Published: July 29th 2009
July 29th 2009
With the children in a village near Ada
After we made our donations, we were awarded with coconuts!
23 May 2007
Letting you know that I am here, I am safe & I have electricity and running water! I am staying in Accra in a hostel with other students. Four of us are from UPenn and they are with me here at the internet cafe, emailing their friends and families. We registered at the American Embassy, toured the University of Ghana campus and today we went to the Naguchi (sp?) institute, where they screen the samples that we will send them from our lab in Kumasi for sickle cell disease. It is an interesting process that I will share with you if you are interested, but I am sparing you if you are not! 2% of Africans have SC. It is a dreadful disease and I know that this will be an emotional trip. I am looking forward to working with the children and the families of those who will be visiting our clinic.
On Saturday, we head to Kumasi. It is a 5-hour drive on unpaved roads so I hear it will be "bumpy". I have seen some interesting things here so far, including a goat riding on the top of a van
(it seemed perfectly comfortable), amazing birds and trees and almost everyone greets me with a smile. There are some interesting (and yummy!) dishes that one should eat without utensils, just a bowl of water to wash after you are done eating. Only the right hand is used, which is amazingly easy to get used to. I had goat today for lunch with big rice balls and an oily broth. This is a friendly place and I feel safe here. It will be interesting to see what Kumasi is like, in comparison.
I will try to find an Internet cafe in Kumasi. We shouldn't have any problems. I will keep you posted and I hope you write to me, as well - I miss my friends, family & colleagues already.
MAY 29, 2007
With Love, From Kumasi
I am in Kumasi and we have our place. It is nice - we don't have running water all the time, but sometimes (same with electricity), but the place itself is quite large and it has two balconies - one is gigantic and perfectly suited for a party. Yesterday we did not
have water OR electricity but this morning, we had both (although the water was a trickle). It is so funny - there is NO hot water here, but I don't have to worry about cold showers, because I don't have a shower - only a tub! We have a gated place and a man stays with us as a "Guard/housekeeper". He brings us three big buckets of water each day to bathe/do dishes etc.
For Kumasi, it is quite luxurious. It is actually becoming a game to see how we can use as little water to wash our hair (can you imagine with MY hair) as possible. Two nights ago we had an incredible (awesome!) thunderstorm here. The roof leaked right onto one of the beds. (Again, I have pictures). My bed was safe, although my windows leaked and the floor was a gigantic puddle. I had nothing to mop it up...no rugs, so I just left it. Workers came in this morning and replaced my window, so no worries of that happening again!
I am all about the water - they sell water in plastic bags (you chew the corner to get a hole and suck out
Door of no Return
At the Slave Castle in Cape Coast
the water) on the side of the road. I love it & buy the water, the fruit, the yogurt; everything is for sale on the street, usually carried by people with gigantic packages on their heads. I have no idea how they do it. Small children can do this, too. I would topple over and wouldn't make it back up. Especially in this heat!!!!!
So today marked the end of my second day at work. We rode in a shared taxi today to the Health Education Unit and met all of the officials there. We arrive at 8:00 am on Memorial day (ew) and see a huge line of people waiting for health care advice. They are hot (it is Africa, of course) and so many sick children and sick people waiting, waiting. We are taken through an exhaustive day of meeting social workers, health care workers, physicians, directors...All kinds. English is the second language and it is hard to understand people, but we are really working to get our thoughts across to them and vice versa. I always say "Ma Dasi" when I leave (thank you) and people love it. I sat down with a man at work
This is how the women carry their children.
today and he taught me how to say the basics. (please, thank you)
We visited the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and saw the sickle cell clinic there. Wow. So many people were just sitting around waiting to meet with the physician. Although people make appointments, they end up sitting there all day, anyway. We should be thankful for what we have, that is for sure! The conditions are not unclean, but they are crammed beyond belief - one of the Ghana Girls was stuck in the hospital overnight because of a rash (they insisted that she stay) and she was in a room with 15 other women all night long. They were groaning, etc. Yeesh. I hope I don't get a rash!
Tomorrow we are giving a presentation to the regional director and associates about what we propose to do during our stay here. We have many ideas and came up with a PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow. In a nutshell, we are looking at pain management in Sickle Cell Disease - the treatments in comparison to the US and the perceptions of the medications and how the treatment conflicts with traditional healing practices. We are also looking at
One of the most rewarding experiences to me is sharing a meal with local families.
the National Healthcare situation, determining what treatment and services it covers for sickle cell patients, as well as access to the insurance. We are also really excited about coming up with ways to keep the kids active while they are sitting in line all day - we have some games, etc planned. It is exciting and I am lucky to be a part of it all. It is an 8-4 job, but yesterday we were at the hospital until 6:00 so I have a feeling we are on "Ghana Time" (which means we can be late, too).
We are trying to have a party next Saturday for the people we are working with - that should be interesting! I have some great pictures already (although I really am trying to be respectful of no picture-taking - it is hard!) and will send them as soon as I figure out how the heck to do it with my card. Pharmacies are here, but they don't have much. Maybe some obscure headache medicine and that's it.
How wonderful it is to get your e-mails! It is lovely here, in that the people are amazingly friendly and so protective of outsiders!
They are truly concerned for our safety. I have to say that the men here are very kind to women. Men truly admire and cherish women here, that’s for sure. People do want your money, but overall, they really are fair. I think that the people here are generally loving, warm people and even though the customs and culture are so different, they are not much different than us. Sometimes people are so surprised to see four white girls that they just giggle at us. It is so funny - we all laugh together and we have already made many friends. I feel safe.
Well, I better go, we have to hop on another shared taxi to get back. One of the girls went to a dressmaker to have a dress made. I plan to do this, as well - I am curious to see how she does. one bargains for everything here... if you don't, you are not respected.
I will send another message when I can!
JUNE 12, 2007
I am sorry I haven't gotten to you sooner - I have been getting
By the waterfall
With my new friends
some e-mails expressing concern and you should have no worries! I am very safe here. The problem is that it is extremely difficult to get online. Even at the internet cafe, it takes 20 minutes for a page to load, that is if there is electricity at all! So I am learning that in Ghana, patience is an extreme virtue ;-)
We are at the sickle cell foundation today (different from the sickle cell clinic or the health education unit). I have very limited access to e-mail, but I weaseled my way to someone's laptop to say hello to my friends/family. We have email access today because we need to compile the information we have obtained through our interviews with sickle cell patients at the clinic. I interviewed a bunch of people yesterday and one of the Ghana girls took notes. I also had a translator. It was quite an experience. One of the men I interviewed said that he had a crisis only after he eats "fresh meat". His son died at 8 yrs old from sickle cell disease an his other two kids have it. He doesn't know how they got it (genetic trait). On Thursday, I
At a funeral
The funeral was for a 27 year old woman with sickle cell disease.
will be conducting a group session for teenagers to share their stories with one another. There is a stigma here (the disease makes them "different") and kids often suffer in silence.
