June 25 - July 10, 2011

Days 3, 4, & 5 - The Work Begins

Monday, June 27

with help from Sammy K

We began the day by adjusting to Africa time. After waking up in a flurry to stay on schedule, we ended up waiting over two hours for a bus, only to tell us that the school was not secure for computers. Power was not hooked up either, but this gave the group the opportunity to visit the mayor’s office. With over twenty of us and a half dozen representatives, it seemed like the biggest meeting he had ever had. Even in the most modern building in the village, custom reigns supreme, and before discussing anything we were each given a bottle of water to drink from. The mayor was very grateful that we were bringing computers to his village, and took the time to shake all of our hands. At one point, he took a phone call in the middle of the conversation, which seemed slightly disrespectful at first, until we were informed that he was talking to the president of Ghana!

After the meeting, and a failed attempt to ride back to the house on top of the bus, we went to the secondary school, Asamansa. We were originally going to work on the high school in the second week, we bumped it up because the mayor needed time to get security and power to the middle school labs. Talking to the students was very interesting, even though we didn’t have much time. Students at the school wear uniforms, and soccer is definitely the most widely revered sport. Soccer jerseys are a very common sight, and every boy has fierce loyalty to both his local team and European clubs as well.

Back at the house, we split into two groups. One group went to the microloan office to upload photos and send e-mails. Outside, Sam walked into a group of girls outside a hair salon. He broke the circle of gossip, and after brief introductions he was offered a hasty marriage proposal, of which he heartily accepted. She offered him fufu (a soup composed of plantains and cassava) to seal the deal. Luckily for Sam, the rest of the group broke the awkward honeymoon, and a game of guessing began. The girls put Erik’s age at twenty three, Maggie twenty-two, Sam seventeen, and yours truly – twelve.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group went to a fast food place with no resemblance of its American counterpart. The joint was called Aroma of Christ, and it yielded some of the most divine flavors of rice and chicken that any of us had ever experienced. The group then convened back at the house to eat and play with the children, which was becoming increasingly popular to us all. Finally in the evening we sat around and bonded, freestyle rapping to a guitar riff.

Some programs on Ghanaian television:

- A Spanish soap opera dubbed in English

- A rerun of an episode of Oprah showcasing Skype. Oprah talked to a social worker from a Canadian town, where the temperature was four below zero. The temperature in Ghana was about eighty.

Tuesday, June 28

Today the work began. After breakfast, we took the bus back to Amasaman and began imaging the computers. To all you normal people out there: imaging involves creating accounts, loading software, configuring backgrounds and screensavers, and protecting the computers from malicious intent. A huge highlight was getting to meet and talk to the SIFE employees, who had recently graduated university (the word college is rarely used in Ghana). Talking to them about their country, music, movies, and soccer was incredibly interesting. Conversation helped make the tedious imaging much more fun. We had one conversation with Randy, a student who was very passionate about climate change. His favorite movie was Water World, and he never wanted to make sure that it “never happened again.” After spending the greater part of the afternoon staring at a screen, the outside was a blessing. At around seventy-five with a cool cross breeze, the weather was nearly perfect.

After getting back to the house, some of the guys went to play soccer on a nearby field with the kids, while the rest of the gang went to the market to get more fruit. We tried some of our fufu tonight, it was a very interesting consistency.

Catherine impressed everyone with her endless accents. Erin refused to tell us a bedtime story. What will enlighten and inspire us further on? Only time will tell.

Tim’s Two Cents

Day 3 was another amazing/interesting day in Ghana. I’m still not used to the bucket “showers” and humid nights. The 80 degree heat feels more like 90. I’m not sure it cools off that much at night. What made Day 3 awesome was seeing all of the students when we went to the school. The teachers and administrators were all very excited to have an opportunity to learn. I talked about everything from Kanye West to Ghanaian movies. It’s amazing how far apart yet how close we are as a culture. If anyone could FedEx me a hot shower, I’d gladly appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 29

Sickness has taken root among the group. Sam, after a night of stomach unrest, remained bed-ridden for a good portion on the afternoon. Alaine and Catherine had a little queasiness too, but stayed standing (Note to parents: everyone was fine by the end of the day, not to worry).

