Wednesday, June 23, 2010


As we come very near the end of our time here in Ghana, both Katie and I are realizing all the things we're going to be missing. Ghana has made a nice little home for itself in our hearts and it's not going to be easy come the afternoon of July 1st when we drive for the last time down our muddy, lake filled, pot-hole infested road and on to the airport. And even harder than that will be Wednesday afternoon when we have closing assembly, dismiss from school, and put our kids on the bus for the last time.

Tomorrow marks one week. Never in all my time here since last August, did I imagine the difficulty I would have with saying goodbye. Maybe it's a mixture of 1. Me being terrible at goodbyes to begin with, and 2. The fact that I fell in love with the kids.... or maybe, it just stinks because I really am going to miss this place. Whatever it is, it's a heart rendering feeling that no words can describe. This year has been a lived experience, and both Katie and I will struggle the rest of our lives trying to bring our experiences home to all of you; the people we love and care about. I don’t know if we will ever be able paint a picture well enough for ya’ll to understand, but we sure will try.

In light of looking at life with the "glass half full" mentality... the growth and improvement that we have had the joy of watching in our kids has been incredible. We now understand what teachers mean when they talk about the rewards of teaching. They aren't materialistic, or obvious, but in the end, after spending a whole year with the same kids, you stand back and look at them and realize, “Hey… it really works. Teaching really works!” And, this goes without saying, we are the luckiest two teachers EVER… they always say teachers never forget their first class of students, never has this rung truer! – Katie and I are so proud of our kids. All 26 of them are amazing and full of so much potential. We can only hope they will continue to be pushed and their knowledge expanded over the years to come. We now put them in the hands of two fantastic young women, Becky and Lauren: Recent graduates of Saint Mary’s College, who will be continuing the program in Ghana this coming August. Please keep them in your prayers as they prepare for the journey of a life-time.

As a goodbye hurrah for Katie and I, Sr. Esther treated the whole entire school to a day at Till’s Beach. Mr. Danso, our bus driver drove two trips of students to the beach last week, even the little nursery ones. It was a truly beautiful site. A great memory to carry with us.

On another note… can you say USA? Anyone watching the 2010 World Cup?? If not, the USA just advanced to the next round. Football/Soccer is a huge deal over here in Ghana and Katie and I have caught the bug.

See everyone very soon. Katie will be arriving in Dulles airport around 1pm on July 2nd. I will fly on to Cincy and then arrive in Fort Wayne around 9pm. Molly, will you still have my subway sandwich? Laura… DeBrands? Andrea… rootbeer? Mom… chocolate chip cookies and a HUGE glass of 2% milk?? Okay, just checking!

Love to all! See you State-Side in 9 days!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fast and the Furious