I have so many stories to share and I won't bore you with work stuff... Well maybe just a little... The presentation was amazing. We had a crazy rainstorm at right about the time we were supposed to start. Of course people ran late and we started a full hour after we were scheduled to begin. The room is quite large and the PowerPoint was prominently displayed at the front of the room (horseshoe set-up). I started the presentation so I was a bit nervous... The meeting started and ended with a prayer.
Imagine standing before 15 high ranking Ghanaian men (& one woman - quite progressive), some in traditional African attire, some in our typical business attire, in an effort to make them believe in our project. After we introduced ourselves and explained our hopes for the clinic, they were very receptive. They were so engaged and excited in our proposal that by the end of the meeting - they were asking about working with us
Donations at the school
We brought alot from home, but it was totally worth it!
to do research that could potentially change Ghanaian POLICY on sickle cell disease benefits for the national health insurance scheme! It was an amazing day and I smiled as I put my head to my pillow (brought my own) that night. The chance that something that I do could positively impact people's lives is such an amazing feeling. It cannot be duplicated - not even by a hot shower.
So, a brief update of other stuff - if you are still reading, I am impressed! My room is a swimming pool again, even after the workers "fixed" the leak! It is just leaking now in different places! But, you will be happy to know that my bed is bone dry still ;-) although there are many little ants in bed with me. As my mother says "they won't eat much"... I am just thankful there are no cockroaches. They tend to hang out in the bathroom!
We went to a large outdoor market on Saturday day where I saw my first "Grasscutter" (You don't want to know). It is not that I felt unsafe, but I did feel overwhelmed. SOOOO many people. It was the first time that
The beach in Ada
I will never forget it. The water was so warm. The children followed me around asking for money after I took this picture. Did I give in? Of course!
I felt apprehensive. People say "Hi Obruni" (white person) and some people are so surprised that they want to touch me. I draw the line at touching and when I am grabbed at, I say "Don't touch me!" It has only happened twice and both people backed off immediately. It is just natural curiosity.
We had a party last Saturday night for the staff at the health education center. About 15 people came, all hungry to eat our delicious chicken and rice. The rice is a huge staple here and the serving sizes are humongous. About 1/2 to 3/4 of the plates are piled high with rice - then meat (goat or chicken or funky looking fish). I have gotten used to everyone's hands being in the same bowl and picking the meat off a whole fish with my bare hands, along with everyone else, while being stared at by it's one big eye. The thing that is really interesting is eating kenkey with hot pepper (pepe) sauce. You grab a piece of dough with your right hand (usually competing with other hands to get some food) and then dip the dough into the pepe. The dough is fermented
Outside of Accra. My last day.
corn. The fruit is delicious. I have had the best pineapple and mango of my life here. lots of bananas, too.
Anyway, people started showing up at around 5:15. We lost our electricity at 6:00 and did not get it back until the next morning. Fortunately, we were outside on our deck, but it was very dark (the whole neighborhood was dark, so you could imagine). We had lots of candles and I stuck the beer in the fridge to keep it cold. The fact that our refrigerator is warm enough to sustain lizards and ants is amazing in itself and perhaps could be submitted to some journal or another... however, opening the fridge to FIND a lizard was a bit creepy & I hate to admit that before I tossed the little guy outside, I let out quite a yelp.
Speaking of animals in the kitchen, I got up at about 4:00 am this morning to the usual loud prayers coming from the Muslims downstairs and roosters crowing outside. They like to put the radio directly under my window and blast (I mean BLAST) Ghanaian radio. Not music - just an angry sounding man yelling - loudly...
Ghanaians work with what they have.
every day. Anyway, I went to get a packet of water and a heard a "whoooosh" right above my head. A bat. yep. right in the kitchen, hanging out with the enormous ants (the little ones are in my bed, the REALLLY big ones are in the kitchen) and the lizard.
Last Sunday we went to a local lake - it was 10 miles wide and 90 meters deep. Leslie, Anastasia and I all went swimming after I took a boat ride with Michele. It was truly beautiful (and is prime lake front property, being purchased by Germans and Americans, which kind of made me sad to learn). I got water in my ear that only finally came out yesterday, after two doctor visits and eight days of hoping that I wouldn't need surgery for an ear infection (I am fine, mom!)... It was actually nice not being able to hear the angry loud Ghanaian for a week.
This weekend we went to two waterfalls in Kintampo and a monkey sanctuary (which is actually a village where they opt to NOT kill the monkeys), which was amazing. We were the only people at the waterfalls and we went
Aids is Curable
According to this clinic.
swimming. I got up on a big log and attempted to do "the lift" with Leslie (Dirty Dancing fans know what I mean). It was amazing natural beauty and I am shocked that we had it all to ourselves!
The group consisted of Anastasia, Leslie, Anastasia's friends Eddie, Lexis (the DJ who gives a "shout out" for the afternoon drive home - he dubbed us the "whiskey girls" -don't ask - and we are becoming celebrities in Kumasi - it is nice hearing our names in the taxi on the way home from work) Theo, and two girls from work, Liza and Martha. We stayed in a guest house (in the MIDDLE of a jungle) by the sanctuary on Saturday night (2 rooms - girls in one and boys in another) - I snuck into the cab of the pick-up truck in the middle of the night (after liberally applying mosquito repellent, mom) to sleep under the stars, the likes of which I have never experienced. Picture a million stars in the middle of a jungle in Africa and you can understand how surreal this adventure is to me. We drove home Sunday night to no electricity (which I
Goats and chickens everywhere. All of our meat is free range in Ghana.
am actually starting to look forward to now). There was an amazing storm that rocked the house in the middle of the night.
I still have so many things to share (ask me about the naked man and the rooster when I get home)... I am so glad to be here and I think that we have the potential to make a difference (What a rare and wonderful feeling)!! It doesn't mean that I don't miss my friends and family.... As a matter of fact, I miss you all so much that it sometimes makes me cry.
PS - please feel free to forward... I am bound to miss people...
