Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Finally, a post from Africa...

So, I was so busy running around getting all the last minute preparations done that I didn’t even have a chance to write and say we are on our way. But we are here, and in one piece. I don’t know how often I will get to post, but I will as often as I can.
You may find this quite detailed. I am journaling our whole experience while writing for the blog at the same time. I will try and cut uninteresting stuff out for you guys, depending on how much time I have to devote to editing.

Day One and Two
We are finally here. It was a very long flight, but everything went smoothly.
The only small glitch was in Amsterdam they made us check two of our carry on’s I think they thought they were mine. It was all of the kids stuff. Yes, I freaked out a bit, but then again I usually do when things are out of my control.

Everything made it to Ghana unharmed. Thank you LORD! You are faithful. I was telling Jenn that I always pray over my luggage, and have never lost a piece or had one delayed. I said I think it’s because God knows it is more than I could handle. J

We were the last ones through immigration, so we had to wait forever. We got all our bags. Including all our carry-ons we had 15 bags total. 2 of give-away stuff, 1 of food, 1 of bedding and towels, and then the rest were our regular stuff. I may have over packed on everything but the clothes but only time will tell. You just can’t run down to Wal Mart to get something if you forget it. You most likely will find it but will take all day and pay twice as much.

So, when you leave the airport, you are greeted by a few guards and hundreds of people. All that separates you from them is a fence, and a large sign telling you to beware of people who want to help you with your luggage.

One guard/worker helped us all the way to our car—unrequested (our car was in the parking lot across the street, so we had to cross the street with all our luggage). Then came along 8 other men to help us. Again, unrequested. Thankfully Pastor and Cecilia were there. We got everything in, and between Frank and us only paid out about $4.00 for the unasked for help.

We went right to our hotel. It is very nice. They had wireless internet, and gave me the code, but for whatever reason, I could not connect anyway. Bummer. We tired our cell phone, and they work like a charm. Better watch it or we could run up a bill real quick!
We were very tired, but so gross, too. So, we all took showers, cold of course, and after a snack, all of us got into the one king size bed. Note….Son not liking the cold shower. The kids were out cold within seconds. It took Jody and I a bit longer, as it was really only noonish our time. Son and Jody woke up at 4am. I woke up shortly after, and then Daughter. Yeah, our clocks are a bit screwed up. The kids played, I tried to get the internet to work, and Jody tried to get back to sleep.

Finally, breakfast time. Breakfast is included in the hotel room, so off we go, We order boiled eggs, sausage (for a little extra money), pancakes and OJ and Coffee. No pancakes today, and no OJ. Pineapple juice instead and toast instead.

Out comes the sausage….errr..uh…hot dog. Yeah, that’s right a hot dog. And, get this… the menu said 2.50 for sausage (2.5 cedi’s is the same as 2.5 dollars. Which for a Ghanaian is a lot) We didn’t know that meant per sausage, we thought per serving, which we ordered two of. They brought us 4 ‘sausages’ and it cost us 12 dollars!!

Back to the room to wait for Frank, and take a nap. When he arrived the kids were sound asleep (actually we were, too). We were going to wake them up and leave, but Frank said, No, let them sleep. We will come back at noon.

So, we all went back to sleep until noon. When he came back we reloaded the luggage. We had all of our luggage (15 pieces) in the back of his land rover/Mitsubishi Montero-like car. Then, in the back seat was all 4 of us, and in front was Cecilia and Frank. The kids think it is so neat that they don’t have car seats or seat belt. Off to Kumasi we went.

We stopped at a Judge’s house that Frank knows, used to be a pastor I believe for lunch. Yams (white like potato) and some red spicy fish sauce and boiled eggs was served. Daughter was a champ. She ate almost all of her food, and she was given quite a lot. Son at least tried it, and ate some of a boiled egg.

After lunch, we drove 51/2 hours without ever getting out of the car. We could have, but we just wanted to get it over with. The kids weren’t complaining, so we might as well take advantage of it. A full 46 hours after we left for the airport in Portland, we arrived in Kumasi. During the trip the kids just took it all in. They love it when they see someone carrying something on their head, and every goat, cow, chicken, dog and lizard deserved to be noted. Along the way, we pulled over and frank bought stuff. Kinda cool to do all your grocery shopping without getting out of your car!

