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Archive for October, 2009

Chiropractor needed!

Throw your soggy down jackets and snow skis away!  Escape the winter blahs!  Busy (weary) volunteer chiropractor providing free treatment in the sunny, hot, dry, and impoverished Upper East Region of northern Ghana urgently needs unpaid associate to share the patient load.  Good potential for growth, with more than twenty new patients weekly.  All patients afflicted with pain of many years duration in most joints of the body, guaranteed to keep you busy for the foreseeable future.  No other chiropractors within 400 miles.  Bring mosquito net, sunscreen, consider taking lessons in Ghanaian tribal languages  (especially Fra Fra), and get motorcyle license before departure.  Inexpensive and wholesome housing available at the nearby Catholic Mission.  Bustling village market days, the Sunday church service, and terrific funerals all provide local color and entertainment.

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Yakote chief and the equivalent of his "Mercedes"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horse, Colts and other ‘tings’

 

A rare sight here … a horse. In fact, in the four weeks here, I have seen two. This rather undernourished horse is owned by the esteemed chief of Yakote, a village not far from Kongo where we are settled.  A horse is just about as rare as seeing a camel, which is a seasonal event when the wandering nomads from Berkina Faso go south for a visit in March.

 

Keeping on the subject of horses …. I introduced a book to the Senior High students about a pioneer family moving west in the 1840’s to seek better farmland (my subliminal intention was to work to destroy the myth of Americans all being rich and having the easy life, without really saying it).  As we read aloud this story,  I was assessing the student’s ability to read, comprehend and pronounce. We came upon the word ‘colt’. I said I would dance if anyone knew what a colt was. Well, my dancing shoes remain in the box. Nearly everyone knew of the white horse of Yakote, but no one knew of a baby horse being a colt, and why should they? The vocabulary we develop is determined by our environment , esp. when one has no books to read. Yes, good books are hard to find here. Lisa found one in Bolga, so things have improved from last time. Kids need good , easy entertaining books. I will leave it at that.

 

“That”, the last word in the above paragraph. The ‘th’ sound is probably the most difficult sound to teach a Ghanaian student. It is fun for all to try it out without saying ‘ting’ for ‘thing’ and ‘dat’ for ‘that’.

In choir class – hey! 60 strong! – we are singing what I naively thought would be an easy song for non-English speaking audience to appreciate. It is “Thank You Very Much” from the musical “Scrooge”. When we got to the phrase That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s’ever done for me!” , I realized I was was putting my students through a diction nightmare. But, these students know hardship, it is just part of life. We will approach it with humor and get as close as we can. They will get it. In fact we will record our show ready to show the whole world should they choose to listen.

 

There! How’s that? Moving from horse talk to things that start with ‘th’. Might be the heat.

– David Stone

 

 

 

 

 

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Large market baskets
Large round market baskets $25

 Everyone seems to love the authentic Bolga baskets and we are right here at the source.  Considering the importance of every dollar contributed for projects here, it seems reasonable to offer our friends the opportunity to pre-order baskets for $25 each, with profits going toward the food projects* we oversee.  By asking people to pre-order, we have the advantage of better knowing our full financial abilities for local food purchases on this trip.  Because the baskets are lightweight, we can easily bring baskets back to the US when we return in January 2010.

 
 
 

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Large oblong baskets

 

If you want a basket:

Email revellstone@yahoo.com to let us know the number of baskets, shape, color scheme, and handles. 

We will deliver baskets and collect money when we get home in January 2010. 

                   Shape – 3 choices 

1. large round

2. large oblong

3. small round

                 Color scheme-1. Green/orange

2. Green/blue

3. Purple/ orange

4. Rose/blue

5. Natural (no dyes, straw color)

6. green/yellow

 

                Handles

1. Dark red leather (this is traditional)

2. Natural straw

 

*The majority of our financial resources are directed toward two food projects for under-nourished children: 

 Project #1. School lunch at selected schools for the early primary grades during the lean season.  School lunch plans for Guaware school (see prior entry) are underway. 

