Sunday, July 19, 2009

No, we're not lost in the jungle...

Hi, everyone - I am so sorry for not having kept up with my blog while in Ghana. (FYI - we are home safely now.) I had no internet access for a while, then was just so busy I couldn't keep up. I did take notes and photos, though, so now I am catching up - I prefer to keep everything in chronological order, so I'm doing back-dated posts until all is current.

All the photos are already posted, though - they are in the slideshows, for which the links appear at the top of this page. I hope you enjoy them - I think there are some pretty interesting ones in there...


Sunday, June 21, 2009

To market, to market

Sunday, June 21, 2009 - Ghana Adventure Day 16
More of today's photos in slideshow section 2 - click
HERE to view.
(back-dated post completed December 30)

This morning, Lydia went swimming, but Akos wouldn't - her poor head was hurting too much. She refused to go to the market with us, too - just wanted to play on my iPhone. But, we were going, so she didn't have a choice in the matter. The market was a crazy place. The vendors were so pushy, but one in the back, a friend of Uncle P's, was nice. He stood back and let us browse in peace, and answered price questions when asked. We bought nearly everything on our list from him, as thanks for giving us the time and space to make our own decisions. His prices were very fair, as well. He was grateful and gave me a lovely black and white necklace as a thank-you gift.

During the market adventure, I learned that an elephant with its trunk pointed upward represents good luck. We found out that the meaning of a popular Adinkra symbol (which is on a batik stamper I bought, as well as on bracelets for the girls) means "except God." We found some kente bookmarks, a talking drum, a mancala game, a "good luck" elephant for Don, and some traditional jewelry and dresses for each of the three girls.

After that, we went to the much more modern Koala Market for some snacks for the room. I hoped to buy some paper and crayons or a board game for the girls, but was astounded to see that a 64-box of Crayola crayons is about $35, and board games are about $80-100!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beds and braids

Saturday, June 20, 2009 - Ghana Adventure Day 15
More of today's photos in slideshow section 2 - click
HERE to view.
(back-dated post completed December 30)

This morning, our main priority was a visit to Auntie E's house - Auntie E is the very sweet foster mother who had taken care of Akos. Sadly, the recent rainstorm that was going on during our drive to Cape Coast resulted in such flooding in her area that her home was filled with sewage-filled floodwater. The mattress, which was on the floor, was soaked and unusable. So, we went in search of a bedframe and mattress for her. ( I had also brought a mosquito net I had purchased before the trip.) As with most things here, the beds are bought along the roadside. With Uncle P's help, as always, we found a foam mattress at a roadside stand that was just right. Right nearby was a furniture shop. The talented craftsman who makes the furniture was very nice, and was hard at work polishing his latest piece. His work is just beautiful - astounding what he can do without benefit of any power tools at all! His workshop was a dingy place, and I had a hard time imagining how he creates such quality furniture in a place like this. Such hard work, and he asks very little for it. Solid wood full-size headboard, footboard, frame sides, and support slats for 95 cedis - that's less than $70! Not a fair price for him at all, I thought, so we added some extra.

Lydia fell in love with an emaciated kitten at the mattress stand, but Akos didn't want much to do with it. Lydia wished we could bring it home with us or at least to the hotel, but we had to accept that we couldn't help it. Obviously, it wouldn't pass customs, and as much as we adore animals, in a place like this where the people don't have enough to eat, trying to feed a pet would be a true hardship. Uncle P asssured Lydia that someone must be helping the kitten at least a little, or he wouldn't be hanging around there, and that the best for him was to leave him there.

Our visit with Auntie E went well. She was moved to tears by the new bed, mattress and netting. We helped get everything set up for her, and felt so thankful that we had been able to help her in this way. We visited with the other foster children in her care - two of whom are Constance and Jonathan, whose adoptive mom we'll meet Sunday. We took photos for the Padillas, for which they were very grateful. I think they are adopting a couple of wonderful children! There is one little boy at Auntie P's who is convinced that Uncle P is going to be his daddy - he sobs whenever Uncle P has to leave - just heartbreaking. None of the kids wanted to see him go - they love him, and he clearly loves them, too.

After we returned to the hotel, it was time for Akos to get her new braids. The price was unimaginably low - it took 6 hours, with very tiny braids, and we were only charged 11 cedis! It looks very nice, but Akos was uncomfortable during the braiding session. She was quiet and hardly said a word, but crying later because the braids hurt so much. I had no idea it was a painful thing at all - I felt so bad for her. We gave her some ibuprofen, which helped a little, but the salon staff had told us that it would be much better in a few days.

