by Sasha Bennett, Bongo-Soe, Ghana
Once, about three months ago, a man came to my compound, yelling "Asapoka, Asapoka, I have something for you." I did not know or recognize the man, but he knew my Fra Fra tribal name. My name, Asapoka, was given to me by the village. It means"A woman from Soe to bring good things." My given name is rather hard for people to pronounce, so most everyone calls me Asapoka.
After the traditional greetings, he pulled out something from his pocket. In his palm, he had what seemed to be a tiny ball of fur. But then it started to move. Imagine my surprise when I saw a little face peeking out from under the fur! The man had a baby porcupine and wanted to give it to me. He got it from the bush, which basically means any area that is uninhabited by people. He also told me that a porcupine's quills are boiled, and then pounded into a fine powdery substance to make a traditional medicine. It is given to children to treat stomach ailments. The porcupine sure was cute, but I could not keep it, as it would just escape. I know that people eat porcupines, so I was touched by his gesture of giving me food. I thanked him profusely, and informed him that I could not keep it because I don't eat porcupines. He was very surprised when I told him that most Americans don't eat such things. So the man collected it and put it back in his pocket.
The man was trying to give me a "welcome" gift. He had had nothing for me when I came, and waited until he found something I could use. This story should be remembered not for the fact that people here eat porcupines, but rather for the fact that he wanted to give me food. His gesture shows how hospitable and generous Ghanaians are.
by Molly Campbell, Amisano, Ghana
During the last dry season, the piped water had been turned off for five days. My water barrel was really low so I figured I should get water soon. While sitting outside, my friend Paco was going by with a bucket. He said he was headed to the borehole. I said I also needed water and I'd go with him. I grabbed two buckets and headed out. I also grabbed a head wrap, thinking I'd try carrying it on my head, and I'd be a true Ghanaian. Well, Stephan didn't think I could, so he got two young boys to come help. I was determined to carry it on my head; of course after hearing "You can't," I was more determined than ever.
by Nell Todd, Mafi-Dove, Ghana
An essay written by a middle school student:
In Mafi-Dove, water plays many roles during ceremonies. We use water to pour libations and also during naming ceremony of newborn babies. When it is time to name the baby, we throw water on top of the building which then falls on the ground. This is done by our grandfathers and grandmothers. When they throw the water it means peace.
In Mafi-Dove, we get water from many places. We get our [water] from boreholes. We also get our water from wells and from our river, called Mlangoe. These are some of the places that we get our water.
In our farms, we use water to water our crops. Watering is one of the cultural practices that we do after transplanting our seedling from the nursery bed to field. We depend on rainwater until the time we harvest the crops.
We use water [in] small, small [amounts] in a hard day's work. Sometimes, when we are tired, it is difficult to go and fetch the water, so the small water that we have in the house, we manage it to do the work we wish do with it. We use it for bathing and cooking.
In Mafi-Dove, to get safe water, you should boil it or you fetch from the boreholes or the wells, which we built with Sister Ana (Peace Corps Volunteer Nell Todd).
In Mafi-Dove, we like to swim in the river. But sometimes we can get bilharzia by swimming in the water.
In Mafi-Dove, when we want to travel to our district capital, which is across the river Volta, we use our local boat called a canoe (tormevu). The canoe is made of wood. We use a paddle or oar to drive the canoe.
In Mafi-Dove, when we want to prepare our local food called banku or akple or soup (detsi) we use water to prepare it. We also use water to wash our clothes.
In Mafi-Dove, we use water to build our houses. One of our local buildings is built from mud. To build a mud house you will mix the dirt with water. After that you can either mould it into bricks or into balls. The bricks one has to dry before you use them. But the balls do not dry before you use them.
In conclusion, these are some of the ways that we use water.
by Chris Botzman, Akome, Volta Region, Ghana
I am now teaching math for students in their first year at junior school. These students will need to pass a national exam prior to being granted admission to the senior school. My hope is to help them prepare for passing the exam and also to get them prepared for the math in the senior secondary school.
I have also been allowed to use the school for one hour a night, four days a week. I am teaching math to whoever is interested in attending. At my last class there were over 50 students. Some of the students shared a chair. Sharing chairs is a common practice in Ghana.
Math in Ghana is called Maths or Mathematics. The children in Ghana want to attend school but there is a shortage of teachers. That is why I have been assigned to teach for the Peace Corps in Ghana.
by Michael Nelson, Gbani, Northern Region, Ghana
Gbani is a village of a thousand people in the Northern Region of Ghana. It lies along a dirt road that stretches from Walewale (the district capital) to the west and Togo to the east. This is Mamprugu, land of the Mamprusi people, a proud people whose traditional capital is at Nalerigu. The most advanced machine in the village is a gas-powered grinding mill used primarily to grind millet and corn.
I spent my first month at the chief's compound without ever seeing him. This is because he does not live in the village. Instead, people told me he was a "big man" in Accra. I was a bit skeptical of how "big" this big man could be.
After that first month I went down to Accra to celebrate Christmas. While there, I decided to contact my chief. It seemed the proper thing to do. I will never forget, though, that first phone conversation. First, his English was incredibly clear. Second, he almost immediately asked me if I had tennis shoes and a tennis racket. I just kept thinking, who is this guy? Does he really play tennis?
He sent his car and driver to pick me up (another shock). And we played tennis! Later we went back to his house where his wife made us these microwave treats while we watched an NBA game on his satellite TV. Dinner was tizzet (the local staple, a stiff porridge made of millet or corn, or both) served in silver bowls with white wine. I was blown away.
It might seem strange that a chief of such a small village could have come into his position. But really, it isn't. His father was king of the Mamprusis and made sure his son got a good education. Chief Musah Badimsugru Adam even got his MBA from Harvard! Now he is head of the Electric Company of Ghana. No, we don't have electricity yet, but it will be coming soon.
by Michael Nelson, Gbani, Northern Region, Ghana
Hi! I am Amdia Salifu Adam. Actually, Amdia is my own name. Salifu is my father's name. And Adam is our family name. I am 10 years old. Also, I am in P5 [Primary Level 5; roughly equivalent to our fifth grade in the States].
At least two times every day it is my job to fetch water from the stream that runs by our village. My sisters and (sometimes) my younger brother also fetch the water. My mothers often join me. That's right, mothers. Of course, I have only one real mother. Her name is Salamatu. But my father has four other wives as well. This is common here. This means that I have only three real brothers and two real sisters, but my father has at least 25 other children. They are my half-brothers and half-sisters, but we just call each other brother and sister.
The stream is about a kilometer from our house. It is our only source of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and washing clothes. Normally, we try to avoid taking water directly from the stream, because we know that it may be dirty. Instead, we dig holes along the edges of the stream to collect the water that comes from the ground there. But sometimes we can't do that because rain has flooded those holes. So we just have to take the stream water.
Fetching water can be difficult, I guess. But I don't really notice it much. This is how we have been getting our water since forever! Also, we get used to carrying the water on our heads from the time we are very young. It's actually quite easy! My friend, Mike, however, seems to have a hard time with it!
When we finally get back to the house, we put the water into larger containers. We use this water later for our baths.