On How I Came to Accidentally Eat Cat

Anyone who knows me, not even very well, knows that I am a huge fanatic of the feline species. Whether it’s domesticated cats, kittens, lion cubs, tigers, I love them all. Up until my sweet Simba’s passing after a battle with cancer came to an end in January of 2011, I have always had cats in my life. From Peach, to Pachelbel, Emma Kitty, Scooter, Max, Simba and now even crazy Keeper who lives with my parents, there’s always been a soft spot in my heart for these furry wonders who, for the most part, show unwavering unconditional love not to mention countless hours of entertainment. After all, one must be a crazy cat lady to bring her beloved Simba to Ghana, as I did, back in 2004.

I vaguely remember people making comments about eating cat in Ghana during my first say here back in 2004, but was reassured when I heard that it only happens in the north. I never once thought that Simba’s life was in jeopardy that he would end up in a rich and spicy local tomato soup. In fact, due to his large size, a robust fifteen pounds then, people here were afraid of him when they came to the house. A year in Ghana and he was fine. As I said, he didn’t meet his maker until, what? seven years later on a completely unrelated destiny. My friend here told me that she had eaten cat before, but she has a wicked sense of humor and so I never thought too much of it and thought she was kinda pulling my leg. It really stuck in my head that we in the south of Ghana don’t eat cat. That only happens in the north. This perception has now been shattered.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen pictures of kittens that live just across the toe path from our house. There were two when I arrived in July, one tabby whom I have an affinity for and another mostly white one. Their mama had another litter of babies, three, just before Christmas, including one with crazy intense blue eyes. On Sunday I was hanging out at Sarah’s house. Her neighbor, George was there. Funny guy. He couldn’t remember my name for the first four months that I was here. He’s a carpenter and always quick with an infectious smile and laugh. I keep asking him to please make me a stool and I’ll pay him ten cedis and he always says, “tomorrow” much in the sense of “mañana”. Now it’s just a running joke between us. So on Sunday, George told me that they had too many cats (about seven or eight, I think) so they were going to kill one. In horror, of course my immediate thought was, get her fixed! Obviously, not an easy nor feasible option around here. In the meantime, the cat had run away and wasn’t seen for about 24 hours. Sarah said she ran because she was scared after she heard George talking about killing her. Again, the cynic in me was like, Yea, right that’s why the cat ran away, but who knows. Perhaps I underestimate the intelligence of these feline masterpieces. Then, low and behold, mama kitty showed up and one of her babies ran to her to suckle at her very used and worn out bosom.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. I was sitting outside, enjoying the low sun of the late afternoon and welcome breeze that comes with it. Sarah came walking home from work, we greeted each other with a hug and skipped off to her house when I declared, “Now we’ll have a fun afternoon!”. Upon arrival at her compound there was lots of energy. Kids were just arriving home from school, Olivier and I arrived, there were folks sitting in the kitchen in a close knit circle. George’s wife was frying fish, baby chicks frolicked about, and another neighbor, Shue who speaks impeccable English AND can sign for the deaf not to mention probably speaks at least two or three other languages, enthusiastically placed a small bowl of soup on the kitchen wall ledge. She pointed to the bowl and looked at me with a smile saying, “cat”. Seeing as how the cats here eat leftover people food I assumed it was for the cats. I said with a questioning tone in my voice, “For the cats?” She continued to smile, nodded and carried on with the excitement in the air. In my head I continued reasoning, That’s a lot of soup for them. And how are they going to eat piping hot soup? I guess once it’s cooled down they’ll try it. I didn’t think anything more of the bowl of soup. I was so in the moment that the conversation from the day before about there being too many cats had completely slipped my head. Clearly I was on ADHD external stimulation overload to put all of the pieces together.

