Old Tafo, New Tafo: Same great flavor

Greetings from New Tafo, Eastern Region, Ghana.

My homestay community is in Old Tafo, which is just about 6 kilometers away. I just found this internet cafe (wow, I’m a poet and I don’t even know it!), and I think that as long as I have time, I should be able to get to my email at least once a week.

We are well into training, and all of the ups and downs that go with a homestay. I was very lucky; my homestay family is very nice, and I am fortunate to have a room to myself with electricity (what they call lights here). Indoor plumbing, however, is out of the question, but the rainy season and having the neighborhood well just around the corner makes fetching water a very easy chore.

Many of you have been asking about the food — in a word, it’s spicy. There’s also pretty much every kind of tropical fruit you could imagine available in the market here, and we can eat very, *very* well for just about $1 a day. For those of you curious about the currency, one Ghana Cedi (GHC) is roughly equal to $1.

Thank you all for the emails and words of support; I greatly appreciate them and am glad to hear that you are all doing well. I will go back to Old Tafo, draft my emails for next week/time I get over here, and try to get some pictures out.


Greetings from Accra!

It’s been an incredible journey from Philadelphia to here! We’ve been staying in a dormatory at a local University, and in our first 24 hours, we’ve had a police escort, met with the Minister of Education, and been invited to a party at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Accra. Orientation has been fantastic, and we had our first sojourn out into Accra today by ourselves as trainees — no trainers or Peace Corps staff, just us, a few Ghanaian cedis, and a phone number in case we get into trouble.

Accra and the surrounding territory is fantastic. There are palm trees and banana trees almost everywhere you look, and the people are very friendly and willing to help you find almost anything you need. The facilities are very basic. Electricity is very hit and miss, depending on the heat and the available supply, and all of the Trainees are
taking “Navy showers” in order to conserve water. Despite everything we have to get used to — new food, new routines, new methods of transport (expect to see the word “trotro” a *lot*), and new languages (Akwaaba = Welcome in Twi) — I don’t think I’ve heard a single disparaging word from any of my fellow Trainees.

Tomorrow, I leave on my own to visit a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) at a site in the Volta Region — Peace Corps calls it a Vision Quest — and after 5 days there, I head to the training site to meet up with everyone else. I’ve been advised not to buy a cell phone until I figure out which company has the best coverage at my Volunteer site,
so communication will be limited to e-mail, blog posts, and public phones for the time being.

This has been an amazing experience, and I think it’s only going to get better. I miss you all, and will talk with you all again soon.

The Packing List

Part of preparing for Peace Corps service is packing for someplace you’ve never been. I’ve been working very heavily from the packing list in my Ghana welcome book, but I have decided to part from their list a bit. In any case, here’s what I’m taking.


  • 3 short-sleeved button-down shirts
  • 1 long-sleeved button-down shirt
  • 2 pair Dockers cotton khaki pants
  • 1 pair Columbia cotton/poly-blend khaki pants
  • 1 plain tie
  • 5 t-shirts, printed and unprinted
  • 5 A-shirts
  • 5 pair white socks
  • 2 pair dress socks
  • 24 pair underwear (roughly 75% boxer briefs, 25% boxers)
  • 2 pair athletic shorts
  • 2 moisture-wicking athletic shirts
  • 4 bandanas, assorted colors
  • 1 black/brown reversible belt
  • 1 American Eagle grey baseball cap
  • 1 men’s large Marmot Precip rain jacket
  • 1 men’s large Land’s End full-zip fleece


  • 1 pair Adidas Gel Stratus running shoes
  • 1 pair Birkenstocks
  • 1 pair Bostonian dress shoes
  • 1 pair Puma low-top sneakers (think Chuck Taylor lowtops)


  • 2 bars Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap
  • 1 pack baby wipes
  • 1 small bottle No-Rinse body wash
  • 1 bottle Johnson’s Baby Shampoo
  • 1 cake shaving soap
  • 1 shaving brush
  • 1 Gillette Safety Razor kit
  • 1 pack 5 Wilkinson Sword razor blades
  • 1 bottle L’Oreal for Men Aftershave Lotion
  • 1 large bar Old Spice Men’s Deodorant
  • 1 tube Tom’s of Maine baking soda toothpaste
  • 1 small personal first aid kit
  • 1 medium sized botle of bug spray
  • 1 large bottle SPF 30 sunscreen
  • 1 large bottle Sunburn relief gel (for those days when I’m an idiot)
  • 90 days worth of ADHD medication (Peace Corps requires me to have it in case there are any delays in getting me my regular monthly meds)

Technical Gear

  • 1 White Apple MacBook
  • 1 Sony Cybershot Digital Camera
  • 1 Sandisk Sansa e250 MP3 player with 2GB MicroSD expansion card
  • 1 Sandisk Cruzer Mini 2GB USB flash drive
  • 1 80GB USB external hard drive
  • 1 Apple Airport Express portable 802.11b/g wireless base station
  • 1 6′ CAT-5 Ethernet cable
  • 2 USB A-to-B cables
  • 1 cable for Sandisk Sansa MP3 player
  • 1 USB card reader for SD and MicroSD memory cards
  • 1 assorted pack of European/African outlet adapters
  • 1 generic USB device charger
  • 1 pair Apple In-Ear headphones
  • 1 visor-mounted headlamp with replacement batteries
  • 1 2 C-cell MagLite flashlight

Other Gear

  • 1 Men’s large bike helmet (Peace Corps requirement before receiving bike purchase allowance)
  • 1 athletic armstrap for Sansa MP3 Player
  • 1 YakPak Flapdoozy messenger bag (for when I don’t want to carry my MacBook around)
  • 1 large canvas laundry bag
  • 1 Document folio (for all peace corps paperwork)
  • 1 money belt
  • various stationary and Moleskine notebooks
  • a nice handful of Uniball Vision Elite 0.5mm pens, Mechanical pencils, and replacement erasers and pencil lead
  • 1 Ikea Slabang digital alarm clock
  • 4 sets Rayovac Hybrid rechargeable AA and AAA batteries
  • 1 charger for said batteries
  • 1 spare pair eyeglasses (Peace Corps requires me to have them)
  • 1 Frisbee
  • 1 deck of cards

What I’m packing it in

  • 5-6 Space Bag travel sized vacuum compression bags, which go into either
  • 1 Gregory Baltoro 70 hiking pack (4,200 cubic inches / 70 cubic liters)
  • 1 REI standard shower kit
  • 1 standard sized shaving kit (for bugspray, sunscreen, and sunburn gel)
  • 1 medium sized Land’s End black duffel
  • 1 Burton backpack (carry-on)

Any sensitive technical gear is getting packed into a Pelican Micro case or a Sea to Summit 8-liter dry bag, depending on how crushable and/or water sensitive it is. The Baltoro pack itself is getting cased in a rain cover during the airline travel portion of this adventure.

I’m also shipping a box of things I won’t need during training directly to the Peace Corps office in Accra. This box is basically

  • technical reference books
  • cookbooks
  • 3-4 blank CD-RWs/DVDs
  • 1 8″ frying pan
  • 1 small cooking knife

Anything else I need I will most likely buy in country.