Madena Market Round #2

I am pretty sure I will make it a habit to go to the market every Saturday or at least every other Saturday for a few reasons.  Here are a few of those reasons:

#1) The people watching is prime

#2) Everything is so cheap there (for the most part, and you of course have to barter for the price to come down from the “white people” price)

#3) You are always guaranteed a good story such as this one…

Kate The Great and The Lovely Trunk

By: Heather O’Hara

Once upon a market visit my friend Kate spotted a trunk she wanted to buy.  A little background information on my friend Kate, she makes Martha Stewart look like a kindergartner finger-painting on the first day of school.  Bottom line Kate can take anything and make it beautiful, lovely, and house-worthy for decorating.  She ain’t to shabby on the sewing machine either.  Okay back to the story…Kate saw this trunk two weeks ago on our first adventure to the market together.  This week she was determined to find the man who was selling them again.  We walked all over the market then headed up the main road to find him.  Alas we found Mr. Trunk-seller.  Kate had said to me “I refuse to pay more than 30 Ghana Cedi for the trunk.” Well when we asked him the price what did he say “Fixed price, the trunk is 30 Ghana Cedi.”

Christmas came early kids! Kate was thrilled (She is tough as they come and did try to barter lower, however the price was fixed we learned).

This following is a picture of Kate’s thrilled in the moment reaction to the trunk:

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Kate was convinced she would and could carry the trunk on her head back to the tro tro station, like the African women do.  She then proceeded to ask her new trunk friend to load the trunk up on her head (to which he looked at us like we were crazy):

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And off we went galavanting through the streets of Accra.  A few things happened, the Africans were shocked that the “white” girls were carrying things on their heads to which they yelled things like “ahhhhh” “ohhhhh” “Heeeyyyy Abrohnie (which means white person)” and other such things.  The best part was when I yelled to Kate that she needed to be like the woman in front of her who was carrying a child on her back, a bowl on her head stacked 3 ft high of stuff, all while doing it one handed.  Kate simply yelled back to me “I can’t carry this one handed no way.”

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Then…just like in the Olympic relay races…the great exchange happened…

Kate The Great was wearing down…her arms were tiring…the trunk was proving to weigh heavy on her (literally)

I told her to go ahead and give it to me since I had a much larger wingspan (No offense but my dear friend is like 2 feet shorter than me and about 50 lbs wet with rocks in her pockets). I told her it would be much easier for me to carry like I was bear hugging the thing than it would be for her.  That plan worked for a while until even carrying the trunk that way got annoying, so I did what any great African does. I threw the thing up on my head and plowed through the city streets, market alleys, and onward to the tro-tro station (I use that term loosely it is a dusty road where they all circle up and cause a traffic jam, all while shouting where they are driving folks to).

Below are a few shots Kate got of me taking a turn at carrying the trunk:

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The men were not sure what to do with me at that point because there was about one foot of space outside the tent to go through or it was duck under the tent and carry on.  So we carried on and went under the tent, trunk and all.  Meanwhile all the men are shouting “where are you going, where are you going.” I honestly think they were thinking “Let’s at least help the crazy white lady out by directing her to the right tro-tro because Lord knows she will not make it much further with this trunk on her head.” However even with their “helpful” directions we still had to ask around and walk a few more blocks because the tro-tro station was “under construction” so therefore every tro driver was displaced to back roads and alley ways.

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Sidenote: At one point an African man yelled to me: Ehhhhhh Abrohnie….MACHO! haha classic! Little does he know  I have to carry a license for those guns.

All in all it was a good day! They didn’t even charge us for a space for the trunk on the tro-tro (how generous of them, that or they felt horrible watching us all try to pile in with our other 14 ghanaian friends who were riding in the same tro-tro). Oh and Kate also got a little footstool to go with her trunk.  We all got some fruits, veggies, fabric, and other great finds as well! Here are some other sights from our market trip:

My favorite the PINEAPPLE! for 1.50 Cedi (which is about 75 cents), I get a fresh pineapple, cut up, and put into a baggy for me to enjoy.

