Accra Ghana Temple

Accra Ghana Temple
Accra Ghana Temple

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Employee Christmas Socials 2011

Gregg went to all the Employee Christmas Socials in West Africa this year...and he took me with him!  The largest one was in Accra, where we have the greatest number of employees.  We also visited employees in Lagos, Nigeria as well as Aba, Nigeria (Niger River Delta) and Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). 

Ivory Coast is a French speaking country.  Everyone was kind enough to employ their English while we were there.  Abidjan totally amazed me.  They have a downtown with skyscrapers!  The freeway (yes, freeway) is 3 lanes each way and flowing.  Abidjan has a wonderful 5 star hotel, the Tiama (only equalled by the Hilton in Abuja, Nigeria) with a wonderful restaurant.  There are some things the French do very well....  

Each social had a Christmas program.  That is really important in sharing the spirit of Christmas; the music, the story, and a gift from the First Presidency to each employee.  We enjoyed the premier performance of the Ivory Coast Employee Choir (all five of them sang).  They said they were very honored by my visit; the first wife of a DTA ever to visit Cote d'Ivoire!       

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Visit to the Aba, Nigeria Temple

Due to security concerns, I wasn't sure I would ever get to visit the Aba, Nigeria Temple.  But with special security arrangements and travel plans, I made it!  This was a very eye opening experience for me.  I am thankful for opportunities that help me better understand Gregg's world.  

Gregg has often told me that Aba is his favorite temple because he was there when President Hinckley dedicated it and had some very special experiences there.  The grounds remind him of the Garden of Eden and there is a profound feeling of peace in this sometimes troubled region of the world.  

We were there for the Employee Christmas Social.  The employees were visibly happy that Gregg came.  One person there described it like this, "every time Gregg Dunn comes here it gives us all a boost."  I don't think anyone knew we were coming.  I have often taken comfort that part of what keeps him safe is that he just shows up unannounced and leaves just as quietly. 

It was very interesting for us to be THE only white people around from the airport to the temple grounds.  At some of the traffic stops, there are vendors (including some children).  They would enthusiastically point at me and smile.  Gregg explained, "They haven't seen a white lady in quite a while."  We passed through 10-15 military/police checkpoints.  It gave me an eery feeling but Gregg says it helps keep the bandits and kidnappers in check.  He reminded me that these are the "good guys."  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving in Ghana

Thanksgiving in Ghana is a unique and fun event.  We gathered with 40 of our dearest friends at the home of our Area President and enjoyed a very traditional Thanksgiving Feast.  With us were the Area Presidency, the Accra Temple Presidency, Mission Presidents from Accra and the MTC, missionary couples and expat employees.  There is nothing like a taste of home when you live abroad.  

We probably enjoyed the same things you did:  turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, relish tray, fresh fruit salad and homemade rolls and pies. 

 In my quest to make the perfect stuffing, I do admit that I spent $15 for a bunch of celery.  I'm sure it is imported and this is the one time a year that I give myself permission to indulge and buy celery.  Everything we buy here costs 3-4 times what we would pay in the U.S. because it all has to be brought in from elsewhere.  Local fruit and vegetables are the exception.

The most unique thing about our Thanksgiving in Ghana was how we got a turkey.  You can buy a frozen turkey here and it will cost $100.  When we returned from Conference in October, Gregg packed a frozen turkey in his carry-on.  As long as it is frozen, TSA has no problem with it.  They did want to take a look at it and wondered why he would pack a turkey.  He told them that he works in Ghana, Africa and he wants turkey on Thanksgiving!  Their response was to give him a high five.  And it arrived still frozen!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Batik Class with Esther

Five ladies and I headed to Adenta on Saturday to learn the art of batik from our dear friend Esther.  I have come to be grateful for an iPad with a map feature; we never got lost once!  Here is Esther with the wall of batik stamps (foam blocks with a design carved into them).  The hardest part of batiking was choosing which stamps to use and what 3 colors of dye to experiment with.  The rest was just fun.  

