The Buchele Adventure

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

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Ate Something… by Suzanne

In Ghana these are well-known and experienced words. Usually about 24 hours of stomach ills (I won’t go into detail here) plus feeling rotten. Unfortunately, I ate something last night, so am sick. Blah. So far it seems that the FloraStor (Thanks, Mary!) and activated charcoal (Thanks, Julie!) are handling it pretty well. Thankfully my friend Nii drove me around last night and I got the supplies for my stay in the hostel so I have everything I need (which right now is really just toilet paper, water, and digestive biscuits). Where I am staying is right across the street from one of the proper grocery stores in town, Koala, so without Nii I would have just gone there and spent 3 times as much money for the same things; instead Nii drove me by a local stand and is much more affordable. And with Nii’s car I could get a case of water, which would be difficult to do even at Koala since it’s a few blocks away and across a very busy street.

Nii and I went to dinner last night and had a nice visit – Nii is the husband of Adzo and father of little TK, Adzo is Dean of Students at Ashesi and also my good friend – some of you may have seen their beautiful wedding picture in our house or on our blog. Adzo and TK and in South Africa right now visiting her sister, they’ll be back Monday and I must say I can’t wait to see both Adzo and little TK (about 18 months).

The hostel is good, although forgoing the hotel air conditioning right before getting sick was maybe not be best of circumstances. But the fans here are good and there is a generator for when the lights go out, so I’m set. Last time we stayed here it was very noisy – bars and clubs with blaring music. Last night was blessedly quiet. There are a few Ashesi students taking summer classes staying here as well, and I think there’s a study abroad group from Michigan staying here although I haven’t seen them yet.

Although I really need to work, today I will rest (don’t have a choice, really, I don’t have the energy or brain functioning to do too much) and hopefully I’ll be well enough to go to the show at the National Theatre tonight – it’s a very big deal here, a traveling show from South Africa called Africa Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness. Ghana doesn’t have so many cultural activities anyway, and it’s pretty unusual that an international traveling show that has played in London and the US would come here. Definitely the cultural event of the season! I’ll go with our friends the Jacksons – I haven’t seen them yet, they’ve had a busy week - and then sleep over at their house Saturday night, since they live in a far suburb and while we’re driving we can chat and catch up more. I am really looking forward to seeing them! And then Sunday I will go with them to Asbury Dunwell church. Can’t wait for that!

Sunday: So I did go to the show, it was very fun, the National Theatre was packed, and I made it to church the next day, also fantastic (Steve: Brian, Auntie Pamela, and many others send their greetings and look forward to seeing you and Anna). After church I went to lunch with the Jacksons and Gonwers and their new intern Libbie but could only stomach some of Mary Kay’s rice and a coke. Cam is a doctor and he advised Cipro, and there was an open Pharmacy next door that had it, so I’m on meds now and should be good as new tomorrow! The sermon was on “where your heart/mind is, there you are also” and so I am deciding that I am well, and looking forward to the return of my energy!

Arriving in Ghana, by Suzanne

I know the best travelers are flexible, but really, the best travelers to Africa are FLEXIBLE. So many people freaked out when our plane was delayed in DC, or when their luggage didn’t arrive in Ghana, I am much more calm and laid back about such things now. It’s also nice being a seasoned traveler, I must say. Like when debarking from the plane, knowing to walk quickly by the first-timers who are unsure of what to do and where to go, and are taking in the scenery, since all 200 of us have to go through the same 4 immigration officers, and the sooner you arrive at the queues, the fewer people you have in front of you in line and the more you have behind you. And I like knowing the telling signs when the baggage handlers have just found out that no more luggage will be coming out so that I can bee-line it over to the lost luggage line, again, to have more people behind me than in front of me. And I really like being in the know about African queueing anyway, knowing just how to position my body to ensure I’m next in line as someone else is trying to do the same thing on my right and left.

