Ghana, a country of dusty roads, roaming goats, great street food, and welcoming people - smiles, greetings, and laughter as we practice their language. It was wonderful to be back, with another lifetime of experiences stuffed into just a very few weeks. This adventure was shared with my daughter Dani, who had recently finished her Peace Corps service in Namibia.
My longtime dream of seeing traditionally painted mud brick homes was finally realized. Dani and I traveled with friends Ann and Steve to northern Ghana, the towns of Bolgatanga and Sirigu, near the Burkina Faso border. We had the extreme pleasure of staying at SWOPA - a wonderful cooperative started by women potters in the region, who were happy to share their skills with us. Abukari, our guide, brought us to his family farm, where we received a live chicken as a gift. (We had it for dinner.) He also took us to visit his basket cooperative, a daily gathering place for over 70 women; they bring their children, sing, teach, learn, and make baskets for sale. Each day was full of new experiences and delights. The highlight of it all was visiting painted family compounds and actually staying in a round painted mud home.
After a week of travel, Dani and I returned to Nungua to work with Leslie (another volunteer, from London) at Aba House. We worked long hours with wonderful children. We sang with them, read stories to them, swam in the ocean, started a lending library. We made a lot of art. We crocheted and wove with the ubiquitous black plastic bags (called "black rubbers"), sewed purses of discarded cloth, laughed, drummed, and danced. We took them on field trips using the local trotros as transportation, and introduced them to the flourishing art community only 20 minutes away. We started to teach them to use the two laptop computers that were donated to Aba House - for typing games and story writing. We shared our space with a rooster, chickens, and lizards. Even simple things turned into an adventure --- a stick collecting expedition turned into a hunt for a bush rat for dinner (NOT for Aba House).
Our main project was our bookmaking project, first started in the summer of 2005. The kids made the paper for the book covers, using recycled paper and local vegetable fibers. These papers were often stamped with traditional Adinkra stamps and ink made from the bark of the badie tree. This year, we established a system of payment for hours worked; our first "payday" was a success! Dani remains there, continuing our work for several more months.
It was a pleasure to be back among the children I had left only a few months before. Some were taller, showing signs of budding maturity, all with smiles and laughter. We were enveloped by the rhythm of life in Nungua, by the noise in the streets, the conversations, the people we greeted every day.
After several trips to Africa, I have come to realize that it is not our cars, our (relative) wealth, or our worldly possessions that make us so fortunate. It is the fact that we have had an education, an opportunity to learn to read and write and do math - something so basic that we rarely think of it as something to be treasured.
I returned home after only one short month. Although it is wonderful to really feel clean again, a piece of my heart is walking on those dusty Nungua streets, surrounded by smiling children.