Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Our Site" by Chris: 12 Sept '08

Here we are the swearing In Ceremony

We have been at site now for a little over 3 weeks having sworn in as actual Peace Corps volunteers on the 19th of August. Training was intense for someone who has not been on the learning end of a classroom situation in a very long time. I would say the language was the most difficult thing for me while Tammi had a little easier time of it. We were also required to pass a language competency test before we could be sworn in. I was truly terrified of it but passed on my first try and so did Tammi.

Our Twi language learning group -and - The now "famous" drumming troup

So here we are at site, in Donkorkrom, sometimes spelled Odonkawkram or Odonkawkrom. We just learned that it means "Slave Town". Donko is Twi for slave and Krom means town. I won't go into the history of the area just now. I also won't repeat all the statistics about Donkorkrom, just some observations;

Some call the Afram Plains, (of which Donkorkrom is the "capital"), the bread basket of Ghana. Back in the early 60's a dam was built on the Volta River or in the local language Esuten Frau and with the damming of the river system it flooded not only the Volta River to our east but also the Afram River (Esuten Afram) to the west and now Afrom Plains is virtually surrounded by water. Before the valleys were flooded this was a major cocoa growing region and after the flooding the climate was changed, the cocoa trees could no longer thrive and they died. 40 plus years later the Afram Plains has switched over to other crops including Yams (bayera) cocoa yams (mankane), casava (banchae) and maize. Most farming is done on a subsistence basis growing just enough to feed their families plus enough to sell at market to make a living. Some have tried larger scale agriculture but there is still a lot of work to be done there. Probably the largest export as well as largest environmental problem in Afram Plains is charcoal. Trees are being taken down at a dizzying rate to be made into charcoal. The government has tried to get the charcoal makers to at least replant the trees but they presently see little sense in that when there seems to be plenty of trees to cut down. They seem to have something in common with us westerners; shortsightedness. Traditions and people’s minds are very slow to change here, also something they have in common with us. So if any one has any brilliant suggestions...

Loading the pontoon for river crossing to Afram Plains

Our school sets on a one square mile piece of property but the actual school takes up a very small part of that. They along with several other places in Afram have planted plantations of Teak and Mahogany which offers a wonderful amount of shade on campus and potential profit generation for the future. They are thinking long-term which suggests the school is well run. Though as with a lot of things in Ghana it is by no means a well oiled machine;

Our school was to begin Monday Sept. 15th but no one is quite sure how many students will show up or even how many teachers will return for the next school year. Its run a bit differently here than what we're use to. We are told students will trickle in for the next couple of weeks, and the form 1's (freshmen) will show up quite a bit later. School is based on a 3 term school year. We will find out what we are actually teaching and when and classes will start in earnest by say the week of the 22nd. We call it GMT no not Greenwich Mean Time but Ghana Maybe Time. Everyone we have interacted with at school has been wonderful. They are as anxious to learn about the US as we are to learn about Ghana. Our head master is first class and sadly we are losing him and his family to a lucky school in the Kwaho Mountains. We hope that our new head person will be as good.

A Note from Tammi: You may have noticed that it's been a while since our last posting. We have been "recovering" from a hard drive crash, which is something that is hard enough to deal with when you live in a 1st world country! Anyway, we're back up. Sorry for the delay...

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