Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Park Weather

It has most definitely been park weather and I have enjoyed gathering up some grandchildren and spending some time there.  It is such a joy to have them to myself and get to be a real grandma for a couple of hours.  Sometimes I have to trade cars with one of my children to have room for everyone, but they are generous and don't seem to mind. It's not worth it to us to own a van again!  Besides, how fun it is to snuggle in together.

Before one park trip we went to the dollar store and bought containers and items to use in the sand. There weren't any official sand toys but we managed with ice cream scoops, strainers and plastic cups, etc. They worked out just fine because it kept not only the grandchildren entertained but all the other children at the park also!  Hunter and Lyla especially loved making sand castles, digging motes, etc.
 Bennett and I tried out the park equipment and
enjoyed the swings!

The girls did each others' hair and caught up on all their "getting back to school" sharing and other recent events.  Oh, how they love to get any time together!

Then, of course, a park outing would never be complete without a visit to Water and Ice for an ice cream cone of their choice!


Trip to Wickenberg

Petra Morrison with Bob - A very dear relative!

Every winter Bob's father's cousin comes to West Phoenix to stay out of the cold.  She has a home in Sun Valley that we love to visit.  She has always been the dearest example of a true Christian woman and is most dear to each of us.  I am hoping to get her to write down some of the stories that are still in her head while she can.  We visit her each year and treasure the opportunity. One year we held a family gathering for a few days in her basement with lots of little grandchildren.  How gracious she has always been!
We love you Petra!

We were so close to Wickenberg where my sister-in-law, Annie Osborn Poelman and her sister, Lucy were staying that we dropped by there for a visit.  We had such a wonderful evening enjoying a lovely dinner and great conversation.  Thank you Annie!  We are blessed to have you and Lucy in our lives!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Home Temporarily!

We returned to Mesa for a couple of weeks to catch up with family and check on things here. Tomorrow we are off  for a week of family, friends and meetings in Utah and one week from today will arrive in Idaho. School starts there the 15th and we will be ready to coordinate our Africa projects with those in Idaho.

It has been so good to be with family. We all gathered together for the Labor Day holiday with a BBQ and swim to celebrate Dan's birthday. I thought everyone would have plans and we would be lucky to have any "takers" but it worked out that four families could join us by evening and we had a great time together.  Dan's parents were in town so they joned in. It was so fun to see these great people again.

Each day has been as full as we could make it and we still didn't get to everything we would have liked but are grateful to have had this time.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Please refer to our closing comments  HERE . It seems to fit both blogs but I don't know how to transfer it.  If I learn how, I'll transfer the last part.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Somehow I want to capture some of the fun little things that I've observed that are unique in Ghana, at least unique to me.  I may add to these as I remember them. They make Ghana special to me.

GHANA HANDSHAKE:  Shake hands then move hands toward fingers and snap middle fingers with partner. It is unique to Ghana, not other African countries.
I know, it's hard to picture and even takes some practice but it's just like snapping your fingers but not with your thumb and finger.  Instead of your thumb you are using the other persons middle finger.

"HELLO"  Used to get attention from an audience, noisy class, etc.

'GOOD MORNING"  Greeting in church much like "Aloha" in Hawaii.  Repeated by congregation
                                     Also a common greeting in passing on the street.

"WECOME"  - A common greeting for visitors - obvious if you are white!

"OBRUNI" - White people

"KWASI BRUNI"  Add day of the week you were born and drop the "O"

"DAY BORN"  People are often referred to by the day of the week they were born

"GREETINGS"  - Adults are often greeted as "Mommy" or "Daddy" as a kind greeting.

"STAND TO SPEAK"  Children stand to respond to questions or make comments in church

"SINGING"  In church and probably anywhere, the chorister sings the full first line a a song to establish the pitch then starts over with the congregation joining in.  There is a definite pause after each verse and the beginning of a new verse and an interlude (if accompanied) between the 3rd and 4th verses.  If keyboards are available and someone knows how to play, they are used the same as pianos, but the interlude is still played.  If available, hymns are played from the church website as accompaniment.

"CARRYING BABIES" Women use a long piece of material which often is the same material as their dress.  They slip the child on their back, leaning over, wrap the material around the child, cross it in front and tuck it, then pull the bottom around and tuck it.  The babies feet are sticking out on either side of the mother.  So practical!  It leaves her hands free to work. Babies, nap this way.  Rarely is a child carried any other way until about 3 years of age.

"SIBLINGS"  Children are very good with younger brothers and sisters.  Often an older sister will be carrying a younger one on her back. I never see men carrying children on their backs...don't think it happens.  Older children are very often responsible for the younger ones. They are also good workers.

