Sunday, August 2, 2009 more blog post...

Sorry to throw everyone off, but I actually have one more short post.

We are currently at the internet cafe in Accra. I get home this week after much traveling and sitting.

Speaking of sitting, after my last post I did one thing--get my hair done. It took a total of 25.5 hours to twist tiny sections of my hair into little purple, black, and red twisties. The lady actually chopped some of my real hair off, too. I was stressing out a lot about it, but I'll just see how long it is when I take it out.

So yes, I sat on a tiny wooden stool for almost 26 hours over three days. The pain on my bottom was the worst I've ever experienced. Yesterday, we all traveled to Kumasi and stayed in the Guestline Lodge for one night. Early this morning, we hopped an STC bus to Accra. That's where we are now. We had a REALLY expensive meal (boo city life). Who knows what we'll do later...

I think we've planned to go to Independence Square and the beach and the temple over the next couple of days. We'll see how that actually works out, though. It IS the rainy season.

I'll talk to everyone really soon! Until then, I miss you all. MMMMMMWWWWAAAAHHHH!

Love always,
Amy Elizabeth

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our Last Week in Wiamoase...

Last week, I did not blog on Friday because I ran out of time. However, Friday was a great day. We went to the Craft Village of Ahwiaa where the wood-carvers sell their goods. When Obronis go there, though, it is a bargaining frenzy! It was definitely challenging, but I think I did alright. I also brought lots to trade because I don't want to carry everything home. They LOVED the hand sanitizer and the lotion. I have two funny stories from the Craft Village. The first one is about Tommy's present from Ghana--I had the most difficult time getting it! I actually had to beg the man in the end, and he gave it to me. It's a great story that I'll have to tell him when I give it to him. Tommy should just remember how much I love him...that's all I have to say about that. The second story is really funny. In the first shop I went to, the man kept saying that we could straight trade, meaning the trade does not involve any money at all. I told him I would come back to his shop to trade because I wanted to see all of the items in the other shops first. He tried to persuade me to come back by giving me a bracelet for free. However, after I went through all of the other shops, I had nothing left to trade except my stretched out underwear. I went back to his shop, and he was so disappointed that I didn't trade him my hand sanitizer or lotion. I told him that I could still trade him some underwear if he wanted it. He was obviously hurt, and he gave me a really super cool mask. So, I got a bracelet and an awesome mask in exchange underwear...

I thought that was funny.

On Saturday, we had a group party because Margaret was leaving on Sunday morning. We gave gifts to all of the members of the host family. I was in charge of Christiana's gift...I got her cute shoes and matching earrings. We also took minerals (drank soda) and ate biscuits (cookies). It was a really fun time. Sunday was our last day at church because we will be traveling next Sunday to Accra.

Monday was a super duper fun day, even though I didn't exactly do anything, because I got to spend an entire day at a compound and saw what the actual people are doing in the casual environment of their own home. It was so fun. We went over to Deborah's house (Kayla is interviewing Deborah for her project) so Kayla and I could get our hair plaited. However, Kayla's hair ended up taking 14 hours total, so I am getting my hair plaited tomorrow instead. Deborah fed us some really good but really interesting food at her house. Who knew fish could taste so good with bananas? We also had lots of girl talk (aka Deborah was being suggestive and dirty and hilarious). Her 1 1/2 year old daughter, Perpetua, kept being a stinker and cried a lot. We had so much fun, though!

Yesterday, Michelle and I went to the only school for the deaf in the Ashanti Region. It was so incredible! I wish I knew it was there so I could have done my project at that site. All the kids were so excited to see us. They used American Sign Language, so I could communicate with them a little bit...mostly things I learned from Kasen Lindquist and working at the Provo School District.

As I said before, Thursday and Friday I will be getting my hair plaited. On Saturday, we leave Wiamoase, and on Sunday we will be going to Accra by bus. In Accra, we are hoping to go to the National Theater and the temple and Independence Square...who knows where else.

