Total Eclipse of the Heart

Trip Start Sep 22, 2005
Trip End Dec 19, 2007

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Greetings from Ghana!

Has it been another month already? Time is surging ahead and we're doing all we can to hold on by the coat tails. In a few more days, we'll be passing mile six of the marathon. Where has the last half year gone? Ah, the paradox of time!

I think we last left you in the Volta regional capital of Ho, where we were celebrating my birthday (Chris) and attending a Peace Corps meeting. The following day we had a crucial meeting with the Deputy Regional Minister, who in turn introduced us to the Volta Regional Minister. To put it into perspective, this would be the equivalent of a random couple from Poland asking to see the governor of Michigan. Although it sounds funny, we were welcomed with a hearty handshake - "how did we like Ghana thus far?"- And asked how he could be of service to us! Talking to any politician requires a certain degree of respectfulness and a hefty does of schmoozing. Both are things I delight in, especially the latter. So by the time we left his office, we had passed on everything we knew about the water project, and had him talking on the phone with the Regional Director of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), who would be implementing the project. Our goal was to open up the lines of communication between government entities and perhaps even more important, twist the elbow of CWSA to consider the feasibility study of the project already completed by the engineering firm UNIHYDRO. This would save both time and money, which was something the politicians could see clearly; they want to see the project finished by 2008 - the next election year. We want the project to move forward quickly because our communities - Damanko and Sibi Hilltop - need a safe drinking water source as soon as possible. Plus, people tend to get excited about big projects and it motivates them to get involved and help in their own capacity. This was precisely how we revved up the town of Damanko to start a WatSan Committee of their own but we'll talk about that a little bit later.

A week after the trip to Ho all eight of the PCVs from our district rendezvoused for a 10-day Guinea Worm/Health Education Bike Tour starting in Kecheibi. We biked to each other's sites in the morning and spent the day doing educational activities in the PCV's community/zone. We began on a sunny Sunday morning by splitting up the group and traveling to different churches in Cassie's community. Sayward and I developed a good skit-bad skit, which highlighted why you should wash your hands with soap and water, use a latrine, and drink borehole water. At first we thought it would be offensive for me to pretend to be taking a dump in a church but the patrons seemed quite comfortable with me pretending to do the deed in their holy establishment. I even used oil and cinnamon on my hand for a more visual appearance. Everyone got the point when I shook Sayward's hand and then we went straight to the task of eating some food. We exercised this skit several times over the course of the bike trip. The tour was a nice way to see the diversity in everyone's sites, and we were quite envious of the PCVs who had nice views of the mountains. From Kecheibi (Cassie Cobles' site) we rode to Nkwanta (where surprise surprise, I doubled-over with another case of giardia), then on to Agou Fie (Kris Huston), Kabiti (Mikelis Beitiks), Potripor (Sumit Mittal), Jombo 1 (Cissy Deluca), Azua (Lena Bloom), Kpassa (rest day) and Sibi Hilltop (Chris and Say). The ride ended in Damanko with a big rainstorm. We were forced to cancel the evening's activities but fortunately in the morning were able to present a Guinea Worm and Malaria education session at the River Oti to the villagers washing their clothes - and of course we coupled this with a swim and some relaxation under the bridge.

A bit of sad news to report:
Upon arriving at Sibi Hilltop our puppy, Mogley, was really skinny and obviously sick. We didn't know what to make of it but hoped for the best. In the evening he seemed to be getting worse for he wasn't eating or drinking, and was vomiting and having foul-smelling diarrhea. He was definitely not getting better, so I put him in my bike basket and rode that night to Damanko to find the "veternarian." When we got to the vet's house Mogley was in rough shape and now we could see that he was defecating worms every time he went. With some difficulty we found the right medication and force-fed him the strong de-worming pill. I fell asleep exhausted around midnight, assured that he was going to make it through the night. However, I woke up to him helplessly crying at 4:30 am. Sadly, he died an hour later. We hope to get another puppy in the near future to give Chloe a playmate. She moped around the house for a week after Mogley died and now she acts like a different dog - always wanting our attention. ...I wonder if this is what its like to have an only child.

