Haven’t posted for awhile so here’s a catch-up on things happening (or not) in Tongo,
The next morning after our late-night arrival in Tonga, Katy and I were we were reunited with Daniel who we hadn’t seen in over 6 years and after the initial reunion it was like we’d been there all-along. Nearly every night, when the weather permits, we spread mats on the ground and have dinner under the stars in Kirstin’s compound before watching a “movie” on Kirstin’s Computer. Daniel’s favorite movies are the David Attenborough “Nature” series so we travel all over the world in our minds learning about the oceans, forests, the poles, all the series has to offer. It’s the rainy season here so most often the stars are either partially or completely obscured. However, on one clear night, we were treated to blanket of stars that most stateside dwellers have to go to a planetarium to experience. When the sky’s clear the Milky Way stands out like a band of scattered light across a jet-black sky with a full complement of stars poking through, undimmed by any sort of atmospheric pollution. When I first pointed out the Milky Way to Katy she had thought it was a band of clouds overhead. Ryan has the Google Sky app on his Android phone and virtually everything it shows for our location we can see in the sky. You just hold it up to the sky and the Android’s GPS and compass allow it to display exactly what you’re looking at with as much detail as you want. Because it’s the rainy season, we have our pick of fresh tropical fruit. The vegetation is lush and green, the ponds are full of croaking, peeping, and trilling frogs at night. And often it rains. A tropical rainstorm can be spectacular. The third day we were here we planned to have a traditional Ghanaian meal with the family under the stars but we could the see the thunderheads and hear the thunder on the horizon so we moved to the porch of Linda’s house to stay dry. Linda Atwater’s house is the bigger place next to Kirstin’s, just down the road from the pond that serves as a stock watering hole and froggie symphony hall. It’s a whole ‘nother story I don’t want to go into here but Linda’s the one who introduced Kirstin to this family while they were both in the Peace Corps. When the storm hit, it hit hard. Everyone was getting soaked, pots and pans were flying off the porch, and the lightning was getting uncomfortably close so we moved inside just before the power went out. We finished our meal with illumination provided by our flashlights shining on the ceiling and with spectacular audio/visual effects provided by the wind, rain, thunder, and lightening of the storm. After the bulk of the storm subsided, I noticed that the frogs had stepped up their vocal performances to a new level. There was now only a light rain falling and the wind had subsided to a gentle moist breeze, obviously conditions the frogs deemed worthy of their “A” game. Standing in front of Linda’s house under a pitch-black African sky, I made an audio recording.
The next day, Thompson (fireman and key community liaison for Kirstin’s and Linda’s projects), and Daniels’ brother (Oscar and family), stopped by briefly to say hello. Thompson’s a key contact for our projects (see the GGTG website) but I don’t think the kids met him because he was pretty busy during the time they were here. I met Oscar on my last visit. At the time he was getting ready for grad school. Now he’s a successful molecular biologist working on a malaria vaccine.
Daniel’s daughter, Isabella, spent a day with us. On our first visit to Tongo she was 10 years old, now she’s 16 and a sophomore at a boarding school. Too bad she wasn’t around when the Coronado kids were here. “Bella,” Katy, Kirstin, Ryan, Daniel, Howa and I went on a fairly long walk to greet “the old man,” Daniel’s father. The walk included a visit to the borehole that Kirstin had arranged to be built with matching funds from the Coronado Rotary club, the school where the kids worked on their project, and the giant boulders the kids climbed. At the risk of too many side stories, the Rotary sponsored water project included not only the bore hole but the dredging of the watering/froggie pond near Linda’s house, as well as one other pond. At “the old man’s” home we sat around talked, gave gifts (we gave him a San Diego Chargers blanket), and passed around the akpeteshie. Tradition mandates that the patriarch pour a bit of the libation on the ground for God, the land, etc., but to conserve the akpeteshie the old man dipped his finger in the glass and offered only few drops. Daniel said that someone gave him a bottle of Johnny Walker one time. When it was empty he gave it back to Daniel to refill. Daniel filled it with akpeteshie but I don’t think that’s what the old man had in mind.
