Friday, January 11, 2019

The Harmattan

Last year I went back to America around Christmas time and ended up missing much of the dry season in Ghana. This year I'm learning what it's like. Between November and March, West Africa experiences the "Harmattan" which is the dry season. It is a result of the winds from northern Africa blowing sand from the Sahara desert down to the coast of west Africa.

When I first heard that explanation I thought someone was just making up the reason for the dusty air but it's not just a wives' tale. Trade winds from the Sahara do actually blow dust and sand all the way down here. During this time of year it stops raining and the air is more hazy and dryer than usual. In the last two months I've only see it rain twice and there is not substantial rain in the forecast for several months. Lately I've noticed you can look directly at the red sunsets in the evening since there is so much debris in the air.

There is a fine layer of red dust that settles on everything on a daily basis. I'm even shocked at how fast it can accumulate in some of the rooms where we have air conditioning and closed windows. I have not been running in this weather and don't intend to start strenuous exercise outside until we get some rainfall. Once the rains start again the humidity will soar but I'd still prefer that to having everything covered in dust. I found the following clip on Youtube that shows how the drastic contrast in the weather that happens during Harmattan.


I miss the rain and am looking forward to things greening up again in several months.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Racism

Over the years I've seen a lot of stories in the news that deal with or at least accuse others of racist actions or intentions. The definition of racism is: “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.”

I don't believe any race of people is superior to another. There are saints and jerks to be found among every kind of people. To assume an entire race is inferior is not only wrong, but it is just so lazy. If you were to get to know people of different races you would see that some of them are amazing people and others are maybe not so much. This concept extends from race and also applies to people of different religions, nationalities, political affiliations, ideologies, etc.

When talking about this subject I feel the need to differentiate between race and culture. You are born within a race. You have no control of what race you belong to or who your ancestors were. I am white. I am neither proud nor ashamed of my skin color.  I did nothing to determine my race so I have no guilt or pride about something I have no control over. However, I do feel gratitude and appreciation for my ancestors' sacrifices and accomplishments. 

Culture is defined as “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.” I think it is fine when people of all walks of life honor their heritage, ancestors, and culture, but I am saddened when any culture promotes dishonest practices, corruption, laziness, ignorance, abuse, etc. By the way, no country or group is free from these problems. If I speak out against certain cultural practices I believe to be wrong, that does not make me a racist if some of those practicing them happen to be of a different race than me. It really bothers me when people play the race card for their gain.

I am troubled when I hear people attempting to guilt others for being privileged and seeking justice or reparations from others when no injustice has been done. I have never owned a slave. I’ve done my genealogy from both sets of parents back to the 1600’s. As far as I know I have never had an ancestor who owned another human yet there are people who say because I am white I am guilty of being privileged and owe some kind of reparations to someone who’s ancestors were wronged in the past.  I simply won't take responsibility for things that happened before I was born or to people I have never met or dealt with.  I may be guilty of many bad things but they all happened after I was born and were things I actually did.

Another thing about this topic that bothers me is the classification of Americans. I hate it when filling out government forms and we have to choose Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Native American, etc. How about just American? When we accentuate and focus on our differences it doesn’t help to unify us.

I think we often focus on the wrong things. People who focus on sickness instead of wellness get sick, people who focus on poverty instead of wealth get poorer, people who focus on race instead of unity become more racist. 

I admit racism has been and is still a big problem but I also think the media and many politicians love to push the racist narrative even when certain issues or stories are not really about race. I don't have all the answers but I know racism could go away if people followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remarks when he said we should be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. We are all family since we are all part of the human race. If we focus on our similarities and the things we have in common as opposed to our differences, we would live in a much better world.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Back in Ghana

I've been living in Ghana since August of 2017 but several months ago we went back home for the birth of a grandson and also for our oldest daughter who was getting married. We had a nice visit back home and kept busy for several months. I just got back to Ghana this month and it has been a much easier this trip. I was surprised to see the Accra airport got an amazing makeover and many improvements. It hardly recognized it when I arrived.