Besides getting buff from riding our bikes around the district and taking care of our mopey puppy, we've been splitting our time evenly between our two sites and working hard to facilitate a slow but sure change in the communities. A long time ago, we planted a seed of an idea in the Chief of Damanko's mind to form a WatSan Committee to help the town and now we have seen it through to its conception. Committee members were chosen from each of the 16 tribal group/communities - one man, one woman - and the members then met and elected their own officers to lead the organization. They wrote their by-laws and raised enough money to travel to Nkwanta to open a savings account at Ghana Commercial Bank for future projects. They're a motivated group of people and we're really excited to be working with them! Another community in our area, Obunja, has recently done the same thing but with even less direction from us, which is definitely a positive point. Sayward will meet with them on Tuesday morning to offer some suggestions for their by-laws, how to open a bank account, etc. We also had a very intense meeting with the community of Sibi Hilltop to discuss fixing their two broken-down boreholes. The WatSan Committee there will be revamping to offer better organization for the community's projects, and especially collection of money for maintaining their only two boreholes. The people at Sibi are currently fetching from the dam, which often runs dry later this season if the rains don't come. However, our chief at Sibi Hilltop - in his infinite wisdom - has recently sacrificed a puppy so that the rains will come early. So far it appears to be working!

Our friends Brian Henry and Holly Martin will be wrapping up their tour of West Africa soon. They surprised us in Damanko for a short but meaningful visit - bearing gifts (thanks Jim for the chocolates and magazines). We introduced them to Wagachi (Fulani cheese), Pitoh (guinea corn beer) and a fun game we like to call "Goat or Child?" They reminded us how much fun it is to be travelers and privy to observe the happenings of a colorful African culture like Ghana's. Thank you, wherever you are, beer ambassador & the wife!

This weekend we came to Accra for medical reasons. Sayward had a couple of cavities that were leaking and needed to be resealed. I keep injuring my right foot every time I play soccer and decided to get an x-ray. Fortunately no bones are broken, but the injury remains a mystery. We've also made a new rule for ourselves - whenever we travel for business, we have to take a side-trip for pleasure. This time the pleasure was double for the timing of our trip coincided with St. Patrick's Day. Naturally, we went to Ryan's Irish Pub in Osu and enjoyed free green beer on tap and some live reggae music in the garden. Stepping inside Ryan's is like temporarily putting aside life in Ghana and going back to your favorite college hang-out. We even had a great cheeseburger with fries! The next morning we headed to the beach. A hippie beachside, backpacker-type place called "Big Milly's Backyard" offered a relaxing scene to spend the day - located in Kokrobite, 32km from Accra. We challenged the waves in the roaring ocean, laid out with a book and a cold beer on the sand, browsed the material, pottery, woodwork and artisan crafts from the local Rastas, listened to the drum circles, and splurged for dinner with a plate of delicious butter-soaked, grilled lobster. The whole day was absolutely surreal after being at our deprived sites for the last month. Falling asleep that night in our quaint round bungalow with its thatched roof and ceiling fan, we were two very stuffed and happy cats!

Much Love from Ghana,
Chris and Sayward

PS - Holy wah! We had seven packages waiting for us in Accra. Thank-you Ed, Eddie and Denise Lundberg along with Grandma and Grandpa Fehrman, Sally McLeod, Jennifer Lively, Chad and Katherine Garland, Stan and Denise Touton, Jim Callahan & Pam Griffin & Cait, and last but not least Abbie Clarke. Everything arrived relatively unscathed and the contents are wonderful. However, we do kind of feel like brats for getting so much stuff - it was like Christmas opening our packages. But what have we done to deserve your love and gifts? Hopefully, we can return the favor some day to someone else in our position and bring it back around.

PPS - Big thanks to the letter writers out there: Grandma Cieszlak, the Wargels, Laurie Caird, Marian Bird, Grandma Fidyk and those who I have temporarily forgotten. We love hearing from you!

PPPS - Sayward has a new email address:
Feel free to email her with any exciting news in your lives!
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