i’m waiting at the airport to get on my first of three flights to nigeria! why? because after months and months of preparations, the juliette low seminar is upon us!

for my non-guiding/girl scouting friends, juliette low started girl scouts in the united states over 100 years ago. in her honor, wagggs (the world association of girl guides and girl scouts) holds a leadership seminar for young women.

this year is even more exciting than a ‘regular’ jls. this year, they transformed 1 seminar into MANY seminars. we are spread around the world where over 700 young women will be attending!

apps are downloaded and ready!

and those 700 young women? they’ll be going home after the seminar and doing leadership activities with at least 100 girls. the effects of this 1 week will be felt for years to come!

i’ll be in nigeria!

i’ve never been, so it will also be a new country and experience for me! and we are delivering our seminar in french! (of which i know none!) we have 33 participants on our list, and hopefully they will all be able to attend!

i’m nervous, excited and will be challenged by not being in charge of logistics (of which i am usually in charge of!). i’m ready to meet young women from all over the world, learn their stories and hopefully motivate and empower them to go home and make a change in their own community.

join me during the SUMMER OF YOGA!

A few things happen

I’ve discovered that a few things happen to me when I am in Africa.

1. My tan comes back.

I don’t know when, but apparently I’ve been in the sun long enough for a bit of my tan to come back. The only reason I can tell is that I have a white band around my wrist from where my headbands are kept. But maybe I’m not scrubbing all the dirt off when I shower.

2. The calluses reappear on the top of my feet.

I sit on the floor in India. I sit on the floor everywhere actually. But for some reason, the calluses that I have on the tops of my feet have reappeared with a vengeance.  I’ll have to go back to India and scrub them away quickly before I go to America.

3. My hair falls out so much that I get a bit worried about losing all of my hair.

I’m losing my hair at an alarming rate. This happened to me while I lived in Zambia and it has started again here in Ghana. I looked down at the floor around me and there is long pink hair EVERYWHERE!!! I’m the only one with long and pink hair here, so obviously it is mine.

But all in all, I’m having a pretty good time. Today we went out on a visit to STAR-Ghana that gives money to CBOs (Community Based Organizations) and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). We also visited an organization called Gender Centre that was started by a group of women lawyers and works on empowering women to stop the violence. They had 2 interns from Canada and a VSO volunteer there. The group is doing amazing work and really shared a lot about how they go about fund raising and applying for grant money with the participants in the event. I chatted really briefly with the 2 Canadian interns while everyone was getting on the bus. If only we had more time, I could have fully explained the Stop the Violence campaign!! I only had time to tell them to check out the website and give them my business card!!!!

Shop Rite

3 days in Ghana and I’ve stepped back into the surreal world of Africa!

The training centre where we are staying is absolutely fantastic. They are just finishing up the upgrade and the place is new and clean and very comfortable. I have my own room and my own bathroom!

The first day, no electricity. Fine, no worries, I’m used to it (although it was a bit annoying that we couldn’t just put the generator on). Second day, no water. Still waiting for that to come back. But I do have a working air conditioner and internet that appears to be faster than the fast line at Sangam.

Needless to say, I’ve been keeping myself busy on the world wide web.

This morning we went out to Shop Rite at the mall. I was with Gloria, one of the young ladies who is looking after us, and Marie-Paule, the Fifth World Centre Project Manager. What a trip it was.

First, it was the nicest Shop Rite I have ever been in. There also wasn’t many people, despite being in Accra’s biggest mall. I suppose everything looks empty when you are coming from India.

As I walked through the aisles, it was strange not to be buying a ton of things to stock up on and haul back to the village. When I walked past the Yum Yum peanut butter, I didn’t automatically put 3 bottles in the cart and contemplate a 4th. When I walked past the cream crackers though? I couldn’t resist and bought a pack. Shop Rite still has the same crazy plastic toys and even the same hair brush I bought when I lived in Zambia. Apparently, Shop Rite doesn’t change.

We walked around a bit more and I bought a Strawberry Fanta from Game. I can’t even remember the last time I had a deliciously fantastic Strawberry Fanta. Probably sometime in Zambia!!

The tiny bit I have seen of Accra shows a much more developed country than I was expecting. The roads are huge and I haven’t seen sign of a pot hole yet, granted I’ve only been on one road so far. There are a lot more foreigners around and most of them are businessmen in suits.

Today is a bit of a day off for us. Yesterday we had a big meeting with a few of the ladies from Ghana Girl Guides Association and we gave them a lot to think about. Tomorrow we’ll get back into working on preparation for the meeting and hopefully they’ll ask for assistance.


