Mid-service reflections and developments

Ran my first half-marathon at the Accra International Marathon, October 2016

These past two months I have been inconsistent with my posts. A busy time with harvest, lots of travel and saying bye to newly minted RPVCs. Not long ago I wrote an entry marking my one year in country but now I am just past the mid-service mark and still feeling reflective, further compounded, I am sure, because of the new year. Bear with me. Do not worry. No new year resolutions here.

It has only been in these past couple of months I feel I have the confidence to get projects off the ground. The demonstration plot does not really count because it was linked to another development project. In my mind, anything else I have been doing does not count because there has not been any monetary investment. While I know money is not define a project, much less is a marker of success, that is just the way I look at things for my service. Rauf (my main CP), the elders and I have been in meetings to further develop some projects the community wants to undertake. Specifically getting a second mill and starting animal rearing. These will require grants. So now that I am writing about them here, I really need to get those applications in!

Motivation comes and goes. For no rhyme or reason. But something that makes a world of difference is when you have HCNs and CPs that are motivated. And what I mean by motivated is attending meetings, contributing to discussions, setting up exact dates for events. I am fortunate that my counterparts are all like this. Not to say that I have not had problems with some community members in general. I have had situations where they ask for things and do nothing else and when they do attend meetings, arrive very late and barely pay attention. I have had some frustrating meetings where I feel alone and like I am forcing them to do something and have to walk away before I explode. I lock myself in my room the rest of the day just to cool off. And then I have had other meetings that energize me and feel there are not enough hours in a day. The one thing I have found that re-motivates/focuses me is leaving site for a few days. That change in scenery and company can work wonders. My favorite is actually visiting other volunteers at their sites: talking about our experiences, thinking up solutions, brainstorming projects and getting to see what they have been doing, has helped every time.

Fishing with the kids, January 2016

One cycle complete
Having gone through an entire year means I have experienced all of northern Ghana’s seasons, know when weddings and funerals are held, when the dry season gardening starts, when the wells and water catchments run dry, etc. I cannot wait to go fishing with the kids again, nor for mango and avocado season. It is nice knowing what to expect; familiarity is comfortable. I can plan better. For example, March/April 2016, I can count on both hands how many times I had a good night’s sleep. The heat is so unbearable and it is also the least busy time for agriculture. So I have planned my vacation for this time and will be in grey, dreary, wet London for my favourite time of the year on that island: spring. For that period of time, I will get to complain of the cold!

NYE: Amy (left) wearing a kente top. I am wearing a one shoulder romper made my Hamza. Sarah, looking gorgeous as per usual. Max, photobombing and jamming.

Kyinkyini – pronounced ‘chinchinny
My obsession with cloth continues to rage. It is a juggernaut that will not be stopped. And I am ok with that. My wallet, not so much but the way I see it is I will not have access to these fabrics for much longer and tailors and seamstresses I can afford for custom clothes. Almost all my nice clothes (i.e. not farm clothes) are custom pieces made of wax or tye-dye print cloths. Hamza, my tailor in Tamale is a legend with all of Peace Corps Ghana. The southern PCVs envy us for having such easy access to him. Later this month I will be travelling to Gambaga to place an order for a dress smock with Matilda, an amazing weaver who also runs a training school for single mothers. Also, I have yet to acquire any of the world famous kente cloth!

Third year?
I hinted at a potential extension in my one year mark blog entry. I am developing a position and really hope it works out. It would involve a site change but luckily still in the same area! I would be working more closely with my current supervisor and more specifically with women’s groups and shea. My APCD is aware of my interest and he has wisely said to wait until my second year before really pushing for it. Minds can change and often do. A recent RPCV had full intentions to extend a third year and worked hard to develop this new position but a few months before the end of the two year service, she had a change of heart and knew she had to return to the USA. So no official decision on this will be made until September 2017, when my intake group, Angel Dust, has its COS conference.

Back to school?
I have recently been thinking about going back to school. For what I do not know and will spend this next year figuring that out. This the most recent development and came from conversations with Dr Dan during the IPM seminar and Dr Grace, a family friend I had the luck of finally getting to meet (I was the only family member she had yet to meet) in Kumasi on my way back from my mid-service medical appointment.

Dr Grace and I in Kumasi, November 2016

She was doing a lecture series at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and our paths crossed perfectly. I need to decide what route I would take (i.e. science or social sciences) and whether I want to study in the US or elsewhere. Dr Grace did her studies and works at a university in Germany and their study model is appealing: six months lectures, the rest is research. This is not necessarily something I would do straight after Peace Corps because you know, money. But I do think now is the time to figure out once and for all if I will ever go back to school. Next year is my #dirtythirty and I need to stop being a ‘lost boy.’


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