Saturday, November 24, 2012


Everyone who comes to Ghana notices the business signs along the side of the road.
That's because they are not like the signs in the US...  Boston House, Applebees,
Modern Hardware, D&W Foodstores, and so on.  Borrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnnnnggggg!

In Ghana they know 1) how to give their businesses fun names, and 2)
 how to bring their faith into their business.  When asked if naming their 
businesses with such Christian themes is a good idea, the question is met with
surprise.  Of course it's a good idea, because it shows you're honest and of 
good character.  The signs below are only a very small sample of the thousands 
of business signs you see all over Ghana.  Why thousands?  Because the businesses 
here tend to be quite small, so there need to be many of them.  
A great many of them have names like the ones you see below.

 Check them out and decide which business has a name that might 
be ready for the global market.

This is one of my favorites for some reason, though the haircut doesn't
really make you look like Jesus.  Maybe the influence of the haircut is spiritual.

Another favorite.  In the local language, "chop" means to eat.
Kenkey is a ball of carbs made of slightly fermented corn dough.

If you're in the condition this business' clients are in,
then believing is (or I suppose "was") a good thing.
Now we'll change our tune a little to show you some other fascinating signs.
The first one strikes me as just fun, or funny, or maybe even hilarious.

The next one, however, heads the other direction
into the realm of frightening.  It's worth remembering that not everyone
is literate in Ghana, which is why businesses must have pictures
of what they offer alongside the words.  Scroll back up
and you'll see that most of the signs have pictures of what is sold there.

I understand the prices are low.  Any takers????

Ok, this last one is not a sign; it's a t-shirt, but I just really liked the drawing,
as well as the importance of such an auspicious day.  It's very Christian too.
Perhaps it is not a literal reading of Deuteronomy 23:12,
but it is surely consistent with it.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Grandma Tildy had no interest in elephants, but we sure did.
It was our fondest hope that our northern trip would conclude with some
close encounters with real live, wild elephants.  So we went to 
Mole (Molay) national park, where, we were told, the elephants roam freely,
along with many other African animals.
And so we went, with hopes sky high...

We started out with a crocodile,

some affectionate baboons,


warthogs (doesn't this one just look like a lady?),

and kobs, but all we could find of the elephants were

their footprints...
they make big footprints.

On our disappointed way out of Mole Park, we stopped to see one of the oldest
mosques in Sub-Saharan Africa.  This mosque was built in the 1400s, before John Calvin was even born.

Who can resist a picture of twins?

We concluded our trip with a visit to the bead making place we missed on the first day (we passed
it right by and didn't notice until it was too late).  These beads are made out of bauxite,
the raw material for aluminum.  Here's what it looks like when it starts.  Not too impressive.

But if you chop the stones into smaller pieces,

drill holes in them,

string them up,

and sand them on a grinding stone,....

well, they're still not very impressive.  But hey, they are round and they have holes in them.  If you're shooting
for that natural, earthy look, then bauxite beads are for you.
And so ended our northern trip.  We tried out kente cloth weaving, 
stamped adinkra symbols onto traditional cloth, met with farmers, both men and women, 
talked with a village savings group, watched the process of shea butter making, 
danced and sang with children in a rural school, drank fermented pito at another village,
visited a drip irrigation project, watched young women as they learned to sew
on cement bags before moving on to real cloth, wandered into Burkina Faso, practiced
making bauxite beads, saw some cool African animals, 
and rode on the back of a crocodile.  

But no elephants...

Still, it was a very good trip!!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Below is a partial record of two days from our northern trip.
On day one, we played the tourist role.  First, a village that paints its houses
in a traditional style.  Second, a visit to the border with Burkina Faso.  We all
get to count one more country on our "countries visited" list.  Third, we got
suckered into visiting the Chief's crocodile pond.  They took way took way too much
money from us, and in return we got to stand  next to a 90 year old croc. Finally,
we visited the Roman Catholic mission in Navrongo, which was impressive.

