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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tropical Weather and Climate

Our front yard
When I left Utah to come to Africa at the end of July, the temperature back home was averaging between 90-100 degrees each day. When I arrived here in Ghana in early August the weather was a constant 85 degrees. It was much more humid, and actually felt much nicer than the dry heat back home. Since I’ve been here many people have written things like “I can only imagine how hot it must be for you in Africa.” I guess people must think I am living in Egypt. It does get hot here but I arrived at the end of the rainy season so it’s not too bad. 

During the first month that I was here I only recall seeing my shadow a handful of times. Despite it being very warm, there always seemed to be cloud cover so it’s not like the sun was beating down on me. I’m used to cold weather and snow from November to March so it will be a nice change adapting to warmer weather year-round.

In October I noticed a slight change with the weather. It is starting to get dryer and hotter. We still get occasional rain showers but they are very brief and not as frequent as the rain storms we've previously had. The temperature has only gone up about 5 degrees and I can't recall a day over 90 but it sure feels much hotter than it was months ago.  Our fans are always running now. On a positive note, I have noticed that the mosquitos, cockroaches, centipedes, and other crawly friends have decreased significantly in the last month. I imagine it is due to the dryer weather but I'm not sure.

A couple months ago we got the great news that two of our sons back home are getting married in December so we will be coming back for a visit much sooner than originally anticipated. I am a little anxious to return in early December since I have been wearing flip flops and shorts for the last 4 months. When we moved here our family got rid of all of our winter clothes. It should be interesting showing up at the Salt Lake Airport in the middle of winter dressed like we are going to the beach. 

One thing that has been an adjustment for me is the equal time for night and day. It starts getting light before 6 AM and the sun sets around 6 pm. It is an even split of light and dark over 24 hours. Since we are near the equator, the summer days are not longer and you pretty much get the same sunlight year round. 

As much as I like the warm climate, I still dislike having it get dark at 6 like it used to back home in the winter. Last week the US changed their clocks back for daylights savings. Africa is having none of that foolishness so now we are 7 hours ahead of back home which makes things a little more inconvenient since we have to wait until 3 0r 4 in the afternoon if we need to call home and that only gives us a 5 or 6 hour of window after that until we are falling asleep on our end here.

Sometimes late at night I feel exhausted and ready for bed and then I realize it is only 8:30. The early sunset plays a role in making me feel tired so early at night but so does my almost 50 year old body. I can see why aging people enjoy the warm weather. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Technologically Impaired Life

I am going to be very honest and vulnerable with this post. I am confessing some embarrassing things about myself so please don't judge to harshly. When I was a kid I remember helping my parents work the VCR since they found it to be too confusing. Perhaps it is genetic, but over the years I have slowly been afflicted by their malady to the point that I now find myself in their shoes and am technologically challenged. Here are just some of the examples:

I find myself now asking my younger kids to adjust my digital watch each daylight savings time change as I used to do for my father.

I used Wifi for the first time last year and it made me nervous.

I don't know what blue tooth is. I think it's what allows people with the dumb built in ear pieces to answer their phone hands free but I'm not sure.

I don't know how to back up anything on my computer or phone. I've heard about "The Cloud" but I can't believe it is that simple I and don't trust it.

I have several friends who are network engineers, programmers, coders, etc. and they intimidate me. I try to only talk to them about the weather or current events instead of trying to understand what they actually do.

I hate iPhones! Their supposed simplicity has backfired on me and I can't even get past the main screen. Luckily I use a Samsung phone but my other family members have iPhones. Trying to navigate an iPhone is like playing with a Rubiks cube for me. On a good day I can get one side the same color.

I don't understand when people talk about measuring data, memory, or whatever that Internet stuff is they are talking about. I have no idea what a kilobite or gig is. I understand it even less than I do when people make metric system references. I've at least seen a liter of soda before and have run a 5K, but I have no idea what a bit or byte is. All I know is that the higher the number on your phone the more expensive it is (and the cooler you are.)

If I went undercover at a tech convention like Comdex, I would be discovered within the first 5 minutes and they'd take away my lanyard and lead me out of the building. It would be like how I feel when I hear someone who knows nothing about sports say "that guy bounced the ball really good during the basketball game."

While reviewing this post I looked online and saw that Comdex actually ended over 13 years ago and it is The International Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas I was thinking about. Just another fitting example how behind the times I am with my tech knowledge.

Things are just way too complicated. Look at any remote control these days. They have about 64 buttons. There should only be power, channel, volume, mute, and skip buttons. The rest is just showing off and sheer confusion.

I really hate it when I have a question and have to call  an IT help desk and they ask which version of Windows I'm running.  It is at that point that I have to explain I am completely illiterate when it comes to technology. I also can't stand it when someone tries answering a tech question for me by sending me a link to an article about it. I need a person with a gentle voice to hold my hand and show me how to tackle these difficult problems in life like how to change settings on an app, not some cold heartless memo.

So there you have my confession. My name is Tom and I struggle with technology. Thank goodness I have younger kids who understand all that stuff as a matter of instinct.

PS- On the bright side, I stopped saying World Wide Web recently.