JUNE 17, 2007
Street Vendors, Funerals and High School Boys
I wonder which percentage of things I have purchased here were formerly carried around on the head of an African? I would guess about 50%. EVERYTHING is sold on the side of the street. I have purchased toilet paper, hand made brooms (20 cents), hand made fans (20 cents), watermelon (which is cut up for me and placed in a bag for 2000 cedis or 20 cents), fanyogo,
Sure, I will wait while you retrieve my records....
(plastic packets of frozen yogurt that one nibbles off the corner of the plastic and sucks in the yogurt -30 cents), sugar cane (one chews out the juice & spits the plant out) 1000 cedis or 10 cents, water in plastic packets, banku (fermented corn balls that go well with tilapia and stew - the stew is a tomatoey paste), avocado and cloth. Interestingly, many food items are sold this way and all of the makings are carried around - if I want a hard boiled egg with red spicy sauce, the carrier simply removes the egg from his or her head, shells it, cuts it, places the sauce inside - then puts it in a bag (20 cents).
The street vendors carry many things that I opt to NOT purchase, such as grasscutters. For those who are curious, and many seem to be, grasscutters are smoked rats. They eat 'em like candy. Have I tried one? I have not, but I would if it were offered. Thank god it has not yet been offered.
This week I decided to give jogging a shot. I knew it would be crazy since I already stand out big time. People
Making Kente Cloth
Right on the street. Alot of space is required.
do not jog here, at least not in my neighborhood (to digress, my neighborhood is by a stadium in Kumasi - the stadium is currently being renovated, like what seems to be every building in Kumasi - apparently, the buildings are finished in pieces and payment is upfront, hence many unfinished projects). So I put on my sneakers (trainers, as they are referred to here - just like the UK) and started jogging. I went past a high school for boys that must have been letting out of some evening event. I jogged past them and effectively silenced the crowd. One of the boys waved to me so I waved back, which prompted about 50 (or more, can't tell) high school boys to come running with me. They were all hooting and hollering and so I hooted back. They kept up with me for about 2 blocks. It was a blast!
This week, we found out that a 27-year-old sickle cell patient died from her illness. Very sad! Leslie and I were invited to the funeral (Anas went to Accra to visit her husband's family this weekend). I really had no clue what I was in for (life as
Stunning - north of Kumasi
usual). Leslie & I decided to have funeral outfits made for us in order to show respect for Ghanaian customs. Ghanaians take funerals very seriously and there is a specific type of funeral cloth that they make into outfits. We purchased the cloth (a surreal experience itself - we were directed by another store owner to find the funeral cloth in a narrow alley with open sewers by an old woman who took 200000 cedis - $20.00 - and then yelled at me for 10 solid minutes in Twi about how I owe more money. Leslie was with me and we had to get others around us to intervene - which they did, thank god) and brought it to the dressmaker on Tuesday, after work. The dressmaker took my measurements (but did not write them down!) and I picked up the outfit on Friday, after work for 80000 cedis - $8.00. It fit perfectly. I wish I could wear the outfit again here, but it is only for funerals.
The funeral was yesterday. Leslie & I were picked up at 7:00 AM (ew) by our boss Andy and colleague, Justice, for the event. They seemed very appreciative that we
had outfits made. Justice looked regal, draped in shiny black funeral cloth with one shoulder exposed.
We parked and saw that the coffin was being carried down the street, followed by grieving family and "sympathizers", which are people who don't necessarily know the deceased, like myself, but come to grieve for whatever reason - and offer contributions to the extended family, who are in charge of handling money. Family is so important here. Music was playing, people were playing instruments and dancing up the street towards the ceremony, which was in a large church that was more of an auditorium-looking place. There was a photo of Jesus at the front of the church with the words "I put my trust in you" in English and (white) angels were painted on the front of the church. The church was clean, but in total disrepair, surrounded by street vendors, smelly (and open) public toilets and open sewers, as is typical here. I don't think I need to say that Leslie and I were the only white people.
The ceremony was in the local language, but I followed some things - they did the sign of peace and solicited donations -
I was told that 2000 cedis (20 cents) was appropriate. A man who seemed drunk was totally checking me out. There were a gazillion people crammed into the church, but it was surprisingly (and thankfully) very comfortable, not too hot.
After the service, we went to the graveyard. we stood around as people grieved loudly. The mother and the husband were being held up by who I imagine to be friends and family. After this, the tradition is that the mother goes to bathe and eat before accepting guests to the family house. We had to wander around during this time. Sooo, here I am, wandering around this little town (looks like a "feed the children" commercial - don't know how else to describe it) in my black funeral outfit with Leslie and our two African colleagues. Children started to follow us around. The little kids, especially, find me fascinating. They shyly get near and I lean down and put my hand out. They touch my hand and run back to mom. The mom smiles at me - this scene has repeated itself daily ;-).
It was time to go to the family house (the mother's side -
the handing down of the family house is done from the maternal side), which was a group of one story rooms that were attached to one another with a courtyard/patio area in the center. We walked in and there were chairs with family members sitting all around the square of the courtyard. I had to go to each family member and shake his/her hand. They welcomed me warmly (and with some surprise, my guess is that they are rarely visited by Americans). Then we sat and the family members come to us to shake our hands again and to ask why we are there. Our colleague explained that we have a connection to the sickle cell association in which she belonged and that were there to honor the memory of the girl who died from sickle cell disease.
After the visit to the house, we then had to visit the house where the woman lived. They even brought us in to see her room. It was eerie and made her more real to me. The husband's friends were quite drunk and rowdy & started yelling at the "brunie's" when we got there. It was embarrassing and I thought, disrespectful
to the deceased, but nobody really seemed to be upset over it. Someone whispered to Leslie that they have been "eating and drinking all day", which I guess excuses their behavior. The ritual of shaking hands repeated itself here.
Finally, we went to another place - it was outside and plastic chairs surrounded a podium where they collected money. We shook everyone’s hand, they came around and shook our hands and that was that. What a day!
I know that this week will be exhausting - we are going to the hospital tomorrow to conduct interviews, we are going to the laboratory where they process the results of the sickle cell screenings on Tuesday, on Wednesday we are shadowing the doctors at the in-patient center and Thursday will be at the clinic again for more interviews. During this time, we have to transcribe our findings, as well. Next week we are going to actually see the newborn sc screening, which we have not done yet.
This weekend, we are going to Accra and staying in huts on the beach. How cool is that??? I hope the stars will be as incredible as they were in the jungle.
