About the Blog

United Hearts Children Center is located in Bawjiase, Ghana. It is currently home to 25 children, who are excited to move into their NEW home in the next few months. We are continuing fundraising to complete the project and have just started to fundraise for the United Hearts Community School. Check them out in my links!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Because I'm still in Bawjiase...

the internet is miserable. Therefore, I will just let you know that my parents are here, sitting on either side of me, equally miserable about the fact that the internet is awful. Luckily, they seem to mind this slightly more than the heat, which I figure is a positive thing. However, accessing her Facebook page seems to be a very fulfilling experience for my mother, so that's a plus.

We have changed our plans slightly and will be leaving Bawjiase tomorrow, to some hotel that apparently has wireless, meaning I will take the smartphone I use at home that has ruined my life and may once again ruin my life by updating my blog from it. And, you know, perhaps go on Facebook.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A tiny bit of information that is relatively boring but kind of important(ish)

After speaking with my mother and then forgetting to actually do it, I have FINALLY changed the settings here so that anyone can comment. So, to all those who have mentioned to me that they are blog challenged, I extend my sincerest apologies because it appears as though I have been the real blog challenged one the past10 weeks.

Secondly, the power was out for 24 hours and before that I was more tired than normal and didn't have the energy to go to the internet in Kasoa, so the blogging has slowed down a bit. Have no fears, though, I am still here.

Lastly, the number of posts will likely continue to dwindle in the following two weeks as my parental unit is currently on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, sleeping/eating/watching movies/reading, landing Ghana in a little less than 4 hours. I am nearly positive that I have not mentioned the fact that my parents are coming and that many people reading this don't even know the adventure they are embarking on. They will be in Bawjiase until Tuesday and then the three of us will be traveling to the coast. I will likely be able to get on the internet if I so choose, but if not then I will be back in Bawjiase on March 9th or 10th.

So, if you don't hear from me until then, please continue to enjoy the snow the best you can/whatever weather you are having, and I will enjoy the next two weeks the best I can.

(I really do love my parents copious amounts and am beyond excited to spend this time with them, but alas, traveling with the parentals at the age of 23 is always a little frightening to anyone)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"We know we're coming, but they don't."

-Vladimir Visek, referring to the fact that nearly every person we walk by calls out to us despite the fact that we walk back and forth to town multiple times per day.

Anyway, seeing as I cannot think of anything to write about/don't feel like writing about any of the things I can think of/haven't written about this in a long time, I thought I would update a bit on where we are regarding fundraising and what we still have left to accomplish. The new building is coming along and they finally started building the roof this week! We've been waiting a long time to finally see this happen, and the volunteers and the kids were equally excited to see this next step to the building. The money we are using comes directly from Mama Hope, so if you are interested in helping complete the building, definitely check it out!

The new building is obviously an important part of what we are doing right now, but even more crucial is making sure we can cover the daily expenses it costs to take care of 25 children and their caretakers. The salaries of our wonderful staff alone cost us 500 Cedi a month (340 USD) and providing food costs, at minimum, 1500 Cedi (1015 USD). Combined with electric bills, school supplies and other basic necessities, the monthly budget of United Hearts is 2500 Cedi (1690 USD). We have a balanced menu that we aim to make for the children every week, but we often struggle to provide them with the necessary components of it, as the protein and fruits that it contains add a significant amount to the already costly task of feeding so many people.

I truly understand how difficult it can be to really see how even the smallest donation makes a difference, and I can honestly say it took me actually being here to realize how even $25 helps. I can only hope that the posts I have made make the result of donating at least a little more tangible, and that this would help you in making the decision to give even just a few dollars. Donations can be made through our (new!) website and go directly to covering the monthly costs of United Hearts.

These links are also always on the right side of my blog, so if you ever feel inspired to skip a few meals out or forgo your Starbucks visit (which, admittedly, sounds absolutely impossible to me right now), you can always find the websites right there.

I hope everyone on the East Coast is enjoying what I have heard is basically spring-like weather!

Click here for donations to United Hearts!