I was curious to see who was in the kitchen. I looked for George to greet him and nudge him about my stool, but didn’t see him. I didn’t want to barge in to the kitchen because I couldn’t tell if the four men were in a meeting or eating. I didn’t recognize any of them. Shue was sucking on some meat and commenting about how tasty it was. As is Ghanaian custom she offered for me to try some. I said, “Sure!” since Sarah always teases me that I don’t accept their offers of food (If it’s fufu I can’t eat it because the pounding of it is done with pipe water and soup is usually about ten times spicier than I can handle). So I took a small bite, maybe a half a teaspoon size, and immediately commented on how spicy the chicken was. That’s when someone said, “It’s cat!” I thought for sure they were kidding. So for the next, and longest, two minutes of my life the conversation went like this:

Me: No it’s not.

Them: Yes! It’s cat!

Me: No, you’re joking.

Them: Melis! It’s cat!

Me: What??? You just fed me cat?

Them: YES!

Me: No, you’re joking.

You get the idea. Then, no longer having concern that I might be interrupting something, (and I suppose at that point I also realized the guys were in fact eating, not having a meeting) I went into the kitchen and asked the four guys closely huddled around a bowl of food, “Excuse me, what kind of meat are you eating?” They answered in complete unison, “Cat!” That’s when I walked out, in total horror and began to cry while still questioning if they had actually just fed me cat. Obviously there was a bit of a cultural/language breakdown somewhere along the way. I immediately wanted to throw up and wondered if I could actually make myself gag. I couldn’t even bring myself to do that I was so upset. It was the mama cat. She met her destiny and now a tiny bit of her was somewhere between my mouth and stomach. Next thought, I need a beer. For some reason I assume that the alcohol in in beer will kill/cook anything in my system. I don’t know where I get this idea from and I’m pretty sure there’s not much in the way of scientific proof that this is possible, but you know what? It helps me psychologically and that’s all I needed. Everyone felt terrible. I could see the pain on my behalf in the eye’s of George’s wife as she continued to fry fish. Shue, felt terrible. Sister Sarah felt badly. Olivier, ever the adventurer and travel buddy, totally laughed. But, he also understood how upsetting this was to me. He took a bite as well just so I wouldn’t be the only obroni eating cat. Taking one for Team Obrofo, me dase, Olivier! So here’s the thing, though.

I sat rather quiet for the next 20 minutes or so totally absorbed in observing the baby chicks and their mama. All 7 babies were tucked under their mama as she sat next to me with an occasional tiny beak or webbed foot poking out. As I sit here writing I can reason with myself, that perhaps that was the mama cat’s spirit coming to comfort and distract me as I grieved the fact that a tiny portion of her was in me. And yes, I do eat chicken. I’ve never been a vegetarian. I prefer my chicken from the store all packaged up and totally unrecognizable as having formally been a bird like the one’s I see scampering around here all the time. I don’t like freshly killed and prepared chicken, it’s too chewy. And I admit, I eat lamb from time to time even though they are totally cute and adorable. But I really have a hard time with the cat piece. I am totally open to cultural differences and I place zero judgement on my friends who enthusiastically prepared and ate Mama Cat. You see, that’s the thing. When there’s a need, such as you need to feed your family and there’s too many cats, you put two and two together and just do what you have to do. I chalk all of this up to one of the many experiences I’m having in Ghana. I’m already kind laughing at it all, even though I’m still sad about it (and slightly freaked out). There’s a balance. And you know what? It all happened on leap day so technically, I hardly have to “celebrate” this anniversary.

 

RIP Mama Cat.

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On Death

In my last blog post I remarked about how “fantastically fragile” life is here in Ghana. I by no means consider myself an expert, but I want to share with you what I have learned and observed regarding the rituals around death. It’s Funeral Friday here, as I refer to Fridays (also affectionately known as Fufu Friday since that’s one of our two days in the week when we eat fufu, not nearly enough in my book, but it’s so labor intensive I hate asking our help to make it more often). I digress… Funeral Fridays. That’s when I hear the sirens of local ambulances driving down our road or repeated fast and furious honking from cars and taxis decorated with black and red cloth tied to the side mirrors, windshield wipers, anywhere you can tie it which thus causes it to blow in the wind as the car drives by. You see more folks wearing any combination of the aforementioned mourning colors and if you go in to town in the evening, you will see younger generations drowning their in the local alcoholic beverage of choice.

