Monday, December 29, 2008

Ashanti Deaf School

Here I am with the Headmaster, Samuel, and he gave me a wonderful tour of the school. Unfortunately the school is on Winter break for the Holidays and so there were no students. I signed a bit with Samuel but he spoke great English so we didn't sing much.

There are about 50 teachers for the 450 deaf students and all the teacher, of course, know ASL. There is a strict English or ASL policy at the school so there was no problem talking or signing with everyone I met on the campus (though I was very sad that there weren't any students). The facilities are great and it seems that the structure of the school is also going well.

Samuel told me the biggest problem for the deaf students is once they finish school and even vocational training there aren't many places for them to work because of the language barrier so they either have to work for themselves or live with their parents etc.

I really enjoyed talking with Samuel and getting to know how the Deaf school system works here in Ghana. I wish I could do more for the school but it was just bad timing as they don't start again until the day before I leave to go home.

Here is a pictures of the grounds.

This is the sign I saw on my way to the Mampong Babies Home!

More Pictures

Here I am with Kofi, the Headmaster at Okomfo Anokye Secondary School, where Chelsea & Mike live and teach. I brought the school some medicine that they were in need of and he was very happy to accept them.

Here are some of the Asamang Branch members with their new white shirts & ties. I was able to bring some stuff for the branch from my ward back in Arizona. The Branch was very happy. It was amazing that the day we had planned to deliver the goods it seemed that everyone from the branch came and more. See people came into town to vote for their next President and so there were too many people and not enough stuff. Everyone seemed to be okay though and we told them that we would send more later!

These are a few of my new friends Celestina & her husband Emmanuel. They invited all of us to dinner the other day and prepared Banku. This is a Ghanaian meal that is ground up corn meal that is cooked in a certain way. We ate it with fish and some pepe. It was good but like other Ghanaian food a little goes a long way and I am full just about when I begin.

Here is the Banku

mike, David, Emmanuel, Hilda, and Chelsea. These are 3 of the 4 children that Esther and Samuel (works at the Salvation Army Clinic) have.

Here I am with the ladies that cook for the students at the school. They were making kenkey, beans, and some soup stuff. It was fun to see them cooking away and they were all so happy to be cooking all day! I could learn a lot from them!

Here is the path from our house to the school. It also leads out to the main road to the center of the village. If you go to the far right there is a foot path that we take to cut across and get on the red dirt road when we are going to "town."

Here is comfort, she helps at the Babies Home, and I Boxing Day.

Here are some of my new Christmas items! Wahoo!

It was great to be back at the Babies Home and helping out for Christmas!

Here are the children in my branch. They are holding up little handouts that my roommate Jodi had left over and donated to me to bring to the kids. The handouts had colorful ribbons on them and I let the kids pick the ribbons they wanted. Every kid got one and they were so excited! Thanks jodi!

Football (soccer) is really big here in Ghana. My branch here has a football team but they have been lacking jerseys. Thanks to my cousin they now have a team's worth of jersey's and they are very happy about them!

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is really big here. They call it Boxing Day. We spent most of the day at the Babies Home in Mampong. We got there early and helped dress the kids in their new clothes. They were new pretty dresses socks and cute shoes for the girls, and also new little shorts suits with ties, socks and shoes for the boys.

There was a huge celebration at the Home with a live band, a DJ, and lots of other people, kids, and churches donating things to the Home. After a while the Babies Home took some time to announce to the audience that Chelsea and Mike had donated new uniforms for the workers at the Babies Home. The workers were so grateful since everyone always donates to the kids and they do all the work to keep them healthy, fed, washed, and in bed etc. It has been great to see that good that Chelsea and Mike are doing here on an ongoing basis!

I got to dance with kids, just enjoy spending time with them and most of all help them enjoy just being kids! All in All this Christmas Season has been one to treasure!

On a side note multiple times as I was on my way from Agona to Mampong I saw this school for the Ashanti Deaf. I hope to be able to get over to that school and see if I can volunteer. I hope the are using ASL or I will have no clue what they are signing!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

I just want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and let you know how things are going here. Last night we went around to many of Chelsea & Mike's friends and a few a of mine. We gave some gifts and even did some caroling. At one house, Madame Esther's place, I even got to play on her son's (Emmanuel) keyboard. I played lots of hymns and people sang along.

Then last night (Christmas Eve) we read the Christmas story, sang some carols, and of course, opened our presents. We all got African Dashiki's to wear to bed. Mine is bright and amazing! Like I said Chelsea did a great job of keeping with traditions.