Click here for donations to help construct the new building!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy

  • Sitting down to breakfast every morning and watching as Vlad opens the sugar, smells the fermenting odor, and then puts a spoonful in his tea.
  • Seeing small children with stuffed animals and dolls wrapped on their backs.
  • Having sister Akua tell me waye ade (pronounced why-a-deeay, meaning well done) when she is drying the children after I have bathed them. Meeting her standards of cleanliness used to be near impossible for me.
  • Taking a tro-tro and having it stop less than five times and not breakdown before getting to my destination.
  • The days when Agogo wears his Agogo jersey.
  • Knowing that the large covered bowl in front of me is ground nut (basically peanuts) soup with a rice ball and chicken.
  • Being able to respond in Twi when someone asks me what I am doing.
  • Walking more than one minute before someone calls me oburoni.
  • Buying a cold water.
  • Sitting in the house talking about anything and everything with the other volunteers.
  • Getting chicken and not egg with lunch and dinner.
  • When all seven of the small children (Kwashie, Kofi, Ernestina, Kevin, Joe, Agogo, and Kweku) are in good moods at the same time.
  • Every time the power goes back on.
  • Drinking a cold Coke on a hot day.
  • Realizing I have worn in a piece of fabric so that it is finally soft.
  • Hearing the children at the school by our house cheer, Monday - Friday, when the bell rings signaling the end of the day.
  • Buying spicy plantains from Theresa or rice and stew from Zinabu.
  • Having a child draw a picture of me.
  • Picking up a new dress from Ismailah or Vivian.
  • Anytime a kid laughs uncontrollably.
  • Being called obibini after the older girls braid my hair.
  • Getting a smiling picture of a child who doesn't often smile.
  • Telling men who want to take me out that I prefer going to the beach and actually having them agree to it.
  • Any moment when I am not craving a food I can't get in Bawjiase.
  • Rain.
  • Regular bowel movements.
  • Eating pancakes (Ghana style) instead of egg sandwiches for breakfast.
  • Days in which being called out to and yelled at doesn't irritate me.
  • The rare moments when I am wearing a clean shirt.
  • Every time I stop and realize where I am and what I am doing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


And rained and rained. I frantically put buckets outside to catch the rain, but it takes at least 10 minutes for the water dripping off the roof to be clean of sand and dust. However, I am unfortunately not able to predict the weather, so I filled up our water bin by the bathroom with relatively dirty water, thinking we can at least use it to flush the toilet. But the rain kept coming, so I proceeded to reverse the process and took a bucket to empty the giant container, just in time for Lauren and Fifi to come home and wonder what I was doing. We ended up not catching a ton of rain water for that bucket, but a few trips to our now full well fixed the situation.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the past week.

This is the prayer circle they held in our house.

We had a fun day with paper masks and hats!

Cynthia scaring/playing with the little kids

Cynthia and Mary

We went to the site yesterday and the kids were mesmerized by the water that had filled up what will soon be the new building's septic tank. I used this photo as an excuse to climb on top of the concrete walls.

Ernestina and Irene pretending to cook

John having fun coloring and ignoring me when I told him to get off the table

Akua looking at the view from what will soon be her new bedroom!

Lauren and I hanging out on the steps of the current building.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So, they do speak English here.

I can only say THANK YOU (Mberg 2010 this is totally for you :D ) to the responses to my shameless plea for comments. I do need to remind myself that people are reading, even if I get to thinking it's just my mother and Lauren who are actually checking up on this. I seriously appreciate just knowing that people care when I update, especially on the days that I feel totally self-absorbed for thinking people want to read about my time in Ghana. So, here are today's thoughts.

As a follow up to my previous post about a possible Language Barrier in Bawjiase, I thought I would share with you some of my personal favorite English phrases used here. I will includ a description, as best I can, to define how we use them at home compared to their meaning here.

I'm coming.
Bawjiase translation: I will be back, one second, hold on, I'll do what you are asking me to do in a moment.
Not totally different from the usual use at home, meaning that I will be there. However, "I'm coming" is used when people are with you and need to go do something, telling you they will return. The children also frequently tell me they are coming when I ask them to clean up and instead of putting the crayons away, they continue coloring and tell me, "I'm coming, I'm coming."

It's for you/me.
Bawjiase translation: It's for you/me, it is yours/mine, it belongs to you/me.
I actually find this one to be particularly confusing, because it's hard to figure out if someone is giving me something or telling me that it belongs to me. Yesterday I had an extensive conversation with one of the children in which the only words exchanged were (I am in italics), "It's for me?" "It's for me." "I take it to the volunteer house?" "Yes." "It's for me." "No, it's for me." This interaction was repeated at least three times until I left her with the picture.