When we got to their house, Frank said he was going to put us in the guest house (which we thought was the house on their property, but he was actually referring to the retreat center), but that cecilia thought we might get lonely, and so we were going to stay in their house. They were also worried that we would not feel safe. We went to look at the retreat center, and the kids stayed with Cecilia. Bad idea. When we got back, Daughter said I had a bloody nose. I said ok. You alright? Yeah. Well then Cecilia told me that Son punched her. I looked at him and he was on the verge of tears. He covered his eyes and buried his head. I told him It was OK, and we would deal with it later. Daughter said she swallowed the blood and that it still tasted yucky, but she said she didn’t cry (she really is a tuff girl when it comes down to it.)
Then Rice and some HOT red stuff and chicken. Again, Daughter was a champ. She ate everything on her plate. Son really struggled. He was tired, hungry, and it was just not good. Then Frank said would you like some chocolate milk? He said yes, and then when he found out that mean hot chocolate, he fell to pieces. There was no returning.

We took him to our room, and gave him some of our American snacks. I am so glad I decided to pack them. They are a God-send. We told them only one a day, but this day we let them have three. They deserved it. They had been thought a lot.

Then it was bath time, and again a cold shower. Son was not so happy about that. He cried and cried. Daughter, the pleaser, of course loved it. Son pretty much cried the rest of the night, and said I want to go home. He had both Mommy and Daddy in tears. We know this is a huge adjustment for them, and we wish we could make it easier.

Off to bed we go. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Day Three

Today is Sunday. We were going to take the day off, Frank told us to, but then when we went to breakfast he said they are expecting you be ready to go at 9. Then when we were about 5 minutes from the church he said, which one of you is going to share? Uh…thanks for he heads up. What’s that verse about being ready in and out of season? Yeah, so not ready. Jody and I both ended up sharing just a little bit. Daughter and Son sat with Coby (Frank’s grandson). In the congregation while we sat on the platform. They were pretty good….except that they kept playing with their water bottles. They started out with one and were fighting over it, so I went and gave them mine, so they each had one. Then they kept putting it on their heads. Finally Jody went and took them away. Two minutes later they had another one from the “water lady”.

During worship I saw something dart across the stage toward me. I stepped forward, and looked back to see a lizard (a good size one, body about 6 in) running toward me. It passed me and Frank and another guy trapped it and shooed it out the door. The kids thought that was awesome and both agreed that Papa would have screamed. Frank said another lady that was here did scream really loud when the same thing happened to her.

During church, the kids were starting to act up, so I went down to sit with them. Daughter said she had to go to the bathroom. I told her to hold it. She really had to go so after awhile, I got Jody’s attention (Son had fallen asleep on me) and he took her. He said an African lady had to show her how to squat and go on the ground. All I know is that when she came back in I asked, did you go? She said yes. I said, in a toilet? She said NO (with big eyes). I just started laughing.

OK, so this morning, we were woken up by some strange noise. Sounded sort of like a cow, but not quite. I thought it might be an elephant…in my very dazed sleepy state….and I also thought the white sand/cement outside was snow…yeah I was out of it. It eventually woke up Son, and so we were all up at 5am. A few minutes later, we hear a cow bell and singing… not a great way to start your day. And then that noise again. It turns out there is this group that each Sunday get up early and run and sing. No one likes it. The noise was a trumpet.

Oatmeal and eggs for breakfast and fried plantains. Son loves oatmeal, but wouldn’t touch it. It was not the same consistency, so he was not going for it. Neither of them liked the plantains. I don’t blame them.

After church, we went to a convenience store with three fast-food restaurants in it. A pizza place, a grilled chicken place, and a fried chicken place. We went there to get Malachi some fries. They also had a play structure just like McDonalds. By this point, Son and Daughter both had finally warmed up to Coby, and they played together the rest of the day.

The fast food is equivalent in price to fast food here, so for a Ghanaian, it is really expensive. The average Ghanaian very rarely goes out.

When we got home we had peanut butter soup. YUM!! Of course Son didn’t really like it. We ate it Ghanaian style…with our hands. Kids thought that was fun, but not for very long, and they wanted their spoons and forks back.

One thing I have noticed, it that things are more expensive than they were last time we were here. Bread is 2.50 fan ice is .50 and pop is .40 Last time fan ice was like 5 cents, and bread was a dollar. Pop was .25 cents. Frank says that they raised the minimum wage from 1 cedi to 2 cedis, and right after they experienced some major inflation. Hmmmmm…..sounds familiar….. We definitely have to be more careful with our money, as it will not go as far as it used to. In actuality, cost of living in regards to food, gas, and utilities, is quite comparable with home, it is only slightly less. Makes you wonder how they can make it on 2 dollars a day and we struggle with 8 and up per hour!

