Monday, October 15, 2012

Welcome to my residence

Area to receive visitors as you enter my three rooms
The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Volunteers coming to Ghana are provided a place to live by the local community or agency requesting their assignment.  "The identified housing should be modest and conform to the standards of the host community."  Further, the Volunteer Handbook gives these minimum standards: "Volunteer accommodation must be located within a community and must be within sight and shouting distance of at least one neighbor.  Private sleeping quarters, space for cooking and eating and access to an area to receive visitors in a traditional house, bungalow, apartment or family compound.  Mosquito screening on all windows and entrance trap doors.  A minimum of one window in each room to provide adequate cross-ventilation and light.  Ceiling or roof made of wood/straw mat/felt/rubber, metal that protects the Volunteer from the effects of heat, rain and vermin.  All doors and windows must be lockable from the inside.  Additionally, entrance doors must be lockable from the outside.  Bathing area and toilet facility with in 20 meters of the house.  If shared, should not be shared by  more than six people.  Toilets and bathing areas must provide privacy.  Minimum furnishing: one bed frame, one mattress, one table and chair.  Accommodation must always be accessible by one of the following, a 4 wheel drive vehicle, a canoe or a motorbike."

Provided bed frame, mattress and chair
My assigned residence in the community met these minimums when I arrived over a year ago.  Since I teach at the local Roman Catholic, Junior High school, the Church arranged for my housing.  I share the house with the owners niece and the two young children in her care.  Thankfully, the house is accessible by a normal automobile, has electricity most of the time, in door toilet and bathing area, but no running water.   

Like many of you, whether living in a barracks, a tent, a southeast Asia hut, a flat or an apartment, we are soon figuring out how to make our selves more comfortable and the accommodations more functional. Since the bedroom was empty except for the bed, I built the storage area you see in the picture to provide a place to hang my clothes and store other personal items.   You can also see a piece of the mosquito net all Volunteers are required to rig and sleep under.

Custom counters for the kitchen
The second room  provided was totally empty.  It has become the kitchen.  You can see the counters and shelves are pretty basic, but are very functional. The caretaker of the house now believes I am a master carpenter.   A purchased toaster oven, electric kettle and two burner gas stove allow me to test my cooking skills with local food from the market and shops.  My loss of 59 lbs during the first year of service does not say much for any pie, cake, or pastry baking skills.  Fruits and vegetables are plentiful in the market when in season; at the moment okra, tomatoes, peppers, some late corn and of course yams.   Oranges, melons and pineapples are also available.  I purchased a small frig with no freezer, but it keeps left overs and refreshing, cool water sometimes flavored with crystal lite.  

The school shop
The owner of the house allowed me to use a third room if I would repair the busted door and replace the screens on the windows.  I use  it as a work room, mostly for my Volunteer project to repair student furniture from the Junior High School where I teach.  The furniture is pretty badly damaged by the time it comes to me, with larger and larger nails being used in an attempt to stiffen the chairs and tables to make them useable.  I take all the nails out, repair and re glue the pieces, and use screws to make the piece more stable and then return to the student.  I have learned patience, how to swallow the occasional curse word, and wish I could get them finished and back into use quicker.

The terrace garden
 In the back window of the work room you may see my other project, an indoor, mini-garden.  Finally had to relocate from the back porch as could not keep the free range goat herds away.  I am attempting tomatoes, avocados and pineapple.   I definitely need some advice from the local farmers and have little chance for the Farmer of the Year Award this December.   It does add something green to the house and I have enjoyed the challenge of working to keep them growing.  

I am grateful for the provision of a comfortable place to live while I am assigned the task of helping to educate the children of the village.  It has been an added pleasure to use my hands again to make my surroundings a little more functional and into a place that allows me to relax.  
Easy shout out to the nearest neighbor
The view out my back door to the closest neighbor.   An extended family with lots of young children.  Not a quit moment until night falls.  As you can see the living is simple.  Before leaving for Ghana, it took me at least three months of hard labor to clear and clean my home for renting, but I believe in much less three hours I could pack up my stuff and head for home.

Thanks for continuing to be interested in what I am doing here.  It is my privilege to have another opportunity to represent our wonderful country.  

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