This morning I woke up and we had mike video tape us finding our "santa" gifts all laid out with our homemade stockings. I got lots of goodies, a new skirt, some Ghanaian candies, and a few other items.

After eating some of Chelsea’s cinnamon rolls (they didn’t turn out quite right but they still tasted good) we just relaxed a bit, read some, watched a movie, and just enjoyed being a bit lazy.

Then we decided to open the wrapped gifts. There were candies, Ghana flip flops, books, books on tape, and more. It was fun to see people open the gifts we had secretly bought for them. I was really excited for Chelsea and Mike to see the gift that I had asked Isaac to make for them. He made them a Kente Cloth in the Ghana flag colors with the word Ghana in the center. It turned out fabulous and he also made me one so that I can take it home and frame it.

After opening gifts we did some more relaxing, had some visitors and phone calls, then we each called family and friends to wish them Merry Christmas! It was nice to have a relaxing day and to just think about all blessings that I have in my life. I am truly blessed! I wish you all well and hope that you are making some great Holiday memories wherever you are!

Mampong Babies Home

Today I took my first solo trip. I took a taxi in town (Wiamoase) to Agona, then I took a shared taxi to Mampong, and instead of getting dropped down the road he took me to the Babies Home. After I was finished I did the same trip but backtracked. I was a little nervous to go by myself but it went very smoothly.

When I arrived at the Babies Home Mable sent me to work with a worker named Mary. Mary and I ( and a 3 other European Obruni’s) had the task of getting the babies (children under 2) fed, bathed, and clothed for their naps. The entire thing was quite the process. First we had to gather all the babies (no easy task) and then we waited for their food. Some babies needed to be fed with a bottle and some could feed themselves with cups full of some milk mixture or formula of some sort. The kids loved the stuff and there was plenty so they could eat until they were full.

Next we set up a sort of assembly line. Mary washed the kids in the big sink, then I dried them off, then I handed the clean baby to another girl who rubbed oil and baby powder all over them, then she handed the baby over to another girl who put a shirt or something on them, then she handed the dressed baby to the last girl who put a diaper on the baby and then put the baby down to sleep.

Since there was a lot of babies this eating, bathing, dressing, sleeping process took quite a while. When we were all done I was told I was done for the day. I asked permission to go play with the preschool kids and we had a blast. I pushed the kids on this sort of above ground merry-go-round, we danced, the kids climbed all over me, and then I went home.

I will return tomorrow and do the same thing. It is nice to be in the Babies Home, to be able to hug each of the cutest Ghanaian kids ever, and to be giving back a bit. It helps me get into the Christmas spirit!

Monday, December 22, 2008

In the Spirit of Christmas

Even though there are no Christmas trees, Christmas carols, or shopping malls for thousands of miles I can feel Christmas in the air. It has been fun getting gifts for Chelsea, Mike, and my friend Precious. I am so happy that I acted early and got all my Christmas cards and gifts done early, before I left for Ghana, so I could just relax and enjoy this very unique Christmas in Ghana. This year it is not about the tinsel, or toys, or Santa. It is really about being with people you love, trying to keep up family traditions, and giving.

My sister is really amazing and she is making sure that we keep our family Christmas traditions alive as best as we can. So we will have a movie night, crazy dinner, open Christmas gifts on Christmas morning, and have a great Christmas dinner. She is even going to make Cinnamon rolls!

I just keep thinking over and over again how grateful I am for all the little things I take for granted in America. I am thankful for running water, for my beautiful car, for paved roads, for stores that stay open at all hours and have anything you need at a moments notice. For electricity that is constant and predictable, for air conditioning, and so much more. I also can’t help but think of how much Ghana has to offer me. Wiamoase and the surrounding Villages are truly amazing. They are eye candy, the people are so kind, and there is always something new to learn.

And of course I am grateful for Christ-the reason for this wonderful season! The people in Ghana are God loving people. It is everywhere you look. It is written on most of the taxi’s on the buildings, and I have been invited numerous times to church. They understand, more than many, the goodness of God!


This morning I woke up and went to pick up a few things in town. I picked up a skirt and shirt I had made and the Kente cloths I ordered from Isaac. Then I waited at the taxi spot for Chelsea & Mike to join me. We went to Mampang today. Of course we first had to take a taxi to Agona, then a tro tro to Mampong. We were dropped off on the road that leads to the Mampang Babies Home. Then we got a taxi to take us to the Babies Home.

I am going to volunteer at the Babies Home a few days this week so I needed to get an orientation and needed to be shown how to get to the Home. I have heard about the Babies Home for years from Chelsea so I was very excited to get there. Once there I went through a brief orientation with a whole bunch of other obruni’s that just showed up. We toured the center and got to play with the babies under 2 but the other children (ages 2-4) were taking their afternoon nap.