 Project #2. Food for a nutrition center providing daily feeding, as well as nutrition education, for children identified at the clinic as malnourished.  Mothers bring the children daily, prepare the food, and eat with the children for breakfast and lunch.

 

(In addition, we have raised funds for an ongoing farmer project involving guinea fowls and a limited number of college scholarship/loans.  These projects are going well.)

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motorcyles vs cars

motorcyles vs cars

The average, middle class working person aspires to own a small motorcycle as their primary form of transportation.  Because salaries are quite low ($200-$300/month) most people will never own a car.  The ratio of motorcycles to autos at this gas station is around 30 to 1, comparable to what you see on the streets.

 

Another obstacle to owning a car is the price of gas in Ghana at $5/gallon.  Not to mention that gas supply is a bit sporadic.  A gas truck makes the 450 mile journey on the slow roads from Accra only 1-2 times/week and they periodically run out in the gas stations.  It’s a lot easier to push your moto home than it is to push a car when you have to wait a day for Bolgatanga’s next delivery of gas.

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First School Day – fainting episode leads to ‘Incantations’

 From David Stone

It was a week ago today, Monday October 12. The aforementioned event cannot be erased from my thoughts. After seeking perspective from close African colleagues, I now can speak of it with some sense of understanding.

 

It was a normal Monday. Ghana schools always start the week with all students assembling to sing, raise one another’s enthusiasm for the week, and hear announcements. Few announcements this day as few teachers, namely only three, including myself were in attendance. As the assistant headmaster announced that, once again Mr. Stone has returned to teach in the school, one girl fainted. Alas,  it was not because I made such a hit that she was overwhelmed with emotion ….not the case. I am sure she probably was not even aware of the proceedings as I later find out from her friends she had been weak and sick that morning.

 

Now when one faints, I think , let’s carefully assess if she hit anything going down, conscious or unconscious .. that sort of thing.  But here , medical attention takes a far back seat to spiritual incantations. One of the attending three teachers rushes to part the circle of friends surrounding the girl to appeal in prayer to Jesus Christ our Saviour to”Cast out the demons found in this child, Cast out all evil present in this poor child, renew her belief in Christ our God” The master was using  gestures not unlike those I recall used by Oral Roberts back in the 60’s. “Rise child, Rise!” These incantations continued for about four minutes. I could see the girl was awake and lucid though obviously weak.

 

The master spoke louder in his appeal to the spirit world. He seemed very relieved and satisfied when she took his hand  and returned to standing. At this point, I chime in, “Let’s get this girl to the clinic!”a short motor cycle ride away. Off she goes , three on a moto, a teacher, the ‘fainted one ‘ and her friend.

 

What just happened? Did it originate from Christianity, or is it more firmly based in pre-Christian Africa?

 

From what my two  African friends say, it seems embedded in old belief, that when one falls, as in fainting, your ancestors are not pleased with something you have done. In pre-Christian life, the  affected one one was often taken to the soothsayer to be given special herbs spread on the body, or vaporous herbs were burned close to the affected. (Worth noting some of these herbal practices actually did work to relief the problem in a medical way.) Once the Christians gained a following, there were not too keen on this practice , so they outlawed soothsaying wherever they were able. Being adaptive, the new Afro-Christians continued the practice but in the name of The Lord.

 

The episode was truly surreal for me. I’m not sure what the girl thought. One week later she is alert and fine and did not faint this day when I played ”When the Saints Go Marching In” on trombone. Oh my! A spiritual connection here? (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

 

I do want to add that , In all honesty, at least here in this community, the Catholic Church does far more good than the other. The Traditionalist and Christian denominations in general coexist quite nicely. One could sacrifice his  small fowl on Saturday and attend Mass on Sunday. Additionally I recall Father Richard , the former Catholic Priest here,  as being a guest speaker at the Muslim Ramadan event when we were her the first time in 2005.