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Some views from our walk

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My friend Emily and I on the tro-tro together! It’s early in the year, but I can tell Emily and I are going to have some great adventures together as well (plus she rocks the aviators well along with me, and we all know I am instant friends with fellow aviator wearing folks).

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This my friends is a GIANT BOWL OF PEANUT BUTTER! For the first time ever we saw women at the market with homemade peanut butter.  My roomie Laura bought some and at first it tasted good, but then it developed a market taste to it.  A market taste can be any combination of raw meat, dried fish, veggies, fruit, body odors, and many other things.  I personally will stick to the JIF I smuggled in my suitcase.  When that runs out, then we will need to talk business.

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Overall it was a successful market trip.  I love the market.  I love the experience, the sights, the sounds, the looks you get for even dare stepping foot there, the bargains (we all know I love a good deal), and the fun stories that come from every tro-tro ride there and back.

Thanks for reading, my apologies for this one being longer than most.

Love & Prayers from Ghana!

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Something Wrong With My Plumbing!

My bathroom plumbing that is…not that plumbing…In keeping with the posting every four days, I figured you all would enjoy this hilarious story.

Night one of showering in Ghana, I had no problems.  No leaks, no floods, no water on the floor without finding the source, no shower curtain problems, nothing. Not. A. Problem.  Day two and forward some issues began.  I thought it was because I had the world’s thinnest shower curtain in my bathroom.  The water must be getting out because of this shower curtain flapping in the wind like a flag on 4th of July. So proud, waving consistently, without even any wind.  What do I do, being the problem solver that I am, I get a new shower curtain (My dear friend Annie informed me that she had an extra one form the States, from Target, with magnets in the bottom).  I thought for sure the magnets in the bottom would hold it down and it would not wave in the water wind.  Well it sure stayed in place, however water was still showing up places it should not have been.

I begin to investigate and find that the faucet head to where the water comes out, is leaking.  A slow drip, simple, cannot cause too many problems.  WRONG.  Turns out a slow drip (despite having shoved a few towels under it), left overnight will still get you a bathroom floor with massive water puddles everywhere.

Finally after a week of trying to figure out how so much water was coming out into the places it should not have been, I investigated further.  One of my former roommates always called me “Tim The Tool Man” because usually I find a way to fix the problem.  Armed with my wrench that I borrowed from the school and some low patience, I realized that the water was also coming from six pinhole size holes in the faucet head.  These were spraying everywhere, consistently, and especially harder when the pump was running outside (this happens any time someone flushes a toilet, turns on a faucet, a shower, you name it the pump runs then).

Ghana plumbing is no joke.  You do not try to fix this stuff on your own.  In the first place it is all bad plumbing, they do such a shotty job of plumbing here, it is embarrassing.  I am no plumber myself, however what knowledge I do have tells me there should not be water coming from the wall, or spraying out the side of the handles, any time the handles are delicately touched.  It is not rocket science folks. My stubborn self finally grew tired of this issue (more or less I grew tired of wringing out my towels, line drying them in the African heat, and then repeating steps 1 through 2 each evening).

I FINALLY SUBMITTED A WORK ORDER! I know, I caved. Could not fix this one on my own. Well I was informed that Sammy the plumber would come over to fix it within the next day.  

Sammy after inspection came to me and told me that he would tell me how to enter the shower properly so that the water does not come out.  Despite the language barrier, I think he could tell I was giving him the “You are an idiot” face.  I KNOW HOW TO ENTER A SHOWER.  I said well did you see where the water was flowing freely from? Did you see the pinhole leaks all over the faucet head?  He assured me “yes, yes, I will fix it, I promise.”  I was thinking Ohhh Sammy for your sake and mine I sure hope you “fixed” the problem and not just instructed me on how to enter the shower from the back of the curtain and not the front, so the water does not leak out (Yes, those were his instructions).  