Day two was spent entirely with World Vision.  We visited a community
where WV works and then checked out a drip irrigation project WV is pioneering
with a group of farmers.

Notice the larger pictures.

Here is the style in which they paint village homes.   Our experience at this center, plus
our other "tourist" activities today led us to conclude that
we like visiting communities with NGO representatives more than doing
tourist stuff.  At this place in Sirigu we paid $1.50 for the "tour."
To avoid sounding negative, I'll just say the tour, which consisted mostly of
showing us to the gift shop, could use a little sprucing up.

On the border of Burkina Faso.  Border guards were casual on both sides. They allowed us
to walk 1/2 kilometer down the road in Burkina Faso.  We could have gone further, no problem.
Immediately upon passing the border, we heard a lot of French, the official language.
Crossing back over to the Ghana side, we recorded our visit in front of the sign.

Walk 200 meters back through "no man's land," and we were at the "Welcome to Ghana"
sign.  Not having found such a big and beautiful sign at the airport in August, we
thought it appropriate to mug for a group shot here.  Notice the handsome old dude
in the back row on the left.

Here's the 90-year old crocodile we paid $80 to see.  As we approached the mud puddle
where he was resting, grandpa croc ambled up onto the shore. I'm sure he's done it a thousand
times. Why? because after he lets people sit with him like this, they throw him a month
old live chicken, which he snarfs right up. I'm sure that's a lot easier for him than
wasting his energy in taking down Krista.

The northern region of Ghana is heavily Muslim.  But not Navrongo, where Roman
Catholic missionaries from Europe came a little over 100 years ago.  They built this
church on a large estate (given them by the chief) that includes schools, a grotto
and many other support buildings.
The town converted and is now completely catholic.  A few years ago they
built a more modern and larger church a short distance away.
It is filled to capacity for several masses every Sunday.  

On the morning of day two we visited this community where World Vision works.
Six students met with the community bank group, six met with the water and sanitation
committee, and six women met with this women's support group.  They
engaged in frank conversation about marriage, husbands, children and their need for
each other.  Some of these women are married to the same man.  Our girls
said this conversation was one of the highlights of the whole semester.

The compound of one of the progressive men in the community.  The small hut in the
center-right is home to a family of rabbits.  There is an improved latrine (not visible)
to the back left.  Each wife has her own hut.  

Paola found herself cradling a newborn at the side of a proud mom.  

Walking from one event to another.  What I want you to see here is that every
student has two kids in tow.  Walk a few steps in a village like this and you almost
immediately have a child reaching out for your hand.  Different languages don't allow
us to talk together, but the children smile a lot and seem happy simply to hold your hand.
 If one "obruni" (white person) is already taken, the kids quickly move on to the next.
This happened in every community we visited.

I guess we know who this youngster would vote for if he could. They polled people
the world over and in almost every nation Obama would win in a landslide.  I believe
the nations where this isn't true are Pakistan, Israel, and of course the US.

The drip irrigation system WV is pioneering with local farmers.  Before this innovation,
the men migrated during dry season to find day labor.  But if this system works
then they'll be able to farm in the dry season too.
Both men and women farm in northern Ghana, but they don't work together.
Men and women farm their own separate plots.  Tomatoes will be going in here soon.
Can you see the drips glistening in the sun?
That's rice in the background, about ready for harvesting.  Tomatoes will go in there too.

This woman is collecting water for home use at one of the pumping stations on top of the dam.
The dam also feeds the drip irrigation system.  In the US we expect clean water to flow
from the tap.  In rural Ghana, women and children must carry water to their homes from
a common source.  This source is an especially good one.

And finally,a group picture with all the farmers and whoever else happened to
be interested in the proceedings.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


We've had two more satisfying days.  On Monday we met with a 
Presbyterian development organization that took us to a community where
they are working.  As usual, we sat under the best village shade tree and most 
of the men and women came.  
In the afternoon we visited the Yaakoro Youth Development Center,
a local organization helping young women learn worthwhile trade skills.

