Tag Archives: Training

IST

Last week I attended In-Service Training (IST) in Kumasi with the group of health WATSAN Peace Corps Volunteers I entered Ghana with in February. IST is mandatory training that each volunteer must attend after living in his or her villages for the first three months. Each volunteer brought his or her community counterpart to IST. Bringing our counterparts allowed us to educate them on what the Peace Corps is and how the Peace Corps operates. I was grateful for this opportunity, because hadn’t worked very closely with my counterpart before IST so I wanted the chance to form a closer relationship with him.

Sitting with my counterpart during session.

During the first three months we weren’t allowed to do much travelling and are discouraged from started big projects in our communities. So IST marks a milestone in a volunteer’s service where the reigns are removed and the volunteer is free to travel and start community work. During my first three months at my village I did some projects with Ghana WASH through my NGO. However, now I think I’m ready to initiate some projects on my own. During the training we learned about the types of grants available for volunteers and how to apply for them. I definitely came away from IST more motivated and with project ideas for my village.

All of the volunteers with their counterparts.

On Thursday during IST we visited KITA (Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture), an organization that farms everything from mushrooms to fish. Although we aren’t agriculture volunteers, it was still interesting to learn about bee keeping and rabbit rearing. Plus, these are some projects we can bring back to our villages to generate income for people.

Did I mention they have ostrich rearing at KITA?

A couple months ago Peace Corps Ghana moved offices in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. I haven’t been to Accra since my first week in Ghana, so after the IST, I travelled down to Accra to check out the new office. After spending most of my time here in villages, Accra seemed very westernized and luxurious. It was quite unusual to see stop lights everywhere while driving on two-lane roads. There is even a small mall with a grocery store and theater. On Saturday night a group of us saw the new Batman movie. The theater is like any normal theater in the Unites States, so it was nice to pretend I was in America for a few hours.


Officially a Volunteer

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!


Training Highlights Part II

 Crocodile Sanctuary

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.

 

Soak-Away Pits

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.


Training Highlights Part I

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.

Traditional Night

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.

Baby Weighing

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.

Clay Pottery

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.


Site Visit

I passed my LPI with an Intermediate High rating. Peace Corps trainees need at least an Intermediate Medium rating to pass. My LPI lasted 17 minutes and I had to introduce myself, introduce my American and Ghanaian families, talk about my daily routine, and do a market role-play all in Ewe. Passing the LPI proved that I can memorize a monologue in Ewe, but at this point I still struggle when it comes to actually conversing with someone in a real-world situation.

Last week all of the Peace Corps trainees travelled to Kumasi for our “Counterpart Workshop”. We finally learned where we will be living and what we will be doing for the next two years. I previously knew that I would be heading to the Volta Region, but I didn’t know which community I would live in.

The Peace Corps staff revealed our sites to us by drawing a map of Ghana and marking each community with chalk. One-by-one each person’s name was read and each person stood on his/her location on the Ghana map. After this, we met our work counterparts and discussed our work projects. I will be working on the Ghana WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) project improving sanitation and hygiene in multiple communities. I’m exited about my project because it seems relatively structured and there is a lot of work to be done. I don’t think I’ll be sitting under a mango tree for the two years.

After the Counterpart Workshop I travelled from Kumasi to my community, Abutia Teti, which is right outside of Ho, capital of Volta Region. I only had two days to visit my community and the surrounding area, but so far I like what I see. My living area isn’t what you would expect from the Peace Corps. I have two bedrooms, a toilet, and a shower. I was told that my community has been waiting for a Peace Corps volunteer for 8 years, so everyone seems happy to have me there. I was surprised at how few children yelled “yevu” at me. “Yevu” means “obrini” in Ewe, which means white person or foreigner.

The first day of my visit I went to three churches in my community and introduced myself in Ewe. All it took was just a few lines from my LPI monologue to impress my community members. The second day my counterpart and I took a taxi to Ho. She showed me the office of the Local NGO and introduced me to the people I will be working with. After that I was introduced to the Municipal Assembly of Ho. The Municipal Assembly is the group of Government of Ghana officials that govern the district of Ho, which Abutia Teti is located in.

