Accra Ghana Temple

Accra Ghana Temple
Accra Ghana Temple

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Joseph's First Day at High School

It has been an unbelievable journey helping Joseph Apoya get a room and get accepted into high school here in Accra.

Suffice it to say that miracles do happen and prayers are answered.  

Here in Ghana, no one rents month by month. Landlords require 3 years rent up front.  Some even make you pay a fee to see the room they are renting!  Some require a down payment on a room that isn't for sure available yet.  And many make you pay an "agent"  which can easily turn out to be the owner of the land or building.  After many disappointments, Joseph finally did succeed.

Here's the happy picture of Joseph and me in his single room.  If you ask him about this room, he will tell you that it is "just perfect."  It is about 8 feet by 10 feet.  It does not have an indoor bathroom, shower or kitchen.  There is no running water.  But,he no longer shares a sleeping room with 20 other people.  And he is still very grateful to the man who let him sleep there for the last few years rent free.  For the first time in his life he is sleeping on a bed instead of the floor. And his rent is paid up for the next 3 years; that's how long it will take to finish high school.

Because he never dreamed he would be able to go to high school in Accra, he applied for admission in the northern region where it is less costly.  However, with the help of several Obruni (white) ladies and a teacher from his junior high school who felt he had potential, we were recently able to get him into a good high school here in Accra.  This required myself and this teacher taking him to the Ministry of Education.

His former teachers all liked him because he was a "self made" student.  He was chosen as the Head Prefect of his junior high because of his scholastic ability and hard work.  He will freely admit that he was a poor student until he realized that he could look up every word he didn't understand in the dictionary as he prepared for school each day.  And this he did without parents or family support of any kind.  He did meet a compassionate American tutor who passed his name on to us and sent money to make sure he had food.  He had a weekend job all through junior high to earn money for school fees and food.   

The drama of actually getting him into school was an intense few days.  School started October 22, 2012, and no word about a spot for Joseph.  We were really worried about his chances.  But, on October 30th, he got a call saying we must come to the Ministry and then go pay fees at the school immediately.  I dropped everything, borrowed a car and off we went.  At the ministry we received the paperwork for his admission to St. Thomas Aquinas High School.  We met the Assistant Headmistress and then set off for the bank to pay the fees.  Here is a picture of Joseph in his uniform on his first day of high school.  

God really does work in the details of our lives.  He knows and cares for each of His children; even a little orphan boy in Acrra, Ghana, Africa.        

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Babies of the Year

We saw some very cute babies on Safari.  We thought we would share our favorites.

baby Zebra

baby Oryx

baby Cheetahs

baby Lion

baby Elephant

baby Giraffe

baby Vervet Monkey

baby Warthogs - as Gregg says, that's a face only a mother could love...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Serengeti - the Endless Plain

Ah, the beautiful Serengeti.  If you only had the time or money to visit one place on Safari, I would choose the Serengeti in Tanzania.  Just be forewarned that these are extremely bumpy roads, to be rivaled only by the roads of Masai Mara.    

This was the first time that we have seen an animal skeleton hanging from a tree branch (a young wildebeest).  That's a sure sign of leopard nearby. We drove on.  This was the magic moment when we got to see a leopard!  She was sleeping up on the ledge of a rock formation in the middle of this Endless Plain of dried golden grass.  She woke up, stood, climbed to a higher ledge, looked out at her adoring fan club and went back to sleep.   

Although most of the wildebeest and zebra have crossed over the river and are in Kenya, we saw plenty.  We watched a group of over 200 zebras running somewhere.  

We also saw 50 Masai giraffe.  They are everywhere with many young ones.  What amazes me is that this branch is completely covered with big thorns.  Somehow, they are able to  enjoy the leaves while not getting injured.  

We visited 2 fabulous hippo pools.  There were at least 50 hippos.  They grunt, snort, and have skirmishes in the water.  But when they come on land they are perfectly quiet.  I was amazed at how big some of the females are.  

We also saw a 6 foot long black snake cross the road; our guide said it was either a black mamba or a black cobra.  My first snake siting in Africa.  Luckily I was in a vehicle!!  Almost all snakes in Africa are venomous.  Somehow, the rattlesnakes back home don't seen so threatening.  At least they give you some warning that they are there.

It was an amazing Safari.  I'm so glad we went.  Thank you Gregg.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is a large ancient volcanic caldera and a great place to see African animals.  This conservation area is surrounded by Masai villages.  We passed many Masai warriors with their cattle, which graze around the crater.

Our tent camp was at the top of the crater.  Since this camp is in the bush, we had to be accompanied to and from our tent (for our safety) by a Masai.  It was cold here (altitude), but they supplied a space heater in the tent and a hot water bottle in the bed (which I needed more than Gregg did).  

In the crater we saw 4 of the Big 5 animals.  The Big 5 are the five most dangerous African animals to hunt on foot; elephant, lion, leopard, cape buffalo, and rhino.  We lacked only the leopard.  However, we saw the shy and elusive black rhino here.  We were told that there are not many left and it is rare to see them in the wild.

