The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Scholarships from Abroad–part one

 

It was not my intention to become a scholarship committee, and yet here I find myself in the midst of the perfect storm of crushing need, resources abroad, and year-end urgency.

Lets back up.

Six more months ago our friends Lynn & Skip were living on the other side of the faculty bungalow.  Skip teaches at Ashesi, and Lynn in the village schools.

Lynn is the kind of person I aspire to be, deeply compassionate, fragile, thoughtful, and a very good cook. She is so comfortable in her identity that just being in the same room makes you feel like the kind of person you always wanted to be. Like a sponge wiping up a spill, her personality absorbs the anxiety I have about where I am on that journey.

Lynn in a hat

[Lynn with teacher]

Lynn brings a message of non-violence to the village schools.  She believes when children are treated with respect and dignity, even when their behavior is not positive, they will try harder to respond with a more proper behavior.  Fear is not the tool of good teacher.  Pain is not a good motivator.

Lynn teaches the teachers

[Lynn presents to the teachers]

She heard from the teachers how students were not motivated to study for high school entrance exams; there was no money for tuition. In Ghana, schooling up through junior high is relatively free, but high school has a tuition that starts at about $300.

Lynn teaches some folk dancing

[Lynn teaches folk dancing]

So last May, Lynn offered to provide scholarships to students who passed their High School Entrance Exam.  Up to this point, that number has been one or two each year. In October, the results from the senior high school entrance exams were published.  Margaret, the school headmistress notified Lynn that thirty village students had passed, and Lynn asked if I could help with the distribution of the scholarships. 

Ministry is always more fun when you share the load, so after Lynn contacted me, I met with Adams, a student I have high regard for.  I explained the project to Adams and he organized some students to help. Adams recruited Yahaya, and Affum, and the trio become the guys. Yahyah is an orphan from Village of Hope, Affum is Ashesi’s first student from the village of Berekuso, and Adams, an amazing leader. It is a good team.

Steve and "The Guys"

[The Guys: Yahyah, Affum, Adams & Rev. Steve]

The Guys are helping for a variety of reasons.  Some knew Skip, some just like doing stuff with me, and one is helping his village. They are good young men, who received their education from scholarship, so perfect for guiding this project.

We sat on our back porch having coffee and eating digestive biscuits, figuring out how the project would work.  These young men already have such amazing leadership and problem solving skills. I just bring up a situation, and they clarify the question, determine a method for answering it, and then seek the best, honorable solution.  I watch in awe.   They ended up interviewing twenty students, eighteen who qualified. Those that didn’t, had just showed up, I guess, because they heard the we were give out scholarships.

Adams

[Adams interviewing a student]

In the next installment read how the scholarships get funded.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Secret to Shelia’s “Chicken and Red Sauce”

IMG_3128 
A friend of our son wants to make a him Ghanaian comfort food for his birthday.  Sheila’s Chicken and Red Sauce is the gold standard.  Prepared in the afternoon, the chicken is served room temperature with piping hot Red Sauce, white rice and a fruit salad. 
In 2009, Shelia taught me it’s secrets.

Shelia & Steve

[Steve & Shelia cooking in 2009]

There are two recipes that are cooked concurrently, often in the early afternoon before the house got hot.

Fried Chicken

8 medium onions, quartered
2 fists of garlic, skinned and cut
4 fingers of ginger, skinned and cut into slices
3 small chickens, cut up.
2t salt
Oil for frying (safflower or sunflower)

Method:

Chop onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender until rough-smooth. Pour over cut up chicken and cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes.
“steaming” the chicken

[“steaming” the chicken]

Add salt, stir and continue to cook until chicken thoroughly cooked and just starts to pull away from the bone. Shelia calls this “steaming the chicken.”
While chicken is “steaming” start work on the Red Sauce (see next recipe).
When chicken begins to pull away from the bone, steaming as long as 30 minutes (depending on the tenderness of the chicken) turn fire off and remove chicken with tongs and place in a colander, capturing the stock that drains off and returning it to the stock pot. Let chicken cool slightly.

IMG_3118

IMG_3123

[frying the steamed chicken]

In a large, deep frying pan add one half to three quarters inch of light oil. Heat oil until hot, then carefully add chicken to one layer. Cook until chicken is deep brown on all sides and remove. Drain on paper towel, and cover. Cook chicken in batches.

 

Red Sauce

IMG_3060

[peppers and tomatoes]

32 Roma Tomatoes, quartered (or 3 large tins of diced tomatoes)
1 handful of small hot habanero peppers, steamed and seeded (if you want to reduce the heat).
3 medium onions, halved and then sliced in half moons.
1-2 cups light oil (safflower or sunflower)
2 tins of tomato paste (70gr each)
½ c dried shrimps (or 4 cubes of Maggie – Maggie is a concentrated flavor cube [wiki]).  Or use extra salt or flavoring cubes. 
4 cups stock from the steamed chicken (see previous recipe)
3 T curry powder
3 green peppers, cubed, or cut in nickel sized pieces  (add right before serving)

IMG_3073

[fried onions and pureed tomatoes and peppers]

Method:

In a large stock pan, fry onions in oil until just brown at the edges.
While onions are frying, puree tomatoes and peppers in a blender of food processor until smooth and add to fried onions. 