"HYGIENE"  I've been amazed at how clean the people are, never dirty and ragged, but clean and neat, dressed very respectfully and modest.  We've been here in the cooler time of the year but we've never been affected by unpleasant smells of any kind. So many are limited in bathroom and washing facilities but they keep clean.

"RIGHT HAND" - When you receive something it should be taken with the right hand.  It is the "clean hand". The left is the one used to do dirty work.  I noticed all eat with the right hand.

"WORK"  People who do not work at a job full time, sell on the streets from morning until late at night. They sweep their places of business which usually is just dirt, but keep the area around it swept and clean.  Garbage lines the streets in the public areas but individuals sweep regularly and do not let the garbage accumulate. Children do a lot of sweeping and help man the stores or tend the children.
Everyone is needed if available.  That makes it hard for some to continue in school when families need them at home.

"SCHOOL"  Children start school at 18 months.  I'm sure that's because mothers work, at least at something.  If they have an infant, they carry it on their back while they work

"CARRYING LOADS"  All bundles are carried on top of the head.  Some women have a round braided device that helps support the load evenly but often nothing is used but the head.  I've been amazed at the size and weight of what the women carry---much more then they would ever be able to handle with their hands.  Sometimes they have a big load on their heads and other bundles in each hand as well as a baby on the back.

"POSTURE" Women have beautiful posture.  Most are long and lean and look so elegant.  Their dark skin and slight figures make anything they wear look good on them. I guess carrying a book on your head is a good posture exercise after all.  I'm sure good posture is needed to support the loads.

"CLOTHING" There is such a variety of clothing.  Much is very Americanized clothing but it is intermingled with muslim type dress, lose (scrub like) outfits but in bright bold, colorful prints - both top and bottom on men and boys.  The long colorful dresses and turbans often worn by women and then the traditional dress from the north that are long full length tunics for men.  It's so fun to see them all.
The bright colors look so striking with the black skin.  I'd never be able to pull it off!

"HAIR"  Women take great pride in their hair and wear very fancy braided hairdos, using a lot of hairpieces, but I can't tell what is and what isn't natural hair.  Lots of fancy braid combinations.
I don't know if those with straight hair are wearing wigs or using straighteners.  I think both options are possible.  Most children just have their hair cut short all over, close to their heads - both boys and girls.

"JEWELRY" There is a local bead factory I would like to see. Beads are handmade, usually large and colorful.  I've seen jewelry of every sort, very tastefully worn and elegant.

"MANNERS"  I have never seen people with better manners.  They are soooo curtious and polite and respectful.  They are quick to carry a bag, open a door, summon a taxi for you, serve in any way. They apologize quickly "sorry". They always ask about the other spouse's well being when talking to one.
They pay special respect to anyone older than they are and especially those with grey hair, etc. It is a sign of wisdom.  Of course, we are older than everyone, white and foreign so we really get the royal treatment!

"FOOD" Most people eat "banku" (corn bread meal cooked in a pot - still a dough) dipped in a stew (often made with okra or cabbage); "fufu"  (made from pounded plantains and cassaba - also a dough) dipped in a soup - often goat based) and "red red"  Fried rice and beans served with fried plantains and a hot sauce.  I've eaten red red and tasted banku and fufu and okra and cabbage stews. Chicken is usually the parts we throw away, small bits of chicken on small bones.  They love to chew the bones "where all the flavor it".

"MORALITY"  When tribes were stronger, each tribe had it's standards of acceptable behavior and enforced them.  They had things in place to keep women and children safe and families in tact, etc.
Most of the laws were based on superstition, so as the people became educated they didn't think they needed to follow the tribal traditions and failed to replace them with other safeguards.  In addition, as people moved from their tribe to other tribes or areas they left behind their native tribal traditions and didn't pick up the mores of the new tribe.  Thus the breakdown of these safeguards.

"HOUSING"  There are different levels of housing depending on income.  Even the nicest houses are rarely as nice as most U.S. homes.  If so, they would probably need to be built and stocked by foreign interests.  Local houses are all made of either block or scraps of wood, tin, aluminum, bamboo, etc.
Those who can afford to build a regular home must do it on a cash basis so build it over time as they can afford, move in and keep building, often planning for additions by leaving rebar sticking out the top.  All columns are cement, not wood. Bamboo holds up the cement filled with rebar until it is firm.
Many "middle class" families would love just a one bedroom apartment with bathroom and kitchen facilities so they can live more sanitary, but little is available at an affordable price.