The School Computer Lab:
Ryan and I have been trying to schedule time to instruct teachers but because of all the storm activity we’ve been having power problems. We’ve been there three times…. Each time we either had to abort because of a storm or there was a power issue. All was working one day until a storm came-up and the lights started to flicker. The computers however, have modulated backup emergency power supplies so we were able to get them all shut down in time before the storm hit. That day Ryan and I biked home in the rain with lightening strikes all around us. Speaking of electricity, the computer lab, like most places in Ghana, has grounding problems. The kids on the front row of the computer lab kept getting shocked when they touched the metal rim of the common desk. Of course they were all barefoot and the floor is concrete that was still damp from water that came in through the front door from the recent rains. It turned out that a couple of the computers were sitting at the edge of the desk and were making contact with the metal rim. Whenever one of the kids touched the metal desk rim the computer was grounded from the computer to the rim to the concrete floor via the kid’s feet. The “solution” was to move all the computers so they weren’t touching the rim. Of course this is just a temp “fix.” Another issue is the projector needs its own regulated power supply as it’s now on the same supply as the teachers’ computer and the supply overloads when both are turned on. The head master, Robert, is on top of these issues, and hopefully will get things fixed. He plans to lobby for emergency and more power for the lab. They won’t be able to run the air conditioner until this happens. If need be he’ll run the lab off an emergency generator, For now, however, the storms are the problem. Robert is getting the syllabus for the exam the kids need to pass to move on so we’ll know what to concentrate on when we finally meet the teachers.
Daniel obtained a CD with the news coverage when the ICT center was turned over to the school that I’ll share when I get back. It has all the speeches and many of the performance interludes between speeches.
Each time we biked to the computer lab the kids came out of nowhere to fill all the seats. One we see a lot of is Kofi, who is always there… he even showed up at the old man’s house. He’s 17 and just now learning to type with the Marvis Beacon typing program we’re using to get them started. Even as I write this he’s at Kirstin’s house sitting next to me in the common room practicing on the computer we gave to the family.
Yep, that’s right Daniel and Howa now have a computer; Kirstin’s old laptop loaded with music, movies, ebooks, and most significantly the ability to access the web.
Very soon you’ll be able to email Daniel and Howa directly. For now, however, they’re still learning the basics. Ryan set-up Gmail accounts for both and when they’re ready to use them I’ll let you know. They’re using the same carrier that Ryan uses with his android …. Vodaphone… they’re the one’s who paint the most logos on all the huts along the side of the road. He tried several of the competitors but Vodaphone was by far the best.
Because of the storms the power has been going off and on; the other day it was out for the entire day not only here, but in Bolga as well.
Kirstin and Katy are teaching Howa how to prepare American food for the time when the restaurant is functional… she makes delicious brownies and ground nut (aka peanut butter) cookies now and plans to sell them in the market. A couple of nights ago we had meatballs and pasta that she made during her lessons with Katy and Kirstin. Ryan tried to teach Howa how to make omelets but because she doesn’t have non-stick pans the best they could do was scrambled eggs. When the rain lets up they’re going in to town to buy non-stick pots and pans.
It was raining on our trip to Mole yesterday so the long dirt road (87 km long) was now full of flooded potholes. Along the way there we saw some of the most impoverished villages we’ve yet encountered but as we passed the inhabitants always waved and smiled at us. We also passed several female members of the Fulani Tribe… beautiful women dressed to the teeth! One particularly challenging part of the road featured what appeared to be a small river running across our path. About the same time another car was approaching from the other side and behind it a large truck. The other driver politely blinked his lights for us to cross first. Abbrey politely blinked his lights for him to cross. Each of us wanted to see if the other would get stuck. Finally someone from the other car got out and waded across to find the best route, followed by the other car. Then the truck went. We followed the path the first car took and crossed safely. When we finally arrived at Mole we learned the elephants had probably moved deeper into the reserve because of the rains. Since there was still a chance some would be around we went on the walking safari the next morning. We saw no elephants except for one big one nicknamed “the people’s friend” who had wandered into the compound area. So we had lots of fun running from him and watching all the “pig fights” the wart hogs were engaged in over the scraps from the kitchen. As the kids will tell you there are baboons everywhere. Ryan had grabbed a handful of bananas from our room to eat before the safari. As soon as the baboons spotted them, four big ones sprinted to him from about 25 meters away, surrounded, and basically mugged him. All he could do was to throw the bananas into the air. The mona monkeys at the monkey sanctuary were cute when they snatched bananas from your hand. Not so with big aggressive baboons. Then at the briefing we were told to not carry food around the baboons. The Safari turned out to be a soggy walk in the jungle with no elephant encounters. We did see plenty of antelope and crocodiles, however.
Were back at Daniels now, it’s been raining all day, so I took a little time to finish this post. Katy and I have only a few more days here before we head north for Burkina Faso, then from there back to San Diego on the 11th.