Today we began networking the computers. This involves cutting cables, stripping the ends, and routing the wires into RJ-45 connectors to make Ethernet cables. Then, after all the computers were connected through the hub, set up a central server to save files into. In the middle of our escapades, a bizarre fatigue overwhelmed Erik, who fell asleep for four hours on the schoolroom floor.

During lunch, we met quite a few characters. Paul, Steven, and myself were introduced to a few seniors from Amasaman (the name of the secondary school) who quickly ushered us into a classroom of their friends. A loquacious bunch, we all had a great time, and when we were called back to work we had all exchanged Facebook pages. What’s interesting is that in Ofankor, computers are extremely rare, but almost every student had access to the internet on their phones.

Another interesting character we met was Eugene, a senior who aspired to become a movie star. He loved kung-fu, and he had plans to change his name to You-Jin when he moved to Accra to pursue his career. Needless to say, he was very happy to meet Steven and learn some basic greetings on Mandarin.

When it was time to leave for the chief’s house, the teacher from the school was incredibly grateful. Over and over again he said “I am the luckiest teacher in the world.” As the technology instructor, he had only a few Pentium 2 computers to for over two thousand students, who are all tested on computer proficiency to gain admittance to college.

The chief’s house was a fantastic experience. After taking advantage of the running water (and more importantly fully functional toilets, in Pastor Rose’s house we use a bucket to flush), we met the chief of Ofankor. Traditionally, a chief will talk through a linguist, and our meeting was no exception. However, the linguist didn’t know English, so after the linguist spoke for the chief in a tribal language, another interpreter told us the English meaning. During this game of telephone, the government representative of Ofankor was also present, dressed in traditional tribal garb, constantly leaving the room to answer his cell phone. The room we were in, like Pastor Rose’s house, was filled with flowery drapes and wrap-around couches reminiscent of a lot of interiors from Middle America. I never thought I would see such sharp contrasts between modernization and tradition. When we find a faster internet connection, the video of the meeting will be the first to come.

After saying our farewells (with the chaperones of course taking traditional farewell shots of peppermint schnapps), we walked back to the house, getting a glimpse of the middle school we will be working on tomorrow. Everyone is tired, with frogs croaking at all hours of the night, and roosters beginning their crows at two in the morning. But I think I speak for everyone by saying that this has already been one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences of our lives.

Side note: Riding the bus in Ghana is a very riveting experience. Driving on the highway, which is fairly light on traffic, rides a lot like arterial streets in Seattle. However, the giant rivets and potholes that dot the dirt side streets create elicit extremely fun rides. The bus regularly dips past 20 degrees to the side in a way that would make most American fathers weep over the destroyed suspension.

Tim’s Two Cents

Today was a very successful day networking at the school. I was impressed with Colin and his hard work today. He did major work today and deserves a ton of credit for getting all the computers set up. The teachers were excited to finally see the computer lab put together. You know who’s impressed me? Our driver. He’s like B.A from A-Team. I think he can drive anything with wheels. I would defiantly sign him up for Transport 4:The Ghanaian Getaway. I was also impressed with the students having their Beatles moment walking through the school. All the kids went crazy. Now I know what Beatle Mania was like to live in the 60’s…..well almost. I was not so impressed with how hot it was at 7:00AM. We were able to walk through the neighborhood today and get to see more of Ofankor. I’m hoping to see more of the neighborhood tomorrow morning. Till next time.