Hours passed by and Sammy came to my office at school and returned my key.  He informed me that he fixed the faucet head by replacing it.  He also informed me not to use my shower for the next day because he built a small wall to stop the water from exiting the tub wall.  In my head I was cracking up thinking “oh boy I can only imagine what this contraption looks like.”  I was so excited to get home to see if the water actually isn’t leaking anymore.

I got home and found that Sammy had built the second great wall:

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That Rhino horn looking thing is simply builders clay.  It now directs what water that does escape back into the tub (or so I have found it just becomes standing water right there).  Needless to say I am thankful to Sammy the plumber for installing a new faucet head.  However he could have saved us some money and had I thought about it would have used my play-doh to build the second great wall right there.  I guess that is why he makes the big bucks though and I work at the international school.

Regardless, thank you Sammy!  The good thing is so far so good, no water on the floor.  I am actually thankful for the miniature great wall because otherwise water would still escape.  Now is the time I could really use one of those Bath Fitter people you always see the commercials for in the States to come and build me a level tub. 

My Life In Pictures

The much anticipated pictures are here…There will be more to come and I still need to take one of my room at home, however this is a good start for you all…

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This is our house…It is called the Pink House…not sure why?!

ImageI call this THE OHIO STATE HOUSE! This is up the street from me and they are building some offices here. I propose American International School moves to this building.

 

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Our end of staff training/orientation breakfast was at a local resort called The Golden Tulip.  It provided a great taste of home with WAFFLES and they had all I could eat CHEESE (Cheese is VERY Expensive here in Ghana so I was stoked to have some really good cheese).

 

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One of our former students, her parents own a Chinese restaurant here in Accra.  It is authentic and the best Chinese food I have ever tasted.  They also serve tea in the smallest tea cups ever.  This is my friend James (Annie’s husband), he is drinking from his tiny tea cup!

 

Next Up…Some sights from the Market

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Yes on the bottom left those are very large snails for sale, that are moving, that you eat, yes i was slightly grossed out!

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Me and 15 of my closest friends (I use that term loosely, I did not know but the other 4 Abrohnies (white people) in the Tro Tro).  You take the Tro Tro’s all around town and they are super cheap but super hot and stuffy and unreliable at times.

ImageMy friend Kate & I on our Tro Tro ride home.

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Lisa bought her toilet paper off the side of the road, while we were riding the bus back from our staff breakfast.  It is super cheap and the same brand as the stores carry.  

ImageThe roads of Accra…well the dirt ones at least…trust me there are paved ones as well 🙂

ImageSunday I was able to meet up with my friend Amanda, who I met when I was living in Howard County, Maryland doing YoungLife.  She is studying abroad here at University of Ghana.  We went to church together and then took this sweet picture on campus because Lisa mentioned how gorgeous campus was 🙂 

From the Left it is Laura (My new roomie), Lisa (my dear friend from PFO), Christy (One of my other roommates, she is great because she loves Seattle and went to college there, and as you know my sister lives there), Me, and precious Kate Meadows (Met her during PFO and knew we would get along quite well).

ImageMy friend Amanda.  Crazy to think that God crossed our paths like 5 years ago while she was a high school student and I was a YoungLife leader, and now she is studying here at the University and I am working at a local school.  God is awesome like that!

ImageThis is the road I feel like I walk up and down at least 50 times a day! Haha Ok let’s be realistic. This is the road that at one end is our school and my house, then at the other end is the grocery store and some restaurants.  It is a good walk from one end to the other, but I really enjoy having to walk a lot of places.  Cubicle life did me wrong for so many years, so I have a lot of catching up to do with getting out and walking everywhere.  The other day at the market it made me feel like less of a woman because the African women we carrying large things on their heads, stacked so high.  I was kind of jealous.  Yesterday my roommates bought a box of 24 water bottles, so I was too cheap to take a taxi back down our road, so we walked. I carried the box of water, on my shoulders and it made me feel more like the African women.  I forgot my towel, otherwise I would have tried carrying it on my head like they did at the market 😉

ImageThis is my office…No worries I have an Ohio State Pennant in my office so all of the international students know that there is only ONE university to attend in the States.

