December 31, 2012

observing our life. in ghana

front porch where our clothes dryer is located
the sun rises by 6am and sets around 6pm everyday no matter what the season.  we rent a house that we chose within the company budget.  it is almost a mile from a paved road and is surrounded by empty lots and big, unfinished homes.  some of the lots are rented out by people who have come to Accra from other regions of the country where there is less economic opportunity to provide for one's family -- most of these homes are built out of wood and almost none have running water or electricity.  our house is behind a tall wall with a metal gate and electric wires like almost every other big house.  it has 5 bathrooms with 4 showers -- more than we need but typical for the way homes are built here.  it is where we spend most of our time when we are not engaged in service to the community.

everyone addresses me as 'madam' or 'mommy' and my husband as 'sir'.  we have no bank account and use cash to purchase everything.  we are learning the basics of 'twi' and our kids are able to speak with a ghanaian accent when they want to.  we laugh a lot because there is so much about life here that we have enjoy observing -- the customs, the language, the dancing, the food, the dress, the markets, the signboards, the traffic, and the animals all add to the experience of living here..

the company insists that we have a security guard because all of the furniture in the house belongs to it (we just purchased what we liked within the company budget).    the day guard works for 12 hours, 6 days a week, from 6am-6pm; the night guard works the opposite shift.  it makes our hearts ache knowing how little they are paid (6 cedi/day ~ $4/day); we share something with them everyday and help them in ways that they need (like replacing a tire on a bicycle or picking up medicine for them with the car).

every couple of days i walk down the road to buy naturally organic tomatoes, eggs, cucumbers, and other locally sold goods, but most of my shopping is done at the 3 supermarkets in the area.  we drink water from a jug on a dispenser; the empty jugs get returned where we purchase the jugs full of water for drinking.  the stove and oven must be lighted with a match or a tool for igniting, something i used to do as a child in America.  geckos hide throughout the house, coming out mostly at night when we are asleep, leaving their excrement as proof they are still there.  the company provides a driver so i do not have a license to drive here -- a situation i deeply resisted for over a year but which i now accept with contentment.  our children attend a British international school which is very small and has almost no accommodations to boast about, yet it is their favorite school because of the friendships they have made.

we haven't always lived the way we do now, and our children will not always be at this stage of development.  i want to try and capture this moment in our lives..these are some of my observations of our life as a Baha'i family in Ghana at this time:

kids' art & Baha'i poster in dining room
walls are adorned with our children's artwork and are dirty from their little hands which can't keep themselves to their sides while walking.  their rooms are places of imagination, creativity and activity without the excesses of materialism or computerized games.

every evening we come together for Devotions, offering prayers and reciting from the Baha'i Writings which are interspersed with singing and drumming.  afterwards we often talk about something that is in our hearts before saying goodnight.  depending on what time it is, they may spend time reading in bed before lights are turned out.  sometimes i read stories to them while they are in bed, but this doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to now that they are older..

kitchen window with bars
our home is used for studying and investigating the Baha'i Faith, for jr. youth group, dinners and devotions, friendships, tutoring & movie nights.  our children are learning how to show forth courtesy and hospitality, cooperation and preferring others before themselves.

a handful of buckets are used to collect water from the condensation which drips outside from the air con machines.  these same buckets are used to help water the garden.  in the kitchen, buckets and basins are used to wash produce, collect grey water and soak stained linens.  brooms and mops are used everyday for the never-ending dust and dirt which accumulates on bare floors.  kente cloths are hanging from the bars which are bolted to the windows' walls.  baskets of vegetables and fruits are full or becoming empty depending on when i have shopped.  very few family photos are hanging on walls now that digital cameras and laptops store most of the pictures taken.  water tanks are sitting on the roof of the house instead of city pipes constantly flowing and delivering water.  every 4-5 days these tanks are refilled by a water truck that pumps water through a giant hose into the tanks.

the sounds of hammers, radios, goats and gospel singing are almost constantly a reminder that we live in Africa.  tiny ants roam randomly throughout the downstairs wherever food has been eaten (despite my endless attempts to clean every possible spot along their routes).
eating out at Sunshine Salad

our children are giggling, arguing, being goofy, telling stories, learning or quietly listening, depending on the moment at hand.  the boys are kicking, throwing or bouncing balls as much as they possibly can with the hope that they will become a super sports star one day.  nail polish, guitar, Facebook, YouTube lyrics to songs, and last but not least, books, occupy our daughter's free time at home.  recorded sports games, Chopped and BBC special programs about Africa are what we mostly see on tv as a family.  we often play games like Risk, Earthopoly, Phase 10, Chess and Yahtzee.  once a week we try to go out to eat at a restaurant; it feels like a treat and we do not take it for granted.

beans, tomatoes, pumpkin & peppers
outside, vegetable and plant seedlings are sprouting along the dirt path.  pavers are breaking from pressure exerted by the water trucks.  the soccer and basketball are in a basin waiting to be played but the courtyard is quite small and outside there are no flat surfaces.  the generator is sitting right on the small grass lawn, depending on us to refuel it after each use when the electricity goes out.  neighbors are outside cooking, selling, bathing, playing, sleeping and making the best of what the grace of God has bestowed upon them.  huge piles of trash adjacent to the compound are burning as i write, leaving a light dusting of ash all over our courtyard.

neighbors are friendly, with smiles that light up my life in an indescribably joyful way each day.  little children are radiant and full of the African spirit of warmth which melts my heart every time.  some of the jr. youth are visiting almost every day to study and hang out with our family. 

i am grateful to be here, serving humanity, as a Baha'i, with my family.

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