Saturday, July 22, 2006

Janet, our cook and cleaning woman in Sunday dress Posted by Picasa

Fishmonger in Medina Market in Accra Posted by Picasa

Woman cooking in a village near Hohoe Posted by Picasa

On Bojo Beach near Accra Posted by Picasa

Email Number 6

Email Number 6
July 21, 2006
Accra, Ghana

Hello to everyone!

We thought it was time to write again and let you know how we are and how things are going. In a word, we are fine, and for the moment, things are a bit slow. Our last trip was a couple of weeks ago to Hohoe in the Volta region, (northeast of Accra) where as we told you we did 3 ½ days of training at our project site there. Since then, we have been here in Accra where life is pretty slow.

As for work, while we are productive, (as usual for us), our pace seems to be slow and steady, and again, that feels a bit slow for us. Never the less, we are getting things done: grants, computer stuff, and lots of one on one mentoring and problem solving. We have actually made all of the computers virus free, which may be a first for Pro-Link, and perhaps even for Ghana. The last computer we “de-virused” had 1,646 viruses on it, and we are still wondering how it even booted up, let alone “computed”! Not only that, but we created a schedule for computer maintenance which most folks in the office seem to be following (more or less).

Another small project has been the making of a photo archives for Pro-Link. We have been taking lots of digital photos around the office and at the project sites and have created a computer archive for them. (BY THE WAY, WE ARE STILL ON THE LOOKOUT FOR A DONATED DIGITAL CAMERA IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS ONE, SO IF SO, LET US KNOW)

The weather here has changed considerably, and it almost feels like traditional Seattle weather – cool and cloudy, but the cool is a relative thing. When one is used to 100 or close to it, then the 80’s feels actually cold. Last night at our favorite local food restaurant, we actually moved from the patio inside, and tonight we are planning to do to a place on the ocean for dinner and dancing and will bring along long sleeved tops and even a jacket and socks for Peter! Hinda is worried that we will lose our tans and return to Seattle to see our friends and family tanned from the hot weather you seem to be having.

As you may know, Ghana is one of the most stable nations in Africa. They became independent in 1959 under Kwame Nkrumah from England. Despite the relative stability, Ghana is quite poor – an average of 40% poverty, and in some areas up to 90%. Everything is relative: AIDS is a problem here, and it is perceived as a significant one, however, at a national rate of just over 3% it compares with some other African nations where the rate approaches a whopping 40%!. Because of the low rate in comparison to other countries, Ghana does not receive a lot of funding from international aid organizations to deal with this problem. And like other places on this continent, there is a serious malaria and TB problem.

Another big problem in our opinion is the lack of infrastructure: poor roads, pollution, lack of potable water, power and water shortages, poor communications, lack of basic sanitary facilities, etc. It seems to us that there needs to be a concerted effort to solve these problems, otherwise there will just be continuing problems. And so we see new government buildings being built while people live near open sewers and live in huts with no water, electric, or basic sanitation.

There is a problem here with child labor. Children work in illegal gold mines and quarries, they work in restaurants, and as servants, and much more. We helped Pro-Link write a proposal that wlll be funded by the International Labor organization to develop a program in the North that will begin to deal with these problems, and several other NGO’s will be doing the same in other areas. Will it be enough? No!. But it is a start and if we can help just a few, it is better than doing nothing.

When we moved into our new place, we hired a woman – Janet – to come in 3 days a week and cook and clean. We pay Janet 300,000 cedi’s a month, (about $32.60). She is a very good cook – she cooks local food for us, and Western food as well (spaghetti and meat sauce). Hinda who has always been sensitive to spicy foods has been doing quite well. Janet make us omo tuo, and groundnut soup, (rice balls and peanut soup with chicken or goat), palava sauce, (chopped up kontombrey leaves – leaves of the cocoa yam), joloff rice, (rice cooked with vegetables, kind of like Spanish rice, but spicier), and other good things. For Peter the food is good – much spicier that southern and eastern Africa. (Check out her photo accompanying this blog).

For those of you have contributed to the Keta Tree Project, it is going very well. While we haven’t received all of the money yet, we are optimistic that your contributions will pay for 10,000 coconut seedlings to be planted by all of the families in Keta. We will be going to Keta on September 2, just a couple of days before we return home to make the presentation to the Keta District Council. We will give them a small certificate listing all of your names, and will send you a copy of it. WE CAN STILL USE SOME MORE CONTRIBUTIONS AND HOPE THAT SOME OF YOU WHO HAVEN’T YET RESPONDED WILL DO SO – AND PLEASE TELL OTHERS! T H A N K S ! ! ! We have been helping Pro-Link with some proposals to try and get more money to expand the project for other kinds of trees such as acacia which is easily and quickly grown for firewood and will be an income generating mechanism for some of the families. The coconut trees when matured will also provide material for roofing, feed for fowl, much needed shade, and of course most important will stop the erosion from the Atlantic.

The week after next we will be visiting another project site in Aflao on the Togo border. Aflao is spelled as it is here, and pronounced with the “f” sound unless you live there when it pronounced “Aplao”, so it can get a bit confusing.