I won't be using the computer again until I get back in a week. So, this is my last post from Ghana. Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Palace Museum

Today, we had the incredible opportunity to visit the Palace Museum in Kumasi. The chief of the Ashanti kingdom still lives in part of the palace, but the other part (the older part) has been made into a museum. First, we watched a documentary all about the chiefs, the queen mothers, and the traditions of the culture surrounding the Asantehene. Then, we got to see all of the talking drums that called the people to assemble before the chief back before the people had radios and telephones. We also saw the beds and chairs that carried the kings and queen mothers, including the current ones. Inside a huge, mansion-like building, we got to see all the offices and receiving rooms of the chiefs. They were filled with old photographs and wax figures that looked like all of the old chiefs that inhabited that palace. We also got to see lots of Kente cloths that they used to wear, each one particular to a royal family. We also saw war gear that the Ashanti people do not really use anymore...but in the past, they have been known for their fierceness in battle. In fact, the symbol for the Ashanti people is a porcupine because they are very calm animals until provoked, but they can definitely protect themselves with their pointy quills. Pretty cool. Anyway, I really enjoyed learning all about the history of the Ashanti kingdom.

Just to update research is officially done! On Monday, I was able to meet and assess the final students. I'm pretty excited to be able to assess the students in America now. I'll make sure I let everybody know the results as soon as I get them.

I have two weeks left before I go home. Isn't that CRAZY? I've been gone for 2 1/2 months. Margaret is leaving on Sunday to go back home, so this week we are going to give the family members their gifts. I was in charge of Christiana's gifts. She calls me Auntie Amy's so cute. I got her some shoes and earrings because she's a pretty posh lady. She sure does love her style. Every time we bring fabric or dresses home, she always has to see them. I think she'll like them.

For the next two weeks, I'll just be tying up loose ends. Basically, I will be visiting some of the friends I've made and volunteering at the clinic. I will also be going to the school in Jumasi, which has a Special Ed program...I thought that would be really interesting. We are also planning to go volunteer at one of the hospitals nearby. So yes, lots to look forward to still. Yesterday, while I was volunteering at the clinic, I found out that I got my birthday card from Scotchie! Apparently, it's never too late to say Happy puppy is so thoughtful!

I'm not sure what we'll do during the evenings, though. For the last 2 1/2 months, we've been watching episodes of the TV show House. However, now all of the seasons are done, so we may need to find new ways to entertain ourselves. I'm not trying to predict the future, here, but I'm guessing it will involve dancing and singing with Grace and Christiana. Christiana is probably my biggest fan...she loves to watch me dance haha. We have such a great time together.

Wish me luck over the next two weeks that I don't get sick!

I love you all muchisimo!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Miss Me, Miss Me, Now You Gotta...Wait Two Weeks

I'm alive! I survived my research. Kind of. I still need to do the assessments for one girl on Monday and take 3 more BMIs, but other than that, I am finished! Friday was my last day at school. It was kind of bittersweet because I'll really miss the students, but I was happy to be done. The kids haven't really had class this last week, so it was mayhem. The last week of school. Yesterday was like the last day of school. I brought my camera and took pictures. It was insane. The kids were tackling me and fighting each other to get in the pictures. I went with Kayla, and we both got MOBBED. Those kids are so funny.

To celebrate the end of school, I decided to write down my favorite quotes from the teachers at the school

1. "The weather is not favorable for caning. But some of you, you push us to the wall. And for those, I will support it." (caning = beating).
2. "Amy, what is your number? For break, I will beat you."
3. "If you are talking, it will speak." (Referring to the cane).
4. "Stop clearing your is like you have chewed maggots."
5. "Keep mute."
6. "If I get hold of you, you will laugh at the wrong side of your teeth."
7. "You don't see men getting the breast cancer. It's because the women put the money under their BRASSIERE, and the metals and the chemicals go into the skin." (Huge emphasis on BRASSIERE)
8. "We should not put currencies under our BRASSIERES, or they will be defaced" (Bigger emphasis on BRASSIERES...I was cracking up at that point).
9. "You can fool the people all the time, but all the time you can't fool all the people." (Huh?)
10. "The weather will be very hot for you." (Note: it was really cold and rainy outside, and he was threatening to beat the kids)
11. "I want the room to be as silent"
12. "I will work you." (Threatening to beat the kids...heard this one just about every day)
13. "A hunter who only hunts for elepyhants will go home empty-handed." I really liked that one actually.
14. "I will beat you, and you will smell the pepe." (Pepe is the spicy pepper that Ghanaians put in all their food) favorite:
15. "Leave Amy alone. The way you crowd around her, it is as if you have never seen a white person before. Let her breathe the fresh air of Ghana. The same blood that runs through you also runs through her. It is by God's creation that she is white. Amy told me that just yesterday she ate fufu. She does the same things as you. Do you wonder if Amy poo-poos? AMY POO-POOS!"

