This is my 6th trip to Ghana, and one thing I have learned is to expect the unexpected. Things very rarely go like you *think* they will.
Today was no exception.
We did not have an easy start today. While we left the Mission House at 9 am, we actually didnt get on the road to Potwabin until around 10:30. We had to make a few stops before leaving Tema -- to pick up a car battery, and to get Ben and Evelyn who were going with us. Once we hit the road, it was ok, until we got to Accra. Traffic slowed to a snail's pace. At one point, it felt more like a crazy-quilt parking lot. Then our driver swerved into the left lane, drove several feet (toward the oncoming traffic EEK!!!) and took off down a side street. After we collected our wits again, we realized the driver was taking us on a shortcut that helped us get around several blocks of traffic snarls. We made pretty decent progress after that.
We stopped to get some small containers at one point, and I took advantage of the down time to call my mom & dad. It was good to talk with them, and hear about Peachland Baptist's VBS. Then we bought a loaf of fresh bread -- it is wonderful, very dense, almost sweet white bread. We tore into that loaf like starving people, ripping chunks out of it and sharing with each other.
We stopped for lunch, which Christina and Evelyn had prepared and packed for us. Delicious jollof rice and chicken, with cold drinks.
We finally arrived in "greater downtown Potwabin" at 2:30.
Potwabin is near Mankessim, close to the coast. A long narrow red ribbon of dirt road cuts through savannah and marshland. Many mud huts with thatch roofs are clustered atop a small hill at the edge of the river. Women tend small cook-fires, goats and chickens and the occasional dog or two ramble throughout the place. This morning had been wash day, so there were clothes hanging to dry on bushes, in trees, and pegged to strings attached to low-hanging tree limbs and the eaves of houses. Many of the children wore nothing more than shorts or underwear. There are banana trees planted in the surrounding areas, and some pineapple plants also.
To get to the river, you walk through the village and then down a winding path cut through the vegetation. Recent rains have cut deep gashes in the soil, making the path downhill slippery in places and very narrow. A cleared meadow serves as the community's "park" and the kids sometimes play ball there.
Isaac serves as the community's pastor and school teacher. He has recently been ill with malaria, and was unable to come to the training. Because of that, he did not have some of the necessary items on hand and in place. We asked Chief Takyi and the van driver (also named Ben) to try to purchase a large 400-gallon polytank and bring it back to the village, while David and Ben (from the church) trained Isaac on the installation of the system. Off they went....
....only to discover that since our President Obama was in Cape Coast (about 35 miles away) NOBODY was "manning the stores." While they **found** some poly-tanks, they couldnt find anybody actually working -- everybody was in Cape Coast hoping to catch a glimpse of the Presidents!
Another issue we ran into was that since Saturday is "Market Day" -- the ladies of the town were all away. So we couldnt do much in the way of hygiene training.
HOWEVER!!! There's a silver lining to all of this, in that we DID get a chance to build and strengthen some relationships. I've known Grace and Isaac in Potwabin for several years but now we know many other people by name. It was a joyful pleasure to watch Davi & Becky with the children. Davi gave out lollipops (nearly got mobbed at one point with children all clamoring around her!) and Becky had them all singing Old MacDonald, then Jesus Loves the Little Children. A couple of times, the children burst into songs in their native dialect, and we all sat there listening with big grins on our faces.
I never cease to be amazed, though...that many of them knew ME when I got out of the van. I've been in that village several times over the years, but it's always at least a year between my visits. But this time, I heard my name from several of the people there and quite honestly it surprised me!
Grace joined us soon after word of our arrival spread in the village. She is growing into such a pretty young lady. She's now 14 years old, and was tending her infant niece. In previous visits, she didnt speak much and took a while to "warm up" to us. But today...her smile was easy and quick, and she spoke quite a bit with us. It was wonderful to see her again.
There's much more to tell about this day, but since it is nearly midnight here, I will stop for now. I'll try to share more tomorrow.