Sooo many things.

It’s Sunday evening. Ghana just got into the semi-finals of the Cup of African Nations, I have successfully prepared my lesson plans and exercises for the week, and now, I’ve got nothing left to do but use the Internet. Or study Esperanto.

Yes, I’m learning Esperanto. I want to learn a bunch of languages, and I might as well get the one everyone will laugh at out of the way. There are practical benefits to it; there are studies that suggest studying Esperanto before studying other languages greatly reduces the amount of time and effort needed to learn subsequent languages. AND: there’s an international directory of Esperantists who are willing to open their homes and host other Esperantists who are traveling in their country. Any language with people who are willing to host complete strangers can’t be all that bad. My plans are to get a good grasp of Esperanto, and then move on to French, followed by Spanish.

Next up…

*deep breath*

I’m going to run a marathon this year.

There. I said it.

My plan is to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October, or an equivalent one depending on what travel plans Caroline and I have after our COS (Close of Service). I’ve been thinking about running one for a long time, and now I expect all of you to hold me to it.

Speaking of COS: I’ve started to mentally prepare myself for the whole idea of coming back to America. The truth is, America scares me a bit. Grocery stores, freeways where the traffic laws are enforced, a 10:30 appointment starting at 10:30; there’s a lot of things I’m no longer very familiar with. Then again, there are a lot of things that I am very much looking forward to: cheese, fast Internet access, cheese, libraries, cheese, bookstores, cheese.

At the same time, I’m really going to miss Ghana. I love going out and having banku and groundnut soup after my Saturday morning run. I love the look of understanding that dawns on my students’ faces. I enjoy dickering for cloth and furniture in the market; the way that the kokoo and koose lady always dashes me an extra koose; the way that a tro-tro that takes two hours to fill can leave the station in 10 seconds flat.

I feel more wonderfully alive and aware of myself here than I’ve ever felt before. Despite the setbacks and the delays that come with every day life here, I feel like I’ve accomplished something meaningful. I’m beginning to feel like I’ve found something that is more important that I am, and while coming back to the U.S. for a while is probably in order, I don’t think I’m done working in the developing world.

Anyway, I promised a breakdown of my Christmas vacation. I’ve decided to do this in installments so as to get the maximum blogification value out of it. If it worked for Charles Dickens, maybe it can work for me. Today, we’re talking about Kristo Buase.

Caroline and I, along with our friends Jennifer and Vicki, decided to spend Christmas this year at Kristo Buase Monastery. Kristo Buase is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in the late 1980s at the request of the Archbishop of Sunyani. The community was founded by the Prinknash, Pluscarden, and Ramsgate Abbeys in Scotland, though eventually it is hoped that it will become an entirely Ghanaian community.

Caroline and I arrived at Kristo Buase on Christmas Eve; Vicki and Jennifer went early so as to avoid the crazy Christmas travel and to confirm that, in fact, we had a reservation to sleep there. The monastery is located just north of Techiman, outside of the village of Tanoboase. It is surrounded by over 80 acres of cashew trees, undeveloped forest, and some of the most beautiful rock formations I’ve seen in Ghana. Caroline and I dropped at the entrance to the monastery grounds and had a delightful 20 minute walk to the monastery cloister itself. We were greeted by Brother Gabriel, who showed us to our rooms – all guests sleep one to a room. The rooms were very spartan – a desk with a chair, a bed, a small closet, and a shower area with a sink – but very well kept.

One of the things that strikes you about the monastery is how well things are kept in order. There is no chipped plaster, no flaking paint, no crumbling bricks; everything is kept up very well. That’s not something I’ve see very often in Ghana, because many people either don’t have the money or don’t care enough to repair their houses. The gardens and orchards surrounding the cloister are well-tended, and full of wonderful, delicious things like star fruit, oranges, papaya, lemons, avocado, and grapefruit. It was very wonderful to see everything taken care of in such a considered, deliberate fashion.

The monestary does a lot of work with cashews, including working with local farmers to do education on how to best maintain their cashew plantations. The brothers also make several tasty jams and chutneys that they sell in a small shop just off the cloister. We ended up buying several jars of jam from Brother Patrick (the chief jam-maker), which is not only cheaper than the stuff for sale in grocery stores, but much better tasting. Cashew apple and star fruit jam… mmmm.

The brothers were all very warm and inviting, and we not only enjoyed celebrating mass with them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but also enjoyed playing a number of games of Scrabble and shared several wonderful meals with them. Caroline and I spent a great deal of our time talking to the prior, Father Giles, who is originally from Scotland; he has a great deal of interest in technology, and I promised to send him several CDs of software and public-domain books. When not relaxing or spending time with our friends, we went and climbed in the gorgeous rock formations that surround the monastery. I have several wonderful pictures of the climbing, and was sore for several days afterward.

Next time: the Tale of the 39-Cedi Hippo Snouts — or Hungry, Hungry Park Service.

Now, it’s Esperanto time. Äœis revido!

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