I miss you and please keep the e-mails coming!
JUNE 25, 2007
Sick Children, Villages in Ada, New Roommates and Bonfires on the Beach
First, thank you for the awesome e-mails. It is so nice to be remembered while I am here! I feel so blessed to have such amazing friends & family. People keep asking about pictures, but I have to wait to come home. It is hard enough to get though an e-mail without the system crashing.
I have so many things to share! I would be impressed if you got through half of my long e-mails!
Pain Management and Sick Children
Tuesday, we went to the sickle cell lab and Wednesday we visited the hospital, in the area that maintains records about the sickle cell patients. We discussed the hospital processes and visited the children's ward, where sickle cell patients (and others) stay when they are sick. We learned some interesting things, like that the hospital does not maintain a database of medical records. I imagine that this is the case in many industries, especially in developing countries but it does seem archaic!
We met a pediatric hematologist from Emory who is delivering a presentation early tomorrow morning to the residents. We invited her to dinner tonight and she is coming with her 2 teenage children. It should be another great evening of conversation!
I was not mentally prepared for the children's ward. Leslie had been there with Michele and mentioned that it was difficult, but I guess I just didn't get it. A large room, filled with beds for children of all ages, crammed with parents (mostly moms) and sick children. Some of the children were undergoing various medical procedures, right there in the open. Lots of crying... We were introduced to "Dr. Tom" who showed us around and focused on a boy, 11 yrs old with sickle cell disease and as was recently discovered, HIV positive.
As soon as I laid eyes on this gentle soul, my thought was "He is going to die soon". I smiled at him and he smiled at me immediately. He was emaciated and soooo painfully delicate. Big eyes looked at me with this pure innocence. I want to protect him and make it so that this child would NEVER suffer.
continue, I want to stress that I am not a medical professional. I am just a student of bioethics. I am simply reporting my experiences. So Dr. Tom discussed this little boy's case with us and we asked questions. The most striking aspects of the interview dealt with the following: no significant painkillers had been given, due to what the doc admitted as a focus on the "traditional concerns" about morphine (addiction, that is). This is a recurring theme and I am not saying that I agree one way or the other - all I know is that this boy should never ever have to suffer. Why would anyone be concerned about addiction in his case?
According to another Sickle Cell Doc that I interviewed with Michele a few weeks back, the concern is that Ghana has no resources to treat addiction. I suspect that while this may be the case, traditional superstitions and biases are prevalent, as well. Dr. Tom did say that the issue of painkillers is being addressed in medical circles in Ghana as of late. Another striking thing was that the child was given a blood transfusion at one point (needed as a result of
sickle cell disease), possibly leading to his HIV positive status. The parents have not been tested for HIV. The parents were "encouraged" to be tested. The thought of this child suffering is enough to make my head explode & I can't write about it anymore.
Barclay's Bank in Kumasi
So I was in the bank for 2 1/2 hours on Wednesday. I decided, after many unsuccessful attempts at every ATM in Kumasi, to go to the bank in person and get money out with my debit card & my passport. The first time I tried this, I was told that the "machine" was "broken", whatever that means and the next time, they said that my account was "invalid". The gentleman who was assisting me told me that my bank did not give them the proper "code", resulting in my card being invalid. So I called my bank, (since the bank I was at refuses to make international calls) and they said that my account was fine. I explained the situation and the bank representative was very flustered and she said she had no idea what she could do to help me. Soooo, my bank guy said that I
I loved that a good portion of my purchases came off the top of someone's head.
should take a seat and he would try to resolve. He asked me to "relax". Then he went to lunch. Yep. Went to LUNCH. Long story short, my bank couldn't help & I didn't get my money.
As I was about to leave, the bank guy asked me for my number and because I thought he was hitting on me, (I have received approximately 57 marriage proposals since my arrival) I ignored him and walked out, seething. A few blocks away from the bank, he caught up to me and asked me to return to the bank. He said his boss wanted to discuss something with me. I reluctantly followed him back and sat down with the boss who told me that they could not help but PERSONALLY offered me an envelope, with 100,000 cedis enclosed ($10.00 - not a bad amount of money here). I did not accept his money, but I was moved. I felt like I strolled into Baily's Savings and Loan. When would that ever happen in the states!!!???
I left the bank and went to another, to explore the option of having a friend send me money via western union - on a
whim, I tried the ATM (which I had tried in the past and was unsuccessful) & It WORKED!!! I couldn't believe it. I thought about my late grandmother saying "Everything comes full circle" and wondered if I would have been successful at the ATM if I had accepted the money from the bank manager.
My good feelings were slightly diminished when I checked my bank statement. Apparently, even though I never received the money from the ATM at Barclay's Bank last week, the money (and associated fees) were withdrawn from my account. So much for full circle. I sent a message to my bank about this last week and have not heard back so wish me luck.
From Kumasi to Accra
Anastasia, Leslie and Leslie's friend, Chrissie & I went to Accra on a bus from Kumasi on Thursday after work (took off on Friday). Chrissie is very cool! She is in the Peace Corps and works in a village in Burkina Faso. She spent all day Monday on a bus and arrived in Kumasi at 1:00 am Tuesday morning. We had kenkey, spicy sauce and tilapia the day after her arrival. It was a great night
With one of our colleagues.
of girly conversation and yummy dinner on our awesome party deck.
The bus station was an experience in itself. As soon as we stepped from the cab, we were pounced upon by various bus drivers who all wanted us to get on his bus. They were touchy and kept grabbing at our bags. It was crazy. They are so aggressive because they do not leave the station until all seats are filled and it takes time to fill the seats. I kept saying "no touching!!" and someone actually asked me "Why not?" - duh.
After finally picking a bus, we sat in it for quite awhile (at least an hour) while we waited for the seats to get full for the 5 hour drive. While sitting there, vendors continually circled, selling some interesting (and sometimes bizarre) goods. One man was selling raw meat - not even wrapped or covered - ew. I opted for a water packet and was tempted by some of the food items (crackers, frozen yogurt), but did not buy.
Chrissie was not feeling well and her & Leslie decided to move on to meet Chrissie's Peace Corps friends earlier than originally planned. We
A spider in my room
Bigger than it looks!
went to pick up our new roommate Aaron, a student at Swarthmore (and later in the evening, used chicken as a chaser for a vodka shot which means he is a-ok in my book). We stayed at Theo's (Anastasia's husband is Justice - Theo is his friend) apartment, which was very cool and even had running water!! His roommate, Sheena is a model and we saw her on a billboard for Star beer ;-). When Anastasia met her, she said "you should be a model!" & Sheena replied, "I am!"