Bawjiase translation: A lot, more than, very, sooo.
I still get taken aback by this one sometimes because I am so used to it meaning too much, as in more than something should be. Cynthia, one of the children with the darkest skin, is said to be too dark, but it is not used to mean she "shouldn't" be so dark, but simply that she is the darkest. I can tell people that they are too beautiful or that it is too hot or that the food is too good.

And now, my personal favorite.
Are you sure?
Bawjiase translation: Really?, No way!
At home this isn't the most polite thing to say. People use it to express doubt and to question what someone says. Here, however, it's just an exclamation and an acknowledgment of what people are saying. When I tell people I don't like fish, the most frequent response is "are you sure?" It's not because they think I don't actually know if I like fish, but simply that they are surprised. However, the reason I like this so much is because it gives me the opportunity to express doubt without being rude. When people tell me something that I'm really not sure is true, I get to say "are you sure?" without being offensive in the least. Of course, I've also taken a liking to using this phrase as they use it and now find myself saying it far more than I should be.

Again, thanks for the responses to my last post. Hopefully I will make it to Kasoa where I can upload some more pictures! And if you are in the parts of the world that are being dumped on with snow, stay warm and try to keep enjoying it for me!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lack of Title

I went to a funeral on Saturday. And by went I mean that I showed up for about an hour, all of which was a sermon, in Twi, which Iddris kindly translated for me when he felt like it and when I listened. It was actually a very sad occasion, honoring a 29 year-old man Iddris went to high school with who was shot and killed at the beginning of January and only buried now due to the police investigation, which is still not finished. There were many times when the hundreds of people gathered began cheering, which obviously confused me. In the words of Iddris, "they yell when they like what he is saying." So what was the pastor saying that caused such passionate cheers and amen's?

He was cursing the man who killed Joshua, the man's family, and anyone who had information and was not coming forward with it. I have a lot of mixed feelings regarding this, as I understand the anger felt by the huge number of friends and family gathered in remembrance of Joshua, yet I couldn't help but think about how this would be different if I was home. Luckily, I have never personally known anyone to die in such a tragic way, but I imagine a funeral service to be focused on the positives about the person and their life and not filled with hateful wishes regarding the people responsible for the death.

I also found the passionate yells of the crowd particularly interesting because of the way people are encouraged not to show emotions here. Iddris told me that Joshua's wife and child were not in attendance because they would cry "too much" if they were there. Given, the pain they must feel is unimaginable, but I have never heard such a thing before coming here. The night before the funeral Iddris worked hard to keep the conversation about me because he was worried he might start crying and would never stop.

On a much lighter note, I learned that "Africa Teeth" are different than "America Teeth" when Iddris' friend began eating the bone from the goat soup he bought me. And I mean eating the entire thing. I ate some of the meat off of it thinking that was enough, and when I made a feeble attempt to break the bone, he grabbed it from my hands and proceeded to just... eat it. I sat there in horror, imagining how much it would hurt my teeth and how disappointed my dentist would be, while the men laughed at me.

On an even lighter note, I went down to see the kids yesterday and found some of them sitting around hot coals, burning the ends of sticks. I asked them, in Twi, what they were doing, and assumed they responded in Twi since I didn't understand what they said. I asked again in English and got the same response, and after each individual child said it to me at least five times, I realized they were saying "China fork." First of all, the way they pronounce "fork" is horribly similar to the four letter word also beginning with F, which caused me to respond with "WHAT did you say?!" Again I received the same response: China "fock."

Have you figured it out yet?

They were making chopsticks. I then proceeded to gather as many small, relatively straight sticks as I could find, and engaged the children in a chopstick lesson.

Finally, and I hate to be doing this, but I would lovelovelove if you are reading this for you to leave a comment, anonymous if you so desire, and saying anything at all, ranging from "hello," "oh hai," "you are the coolest person ever," etc. A lot of times I really don't feel like blogging, and although my mother gets out of bed everyday just to be able to read this, I talk to her a few times a week anyway and she would survive perfectly fine without this. So basically, if you are reading and want to keep reading, just give an anonymous (or not anonymous) shout out, because I need some motivation to keep up with my increasingly boring posts.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What I missed during my teenage years

They come in by two's and three's until there are at least 10 of them. I am on the porch writing in my journal about whatever I write in my journal about, barely noticed by each person who comes in, seeing as their chanting is distracting them from most of their surroundings other than our front door.