There are many different levels of honoring the dead. It all depends on your age, family wealth, status in life, just to name a few. From the 18 month old baby girl who recently died from what was most likely kwashiorkor to the 10 year old boy who was playing soccer, went to save a goal, landed on his shoulder, held his head to the side for a few days and then died, to the single mom who went to the hospital sick, but not too seriously sick, and then unexpectedly died to the middle aged man who got up to brush his teeth, collapsed and died to the elderly woman who lived a long life, all of these people left a mark on families, hearts, communities and now they are gone. Poof. Gone. Like I said, Fantastically Fragile.

I’ve learned more about the rituals around death the more I’ve been here. For example, in the case of the above mentioned children, their funerals were held during the week. Nothing fancy, just a time for family to come together and bury their loved ones. Not much in the way of ritual, most likely not even a head stone. Same can be said for the young single mother. Now, someone who is more “established” in life shall we say, their funeral will involve much fanfare and will include an obituary with the person’s picture, a list of survivors and details of the funeral. Frequently it will read “Home Call”.

On Friday afternoon, once the temperature starts to cool down, you will see flocks of cars decked out in red and black banners preparing to celebrate their loved one. The dead is brought to their family home where they are laid out on a fancy bed (rented) with great attention to detail and presentation. Guests come and pay their respects throughout the evening. The following morning they are laid to rest in a cemetery and then the family prepares food all day to serve to the guests who come to the family home to pay their respects again. I’ve been to a couple of these funerals and I have to say, while understandably so, the widows or widowers look like they are in shock and are quite somber, the general feel amongst guests is one of celebration. We had a funeral here at the house in October and it was like a non-stop party central! (If you follow me on Facebook you may remember a few irritated posts as they related to our running out of water. It’s because we had about 200 people here for a funeral!) At least 20 women were out back cooking from dawn until past dusk and then some, guests sat out front laughing, eating, singing. It seemed like an overall joyous occasion to this curious observer. Sunday is the day of Thanksgiving what I refer to as the more joyous day in the funeral process. Here, one generally wears dress that is black and white in pattern design. Perhaps that’s why I think of Sundays as having a lighter feel to them. Funeral goers attend church and once again there is more food and celebrating at the family home. By mid to late afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, you can ALWAYS see local kids dancing as music is blaring from the oversized speakers which accompany all funerals all. Throughout. The. Weekend.

When I was thinking about life and death and preparing this blog post, I couldn’t help but see the connection between a baby’s outdooring, where she is literally taken outdoors for the first time and no longer needs to stay inside versus the laying in state that happens at the end of life when the person stays inside and others come to see him. I try to find balance in life and situations, this is the perfect state of balance for me. It provides closure. That said, again, receiving visitors at your death happens when you’re older and more established in society. I’m not aware that it would happen in the case of the younger people I wrote about. That’s sad to me. Did they not walk this earth? Find their way into someone’s heart? Ritual is a part of healing in my book. It provides for that sense of closure. I see a stark contrast in my culture and Ghanaian culture as I like to talk about those who have died. It’s a way to keep that person alive in my memory. Here, you don’t really talk about the dead after their gone. And it doesn’t seem that the facts about death are shared much with small children if their parent dies. I suppose it varies from family to family, region to region, and again, I am no expert, but what I report to you here are my observations.

And so, on that note, I’m hearing more and more horns, sirens and singing indicating that someone’s precious life on earth has come to an end and now is the time to honor them.

 

In peace.

On Life: Birth and Death, Part I

It’s been 7+ weeks since my last confession… I mean blog post. Sorry to keep you all in a lurch! I’ve had plenty of thoughts swirling around in my head, but the discipline to actually sit myself down and WRITE has been waning. The past few weeks have been a struggle for me. Between being super homesick and negotiating “light off” and no water on a somewhat daily basis and then sick the past couple of days, my patience has been seriously tried. More on that in another post. For now I want to share with you the amazing joy I had in witnessing the birth of Mame Ekua, Sarah’s first child. To that end, I also want to share the little bit I’ve witnessed regarding death in Ghanaian society, at least in the Fante portion of the land. Now, to determine which story to tell first… I suppose we’ll go in order of life and death, you need one in order to have the other. Or not? Am I thinking too deeply about reincarnation and which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows….

