Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ghana 1st Day

Dear Family & Friends,
Monday, September 15, 2014

Jim & I began to think that we ought to do something else with our spare time since we hadn’t been traveling much to do our short term water specialist work except communicating by e-mail, phone calls, Skype, etc.  Just as we were about to throw in the towel Jim met with our ‘boss’ (they don’t like us to call them that) and he gave us Ghana and said they wanted to see us right away.  That was in mid-August.  We left Saturday and arrived Sunday late after a 2-stop trip via Chicago O’Hare instead of the usual straight shot to Heathrow and then onto Accra.  The trip was fine, we lived through it all, not happily, but then what could be better than landing all our flights, and after waiting 1½ hours, seeing our luggage finally arriving on the carousel!  Oh, how sweet it is!

The lengthy time we spent in the Accra airport made our hosts wait for us for 2 hours—they probably weren’t too happy either.  Elder & Sister Bullock are on their 3rd mission.  They are from Canada and have served in Malawi & Zimbabwe.  They said they didn’t have much experience doing water projects and in fact had never filled out a project development worksheet, but we think they are pretty awesome and know what they are doing anyway.

We finally got to bed at the overpriced Novotel in Accra after midnight, and had to get up at 6 AM, get ready, get our breakfast, and meet Elder Bullock.  Not much rest for wicked people. I felt pretty good even so and didn’t get snagged by jetlag until mid-afternoon when I realized I was waking up after dozing in between looking at wells.

We first went to the church’s office building, met several other couples, some of which we knew by name, some we had met, and several others—they have a lot of couples serving there.  After Ebola, both our couples from Sierra Leone and Liberia are now serving in Ghana but are soon being shipped out to other towns or even other nearby countries to complete their missions.  No one thinks any mission president, young missionary, or couple will ever get to go back to those two countries.  It was heartbreaking for all of them.  It is especially sad to hear how our friends are suffering in Sierra Leone, being quarantined in their cities, unable to work, using up savings or living on church welfare.  What are all those other poor people doing to eat these days?  No one is able to leave to work, go to school, or anything else.  They sit there, isolating themselves from others, praying not to get sick.

After spending the morning at the office, we picked up Clarence (this guy knows the language and where everything is and everything we need to know about what we’re looking at) and then finally began our travels.  We stopped to eat lunch first, which is not eventful except for my worries about what I decided to eat. One does not usually order salad, which might make one sick.  I had a previously prepared chicken salad.  Sister Bullock said that she thought it was safe because she had eaten one before, asking how they cleaned their lettuce.  I ate, gingerly, slowly, wondering why I decided to take this chance…I didn’t get sick.  This was as happy as getting our luggage, maybe even more so…

We traveled on lots of paved roads till we got to the dirt ones, typically dotted with giant potholes.  We had wanted to look at water projects previously completed to see how sustainable they were.  Even though each had some problem or other, most of them were collecting money and repairing their own wells.  This is such a blessing, and a true test of success.  There were typical problems such as wells not clean enough, and the runoffs making great mosquito ponds, but for the most part, we were pleased.

Elder Bullock and Clarence near one of the wells.  All the ones we saw were a squared-off design.  Most had a holding square at the end for the run-off.  Some were smart and cut a hole in them so they would not hold bad water.  This group decided to make a large tub at the end to use for the constructing of houses in their village.  It did not have a concrete floor though, and had nice mosquito water in it…

There was one village that was annoying to us and to Clarence.  We noted that electricity was everywhere we went, even in villages with mud huts.  One village that appeared to be a more upper-class community did not collect any money to sustain their project.  Their homes were made of block and stucco instead of mud and sticks, had TV hookups and satellite dishes…they were still waiting for someone (mostly us) to come and fix things up for them—not in our lifetime.  Clarence told them that everyone has to pay for their water and that when they were willing to pay for theirs, maybe they would be able to sustain what they already had.

We saw a new water system we hadn’t seen before in countries we’ve worked in.  Since they have electricity everywhere they are able to do boreholes with sump pumps that then pump the water into tanks set up high on a structure, which then feeds taps below in a concrete-encased area with a fence.  They have low taps and high ones.  It was fun to watch the women with buckets on their heads, turn the faucet on while the upper taps filled their buckets.  Some taps were all working, but many groups had faucets that needed fixing—we wonder if they will finally replace them if they all break--with things other than corn cobs or rags stuck up their leaking faucets (no, I’m not kidding).

This was taken at dusk so it not a good picture. I was intrigued watching the women being able to stand up to get the water in their buckets. 

Jim, Clarence & Elder Bullock checking out the tank set on the tower.  They had several projects like this one.

One very pleasant surprise was to find a gas station bathroom that was clean, did not smell, had a western toilet that flushed, had toilet paper, and a faucet that worked, soap to wash with, and a towel to dry your hands—this I have never seen in any African country—I think I’m going to like this place!

We were not able to see all of the projects on our way to the Cape Coast where we were to stay the night in a hotel not yet tried by anyone they knew.  We were so late that Clarence ended up driving in the dark to the hotel, one of the roads being about a 1½ lane road when it was supposed to be two.  It was surprising to see street lights in the towns that lit the roads, some fixed on poles, some tied onto trees. 

It was totally dark by 6:30 PM and we didn’t arrive at the hotel till after 7 and had a very late dinner that always takes a very long time to get, and showered and were anxious for sleep.  We are in a hotel that is right on the beach, but it is so dark we only got to listen to the waves.  We are to be here only one night.  I don’t much care for packing and unpacking, which we will be doing a lot on this trip.  The night before we left Accra, we had to take everything out of our suitcases, fill up one of them, leaving the other behind for when we return next weekend.

Elder Bullock standing at the bottom of a tree that used to be on flat ground, as did our well, which was across from it.  People who sell sand collect it in places like this, forever ruining the land in the areas that they work.  Our well was high up on top now too, with a large gully in between one side and the other.  Why doesn’t anyone stop them?

Our room for the night is air conditioned, roomy and is quite decent, even though not everything works right and we didn’t have Wi-fi.  They give you a USB modem if you want Internet (so slow).  The shower was lovely, but it didn’t drain well.  They had a bidet, but I’ve never gotten the knack of using one (anyone want to give instructions?).  The floor is light wood squares, with 3 postage stamp rugs, but plenty of room to put our stuff.  The TV is miniature, but it works.  The bed is typical African—hard mattress, but aided by a soft duvet that we put under us, not on top, and of course, jetlag, which put us to sleep.  We are very anxious to see this in the light tomorrow.  We noticed that they have a wonderful pool that we won’t have time to use, a beach we won’t get to enjoy.  So much cool stuff but we get to look at wells in the heat instead.  What was most refreshing when we arrived was this wonderful, coastal breeze!

Till tomorrow,

Love Mom & Dad, Jim & Karen, Elder & Sister Greding

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