Jendy's Two Cents

It has been a hot and very humid three days and we are enjoying every minute of it. However, Anis says she is getting tired of bucket showers. It makes her appreciate running water back in Seattle. Today was especially fun because we got to meet the students of Amasaman school, the first place we just finished installing computers in today. The students were very friendly and the other girls were jealous that I was given a necklace today by one of the girls. But even more so, they were jealous that the same girl asked for my address so she could make me a bag and send it to me. They plan to go back tomorrow and befriend that girl. No secret intentions intended of course. I am learned a lot more about the culture here and how very different it is from back in Seattle. I have never really seen or experienced anything quite like it. Everybody is very friendly if we open up and say hi as we pass by. It is hard going from somewhere cooler like Seattle to somewhere with no air conditioning but as long as the fans hold up, all will be well. I plan to continue meeting new people and experiencing new things to bring back and share.

Anis's Two Cents

Although it’s only been three days it feels more like a week, but I am loving every bit of it. I enjoyed going to the Amasaman School today, all of the students were extremely nice and social. Some of the guys may be a little too social, but hey it’s Ghana. We made many friends today, as we do every day. I can’t wait to have dresses made and buy souvenirs for family and friends. One thing that really impresses me is how incredibly open and accepting our hosts are of our American ways. They are going out of their way to make sure that we are comfortable and have everything we need and I truly appreciate it!

Both of our regards to everyone back home! We’re outie.

Sasha’s Two Cents

This trip has taught me a lot. One thing I have learned is that perseverance is key to success. After 10 tries I finally correctly stripped and prepared a network wire. While I was still not allowed to prepare actual wires that we would be using for the lab I at least got a sense of accomplishment. Go team!

Comments

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sam's gramma says:

so glad sam is feeling better---but marraige? oh my! sambug! we love living vicariously thought you and are so proud of you! by your words, we see you dancing and can hear the laughter. your work and play there is HOPE for our world. HOPE is you! love, sam's banna and nannybear

Barbara Lee says:

Did Erik wake up from his dreamless sleep attack? Was it the heat or something else that got to him? I want to hear about bugs.

Mary, mother of Paul says:

Thanks for sending the great messages. It's so fun to read about what you're experiencing. It's cool here still...not summer yet? How are the Ghanian kids soccer skills Paul? Are you guys using your sunscreen? (being a mother I had to ask)

Give our Paul a big hug from his Mom and Dad. And bug him a little for his sister.

sam jagger's gramma says:

sam---the mariners beat the padres 6-0 --first of 3 games! stay well! drink lots of bottled water! love, nannybear

Majid & Joann Ramezanzadeh says:

Hi (shabut shalom) Jasmine we MISS YOU . Mom posted comments last week didn't get posted, wonder why!? Everyone wishes YOU lots of fun, LOVE and sends you more LOVE & Hello. -- DAD

Well Wisher says:

Riveting prose in this unrelenting narrative! Adventure abound in this multicultural saga! What excitements await our Ghanian envoy - I eagerly await the next installment. A good read indeed!

Charlie & Maryann Mathews says:

Hey Jasmine. We just wanted to say hello and wish you well on your Ghanian adventure. No doubt the prose will be riveting in the days ahead as the adventure unfolds. Keep up the fine work and stay well.

Henry's Mother and Sister says:

Hi Henry and everyone, Thank you for sharing your daily activities with us. You're all doing a great work, so proud of you all!!!

Henry--- we tried to call the place there a few times, but phone didn't get through. We miss you!!! Hope you're having fun and learning a ton :))) Email or facebook me if you can

Denise, Jendy's mom says:

We love these great updates, and can't wait for the next! Melina and I enjoyed the beautiful weather at the Potlatch final today, where the Super Clowns! (U. CO alums) beat Slow Clap Victory Lap (Riot & Sockeye alums) 15-11, for all you Ultimate fans. Hope you are learning how to cope with the heat and humidity, in addition to making good social, mental and electrical connections! Love to Jendy and big Eric!

Leah aka Penguin says:

Hey Tim!!!! I wasn't sure if that was your two cents until I read the part about the A Team and I knew it was you. Sounds like you are having fun! I cant wait to see the pictures!