The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fulbright is Renewed! (by Suzanne)

This may come to a surprise to some of you, since you probably didn’t know we had applied for a renewal. But, we did, and it was granted! We will return to the States this summer for about 60 days for some time with friends and family, and to lease our house again (and this time we’ll likely have to really move out of it – right now it is leased to the Pastor who took over at Foundation, Russell and Dianne, who leased it mostly furnished, which was great!). We will return to Ghana in mid-August for another 10-month Fulbright.

We decided to apply for a renewal for several reasons. First, as it turned out, was the family. Last fall, as we all found that we actually liked it here(!), there started the little jokes. When someone would say something about, “when we go back…” then one of us would pipe up, “well, IF we go back…”. After this went on some weeks, I mentioned to Steve that they did say something in the Fulbright Orientation in June about applying to renew, but there was no guarantee and you had to apply by October. The jokes about “if we go back” continued and so in mid-October I enquired with the embassy, hypothetically, about renewing. The application needed to come from Ashesi, and so I mentioned it to Patrick and Nana (Dean of Academics) and they were enthusiastic, and so they drafted a letter to apply for my renewal. At the time, as I look back on it now, it was still “the honeymoon” period. I was teaching and enjoying it, but I still had not figured out, really, the ins and outs of Ashesi. I asked my embassy contact here about the chances of renewal and he was noncommittal. “Washington likes to spread the money around,” he said, “but we will make a good case for you to stay.” That was it – we wouldn’t find out until March, and wouldn’t really here anything or talk about it until then – just a back of the mind, “I wonder…”. The closer and closer March got, the more and more I couldn’t imagine going back to resume life in Salado and Georgetown and Temple, Texas. Not that we won’t – when the renewal is done June 2008 we will do just that. But, as March got closer and closer, and Ashesi’s needs got clearer and clearer to me, I found myself really hoping we would stay. Also, it was clear to me that Steve wasn’t ready to go back. The 7 months so far had been wonderful for him, in many ways he was “the old Steve”, but he didn’t yet know what “the old Steve” was supposed to do with the rest of his life. I also knew that my Mom and sister would be sad, and my department at Southwestern, so it was with real mixed emotions that I found out, some 5 months later, that yes, the renewal was granted. Folks at Ashesi were quite enthusiastically congratulatory, which was been very nice. From the reaction of the PAS (Public Affairs Section of the American Embassy here), I take it that renewals are not that common. Perhaps its just because not many people apply (I must say, the reaction of the other Fulbrighters here, mostly students, tends to be, “you want to stay another year??”) . Yes, I do, But, I do miss my family and friends and colleagues as well.

[pathway, with steps leading up to Kakum]
Just as we found out about the renewal, we started talking about making our plane reservations to return to the States (either for the summer or for good) and I found myself really looking forward to stepping off the plane, back to “civilization”. And then, the new “load shedding exercise” schedule was announced. Since September 2006, except for holidays (Christmas-New Years and then Ghana’s 50th) all of Ghana has been experiencing scheduled power outages – ranging from 12 hours every 5 days to 12 hours every 3 days. The new schedule is 12 hours every other day – that’s 25% of the time, folks. It alternates day and evening – daytimes are bad for me since I teach around noon everyday and although Ashesi has a generator, there is no air conditioning when the “light is off” so it’s HOT to teach and the students are lifeless (and one of the things I really enjoy about teaching here is the fun classroom environment). Also, my office seems to be one of the hotter rooms on light-off days, so in the afternoons I just wilt. My brain is just too hot to think - I don’t get as much work done and I am (I admit it) cranky. Evenings are bad since sleeping without a fan is, well, HOT. And so we don’t sleep well either.