As I traveled to Kumasi via bus I was more familiar with the landscape and cities we passed than on prior visits. I had far fewer people approaching to help me since I probably didn't have the deer in the headlights look on my face this time. The city roads were more familiar and I wasn't as shocked about the traffic or crazy driving. It also helped coming back to a furnished home. The first time we came we had no furniture and lived in an empty house for many months. We were even able to bring back some family Christmas decorations which makes it feel more like home during the holidays. 

Another change is that an American family we know recently move here. They live 15 minutes away and have children our kid's ages so they like playing together. It also makes me feel like we are not the only ones crazy enough to move our family across the world without having to for military, a career, or church appointed mission.



I feel like I have so much time here, but the days still go by so fast. I'm working via the Internet but it is on a part time basis. I'm a morning person but I have found myself sleeping in lately, possibly due to the jet lag. I haven't experienced this much sleep since I was a teenager. I was also pleasantly surprised that I could remember so many neighbor's and church member's names. My twi is still horrible so I have a lot of work to when it comes to communication. I really think it will be a game changer once I can start to communicate better with Ghanaians in their native language.

Our family has several humanitarian projects we are working on here. We are currently building a small literacy center and hope to duplicate more of them in the upcoming months. We also want to finish up a school addition we started before we left. Originally my wife was doing more with Days for Girls but recently she has put a lot more emphasis on literacy efforts. We have plenty of things to do so I'm sure we will stay busy. I'm feeling pretty optimistic about things. One reason is because I feel a lot more independent than I was the first time I got here. I'll try to do a better job of giving updates on my blog in the future.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Interesting Signs

I've been back in Ghana for 3 weeks now and one thing that recently caught my attention is the wording on many of the signs and advertisements here. English is the official language in Ghana but it would seem many of the companies here could use some marketing consultants to pick the wording for some of their advertising campaigns.

Sometimes the names of the businesses just don’t seem to match with what they are selling.  Some examples include gas station chains called Radiance Gas, Unity gas, Trinity Gas. They sound more like beauty products or churches than they do gas stations. Speaking of gas, I’ve also seen several highly inflammable tankers out on the road. 

I thought people in the states were guilty of using God to sell stuff but it is no holds barred here. I’ve seen billboards with Jesus promoting cell phones. Many company names reflect this like "God First Electricals", or "Praise to Him Furniture"

I actually like this Colgate ad since it pretty much simplifies things and gets to the point. “Fights cavities” just doesn’t have the same urgency to it as saying “prevents holes in teeth.”

Another funny thing is the use of celebrities on business signs. I’m sure Ronaldo and Obama have no idea they are the face of so many small businesses here.

When we went to the government offices to extend our visas I saw the sign to the right. At first it shocked me that someone would advertise the fact that they were trying to scheme legal aid. It is actually a place to help people figure out how to get legal aid but is just worded funny.

I'm sure people visiting the United States from other countries notice things they find amusing or strange in the way Americans advertise too.

Monday, February 19, 2018

My Beard is on Fire!

I have always been a clean-shaven guy but I about once a year I will grow my beard out for about a month.You can see all my prior posts on the fascinating topic of facial hair by clicking on this  Facial Hair Link

Over the last 15 years the color of my beard has changed and there is a lot more gray in it than there used to be. I don't mind the salt and pepper look, but  I'd rather have more of a solid color beard than look like a homeless old guy, As a result I have resorted to using some occasional beard dye.

This post is not meant to be a product review and I'm not trying to bash any company, but I have to share my most recent experience.  After a couple weeks of not shaving I usually brush in a little color. In the past I have used Just for Men Touch of Gray on my beard about every week or so to keep it from looking too gray. I have never had a problem with this product over the years until just recently. Last week I noticed that shortly after using it, my face was itching like crazy. I've experienced beard itch in the past when growing a beard, but nothing like this. As soon as I scratched my face I also noticed a red rash and it was accompanied by oozing. Yes I said oozing as in a clear fluid or even yellowish puss dripping from my face over time.