For me it went like this.
Step 1:  Stamp the design with parafin wax on the white fabric.
Step 2:  I chose to dye the fabric blue and it was laid it out to dry on the grass (it is amazing to watch the color change as the fabric dries).

Step 3:  Stamp a different design with parafin wax on the blue fabric.
Step 4:  Next I chose to dye the fabric purple and it was laid it out to dry on the grass.

Step 5:  Stamp a different design with parafin wax on the purple fabric.
Step 6:  I chose to dye the fabric dark purple and it was laid out on the grass to dry (it turned navy blue - oh well).
Fortunately, we had help with the dying process which really requires rubber boots, gloves, and apron.  We also had help with the final step which is dipping the fabric in a boiling cauldron to remove the wax for reuse.

I'm happy with the outcome; I think all six of us are.  I have a great kitchen tablecloth! 

Our amusement for the day was this little fellow, who was only tied up because we were there.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ghana golf

Yes, we golf in Ghana.  It may not be a beautiful course like we are used to in the U.S., but for a golf-starved husband ... it will do.  

Our favorite course so far is the Tema Country Golf Club.  During the wet season we have pretty good greens and some grass on the fairways.  During the dry season it is hard packed fairways, but Gregg likes it because he gets a great roll.  There's a lot of red dirt so we come home pretty dusty from the knees down.  

There are no electric golf carts here, so you walk and a caddy is required.  A caddy is really essential, it is too hot and humid to carry your own clubs.  But the most important part is that if you have a good caddy, you never, never lose a golf ball in the trees.  These guys are truly amazing.  They seem to have telescopes for eyes.  They go right to where the ball entered the jungle and disappear and come back in a few moments with your ball.  Also, if you want, your ball will always be on a tuft of grass, much better than on the dirt where your ball may have come to rest.  As long as they know what you want, that is what you will get.  The price for this wonderful service is about $10 and you buy them a cold bottle of water between the 9th and 10th holes.

On our first visit, there were two "greens" which were hard packed sand covered with oil. They have now been replaced with grass greens.  Gregg says the greens are not too bad and probably the best part of the course.  

They have a nice outdoor clubhouse where you can get a cold water or soda which is wonderful considering how very hot and humid it is here.  Although Gregg tees off early he is usually soaking wet to his knees after nine holes.  I worry sometimes as it is a set up for heat exhaustion.  We've decided that on those 'hotter than hades' days, maybe 9 holes is enough.   

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fishy business in Tema

Since we were a little unsure of the street fish vendors here in Accra, we decided to go to the source.  We made the 30 minute trip to a fish market in a nearby port city (Tema) with friends.  The expats from the U.S. Embassy go here and one of them was our guide.

We really enjoy markets and bartering for things, so this was very fun (especially for Gregg)! We took a camera and a cooler with ice to bring our prizes home. The trick of the matter is knowing how to determine if the fish is fresh:
  • Look for bright, clear eyes. The eyes are the window to a truly fresh fish, as they fade quickly into gray dullness. Dull-eyed fish may be safe to eat, but they are past their prime.
  • Next look at the fish. Does it shine? Does It look metallic and clean?  Has it dulled or does it have discolored patches on it? If so, It is marginal.
  • Smell it. A fresh fish should smell like clean water, or a touch briny or even like cucumbers.  Under no circumstance should you buy a nasty smelling fish. Cooking won't improve it!
  • Look at the gills. They should be a rich red. If the fish is old, they will turn the color of faded brick
Our prizes: We bought 2 “medium” sized lobsters for $5 each; we had them cut the tails off. Red Snapper, we bought 2 large ones for about $5 each; we had them filleted.  A large, irresistable grouper (18 pounds) for $53; we had them fillet it (this made 9 meals).  Two Sole for about $5 total and they skinned them for us. We wanted Swordfish, but there was none.  We passed on the Calamari (Squid), Tuna, and Tilapia, but they looked good.

They offered us the fish heads and tails from our purchase, but we passed.  Next time we will bring them back for the security guards or our Ghanaian friends that like to make fish head soup (very popular here).