So, yes, one of my pieces of luggage didn’t arrive, but thankfully not the one with the frozen brisket (still frozen on arrival, by the way), and also I’ve had this happen often enough that I packed a little of everything in both luggages and my carryon, so the only thing I had to buy was toothpaste. The routine for lost luggage is this: if it didn’t arrive on this flight, it will likely arrive on the next one, which is the same time the next day (usually, sometimes there are only certain days they fly). Only once did I have to go back for 3 days, although when it wasn’t on the second flight I was sure the bag was lost for good, but I decided to go back the 3rd day and there it was! At that point it arrived as shipped baggage and there was some talk of customs import duties, but I was thankful I had packed my feminine hygiene products at the top of the crate (you know, for cushioning) and the officer just took a quick look and said it was fine, I could go. Another thing that’s nice to know! This time my bag was likely lost in Frankfurt, since I had a short layover there – only 30 minutes due to mechanical delay on one end and weather delays on the other. I am pretty impressed that the one made it (love that German efficiency!), since I pretty much ran the whole time from one terminal to the next to make the connection myself.

It’s the raining season here and it did rain just before my arrival today, so it was cool when we landed – 100% humidity, but cool. People always ask me the temperature but no one really has thermometers here. Ghana is just off the equator, so when we talk about the weather instead of quantitative info we use the more descriptive terms: it’s cool (probably low to mid 80’s), warm (high 80’s to low 90’s?), hot (mid to upper 90’s) or really hot (100’s) - but everyone knows not to go out in the sun mid-day anyway, so to us it’s mostly just hot.

My old house, now the faculty house for Ashesi (which housed 5 people in the 5 bedrooms last year) needs to undergo repairs so I won’t be staying there after all, at least for now. I’m in a hotel for 2 nights which is a nice treat – air conditioning and television and even wi-fi although it’s down. My friend Carol and I went to a late dinner my first night, Wednesday, which was nice! Great to catch up with her and Ashesi news. She looks fantastic, and is happy. I had a yummy chicken schwarma wrap – big Lebonese influence here.

Thursday and Friday I hit the ground running for my class. Got the syllabus completed and Xeroxed, located the books we ordered for the class, and made up slides for the first day, Friday morning. I also got to eat in the Ashesi canteen for lunch both days, yea! It seems that if you eat it every day it’s not too exciting, but friends humored me and came with me for lunch both days. Thursday I had Jollof rice with chicken and that great spicy red sauce, Friday I had groundnut soup which, seriously, was almost identical to Steve’s except more oily and more spicy – but the flavor was just the same. It’s amazing how he can remember flavors exactly, and then is able to replicate them! Friday’s class only had 4 students in it, although apparently 3 more will come from another class that ran late and was finishing on Friday, and then 2 more maybe will also come Monday. As someone pointed out, people may be waiting to see if the course will really happen before actually coming – so we’ll see Monday and make a decision about whether or not the class will make. (But no worries, Ashesi has a long list of other admin-type stuff I can work on if the class doesn’t make). I also had significant computer troubles Friday – can’t get the Cryptool setup executable copied onto my desk computer, although it will let me copy other files, and I also couldn’t run Cryptool in the lab I installed it in – I could copy the setup and install it, but nothing happens when I try and run at. My friend and colleague Aelaf helped for quite some time trying to get it going, but no luck yet. I looks like one of the DLL it uses conflicts with the same DLL that the virus protection software uses on those machines. Although we un-installed the virus protection and it still didn’t work. Hmmm. So Monday’s class will be all lecture again, it seems.

Friday mid-day I moved my things into the Ashesi Hostel at Danquah Circle. It will be nice to be able to make my own tea and have a fridge, although I am forgoing air conditioning and television. Oh well, an acceptable tradeoff – I brought some DVDs with me and the pirated ones are readily available outside Koala for very cheap (it’s actually used to be just about impossible to buy “real” CDs and DVDs here, although that may have changed). It will be especially nice to have the extra space when Steve and Anna arrive in 3 ½ weeks.