Bringing Donations to a School in a Small Village
Anastasia, myself, Aaron, Justice's 2 brothers, Azarra (sp?) and Alex & friends Eddie, Nat, Kutee and I all headed for a village where Justice grew up (and where his grandmother still resides) on Friday. We had bought things from home when we first arrived and were planning on distributing to the school in the village, which is basically just one big room and serves all of the children there. Aaron went straight for the kids and they ended up teaching him how to play a local game where they put stones in bowls (or in this case, dug out
holes in the dirt) and the goal (I think) is to try to get the most stones. I took some great pictures of the children surrounding Aaron. One of the children asked me for money (because I took a picture). This happens in many places. I told them that we will be giving them gifts later.
We brought the donations (I had games, puzzles and bracelets) of toys, clothes and educational games to the headmaster. They were extremely grateful. We all sat around a large table and went through the items, which were impressive and piled high! The headmaster then asked us to be seated (Anastasia, Aaron & myself) and she and her colleagues (teachers at the school) formally thanked us. It was pretty moving and I promised to send books/games/etc. from the states after I come home. After we were thanked, they offered us coconut. The coconut is cut in a way that we could drink the juice. Then we hand the coconut back & they chop it up in pieces for us. How cool is that?
Roadkill and the Beaches of Ada
After the village, we drove to the coast of Ada. On the way
there, we killed two large animals. The first was a huge (3 feet long) lizard. Aaron was sitting in the front of the tro-tro (van) and was amazed to see the lizard. Then, we squashed it. I felt horrible - I had read about those lizards, but never saw one - then we killed it. Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate killing anything so it made me feel terrible! The second was a goat crossing the street. I was so distraught that I started yelling at the driver, who was going very fast! "Why can't you pay attention to the road?? What is wrong with you??!!" I am not really confrontational, but I was pissed after he killed the goat! The guys that were with us started yelling at the driver too. Eddie (One of Justice's best friends) was particularly angry and told the man to slow down. Then I kind of felt bad, because I think I started them yelling.
Anyway, Ada is not a very populated area and there were not many people there. The beach was beautiful and the gigantic waves rivaled those on Cape Coast. There is a "resort" there and we negotiated
to get the last available room (shared bathroom, one room, one bed, nine people). The resort consisted mostly of little cabana-like dwellings, but there are some rooms in a main building. We were in the main building. It was unusual that the rooms were full - according to the resort manager, there were a bunch of "Hebrews" staying there. Aaron is Jewish and this intrigued him - African Jews are pretty rare, I think. He spoke to them later in the evening and indeed, they are originally from Libya but now reside in Israel. They are here on a "health" mission, where they promote vegetarianism. This is all very surreal, but I think I got that right.
We stored our bags in the room (that we had to find in the dark because there was no electricity on Friday night) and headed outside for dinner, which was served in a thatch hut on the beach. It was amazing and the stars were magnificent. I had jollof (kind of like Spanish rice) rice and chicken. We had purchased some whiskey before we arrived, so we had whiskey and cokes while we waited (forever!) for dinner. It was so much fun!
Ground Nut Soup
With Omotuo & goat meat
We had arranged with the resort to have a bonfire on the beach (it cost $25, but it was worth it - the room and bonfire- split among us - turned out to be $12 each, not too shabby for a resort on the beach) so after dinner, we sat by the bonfire.
Sometimes, I say a silent prayer to never let a moment end and one of those moments was sitting on the beach by a blazing bonfire and listening to waves crash the under the African stars. At some point, Anastasia & I decided to go into the ocean. I always loved the ocean at night. It is scary to go in, which makes it exciting ;-) The water was warm and wonderful, but I didn't go all the way in, since the waves are insane. But I did get up to my waist.
Considering the sleeping conditions, I ended up dragging a mattress (the mattresses are all made of easy to carry foam material) under the thatch roof & slept there for the night. In Africa, I have slept in the back of a pick-up truck in the middle of a jungle and on a
In the children's ward at the hospital. He came in for tuberculosis, and was discovered to be HIV positive. His parent's had both passed away & he was living with his aunt.
beach, listening to the ocean and covered in sand and bug spray. It was fabulous.
The next morning, we all took a walk on the beach & I got some amazing photos (again, I was hounded by children who wanted money for taking photos, which I did not provide) of boats, which were in the process of being built.
At one point, we saw a man pooping on the beach. Yep. Pooping. Aaron was walking toward him and I said "you may want to wait!" Eddie was very angry and started yelling at the man to find a washroom. The man was very scared of Eddie and said, "Please sir, I am almost finished!" We also saw people pooping on the beach by the slave castle.
Banku with Locals
After the beach, we went to Azarra's house and had banku and fish. It is cool to be in a local family home, experiencing life as they do in a village in Ghana. Little children, without the aid of oven mitts, working with food that was covered in flies, did all the cooking outside. I helped to make the "Pepe," a sauce that goes with the banku.
It consists of tomato, onion, pepper and seasonings, ground in a bowl with a grinding tool. It is very spicy! Another surreal experience was sitting alongside these children, grinding veggies with the sounds of goats and roosters in the background. I think it was Aaron's first experience sharing food and using only his hands. I never would have seen myself so easily accepting putting my hands into a whole fish with a person I hardly know...and thinking it is a yummy meal!
While we were sitting around, Eddie asked me to join him for a Star beer across the street. So we went. It was in this ancient house, built in "colonial" times, according to Eddie. I followed him to a small room in the old house, where a VERY old woman was sitting. He asked for the beer & she gave him one and left the room. I didn't even notice until she turned around, but she was wearing a traditional African skirt and head wrap with a tee shirt. The tee shirt read "F---- Batman" (the word was spelled out). Yep. It was shocking and I whispered to Eddie "Do you think she knows what it says??"
He said, "No, she wouldn't be wearing the shirt if she knew!"
Candace & Irene
We left Ada on Saturday & went to the hostel to pick up Candace & Irene, medical students who are staying with us for the duration of the trip. They are super cool. I told them about the hard boiled eggs and spicy sauce that was being carted around on the head of a street vendor and they both said that they wanted to try it! I thought they might be prissier, but they seem to be up for anything! Our house is going to be totally full now! We consist of five girls and one lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) boy.