We already have a shopping list for our next trip:  tuna, swordfish and more lobsters!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Road Trip to Wli Falls

It's not Yosemite... but Ghana's Wli falls are magnificent.  We heard how wonderful Wli (pronounced Vlee) falls are, especially during the rainy season.  These are the highest waterfalls in West Africa cascading down 60 to 80 meters, falling into a pool at the base of the cliff.  We took a 3 day road trip with friends from the West Africa Area Office, overnighting in Ho, Ghana both going to and coming from the falls.  Along the way, we visited the Akosombo Dam, a Monkey Sanctuary, a Kente Cloth weaving village, and we saw baboons ripping apart a road sign.

After overnighting in Ho at the wonderful Sky Plus Hotel, we set out early to reach the falls on a 4 hour drive through the beautiful hills and mountains of Ghana's Volta Region.  We arrived at the "ranger station" where we paid our fees and had our last visit to a bathroom (although the water wasn't running and we had to carry in our own bucket of water to make the toilet flush).  Thank goodness for hand sanitizer!  Running water and soap are just not available everywhere.      

We hiked for about an hour along a pretty good trail through a beautiful rain forest, using 11 bridges to cross over the meandering river.  During the rainy season you can hear the falls thundering before you can see them.  When we arrived at the falls, the mist travelled out many meters which really helped to cool us off.  Thousands of bats make their home along the cliffs surrounding the falls which adds to the ambiance of this African adventure.   

There are both upper and lower falls.  Due to the danger of the trail during the rainy season, we were unable to visit the upper falls.  And you know what that means....
Gregg's going to make us go back!  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Home for General Conference and Family time

Gregg and I returned home for General Conference and  DTA (Director of Temporal Affairs) Training Meetings.  It was a very full week.  Two of our children, Brooke and Scott and their spouses, were in North Salt Lake with us.  The pictures are Gregg with Aiden and me with Oakley (Brooke and Joe's children).

While Gregg returned to Africa, I traveled to Reno with Brooke and her son, Aiden, to be Grandma for a week with Greg and Alison's children. I am pictured with Ruth, Grace, and Lina in our banana skirts, and with Collin in our African shirts. Greg and Alison headed off to Yosemite for some great hiking.  My mom also joined us in Reno, which was fun.  I filled my hug quota and won't be back to the U.S. until next July.  It is hard to believe how fast little people grow. 
Oh, how we love them! 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Esther's Baptism

After moving to Ghana, one of the first places I visited with the other Ex-pat wives was Esther's shop.  Never judge a book by it's cover, because once you step inside, you enter a world of beautiful batik and stamped fabrics (made by her) and some ready-made African clothes. I believe every one of us wear clothes made by Esther.  What an entrepreneur she is!  

Someone knew that her son was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  And so we began talking to her about the church.  Initially she told us that she had a Book of Mormon.  She also said, "This church is good for my son, but not for me."

We visited one day when she was not feeling well; she thought it was malaria.  On another day she thought it was menopause.  Little by little she became more open to the church.  She wanted to invite more blessings into her life.  

Gregg and I visit a different church building every Sunday.  The guy in charge of buildings (Gregg) really goes out and checks on those buildings!  On July 24th, we visited the Adenta building.  After Sacrament meeting Esther came up and told us that this was her second time at church.  She also said that she wanted to be baptized.  We connected her with the missionaries right then and they taught her that very afternoon.  She had a hard time matching up with the missionaries after that because her home is in Adenta and her shop is in Accra.  That's a 1 hour drive for me.

This is a picture of us standing in her workshop.  Behind us are the foam stamps she uses on the fabric.

Last Saturday, September 17th, we attended Esther's 7 a.m. baptism.  Does anyone else have 7 a.m. baptisms or is that just in Ghana?  She looked radiant and told me she was ready to make this commitment.  I will never forget the image of her dressed in white standing in the baptismal font.  The next day at church she was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and given the Holy Ghost.

It's a new page and the beginning of her new life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Beautiful World of Flowers

Not only do I live in a place where I get summer every day of the year, but I am literally surrounded by flowers of every color and size imaginable.  The houseplants and ficus trees that we try to keep alive in our living rooms in America thrive in my front yard in Ghana.  