Of Mice and Monsoons

So for the last week the monsoon has really picked up. Because of that, a lot of new friends have been moving up onto the property from the back field. The snake catcher has been coming almost every other day to come and take away snakes. He came today to search the property for a larger snake since he keeps coming and catching the babies. It wouldn’t be a very big deal but the snakes that we have been finding are poisonous. We also have been catching mice upstairs. We named one of the mice Houdini since he was a great escape artist. I was up late one night. I had gone into the lounge before I took my shower to get some water. I checked the trap, no mouse. I took my shower, got dressed for bed, then went back into the lounge to get a movie. I looked in the trap and low and behold, we caught the mouse. I turned around to grab the movie off the shelf, turned right back around, and the mouse was gone! I stood there for a few minutes wondering if I had in fact actually saw a mouse or if I had imagined it because it disappeared in a second. The next night, the men set the trap again. The food was in it, ready to go. All of us girls went down the CL’s apartment to watch a movie and during those 2 hours, the mouse struck again. This cleaver mouse had somehow managed to eat the food out of the trap but not be caught! By this time, it had become a joke to all of us. So the next day Aruna, who is the house manager and keeps us all very well feed, decided to go and buy a new trap. The new trap was set the next night and in the morning we had a mouse! But the mouse we caught was not the black mouse that I had seen in the cage 2 nights before, so the trap was reset yet again and we caught another mouse! Unfortunately I was not the one to find the mice in the traps so I have no pictures as proof of the mouse in the trap. (None of the other girls think that it is exciting/funny to have a mouse living amongst us!!!) Since it has been wet the frogs have come out in full glory. They are so loud that it drives me nuts while I’m trying to go to sleep, and I live on the second floor! I’ve resorted to putting my headphones in and going to sleep to music instead of frogs.

Besides all of the animal run-ins, I have compiled some inevitabilities of life during the monsoon.

  1. You will get wet. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, no matter how many umbrellas you have, you will get wet.
  2. Rickshaws will try to charge you ridiculous amounts of money to take you anywhere. And once you get to a certain point, you have to just pay it, there is nothing you can really do about it.
  3. Rickshaws will break down. Case in point, today. Today I went down to the bus station to pick up our last group of Americans for the event. (They were supposed to arrive 2 nights ago but didn’t because they missed a connecting flight in London. That meant that they had to rebook their flight to Mumbai. After all of that, when their plane got to Mumbai, it couldn’t land because the runway was flooded. [4. Roads and bridges will become flooded and you will have to drive extra a long way to get anywhere.] Their flight was diverted to New Delhi. They got to New Delhi at 8 at night, got put up in a hotel for the night, had to be back at the airport by 4 in the morning, then got put on another flight into Mumbai. When they finally arrived in Mumbai, we arranged for them to ride the public bus back into Pune. (Their original private bus that was going to pick them up had already come back with the other American group that flew into Mumbai yesterday.) They finally made it to Pune, sans luggage, but they made it! You have to know the back story before I tell you the next part.) So we get rickshaws to take us to Sangam from the bus station. I hop in the first rickshaw to leave with 2 other girls. The guy knows where we need to go, we were good. Well it rained all afternoon today so the roads were not in the best condition. We came to a underpass that goes under the railroad tracks which is visibly flooded. The rickshaw driver stops, contemplates having a go at it, talks to a guy standing next to the water, and goes for it. We get to the bottom, the rickshaw stalls, water comes flooding in, and all 3 of us immediately lift up our feet. Under the bridge were a bunch of kids having a great time watching rickshaws and cars stalling in the water. Our rickshaw driver gets 2 of the kids to help him push us out of the water. We get to the other side. Then we have to wait for all of the water to rush out of the rickshaw. He waits for a little while and tries to start the rickshaw. Nothing. He tells us just a minute (and he keeps calling me Sister, assuming that since he is taking us to Sangam, I must be a nun (it’s a common misconception among rickshaw drivers, that Sangam is a church, but I don’t correct him since it can’t hurt anything by old rickshaw drivers thinking I’m a nun)!!). He goes around the back to check the engine. Does something and tries again. Nothing. So this whole time I’m talking and joking around with the girls, trying to keep them as calm as possible because if I had been through all of that travel hassle, I’d probably break down if my first rickshaw ride was going this way. The driver keeps working on the engine and trying to start it, still nothing. Also during this whole time, tons of other cars and trucks are going through the water, some are stalling out, others are getting through just fine, and the kids are still having a grand old time. Finally our driver comes back to the front and shows us the broken spark plug that means he can’t take us the rest of the way. I pay him the 10 rupees that we owed him for taking us just around the corner since most of the meter time was spent with him trying to fix the rickshaw. The 2 girls and I head out to find a new rickshaw. We walk up the street to find a new rickshaw. And you have to keep in mind, I had no idea exactly where I was but that’s usually, but I do know how to get back to Sangam. We found a rickshaw that knew where he was going on the first attempt. I tried to haggle meter price but he was having none of that since he thought that Sangam was “out of town.” (That is also a misconception among rickshaw drivers. Sangam used to be “out of town” but isn’t anymore. It would be like calling Sioux Falls west of the interstate “out of town.”) Since I wanted to get these poor girls to Sangam, I gave in and we finally got back!
  4. Always take your camera with you even if you are just going to the bus station. (See above!)
  5. New creepy and crawly friends come out to visit you. (Also see above.)