We went to a place in Accra for drinks after dinner (where I had hummus for the first time in a long time. It was spelled "homos" on the menu). There were these crazy acrobats there who were super small, one was a talented little boy (about four years old) who was doing very suggestive (disturbingly so) dance moves. Think "Little Miss Sunshine" squared. I couldn't stop watching. Fascinating.
Poor Candace & Irene were
In the botanical gardens.
planning on taking the bus back to Kumasi with us on Sunday, but they are still waiting for their luggage. I don't know if they have even gotten it yet. Aaron was able to come home with us and he experienced loud Twi on the bus for the first time. The bus was very comfortable, but they had big speakers blasting a football (soccer) game in Twi. I told him that he will be hearing loud Twi every morning... very early (it is even being blasted in this Internet cafe as I type).
Well, I guess I have monopolized enough of your time... I could go on & on (just like when I talk!). We are having a party this weekend to celebrate both Leslie & Anastasia's birthdays. That should be interesting! We are serving banku and tilapia and rice. Friends are coming from work, from Accra and from Kumasi. It should be a blast - we expect 30ish people. I will be sure to tell you all about it!
Miss you! Love to hear from you!!! Sending all my love!!
JUNE 30, 2007
The Case of the Missing Pot, Children
who Need Help & Victor with the Big Hair!
As I mentioned last week, we have been following up on the case of the 11 year old boy "Solomon". We were enlightened to the fact that he not only has sickle cell disease & is HIV positive, but suffers from tuberculosis, as well. Yet he still smiles so easily. We visited him at the hospital twice last week. We hold his hand and he looks up at us with those big eyes. I just adore him.
Aaron (new roomie) dug up some information yesterday (he rocks). It turns out that Solomon's mother died one month ago (Dr. Tom suspects complications from HIV, but not sure) & his divorced aunt is taking care of him. Not surprisingly, his family is very poor & cannot pay the hospital bills. They are burdened with costs of the funeral, which are substantial in Ghana. I am trying to determine whether the hospital is withholding treatment due to the family's inability to pay (right now, they owe the equivalent of $230. dollars). They are keeping Solomon in the hospital until they get money from the family (they have stated this
People did not wander in too far. We swam out and enjoyed the peace!
several times, even though it makes no sense to me - why would they keep him there if he is taking up a bed and resources?) The Ghana Girls (& Aaron & maybe the new med students) are asking the doc what we can do & we are not saying anything to the family until we talk to one another.
If you are interested in my project (or can offer any suggestions, read on, otherwise this may be boring to you!) read on! If not, you may want to skip to the part about the landlord ;-) The project is exciting to me, since it has potential to affect policy here. I don't think I have to say this but as a properly trained student of bioethics, I should restate that I am not a physician. That being said, I have been immersed in this third world country for a reason. My project has become more focused on why managing pain in sickle cell patients (including Solomon) is not a priority.
Question: Which percentage of sickle cell crises is brought on by stress (and other known factors)?
Question: Once a crisis begins, can it be thwarted or does
She was so beautiful, I asked her for a photo.
it need to "run its course"?
Question: Would proper pain management assist in limiting sickle cell crisis (brought on by stress)?
Concerns about addiction (and the lack of resources to treat addiction) seemingly override managing pain. I guess my question (not based in fact, just speculation) was whether pain would lead to stress, which is often associated with sickle cell crisis and if so, would that spurn more interest in pain management from the perspective of preventative measures? I imagine the goal is to prevent a crisis altogether, but when a crisis does occur, would managing the pain reduce the stress, therefore diminishing the crisis?
That being said, I have a completely baseless theory on how we can (perhaps) bring awareness to the issue of pain management. I was just chewing on the issue of pain management and I had some thoughts about why it is not a priority here (to be explored further in interviews with health care professionals next week). My suspicion is that traditional concerns (about addiction) override concerns about the inability to treat addiction. I am also asking my many brilliant friends if you have thoughts on this, as well.
My question is
With Friends from the Health Education Unit
This was in the Monkey Sanctuary (the local village believes it is bad luck to kill the monkeys)
whether there is a 'disconnect' with treating sickle cell disease (something that seems to be a priority) and managing the physical pain (the lesser and seemingly low priority) as two separate and unrelated objectives? If my suspicions are correct, we would need to convince the medical community (only if we can provide proof) that reducing pain would be a significant tool in managing crisis, and therefore effective as a treatment option! This concept could assist in moving pain management closer to the forefront, but of course needs to be explored further.
The rationale is that if a crisis is brought on by stress (and by other things but the focus here on stress, because our project involves pain management), wouldn't the managing of pain eliminate some of the stress, therefore reducing crisis and worthy of exploring further? This is in opposition of reducing pain just for the sake of reducing pain and not as a tool for treating sickle cell disease.
Leslie & I went to the clinic yesterday & made appointments for next week to speak with HCPs. We are speaking with two RNs at the clinic on Thursday & the head nurse (and colleagues, hopefully) of the
sickle cell component of the children's ward. I am hoping to find Dr. Tom as well. Michele (Ghana Girl & MD) is going to explore my theory, which is exciting since she did not dismiss me outright! Hopefully we can dig up some more information & I will keep you posted.
The Case of the Missing Pot
Our landlord stopped by a few nights ago to bring us a TV (we had one but it was broken). It is fun to watch Mentor (African Idol). It is like American Idol but totally (and hysterically) low budget. For example, the sound quality is terrible; sometimes a performer would have to start over because the equipment was not ready. Or the camera is not centered. Funny stuff like that! Oh, and there are Spanish soap operas on that are translated to English by an Asian sounding woman (noted by Anastasia and appreciated by myself). But I digress.
The landlord mentioned that the people downstairs were thieves and they stole a pot (that we didn't realize we had and did not miss) from us and sold it. It doesn't take Nancy Drew to realize the fishy scenario being presented before
Large Market in Kumasi (I was a bit intimadated there, I must admit)
us. I could not imagine what vendetta the landlord had against the neighbors!
Last night we had a party for Anastasia and Leslie's birthdays. We invited Justice's friends from Accra, our colleagues and our new roommates, plus Leslie's Peace Corps friends Chrissie and Terri. It was pretty big. We had two large speakers brought in and we placed them on the deck, which easily accommodates many people. We had about 40 people. We ordered crates and crates of drinks & two girls from the health education unit, as well as Leslie & Anastasia cooked banku and jollof rice with goat meat all day long. The food was delicious!!! I put out a book for people to sign and offer e-mail addresses and other contact information. We collected many names - it makes me happy to know that we can keep in touch long after I return to America.