For now these are all of the pictures that I can post.  I will post more soon. In the meantime I need to leave before I get locked in at school.  We still do not have internet at our house, so when that happens, this will hopefully be an easier process.

Love and miss you all! 

 

 

 

 

 

Is This Real Life?

      A few days ago I woke up with that feeling of “Where am I?” I opened one eye, looked around and realized I was in Africa and not the States.  I lay there for a while replaying the past 48 hours in my head. I thought wow it would be so much easier for a camera crew to follow me around and document my life here in Ghana, rather than trying to remember it all and write a blog post.  How humble of me, then I realized well that probably would not work and I would only have a few viewers, aka my grandparents.  However I will truly try my best to communicate life here in Ghana to you all.  Africa truly is one of those places you simply need to go experience at some point, however if you cannot like I said earlier, I will try my best to communicate that to you via pictures and words.

      There is so much to catch everyone up on at this point, so I will try my best to make this quick and painless.  I have begun to get all settled in.  My office is still coming along and more decorations need to go up on the walls, but I love the space.  My bedroom at home is decorated and pictures are everywhere to remind me of friends and family back in the states.  My office is on the ground level of the school so that is amazing, however there are five, I repeat five floors to our school.  Let me tell you it is quite the hike to the fifth floor.  We have air conditioners in our classrooms but not the hallways so if I keep making trips to the fourth and fifth floors I will be dropping that “fluffiness” from America that I had gained over the years in my cubicle life at LU.

     I am still not sure if I fathom quite yet that this is real life, at least for the next two years (but let’s be very honest, I have a feeling I will be staying for a while).   Finally being here in Ghana I can truly see God’s hand in where He has taken me and where I am going in this career.  My previous jobs at Liberty University and my program of study have thoroughly prepared me for this moment of actually being in a physical school building as a professional school counselor.  The past three years of college advising and working with 11th grade students at LUOA, I can see how God was shaping me and preparing me.  That is the coolest part is looking back and seeing 20/20 and the how and the why of what I was doing three years ago.  Never did I realize it would prepare me for this. 

      The best part is that when I arrived during orientation I was informed I would be teaching two courses (one per semester).  During my internship last year for my master’s degree I co-taught a College Focus course, well guess what my first semester class is that I am teaching?  Yep, you guessed it a College Focus course. Thank you Lord for giving me that preparation last year at Appomattox High School in the middle of Virginia, for that knowledge and planning to be transferred here to West Africa!  Ahhhh I just love how BIG our God is and how He works everything out according to His plans and not ours.

     School starts Monday.  We have “Back to School Night” tomorrow evening.  This is that moment where the rubber meets the road.  Reminds me of back in high school and we would say: “WHAT TIME IS IT?” and we would all yell “GAME TIME!” So game time has finally arrived and I could not be more pumped! Sidenote…I was also told that I could be the new girls basketball coach if I wanted to be.  My friend Mary has encouraged me to take the position and assured me that she would be my assistant coach (She has four kids and is our marketing director, so coaching basketball for her cannot exactly take the number one priority, otherwise I told her the job was hers).  This is going to be an exciting year!

This is the view from my 5th floor hike up to visit my friends Lisa & Ruth who teach up there:

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Czech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself!

