The Buchele Adventure

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monday - Day 1 of the Bolga Adventure

Monday –
Anna and I have been in Accra for almost a week, and its time for our adventure to begin.  I fear if we stay any longer in Accra, we won’t be able to break orbit and escape to the north country.   At first I thought that we had reacclimated rather quickly, but now I realize it feels more like resuming our lives here, than adjusting to it.  As I have set about the process of making the apartment our home, fixing broken things, finding and then hanging a clothesline, locating food to eat, I have been warmly welcomed by all my old market sellers, and people on the street, who each made a special point of “dashing me some small thing” to say welcome back.  

The biggest surprise, and I should have remembered this, is how long it takes to get something done here.  If a person can get one or maybe two important things done a day, it is an accomplishment, especially when one is at the mercy of public transport.  Its hot, nothing is that convenient, and every adventure involves lots of walking, TroTros, or Taxi.

So Anna and I met Libby, The Mission Society Summer Intern who is serving with the Gongwer Family at the Reading Town Library in Ankaase, north of Kumasi.  Anna and I visited Cam, Anne and Caylor when we went on our Kumasi Adventure [click here] years ago, but last year the Gongwers moved to Accra, and their intern Libby was returning there today, via a new intercity bus service called VIP.  

For just a few bucks more we rode in style, and were treated to a four hour-three part Ghanaian Movie.  Like many of the public transports I’ve taken, this one started off with a hawker selling some type of medical treatment (this time its acne cream) for the first 15 minutes and then he thankfully sat down so we could enjoy the Ghanaian Movie, which played next.   I’ve not seen that many Ghanaian movies, but they do seem to contain common elements of marriage and witchcraft, and this one was no different.  

In Kumasi we were met by the Pastor and his wife Julie who gave us a ride back to Ankaase.  Libby had called ahead and a pot of wonderful Jollof Rice [click here] was waiting for us.  Before dinner though, we had to help the cat off the room, the tin roof, which we imagine she was grateful for because it rained for several hours that night.  After dinner we talked, played cards and then read.  I remember many nights like this in Ghana.  

Libby is from Minnesota and has served here for a month.  She will finish her last year of college at Cornerstone University, and is spending this summer exploring her call to ministry by serving as an intern with The Mission Society.  Here in Ankaase, she teaches roughly 100 kindergarteners the fundamentals of reading each afternoon at the Reading Town Library.  She has a beautiful smile and sweet, sweet spirit about her and has been a delightful host.   Like Accra, it would be easy to stay a few more days in these familiar surroundings, but more adventures are waiting for us down the road, so we head north. 

Tomorrow its Techiman

Monday, June 28, 2010

Traveling up north

Greetings - Anna and Steve will be traveling up north to Bolgatanga [click here] for the next few weeks.  Along the way we'll be visiting a site for Mary Kay Jackson and taking some pictures of a new installation, visiting the Reading Town Library [click here], a prospective site for our first "St. Philip's Computer Project" and visiting a potential well site at a Senior Secondary School (High School) for next year's WaterSong Project. 

Please keep us in your prayers as we travel via public transport, and stay either with friends or in guest houses, letting the Lord lead us along our way.

Steve & Anna

Go Black Stars

Friday, June 25, 2010

By God's Grace

Ghana Blog: By God’s Grace

There is this episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation where Picard, who captains the Enterprise in this series, is being sent around in the time continuum, and each jump, be it forward or backward, gets easier until he is not sure where he belongs. That’s how it feels a few hours after landing, once I’ve adjusted to the heat, and showered off the journey. It feels completely natural, as if we never left, and yet there are subtle changes that take a few days to notice.

Wednesday night we watched the Black Stars, Ghana’s National Team, play Germany in the FIFA South African World Cup. Ghana is the last African country in the series with a hope of advancing to the second round. We all wore our Ghana Africa Cup (from 2008) shirts that day, and as we met with different people, or renewed friendships, the conversations eventually landed on the question of tonight’s game.

“Ghana will win,” we would hear, and then confidently, “by God’s Grace we will be victorious!” The TV announcers have made a big deal about Ghana being the last chance for an African team to advance, calling Ghana the Hope of Africa. All Ghana had to do was win or tie to advance, but they did neither, but thanks to the Australians who had such a lopsided win, Ghana still gets advances to the next round, by God’s grace and Saturday night, the Black Stars play Team USA. So Hope is lives on here, and the streets filled with people rejoicing, and blowing those vovozvualla horns.

On Thursday we were invited to Methodist University-College Ghana for a dedication of the boreholes, or wells as we call them. St. Philip’s United Methodist, and another Church, have each sponsored a borehole, and our missionary friend Mary Kay Jackson had successfully drilled them almost two weeks ago. Not far from the site of the borehole is a large termite mound, which I understand is a good sign, as it is thought that the termites already know where the water is, and isn’t. Currently the boreholes are just large blue pipes sticking out of the ground, but later, when they install pumps, they will supply water to the new dorms, and administration buildings.

Technical issues: 60 and 76 meters deep. 6-7 gallons per minute flow.