Day Four
Typical African day. We have sat around waiting. Which drives me nuts! I’ve got to put a book or bible or something in my bag. Frank had a court date today. We were supposed to be over for breakfast at 7:30, but we all woke up late! We were 30 minutes late.

After a while, we went on a walk to the fueling station which has a food mart. It is less than a mile away. We were on our way by ourselves when Rev. Bismak saw us. He was on his way to town, so he escorted us to the store. He held Son’s hand the whole way, which I think freaked him out, because he grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. Ghanaians are very touchy, and it is hard to get used to.

After our walk we came back and sat in front of the fan. After a while we started school, then Frank showed up, and we went over for lunch. It was a really good lunch chips (fried yams…sort of like fries), fish, and baked beans. Loved it. Best meal so far. We spoke with frank for a bit, I went out to check on the kids, who were playing outside with Coby. Jody came out, and we walked through the house they are building. It is HUGE.

Went back to frank, but He was gone. We were supposed to go to town. We waited and waited….finally coby went inside and when we asked him if he had seen his Grandpa, he said he was sleeping. So we came back home. The kids and coby are playing outside, and here we sit.

I want to talk with the ladies more. Esi is our ‘maid’ and her sister helps, too. I don’t know the etiquette. They are almost always working, so do I and speak with them while they work? Would it be rude if I helped? I want to build relationships and be culturally relational, but I am not sure how.

Everyone serves us here, weather we ask or not. Ghanaians are very hospitable to their visitors, and it is pretty obvious that we are visitors. They want to serve us, and denying their service is offensive. Many act this way towards their leaders (aka Bishop, as we are getting used to calling him) as well. It makes it hard to relate, at least in my American culture brain. Here I want to serve them and they are serving me.

I asked Frank at what point do we stop being visitors. He said, when we move here, people will show us the ways and then we will be on our own, but this time, we are visitors. Two months doesn’t seem like a visit, but I guess that lengthy of visits is probably normal.

After awhile, we went back over to Bishop’s house. We sat around. The kids fed the goats and tried to pet the goats, but Coby scared them away. We ate dinner. White rice and some red fish sauce. It was actually pretty good. Little spicy, but good. Son ate the rice but we had to force him to eat it….even though it was plain rice. He wanted to just be a pain.

After dinner, we visited some more and then went back to the house, because Son was beginning to act out…he was tired.

We did what has become our regular nightly routine. Baths for everyone, tidy up the room, pb and j sandwich for the kids, prayer, and then bed for the kids. Jody and I go out to our sitting area and read.

Tonight, Collin, Cobi’s Dad, came to sit with us. It was a challenging conversation. He speaks little English, so it was hard. He is so very nice. I wish we could talk with him more easily. He is about to be a dad again, Laura, his wife, Frank’s daughter is about to have a baby. I asked him if he was going to watch and, with big eyes, said, “No, no, no,no!” He laughed when we told him the dads almost always watch and cut the umbilical cord in America.
Collin is a legal clerk. He wants to be a lawyer and will be going back to school soon. He has 4 more years to go. He is 35. His brother is a judge (the one we ate lunch at his house on Saturday). His brother also owns the little store across from our place. His younger brother runs it.

This afternoon, we went to the little store for a soda. You have to drink your soda there, because they want the glass back. They have to pay if they don’t return all of the glasses to the manufacturer. So we are sitting and drinking our sodas listening to Snoop Dogg cuss up a storm. That’s right…f this and f that. Thank goodness the kids don’t know what naughty words are…at least yet. See, neither do the Ghanaians (at least the ones that don’t speak it well) so they don’t think twice about it.

Day Five
Today was as eventful as yesterday was uneventful.

After breakfast, we went to town to get a wireless card and cell phone and a fridge, and about a million other things. We were in the car for about six hours. Stopping here and there and everywhere. It was us four, frank, Cecilia, and Esi. Tried to talk to Esi, nothing. Frank says she is very shy. We got the fridge, and a garbage can, and an extension cord, a bunch of food (Cecilia got), a blender for Cecilia, and I think that’s it. All of it in the car with all of us….and right before we get home, we have to pick up their granddaughter, Crystabell (about13) from school. She got in the car, too.