We all danced on the party deck. FYI: In Ghana, being gay is not an option. It is not tolerated. That being said, the men are very touchy with one another. People in general are touchy and it is not unusual to hold hands with a friend
or even a casual acquaintance. I have held hands with my boss, with my co-workers (male and female) and even a vendor, who was taking me to his store. It is totally normal to see men (grown, big, strong African men) holding hands. It almost made me choke, the first time I saw it (eating my morning eggs at a roadside stand). Anyway, I learned last night that it is also totally appropriate & common that men dance with each other, too. Sometimes the dancing even looks like dirty dancing. At one point, one of the male party goers started dancing with new roommate, Aaron. It was funny to watch Aaron gently but firmly remove himself from that situation. ;-) In my life, I never would have thought that I would say this sentence: There was some men-on-men grinding on my party deck last night.
At parties here, we serve food. It is expected and we better have it! If we don't, I don't think it is considered to be a real party! The food was plentiful, but we still noticed that some people were filtering in and eating plate after plate of food and we did not know
In the Shade
The goats would often shade themselves under vehicles.
who they were! So Anastasia asked some of the men who they knew and they all said "Victor with the big hair". My hypothesis is that one of the gentlemen living downstairs (who met me briefly one day, asked for my name and inquired as to whether I would be interested in "Black men") told his friends to use my name to get in and get free food and drink. They all had the exact same name and description of me: "Victor with the big hair" - flattering description, huh?
At one point, Anastasia left the deck to get something in the kitchen. She caught a little kid (who lives downstairs) in the kitchen, attempting to steal some knives from one of our drawers. Looks like the landlord's fishy story about the pot is not so fishy after all! She chased the little bugger out.
All in all, another successful and wonderful night in Africa.
Collecting Husbands at a Wood Carving Village
Today we went to a village where they do wood carvings. It was barely mentioned in the Ghana Guidebook, which makes it super cool for two reasons: It is not touristy and it is
Tanning on the Deck
We were there during the rainy season and about two minutes after this photo was taken, the heavens opened!
cheaper. It is only not cool because we stand out so much and we are hounded!!!! Being hounded here rivaled being hounded at the bus station (although the bus station was worse!). The group consisted of myself, Leslie, Aaron, Chrissie, Terri, Kandace & Irene. We opted to split up to make ourselves less conspicuous!
One thing that always strikes me about shopping in Ghana is that the shop-owners all work together. If I am looking for something that is not available in a shop, the shop owner (taking me by the hand) will guide me to where I can find the item. He will just leave the store and all of the goods in the store out there in the open, unprotected. It is such a nurturing culture here. It is about the collective welfare of the people and it is so pervasive, that they are unconcerned about leaving their wares unprotected.
Leslie and I went to the first shop and it almost took my breath away! There is so much symbolism and the items are really beautiful and all handmade. Stuff like these intricately carved masks and statues would be worth so much in the states and
Taken from the bus
we can buy them for a song. We were led to the back of one of the stores, where they do the carving and store the materials. The shop owner told me that a group of carvers goes out occasionally to "get a tree" and then they split the wood to use among them. When they run out of wood, they get another tree!
I purchased some items from a gentleman who proposed to me. I reminded him that he did not know my name. So when he got my name, he assumed that it was all he needed for my hand. Anyway, I let him hold my hand (temporarily) and let him guide us around. I suspect that his hope was less for my hand in marriage than for the cedis my friends would ultimately give him for his carvings. He did help me to say "No touching!" when people tried to lead me into their stores.
We had lunch from a roadside stand of funky and slightly sick looking (and yummy) fish, kenkey and pepe. All eaten with our hands, of course. The grand total for my lunch was equivalent to 40 cents. My temporary ball
& chain found us benches in the shade and even brought us water that he poured on our hands when we were done eating.
I really think that if I was going to open a business in Ghana, it would be some type of courier business that would enable these little local shops to easily ship goods. I'll bet it would stimulate the economy, as well. They have big, beautiful heavy wood carvings and some of the most amazing furniture...but they do not accept credit cards, there is no easy access to shipping and taking a giant carving of a giraffe on a plane would be a problem.
Another tome for my tolerant loved ones ;-) miss you all and I will send more pictures/ramblings when I can!
JULY 11, 2007
Hello, friends and family!
I have so much to share ;) I won't say much about it, since I am sure you were bored to tears by my last e-mail, but the project is really picking up steam & it is all based on my hypothesis about managing pain in sickle cell disease as treatment (to avoid exacerbating a sickle
cell crisis) not just as palliative care! I am so excited! This could be big! The idea is attracting the attention of some big players. I almost want to reserve my excitement before I freak out. The idea that we could potentially change the standard in Ghana for treatment options to include solid pain management for so many suffering people would make me sooo happy.
By the way, I am sorry for the Hi5 thing - I did NOT mean to send that to everyone! Long story (better yet, stupid story)! I was surprised at how many people accepted my "invitation"! So thanks for that!
I am blessed to be here for two big historical occasions. One is the 50th year of freedom for Ghana. It is huge here & the patriotism is a lovely thing to observe. People really care about their country. "Ghana is 50!" is on many billboards, sides of buildings and products. They make limited edition fabric for all kinds of occasions & one sees alot of "Ghana is 50!" fabric being sold - I purchased some to eventually be made into a quilt (Leslie's mom is making it for me - how cool is that??!!). The second is that the re-denomination of the cedi just started in July. 10,000.00 cedis is now 1.00 cedi. It is a bit confusing, but it is easier to carry money around. Before, the LARGEST bill was equivalent to 2.00 US dollars so if I want to purchase something for a large amount, I needed many bills! Now the largest is equivalent to $10.00.
I am sitting in a partially finished Internet cafe in Kumasi (remember how I said that buildings are finished in pieces here). Sometimes people start using the building before it is complete (it could take a long time to complete, might as well start using it!). If I was in the states, I could potentially describe about 5846857 lawsuits waiting to happen. Just walk outside of the wrong door where the steps are not complete.
I guess it is nothing compared to the open gutters, of which I surprisingly have not fell into. It is one way to keep us on our toes! Speaking of falling, my friend Jeanine would be amused to know that Adum is another city on the list of cities (London & New York are included on the list) in which I have fallen on the street for no apparent reason. Anastasia was walking with me & she just said "wow, you went all the way down!" Then people kept walking by and touching my arm, saying "sorry!"
