I’ve been in Ghana for 11 weeks and I still haven’t been able to call myself a Peace Corps Volunteer—until last Thursday when I officially swore in as a volunteer. Peace Corps Ghana threw a big ceremony for our homestay families and us. After the Ghanaian and United States national anthems, the 23 trainees swore in with an oath and were handed “graduation certificates”. The rest of the ceremony consisted of speeches, cultural dances, gifts for our host families, and lunch. After the ceremony we took pictures with our host families.
Me with my homestay mom and dad.
Me with my homestay mom, two brothers, and sister.
For the ceremony, each homestay family made matching shirts for the guys and dresses for the girls. So my dad and I wore identical shirts and my mom wore a dress made out of the same pattern. Unfortunately, the tailor finished my clothes halfway through the ceremony, so I had run outside for a wardrobe change during the Peace Corps Ghana Country Director’s speech. However, my shirt was worth the wait, because my mom picked out a bright red fabric with shiny golden streaks on it. The next time I wear it will be for Chinese New Year.
It’s a huge relief to be done with training, as it was starting to drag on and get really repetitive. Now, the rest of my service will be drastically different from what I’m used to. Instead of having every hour of the day planned out for you, it will be up to me to find ways to fill my time. Furthermore, it’s going to be difficult to be apart from the other 22 volunteers. After spending every day for the past 11 weeks with each other, we have all grown to be pretty close. In order for us to integrate faster, the Peace Corps requires us to spend the next 3 months at our site with little to no travel. So there is a good chance I won’t see the other 22 volunteers until we have a week of training in 3 months. However, I am excited to finally start living at my village!
While in the Upper East Region, we visited a crocodile sanctuary. Part of my job description for Peace Corps is to tame crocodiles, and as you can see from the photo, I was able to round one up pretty easily with my bare hands. Actually that’s not true, Ghanaians just have a good relationship with crocodiles. The people who worked at the sanctuary summoned the crocodile out of the pond and we all took turns sitting on the crocodile. Before any of us touched one, the workers told us that no one has ever been attacked by a crocodile at the sanctuary. Here is proof that crocodile is real.
After everyone has his or her turn with the crocodile, it was fed a live chicken and quickly returned to the water.
The other day we traveled to a Peace Corps Volunteer’s village outside of Tamale to build latrines and soak-away pits. I was on a team that built two soak-away pits, so I will talk a little about those. Most small villages in Ghana don’t have gutter systems like in the U.S., so it’s very common to see all of the dirty water from a household flow straight into pedestrian paths. This creates a breeding ground for mosquitos carrying malaria. The solution is to dig a 3-4 foot deep hole and fill it porous stones to collect the water.
We started digging around 9 am and with the help of some people from the village, we finished two soak-away pits by 2 pm.
It’s been a couple weeks since I updated the blog, so I thought I would post a few highlights from the past couple weeks of training.
The night after we took our language exams, all of the Peace Corps Trainees celebrated the completion of our exams with our host families and language trainers. We called it traditional night because we ate Ghanaian food before we learned some Ghanaian dances. My language trainer prepared food from the Volta Region and it was excellent. My favorite dish was Yakiyaki?, which is from the Volta Region. I really enjoyed traditional night, because it was the only time all of the Peace Corps Trainees ate together with the rest of the community.
The photo above is of me with my host mother and brother at traditional night. Unfortunately my host father, sister, and other brother weren’t able to make it. Hopefully we will be able to take a family photo when I stay with them during my last week of training.
One day during our technical training in Tamale, we visited a baby clinic. When we arrived in the morning we were briefed on how the clinic is ran. In less than 30 minutes mothers began to arrive at the clinic with their babies to get them weighed and vaccinated. Without hesitation each mother would whip out a breast to feed her baby as they waited in line to be weighed.
When it’s time to be weighed, the mother puts a homemade “diaper with a loop on the back” on the baby. The baby immediately screams as the loop is hooked on to a hanging scale and the baby gets an automatic wedgie. During this process the nurse somehow records the baby’s weight. Each month the baby’s weight is recorded so the mother and the nurse can monitor the health of the child.
Another day during our technical training we traveled up to the Upper East Region and visited a place where pottery and other crafts are made. The clay pottery is made by a group of women who get together to make the pottery and sell it on site. It was nice to see a group of women get to together to generate income for themselves, especially in northern Ghana where traditionally it is not part of a woman’s role to earn money for the household. Also, the pottery was durable and insanely cheap. I ended up buying two large bowls and a vase, all for GH¢10.50 (around $6.50). The picture of above doesn’t do the pottery justice, but it was the only one I was able to snap.