While in town, we went out to lunch. We had a “continental” lunch, chicken and chips (fries). Frank, Cecilia and Esi had fufu. Lunch was expensive. 44 cedis (about 40 dollars) for all of us! Geesh!

Our first stop in town was the internet place. Now mind you, we have made about 10 stops prior to this. It seems we can’t go 2 miles without stopping somewhere. One of which was to buy us water. 10 bags of 25 baggies of water for 10 cedis. Each bag is about 16 oz. Not too shabby.

It is going to cost 220 cedis (about 200 dollars) to get it set up. (expensive, but worth it if it means contact with the outside world) I said we want to do it, but I need more Cedis first. Off we go to get cedis. But we don’t. We go to lunch. Then after lunch, we go to get a cell phone. We (meaning frank) barter for awhile. We finally decide on an old school nokia for 25 cedis…about 22 dollars. It is used (they almost all are), but will serve its purpose.
Then we go to a few other stores, look at some fridges, exchange some money, and then we finally get in the car and head back to the internet place. We get there and find out that you have to bring the computer in. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

Then we stop to get a fridge. We looked at several places (when I say places I mean sides of the road), and decided, or rather Cecilia decided on a Frigidaire with a freezer. It was 100 cedis, about 82 dollars. It is a really nice half fridge, and it works great.

We get back in the car, and head to an onion market. Yeah, all onions all day. It smelled very strong. Tons of onion stands, but all from the same truck. Like how does anyone make money? Too much competition. Anyway, an old man came up to the window and asked Jody if he could marry his daughter, so he could go to the USA. He said a bunch more, but that is all we got. We get some onions.

On we go. We stopped and got yams. We stopped and got peppers. We stopped and got a watermelon. We stopped and got bread. We stopped and bought a blender. We stopped and got a fan ice. We stopped and got an extension cord. We stopped at what seemed like every seamstress (Cecilia sells dresses) in Kumasi. We left the house at like 10:30 and got back at 6:30. It was a long day in the car. Son slept half the time on Jody. Daughter was next to me with a garbage can on her lap. Esi was in the back with the fridge and all of our groceries.

Almost home…wait, nope….we need to go get Crystabell. OK, now, finally we are on our way home.

We were beat after such a long day in the car. So not long after dinner we headed back to our room. Unfortunately it wasn’t right to bed for a little MR. that had a nap! Grr… He was up until 11pm!

Day Six

Today was productive…sort of.

After breakfast we went to our room for a bit and did some school. Then we walked to the store and bought ketchup and ice cream and pop. We went a different way this time and found a little strip of shops (i.e. booths). It is an easy walk, but part of it is uphill, not so fun.

After that we had lunch, the same as a few days before, fish and chips (fried yams). The chips are very close to fires, especially with ketchup. Son didn’t agree. He said they tasted funny.

At 2 we were to go to the internet place. Well, when we went to get into the car, we knew we were in for it---Cecilia was coming with us!! Sure enough, we stopped several places on our way to the ATM. Then we went to the Internet place. They had a bit of difficulty because of my firewall. Once I disabled that it worked right away. I really have no idea what was going on, but it got working. 220 cedis later we have the internet…..well, sort of. We had to buy some minutes. We got those. OK. Mission accomplished.

Now, back into the car…oh, no! We are headed back down town! I have no idea what for, but we waited on Cecilia for a long time. While waiting we had a coconut each. Coconut milk is not that great—sort of like sugar water, and coconuts must be eaten more raw here or something, because they are slimy. Not hard like the ones you buy in the store. Anyway, they are gross. Son, of course would have none of that. While waiting we did see a lady with a whole pallet of toilet paper on her head. That was pretty cool.

OK, we are on our way….stop. Fan Ice wholesale. Stop again, some building materials. Several more stops and seamstresses, finally home.

Two things I have learned from our two days in the car. DO NOT say you would like to get something, don’t even act interested. If you do, you will most certainly be doing it right then, and prolonging your trip.

Secondly, you hardly ever get out of your car to do anything. You just honk or call out, and they come to you. That is sort of nice.

We get home and dinner is ready. Rice, Spaghetti noodles, and red sauce. It was good, but spicy. Son is eating better if we only give him two bites worth of the foreign stuff. He doesn’t fight as much on the regular stuff. Also, Coby has been eating with us, and that really seems to be helping.

1 comment:

Steph said...

Thank you for posting this. It was nice to read and to know what you all have been doing and going through. Our prayers are with you and you are so loved.