June 1st: (would've been posted years ago, but you know how it goes here....)
It's been a few days since I've been able to get to the internet cafe and I haven't done a great job of writing daily, so this one may be kind of long and sporadic. We've been really busy doing outreaches that have been going later into the afternoon than expected. It's crazy how much energy the sun drains out of you. When we get home we usually lounge beneath the fans, play cards, and wait for dinner to be ready. Yue taught us how to play spades and we are obsessed now!
So today we spent the day at the market. The market is in the center to Tamale and is set between three main roads. It is pretty overwhelming, It consists of (approximately) a million and five carts arranged in ways that provide small mazes of very skinny pathways. Some carts have roofs, of sorts, that make those paths particularly stuffy and cuttered. Large wagons carrying goods are pulled through the little paths in addition to huge baskets being carried on heads. You definitely have to be aware of what is going on and where you are going so you don't ruin someones day by knocking over their load. The carts carry anything and everything, really. Kitchen ware, fruit, grain, clothes, shoes, toys, fabric, and every kind of meat you can think of. We had to go through one portion that was nearly unbearable. It was the butcher's stretch. Lots and lots of different animal carcasses being hung, chopped, packaged... you name it. The smell was grossssss! It's ok though, always an experience. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the market was the fabrics and seamstresses. I am currently having a skirt and a dress being made with local, hand-dyed faric for a ridiculously good price. The seamstress takes your measurements on the spot, sketches out her pattern based on what you tell her, and given you the option to get it the same day for a little more money or tells you what day to come back and pick it up. I'm so excited for them! (Update on this, the woman BLEW IT!! The skirt goes to my ankles rather than below the knee, luckily it's a cute dress so I'm ok with it. But the dress!!! It took two girls to help me get it on because it is very fitted but has no zipper!!! Not to mention she didn't put the pattern diagonal like I asked for but horizontal - NOT FLATTERING! I took it to a woman on the corner near our house and she is fixing it into a pretty skirt for me. Sheesh! I was going to bring clothes home but I have no nixed that idea.)
On the way home from the market I saw a fabulous sight; two men on a motorbike, the back man holding two goats! Honestly, a sight you would NEVER see in the states! There are a lot of motorbikes here, but even more bicycles. They even have wide bike lanes here that are between the road and the sidewalk, which I think is really cool! Of course, walking around on the main road of Tamale is wicked hectic. I at least have some practice walking on roads with bike lanes because of Holland, but the other group members are new to it. I feel like Elizabeth sometimes, having to constantly grab their arms to pull them back onto the sidewalk and out of the way of fast cruising bikes. The kids love to mock me as they pass when this happens, “Bike!”
So, obviously, HIV is a huge pubic health issue here so there are lots and lots of billboards to inform/remind people how to stay healthy. Oddly, these give us some good laughs, as horrible as that sounds, because they put funny slants on their messages. Our favorites is, “AVOID WOMEN, SAVE YOUR LIFE!” Great message.
As I have mentioned, we have a guard outside our house 24 hours a day. We have a day guard and a night guard. The day guard speaks English a little better than our night guard and he is wicked adorable. He's an older man and so friendly. The best part, though, is his love for chickens. These chickens are his best friends!! He has three wicker baskets that he carries on his bike to our house everyday. I was so surprised to see the contents of them that first day. He placed them on the ground, unlatched the top and out walks a hen and lots and chicks from each basket! It's so cute! When he calls to them, they hustle on over to him. He doesn't even need to whistle or anything, just talk to them. They love him! He packs them up at the end of the day and brings them back home. The chicks are really, really cute. They are very little. They are crazy fearless, though. I was laying out reading my book the other day and they had no issue coming right up to me, even when I shooed them away. They still came right up and even pecked at my toe! It's ok, though, because they are so cute I let it slide.
The night guard is also very nice, but he isn't as outgoing and communication is difficult because he can't speak English very well. He is Moslim which has been really neat to see. While Christianity holds the majority for the country, Northern Ghana is predominately Moslim. There are mosques all over and it's all new to me. I have learned about the religion in high school, but it's so neat to actually see it. They pray five times a day, starting at sunrise and ending at sunset. The mosque plays music over huge loud speakers to alert of the time. After washing their feet, they go to their mat and face the sun. They chant prayers for about five minutes. My first night here I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to really loud yelling and music and was wicked confused. That morning at breakfast, Dr. Wanye asked if we had heard the chanting that morning and explained what it was. We are traveling to Larabanga, about two hours south of Tamale, in the next few weeks to do eye screenings and we will spend a night there because it's a really cool town. Apparently there are really beautiful mosques made of clay that are intricately painted. I am excited to see them.
On the note of traveling, we are going to Mole National Park next weekend!! I'm sure most of you remember my obnoxious non-stop talk about the park I wanted to visit. There are LOTS of HUGE-eared African elephants, hippos, many different monkeys, lots of butterflies, real buffalo, lions and crocodiles!! OH MY! I'm stoked!! Dr. Wanye is traveling with another ophthalmologist to an area a few hours beyond the park for the weekend to perform surgeries. He knew I was interested in going there and worked it out so they can drop me and whoever else is interested off at the park on their way up and pick us up on the way back down. It's said to be one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in West Africa and is the most economical to visit. We'll be taking a walking safari with an armed ranger for an unreal fifty cents per person per hour. I can't wait!!!
Mummy always told me, “Hear hooves, don't suspect zebras.” That's nearly impossible to get people to do here because of all the horror stories you hear. Every achy joint and lazy moment makes people think it's malaria. Two days ago I started coming down with a little something. I'm certainly not worried about it because it makes perfect sense that new germs are just giving me a little cold. Luckily I don't have headaches or stiffness to accompany my stuffy nose and sore throat or else I may be more worried than necessary. (Yes, Faith, I totally have the sexy bluesy voice going on!) (Update, back to good, just a gnarly cough but all is well.)
Oh! We had a lizard in our house today! It was about eight inches long and bright yellow and black. We showed him the way to the door and he left :)
So that's about all I can think of that's new. I'll stay in touch. As always, take care and I love and miss you all!! “bye-bye!” (Dogbani for bye... haha)
P.S. I started studying for the OATS... ewwwch. At least I got a solid month break from math and science. I've given myself three months and six days to study for the test, let's hope I can work it out.
P.P.S. The group is getting along so well, it's fun! I received the best compliment ever yesterday when Yue said, “What if when Katherine leaves all the fun goes with her!!”
New experience that happened on the way to the internet cafe (not a pleasant one): We were walking down or dirt road to the main road (four of us girls) when a man biked by us. He proceeded to pull over on the same side of the road we were walking on just a few yards in front of us, pull down his pants and defecate!! I couldn't help but let out a little yelp and dart to the other side of the road (I was closest to him) and Yue let out a loud, “Oh my GOD! Avert your eyes!” First time for everything...