There were a few kids around so Chelsea, Mike & I played with them. Later we got to meet the Arch Bishop of Kumasi as he just happened to be stopping by the Babies Home. He was very nice and it was great to meet him. Then I talked to Mable and Margaret about the details of the week and we left the Home. I am very excited to go back tomorrow and to see all the children awake.

A little history about the Babies Home is that the children here are not orphans-only ½ orphans. Their mother’s died giving birth or soon after so they all have other family and most have fathers that are farmers. So the children are placed here to grow and be nourished until they are around the age of 3 or 4 and then their fathers come to get them and take them home. This gives the place a little different feel than a regular orphanage.

After we left the home we headed to Mampang and went to an Internet Café. I was only able to upload a few photos but a few is better than none and I will try to upload more later. We ate a late lunch/dinner and I had another authentic Ghanaian meal: Ground Nut Soup with Rice Balls. It was good. The soup has a sort of peanut taste to it and is a bit spicy but not too much. So far I really like the Ghanaian food I have tried but there is still a lot to discover.

The Asamang Branch

Today we woke up early (7:00 ish) so that we could get to church in Asamang in time for it to begin at 9:00. Of course we had to take a taxi and since he drove us straight to the church we got their almost ½ early. That is so typical here in Ghana-you never know if you will be late or early depending on the transportation.

The branch is held at a Secondary School and it is nice. There are benches and hymn books. I got to meet the Branch President and let him know that I had brought clothes and things for the members from America. He was very happy and we will distribute the things next week following the meetings. Chelsea & Mike were asked to speak next week and I was asked to share my testimony and explain the things I brought and why. It should go well next week.

I was also asked to lead the music throughout the church blocks since Chelsea volunteered me. This means a bit more than just leading like in the USA. This entails the Branch President choosing a hymn, announcing it to the congregation, then I stand up and sing the first line (yes as a solo) and then everyone joins in at the beginning with me. It was very interesting but worked wonderfully well. I even got to teach them 2 new Christmas hymns this way. They pick up the melody very fast!

Most of church was in Twi (pronounced Tchwi) so I didn’t understand a great deal. One of the missionaries (visiting the area) shared his testimony in English so I could understand that. Also Mike was asked on the spot to teach the Elder’s Quorum. The Women also joined and didn’t separate so I understood his lesson. He did a great job of talking about giving were you are able. He also shared about how Americans celebrate Christmas and asked how they celebrate Christmas in Ghana.

They also give gifts, they have big group gatherings, many of the Ghanaians get drunk, they have lots of food, and so forth. Mike explained the Christmas tree, the gift giving, and the Christmas feast. At one point during Sunday School or Mike’s lesson the Primary children were outside and they started to sing, “I am a Child of God” and I loved it! I could understand it and it was beautiful being sung by these little Ghanaian children.

After church we were invited to one of the member’s house, the Secretary of the Branch Presidency, to eat dinner. He and his sisters fed us Red Red and it was wonderful. After we finished eating he and his sisters dressed Mike, Chelsea, and I up in the official Ghanaian clothing that would be worn to ceremonies, funerals, etc. It was fun to get all dressed up!

Random Pictures

This is just a typical family visit here in Wiamoase. Everyone gets very excited for me to take their picture.

Here I am with Madame Esther. She is who Chelsea & Mike used to live with and she is wonderful. She is their mom here in Wiamoase!

Here is the room I am staying in. It is very nice and I even have a wonderful fan!

Here are Chelsea & Mike being Ghanaians in the traditional dress.

Here is Isaac and he is weaving his Kente cloth that I explained earlier

Here I am in the traditional ceremonial clothes. Also you can see my braids!

This is the view from the front porch of the flat that I live in. Chelsea & Mike live here on the school campus where they teach. This is just a taste of the beauty & magesty that is Ghana!

I wish I could upload more pictures but it takes a very long time to get them uploaded. So these will have to do for now. I hope that you enjoy them and I will put up more when I get a chance!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Braids, Kente Cloth, and Spirits

Today was an exciting day. I gave in and decided to get my hair braided for a few weeks while I am here in Ghana. My hair was getting crazy and unruly so getting it braided would help solve that problem. I didn’t realize it would weigh so much so now my head is much heavier. Since I haven’t gone to Mampong yet (where we can upload photos) you will have to imagine me with long black braids all over my head. The local Ghanaians think I am much more beautiful with my hair like this.