Most of the flowers are on bushes or trees.  There are only a few that grow from the ground.  But, Bird of Paradise is one of them!  I live in a flower garden.   The first time I cut flowers from the yard and put them in a vase on the table, I soon had many tiny ants all over the table as well.  Now I always submerse the flowers to avoid that problem

Bougainvillea loves the climate here and has to be controlled or it will choke out the trees on which it climbs.  This actually happened to our neighbor's tree.  When a stiff wind came along, the tree fell over landing on his SUV.  These look like tissue paper flowers and come in every hue. 

Another fascinating thing about these flowering trees is that they flower continuously.  There is no season where we do not have flowers; ah, perpetual summer.   

For a very special occasion here like a wedding or a funeral, the flowers of choice are....
SILK FLOWERS!  I understand this; if you can't have roses, have silk.  The only flower shops I have seen here sell ... you guessed it, silk flowers.    

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Going to the Dentist in Ghana?

Something I had really hoped to avoid during my stay in Ghana was a visit to the doctor and the dentist....  I've now done both.  The visit to a Ghanaian doctor occurred as the last step in obtaining residency here.  It turned out to be a visit to Emmanuel Kissi, a famous LDS pioneer here, who took our blood pressure and smiled at us.  We are now official Ghanaian "residents."  It takes up a whole page in my passport, but removes many restrictions on my coming and going.  I no longer have to leave the country every 90 days to stay in good graces with immigration.

The visit to the dentist occurred this week when the crown on a molar came off.  Fortunately, our Area Medical Advisor recommended a dentist who had been trained in the US.  And so I met Dr. Tutuh who owns and runs "New World Dental Clinic." His certificates on the wall indicate training at Washington, DC and Michigan.  

It turned out to be a positive experience.  He put on a mask, a new pair of gloves and opened a sterile package containing the instruments he used on me.  I had a completely painless experience.  Lucky me.  A little cement and I was on my way.  Thank you Dr. Tutuh!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Liberian Orphanage - Giving Hope to the Hopeless

A few blogs ago I talked about "Dancing and Drums."  All the performers were from the Liberian Orphanage.  This week Gregg and I had the opportunity to visit the orphanage and deliver some art and reading supplies.  

The orphanage is located in the Buduburam Refugee Camp, about an hour outside of Accra.  

The Refugee Orphan Home at the Buduburam Refegee Camp in Ghana was established in 2008 by Andy Jones, of Salt Lake City, to meet the basic needs of about 50 young Liberian refugees. These resiliant children were identified as abandoned or orphaned children, in legitimate need of oustide assistance for provision of food, shelter, medical care, education, loving guardianship, and hope for a better tomorrow. Full time administrators and staff are chosen from among Liberian refugees at the camp.  Funding is provided entirely by private individual donors, with no government support. This orphanage does not do adoptions at this time.  

Today the orphanage meets the needs of 28 children and young adults.  The vision for the future is relocating the children and the orphanage home to Liberia. 

The force behind the orphanage is The Africa Heartwood Project.  They have a great website and hope to find a sponsor for each child at the orphanage.  Their motto is "Giving Hope to the Hopeless."  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Akosombo Dam

Our latest road trip was to the Akosombo Dam, about a 2 1/2 hour ride from Accra.  This dam was started by the first President of Ghana, Kwame Nkruma in 1961 and the Akosombo Dam was officially opened by Nkrumah on January 22, 1966.  Kwame Nrumah described it as "the greatest of all our development projects."

Before arriving at the dam we passed a beautiful arching bridge over the Volta River.  The nice road to the Akosombo Dam makes for a very pleasant drive.    

The dam is impressive (not on the same scale as Hoover or Aswan) and has created the largest man-made lake in the world, Lake Volta, collecting water from the Red Volta, the White Volta, and the Black Volta Rivers.  The hydroelectric energy harnessed at this dam powers all of Ghana and several of our neighboring countries. 

For security reasons, it is not possible to drive across the dam.  But, an outside walking tour is available giving one a bird's eye view of the six turbines.
I am personally very grateful for this dam as I have learned that with enough air conditioning, I can do Africa!