It was a short two days visiting my site, but I’m happy with it and I can see myself living there for the next two years. The only downside is that I won’t return for another month. All of the trainees are meeting in Tamale for technical training for 3 weeks and then we return to our homestay community for 1 week.

A picture of my room, mosquito net and all.

Introducing myself at church in Ewe. I accidentally greeted the group in singular form, but they cut me some slack.

Introducing myself at another church. They prayed for me afterwards.


Waterfalls, Independence Day, Farming

Sunday on our day off we visited the Boti waterfalls in the Eastern Region. It was nice to get outside after being in classes all day for the past couple of weeks. Aside from running in the morning a few times a week, I haven’t been getting that much exercise. However, our trip to Boti Falls allowed us to take in some fresh air.

Boti Falls is about an hour drive from our village. Once we arrived, we went straight to the waterfalls. Unfortunately, we can’t swim in fresh water, because of schistosomiasis.

After the waterfalls, we hiked for an hour to umbrella rock, which sits atop a large hill that provides a great view of the rainforest landscape. The hike wasn’t long, but it was very hot and humid so I was pretty exhausted by the time we made it to the top.

We then hiked a little further to a small village with a three-trunked palm tree that was the centerpiece of the village. It seemed to be a tourist attraction though, because there was a man charging 50 pesewas to climb it and have your picture taken. By now we were all starving so we ate lunch and the Peace Corps staff surprised us with pizza. It was first time I’ve eaten cheese in a month, so it was a nice break from Ghanaian food. I’ve heard the Volta Region has many waterfalls, so this definitely won’t be the last time I see a waterfall in Ghana.

This was my dinner the other night before it was cooked.

Note to self…don’t temp Mom to make something crazy for you, because she will. Turns out snail doesn’t taste that bad (kind of like rubber) and is relatively healthy.

March 6th was Independence Day in Ghana. Although Ghanaians don’t celebrate with BBQs and fireworks, all of the children have the day off from school. Each school in the town met in a large field for a marching competition.

Many people in my homestay family’s village are farmers. Some farm for a living and others farm as a hobby. Today my brother showed me my family’s farm. They grow palm nuts, pineapples, avocados, mangos, cocoa yams, and plantains. The farm didn’t seem to have much organization, just fruit trees scattered around thick weeds. Our job for the day was to cut the weeds with a machete or cutlass as the Ghanaians call it.

Also the Mangos are HUGE here.

 

In a week I have my Ewe Language Proficiency Interview (LPI), which is a 20 minute conversation with my language teacher to determine if I have enough language skills to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. After this we will meet our counterparts who we will work with for the next two years and travel to our sites to visit for a few days. I know I will be living in the Volta Region, but I’m excited to finally find out which community I will be living in.


Life in Ghana

In Ghana greeting people is a must. If you are walking down the street it is viewed as offensive to not greet someone you know. If you do not greet, you are rude and only care about yourself. The greeting process is also longer in Ghana than it is in America. First, you tell the person good morning/afternoon/evening and the person responds. Then, you ask how the person how he/she is and the person responds. Then, if you are adept in the local language (which I am not), you ask how the person’s family and extended family. So if you greet every person you know, it can take forever to walk to class.

There are tons of children in our village and they all want to say hello to the “obrunis”. Obruni means foreigner or white person in Twi. Every time I walk down the street there are bound to be children yelling “obruni” at me. Although it seems yelling white person at someone would be offensive, calling someone obruni is not offensive or derogatory in Ghana. It is just a way for the children to get your attention because they do not know your name. If I’m in a friendly mood I respond to the children with my name and ask how they are doing. If not, I respond with “obinini”, which means black person (this is not offensive as my host family told me I can respond this way).

Ghanaians don’t believe in using silverware. They just cut out the middleman and use their food to eat their food. For instance, most meals consist of a starch (ie. rice, boiled yams, fried plantains) and a soup or stew. So they dip the starch in the stew and chow down that way. One such starch is fufu, which is pounded plantain, yam, cassava, or some mixture of the three. The result is a malleable, doughy ball that you dip into your soup and eat. The catch is that there is no chewing involved – just dip the fufu into the soup and swallow (all done with your hands).