Here is Gregg's favorite lion picture of the safari. This male and his pride of lionesses had just killed and eaten a Cape Buffalo and he seemed quite proud of himself (although I'll bet the lady lions did all the work).

The lionesses looked like my boys after a Thanksgiving meal!

Hippos seem to live a life of leisure.  They are dangerous and we needed to be in a vehicle to get this close.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Masai Mara and the Great Migration

Masai Mara is the Kenya side of the Serengeti.  Right now the great migration is happening  there.  On our game drive we saw zebra and wildebeest everywhere.  All it takes is one to start a race to the river.  There were too many to count, thousands, all running full speed toward the river.  As they got within 50 yards a lioness suddenly appeared walking toward the river and everybody came to an immediate halt.  As Gregg would say, "live to cross another day."  To be honest, I didn't want to see the crocodiles get any of them.

Our favorite sighting was a mother cheetah and her 3 cubs sitting on a bushy mound in the middle of the savannah.  We were able to drive quite close for a photo.  She didn't seem to mind.  Some of these encounters made us feel almost invisible.  

We also saw a male ostrich seated on a nest of eggs.  I had no idea that both parents take turns sitting on the eggs until they hatch.  We could see 3 eggs; look straight down from his neck.  Our guide said that he would probably sit there all day and she would sit there all night.  There could be as many as 20 eggs in the nest.  

We visitied a Masai village.  Very fascinating.  Both the women and men danced for us.  The warriors can jump amazingly high!  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Mount Kenya Safari Club

In between our "tent camping" we stayed at the beautiful Mount Kenya Safari Club, easily a 5 star resort.  With magnificent views of majestic Mount Kenya, the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club Resort is set in over 100 acres of landscaped gardens.  Originally the retreat of movie star and Club founder, William Holden, the Club's illustrious former members have included Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby.

After roughing it in a tent, we were quite happy to be spoiled.  It was cold and rainy (altitude 7000 feet) part of the time and we were grateful for the fireplace in our room and the hot water bottles placed in our bed each night.  

I must admit that we never saw an elephant with tusks this size.  Amazing!  

There were remnants of hunting days and roses throughout the resort.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Amboseli - Elephant Heaven

We loved our visit to Amboseli. It is truly an elephant heaven.  There are lots of other animals there too, but the elephants were my favorite.  And if you are really lucky, you can see  Mt. Kilamanjaro in the background.  It is a massive snow covered mountain.  Clouds move in and hang over it much of the time.

It is amazing to have elephants walk right past the van and see them at such close range.  Some bulls are loners, but some travel around with their familiy.  Our driver stopped the van so we could watch a group of elephants cross the road.  This familly included mothers, babies and a great big bull.  Some crossed the road in front of or behind the van.  Apparently the preferred route for this bull was right where we were parked.  As he approached us he stopped with his ears flapping.   Our driver read the body language and quickly moved our van 6 feet forward, at which point the bull crossed the road immediately behind us.  We asked the driver what might have happened if he hadn't moved the van and he said, "he would probably have walked right over us!"

There is a big swamp fed by natural springs in Amboseli.  The elephants love this swamp.  Their idea of wonderful is spending the day in the swamp up to their bellies.  The little ones are too small to stay in the swamp, but take the plunge only to be rescued by their mothers and lifted up on the grass.  They eat and enjoy the grass and water all day long.  

Elephants love to stop and roll in the dirt and are sure to throw some dirt and dry grass up on their backs.    

We saw some playful calves.  A little head butting anyone?  One day these guys will need to be able to push over a tree for food.  

This little one would dart away from his mother, quickly turn around and run back.  You can tell a newborn, because they can walk underneath their mother.

Honestly, there is nothing cuter than a baby elephant! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Samburu Game Reserve in Kenya

We began our long awaited Safari in Kenya's Samburu Game Reserve.  Samburu was action packed; one National Geographic moment after the other.  

Right out of the shoot we came upon a pride of 8 lions with a giraffe kill.  It is not that common for lions to take down a giraffe so we are left to wonder if this giraffe was old or injured.  In this particular pride, the alpha male ate first.  When he was willing, the alpha female got to eat.  This male lion lay next to the kill and only allowed one lion to eat at a time.  If anyone stepped out of line, there was a loud roar which quickly restored order.  He was a little more tolerant of the younger ones jumping in than I expected.  Up in the top of the trees we saw a dozen very hopeful vultures and on the ground several optomistic jackals sit patiently awaiting their chance.  Don't hold your breath guys; that might not happen for days!

Our next amazing experience was an elephant encounter.  Parked on the opposite bank, we watched this group of 25 elephants come to the river to drink. Is there anything cuter than a baby elephant? 

Here is a lioness and her 3 cubs on their way to the river to drink.  The animals have become accustomed to the tour vehicles.  Five lions and these 3 cubs walked right next to our van.  The adult lions crossed the road first.  For a moment, the cubs lost sight of their mother and began to whimper, appearing to be afraid.  She came back to rescue them as they crossed the road.  

Three things that we saw ONLY in Samburu are worth a mention.  One is the Grevy Zebra, which has very narrow stripes.  Very fancy duds!

The other is the Gerenuk, an antelope that feeds standing on its back two legs.  We are pretty sure the leaves up a little higher must taste better. 