Which reminds me that everyone here who knows Chelsea and meets me thinks I am her. It is very funny here but I tell them I am her senior sister and they laugh and say that we are the same except I am fatter than her. They are very honest here and supposedly fat is good so they are giving me a compliment.

It took about 3 ½ hours to finish my hair and amazingly enough it was only ten cedi or $10. I think it would something in the hundreds in America to get the same hair style. So I am getting use to my heavy head, long black braids, and all this new hair style entails.

After getting my hair done I met up with one of Chelsea’s friends named Isaac. He took me to his workshop where he makes Kente Cloth-the ceremonial cloth Ghanaians wear here. They wear them around their necks at graduation, for weddings, and other special events. He is going to make something special order for me that I will tell you about later.

Isaac was very kind and he even gave me a thorough introduction to the tools of his trade. He even had Precious write then down for me. They are: Briks ( in English Horse), Akrokrowa, Widea, Waitst stick (ayasedua), Nsadua, Pullar/ Budosar (Ntwisos), Nidai (in English Turner), Kyereye, Gia, Turnt, and Stepper. It was really amazing to watch him weave the cloth and I’m excited about my special project.

Later that night Chelsea Mike and I played a mean game of Phase Ten, Mike one. We have been playing Rummy every once in a while but Chelsea keeps winning so we decided to switch it up. We were going to go to this famous cave tomorrow but it is the day the spirits are there so we can’t go.

The story goes that the long ago the people of Wiamoase we taken to a large cave to be protected and told that they cannot shot inside or around the cave or it will collapse. After a long time the people got very hungry so they sent out a hunter to get them some food. He forgot that he can’t shoot near the cave and shot an animal to feed the people but when he shot then the cave collapsed and all the people died. So there are only certain days you can go or the spirits and demons will be there. Precious thought that on Saturday we would be okay so we planned to go tomorrow but when I was getting my hair braided she was talking to some women about and they got all anxious and told her that the spirits will be there tomorrow and that we can’t go.

So I think that we will clean the house, do some laundry, go to the market, and few other simple things.

Some Things Just Take Time

As I was getting my hair braided for a few hours I had a lot of time to think. I kept seeing Ghanaians walk by with heavy loads on their heads. This is commonplace. Hardly anyone carries things in their hands. Even purses sometimes are carried on their heads so that they have their hands free. They even carry their children on their back wrapped up like a little Jo-Jo kangaroo.

As Americans we cannot carry these heavy things on our heads because our necks are not strong enough. We have not trained our muscles to carry such weight and so it continues to amaze me the amount of weight that is carried on the head of these beautiful Ghanaians.

I had an experience that doesn’t exactly relate but it is close enough. One day in my ASL class my eyes were getting so tired I could hardly keep them open and I looked around to see that many other students in my class felt the same way. After serving my mission among the Deaf society, learning ASL, and being an interpreter I have learned something about those of us who hear. Our eyes are very weak. It is amazing to me how lazy our eyes are! We actually rely on our hearing much more than we would ever imagine. Just think about when you are in class, or in a meeting, or at church. Often we don’t look at the speaker, or teacher and we are writing notes, looking at something else, or day dreaming. Yet because of our hearing we can multi-task. When a person is deaf they have to be watching not only the teacher or speaker but sometimes also their interpreter. Thus their eyes are very strong.

In both these examples it is true that you can gain a strong neck or strong eyes but it takes a lot of work-sometimes it takes years to gain the strength you need to accomplish the task at hand. I think this is true about a lot of little things in life. We are currently in the “instant gratification” stage in America where we want everything now. Some things just take time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Obruni, Obruni, How are you doing?"

It was only 2 days in when my first tragedy hit. I was having a friend of mine, Precious, take my picture and she accidentally dropped my camera. Because it was turned on and ready for her to take the lens was out and it hit the ground the wrong way and it no longer works. In America this would not be good but I could get it fixed or heaven forbid I buy another camera. Here in Wiamoase it is devastating!

There are so many things that I want to capture and bring home for others and for my memories so I hope to figure something out soon. Also we had another problem. Mike woke up this morning and stepped on the floor into water. The toilet had leaked all night and flooded part of the house. So we all got up very early to hand mop the floor until there was no more water. Then we hung everything that was wet out to dry.

I am sorry there are no pictures yet as we have to go to a bigger city, Mampong, in order to put pictures up. But as I sit here typing I will describe the scenery. Everything is very green and lush. There are chickens and cows wandering around, and the dang rooster that don’t shut up all day. The school campus I live on is very quiet today because the students went home for the semester and will return a week before I leave. There are short palm trees dispersed among some other kinds of trees we don’t have in America. I love trees so you can imagine my joy of being here in Africa.

