The farmers did not know that immunizations were even available and were very interested in caging and other aspects of higher yield techniques.   Eight hundred large/fast growing guinea keets (chicks) will soon be purchased so that the forty selected farmers can each be provided with 20 keets.  Vaccines (added to the feed), dewormer, and an antibiotic will be provided to each farmer.  Technoserve will spend one day training the farmers on the vaccination schedule, preparation of nutritious feed, and caging requirements for the young keets (they are quite vulnerable to hawks and snakes).  All farmers in the area, not just those getting the keets, will be encouraged to attend the training and gain information on better guinea farming techniques.  I think there will be a very high turnout for the training.  The experts say that guinea survival rates will soar with these techniques, providing farmers with meat and eggs to eat, as well as fowl to sell in the market.  Guinea fowl are in high demand throughout the country. In an effort to sustain the project and benefit more farmers, the guinea farmers in the project will be required to return five mature fowls to Technoserve.  Technoserve will distribute these fowls to other farmers in the immediate community.  Our total cost will be $1,300, with guinea keets being the primary expense at $1,100.  Technoserve will cover costs for cages.                 

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