The last is the reticulated giraffe.   Notice the big brown tiles with wide white caulking.  I thought all giraffes looked just like this.  Stay tuned to find out what I learned.  This guy stays tick-free with a little help from his friends (the birds).  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Operation Smile

Operation Smile came to Ghana and I got to be a nurse for a week!  Their focus is patients in need of surgical repair of cleft lip and cleft palate.  This is done at no cost to the patient.  Housing and food are also provided to the patient and a family member.

I worked in the pre-op/post-op "tent" at Ridge Hospital in Accra, Ghana.  This was a first for me.  I did screening interviews.  People came from all over Ghana hoping to have surgery.  We had local and foreign pediatricians with us in the tent who helped determine if someone was a candidate for surgery or not.  Some of the adults had high blood pressure.  One child had malaria.  Sorry, no surgery this year.  We had two "scabies babies."  Fortunately, after 3 baths with the anti-scabies cream, they could have surgery. 

To assure that the patients had nothing to eat or drink after dinner, they spent the night in the tent and slept on foam mats on the floor the night before surgery.  Ghanaians are very patient and tolerate inconveniences well.  Before surgery, the babies cry because they are thirsty.  After surgery, the babies cry because they are thirsty.  I felt like I was feeding baby birds as I gave them apple juice with a syringe.  That is easier for them to swallow than liquid from a cup.  Often, the cleft palates had to continue with nothing to eat or drink for a day after surgery.  Explain that to a 6 month old, I dare you!  The best you can do is distract them with a toy or bubbles (which they've never seen before) and keep their IV intact so they are hydrated.  Watching a young woman look at her new face in the mirror after surgery was wonderful.

It was amazing to be part of this "Mission."  We had nurses and doctors from around the world.  We had plenty of volunteers from the Peace Corps, the Lions Club and yes, the LDS Church.  Our Area Welfare Humanitarian Services partnered with Operation Smile as a sponsor.  At the conclusion of the 10 days, 321 individuals had received comprehensive physical exams and 111 surgeries had been performed.  Our youngest surgery was 4 months and our oldest was 74 years old.  Lives were changed.  It was a miracle.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Visit to the Ghana MTC

We're back in Ghana and couldn't wait to go visit the young Elders and Sisters at the Ghana MTC in Tema (20 miles west of Accra).  It always gives us a great lift, especially at their fast and testimony meeting.

Most of the missionaries are from Africa; today we met missionaries from Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Cape Verde.  There were about 8 Obroni (white folks) Elders, mostly from the United States with one from South Africa.  This MTC group is about 54 in number; the next group will be 92 (and that's an all time record).  

Among their numbers, we met young Elder Ballard.  Since his grandfather was Gregg's mission president in Toronto, Canada, we promised to look in on Truman.  He looked well and happy.  He has been in Africa about 2 weeks and is adjusting well.  It was fun to learn that he has been to Ghana before, and even did his Eagle Project here.  He'll have a great mission in Ghana.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Painting Ayi Mensah

Great things are happening at our little Ayi Mensah School.  This week 7 Obroni (white) women arrived with tape, brushes, rollers, and paint; and we painted the inside of the 4 completed classrooms.  Wearing the red shirt is Sally Murray who started the "Ayi Mensah project." She returned to Ghana with some friends to help paint.

The room preparation was more than we expected.  While moving everything away from the walls, we came upon a cluster of baby mice.  We also had to sweep down spider webs from the walls.  Little did I realize that we would be using a machete (here they call it a cutlass) to knock random hunks of cement off the walls.   And then we swept the edges of the room.  There hasn't been much sweeping done here for a while...

We taped around the blackboard and were ready to prime the plaster (these walls have never been painted before).  The village chief noticed our presence and came over to thank us for all we have done for his village.  He is old, wise, and has a great smile (on the right).   

Ayi Mensah began without a building and was only a teacher and her students under a big tree.  On day #2 of our painting the children had to leave the school and returned to their beginning.  They all carried a chair upside down on their heads out to study under the tree while we worked.  Three of the teachers came ready to help us paint.  They all seemed surprised that white ladies could actually work!  I'm glad we got that clarified.  We had a chance to explain to them that all of our grandparents were farmers and ranchers, and our parents grew up working on farms.  They were not expecting that.  This day all the students received a school bag c/o Dani Taylor in Utah.  Thanks Dani.

Day #3 brought a big rainstorm midday.  The children came running with upside down chairs on their heads to the classroom we finished painting earlier.  Again 3 teachers help us paint.  We learned later that this was a considered a recreation day for them (they would not be paid).  But, they wanted to be part of this good thing that was happening at their school.  And believe me, it looks much better!  

This school exists today because of generous donations of others. We have 4 complete, but basic classrooms.  Classroom #5 has a foundation and walls; we hope to get the roof on soon.  If you would like to contribute to help us complete Ayi Mensah (we need 3 more classrooms) please send your check to: (Forever Young is an NGO-your donation is tax deductible and we have NO overhead costs)
Forever Young
c/o Sally Murray
8695 South 4770 West
West Jordan, UT  84088