By the time the braiding was over, we were all far too exhausted for dinner, and just went straight to bed. Whew - what a long day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Visit to Korle-Bu Hospital

Friday, June 19, 2009 - Ghana Adventure Day 14
More of today's photos in slideshow section 2 - click
HERE to view.
(back-dated post completed December 30)

This morning, we had our trip to Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. I was so happy to finally meet Eunice! (Dr. Eunice Adei, a senior resident who has been working with me on what supplies are needed.) She is very pretty, with lots of thin, tiny braids. Akos liked her hair, and wants her braids just the same way. Dr. Adei and all the staff were SO grateful for everything we brought. They took photos, and so did we. We went through all the supplies, then she took us on a tour of the Children’s Block. It is a dismal place, but they are certainly doing all they can. Very few of the rooms have air conditioning. The beds are old, with peeling paint on the metal, and rust. There are stains all over the walls, ceilings, and of course, the floors. We saw a girl probably about 4 years old with a soft tissue tumor pushing her cheek out so far, the tumor was almost as large as her head. The hallways were crowded with moms feeding their babies, since there was no room by the babies’ beds. The nurses wear very crisp, brightly white, old-fashioned uniforms. The head nurse of each unit is the matron. Eunice introduced me to the matron of each unit as we went by. She showed me the rigged-up blindfolds to protect eyes from bili-lights (we brought some eye covers designed for that purpose). She showed me a baby getting oxygen through a feeding tube because they had no nasal cannulas (we brought nasal cannulas), and a baby probably less than 1 ½ pounds-2 pounds with a regular newborn diaper that practically swallowed him up (we brought Wee Pee diapers from Children’s Medical Ventures, designed for micro-preemies). The outpatient area consisted of a large crowd of people and a couple of desks (small), each with two doctors trying to examine their patients in the chairs. Paperwork covered the desks completely. The emergency room is SOO small and dingy – very little ventilation, and very hot. They will sometimes have 30-40 patients in that room, no bigger than 8x12. The most memorable was the NICU – all the preemies! Most were in incubators, but they had a special KMC (Kangaroo Mother Care) unit, in which the moms are to keep the baby wrapped on their chests, skin-to-skin. We got to take some photos of a little girl, certainly less than 2 pounds. The mom even held her out and gave her to Lydia to hold! Wow! We then went next door to another KMC room, where mother with teeny tiny twin boys was getting them re-wrapped onto her chest. The mother in the next bed (so close, you could barely walk between them) watched with a very neutral expression. She had a little baby girl on the bed. The nurse said, “This one had twin girls, but one passed, so she is left with one.” She said it in a voice that didn’t sound solemn or sad – actually almost cheerful…very unsettling. But, I guess that is so common here that it’s not a big deal. At home, such a mom would be in a private room and would have a rose or other symbol on her door to let everyone know to be extra gentle and respectful with her.

After the hospital trip, we went to get Akos’ visa pictures and to pick up her medical report. We also got some more cedis for me. The exchange is 1.4 cedis for a dollar – but if you pay in dollars, they give you the same change as if it were a 1:1 exchange. So, if you spend dollars, you will spend LOTS more for the same product. Finally, the big wild-goose chase – my Canon camera (the nice one) is out of batteries, and I can’t get my battery charger to work! How horrible to think of not being able to get decent pictures the whole rest of the trip – the back-up camera, the little purple Polaroid, takes terrible pictures - almost always out of focus. So, Uncle P took us all over, mainly in the Osu area, to look for a battery charger, and we had no luck with it at all. Great news, though – I got back to the room and found an e-mail from Rebekah Padilla, saying she is coming to Ghana on Sunday! She’s adopting Constance and Jonathan, who are staying as the same foster home where Akos stayed. Rebekah was happy to bring me a charger, so I found a photo shop near her home in Torrance, CA, paid over the phone, and Rebekah picked it up later in the day! Yay! She is going to be staying at our hotel, so I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun together.

I had lobster with garlic butter sauce tonight – even cheaper than prawns! Only 18 cedis, which is $12.85. Yummy!!! The girls both had chicken and rice – SO good – they ate really well. We had ice cream, too, which was surprisingly expensive (we didn't think to check the price until afterward) – 6 cedis just for plain ice cream. Strange!