We have the same apartment we had when we first came to Ghana 4 years ago, before our faculty house was ready. And Suala is again our landlord, so I am in very good hands!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Going to Ghana 2010, by Suzanne

I leave soon for what may be my yearly trip to Ghana. Last year Steve and I staggered our trips to Ghana to see Fox graduate from Lincoln Community School – we only overlapped a few days, so as to minimize the time Anna and Grace were home alone. Recall that Fox stayed an extra year in Ghana, living with our missionary friends the Mozleys, to finish high school. He has now finished his first year at Southwestern University, is back living at home for the summer, and has a job as a waiter at The Monument Café, a great job at a great restaurant in town, which he is enjoying. Last weekend we went up to Denton, Texas to see Grace graduate (National Honor Society and Gold Cord, if I do say so myself) from the Texas Academy of Math and Science. She is also living at home for the summer and looking for work. At this point it seems she may piece together several babysitting, office, and retail short-term jobs. Not exactly her dream summer, especially since her parents and Anna are “ditching” her – me for 7 weeks, Steve and Anna for 4, for our travel to Ghana. I am surprisingly not at all worried about leaving our two teenagers home for 3 weeks alone – except of course their fighting over kitchen and bathroom messes, and whose turn it is to mow the lawn. The neighbors are joking about the parties that will be occurring, but I figure they’ll at least have the good sense to put things back in order before I get home. But I also just trust them – they’re responsible almost-adults.

I am feeling sad about “ditching” them, Grace especially since she’s the more vocal about it, and also am feeling introspective about transitions in general these days. There have been bumps putting 5 people back together in a too-small house (Grace got the dining room this summer – Fox had it last summer). Also my Aunt Skeeter passed away this week. She and my Uncle JB had been married for 66 years. A very sad transition for him, although we all rejoice that she is with her Lord and a company of saints after a year’s difficult illness. Leaving my family during these transitional times leaves me somewhat melancholy.

However, I am excited to see my friends and colleagues at Ashesi University, see how babies TK and Ingrid have grown over the last year, maybe welcome Ingrid’s sibling while I’m there, and also to see our church and missionary friends in Ghana. As usual my luggage is being packed full of requested items and gifts – the things that are hard to find or very expensive there (a particular brand of makeup or shampoo, particular books, coffee, diapers, sippy cup, microwave popcorn). When Steve comes he will bring some brisket and BBQ sauce – a big hit at last year’s graduation party!

So, if you please, wish me a volcano-cloud-less Tuesday and Wednesday, no terrorists, no illness, no delays, just smooth sailing as I transition back to Ghana for 7 weeks. Oh, and one of those planes with the individual movie controls built into the back of the seat would be nice. :-)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Goodbye Hyde Park United Methodist Church

Today we say good-bye to an old friend who forever changed the course of our lives.  I know that sounds so dramatic as to sound trite, but if we had not walked through those doors in 1992, when Suzanne was expecting with Grace, I don’t know what our lives would have become.  I certainly would not be adding this entry to a blog started long four years ago, when we left for Africa. 

This old friend we say good-bye to today is Hype Park United Methodist Church, the church I received my call to ministry in, the institution that supported that call, the congregation that listened to my first sermon, where I conducted my first funeral, served my first communion.  Maybe received is too strong a word to attach to call; answered might be a better choice.  Something happened to Suzanne and I in that Friendship Class room during Disciple Bible Study, and that call I’d been running from since high school, and known about since age six caught up with me, and I answered it. 

All week I’ve been thinking about Hyde Park, a church once known as Shettles United Methodist, and before that I think Avenue D Methodist Episcopal Church of the South (that would have been about 100 years ago).  I’ve been thinking about people like Bob Swanson  who used to stand out in the parking lot and ask people as they drove in, “Methodist Parking?”  Hyde Park was in the shadow of a large and powerful Baptist Church of the same name, and their people would often park in our parking lot, but Bob faithfully steered them elsewhere.    One of our kids asked about the difference between Methodist and Baptist parking. 

I think of Rev. Jim Cloninger, the pastor when we joined, and his 60-40 rule.  Jim believed that in a marriage if each person would contribute 60% of the effort to sustaining the marriage, and expect to reap 40% of its rewards, it would never fail.  Jim believed this so much that it seemed like between 60% and 40% of the time, his sermons contained that phrase.  I saw him the week before he was killed in a car accident.  I was walking my son home from Lee Elementary, “hey Buchele,” I heard in his distinctive voice, from the open window of that little truck.  Jim had driven up from San Antonio to pick up his daughter, and who knew it would be the last time I would see him?    