On Monday morning we found out that Tuesday was "African Unity Day"... which means NO SCHOOL. God I love Ghanaian Holidays!!! Knowing 15 Holy Cross College students were in Cape Coast staying with the brothers, we decided to go visit them. The brothers told us that on Monday night was the 10th Anniversary of the 2 week Holy Cross Service Learning Ghana Experience Program FAREWELL PARTY. Wow that's a mouth full. When we heard the word PARTY, we knew we were going. So after school, we rode the bus to the junction at the main road, hopped into the back of a random truck to hitch hike into town, and jumped on a TRO TRO heading to Cape Coast. The 2 hour journey was a breeze, minus the goat in the back kicking our chair, and we got dropped off in Cape Coast. We were walking down the main road in search of a taxi when one of the HOLY CROSS vans pulled off the road to pick us up - PERFECT TIMING. We arrived at the Brother's Compound and met all of the Holy Cross College students. Megan had a friend from high school in the group, Kaitlyn, who was GREAT. She even gave us her left over food, shampoos, etc. etc. ETC.!!! She was our MRS. CLAUSE and provided us with the best ever Christmas in May. The night's festivities included dinner (pizza, french fries, and ice cream... not really the Ghana experience but hey we loveddd it!). We got to know some of the students and enjoyed having American conversations. We have discovered that our English has turned into Ghanaian English and we struggle holding a conversation with anyone above a 2nd grade Ghanaian mentality. Our word choice and grammatical structure are seriously suffering. Oh well... I bet you guys don't know what WA BO ADOM means. GOTCHAAA. We stayed up until 2am, wayyyy past our Grandma bedtimes, enjoying music, drinks, dancing, and visiting with my fellow Americans. The next morning consisted of early morning mass, quick breakfast, and loading up the cars for the students' last day in Ghana and a tour of Accra-the capital- with a quick stop in Kasoa to show them the Sisters' house and school. Megan and I rode with one HCC student and Brother Stephen in the pick up truck with ALL of the luggage tied down in the back, followed by 2 15 passenger HOLY CROSS VANS driven by Brother John and Brother Ken. And we were off- making GREAT time to Kasoa... the Brothers must be great drivers.
In Kasoa, we showed the students around our classroom and the school. They were very impressed comparing our school to the ones they had volunteered at in Cape Coast. We continued to Accra and this is where it got interesting.
To start off the drama, Brother Stephen received a phone call from Brother John in one van saying, "Black BMW side swiped the mirror off Brother Ken's van..." It was now OUR responsibility to chase them down. And so... WE WERE OFF. And I mean OFF... flyinggggg down the road, dodging, weaving, and swerving in and out of everyone chasing down this awkwardly nice car in Ghana. Cheers could be heard from the back seat from Megan and me. Once we spotted the car, we discovered the driver was female. When Bro. Stephen yelled out the window at her... you could see her quivering lip and stressful character. Bro. Stephen could sense her frazzled-ness and asked her to pull over to talk it out. She refused, thus creating more of a car chase down the road... where we cut her off in a turn lane, Bro. Stephen jumped out of our car, leaving us behind in the middle of the road, to go confront the driver. Much to his surprise, the husband had switched places with his wife, and was now in the driver's seat. Sneaky little guy huh? At this point, the 2 vans had finally caught up, and parked on the side of the road. Brothers Ken, John, Stephen and Tony surrounded the black BEAMER encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions. Still refusing, a policeman came onto the scene and as we know here in Ghana, the RELIGIOUS are always right. The police arrested the woman and her husband, but refused to pay for our mirror. We were off to a gas station to get it fixed yet we were on GHANA TIME AS ALWAYS, so 2 hours later we left the gas station and were off to the Cultural Center in Accra. From there, we toured Accra seeing the President's House shaped like a stool, the Black Stars stadium, and Independence Square. We arrived at the airport for a nice dinner, and then checked them all in for their flight. We tried our best sneaking onto the plane, Megan was fully prepared with passport in hand, yet we were denied. We will have our turn in 35 days.

To wrap this up, we LOVED our time with the HCCers and can not thank Brother Stephen enough for allowing us to be a part of the HIGH SPEED, GHANAIAN EXTRAVAGANZA HIGHWAY CHASE OF A LIFETIME.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


During our third day in Wa, we traveled to a small surrounding village called Wechiau. The only, and I mean only, attraction within an hour of this village is the hippo sanctuary started by a Peace Corps volunteer in the 90’s. We spent 2 hours in a dugout canoe on the Black Volta River which provides the boundary between Ghana and Burkina Faso. Our guide, Adams, (yes, Adam with an “s”) and our canoe-rower if you will, Thomas basically rowed so quickly we felt like we had a motor attached to the canoe, amazing! No wonder everyone in Ghana has huge muscles. They were able to lead us to the island in the river where the hippos spend the hot days in the water. There were about 10 of them in the middle of the river just staring at us while we enjoyed the wildlife. We pretty much became one with Mother Nature. Not only that, but we were able to cross the border (a little illegal, no passport stamped here) to the Burkina side of the river. Hello African country #2. I mean it was only 10 minutes, but we HAVE been there now. Took some photos and videos to prove it. From here we called it a day and headed back up the river.

Back at the sanctuary “office” Katie met her future husband, his name is Muhammad. He’s Muslim but they decided to raise the kids Catholic. They called it a day, so more on that later. We’ll let you know when the wedding will be.

