Saturday, November 29, 2008

A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat, D is for Doll..Ghana 1998- part 2

G is for Generator

In 1997 and through 1998, Ghana experienced a terrible energy crisis. There was always times without electricity but during this particular period the electricity was more off than on. Sweltering heat with no fans makes for a very unpleasant sleep.

Three months after we arrived in Ghana, we installed a generator- not a very big one- just enough to run a fan or two should the electricity go off. The gentleman who installed the generator and the electrical connections appeared to be a bit on the tipsy side. This should have been a strong indication to us to send him home immediately, but he assured us he knew what he was doing. This decision on our part almost cost us our son, Sean's life.

Sean loved any animal- whether it be a dog, cat, or chicken. He decided he wanted to raise chickens and promptly started a mini farm of his own. Early one morning, twelve year old Sean woke up to check on his chickens. They had hidden in the generator hutch.

The generator was OFF since there was electricity on this particular day. Sean leaned forward to grab his chicks and almost lost his balance so he grabbed the handle of the generator. All of us slept on oblivious to his danger as 240 volts of electricity surged through his body. His pet dogs came running to his rescue only to be thrown back yelping.

The dog's yelps and further insistent barking alerted the gardener who ran to check on what the problem was. He saw Sean's plight and attempted to use a wooden broom handle to pry Sean from the live generator. He only managed to break the broom handle. He reached for a larger wooden board and this time struck Sean hard enough to loosen his grip from the machine. Sean flew away from the machine and fell into an unconscious mound. By this time the gardener managed to alert us from our sound sleep and we rushed out to find Sean laying at the foot of the kitchen stairs with blood coming from his mouth (I think he injured himself when he flew onto the concrete ground).

I thought Sean had fallen down the stairs. Rushing down to pick his lifeless body up, I pulled him to my chest and began praying over him. He jerked in my arms and sputtered and then his mouth opened saying, "Jesus will help me...Jesus will help me..." His voice was high and agitated and his eyes were unfocused. I tried to calm him but could tell he was in shock. Pulling him closer to my chest, I looked up at Joe, the Gardener and asked, "What happened?"

"He was electric shocked, Madam."


After quieting Sean down, the horror story unfolded. Sean's salvation was that only one of his hands held onto the generator. The electricity went in through his small finger and exited via his palm. There were two distinct holes burnt into his hand. I've been told that if both his hands had held onto the generator the electricity would have gone through his body and he would have died.

It is interesting to note Sean is a physicist who is working at the National Renewable Energy Labs. He is fascinated with different ways to produce energy and electricity. I often wonder if his 'shocking' encounter helped start him on the path towards his career. :)

A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat, D is for Doll..Ghana 1997/ 1998- part 1

F is for FuFu...

Fufu is a staple food in West Africa. Most of the time it is made by boiling the yam or cassava root and the plantain and then pounding them using a mortar and a pestle. Often one person sits down moving the starchy substance around while someone else stands and pounds. As they do this vigorously, the fufu then forms into a glutinous ball.

This ball of Fufu is placed into some liquid that has been prepared. It is put in 'light soup' or in 'ground nut soup' or in Okra stew or fish soup-- how we love eating our fufu. To eat fufu- you must pinch off a small amount and make sure it is soaked with the 'soup'- 'gravy' - in Ghana you are NOT to chew the fufu but rather swallow it. It was quite an experience the first time I ate Fufu- when I was told I was not to CHEW the food--- I couldn't imagine HOW I would eat it-- for aren't we trained from young to chew food??? Well, with Fufu, that is part of the pleasure of eating it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Painter gone crazy- Ghana-1997

Ghana embraced me with open arms. "Akwaaba," she called out to me. "Welcome! Your life will never be the same again." There was a time when India had danced for me and wooed me with her spices and her colors. Now Ghana strutted in front of me, not wasting time to woo me but simply expecting me to follow.

Ghana pranced in front of me with her wonderful colors. The bright colors and sounds jump started my senses. I began to wonder which painter went crazy with his greens. Light greens and dark greens splashed wildly wherever I looked. How could I help but to be captivated?

I stepped out of the airport into a swarm of bodies. Sean, Katrina and Cassandra were in tow as we made our way through the human shields to get to the vehicles waiting for us. We were only able to see our new home the next morning. I had grown up with little geckos on the wall, but I was not used to fairly sized lizards prancing merrily along pathways and through patios. The children found these new friends intriguing. It was not long before I hardly noticed them as they zipped past my legs.