This is a two for one story.  Everyone try to track with me please, however Buckeye fans please pay even better attention.  Setting: I drove with Andy, one of our school drivers back to the airport last night to retrieve my missing bag.  After obtaining it, Andy and I took the bag to the bus and returned to wait for some others who were flying in last night.  While waiting I noticed a very tall, white guy, with American military tags around his neck and he happened to be walking around and sit down right next to me.  I asked him are you from the states? To which he replied “why, because of these (tugging on the dog tags)?” To which I replied: “Yes” (thinking to myself you genius Mr. tall white guy of course that is why I am asking).  Then he said “No, these are just fashion for me, I am from the Czech Republic.”

Meanwhile another guy plops down on some chairs next to this guy.  The new guy in the story seems to be lost and slightly frustrated with his situation.  He happens to be carrying for luggage an actual military bag and other luggage.  The new guy overhears me ask the tall white guy what he is doing in Ghana.  The new guy got really excited to hear the Czech guy say he was studying at University of Ghana, because he just happen to be waiting on his sponsor from the University to pick him up (which he had clearly missed finding the sponsor).  However the new guy starts speaking really fast and talking to me, and the tall white guy, like we were all Americans (Typical Americans we sometimes assume that).  The new guy is just rattling off about how he was supposed to be picked up, his I-phone is not working (he did not have it unlocked one nor an international calling plan…another genius we have here I see), he was studying there too, and how its messed up he can’t find the driver that was coming for him.  He was speaking so quickly, and with what some would call swagger, however I will use the terms ghetto and ebonix .  The Czech guy proceeds to explain that they were there to pick up a French girl, not a guy (I am assuming different programs).  The Czech guy then asked him where he was from and he says Michigan. I turned to him and I said, “You simply need to say the states because our Czech friend here does not know, nor should he care you are from Michigan (because surely I didn’t)”.  Our new Michigan foreigner was still speaking quickly to me, and the Czech guy. The Czech man turned to him and said: “Please slow down speaking, I know English however it is not my first language.”

I quickly let our new friend (I use that term loosely because we all know there are a select few who I am actually friends with that are Michigan fans) know that I was a Buckeye and I sent my condolences to him as a wolverine fan.  He said to me (in a cocky way, had he been more stranger friendly things might have ended better for him) “Oh man you are a buckeye fan, wow it sucks to suck doesn’t it?” to which I replied: “Well I am pretty sure we were the only team in the NCAA last year that was undefeated so nice dude, good one, WHELP HAVE A GREAT SEMESTER AND HOPE YOU FIND YOUR RIDE!”  Side note: My first response was a much classier approach than the inner black woman that was rising up within me that was about to go Madea on his tail and yell CHECK YO SELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YO SELF BECAUSE WE WENT UNDEFEATED, NOT YOU GUYS. SO YOU CAN RUN AND TELL THAT HOMEBOY!

At this point Andy spotted our friends who were arriving so we headed that direction.  I am not sure if the Czech guy and his University of Ghana peers were able to give him a lift to the University (so at least he was in the right place and not left to be wondering the city of Accra).  However at that point I had already spoken to Jesus, who I am convinced was a Buckeye, with a simple prayer, and felt complete peace about leaving that Michigan boy at the airport to fend for himself.  If you made it this far, CONGRATULATIONS! Thank you for hanging with me long enough to follow this great college sports rivalry.  Here is to you Mr. Lost Michigan Student.  Cheers!

 

I Could Have Kissed The Mailman

Have you ever misplaced something and you think you know where it is but you just are not sure?  That has kind of been my reality since I mailed my passport a few weeks ago to the visa agency to receive my visa for Ghana.  I need to give you some back story first.

I know the Lord is faithful and He would not bring me this far to allow my passport and visa to be gone forever in the postal abyss.  However there is still some nerves that come along with the fact that you have to physically MAIL your passport to the visa agency, who will then take it to the embassy, who will then return it to the visa agency at some point, who will then hopefully mail it back to you in a timely manner for your trip.