I hope you all enjoyed them as much as I did. Good times.

Anyway, for the last day of school, I presented some world maps as a gift for all of the classrooms. I found some in Kumasi that showed Salt Lake City, so the students will now know exactly how far BYU students come to be with them. It was a great day, and I'll miss everyone oodles.

I did not just do testing the whole time, though. I have a life outside of school. On July 4th, we went to the funeral of the brother of a man in our ward. It was so cool! First, we greeted everyone there. The people were so excited to see Obronis at the event. Then, we ate some chicken-jerky-ish food and Fanta (the soda). When we were finished, we sat under some tents and listened to a woman speaking into a microphone amplified to a bagillion decibels. It hurt my ears, but that's celebration here. We talked to the man in our ward. It was interesting to see all the people in the ceremonious Ghanaian funeral dress. We all wore black to be respectful, too. However, there was a girl who showed up in REALLY short shorts...dare I say booty shorts. All of the elders were appalled. The lady sitting in front of us was hilarious. Her jaw literally dropped...I could see her uvula. Then, she pointed to our dresses and skirts and gave us a "thumbs up" to show that our dress was more respectful than the girl's outfit. The whole place was scandalized, and so many people were really offended. Michelle put our donation for the family up at the front, and one of the women asked her to dance. So, Michelle fetched all of us, and we danced in front of the family. It was so fun! We learned the traditional funeral dances, and all the women privately tutored each one of the girls in dancing. I loved it. When we were done, the people were taking pictures of us with their camera phones...they loved it.

In addition to the funeral, we also played football (aka soccer) with some girls from the secondary school on the Fourth of July. It was a really great game, but none of us were used to running in such humidity, so we had to take lots of breathers. We played on a regulation sized field, but there were only 10 girls (both teams combined), so that added a bit to the water breaks. It was really fun, though. Ghanaians play football differently than Americans. There is a lot less physical contact because the kids don't have as much equipment. The girls we were playing with played in their bare feet or socks, and obviously no one wore shin guards. It required a lot more ball control...I liked it.

School was pretty much the same every actually got a little bit monotonous. One day, one of the teachers asked me to beat the students. I said no, and he made me come to the front of the room anyway. I feigned a lack of strength and told him that I was not as strong as a Ghanaian. Instead of leaving me alone, he grabbed my hand, put a cane in it, and slapped a kid really hard. I felt terrible, even though it wasn't really my doing. He told me that he would train me more, and I was terrified. However, that was the only incidence of it because I told them that American teachers get arrested for beating the children and I was afraid of the police. They laughed and left it alone at that.

It had been raining A LOT for a while...every day. Luckily, my research was only disrupted once by the rain. However, the power went out a bunch, so it was hard to read and get work done. It seems like the rain will be letting up a little now, though, so I can do fun things in the community without getting too wet.

Last Saturday, we watched President Obama speak to the Ghanaians, both in Accra and in Cape Coast. I felt very proud that he is my president because the words he spoke were both honest and hopeful. He told Ghanaians that they need to take responsibility for their economic situations and their lives, but that by staying healthy and embracing opportunities they can prosper. He also made a huge point to address the youth, to encourage them to build up the country and their individual situations. I loved listening to that part. I also really liked that he told Ghanaians that they were a part of the progressive world, not just a country that should receive aid. He really encouraged hard work. All the Ghanaians I spoke to really seemed to like the speech as well, and all of them tuned in to see him. What a great time to be in Ghana!

Yesterday was a pretty eventful day. Besides being the last day of school, I also got a dress made! I brought the fabric that Headmaster Peter had bought me for my birthday on Monday to a dress lady named Beatrice, a single mother to whom Shannon introduced me. She was so sweet! The dress was ready yesterday so I could wear it to the last day of school. It's beautiful! Also, some beads that I had gotten at the market match it perfectly. When I wore it to school, everyone was so happy. All of the kids kept telling me that I looked beautiful. Peter was beaming with happiness. Madam Beatrice, one of the teachers, screamed and gave me a huge hug, telling me that I was a Ghanaian beauty. I had my dress, my hair, my beads...all I needed was a couple shades darker on the skin, and I would have blended right in! Madam Agnes, the English teacher, rubbed my arms and spouted off in Twi. So cute.

