Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feb./March Newsletter

I'm often asked why I go to Ghana or why, given all the challenges, I continue to go. Perhaps I'm stubborn or perhaps I like to beat the odds. There were plenty of odds this trip.
I delayed our program until the African Cup was almost over as I knew our yard would be empty during the matches. I did arrive in time to see Ghana take third place. Football ( soccer) fever had penetrated and Aba House kids practiced and practiced. I must say some of them are pretty good.

Some of our senior secondary kids had to study for exams. Then, because school was in session, we had some kids in the morning and some in the afternoon. Every two weeks they switch schedules, so we would wait each morning to see who appeared.

President Bush arrived, not at Aba House, but pretty close at a hotel down the street. The traffic on an already congested road came to a standstill. The joke among the Ghanaians was that instead of the elephant going to the bush...the Bush came to the elephant. (the mascot of the ruling party in Ghana is an elephant)

We are located in the village of Nungua. The name Nungua is a corruption of the local words for sweet or fresh water. So here we were in Nungua where our greatest challenge was... no running water. I wonder what the local word for ironic is. Last year we had no electricity. This year we had electricity, but no water. At a trade fair I met someone who is on the water commission. Turns out he's our neighbor. He promised to come see what he could do for us. Anyone who's been to Ghana knows the end of that story....

Making paper involves lots of water. While we were sitting there trying to figure it out, someone said, "we're right next to the ocean." hmmm.... down to the ocean to rinse our pulp. Back at Aba House just a little fresh water to rinse out the salt. Al Gore would have been proud of us!

Did I mention the heat? Most days 95 degrees with equal humidity. The chickens were digging holes and lying in them to cool off. Three of our neighbors goats disappeared from day he had a barbeque. In deference to all of the vegetarians at Aba House he dispatched the goats in the middle of the night. Guess he thought that we couldn't count. Last animal story: something got into our yard late at night and had a chicken dinner two nights in a row. Unfortunately the rooster survived.

We need caustic soda, so off to Accra to Makola market. Nobody knows where the caustic soda is until we found a man who led us here and there and finally into a dank, dark cavern. Maybe it was a shop. It was too dark to tell the difference. Down some corridors, past bodies on the floor and into a corner where, miraculously, a woman sold us caustic soda...maybe. Maybe it was lye. Whatever it was, it worked, and we got down to some serious papermaking.

After much experimenting, we have chosen sugarcane leaves to make our paper. The paper is sturdy, a nice yellowish/brown, easy to cook and it grows at Aba House. Since nothing goes to waste in Ghana, I was not surprised to find that the leaves, when cooked, are taken to reduce fever- alcohol is made from the plant - women use the waste from the plant as fuel to smoke fish - the plant itself tastes good and sweet. Even snakes gravitate to sugar cane. And I recently came across paper plates made from sugar cane waste.

Sgar cane is not indigenous to Ghana. It probably originated in India and went West to become the main plantation crop of the West Indies.

Now we are bringing it to the States in the form of books made by the Aba House kids. We sell the books and use the proceeds to buy the kids school supplies, uniforms, shoes, etc.
How sweet is that!

The kids also had watercolor lessons from a local artist - computer time to write creative stories and opportunities to create drawings for our new line of greeting cards.
They are looking forward to the summer and new volunteers to work with them.



Janeen St. Louis said...

This is too funny. I just became a member to this site and my first news letter consist of going to Ghana to stay at the Aba house (arts and craft center).
I want to go at the end of the year. I was doing my research on it, checking the current events in that area, learning about the people so on and so forth. Now, I have kinda put the idea in the back of my mind because my current situation has put a stop to certain things I wanted to do to perfect my craft. I am a jewelry artist and I love to bead. I especially love the trade beads from Africa. I so despritly want to go, but unfortunitly I cant. Until I saw this news letter. I think it is a sign :)

I am very much interested in still going, can you tell what you do to prepare yourself and what to expect when taken a trip such as this and what is the most affordable way to travel to that area?

Congrats to you

Lafreya said...

Hello Aba,
This Karen Simpson. I glad to see you are blogging. I will add you to my blog site.
I miss Ghana and hope maybe one day to get back.

Karen Simpson