After Aflao / Aplao we will be taking a week off to visit the north and go to Ghana’s only real game preserve – Mole National Park - which we have been told will not be anything like what we have seen in Namibia or Uganda. One of the places we will visit is Kakum National Park which has the only tree canopy walk in Africa and one of a handful around the world. It is about 120 feet off the ground and you walk on a footbridge made of rope with a wooden walkway, and yes, it will sway a lot. Is Hinda going to go? Who knows? Anyone want to place a bet. Then we will go to another project site for a couple of days to do some more training – this time in Mankessim on the coast. Finally another week of personal travel to the Cape Coast where we will visit several of Ghana’s slave forts, and just relax on some nice beaches. And then, just a couple of more days work and we’ll be off the home. So, we’ll be having lots more to tell you with accompanying photos as well.

Peter’s learning of tri is still progressing however some people laugh at his pronunciation while others remark on how accurate it is. Go figure!

That’s about it for now. Stay well and hugs from us to you.

Love, Peter and Hinda

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Beautiful Muslim women - ProLink beneficiary Posted by Picasa

Front of our house Posted by Picasa

Building our new furniture in our compound Posted by Picasa

Peter dancing B'bobo Posted by Picasa

Welcoming dance for us in Hohoe Posted by Picasa

Ironing with charcoal iron and baby Posted by Picasa

Need anything? Posted by Picasa

Mother and son in Hohoe Posted by Picasa

House in village near Hohoe next door to where we stayed Posted by Picasa

Hinda Training Hohoe Pro-Link Staff Posted by Picasa

Email Number 5

Email Number 5
July 9, 2006
Accra, Ghana

Hello Everyone, hope your day is going well!!
We are doing fine. We have been very busy this past week traveling and doing training for work.
First, we continue to be amazed at how small the world has become, yesterday, we called Adam and reached him on his boat, crabbing on Puget Sound. He sounded like he was next door and we had a really good talk about crabs, kids and other mundane things. We talk to our kids often and every once in a while we get one of the little ones to say a word or two. Jeremy, of course has real conversations and we love talking to him.
We have moved into our new apartment and it is fine. (see photo) Living in an apartment African style is a bit of a challenge. Everyday we come home or wake up to another small crisis. One day we came home to find a strange man breaking the floor in our dining room (to replace some tiles), another we came home to no water, then no electricity, then the toilet leaking. Everything gets fixed or replaced, but it is all done in a sort of slow motion. Peter has even learned to slow down. Amazing! We have done a very luxurious thing, we hired a housekeeper. She come 3 or 4 times a week, cleans, does the washing and ironing (everything here gets ironed including underwear and socks), and cooks. She is very nice and a great cook. She calls us Mommy and Daddy, which is a sign of respect for elderly people, and gets upset with me if I do the dishes. I am having a hard time getting used to having someone serve me, but I bet I can do it. By the way, all of this is costing us $70 for two months plus the cost of food. As you can see labor is very inexpensive while other things like housing, fuel, utilities, etc are considerably more expensive, especially for locals.
I’d like to tell you a little about the environment we live in. Here in Accra there were many villages. Over the years the chiefs of the villages have sold off the land to developers and in many cases have only kept small parcels for members of the village to continue to live in. So what has happened is that there are small villages, maybe 3 – 4 square blocks, with mud houses, no electricity and no plumbing, surrounded by beautiful homes that cost approximately $400,000 and more with all the accoutrements to match the price. Our house borders one of these villages. One of the photos shows a couple of leather couches being made. They were being made for us, right in front of our house. The furniture maker and his assistant came every day for a week and built these two couches and 2 chairs from scratch, using pieces of cardboard for backing and rubber strips from tires for springs. They are the most comfortable furniture that we have sat in here, (and elsewhere in Africa as well).
Now for work, we spent last week in a town called Hohoe, (“Hohwoy”), a 4 hour drive northeast of Accra in the Volta Region. Pro-Link, the organization we are working with has a project office there and we visited them, their project sites and did a few days of training to 9 staff members (see photo) on report writing, more efficient work methods, computer use to make you work easier, and photography. By the way, anyone who has a digital camera that works but is not being used anymore would really be helpful to this group. They have an old film camera that makes funny noises, and film/developing in places like Hohoe is pretty expensive. Let us know and we will make the arrangements to get it here.
While in Hohoe we were taken to several of their project sites; people were overwhelmingly friendly, hospitable and welcoming. We were given palm wine, oranges, danced for and with (see photos) and generally had a wonderful experience. We have told you before that the Ghanaian people are the most friendly we have met and this last week only confirmed that.
We also spent some time with a group of college students doing a 7 week construction project for AJWS. They are all from the US and
Canada, and are helping to build a youth center for a poor village school. We spent a few hours on July 4th with them celebrating with a barbeque. They were a nice group and we enjoyed spending time with them.
By the way, while we were in Hohoe, Peter realized he forgot to bring a pair of shorts so he went to market and bought a pair for the grand price of $1.66. We also discovered that people who don’t have scales will tell you how much they weigh based on bags of cement. “How much do you weigh? One and a half bags of cement.”
Last but not least, for all of you who have expressed willingness to donate to the Keta tree project, we want to say thank you!!! We have been delighted by your response and continue to get more donations everyday. We are sure we will be able to meet the goal.
Peace, love, and hugs to all of you!
Hinda and Peter