Life here is fantastically fragile. From inanimate objects that spoil quickly under the duress of the African sun or rain of rainy season to the people who cautiously balance health and illness on a daily basis, one can certainly begin to understand and appreciate the role that prayer and religion plays in the culture. Is this why there’s such pomp and circumstance with regards to birth and death here? I don’t know, but for my own sake, I’ll say yes.

Since my arrival, Sarah had been telling me that I would be a part of her baby’s birth seeing as how I’m the “grandma” (Sarah has taken me as her mother). I wasn’t exactly sure how involved I would be. I assisted a best friend and her husband during labor when their first daughter was born. I consider myself well informed regarding the stages, what a woman’s body innately does to birth a child, etc. When I asked if her husband would be there, she said yes, but that this is a job for “the ladies”.   Let’s be real, how amazing would it be to come to Ghana and be a part of a BIRTH for crying out loud?!?! So, game on.

Sarah called me at 7:30 in the morning and in her always positive tone said, “Melis? It’s time.” I threw on my clothes, grabbed some bread and headed over to her house. Contractions were happening, but clearly we weren’t going to meet the baby for some time. Sarah was still deciding which hospital we would be going to! Mercy Women’s Hospital was too far away if labor went into the night. She was concerned that there would be no place for me to sleep. (Hello??? YOU’RE the one having A BABY!!!) We are located between two hospitals. She didn’t want to go to the district one for fear of getting a midwife that she didn’t like. So, we went to the smaller one. We piled into her husband’s car and headed over to be checked out. With her various required buckets, cloth, antiseptic soap, rubber mattress protectors and anything else the hospital told her to bring, we arrived to the maternity ward at about 9am. 1 centimeter dilated. Not in the mood to stay in the hospital all day, Sarah opted to going home and laboring. I stayed with her. Another friend came and set up all of the baby clothes, diapers, soaps, bottles, etc. I secretly timed the contractions on my magical handheld information device and googled stages of labor, etc. Her sisterhood of friends came in and out all day long to visit with Sarah. It was awesome. And all the while, girlfriend was making sure that everyone was comfortable and taken care of. Towards evening the tribe of friends made fufu and soup for everyone! Talk about hostess with the mostess WHILE. IN. LABOR.

7pm, back to the hospital for a check-up by the midwife. Sarah, husband, auntie neighbor, sister, her son and myself in tow. 2 freakin’ little centimeters. My heart wept for Sarah. Nine hours later and that’s all that she’s progressed?? We settled in for the long haul and, thankfully, things quickly progressed and intensified. The labor ward had four beds each with a treated mosquito net above, one flat screen TV encased behind some bars coming out of the cement block wall and a busted ceiling fan. We were the only people in the maternity ward. We walked, we waited, we walked some more.   I studied my surroundings. I had to walk through the delivery room to use the bathroom.  I took the opportunity to get up close and personal to see what was in the room. A delivery table, sink, some basins, a scale, a wooden cutout showing the various stages of dilation, a clock stuck on 8:10 and some other items that looked well used since the 1950s. IMG_0215We all eagerly waited. I rubbed Sarah’s back, stroked her hair, gave her words of encouragement. It was hot, hot, hot in that labor room, at least for this obroni. I was wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt in an effort to combat the mosquitos, but MAN was I roasty-toasty. Another check, 5 centimeters. Midnight rolled around and Sarah was still concerned that I was tired, it was getting late and did I want to go home. I would have stayed, but I sensed that my presence would be a stress for Sarah as she continued to worry for my comfort and rest while SHE was BIRTHING A BABY. Her husband took me home. Guess what. TWO little hours later, Mame Ekua (Wednesday born, same as Sarah) was born at 2:11am. I missed it. Even the midwife couldn’t believe that I missed it. Not to worry though, she was home by about 11am the next day so I could meet my new grandbaby. What a beauty. Seriously, you know how some newborns are kinda funny looking? Not Mame Ekua. With a full head of hair, little button nose and full cheeks, she was pretty darn cute from the get-go.