 

Oh, yes. ….Teaching is going fine.  The students are really enjoyable. It is fortuitous that we begin the required reading “Ancestral Sacrifices” in a few days.

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Woman Power!

Guanware students, David and Tobiga in front of school

 

After an hour with three men (Dr. Somtim Tobiga, Immanuel Ontoyen, & David Stone) plus one woman (me) sharing two motorcycles on a journey that involved turning back to find a more passable trail, being lost, dodging the hind ends and horns of cows, and nearly getting stuck in mud; we arrived for our first look at a remote school to be adopted for the school feeding program. This may sound like a daunting journey, but in fact the three men, all in their 50s and 60s, David Stone included, were as happy as teenagers skipping school while negotiating the difficult trail. I must say, David does know how to drive a motorcycle in some pretty difficult conditions.

 

Two women giving us directions along the way

 Asking women on the trail for directions to Guanware

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greeting us at the school were around 100 mostly uniformed students of all ages and a large group of mothers.  The mothers are isolated and mostly illiterate women with a vision of education for their children. These women organized to persuade other women in the community to haul countless basins of water on their heads for 2 miles in order to make the local mud/clay used in construction.  The women then persuaded the men in the community to endure days of heavy labor in putting up the mud walls. *Dr. Somtim Tobiga agreed to buy zinc for roofing and wood for the windows and doors.  The result is a very neat and tidy three-room school to which the government has agreed to post two teachers.

Guanware's youngest students rushing to say hello

The youngest students rushing outside to greet us

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa with the women leaders

Lisa with Guanware's school organizers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children inside a classroom

Guanware classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This school was selected as a location for the lunch program due to the remoteness of the location which makes it difficult for villagers to transport food staples from distant village markets.  The location is such that it is risky for the young children to walk to other schools for fear of getting lost or encountering snakes on the long trip. Another important factor is the truly remarkable determination shown by the women in mobilizing the community to build their own school building. 

 

Far better than a simple thanks, dancing is the traditional traditional way to show appreciation

 Guanware dancing

Because this is a new school without a facility for food storage, our next step is to meet with Guanware community members and make a plan for construction.  The food will probably be delivered by the workhorse of Ghana-the donkey cart.    

 

 

 

(more…)

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It’s Friday evening at the end of a 100 degree day and I am walking into a stifling room-full of un-deodorized men and boys glued to one of the few TV screens in the region.  As the only female present, and a white person on top of that, they find me a chair right in the middle so that I can have a good view of the TV, but unfortunately also get the full effect if the temperature and etc. Yes I’m hot, there is sweat running down my belly and back.  We are watching the Ghana U20 (under 20 yrs old) football/soccer team vying for the world title in the final game against Brazil.

 

Most of Ghana’s 25 million citizens have cheered every Ghanaian goal on the way to the finals, a roar we can easily hear from our room on the hill near central Kongo.  In our sleeping quarters at half time, we are certain that Ghana has not scored due to the dead quiet throughout the village during the prior hour.  We now head toward the nearest TV (which happens to be at the clinic where I volunteer) for the the last 30 minutes of the 2nd half.  We know it will be hot, stuffy, crowded, and pungent, but are confident we can endure for 30 minutes.  But guess what, after 30 minutes the score is 0-0 at the end of regulation play.  After an extra 30 minutes of playing to break the tie, the score remains at 0-0.  Now for the shootout – did I mention that I have been sitting in a barely ventilated room in the middle of fifty enthusiastic, sweaty football fans for over an hour now? At this exciting, and sweltering, moment, with everyone sitting on the edge of their bench in anticipation, the TV reception goes all to heck. Amidst static and moving shades of gray, we discern that Ghana is the first to miss a kick. The angst of it all!  But alas, somehow Brazil also misses a kick, and though we can barely hear or see a thing on the T.V., in the end it seems GHANA WINS. The jubilation starts, I notice that David and I are not the only ones in a hurry to head for the door to gulp some fresh air.  And then its home to a blissfully cold shower and a restful, if rather warm, night under our mosquito net and ceiling fan.

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