Monday, May 18, 2009

Since I've Been Gone

I'd like to apologize in advance...the keyboards here are a bit sticky, so I may not have the best typing right now. or the best capitalization or punctuation

also, i had originally planned to include a daily update on my blog. i was going to write it out from my journal on someone else's laptop, save it on a USB, and put it on my blog whenever i got to use the internet. looks like that won't be happening either. sad. however, i do plan on updating about general things i do and see. i'll put my journal up when i get home so that you can read about the whole thing. lucky you!

my group is currently residing on-site in Wiamoase. it is such a happy village! the people are all very friendly. in fact, before we leave every morning, we have to schedule time on our walk to be able to stop and greet people. personally. so, a 5-10 minute walk might take half an hour. i really love that, though.

also, everyone wants to teach us Twi. whenever we meet people, we try to use the limited Twi we know. they end up laughing at us and then teaching us more words. i love it. i wonder if Americans are like that. when was the last time a person who speaks English as a second language had a difficult time communicating, and we helped them to learn new words in the language we know so well? Or, when was the last time we greeted other people at all while just walking down the street? Food for thought.

The children here are hilarious. They love to see us! it doesn't help that our route up to the street is through the primary school yard. whenever we walk through, they shake our hands and use the English they've learned. "Hello, obroni, how are you?" We say, "We are fine. How are you?" They don't know the responses yet, so they giggle and get really shy or run away. So cute. The other day, some little boys followed us home. Christiana (the niece of the heads of our host family) talked to them in Twi. All of a sudden, she jumped up from her seat and ran at them. One of the boys started to fake-cry while she smacked them with a towel. It was really really funny. They all came back the next day. David, the son of the heads of the host family, took a water satchet and pretended to drink from it. He got really close to a boy and sprayed him until he was soaked. Then, he chased them all away with water. It was so great. we all loved it.

The Baffour family is so nice. Esther is the mom, and she hurt her leg a week before we came. We haven't seen too much of her. Dr. Samuel is living at the clinic he works at, so we haven't been able to meet him at all. Hilda is the oldest, and she came to teach us ghanaian songs and dances. She teaches at a school, so she is not around too often. David also teaches, so we get to see him on the weekends sometimes. He is very smart. Emmanuel and Grace are students, so we have not met them yet. Christiana lives with her family, but we pay her to make traditional Ghanaian meals for us and to help us with our laundry. She is so sweet. I got to go to the market in Agona (a nearby town) with her last week. She is around my age, but she is really independent and strong.

I've noticed that lots of children here are raised to be independent and strong. Their parents definitely do not baby them. If the child wants something, he has to learn to get it himself or go without it. Even toys. I was watching a little girl in the clinic last week who could stand but couldn't walk yet. I do not know how old she is, but she was tiny. She was playing with a push toy, kind of like a lawnmower but simpler. It fell over, and her mother said, "Pick it up," instead of picking it up for her. The little girl swayed a bit, but she was able to pick up this huge toy all by herself and push it along. Incredible.

So, since I've been here, i've just been getting to know the community and the people. hopefully this week i can enter the jss (junior secondary school) and get to know some students before i begin my research. i still do not have irb approval (i'm waiting on it), so i cannot start my research yet. the irb is the institutional review board that says whether studies are ethical. no one can do research through byu without their approval. so...i wait. it's very relaxing.

well, i will probably post again in a week. have a great one, everybody!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Temporary Malfunctions

So...I really wanted to update my blog with entries from my journal, but the internet is giving me muchos problemas, so I will be sure to update it soon. Sorry for any inconveniences this may cause. I am well, though. We are all in Wiamoase finally, and most of us are waiting to hear back from the IRB still. I'll probably be able to update next week. Love you all!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gonna Go To Ghana!

Actually, I'm already here, but I thought that title would be cute. I only have 15 minutes left, so here's a quick overview of what's gone on so far. We arrive in Accra on Wednesday night and then came to Kumasi yesterday. In Accra, we went to the National Museum of Ghana. It was really fun. We learned all about the things we had learned about for such a long time in our field studies class, but we got to see actual artifacts and actual objects. I'll have to write more in another blog entry with specifics later. Then, while waiting for the bus to go to Kumasi, we met Stephen. He was a police officer that really liked talking to us, so he stayed talking to us for four hours. Yee haa. He decided that he would take all six girls to wife and that Justin would be his brother-in-law. Hahaha.