[We stayed up late one night to watch a lunar eclipse]
We now have a generator, which is GREAT. It is borrowed from some missionary friends, the Mozley’s, who got a bigger one. But, it’s LOUD, and expensive to run (about $18 for a 12 hour period, if we ran it the whole time), and Steve and Grace particularly don’t like to run it all night because of the noise (I think Fox and I prefer having the fans over the noise, and Anna is indifferent). So most light-off nights we compromise and run the generator until about midnight, when Steve asks the guard to turn it off. The first night we had the generator Fox and Grace were particularly happy since they had a bunch of math homework and were complaining that it seemed whenever they had a BUNCH of math homework it was light-out and they had to do it by candlelight. Steve hadn’t told them that we got the generator hooked up (we actually had it for some weeks before we finally got someone out to hook it up for us – turns out it was expensive to hook up, mostly due to the materials – the wiring and switch) so Steve went out and started it and the lights and fan came on to a household of Buchele kids cheering. Unfortunately, it won’t power an AC unit (oh well – we’re very happy with lights and fans), or microwave, or washer. Also unfortunately, perhaps more so, it won’t power our water pump – so if the water is out too – no water. It ALMOST has the power – it will actually run the water pump a few seconds before the breaker is thrown and it shuts off. We have tried going around and turning off EVERYTHING in the house (which is easy, since all the power outlets have switches), to no avail. We’ve had one day so far with no light AND no water – hopefully we won’t have too many of those. Unfortunately it was when Steve’s sister Beth was visiting – her last day, actually. She took a “bucket shower” before we drove her to the airport – I do believe she was not too sad to leave… (although we did have a great trip, and she was a trooper with the heat, especially considering she hails from Wisconsin these days).
[Beth and her new friend Joesph outside his clinic]

[Suzanne & Fox frosting muffins for a class bake sale on a light out night]
And lately, the every-other day light out for 12 hours has escalated, to include unscheduled light outs in-between! As if every-other day wasn’t bad enough, it’s essentially every day, for anywhere from a few hours to 12. It is now officially called “The Energy Crisis”. And things do not look like they will improve anytime soon. The only long-term project commencing soon is to build another dam that will supply about 10% of current needs a drop in the bucket of long-term needs), and will complete in 2011. Nuclear energy is being touted as what the country needs, and the gov’t even says that is another long term plan. Nuclear energy, in a country where you can dash your way around just about any rule or regulation. Yikes. From what I have read, the energy crisis is a two-fold problem of supply and demand – supply is currently low due to low rainfall (and, global warming does not bode will for big improvement in that area), and demand due to the increasing development in the country. Current use is something like 7 billion KiloWatts per year, and due to development (well, or not if there’s no power) they expect demand to push 13 billion KiloWatts by 2020. The only other feasible option I’ve heard of is gas-powered plants, which may become possible after the completion of the trans-west-African gas pipeline, but again, some time out. So, it seems that we’ve just signed up for another year of living in a tropical climate with not much power. What were we thinking??

[The Jernigan Family]
By the way, there are plenty of places around Ghana that haven’t had water in MONTHS and our missionary friends the Jernigan’s haven’t had power, or if they have had it, it has been low voltage, too low to be useful out at Lake Bosentwi in 4 weeks. And then there are the scores of Ghanaians who can’t afford power anyway. So, all in all, we are very fortunate. Really. But, juxtaposed against ASKING to stay and having it be granted, just as I was letting myself think about stepping off that plane in NYC, well…. In addition, my department at Southwestern was not particularly happy with the news, nor was my Mom or sister. And, Steve decided to “give up Foundation” since they needed to know about his appointment there for next year before we actually found out about the renewal, and that also caused a bit of sadness. And then Grace’s latest illness with another hospital trip, followed by me getting the same thing the next day. I can tell you, when you have had food poisoning there is real, instinctive, incentive to get away and stay from the source of the poisoning. So, … it is all bittersweet.

[Suzanne and her Ashesi Kids]

But, when I see all that I can help do over next year at Ashesi, I am excited. Last week the Honour Council steering committee started meeting – we are hoping to draft an Honour Code for Ashesi before classes let out this spring, and perhaps institute it beginning in August. I also helped draft the mandate, policies, membership, etc. for a new Academic committee at Ashesi – analogous to the Academic Affairs Council at Southwestern, for any Southwestern readers. And, I continue to try out new ideas in my head about all kinds of different aspects of Ashesi, and also how I can stay in contact with them after I depart.

[CIEE Students]
I have enjoyed getting to know the CIEE (study abroad) students at Ashesi, and am looking for ways in which I could possibly bring Southwestern students to Ashesi for study abroad and/or service learning-type experiences. I am hoping to feel like I have more closure when we do go back in June 2008 – instead of bouncing around various brainstormed ideas and not being sure what exactly takes hold, if I left for good in June 2007, I think that by staying another year, I can feel that I have followed through some concrete implementations of the ideas (of many) that make sense for Ashesi. Right now it feels that I have just begun to figure out how I can be of real service. Ashesi really is an incredible place with an impressive, and I think achievable, mission, and I am so happy to be a part of it for this slice of its life.


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