And so began my afternoon visits with Sarah and Mame Ekua where my learning about birth and newborns in Ghanaian culture would really take place. Mame Ekua has a special bath twice a day; once in the morning and once in the evening. I first understood the hot washcloth on her head as a step to “soften” her hair. Not the case. The grandmother, or auntie in this case since Sarah’s mom has passed already, comes over to bathe Mame Ekua. First the warm washcloth is placed on her head with gentle compressions from the proud and loving auntie. This is done so as to give the baby’s head a proper shape. Then, the baby is put on her belly over the auntie’s lap and the warm washcloth is massaged into her back along the spine, her tiny-hiney and then the backs of her arms and triceps as they are gently stretched behind her back. Why? All of this is done to give her strength and shape. (When I joked with Sarah about if I could have this done, she replied, “It’s too late for you.” Oh well, I tried). IMG_0250Once this process is completed, the bath for cleaning is performed. Mame Ekua cries for this part, although a few weeks in, it takes her longer to start crying now. Mame Ekua has had this routine now for 6 weeks. That’s roughly 84 baths. This will continue for another few months. Talk about strengthening the mother/child bond through touch for a baby, but I’m also taken aback by the bond between women as everyone comes together to support this new life and new mom. What a gift.

You can’t keep a strong woman down. While Sarah has lovingly stayed home with her newborn for the past four weeks, she almost immediately continued with her work as a seamstress. A day or two after Mame Ekua’s arrival, Sarah was sitting on the floor cutting out cloth for her assistant to sew. I mean, it makes sense, right? The more production the more income involved and with a newborn, one really needs the income.

At two weeks old, Mame Ekua’s Naming/Outdooring ceremony took place. This is a big deal in Ghanaian culture. For not only is the child presented to the world and she can now leave her home, but valuable life lessons are taught to her which carry a great significance in society here. The father chooses the baby’s English name which in this case, happens to actually be a Fante name that I’m still learning how to pronounce and spell. That said, everyone calls her Mame Ekua all the same. The priest came to the house at about 7:30am. We all wore cloth with varying shades of white and design. Women traditionally wear white after birth to recognize and honor the victory that they have just accomplished. I’ve been to three ceremonies now. The first was eleven years ago when our then neighbors, in Biriwa, presented their son. The second was soon after I arrived in August when my namesake and Goddaughter was presented in church and now, Mame Ekua. All have been slightly different, but mostly the same. Traditionally babies are given a tiny taste of honey, water, milk and wine on their lips to represent the sweetness and bitterness in life so that they can learn to recognize each. What I learned this time around was that the water and wine must be of the same color. You see, something may have the same appearance, but what you get from it may be very different. There was no wine, but not to worry 7up works in a pinch.

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The conclusion of the ceremony was the priest and Mame Ekua’s father passing her back and forth three times over the threshold to their home. It is believed that the baby isn’t fully yours until this has been performed at the outdooring ceremony. Rather, until that time, the baby belongs to her ancestors.

 

Sarah has been smiling from ear to ear since Mame Ekua’s arrival. There’s a sense of lightness from her and pride radiating from her bright eyes and smile. Delighted to be able to take the baby outside would be an understatement from her. Sarah has started giving Mame Ekua her twice daily baths. She’s being carried around on her back by mama and anyone else at the compound helping Sarah. It really does take a village. A village that I am honored to be a part of.

 

Various posters as displayed around the hospital.

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End note:  Mame Ekua went for weigh-in and her second set of vaccines today.  She’s gained about 3 pounds in 6 weeks!  Needless to say, she’s had a rough day today!