We left Wa at 7:30 am on an ever so lovely public bus… for all you soccer fans.. we shared a bus with THE Michael Essien (he looked a little younger in person but he did have the jersey) For those of you who don’t know, Essien is Ghana’s pride and joy soccer player. The bus was headed to Kumasi but Katie and I had other plans. We alighted in a drive by village known as Tinga (also known for their illegal mining). It was here that we were in search of Kwame Joseph, another friend of Mimi’s (the last one on our list to find)… and lo and behold, after being bombarded by 40 non-english speaking men, not Kwame Joseph, looking at a picture of Kwame that we carried, we found his brother who led us to Kwame Joseph himself. Miraculous! We met his children, saw his house, bought a round of drinks at the local pub (yes, 9am) and then we boarded the most horrible taxi we have ever been in. It started out ok, we were 5 people in a 5 seater car… it was when they tried to put the sixth person in that things got rough. The driver proceeded to smack Katie’s leg telling her “push over push over.” Which Katie responded with “I can’t push, there’s nowhere to push to.” So naturally, I’m closest to the door which means the window went down and my head went out while I hugged the door to make room for our 6th guest. The other backseat passenger with Katie and I seemed to be taking some sort of sleeping pill seeing as how she slept through all of this while her wig proceeded to blow in the wind to the point of destruction. Needless to say, when the big 6th man got out of the backseat, wig lady was down and out for the count, dead to the world. She would not move over into the open seat leaving Katie and I squished for the duration of the 1.5 hour drive (head still out the window). I have now experienced wind burn in Africa.

We are now back in Takoradi enjoying some cooler weather after the 105 degree temps. In the north. Thanks you Sub-Sahara. Back to Kasoa on Friday to prepare for the 3rd and final term at school. When school starts we will be left with only 1.5 months in Ghana. 4th of July USA here we come!- Love you all, miss you!

Pictures will be uploaded to Picasa within the next week. Look out for those.

African Village.. I think so

Off the beaten path, and I mean OFF the beaten path you will find a lovely quaint little village known as “Sankana.” Katie’s aunt, Mimi, spent two glorious years in Sankana while in the Peace Corps. It was our mission, with the help of a 5 pictures and a few local names, to find all of Mimi’s friends from her time here. We began our search at 7:15 am under a large tree, and by 7:30 we were drinking “pito” (local brew) out of calabash bowls with a man named Kwame Kumfra, one of Mimi’s good friends. This was the beginning of a very eventful day. We got a taste of true African Village life. Kwame introduced us to many villagers who knew Mimi, and he showed us her house complete with a tour of the inside which now has electricity. We also came upon some white chalk written on the wall spelling “die ants.” Apparently while Mimi was living here 11 years ago she was told that the magic juju chalk would fix her massive ant problem. There were no ants, so maybe it worked. If you would like to order some magic juju chalk to help with your insect problems, please contact Kwame Kumfa in Wa, Ghana Upper West Region. Don’t worry, if you need to find him personally you just go to the large tree, drink pito and ask for the chalk man. They will kindly point you in the right direction.

Also in Sankana we were fortunate enough to try a local dish yet to be tasted by yours truly Megan and Katie, and NEVER to be tasted again. EVER! EVER! You will never find something so utterly repulsive in your life as this dish known as, Sao/Teazzard (a slimy dough substance poop ball) eaten with green shoup (as Kwame called it, we think he meant soup, but we prefer to use the local dialect). Katie was smart enough to stay far away from the green “shoup” however I am an idiot and flet drawn in by the slimy green cassava leaves in sandy liquid. NEVER again will I be duped into something this exotic and green shoupyness. Sick… Mimi, how did you live here? In order to even begin to describe the taste of the green shoup you need to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and try to imagine the most horrendous smell you have ever come across… this is the taste of green shoup. Now, combine the smell of a truck stop bathroom multiply that by 5 then add that to the smell of month old stagnant water combined with dirty diapers and topped off with (nope, not a cherry) but a dash of sand and a hint of (not salt) vomit. This was one tenth of the green shoup experience. Not only did tears form in my eyes, they ran down my face as I ever so slyly warned Katie to stay away from the green shoup and smiled at Kwame’s mother who kindly prepared the shoup and stated “this is delicious.” (keeping in mind she spoke no English, I hope my smile was more convincing than the tears on my face)…I’m a big fat liar. However we did receive more pito after this, which I kindly handed over to Katie (I don’t even like beer, let alone local fly covered brew). So, I carried my cross and Katie carried hers. Champs? I think so.