Yesterday we traveled to Bolgatanga (wouldn't it be great to come 
from a town with that name? - almost as good as Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso).
We were hosted by Doris, a fast moving dynamo - wonderful!
We visited a school, a team of  women making Shea Butter, a group
of women making Pito (more on that below), and a craft center.
Walking around in the hot midday sun takes its toll.  We were very pleased
when God sent us a thunderstorm at the end of the day.

In the farming community, this man is telling us about their
community, its history, what they grow, and what changes
they have made in the last few years.  We heard a lot about climate
change.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to know when to plant,
because the rains are all different than they used to be.

It's typical for the men to sit together, for the women to sit together
as well, and for the children to sit together too.  Here the woman
in the back was telling us what the women have been doing.  They too
are farmers and are concerned about their crops.  But the crops they
grow and the crops the men grow are different.

The kids, always orderly and well-behaved!!!! join the meeting as well.
One part of the Yaakoro Youth Development Center.  The women we
see here are apprentices and still learning to sew.  Until they learn well,
the sew dresses made of paper from cement bags.  Can't waste good
cloth on novices.

When we looked around, we noticed that we had an audience.

Here is Doris the Dynamo.  Everywhere we went, she rode her motorcycle,
and she took one of our group to ride with her.  What you don't see is
beautiful two-year old daughter riding in between Doris and Krista.

The kindergarten class in the local school.  68 kids!  They come knowing
no English, but they start to learn at school.  The recited two poems
for us and also sang a version of "I'm a teapot."  We reciprocated by
singing our own version of "I'm a teapot."  When we poured ourselves
out, they broke out in gleeful laughter.  We also visited elementary
classrooms and junior high classes.  This was actually a fine school.
Some good learning was taking place here and the mood was upbeat.

Off to see the Shea Butter operation.  We walked through the rolling
fields for about a kilometer.  That's sorghum in the background.

Here we are again, under a tree.  And this  is where the shea butter
operation unfolded.  Notice all the pots and pans in between the legs
of the students.  They'll all be used.

You start by smashing the nuts, which come from a tree about the size
of an apple tree.

They let us smash some too.  A big rock below, the nut on the rock,
and a small rock brought down hard on the nut does the job.

Here's Paola working the resulting paste in one of those big bowls.
Notice how hunched over she is.  That's the normal stance for working
on this.  I imagine it's hard on the back.  The call is "butter," because
after kneading and mixing it like this for a long time, the butter
separates from the water, just like when you make real butter from cream.
Shea butter is used mostly for skin care.  Look on skin lotion products
and you'll often see shea butter as one of the ingredients.  Here's where
it comes from.

The people in these communities were not Muslim, and there were some
indications of Christianity, but there is a lot of traditional religion too.
This is a shrine to the ancestors. I'm not sure of the meaning of all the
parts of the shrine.  

We went to another community where they make pito (peetoh), a drink
processed from sorghum.  You take the sorghum seeds, soak them, let them
germinate, then dry them, and finally smash them, before mixing it again
with water, boiling it and straining it.  It's a long process.  Once the pito
is made, you can drink it, oooorrrrr, you can let it sit and ferment, and then
drink it.
We drank it both ways.  Of course you drink from calabashes.

Always some well-behaved kids around.  Notice how
they found the shade.

After sitting around for a while drinking pito, the group broke into a
dancing game.  One at a time, a person from their group would do some very
hot stepping, slapping the ground with their feet so hard they sounded
like tap dancers making their own rhythms.  And then they would
run up to one of our group, who had to do some hot stepping of her
own.  Lots of  fun.  This is a younger girl, but many of the older women
joined in too.

We had such a nice time at the pito place, talking, drinking, and dancing,
that it felt natural to give gifts to each other.  We gave them about
$20, and they gave us this  guinea fowl.  

And when we got home, a glorious thunderstorm.  The students
took advantage of it, playing ninja and cooling off at the same time.