"CABINETS"  Cabinets and tables, closets (furniture) etc. are made of formica type material in nicer homes.

"FINANCES"  Ghana is a cash as you go" country.  Things are paid for up front with cash. Even rental properties must be prepaid for from 2 to 15 years in advance.  Inflation is out of control.  It has gone from GCD 3.2 to 3.7 U.S. $ just in the two months we have been here.  Many prices are the same as the U.S. which makes them 3 times as high for the people here.  Major problem!  So, many can not afford homes, to expand their businesses or eat anything more than is grown locally.  Most items are imported, very little industry.  Banks are presently charging 32% interest on loans. People selling on the street are lucky to make GCD 8 in one day - That's about $2.50. They literally live from day to day

"DISPOSITION"  What a happy, pleasant people.  They have such a great sense of humor and love to laugh. They are very spiritual, naming their businesses with religious statements and putting stickers on their cars, businesses, taxi's, etc. That makes them easy to teach.  They are a grateful, peaceful people.
They can get passoinate, however.  Speaeh gets louder and faster as they give an opinion with great feeling.  There is much lengthy discussion in the church classes.

"COLD"  People are very afraid of the cold.  They are not comfortable with A/C , exposure to rain, etc. and blame it for making them sick. Babies are dressed warmly (way too warmly), in jackets, hats, etc. when we are in shirtsleeves.  Not sure how they can handle it!

"DANCE"  Most traditional dances (we saw some persformed at the school program) are based on courting or especially household tasks, sweeping, washing, handing type movements.

"SWEEPING"  Much sweeping goes on and is done with a "broom" made of sticks bundled together.
The woman bends at the waste, ,puts one hand behind her back and sweeps with the other at length.

"CUTTING"  Weeds and grass are cut down with a machete in much the same fashion

"WASHING"  Clothes are often washed in a bucket and hung to dry in the sun.

"FOOTBALL"  Soccer is about the only sport we ever see or hear about. Not much else

"EDUCATION"  Schools are based on a british type of structure, very disciplined and formal. Class sizes are large with 2 or 3 children sharing a table or desk. Rulers are used for discipline so childen pay attention.  They are instructed and often learn by repeating what the teacher or leader says.  They learn English and French since neighboring countries speak French. Government schools are available but not as good as private schools.  Private schools are everywhere and very reasonable or they wouldn't stay in business.  So many people are trying to improve education.  Someone said "Ghana is the most over educated, under employed country in the world".  They may be right.  People are intelligent and even educated but the school system teaches information with little application.

"UNIFORMS" All school children wear uniforms unique to the school they attend. Girls have jumpers and shirts and boys shirts and shorts. They look good in their uniforms.

"TRAVEL"  Roads are terrible and traffic is horrific.  There are no freeways and just one or two truly fairways that can be traveled at a normal speed.  Roads are rutted whether paved or not and cars weave back and forth avoiding the biggest ruts which makes for a very bouncy, weavey ride and slow moving.  The time to get anywhere is doubled by the traffic.  It some difference if you travel at off traffic times but is still congested.

"TAXI'S" We have used taxis for transportation.  They are everywhere.  We can easily flag one down, then explain where we need to go which becomes a challenge sometimes and then negotiate the price.
Seat belts don't work.  We sit in the crowded back seat and jostle the whole time. Most trips take 45 to 60+ minutes each way.  The taxi driver is listening to to radio, either popular music or talk shows in the Twi language, just enough noise that it's hard to use that time to do anything but sit and look.  However, that is always entertaining.  We look for taxis that have a big sticker on the door because taxis are always stopped, especially if they don't have a sticker, and must pay a bribe to be allowed to continue.  The taxi monitors check for stickers, registration, license, fire extinguishers, etc. and find something amiss so they will get paid.  So sad!

"TRO TRO" The local people use a tro tro which is a van that acts somewhat like a bus.  It is much cheaper than a taxi, crowded and not air conditioned, no seat belts, etc.

TRAFFIC LAWS  I haven't noticed any except stop at red lights.  The cars weave in and out of traffic, ruts, people, using both sides of the road and the middle.  Often we move right up to a car, pass around it right into oncoming traffic using the middle of the two lane road.  They honk lightly to signal they are there, frequently, to warn cars, people, etc. Between roads and traffic the wear and tear on the cars is horrific!  Tires and breaks get such a beating.  We see cars with plastic instead of rear windows and reflector tape instead of break lights.  Trucks filled with people standing in them - never seat belts or car seats, etc.

"HOLDING HANDS"  Parents and older siblings hold hands with small children always. as they walk along the roadside.  I'm sure the traffic has something to do with that. The children don't fight it or try to run lose.  I was told that hand holding is common even between men.  I haven't really noticed that.