When using this product I followed the directions as I always have and I actually left it on for less than the recommended time so I had no idea what caused this reaction. It took me about four days of washing my face, applying lotion with lavender and coconut oil to sooth the pain and dabbing the moisture buildup with a tissue throughout the day. The hardest part was not scratching my face since it itched like crazy!

So this week it eventually got better and my skin finally returned back to normal. I thought the whole incident might just be a fluke and I actually made the dumb mistake of using Touch of Gray again. (Sometimes I will do dumb things like smell a couch cushion when someone tells me how bad it smells.) Anyway I did another application and after a few minutes guess who's face is on fire again?

While in my agony I went Online to see if others had experienced anything similar to what I was experiencing and I was surprised to see several sites with guys complaining of having used the product in the past with no problems but within the last year they started having crazy itching, rashes, and yes... oozing from their face. As gross as this sounds I was delighted to not be alone in my suffering. Reading some of these guys experiences was very therapeutic, especially when they described how bad it itched. I feel their pain...literally.

I'd like to devote a little more time to tell you how bad it itches. IT'S BAD! It reminds me of the scene in Poltetrgiest when the guy is washing his face in the bathroom sink and looks up in the mirror and starts to pick at his face and eventually starts digging hard and ends up pulling off chunks of skin. Yes, it feels like that.

I've considered shaving off my beard if it might help but my fear is that my complexion would look like I'm a meth addict if I didn't have the facial hair to cover up the unsightly rash, blisters, and scabs. I guess I forgot to put the disclaimer at the beginning of this post that it would be in the TMI category.

So if you need me I'll just be down in the basement trying not to scratch my face for the next 5 days. Also, from now on you can expect to see a lot more gray in any future beard I may grow since I have finally learned my lesson and am not going to "smell the couch cushion" for a third time.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Kendall's Cool Artwork

My son Kendall enjoys drawing. He prefers using colored pencils and likes to recreate pictures he finds online.  He is very meticulous and methodical and can spends several months working on some pieces. As you can see, his favorite subject matter is based on action and super heroes. Here are some of the pieces he's done over the years but he still won't let me  share his most recent Thor picture which I think is also his best.











His profile name on Instagram is rendall_kogers if you want to see his future work.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Music in Ghana

I’ve had an interesting experience with the music here. There are many similarities between radio programming in the United States and here in Africa. The radio stations here feature political talk programs, sports, gospel music stations, preachers, rap, and lots of talking. 

Soon after I arrived her I was shocked to hear "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers while our driver was flipping through stations. I actually heard a couple American country songs that day and I have to admit it was the first time I didn’t want someone to change the station while listening to country music.

We have a neighbor across the street who plays music very loud with outdoor speaker very early in the morning until late at night. After several hours, you can sort of tune it out but those big bass notes are hard to ignore. When you go to the quieter parts of our house it still sounds like a tuba playing off in the distance. For months he played the same 3 songs over and over all day but I'm glad to report he has started listening to the radio more so we finally get some variety now.

One difference between our radio DJs and those here is how often they interrupt the songs they are playing. Back home we've all heard DJs cut songs off early as they speak or ramble on for the first few seconds when a song starts but nothing like it is here.

Sometimes I will be listening to music and I hear the DJ yell a few words as he mutes the song and then it will continue again for second or two until he hits pause on the song and says a few more words. Luckily not all songs are this way but it is something I hear quite frequently on the radio. It sounds like a teenager who wants to listen to music and a parent who wants to hear a talk radio and they are pushing buttons back and forth in the car fighting over which station to listen to.

I've included a brief sample you can hear on the video clip below.



Another thing that has surprised me is that Ghanains play loud music at funerals. Funerals here are close to all day events and actually include hiring a DJ and playing music for the guests. I've only seen serious, reverent funerals back home so this was a big cultural switch for me. There is plenty of mourning and sadness when someone dies but they also turn it into a celebration of their life. When I'm driving around and hear really loud pop/dance music booming from speakers I never know if it's a party or a funeral until I can see if the attendees are dressed in red and black, which is the traditional dress for a funeral.