This is my list so far. I’m sure that it will grow as the monsoon goes on. I’ll keep you posted. Despite all of that I’m having a great time. It is a lot of fun being around other girls who love Guiding/Scouting as much as I do. You’d have to like it a lot to come all the way to India! I hope I cheered up your day a little by telling my funny stories!!!!


ps: Have a GREAT 4th of July!!!!!!

It has to be official!

And it is, the monsoon has started. It got a weak start early in the week but is in full force now. It storms every afternoon, and it is actually storming right now. We have been without power on and off for the last few days. Luckily, we have a generator here so we have power even if the neighborhood doesn’t. And even better for me, the computers and the internet are run on a uninterrupted power supply which means they never lose power. It’s great. The girls and I went out to dinner tonight and a huge storm came up. It started to lightening and then all of a sudden, it started to downpour. When it storms, the power also goes out. Julie and I decided that we should start carrying our flashlights with us when we go out at night. It may sound weird but they are going to come in very handy. Then we were going to wait for the rain to stop so we could leave the restaurant but decided that we would be there until October so we ventured out into the rain. It wasn’t so bad and we even found a rickshaw very quickly to take us back home.

So I’ve had a lot of run ins with animals lately. The other day I was walking out to the linen closet to get some sheets and I had my tea cup in my hand. As I turned around to go back to the building, this huge bird almost attacked me right in the head. I totally ducked and almost dropped my tea. Mary T, who is career staff, was right behind me and starting laughing at me. It was very funny, just not as it was happening. Then the same night, I was upstairs walking back down to my room to go to bed and almost got hit in the head by a bat. I was carrying my computer this time and almost dropped it on the marble floor (which would not have been a good situation at all)! I had to walk the rest of the way to my room up against the wall because 2 bats kept swooping up and down the hall. Ever since I moved up to my room, I keep hearing a donkey from somewhere out my window. I keep hearing it at all hours of the day and night but I haven’t been able to see where it is. I thought I was going crazy until I asked Julie, whose room is right next to mine, if she had heard it. She said no, but quickly came back to me the next day and said that she did hear it. So just yesterday we were going out and saw the donkey! It is tied to a light pole right outside the Sangam wall. I’m just glad that I know where the noise is coming from now. And if that wasn’t enough, we have mice upstairs so the men put out a trap to try and catch it. And if all of that wasn’t enough, the mosquitoes have discovered that I’m here and I’m very tasty. It has been so bad that I have had to start sleeping in my mosquito net. Good thing I remember to take my malaria tablets.

All this afternoon, the power keeps going on and off. I keep trying to charge my computer battery and both my ipods so at night when the power gets shut off, I still have something to do. I’m beginning to think that I should have bought that second computer battery. Luckily we had enough power throughout the day to charge it up completely.

I have 3 days off. Today was my first day off and I slept in, ate lunch, the power went out and it was pouring rain so I decided to read a book, which then lead to a nap. Tonight Darshana, who is the World Centre Deputy Manager but used to be a Programme Assistant, invited us to her apartment to eat dinner. It was a great evening and Julie and I decided that we will be having lots of sleep overs there on our nights off. It is a very nice place and within walking distance of Sangam. You can even see Sangam from her apartment.

Well, the power is going to go off in 20 minutes and I need to go and find my flashlight. I’m still working on posting pictures. As soon as I get it working, I’ll be posting lots!


ps: I wrote this post over the course of 2 days!