"WAVING"  I have had to learn to wave by keeping my hand straight and moving it back and forth. My traditional wave, especially to little children, is to just move my fingers up and down.  In Ghana, however, that means, "Come here"! I've done it wrong and had children come up to me in response.
We turn our hand around toward us to beckon someone to come but they do it the other direction.

"STREET VENDERS"  Because traffic moves so slowly it is easy to buy things out of the window. The streets are filled with people walking in and out on the roads selling goods, usually carried on their heads.  You buy phone cards, water, food, car mats, material, kitchen utensils, just about anything as you travel, however, you just have to catch what is there and not everything is available.  Women carry a carefullyl stacked and displayed basket of peanuts.  Often food like apples hanging are in a string, wrapped and twisted with cellophane around each apple. The vendors buy from distributors in the morning and sell throughout the day.

"EMPLOYMENT"  96% of the people make their own living with growing, selling, domestic work, etc. 7% have government jobs and 7% have regular jobs. Street vendors can sometimes make more in a day than at an office job.  GHC 5 - 15 is a normal days income for the common laborer.  Most work about 10 hours a day.

"ELECTRICITY"  The prepay culture means prepaying electricity, phones, etc.  Many have no electricity but those who do use it very conservatively.  Missionaries have trouble having appointments after  7 because people don't want to have to use their electricity or don't have it, so just go to bed. The sun comes up and goes down about the same time each day because it is near the equator and 0 longitude.  In the houses each plug must be turned on to be used, then turned off again when dormant.
Electricity goes on and off many times.  We are lucky enough to have a generator.  When the electricity goes off and we hear the generator go on, we switch the box and have electricity again.  When they lights go out again, we switch it back because that means the electricity is once again available.

"WATER" The water also goes on and off occasionally.  We've both been caught in a shower with soap in our hair and all over when the water went off.  We've learned to keep water in bottles to use in such cases.  We buy filtered water to drink in large bottles and boxes.  However, we also filter water from the tap and refill bottles for cooking, washing vegetables, etc.  We heat water in a coffee pot to wash dishes. Water is sold on the street in "sachets" little plastic sealed sacks.  Everyone just bites off the corner and sucks it out, then throws the plastic on the ground. I almost never see garbage receptacles.  I'm grateful for our "Dont' be a litterbug" campaign when I was growing up and litter laws today.  I really don't know how or when the litter get's cleaned up.  People sweet and clean their own property daily.

"CROSSING ROADS"  Look and run! At your own risk!

"SIDEWALKS" What are those?  we walk to church along the most interesting variety of things beneath our feet from pieces of cement to ditches, to mounds of dirt, to trash in and out of the road, trying to avoid traffic.  It's an adventure!

"INTERNET"  Thankfully they do have internet.  It is not fast or totally reliable but we have had a mobile unit that we turn on as needed and charge by plugging into our computer.  We prebuy time and can't figure out how to know how much we have left until we run out.  Sometimes we get messages on our computer like you have used 90% of your internet.  However, Dad thinks to get the best package you have to run out before you can buy it.  We have found ourselves without internet over several weekends - not a happy state!  We go to the company to get more internet.  They know how to get the most out of the money spent.
"PHONE" We borrowed "unlocked" phones from a friend.  They work pretty well.  We bought a sim card from one of the phone companies and put it in our phone
. When we buy more time, we scratch off a number, call *123*, enter the number # and send and it activates the new balance.  What I love the most is the calls to the U.S. are so cheap.  We dial 001 and then the number.  If we can get through and the call doesn't drop, we can talk for quite some time for little money - like 30 min for $1.50.  However, with the time change between here and the U.S. there are limited hours when calling is practical.  I've been grateful, however, for the phones.  I've had some good visits when I could catch someone at a good time - doesn't happen all that often, however.

"EXERCISE" The only exercise we get is a walk around our complex each morning which only takes about 15 minutes.  Sometimes we take two times around or even 3.  Dad is protective of my back and thinks my back paid is connected to walking.  Maybe a little!

"WEATHER" We have been so blessed by good weather.  It's the rainy season but we haven't been hindered at all by rain - mainly at night.  The air is fresh, a light breeze is usually blowing and it is overcast.  As soon as the sun shines, it get's hot but that hasn't happened much.  We've loved the weather.

"HUMIDITY"  Actually I have loved the humidity.  It makes my hair curl (Thank goodness) and keeps my skin supple and nails healthy.  It's so quick and easy to iron just with a steam iron even when things are dried on a rack and look wrinkled and crispy.  I'm not sure how it will feel at a hotter time of year.