The bright colors and sounds of Ghana were not the only thing which would capture me. Each new day would offer new lessons.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

USA- June 1996-June 1997- Part 2

Another part of our new life in the US of A was getting connected to the internet. It was all very fascinating. I immediately found a forum which advertised penpals. Being an avid letter writer, I decided I wanted to add some more penpals to my already existing ones. There was an advert for anyone who would be interested in writing to a prisoner. I responded to the young man who posted the advert and he said the prisoner would be very happy if I could start writing him...."Give me his address!"

I never asked, "what did he do?" ...."why is he in prison?"...."How long is he there for?"....I just started writing San Quentin. The first few letters were filled with pleasantries. I wrote things I thought someone in prison would want to know about: simple facts about life outside those four walls. I can't remember exactly when in the correspondence I started wondering, "why exactly is he in prison?"...but the question peaked and I asked it...he responded with a huge packet of magazine articles and papers explaining his plight.

He was a convicted serial killer, but he was innocent. He sent me tapes, court documents, and police interviews showing me facts about the case. He was guilty of other crimes, he said, but not of the serial killings. It was proven he had alibis for a couple of the women killed. He pointed out it was a female friend who had done the crimes with a man who she later murdered- stabbed to death and cut off his head. She tried to pin that murder on him, but he had an airtight alibi. He admitted he was not pure and innocent, but he maintained he had not done the murders and was framed by this female.

I continued writing him and even started a website not saying he was innocent but just showing the factual evidence he had sent me. It was quickly shut down by the authorities. He appeared to have some valid claims and although, as he himself admitted, he had done some horrible things- murder was not one of them. I was amazed by his continued determination to prove his innocence. His upbeat attitude always shone through in the letters and that intrigued me. How does one stay so positive when locked away for years.

I will not divulge his name here. It doesn't seem appropriate. I do still write to him now 12 years later. He has seen my family through years in Africa, he has congratulated each of the children on their respective high school graduations. He continues to believe he will be one day vindicated of the crimes he was accused of. The woman who is said to have framed him, is now dead. She died in prison. Maybe now with her death, he will be able to use some of the testimonies which had been closed before to reopen his case. His appeals are keeping him alive: he is actually on death row and has been there for about 28 years. He remains optimistic.

USA- June 1996-June 1997- Part 1

Goodbyes all said, now hellos were in order.

New places....all the ingredients of great hellos. My children had never lived in the US of A, so this was a great new experience for them. They arrived in Southern California and immediately made it their own. Whether it was being home, going to play with friends or attending school, they made their mark on it.

School became their favorite place to go- which amused their friends and the other neighbors. When Katrina would do something naughty I would say, "Nana (in those days we called her "nana"), if you continue doing that I won't let you go to school tomorrow!!"

"Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please, I promise to stop!! Please don't keep me home from school."

She was in third grade and absolutely loved her teacher and her fellow classmates. Sean was in fifth grade and Cassandra in first grade. They walked each day to the Glenmeade Elementary school. They walked home with stories to tell of their days at school. We sat down with milk and cookies listening to each tale told. Why have milk and cookies? Every book we read seemed to indicate when an 'american' comes home from school they are greeted with milk and cookies! :) We were 'trying' to be 'Americans'.....we soon found out very few kids came home to milk and cookies- more often than not they came home to empty houses where they had to let themselves in. As a result, many kids found their way to our house after school and on the weekends.

I asked my children, "Why don't you go over to their houses??" My kids turned to ask their friends, "Why don't we go to your house to play?"

"Oh my mom would never let me mess up her house like your mom does!" no milk and cookies and no getting to mess up houses. All in all,it was a great time!! Lots of wonderful memories, friends made for a life time, and energy stored up for the future we would have in Africa.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moving yet again- USA 2008

My Life In A Box

Boxes full of memories
Brimming with joy and laughter
Bursting with dreams
Broad boxes, small boxes, tall boxes
Built to hold the seasons of my life
Brown boxes, red boxes, green boxes
Buried with treasures from yesteryear
Bottomless boxes holding my tomorrows

Where do I begin?

(written on March 28th 2018) For someone with so many words...words that just tumble out even when they are not wanted...words that jump h...