Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Things I’ve kinda learned in Ghana: Laundry By Hand

One of the things I knew to prepare myself for when coming to Ghana was the fact that I’d have to wash my clothes by hand. With that in mind, I packed accordingly: light, plain, cotton clothing. Clothing with fancy designs, decals, embroidery, delicate stitching, doodads, doohickey and what have you were left behind. Jeans, which initially made the cut, were left behind due to the weight that I’d put on just before leaving the States. I think of some of the items that I was reluctant to leave, and I am glad they’re safely stowed away, free from the merciless Ghanaian sun, dirt and dust that would have surely ushered them to their fashionable end. More importantly is, if I had brought some of my favorite clothes to Ghana, I’d have to wash them; and if the Ghanaian elements didn’t do away with them, surely my subpar hand-washing would have been the culprit. 

Truthfully I’m not as bad as the Mister that bad at hand washing. But there are the little holes creeping up in pretty much all of my clothes that testify otherwise. Then there’s also the one shirt that now has sleeves the length of gorilla arms stretched from a scoop neck to a scoop navel. But holes or stretched my clothes are clean wearable and I’ve even learned a few things in the process. 

The lighter the better
While I lucked out in my wardrobe being lightweight and easy to wash, the Mister, being well over six foot with broad shoulders to boot wasn’t quite so lucky. His clothes are so damn big! Men’s clothing is also thicker than women’s clothes. Even a simple t-shirt requires three times as much work than my clothes. I dislike washing his clothes more than I dislike hand washing clothes in general. But good thing for me, he has no problem scrubbing and swishing right alongside me when it comes to tackling our laundry…
This is apparently a no-no, as it’s Ghanaian custom for women to do all of the work. If he were a bachelor, in most cases it wouldn’t be an issue (the exception being that in some cases even if he were a bachelor, if there are women living in the house, they should do his washing). But since he’s married, it is his wife who should be doing the washing—and we’re reminded of this anytime he’s seen doing laundry. “Oh Mister, where is your wife, she should be doing that.” Or if I am present, “Hmm why do you let him do it? You have to do it.” Haters!

Never leave clothes soaking an entire day.
While it’s tempting to think that a longer soak cycle will loosen dirt, making clothes easier to wash, it’s just not true. What you end up with is wasted water, soap, time, energy and rancid smelling clothes. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way more than once. Nothing worse than taking dry laundry off the line only to realize it reeks and will need to be washed again. Letting the load soak a few hours if you have errands to run won’t do any harm, but tread carefully. 

Never hang your clothes over a patch of dirt, especially when there’s a storm looming.
Your clothes will end up in the mud and serve as a playroom for worms and insects.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

From Agogo to Abenase

Well hello there! So a lot has happened since I last wrote. I’ll save you the empty promises of committing to write more, and just give you an update.

At the end of March, the Mister’s grandfather passed away. We returned to the States for his funeral. We figured we’d visit both of our families while we there. Needless to say, we spent a very busy three weeks hopping from state to state. From Ghana flew to New York bus to Baltimore road trip to New Orleans road trip back to Baltimore flew to Milwaukee flew to Baltimore again bus to New York train to New Jersey train back to New York, and finally flew back to Ghana by way of London! Whew, if you’re tired just reading that, imagine living it! It was exhausting, but well worth the hassle. 

Before leaving for the States we debated whether we’d be coming back, being that we weren’t really having the experience we’d imagined it’d be. Blah blah blah and $$$$ later, we decided to return, at least for another school term. When I got back, I had this nagging feeling that we’d made a mistake. The renewed energy and attitude that I’d promised to bring didn’t make it through Customs. I found myself at a loss for motivation and interest. Even though I love the students, it was taking so much for me to psych myself up for dealing with the day. Day in and day out I’d promise myself, “Tomorrow I’ll do better.” But very quickly I was being convinced that returning was indeed a mistake. The trip back home was partly to blame. Friends and family, high speed internet, running (and temperatured) water, lights at my fingertips, food galore (which funny enough, I had NO appetite when I was home. I ate tomatoes, apples, cucumbers and bananas with peanut butter for most of the time.), and just the familiarity of knowing what to expect or what to ask for, or where to go for… the list goes on. Once back in Ghana, I was totally in the dumps ready to throw in the towel at the slightest provocation. I needed some serious reminding of the power of positive thinking. So I turned to Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. It’s one of my favorite books; it always has an uplifting effect on me. 

One of the applications of The Law of Intention and Desire, Chopra’s fifth spiritual law, is to make a list of your desires. I’m not really one for lists or vision boards and whatnot, but for some reason this time around, I did it. I made an honest assessment of my present desires and I put them down on a list. After I finished my list, I read and reread it a few times really wanting to commit my energy towards my desires. Well one of the things I put down on the list was a change of pace. I desired for something to happen to change my feelings or allow me to have a more enjoyable experience in the time that I have left in Ghana. 

That weekend we were transferred from our positions with the Primary school in Agogo to the Secondary school in Abenase. When I heard the news I was relieved, excited and hopeful. Relieved that the dreary monotony of Agogo had been broken. Excited at the prospect of something new. Hopeful that the relief and excitement wouldn’t be short-lived…

That was two weeks ago, and I still remain relieved, my excitement has turned into curiosity as to what this town has to offer, and hope is alive. We are still with the same organization, but just at a different school in a different town. This town, Abenase, is much smaller than Agogo, however it is closer to Kumasi, one of Ghana’s major cities. It also lies just outside of Ejisu, a smaller city (? not sure if it’s a town or city) offering more than Abnase, but less than Kumasi. Abenase has its water and power issues like anywhere else in Ghana, but with it being rain season, so far so good.