Kayla and I also took our hair out yesterday after school after 6 weeks of leaving it in. Talk about greasy! The ends weren't too bad, but the roots were matted and gross. When we combed it all out, we both had two huge poof balls for heads. Also, 6 weeks of dead hair came out, too. Kayla and I filled a plastic bag with all the hair that fell out. Kayla told me that she feels like she lost all of her hair and is bald, but I really can't notice a difference. Do I have THAT much hair normally? How embarrassing.

I know everyone's really excited to learn about the results of the research...however, since my study is comparative, I won't actually find out until AFTER I test the students in America. Sorry! Just know that the project was super duper successful here. I got all the information I needed. The students scored really well on the assessments...turns out that the first day was kind of a fluke. The interviews about types of physical activity gave me lots of information, but I don't know how dependable it is, so I'll ask my professor what we should do about that. Worst come to worst, I can ignore duration and only focus on the activities and their intensities. We'll see. I'll keep you all posted, though.

I'm just so happy that my project is done! I tested 30 girls in only 15 days. I'm so pleased. For the next two weeks, I will be volunteering in the clinic, visiting the friends I've made in the community, and exploring. I'm really excited. I don't think my project could have gone better as far as timing and logistics are concerned. All of the people at the school--the headmaster, teachers, and students--were so helpful. They really jumped through fiery hoops to make everything work out. I feel so grateful.

I think the next time I will use the internet will be Wednesday. Hopefully, by that time, you will all have finished reading this extraordinarily long blog post. Enjoy!

I hope everything is well on the homefront. Just seeing the United States on the world maps made me really miss home. I'll be back soon...just two more weeks!

Love you guys.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Beginnings of my Research

After two months of trying to start my project, I finally began my research yesterday! It went well...definitely not the results I expected. The students scored really low on the core stability tests, which I attribute to their Western influence of a society in which children are trained physically to pass a fitness test instead of to sit up straight or carry their own backpacks. I thought it was really interesting, though.

Wednesday was a holiday--Republic Day (the day upon which the republic was formed). And TOMORROW is the Fourth of July! We'll be going to a funeral, which should be an interesting cultural experience. We are going to the part where the people dance and eat lots of food, not the wailing and mourning part. A man who goes to our church has a brother who died in Canada, and his body was shipped back to Ghana. The people here traditionally wait forty days before they bury the body (unless they are Muslim). Interesting...

I know I wrote to everybody on Monday...I do have a cute story from yesterday, though. Shannon, Kayla, and I went with Grace (the daughter of our host parents and our translator) to a house so that Kayla could meet people to interview. We went into the compound, and a billion little kids were in there. The mothers were pounding fufu. Fufu is basically yams that are pounded into a gelatinous goo. They are used to mop up soups and stews. The women use a giant log and bring the end down into a bowl to mash it up. It's really cool. Anyways, at first these kids were terrified of us. They think that white people are ghosts sometimes. However, one of the mothers gave Kayla her newborn baby to hold. She was darling with her curly black ringlet hair and her tiny little fingers. I tried to speak Twi with the kids. They loved it. Then, I motioned for them to come play handgames with me (I had learned some in the Presby school...the girls teach them to me pretty much every day). Soon, the children all wanted to play with me. They were singing and clapping. It was so much fun. I love connecting to the people here. The kids are so cute once they learn that we're actually good people.

Sad news...Margaret, our field facilitator, got malaria this week. That means that out of our group of seven, six have gotten malaria so far. We are predicting that Whitney will get it before we leave.

I will not be emailing again until July 18th or later because I will be doing research every day for the next two weeks. I will talk to you all then. I'm sure I'll have a lot to talk about, so be sure to check my blog after that date.

I love you all...have a happy holiday and watch some fireworks for me. Hot dogs and hamburgers and Momma's macaroni/tuna salad are not out of the question, either.

Monday, June 29, 2009

We Beat President Obama to Cape Coast! And Did Michael Jackson Die???

Apparently, President Obama is visiting Cape Coast on July 11th. Well, not to brag, but we beat him there! So...yay!