The end of our Sankana experience was a little more uplifting. We met Jacob, Mimi’s next door neighbor and good friend. He put us in touch with his brother Nicholas who had moved to Wa and opened his own welding shop due to the kindness of Mimi who put him through apprenticeship school while she was here. Nicholas ended up being the greatest discovery of Wa (next to the invitation we received to become the next wives of chief of Wa). We tried convincing Nicholas that we would be great apprentices to welding, so he let us have a go at it. Success! He also drove us all around town on his motorcycle and we had the chance to meet his wife and daughter.

Wonderful Wa

From Sunyani, approx. 5 hours north, is a great place known as Wa… in Degari (local language) meaning “come.” So we responded to the call of Wa… and we went. We took it upon ourselves to stay at the Catholic Spiritual Renewal Center, let’s just say we left 4 days later feeling renewed spiritually, thank you Wanye Spiritual Renewal Center. We aren’t sure if you had to be religious if you wanted to stay there, but they didn’t ask so we got the sister discount.

While in Wa, we met two classy gentlemen named LaCase and Maxwell. They became two very good friends and our personal tour guides. Not only did we take porridge, rice in a community bowl, and yam fufu, with these two cool cats, but they also showed us the Wa-Na (meaning chief of Wa) Palace complete with 42 rooms for each wife and a personal introduction to the CHIEF OF WA!!! The Wa-Na himself. Yes, we had to remove our flip flops and bow down and clap our hands 4 times before we could sit up and address the chief, well not the chief directly, but his personal sidekick. No one may talk directly to the Wa-Na but we think he kinda liked us so he let a few words slip and spoke to us. The reason for this could be that we received, personally from the Wa-Na himself, local tribal names. Katie is Tibuorataa meaning “let us love one another.” Meg is now known as Suntariba meaning “one who helps and looks after others.”

Sweetness of Sunyani

From Takoradi, the second leg of our “Epic Journey” as we have so named it… began with a ever so lovely stay with the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Sunyani. Sunyani is in the Brong- Ahofo region up north. It was approximately 7 hours by tro-tro from Takoradi. Let’s just take a minute to discuss the horrific environment of a Ghanaian tro-tro. Small crowded buses from the 80’s (we’re not even sure how they are still running), jam packed with too many people sweating to death. Most of the time there are broken windows, rusted out floors, and a goat or chicken riding under the seats. On special occasions you will pick a seat where you can watch the road beneath you as you’re riding or perhaps you will choose the seat close to the gear shifter where the engine runs so hot it melts the bottom of your flip-flops… take your pick.

The SSND’s (sisters) were extremely hospitable and took excellent care of us. Our connection to these sisters comes from a very special person named Linda Cahill (Katie’s friend)… Linda’s mother’s cousin is a woman named Sister Kathleen Feely (could be one of the most incredible people on the face of the planet because neither of us can really see ourselves at 75+ kickin it in Ghana). Anyhow, Kathleen was a treat. We had our first bowl of cereal in 8 months (it was powdered milk made with water, but hey, it tasted great to us). We also were able to meet up with Sister Kate, who’s studying at the Catholic University in Sunyani as well as a few of the brothers who are studying and living there. Sunyani was a great place to rest and relax before we headed even farther into the bush country of Africa… Wa! – Wa is in the Upper West region.

2 Terms Down, 1 to go!!!

Alright, first off… big apologies coming your way. Sorry readers. It’s been a little longer than usual. Katie and I have been a bit busy enjoying our last few months here in Ghana. We’re currently sitting in Takoradi while there are monsoon rains outside. Welcome RAINY SEASON!... This blog is going to be co-written, community effort.
Since our last blog we’ve been hitting up the beaches, loving our kiddos, and running a few workshops for the teachers. We had a nice Easter and on April 15th we wound up the 2nd term. Everything is going well on our end. The kids ended the term with their ever famous “Our Day.” Apparently this is a custom that happens all over Ghana on the last day of each term. We thought it was just something special for our school, oh well. The kids come dressed in their “house dress” as they call it. We have no classes, only music, dancing, fun, and eating. Then we let out of school at noon…. And off we went to Takoradi to begin our break from school starting in the most important place, the beach. FREEDOM!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Picasa website

We expended our storage capacity on our first Picasa website, so our second round of pictures can be found at this website.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

photo update

This is just a quick message to let you know that there are new photos on the picasa website!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Beach Adventures