They're praying.

Or, at least that's what I think you call it. They are walking around, chanting, singing, silent, following Pastor's lead. I hear Lauren ask if she should be in the room, and they must tell her it doesn't matter because by the time I enter to collect my belongings to go to town, she is in her room, door shut. I knock on her door to ask if she thinks I can walk through our main room, where the praying is taking place, and out the front door. After a moment's thought, we both decide I better go out the side door, and Lauren locks it behind me. I successfully put my shoes on without anyone seeing and step off the porch just in time to bump into Pastor Elisha rounding the corner.

I never was cool enough/bad enough to need/want/try to sneak out of my parents' house, and now at 23 I know what it feels like, at least to get caught.

Becca, where are you going?
Uhhh. I'm going to town?
Oh. Okay.
Is that okay? Should I not go to town?
No, it's okay.
I can stay if you want.
If you can stay, then you should stay until prayer is over.

Pastor, my bag, and I walk back in the house, through the front door, and I proceed to Lauren's room.

I was caught. Pastor was outside.
What was he doing outside?
I don't know.

I return to my room and wait until I hear "Vlad! Lauren! Becca! Prayer is finished." We each emerge from our rooms, "God Bless You's" are exchanged, and I follow the group out, assuring Pastor that I won't stay out late.

Apparently the group will be returning tonight and tomorrow, and seeing as it is currently 5:30 and I still have not fled town, I will once again be in my room listening to whatever it is that is going on.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Was there a language barrier?

This, hands down, was the most frequently asked question when I returned from my first stay in Ghana. Yeah, people wanted to know what I did and what it was like and how I ended up there, but more than that they just really, really wanted to know if we spoke the same language. Such a simple question, but like everything else I was asked, I really wasn't sure of the answer.

"Ehh, not really," was often my response. They speak a little English, I speak a little of their language. The problem with speaking a little of their "language" is that no one seems to know what language that is. Twi is (I think) the national language after English, but I am under the impression that people wouldn't understand if I were to speak Twi in other regions of Ghana. Fante is the designated local language, spoken in the central region (I think). And no, these are not all speculations about where languages are spoken because I just don't know. They are speculations because no one seems to know.

I know how to say a fair amount in the language of Not English, but every time I ask someone if it's Twi or Fante I get one of two answers. "I don't know" or "It is both." Although the people of Bawjiase have no problem communicating with each other in whatever language they are speaking and often struggle speaking to us with their minimal amounts of English and our minimal amounts of Not English, there seems to be something wrong with calling it a Language Barrier. And the only explanation I can think of for why it cannot be named this is because of confusion.

We often joke about how the people of Bawjiase are just very confused, and although I'm sure it seems this way because of the limited verbal communication we have, I think it can also be credited to the fact that no one ever seems to really know what is going on regardless of what language is being spoken. When I ask people questions in Not English, I get different answers depending on the person, place, and/or time, and when I wear certain clothes or do certain things, I evoke different reactions, with women on one side of market commenting on my tank tops and the way my fabric is wrapped, and women on the other side of market complimenting me on my outfit. People say they will do one thing and do the opposite, and when you arrange to meet someone in town at 3 PM on Monday it only makes sense that they will stop by your house to meet at 9 AM on Thursday.

Interestingly enough, the children at United Hearts :D seem to be the only people who do not have conversations based on confusion with us. They don't necessarily speak a lot of English, but they certainly understand a lot, and when we tell them to do things they either A) do it or B) choose not to do it and smirk at us instead, blatantly doing the opposite to bother/spite/make fun of us. When the kids are fighting and we ask what is happening, they explain it to us, and surprisingly the story is always the same no matter which child you ask. I don't know if the lack of confusion is due to the fact that the children have spent much more of their life around people not from Bawjiase than the rest of the obibinis we meet, or that we speak the language of children better than Not English, but spending time around the children can somehow be relieving. However, it is also more frustrating, because understanding means that we can't just shrug things off and chalk it up to being confused, and instead have to actually acknowledge whatever situation is going on.

Alas, the point of this boring post is... well, I'm not sure. It's only fitting that you probably found it confusing, and to the people who are going to need to communicate with me when I return home, I apologize for the incomprehensible conversations that we will likely have.

Also, send the snow clouds this way, as it still hasn't rained and we are quickly running out of water.