I was walking down the red dirt road today and I was thinking how hot and beautiful Wiamoase is and how grateful I am to be experiencing it first hand. I hadn’t walked to far when I was surrounded by school kids all yelling, “Obruni, Obruni, How are you Obruni?” Some little kids are scared of me and don’t know what to think-they think I am a ghost with my white skin. Other kids just want to touch me and so they wipe their hands and gather around to touch. Some kids want to share with me their limited English. It is very heart warming and I feel a little bit like a celebrity. There are more marriage proposals, people who jokingly want me to take their child with me to America, and always the Ghanaians are so kind and loving!

A wise man, Samuel,that I met today told me that it is good that I have come to Ghana so I can be grateful for all I have in America. He said that when things might be rough with Obama and the economy that it is okay because it is worse in Ghana. He told me to be grateful and to share that message with my people. And so I am humbled by his words and my first hand experience here in Ghana.


I have arrived in Ghana safe and sound! After flying to Salt Lake City, staying the night and then flying to New York I was on my way to Ghana!

My sister Chelsea and her husband Mike were there to greet me when I exited the airport. I was lucky all my bags arrived. When I say all my bags I mean my one carry on bag with all my clothes, shoes, etc for my entire trip, my backpack, and e HUGE bags full of goodies for the Strayers (my sis and her hubby) and the Ghanaians!
After meeting up with them we had a long journey home. We headed to the Circle, where we could take a tro tro to Kumasi. While we waited for the tro tro to fill I ate some local food. I ate a boiled egg with some sort of spices and I had some amazing fresh pineapple.

First we took a tro tro (sort of like a mini van) from Accra (the city I flew into) to another main city called Kumasi. I guess because it was Sunday it was pretty much a ghost town and that made the transportation faster and run a bit more smoothly I should mention that I had a great seat on the tro tro. I got to sit up front next to the window. So although it was around a 5 hour drive in the sweltering heat-it turned out okay!

Once in Kumasi we stopped for lunch before our next tro tro ride. We ate at a place called Chopsticks. Mike ordered fried rice and chicken and Chelsea order Spring rolls, chicken and fries. We all shared some meat kebobs: goat, beef, and chicken. I like the goat the best but after seeing so many cute little goats on the sides of the road I did feel a little guilty. We ate our food outside and enjoyed our Cokes and then we headed to the nest tro tro station.

Once we got to the tro tro station we found a tro tro going to Wiamose and loaded in. The thing you have to understand about the tro tros is that they don’t leave until they are full so you could wait a long time or just a few minutes. We waited for a while and then headed home. Once we got to Wiamose we loaded in a taxi for the next little bit and then arrived at the Strayer’s flat.

I met the neighbors, moved in to my cozy room, we unloaded the bags I brought (I felt a bit like Santa) and my sister and her husband were really excited about the goodies I had delivered, and then I headed to bed exhausted.

So far Ghana is amazing and I look forward to many more African Adventures!

Friday, December 12, 2008

And so it begins...

Just so everyone knows the little bag on the right is my bag-the only one with stuff for me (clothes, medicine, etc.) The other 3 bags are chalked full with things for Chelsea, Mike, and the Ghanians. I feel a bit like Santa with so much goodness to share when I get to West Africa!

Thanks Jacob for helping with the shirts, skirts, tie clothes drive and for the pill bottles. The first aid kits were a smashing success thanks to my Enrichment night in my Ward. Thanks ladies for pitching in and putting all of them together!

Thanks Mo Mo for helping out in so many ways to get me off and on my way to Ghana! I will miss you but can't wait for the butterfly!

Here I am a bit overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" we have to go through to determine what makes the cut and goes to Ghana and what stays behind.

Again thanks Jacob and everyone who helped out. Thanks to those who wrote their testimonies for the Ghanian saints, donated time, money, and other items. A little really does go a really long way!

So I begin my journey to Ghana, West Africa! I am very excited, a bit nervous, but mostly I can't believe the time has actually come. Though initially the trip was going to be my entire family (I am sad they weren't able to come). Then it was going to be me and some of my amazing cousins (I am sad they can't come either) now I go alone.

This trip will be and already is much different than my Italy trip I did on my own. I am so excited that Chelsea and Mike will be on the receiving end to help me out a lot while I am in Ghana!

A BIG shout out to everyone who helped make this trip possible and know that you will be making many people happy. I will try to update the blog when I can. I can also access my email and facebook so drop me a line when you get a chance.

Again many thanks!!