I asked the Internet cafe guy to turn the radio to Kapital Radio, 97.1 because Lexis, our friend, does the drive home show (called the home stretch). He had Anastasia and I do a bunch of promos for his show. I just heard one! I have pictures to prove that we were in the studio - another unfinished building, btw. "Hi, I'm Vikki & I'm Anas & we are from Philly, but when we are in Kumasi, we listen to the Home Stretch with Lexis Bill on Kapital Radio 97.1!!" Lexis told me that he would compile a CD for me that has my favorite Ghana music & our promos!
I very generously covered dinner last night for Leslie, Irene, Aaron & myself (Anastasia has moved on to Cameroon to work on a water project for three weeks. She will be very missed). It was a grand total of 3 NEW cedis (about $3.00). I had Omotuo (rice ball in the soup) with ground nut soup (like peanut butter soup) and fish. Leslie had Kenkey (fermented corn) with chito (sp) (spicy veggies). We were in an open area where many people were cooking in the back of the structure. Kandace took a picture of people making "Fufuo" (I think it is ground rice?) with a bowl and a large stick to grind the rice. I had kebobs with Anastasia the other night. I took a picture of the big fowl claw that was in the middle of the plate. yummy. It actually was yummy (sans the claw).
I missed everyone on the 4th. Anas and I, feeling patriotic, sang the Star Spangled Banner in very loud voices to an audience at the Health Education Unit. Bless.
So a bunch of us went out to dinner on July 5 for Leslie's birthday: It was me, Anastasia, Leslie, Aaron, Irene, Kandace, Theo & Lexis. At one point I asked the waitress to direct me to the washroom. She brought me outside, to the back of the building! There was not even the customary hole in the floor. So, in the rain (remember, it is the rainy season) in some jungley looking place, I took care of business.
This weekend I am going to Kakum by Cape Coast, a park that is famous for a big scary rope bridge which I intend to cross (otherwise, what is the point???)
All for now! xoxoxoxo!!!
JULY 20, 2007
After being here for two months, I have grown regular cravings for certain Ghanaian foods, such as banku & tilapia and kenkey (and um, Star Beer). I have not lost weight - I might have even gained a pound or two - I have no weigh (get it?) of knowing! Nutritional information does not exist, EVERYTHING is fried (even when it is advertised as grilled), "salads" consist of cabbage with mayo & ketchup (no lie - ew), and nothing is low-fat! I have a glimmer of hope that the diet is offset by the fact that I do walk around quite a bit and I have stopped caring about my constant sweat (sounds gorgeous, yes?).
I have also become accustomed to certain everyday sights here that still would surprise a newcomer. I was in Accra this past weekend to see Anastasia off to Cameroon, where she is working on a sustainable water project (sorry if I mentioned that already!). I also went to Kakum (the four hour ride to Kakum in a tro-tro was insane. I was absolutely squished and let's just say I was having some stomach issues) to check out the rope bridge (beautiful - they call it the "canopy walk"). I actually stayed in a beach front villa ($45.00) that I found by chance! I needed a room and the place I wanted was booked so the cab driver recommended this place. It was quite luxurious to be right on the beach (I had to ignore the enormous pile of trash (although I did take a photo) next to my room, but I am soooo not complaining!) and I even had breakfast served to me!
Here is the conversation with Ebenezer at the "resort" (verbatim):
Ebenezer: "What do you want for breakfast?"
Vikki: "What do you have?"
Ebenezer: "Spanish omelet."
Vikki: "Anything else?"
Vikki: "I'll take a spanish omelet."
On the five hour ride back on Sunday, I met a wide-eyed obruni (rare, on this bus) from Hamburg, Germany who had only been in Ghana for two days. Also a student, her name is Brita and she will be in Kumasi for two months. She is working on a city planning project.
On the ride home, we saw mile after mile of amazing African lush scenery contrasting with areas of large mounds of garbage being grazed by goats, thousands of wandering goats, roosters and chickens, hundreds of street vendors trying to sell us various items being carted around on their heads, numerous villages with thatch houses and people sitting outside with their wares, a woman urinating in the street, a small boy holding up a dead rat (Brita said "Why is he doing that?!" and I replied "He is hoping you will purchase it for supper!") and several sets of grown men holding hands. On the side of the road, there were numerous remains of car accidents that were never cleared and I counted SIX semi trucks that had tipped over and had been left to rot. I saw it all through her eyes and was only mildly surprised at how to me, this has been life as usual.
I am torn between my desire to finish what I started here (not that I have a choice - I will be making the project my temporary mission at home, at least until I am satisfied that I have done my fair share) and my supreme excitement over being back in the land of dirty martinis, sushi, hot showers, washing machines (hand washing clothes is not my cup of tea) and clean bathrooms. I know this is disgusting, but I actually took a picture of my bath water yesterday (that particular photo will not be posted for your viewing pleasure on Kodak.com but is available upon request). The water from the bucket I use is relatively clean, but not after I am done with it! Every single day it looks like I rolled around in mud. I felt the impulsive need to document it.
I want to thank those who offered to help "Solomon". Wow. I am so lucky to have such amazing friends & family and I hope that we can help him and others like him by working to change attitudes about pain management not only in sickle cell disease, but dare I say for other diseases (almost afraid to type that ultimate goal) as well?
My short term goal is to assist in facilitating a study about the theory I previously described about pain management "as treatment" for sickle cell disease. The goal for the study is to prove that managing pain is not just palliative, but may prolong life by lessening crisis associated with sickle cell disease. My long term goal is get pain medication, such as morphine, listed as "essential" medicine on the National Health Insurance Scheme and therefore, covered by the national insurance (and accessible to poverty stricken Ghanaians). Also, the Dangerous Drug Act in Ghana makes it difficult for health care workers to give opiates to patients. This needs to be addressed as well.
Another of my short term goals is to assist the Training Materials and Education portion of the Health Education Unit (a part of the Ministry of Health) with a funding proposal since they are the ONLY organized professionals in Ghana to educate it's citizens about sickle cell disease. They are currently funded through a grant from the NIH, but the grant is soon being allocated to an infection study regarding sickle cell disease. I have no idea how I am going to help, but my boss to offer assistance approached me last week and I will do what I can. Here, the long-term goal is (of course) to GET the funding.
I have to give a shout out before I go to my two brilliant friends (you know who you are) who knew me well enough to know that "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand would move me the way that it has. I just (really) started it this week and I am halfway through already. I can't seem to put it down, except to absorb the words. It is up there with "Pride and Prejudice" and "1984" as one of my all-time favorites!!! Thank you!!!!