Greetings! Once again, I find myself writing from the confines of my mosquito net.
The Ohum Festival has come and gone, and with it life in Old Tafo returns to normal. Festivals are an important part of Ghanaian culture; they are a chance for people who have gone to other places to return home, visit family, and rekindle old friendships. They are also a time for the community to come together and plan for the coming year. This particular festival — Ohum, which roughly translates into “Survival” — commemorates the original settlers of this area, who fled from warring tribes in the north well over 100 years ago. The two weeks preceding the festival, the entire town observes a ban on drumming, dancing, and noisemaking as a gesture of respect to the ancestors and the gods. Last Tuesday, the ban was lifted, the drums were brought out, and for 5 days, a good time was had by all.
The party was headquartered at the Chief’s Palace, which was bad news for Prince B.J. Ghanaians consider it a point of pride to play their music louder than anyone else. They make the speaker stacks at SummerFest look puny. There were three speaker stacks at the palace. It was loud here, about 500 meters from the palace. In the palace, Prince B.J could *feel* the bass in his chest. After about 3 days of partying and merrymaking located about 10 feet from his bedroom, he decided to request the key to the sick bay at the training site so that he could get some sleep. The training staff, in their benevolence, chuckled and gave him the O.K.
The party ended yesterday with a giant non-denominational church service that I’m willing to guess could be heard in the next town over. Being someone who values his hearing, and who comes from a religious tradition where sitting in the front pew is considered a bold demonstration of your faith, I politely declined to attend. Instead, I went for another long walk on the road through the bush (read: remnants of rainforest) to the next town, which is a religious experience in and of itself that words cannot do adequate justice to describe.
Tomorrow is a momentous occasion, and the next few days will be busy ones, which is why I am writing this email now. Tomorrow, after teaching about 200 small children how to properly wash their hands (reasons for which are to be explained later), I go to Cocoa College in Bosu to spend 2 days with the headmaster and counterpart teacher from my school. On Friday, I go to visit my school, as well as my new home, for 6 days. I then come back to Old Tafo for 2 more weeks to complete my training, and swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on the 19th of August.
I cannot begin to describe how excited I am. Training has been a great experience, and my homestay family and I have bonded over the last few weeks, but just to think about living in my own home, cooking for myself, and having a clear picture of the next! two! years! It makes me smile from ear to ear.
The major goals for this initial trip is to become familiar with the town, begin setting up my home (if it’s ready), get to know my colleagues, and just get comfortable. Ghanaian Senior High Schools are currently on vacation (they do a 3 month on, 1 month off rotation), so I will have some time to work on my computer lab and figure out lesson plans. I also plan to do some wandering around and, if possible, visit the market in Techiman. Techiman has the distinction of being home to the largest open-air market in West Africa, and is supposedly one of the most incredible experiences in Ghana.
If possible, I will also stop by Kumasi and visit the Peace Corps sub-office there. Peace Corps has its main office in Accra, but also maintains two sub-offices in Kumasi and Tamale. Because it can take well over 2 days to reach the very north of Ghana from Accra, Peace Corps provides the sub-offices as a place for us to work, get our mail, and/or sleep when passing through on our way to and from Accra. Both sub-offices also have free wi-fi, so I plan to take some time in Kumasi and update my blog with all of these travelogues. I also plan to post some pictures (yes, Mom, I have been taking pictures) so that you can all get an idea of what this far-off place called Ghana actually looks like.
Well, that’s about it for now. I’ve got a 5:30 run to see to, and an exciting day afterward. Until next time…