Dedications are an interesting ritual. I’ve been asked to bless babies, food, houses, bicycles, cars, journeys, but this is the first time I’ve been asked to bless a well. We taxi across Accra to the college, and first go to look at the borehole. Then we move to the administration building, where individually we are introduced to each of the team of administrators who will partake in the blessing. Later we gather in the office of the Principal, where when everyone has assembled, tea and cookies is served. While tea is being served, the leader of each group introduces their people, and tells a short story. The Methodist University-College principal goes first, and introduces his men, and tells how they have been praying for a borehole for years and now, by God’s Grace, you are here, he motions to us. Currently all Methodist University College Ghana’s water comes from a large underground cistern that is recharged daily from a visit from a large water truck. Mary Kay introduces us, and I tell a bit about the project from our end. It turns out that music is a major focus of the university, after all we are Methodists, the principal adds. Later I explain that the bulk of the funding for this borehole came from a series of mostly classical concerts called Water Song Project. That news is met with knowing smiles, as if it was more evidence of God’s Grace. Then they pin us with a University pin, and we head out to ask God to blessing.
As we are saying our good-byes, one of the administrators asks where our hearts will be on Saturday night. By God’s Grace we are blessed, we say, because no matter the outcome of that game (Team USA or Ghana’s Black Stars) we will winners.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Spirit of Ghana, by Suzanne

At two weeks in Ghana, I am now re-acclimated. I am sleeping soundly, peacefully, happily, jet lag and that initial bout of food poisoning long gone, my body feels normal, my soul better-than-normal (more on that …).

While I hate to admit it, the first week I was a bit shocked seeing the dirt and smelling the sewage and smoke and witnessing the poverty. But now I see the slow, simple life, the peace, the harmony, the friendly and helpful people. And of course, at Ashesi and at church and even in my old neighborhood, my community of friends and acquaintances, and the real and interesting problems that people are coming together to discuss and maybe even solve.

Now about my soul. I don’t know what it is about Ghana that brings out this wonderful peace in me, and makes me feel SOOOooooooo connected to the Holy Spirit. It is just so much easier to be connected to God here. I wake up every morning feeling peaceful and happy and calm. Every evening I go to bed thankful for my day and the people in it, and praying for those who need it. And throughout the day I am calm, joyous, connected, even in the midst of working (very) hard with stress here and there. For example, I’m doing my Apache-Netcat-Wireshark lab on Friday – I’ve already postponed it once, it REALLY needs to happen Friday – and we still haven’t solved the technical difficulties. It’s Wednesday night. In this States this would have me worried, anxious, stressed. It’s such a different feeling here. Partly, I have a lot of faith in Ato (Ashesi’s fantastic tech-guy), partly, I do have a worst-case Plan Z that will likely work if all else fails in the back of my brain. But partly it’s just that this environment does not encourage anxiety. I like it. I (like to think) I brought a lot of Ghana’s goodness home with me when I returned to the States almost 2 years ago – I have a renewed sense of the importance of keeping this spirit of Ghana alive when I return this time, in 5 weeks time.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Some Things I Forgot, by Suzanne

For those of you worried about my illness, no worries, I am all better! I was better Monday, MUCH better Tuesday and Wednesday, and this morning I woke feeling well rested and very much back to my old self. It’s so nice to have my energy back!

I arrived just over a week ago and am beginning to re-acculturate. We lived here from 2006-2008 and we visited for a month last year to see our oldest, Fox, graduate from high school at the local international school. But it’s funny, the things that are so ingrained when you stay here, that you can so easily forget. Some of these things that pretty immediately came back to me:
- The slow, unhurried conversations (even at work, even when people are busy)
- The incessant honking of taxis (to get your attention, to see if you want a ride)
- The sand/dirt that sticks to the back of your calves from your sweat and walking on dirt paths
- Just how expensive many of foreign goods are here
- Just how slow the internet is here, especially mid-day!
- How, just after you have food poisoning, you *really* don’t want to be adventuresome in your eating!

It’s delightful seeing my old friends, some from Ashesi University, some from The Mission Society, and some from church. It’s also delightful how easily people have accepted me back, and how happy people genuinely seem to be that I am back. Of course, everyone asks if Mr. Steve is here too, and their eyes light up when I tell them that he will come in a few weeks. You see, Steve is naturally more African than I – I tend to be work, work, work, business, business, business, but Steve, who had more time on his hands when we lived here before, but who is also naturally more open and talkative, he was the people person, the relationship person. Especially when I first arrived 4 years ago, when I needed to find X (say, a notebook for one of the kids) I wanted to ask someone where to get a notebook, go there, walk in, buy it, and go home again. But that really isn’t the African way (and I must say I’ve improved since 4 years ago). First you build a relationship with someone over repeated conversations. Then, at some point when one of the conversations lulls, you ask, “do you know where I can find a notebook?” Then you engage in conversation about the needed notebook, who it is for, why you need it, what type you need, etc. Then they ask you if you know such and such part of town, such and such street, maybe even such and such shop or stall (although if you knew the shop you likely also knew it carried notebooks). If you don’t know it, they describe how to get there, rarely using street names since mostly street names are not used (technically most streets do have names, I am told, but only major ones have signs indicating what they are). Here would be directions from where I am staying now, in the Ashesi University hostel at Danquah Circle, to the house I used to live in, a mile or so away:

Go toward “37” (an old army hospital), take a right at Morning Star School, then a left just after Melting Moments (a café), go past Metro TV, turn left a bit after after Tante Marie (a restaurant), continue until you come to Cape Trading Company, then take the left on the small road. It’s the second house on the right, with a black gate. (BTW if after Cape Trading you come to the road to the New American Embassy, you went too far.)

I’m in-between cultures enough right now that I can’t tell if these directions would seem perfectly normal to most Americans, or not (although I do know that Americans do like street names for error-checking purposes – and we’ve gone on enough goose chases here that I do appreciate a good street name thrown in now and again). But I forgot the golden rule of directions in Ghana: if you get lost, or even are just not so sure that you took the correct turn, just ask someone else! People are VERY happy to help. Ghanaians are the most genuinely helpful people I know. Just don’t be too hurried that you can’t properly greet them, ask if they are well, inquire about their family, comment on last night’s soccer match, etc. And THEN ask them directions :-)