On Thursday morning, Megan, Sister Vero, and I took 50 students to Till's Beach for a field trip. It was SOOO much fun. We left around 930 and did not get back to school until 2:30. On our bus ride there the kids were singing and jumping around because they were so excited. Even though we are only about 20 min to the nearest beach, most of these kids have never seen the ocean. When we were about 5 miles away you could start to see the coastline. The kids went CRAZY. They could not contain their excitement and it was so neat to see. We parked at the resort, I went inside and paid, and we were off to the beach. The kids were so happy and so thankful to be there which was really cool to be a part of. We had a trash pick up first beacuse we have been talking about how important it is to help clean up the Earth. Then, we had relay races, played football, built sandcastles, and Megan and I even took one student at a time into the water. After doing this the kids worked up a little courage after being COMPLETELY TERRIFIED of the water. By the end of the day, they were all rolling around in the sand, splashing through the water, laying in the water, and acting like crabs. We brought water, juice boxes, and cookies for everyone to enjoy. Our day flew by and none of us wanted to leave. However, we needed to get the kids back to eat something before sending them home. Overall, it was a blast and the kids had their eyes opened WIDE. It was a lot of fun to be able to incorporate what we are studying in science- rocks, air, and water- to something real and tangible for them. I think we have definitely exposed these students to our love of the beach and we might even have some tag alongs next time we go ourselves.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's About Time

Hello Everyone!
I would first of all like to apologize for our lack of blogging. It seems we are so busy that it is hard to find time to sit and write about everything going on. I am going to try and catch ya'll up on what has been going on in GHANAAAAA.
First of all, I would like to say that it has not been an easy week for me. I found out on Thursday about a good friend of mine passing away in a traumatic accident. I am sure most of you heard about the death at SeaWorld. Dawn was a wonderful person, and I am really going to miss her. I was fortunate enough to have just spent some time with her while I was home in November for my grandfather's funeral. Needless to say, I will be dedicating a day in our classroom to Dawn - filled with SeaWorld photos, videos, and hopefully opening my student's eyes to Dawn's message of believing in the impossible and following your dreams.
With that said, let's get onto Ghana.
We are currently in our 7th month I believe. We have received our flight details for our return trip. Megan and I will be back in the States on July 2nd.... get ready 4th of July... here we come.
I cannot believe our time is going by so fast. Yes, we still have a lot left; but I know it is going to be so sad to say goodbye. It is hard to think about.
So I am sure you want to know what we have been up to. Life in the convent has been pretty great. Lots of comings and goings. Sister Maggie has been in Uganda for a while, Sister Mary has been in Cape Coast, Evelyn left for the States, and Comfort and Alice leave on March 12. However, we have some girls who are thinking of life as a religious who are here and they are a lot of fun. We have been having movie nights (Hitch, Happy Feet, Rudy, Armageddon, etc) which are fun to get the Ghanaian perspective on American movies. I think there is more explaining what is going on than understanding... but that is okay.
Last weekend I hosted a party. I told everyone to meet on the rooftop at 8 for drinks. And by everyone I mean all the Sisters. It was a great success. We listened to music, talked, and enjoyed ourselves.
Our classroom has been lots of fun recently. The students are doing so well. We have midterms this week and it is always exciting to see how much these guys are learning. It's pretty reassuring to us about the job we are doing. I would like to share one story that occured today that really made me laugh. The question was where does a fish live? On land, in the air, or in the water. My dear friend Nathaniel answered on land, so I asked him what fish lives on land. Without thinking, without a slight hesitation, he stands and responds, "Madam, a dead fish." I nearly lost it and had to explain the question read: Where does a fish LIVE? I was implying that a dead fish is not living. Good try Nathaniel, and thanks for the laugh.
I think it was 2 weeks ago that Meg and I decided we wanted to take a field trip. So one day I was planning some science things using a textbook from the US. I came across an idea that said take your students to a shoreline, to look at water, sand, and air. I said hmm... we are studying water, sand, and air, AND there is a beach not to far away. When we presented our idea to Sr. Esther she LOVED IT! So Megan and I will be taking our kids, along with Sr. Veronica and the 1st graders to the beach on Thursday. It will be the first time a lot of these kids have seen the ocean, even though they live less than 20 min away from it. We are pretty excited.
Well... thats it for now. We have a 4 day weekend coming up, so we will post after we have some exciting adventures. Most likely off to Accra for some pizza. I hope everyone is doing well. All my love - Katie