Do Juneau what's new?
Trip Start Sep 22, 2005
41Trip End Dec 19, 2007
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You're so lucky, we still have more stories for you before we head back to site. Good news- we got our camera back! Thanks to Chris' brother Jeremy for making sure it got repaired and back to Ghana safely. But the bad news is that you will have to wait yet another month before we can upload any pictures. So pictures are coming, we promise!
Table of Contents:
1. March 29 - Solar Eclipse
2. Area Council Meeting
3. Mole National Park
4. New Puppy
5. In-Service Training
On March 29 a solar eclipse was scheduled to sweep through West Africa. The total eclipse was seen from the coast of Ghana, where people experienced dusk-like darkness at 9AM. Everywhere else in Ghana only saw a partial solar eclipse, but you would think they were experiencing the end of the world. In our village of Sibi Hilltop, as well as many other places in Ghana, people were preparing for the worst. The radio had been broadcasting warnings for weeks leading up to the eclipse that you should not look directly at the sun. Somehow, this was interpreted into: Stay indoors, cancel school, cover your head if you must go outside.... So on the great and dreadful day, Chris and I sat outside sipping our morning tea and catching up on some reading while everyone else was fearfully hiding in their rooms. Around the predicted time, the "weather began to change" and the sky was turning from the morning glow to an afternoon haze as the moon was starting to pass across the sun. At this point, Chris and I took out a pair of special dark lens glasses made of cardboard that we were given from a Peace Corps friend who purchased them for the equivalent of $1. The glasses allow you to look directly at the sun without damaging your eyes. Once it was made known that we had the special glasses, it didn't take long for some of the more curious and braver villagers to come out of their rooms. Before long, we had about 100 people lined up in front of our house to look through the lenses. And the reaction was priceless! The overall reaction was shear suprise. Of course they had never seen the moon passing in front of the sun before and it was a little frightening, but also somehow inspiring. One woman in particular was covered from head to toe under a sheet, so she wouldn't be exposed to the sunlight. She came up when it was her turn for the glasses and wouldn't remove the cover from her head. I had to hold the glasses up to her face for her and then gently tilt her head skyward. Once she realized what she was seeing a smile spread across her face and the approving word "Eeeee!" slipped out of her lips. Then almost immediately, as if startled by something, she shrunk back under cover and ran for the nearest shade out of harm's way. This was a fun opportunity for us to share science with many people and help diminish the superstitious fears they had about a natural phenomenon. Later that day, we decided to take a walk down to the dam. Because no one came out of their rooms to fetch water in the morning, there were hundreds of women there now to fetch from what little remained in the muddy puddle of water. We couldn't believe the chaos! It was crazy, fights broke out between the men in charge of the dam and the women who were fetching. Our hearts sunk just watching them fight for such a basic human need. What really angered us was that some of the men who were there to fetch didn't have to wait in line with the women. They could fetch anywhere they wanted, but the women were forced to wait so they could fetch from one of the five platforms (or docks) that were in the water. It just didn't seem fair, but what could we do? We just stood there helplessly watching their only water source disappear before our very eyes. Everyone was fetching until there was no more water to fetch, hordeing in their houses. It only took 38 days for the dam to dry up.
The Damanko Area Council had a workshop to discuss development plans for its constituency. They had just been awarded 150 million cedis (approx. $16,700) to spend on any development project of their choice. Of course, Chris went to the meeting to help persuade the members of the council to vote to expand the dam at Sibi Hilltop. He showed them population figures to emphasize how many people use the dam and suffer when it dries up, which is about 8,000+ people. By the end of the workshop the members were convinced that it would be best to use the money to expand the dam. The next step was to send the proposal to the Region to evaluate it. The project was rejected. We couldn't believe it! How did this get sent to the Region, first of all? The project was supposed to be decentralized. Secondly, the people are suffering and noone seems to be doing anything about it! The encouraging part is that when the Area Council reconvened to choose another project, they insisted that the money be used to expand the dam. So at least, the people seem to care about each other. And Chris wrote a report to be sent along with the Area Council's report explaining the history of the dam and offering creative options for how to implement the project, including hiring the local community members to dig the dam by hand and pay them a daily allowance and provide food and water. Chris has plans to go to Ho, the regional capital, tomorrow and track down the coordinator for the project to see if he can urge him to approve it. Meanwhile, we're praying for the rains to come to Sibi Hilltop to relieve them of the burden of walking 4-7 miles for water everyday. Although, we don't want so much rain that it would hinder us from digging the dam deeper! Oh the paradox of developing countries!
Now for some happier news. We had a couple of visitors to Ghana. Brock, a friend from Michigan Tech who is serving in Peace Corps in Mauritania came down with his girlfriend Maddie. We met up with them in Tamale and then travelled to Mole National Park. It was relatively inexpensive and really fun to see wild animals in their natural environment. We went on a walking safari where we saw elephants, antelopes, mongoose, warthogs, mona monkeys, patas monkeys, crocodiles, and several species of birds including hammerkops, red throated bee-eater, and cattle egrets. It was neat to watch the elephants cool themselves in the watering hole that they shared with the crocodiles. We got to stay in the park hotel one night and enjoy a dip in the swimming pool. Then the second night we found ourselves at a much cheaper guesthouse consisting of thatch-roofed bungalows for about $2 each.
More happy news. When we returned to site we were given a brand new puppy. He wasn't even weaned from his mother yet, so we started him out on powdered milk. But now he can eat fufu just like Chloe. He is all white with a perfect round brown spot on his back and a spot on his eye and ears. He is so cute! We finally agreed on the name Juneau, which most people here can pronounce although they think it's really Junior. At first Chloe didn't like him very much because she was used to being the only child and well, we were starting to spoil her. She would growl at him when he even came close to her. But after some discipline and a few days of getting used to him, she's warming up. They even play fight a little. It's really sweet when we all cuddle up together in bed at night.
In-Service Training. We just finished a week-long conference with all the Health, Water & Sanitation volunteers and our counterparts in Takarodi on the beach. It was a nice break from the village, but of course we missed our dogs. We discussed how our work is going at site and got ideas for more projects. While Chris is really focusing on the water-project and dam expansion at Sibi, I got inspired to start a girl's club and a women's income generation project. We also talked about HIV/AIDS education and support for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). We even had a guest speaker who gave a testimony about living with HIV/AIDS. He was really sick and skinny and although it was very sad to see his condition, it was also eye-opening for everyone about the realities of this disease. We also discussed the potential for avian flu to come to Ghana and what to do if we suspect it in our villages. Currently Burkina Faso on our northern border and Cote D'Voire on our western border have documented cases of avian flu so natually Ghana is preparing for the worst. We were even given some emergency medication that is supposed to combat human contracted strains of avian flu if it comes to that. So don't worry folks - we're protected!
Well, that's about it for now. Until next time we're in Accra, happy trails.
say & chris
P.S. Thanks again for all the great packages and letters! Sorry if I missed anyone on the Thank-you list yesterday. We actually revised our wish list. Since you all have been sending us so much stuff, we really won't be needing anything for a while. But check the entry #7 for the shortened list and for address changes.
P.P.S. Happy Mother's Day! (A little early)