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Conversations

Among the reasons why I wanted to come back and live in Ghana for another year was to experience a change in lifestyle and pace of life. I’m feeling more and more settled despite immense frustration and discomfort yesterday as I sat in a Trotro headed to Accra for as brief a visit as possible. That said, all in all, I’m sleeping more deeply, WAY more relaxed and eating WAY more slowly than I did at home where I was always rushing to do the next thing and struggled to just be. As hard as life here can be at times, I identify with the values of the culture far more than I do in the States. I don’t think I miss TV (Although I am curious about who is winning on SYTYCD). Sure, if there were shows on that I liked, I’d no doubt watch them, but I don’t really feel like I’m missing much of anything. In fact, I’m gaining more by experiencing time and conversations. I’m relishing in the simplicity that I didn’t feel like I was otherwise getting at home.

The Thursday before last I wasn’t feeling 100% percent. Just kinda crabby and sweaty, no biggie. The power was off and my phone wasn’t charged, so I went to visit with Sarah, the seamstress, and just get out of the house for little bit. I adore Sarah to bits. She wrapped up things in her shop and then we walked home together. She lives just the other side of a toe path carved out of tall grass in front of our house. She invited me to stay and talk with her while she prepared her fufu for dinner. It was awesome. We chatted for a couple of hours. Her kittens played by her feet as I learned more about her and her family, we talked about her pregnancy and the excitement of the impending birth of her first born. We talked about marriage and the role of a wife in Ghana and the importance of family. To sit and connect with a girlfriend in Ghana meant the world to me. I didn’t have this when we were here in 2004. You see, due to financial constraints families will send their sons to school before their daughters so depending on where you are, it can be trickier to find women who speak English. (My Fante is still quite minimal, but I’m picking up more and more and understanding/following conversations more than I did before). That said, Sarah never went to school. Even she doesn’t know how she leaned to speak English so well. Two days later Sarah went to buy everything she needs for her baby. She bought a little bed, a pop-up mosquito net to put over the bed, a portable basin for bathing and clothes. That’s it. No monitors, no car seat, no diaper genie, no pack-n-play. Just the basics. Again, simplicity. The care which she exhibited when showing off her purchases to me was a perfect example of what an amazing and loving mother she already is. Her baby is lucky to have such a strong woman for a mother. Still, at 8+ months pregnant, Sarah is working long days sewing as many as 3 + dresses a day, doing errands, cooking dinner, pounding fufu. I am in awe.

Last Saturday I woke up at the usual 7am. Kwesi was off to school to continue getting the recent high school graduates prepared for their National Exams which started this past week. I wandered out the front gate and stumbled upon our Landlord hosting two guests over some beers at 8:30, AM(!). He’s a funny guy, so I jokingly (or not?) started giving him a hard time about drinking beer at 8:30 in the morning. He said it was fine since it was festival time. He offered me one. I graciously declined, but since he insisted I went for a Coke. After all, I was still in need of my morning caffeine fix. I sat with the Landlord and his friends for about 45 minutes to an hour. We learned from one another. He’s been all over the world. He worked in Australia and about five other countries that I’m now drawing a blank on. An elderly gentleman walked past us down the road. The Landlord told me that the gentleman had served in the army for 45 years and in return he got nothing from the government. I told him about veterans in the US and how many of them suffer from PTSD, are homeless and also don’t get enough support from our government. Saying he was shocked would be an understatement. He kept saying incredulously, “In the US??” We talked about Reagan and how he cut funding for those with mental illness and thus started a trend of mentally ill homeless people on the streets. We talked about the circus, I mean start of the elections for 2016. Gun control, or lack thereof. At that point, my naïve image of a gun free Ghana was shattered as he told me about how folks here have guns too. I mean, I guess that makes sense, they’re everywhere these days, right? But even so, I don’t feel vulnerable here as the way I do say in my childhood neighborhood after dark. He started in on gay marriage in the US and how can people do that, etc. I shared with him my stance and that I support it. Again, he just looked at me incredulous. The woman in our conversation very matter-of-factly said she knew Ghanaian lesbians (here in Ghana, not elsewhere) and said what business is it of ours who others love and choose for their life partners? (Amen, sister!). It was fascinating to hear these two extreme stances on being gay and gay marriage coming from two Ghanaians.