Backstory: When I took my passport to the post office to mail in the first place, the man behind the counter could definitely tell I was like a mom leaving her kindergartner on the first day of school.  I wanted to let go and send my sweet little passport on it’s merry way, but I was having some separation anxiety (as any parent would).  The kind, older, soulful southern gospel postal worker behind the counter said “don’t worry girl it’s coming back, you will get it back, I promise you” to which I replied ” I will claim that one” to which he replied “That’s right girl in the name of Jesus Christ only you claiming it girl.”  At that point I felt fully confident in letting my sweet little passport go into the hands of this fully capable postal worker.

Current Reality: After sweating bullets the past few days since the visa agency e-mailed and text to let me know it was on its way back to me…and religiously checking the mailbox, front door, rocking chair on our front porch, and any other nook or cranny that the mailman could have stashed the cardboard envelope that was holding my entry into my new life and job…I HEARD IT! While standing in the kitchen talking to my mom and sending some e-mails…I HEARD IT! The putt putt putt of the U.S. Postal Service mail truck and sure enough he was stopping in front of our house! Christmas has come early kids.  I kindly greeted our regular mailman at the curb and said “BOY AM I SURE GLAD TO SEE YOU, YOU ARE HOLDING GOLD” to which he replied “Oh really” and I said “Yeah, you have my passport in your hands” and then he proceeded to ask me where I was going and what not.  He did not seem nearly excited as I did.  He was frantically searching for the form that I am supposed to sign, when he finally just handed me a small tag and said sign this instead.  I think he could tell that I was going to pummel him if he did not hand over the goods sooner or later.

Needless to say my sweet baby has returned home just in time to leave Wednesday! Like our pastor said this past week at church: “The Lord’s timing is often never too early, however His timing is NEVER too late.” Mmmm c’mon pastor! Preach! On that note I am going back to my messy room of belongings strewn about, and attempt to pack my life up for the next two years.

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Love & Prayers.

P.S. – Don’t forget to check out the prayer warriors portion of my blog for some updates on prayer requests!

Here we go…

Well the time has come.  I am leaving in two weeks for my new job and new life in west Africa.  Oh yeah, in case you did not know I accepted a job as a school counselor at an American international school in west Africa.  I have been wrestling with the idea of a blog.  I struggle with finding time to even check e-mail and Facebook, let alone a blog where I am the author.  Of course everyone encourages it, and it is a great way for folks to be updated.  However let’s be honest, I know some of you will read this and I know some of you will not and that is totally okay.  I will try my best to keep these little entries short and sweet, for fear of losing my audience anything past a few paragraphs (at least I know I struggle with that when reading blogs…if we are keeping along with the honesty theme).  Bear with me with this blog process, I am not an English major so I promise you I will write exactly how I speak (which is not always proper).  For those who know me best I know you will be able to hear my tone in this all.  I promise to try and update as often as time and shady intermittent internet allows.

I do have to give some recognition to one of my former co-workers.  I promised that whoever helped me come up with a blog name, I would give them a shout out on the first posting.  My ideas for blog names consisted of things such as “The African American Experience,” which I thought was hilarious and so did those who knew me best.  I also had a one of my dear friends mom’s suggest the blog name “Vanilla In A Chocolate World.”  Tempting to use…if only she knew me in high school when my nickname was white chocolate (Another story, another time, another place).  I decided one day to take a survey of blog names from my co-workers.  My buddy Kurt came up with the name “I’m A Ghana,” which I thought was pretty clever.  With not much creative juices flowing on my end and only two weeks left before I leave, I have decided to roll with it for now!  So Kurt…Thank you! When I become a famous blogger, (which is highly unlikely this side of eternity) I will give the credit to you Kurt for encouraging me with this blog name.

Well I have reached three paragraphs, which means some of you will be checking out soon.  I will post more details tomorrow regarding my actual job, the organization I will be going with, details on how to support me while I am gone for the next two years, and many more exciting things.  In the meantime just know that I am completely humbled by all of your love, support, and prayers.  I am excited to see what the Lord will do in and through me over the next two years.