"SEASONS" June - August is there rainy season which is like a winter for them.  They grow a lot of things that won't grow in other seasons so food is readily available.  The rest of the year is hot.  January and February the winds come from the Sahara and blow sand everywhere I am told.  That's when we are supposed to return.  It will probably be a different experience! There is little irrigation so food prices sky rocket in the off-season.  Most things are imported.

"GOVERNMENT"  I almost don't dare talk about the government because it makes me mad.  There are so many wonderful natural resources that the government allows other countries to glean for a price and they do so little for the people.  Better roads, internet, electricity, etc. would make such a difference to the possibilities of improving the economy.  Businesses are not interested in coming here. it's too hard.  It's also political.  Roads in areas that did not support the present government in the last election do not get repair or upkeep, etc. There are a lot of rules, for schools, businesses, etc. but I wonder how much of that is just to make more money.

NATURAL RESOURCES"  Ghana is rich in oil, gold, cocoa beans, etc. but the government controls all these things and requires local people to sell to them.  They in turn sell to other countries, etc.

"AGRICULTURE"  In trying to decide on a name for the new Agribusiness cerrtificate we learned that agriculture is at the bottom of the list of respected careers.  I'm guessing it is viewed much like we view janitorial services in the U.S. 70% of the agriculture workers are illiterate.  Things grow so well. The challenge is not to make them grow but to keep things from growing!  It is seasonal, however, so I am told and when there are fewer rains things dry out and die.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


We had a special privilege of being able to attend the Jakcint Academy Graduation on August 1st. It was an all day affair and such a great experience.  

We received an invitation from Cynthia Koranteng informing us that we were to be the "Guests of Honor".  

Arrangements were made for her husband  John to pick us up.  We were grateful for that because telling a taxi how to get there would have been challenging.  Besides, we were able to have a great visit with Elder Koranteng as we traveled to and from the event. 
Read about our first visit to the school HERE

BOB ; MARVA POTHIER,  Guests of Honor along with the Chairperson - MADAM GRACE ROCKSON

John and Cynthia Koranteng own this school.  
Cynthia is the Principal, CEO and runs it all.  

The Korantengs and faculty all have clothing made out of the same material but in their own style for  special events. like the graduation.  That is also a tradition for weddings and funerals. Everyone makes a dress or shirts out of a material chosen by the host.

Cynthia's family came to support and enjoy this special day!

This is John, Cynthia, John's Brother and recently 80 year old Mother

Bob and Marva with Mrs. Koranteng, holding lunches handed out at the end of the ceremony

Cynthia Koranteng and Madam Grace Rockson

The cadet corp was very impressive, marching in perfect formation to present the flag and taking turns at their post, standing guard much like at Buckingham Palace!

We enjoyed a wonderful program of traditional dancing, recitations and plays by each of the grades.

I may add a video later but don't know how to do that yet!

The official graduation ceremony concluded the program as each student received either a graduation diploma or an advancement certificate followed by pictures of each child with his/her parents

Thank you, John and Cynthia and all you beautiful children for a wonderful day!

Friday, August 8, 2014


On our way home from Cape Coast we stopped on the edge of the ocean to see Elmina Castle -One of several stations along the coast of Ghana where the slave trade took place.

We started our tour with a visit to the museum

Our guide gave us great information about how Portugal established trade with Ghana and traded for a hundred years or so before starting to trade in slaves.  

At first they bought those who had been taken prisoner in wars between the tribes but eventually villages were invaded and people taken captive just for the trade value. 

The Dutch took the area from the Portuguese in 1642. Trade went on for nearly 200 years. In the early 19th Century they abolished their slave trade.

Then  in 1872 the British took control from the Dutch. 

Ghana won her independence from Britain in 1957.

The slaves were imprisoned here until they could be shipped out to other countries.

The men who tried to escape were put into this totally empty cell without food or water and left to die.

Water source for the castle

Slave traders lived on the top floor, walked out on the balcony to choose young women from the courtyard to be brought up to them. 

Those women who gave any resistance were shackled to this cannon ball in the courtyard and left.

Of course, all of the prisoners were shackled

The blacks were converted to Christianity much earlier by the Portuguese. 

The slave traders were "Christians" and built a chapel over the women's slave quarters where they could worship. 

What an "example" they were!

Once the time came to ship them out, the prisoners were brought through this final tunnel to
 "The Door of No Return"

Wreaths and memorials were left in one room by descendants of slaves to honor their memory.

It's hard history to know, understand!