While clearly we don’t, and won’t, always see eye-to-eye, Ghanaians continue to be some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Walking through the market, everyone says hello and wants to take me as their friend. Far more of them know who I am than I know who they are. I was on a tro tro the other day returning from a morning of batiking in Mankessim and I didn’t even have to tell the Mate where to drop me. He knew! Kinda creepy, yes. Nonetheless I’ve been folded into the community around me and always find myself surrounded by smiles, laughter and friendship.

It’s good to be here. It’s good to be experiencing the values that I came here seeking: community, connectedness, conversation. On the days when I think there can’t possibly be any more sweat in me to sweat and I just need to hide away and rejuvenate in some familiarity, I duck into our bedroom with some Ghanaian chocolate and air-conditioning. Self-care is an important life skill.

One month in

Greetings from Ghana!  I’ve been here for just about a month and I’m only now just getting around to starting my blog.  Most of you have seen my Facebook posts with various pictures and comments ranging from inadvertently blowing up my sewing machine, 12 hour “light off” posts, to graduation celebrations, being named a God Mother to my second namesake, having a ten day old baby pee on me, gushing over delicious food and more.  My time here has been good to me.  I feel much more relaxed than when I was in the States and working a more than full-time job cajoling teenagers to do their chores every day.  I will say that only a month in and I’m desperately missing my washer and dryer already.  Probably more so the dryer.  No, maybe the washer.  Oh forget it, I miss them both equally.

My first three weeks here were spent overseeing the running of our home with four high school students from the states who were here to teach at Heritage’s summer school program.  They were a delightful bunch and quickly folded themselves into the community and culture fulling accepting of things like “Ghana time” and power outages.  As a trip leader, possibly the most exciting part of those three weeks for me was the fact that we only had one tiny hiccup of dehydration that was quickly fixed with a 5 cedi ( ~$1.50) trip to the local hospital for some re-hydration salts.  We have a new volunteer now, Oliver.  He’s taking a gap year before college and is also folding himself in nicely to the surrounding community despite the stickiness that his northern European genes are not used to yet.

It’s rainy season here in Ghana.  That means it’s a bit humid, but the temp isn’t unbearable like those God awful Philadelphia summers I know so well.  The high is probably about 85 degrees, but it’s the humidity and occasional lack of breeze that will cause you to sweat like  you’re in a sauna.  Of course this weather also means that one’s clothes don’t necessarily dry 100% before they are brought in off the line out back.  Despite my fear of Malaria, I’ve gone outside the past couple of nights for a brief stint to enjoy the spirit of the house and cool night air.  It was delicious.  And while I felt a sense of relief and joy at the cool breeze and light feeling all I could think of was, man, the locals are freezing right about now.

The glorious chill in the air was made particularly obvious to me the other night when Oliver reported to me that there was a “bonfire” in the back yard.  I didn’t think much of it at first, but grew bored as a result of the power outage and was intrigued to see what was happening outside.  The guys were there (brother-in-law, Oduro, Amoah and Bright our helpers here at the house) and a few other members of our cast of characters.  There was a joyous atmosphere in the air.  As I looked closer at what was happening I could see a stove area made with cement blocks in a U formation, a blazing fire and then wait… what’s that??  EWWWW!  Blood?  Guts?  Hold up, is that a skull???  What the hell is happening???  I immediately looked in the garage shed to see of the goat that was gifted to our landlord was still there.  He was.  Phew!  Turns out, our neighbor (who happens to be Muslim), gave us a sheep that had been hit by a car.  The tradition is that Muslims don’t eat animals unless they kill them themselves.  So…. You guessed it.  The guys butchered it up, got the fur off and cooked it up.  I have to admit, I was disturbingly curious about this whole process and asked them to tell me next time there was a slaughter.

School starts September 8th.  Feels like it’s far, far away and I must admit, I’m a little nervous about dealing with the heat while taking on the task of batiking which involves hot stoves, wax and loads of physical labor.  Here’s hoping I can pull it off!