Jim and I worked habitat houses together, and played guitars on the porches of some of the finest homes in Hyde Park for their Tour of Homes.  It wasn’t just me, Jim would get many of us together doing something, remodeling a house, fixing up something at the church, he would get us all together in one place doing something, and then do something he was famous for:  be late.  We used to call it CST, Cloninger Standard Time, about 20 min. late.  I sometimes wondered if he did that just so we’d have to talk to each other, while we were waiting.  In fact at his funeral, the pastor began the eulogy with these words, and I’ve never forget them, he said: “It is clear that Jim Cloninger had nothing to do with this service…it started on time!”
One time Jim talked about the streetlights of Hyde Park, how they went off when he was walking or running at night as he passed under them.  “Does that ever happen to you?” he asked in that sermon.    It happens to me more often than not, and each time it does I think about what Jim said, wondering if it was a warning to him then, to me now, and what the heck did it have to do with the Gospel lesson that day? 

I think of Rev. David Gilliam, who followed Jim at Hyde Park.  I learned so much from David in the year I served alongside him as a campus minister.  David introduced us to the music of Taize, to the art of crafting a worship experience, to Lebh Shomea, the Catholic retreat center in south Texas, and who was always so generous in sharing ministry; never wanted to be the sole person in the spot light.   Then David left, and soon I was appointed to serve a new church in Temple.  Looking back at those seven years at Foundation, I see Hyde Park was always a part of all I did.  I sometimes wonder if I wasn’t trying to create or recreate a bigger and better Hyde Park, combining the ministries of my mentors Jim and David.

I think about the Christmas Eve services, the cold and sometimes wet Easter Sunrise in the park, about Children’s Time, VBS, and the annual Christmas “Play” which was more of a frolic with costumes.  I think about singing with Katie Hull, Michelle Schumann, Cayla Cardiff, and the Campus Ministry to feed the day workers on Tuesday mornings at 6am.   Bring a dozen hard boiled eggs and tortillas. 
I think about the secret places of the building, like under the fellowship hall stage, or above the stage wings, or the trap door under the pulpit.   I think about the year we gave up the organ during Lent, and how powerful “Christ the LORD has risen today” sounded on Easter when played with all the stops out.  Turns out the organ was broken and it took the six weeks of Lent to fix it. 

I think about the amazing people that were such an encouragement: Ruth Hansen, Ambra Reedy, Charlie and Annie Lancaster, Bert Bowman, Jody Cook, Mary Beth Hoffmann, Hank Strange, Bob & Ruth Swanson, John and Sharon Lancaster, Carole Franke, Nate Davis, Dorothy Barber, Wanda & CL Evans, Leonia Cronk,  Brick & Dana, Betty & Brock, Ingrid and Scott, and of course the College Class:  Kelly & Melina, Kelly Willis, Robert & Susan, Mark, Kristine, Daniel & Julie.

I think about those who came into ministry, or trained for it there: Rev. Sue Abold, Rev. Nancy Day, Rev Ingrid Acres, Rev. Krista Ingram, me, and I know I’m forgetting some, but I wonder, who will love on them as Hyde Park did?

I guess what makes me most sad is that in a generation, all this will have been forgotten, just as I can’t quite remember the stories Bert used to tell about the men of his Sunday School class dressing up in skirts and dancing.  I can’t remember why, only that I used to heard this story about as often as I heard the 60-40 rule.   It makes me sad that after today I won’t be able to take my daughters, who were both baptized in that sanctuary, back to that place and tell the story of the day they were baptized.   Maybe the place is not as important as the work that was begun that day and the people who began it. 

Every few years I do a Google search on the name Rev. Jim Cloninger, and usually there is nothing, but this morning I got one.  It mentions Jim alongside another clergy, one who like Jim, had so much potential.  The author is listing those who have died before their time:
…Rev. Jim Cloninger, whom I was just getting to know, appreciate, and learn from when he died in a car crash. Part of the tragedy in each case was the sense of unfulfilled promise, a gnawing, smoldering feeling of unfairness, that they, and we, and all who loved them, and all whose lives they would certainly have touched in the future had been unjustly robbed, wrongfully plundered of an unfathomable treasure.  [blog]
So I guess there is hope, that the stories of lives that the people of Hyde Park touched, and changed will not be lost.  So today, Hyde Park United Methodist completes its mission, and like those who have gone on before it, its passing will not be overshadow by what it has already given to this world.   Thank you Hyde Park for the journey you began in my life, and for those who you brought into my life.  God Speed.