We had a great time in Cape Coast. We visited the Cape Coast Castle, from which a lot of the Triangle Trade took place. The Americas sent raw materials to Europe, Europe processed those materials and sent them to Ghana, and Ghana sent slaves to the Americas to produce the raw materials--in a nutshell. It was so interesting! I feel like I have so much to tell everybody about it. We met a senior missionary couple on our tour of the castle. They were a piece of work. The man asked the tour guide, a Ghanaian, if he thought that slavery was a good thing. Really? You're asking an African if slavery was good? Also, a couple of men were fishing off the coast. The man asked our tour guide if those were the slave ships coming to get the Africans. I was ashamed to be American at that moment. I really wonder what impression tourists give off in the various places they visit. I wonder if our tour guide will someday go to America and ask a tour guide at, say, Monticello if he thinks slavery was a good thing. Ugh. Some people. We also learned in the castle that Michael Jackson died. They had been playing his music all day, and we were all curious as to why they were doing that. Then, a man in the museum said that he died, and we were all distraught and talked about our favorite Thriller dance memories. Is it true? Someone give me an update.

Anyway, it was so rainy in Cape Coast! We got there in flood conditions. Cars were half-submerged in muddy water. I was glad to be on a big huge bus. However, we were lucky that whenever we went out it really wasn't raining too bad. We even went to the beach for a little bit. We ran around in the water and got some fun pictures. Two little boys were playing with us and wanted to be in all of our pictures. It was pretty cute.

We also went on the Kakum Canopy Walk. I think anyone who reads this should try looking it up online. It was incredible. Basically, we were suspended hundreds of feet above the jungle by a walkway and a rope bridge. It was so beautiful. Sadly, my memory card ran out in the middle, so I had to delete some pictures (don't worry, they're already saved on my computer at school). It was so incredible, though. We didn't get to see any animals, but we didn't really expect to. Lots of bugs though. Exotic, tiny, creepy bugs. Imagine my delight.

We stayed at a really nice hotel with a toilet that flushed! The high life. We also ate at some really great restaurants. I had some banana pancakes that pretty much changed my life. We also got to look in lots of fun little shops. We saw a textile mill that printed a fabric with Obama's face on it that said "Akwaaba (welcome) Obama." Ghanaians are really happy that he's visiting soon.

I wish I could write everything that happened in Cape Coast because it was SO FUN, but I only have a couple minutes left, so I have to go. I'll email/blog again this Friday, and then I won't have a chance to come to Kumasi for the next two weeks. So send love now or for two weeks hold your peace!

Love you all. Have a great week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Malaria Strikes Back

...but not at me. Four people in our group got malaria this last week. Justin and Kayla definitely have full-blown malaria. Michelle and Shannon might have it, but they are still taking the medications. SO, we couldn't go to Cape Coast last weekend. We'll be leaving this Friday instead. I did get a summer cold, though, because it's been really cold from the rain. It's no malaria case...but I'm still phlegmy.

Guess what...I got birthday mail last week! Last Wednesday, I got cards and letters from the Lindquists, Devin, and Momsy and Popsicle (aka Mom and Dad). Thanks so much, you guys! I did not realize the mail could come here so fast...less than two weeks! Imagine my excitement.

I have to keep this blog post short because I don't have too much time left. Update: this last week was Athletics Week for the town of Wiamoase. Athletes from all the different schools competed in running, football (soccer), volleyball, and table tennis events. Presby (my school) took first in volleyball, second in football, and third in running. Go Presby!

One cute little anecdote. We were waiting on Thursday for the running events to start, and I was sitting on a bench. A little girl was holding her sleeping sister, and no one would let her sit down. They wouldn't let me stand up to give her a seat, either, so I asked if she wanted me to hold her sister. She said yes, and I held onto the little sleeping girl for a while. She was so cute...she probably had the chubbiest cheeks I've ever seen. Michelle took a picture of us together. When I get a chance, maybe I can try to upload it somehow. Anyway, I had to readjust her because she was falling off my lap. She woke up and saw a white girl holding her and freaked out a little bit. It was pretty funny. I was happy to help out the sister, though, because it was so hot out that day! I didn't even want to sit too close to someone, much less be forced to stand up holding a sleeping baby.

Things are still going well for me. I will start my research next Wednesday after the retreat to Cape Coast. I hope everyone is doing well! I'll try to update again next Friday with tales from the beach.

Love you all!