The bus ride to Kumasi took 8 hours. It was long and very bumpy, but it was also very beautiful. There was jungle as far as the eye could see. The people are so friendly. They smile at us and wave. While we were on the bus, all the children kept screaming "Obruni! Obruni!" which means "White people! White people!" and waved and grinned. The kids are adorable.

Coincidence: I met a man at a bus stop on the way to Kumasi. He asked if we were Americans and where we are from. He told us that he is from Worchester, MA. What a coincidence! In the middle of a West African jungle, I meet a guy from Massachusetts. What are the odds? Also, they played Celine Dion on the bus radio. Did not expect that I would come to Ghana and only hear Celine Dion on the radio. Funny stuff.

The food is delicious, but it is very spicy. Fortunately, my pallet is not as sensitive as others' in the group, and I do alright with it. We have had egg sandwiches, rice with sauce, sweet bread, oranges, pineapples, crackers, and goat meat. It all tastes really good. And don't worry...we drink plenty of good water.

Everything here is also super duper cheap. Four of us rode in a taxi for 20 minutes. It cost $4. The first day in Accra, it cost less than $2.80 for all 7 of us to eat a full lunch. SO GOOD! We pay in cedis which are almost equal to American dollars and pesuas which are like American dimes.

So I have been having a great time. All is well. No problems so far at all. I sweat pretty much ALL THE TIME and I have a tan on my feet (which is weird because I have not been out in the sun). I love you all! Have a great time in America and make comments or ask me questions--I can respond just about once a week.

Love always,
Amy Elizabeth

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Will I Be Doing in Ghana? I'll Tell You...

Ever since I was little, I wanted to go to Africa to cure AIDS and help all the little babies. However, as I have grown up, I have seen that it is not so much about fixing a problem. I cannot ever conclude that a country is broken or that something is missing from it, especially when I have never been there personally. I have no longer focused on fixing Africa. Instead, I want to know more about the people who live there. I want to learn. I want to explore a culture so different from my own that I will need to drastically change my behavior in order to fit in (it actually sounds a lot like when I arrived in Utah!). I will not be looking for what Africans need to do better. I do not need to change a thing about their culture. Instead, I will be looking to Ghanaians for inspiration on how to positively affect American culture...

In the United States, we frequently hear the word obesity thrown around. It truly is a problem for this generation. For good reason! If I may generalize a bit, the majority of children have so much interaction with technology that forces them into sedentary behavior for most of the day. Not to mention the classroom environment is usually a sedentary one as well. A child may sit for 6 hours in school, getting up rarely to move at a low intensity to the water fountain or bathroom, and return home to watch TV or play video games. You may be thinking, well, at least they have gym class. You may be astonished to find out that only 17% of American middle schools mandate a physical education class for the students. 17%!!! So, where else do children become physically active? Organized sports? Playing outside under the direction of parents to "turn off the TV for a little and go get some fresh air"? This is a part of what I will be finding out in my study. Of course, changes in nutrition are part of the increase in rates of obesity. However, my study will only focus on physical activity.

You may be thinking ok, I can see why you would be working with the middle school kids, but why are you focusing on core stability in this age group? First of all, let me define core stability in terms of my project. I am defining it as balance about the hips. There is more to it, of course. The abdominal, back, and leg muscles all play a huge role in developing core stability. Bones are also important because the joints about the hips are the only places that can move, and joints are made up of bones, muscles, and nerves. So core stability is that which aids us every time we sit up straight. It helps us do push ups and sit-ups. It helps us walk down the stairs. It is even an important component in gait (walking). Since core stability is such a crucial development to have, improving quality of life for all people, I have chosen to focus on how physical activity (type, duration, and intensity) correlates to core stability.

So why did I choose Ghana? It is not simply because it's in Africa and I have always dreampt of going there. In Ghana, children carry huge water baskets on their heads from the ages of 3-4 and up. They carry lots of things on their's how they transport belongings. In addition, schoolchildren do not have backs on their chairs. Can you imagine sitting upright for 6 hours every day? According to the principle of use, which states that the more you use a muscle the more it develops and the less you use the muscle the more it atrophies, these children must have amazing core stability.

So basically, I want to know what it is in their culture, specifically, that differs from ours. What can we learn as parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, and caregivers of any type that can improve the fitness of children so that they can experience improved quality of life? What are Ghanaians doing that we have not learned yet, and how can we implement it into our everyday routines? Therefore, I am questioning the question: how do Ghanaians and Americans differ in core stability, and how is that core stability correlated to different types, durations, and intensities of physical activities?

Any questions?

I love you all...wish me luck!