IMG_3078

IMG_3141

[sauce reduction, see how its level reduces in pan]

Cook on high until reduced by half (about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning).
When reduced by half, add 2 tins of tomato paste, and blend until smooth, cooking on medium heat.
Add half cup of dried shrimps (or 4 cubes Maggie). Stir often to prevent burning.

IMG_3098

[dried ground shrimps added, see how much sauce has reduced]

Add 4 cups of stock from the chicken, (which should replace half of the liquid that was reduced by cooking). 

IMG_3111

[chicken stock added]

Cook until thick.  Add in 3 T curry powder and turn off fire and correct seasoning, adding salt if needed. 
Tip: Do not cook curry powder as it loses its flavor and becomes bitter.
Just before serving, stir in cubed green peppers.
Serve with rice and fruit salad.

Thoughts on Cooking

I wonder why it is I am drawn to doing the things that only last for the moment, like

performing music

preaching

cooking

things that are fully consuming, but once completed, become memories.
I look at the artwork my kids have made over the years, and they are for us, a moment in time, captured. But for most of what I really I enjoy doing, there are only memories.
Like my mom teaching me to make what I now call "Iowa Chili," though it should more rightly be called "Kansas Chili" because that is where she was raised, but I learned it in Iowa. Iowa Chili doesn't have garlic, it does have kidney beans, along with ground beef, and uses tomato sauce along with the whole tomatoes.
Texas Chili is way different, as is Grubstake Chili. Each has been taught to me in a kitchen of shared love, love of food, love of the cooking process, love of the companionship of learning and teaching food, and the stories.
At my first church, the kitchen was where everything important happened. We cooked together, talked, enjoyed each other's friendship in that room. If I needed to think or talk to someone, staff knew it would happen in the kitchen.
At my last church, I taught a cooking class that prepared food for 100 in a couple of hours from raw ingredients.  It really was an excuse for us to gather in the kitchen and enjoy each other for a few hours.  It was an amazing kitchen. 
Not every church has a kitchen like that.  In one church I served the kitchen was a room designed by someone who doesn't like to cook. It lacked a soul, odd for a building that has such vibrancy in its design and construction.
I know rooms are not alive, that they don't have a soul, but there is something about this kitchen that is missing. It may be what my daughter Anna talks about, when she says "chain food" doesn't have love in it. She can taste if the love is there, she says, and knows if the person who made it cared.
Food is symbolic of Love when words are inadequate. – Alan D. Wolfelt
Eating dinner that night Shelia taught me her Chicken and Red Sauce, around the Mozley's large table, eating this wonderful food, with these great friends, I remember thinking, if my Anna was here, she would taste the love, and the friendship that produced and shared this meal. It made me think that food is not just to something to sustain our bodies, but when shared, to sustain our souls.
The secret to Shelia’s Chicken and Red Sauce?  Love.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 20, 2014

What We Will Do When… (Ebola Comes to Ghana)

1-IMG_0780
Each morning Suzanne and I watch the news to hear the latest on Ebola. We fear one morning we will wake to learn Ebola has made it to Ghana. When it does, Ghana will be ready.

Hospitals are Preparing

Suzanne gets checked out before entering the hospital[Suzanne being screened at Focos Hospital]

We were paying a bill at the nearest hospital. Outside there was a nurse who took our temperature and interviewed us for five minutes before allowing us inside, to pay my bill.
The trouble is many tropical diseases initially present with similar symptoms to Ebola: fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, joint muscle pains, stomach pain, lack of appetite. In the weeks our nurse has been monitoring, she has found many with those symptoms—this is a hospital after all—but none with Ebola.

Churches are Preparing

Steve at the communion table with Ebola Safe Elements[Steve presiding over communion]

At our church in Accra, hugging, shaking hands, even holding hands at the end of the service for “the Grace” was stopped.
Shared communion elements were changed to prepackaged individual servings. It is good that we are practicing this now, before Ebola hits, so that when it does, we are ready.

Ebola Safe Communion Elements[table with safe communion elements]

Ashesi Prepares

At Ashesi, we had two days of Ebola training from the Ghana Ministry of Health. We learned that Ebola first appeared in South Sudan, but identified months later in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976, near the Ebola River.

Ebola Training Workshop

Of the five known strains, this outbreak is the first time the Zaire strain has appeared in West Africa. Suspected to have jumped from bush animals (who are carriers, but not affected) to humans, hunters and those who prepare food were the first to be infected, followed by health care workers. 

Practice spraying down that PPE[Ashesi Ebola Training, PPE and spray practice]

“This is a crisis of Leadership and Citizenship” the president and founder of Ashesi said at a September Town Hall Meeting.
Leadership in how the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone initially responded.
Citizenship in how the public and patients lied, or left out important details in healthcare in screenings. 

0.5% Chlorine Spray[Ashesi Ebola Training: Spray down that camera]

Ashesi has started construction of two isolation units on the edge of the campus. If a someone becomes suspect they are quarantined until the ambulance arrives.
In a few weeks we will start having preparedness exercises on campus to practice what we have learned. 

 

So what will We do?

2-IMG_0772

When Ebola comes to Ghana we will stay, doing what we do now, unless the University is closed down. Then we will leave until it is safe to come back.
Today, we feel perfectly safe in Ghana, and are thankful our community is making preparations for when Ebola does come.
It is not a matter of if.
However, this highlights one of the very few positives of being located on a very bad road. Nothing arrives here by accident, and by God’s Grace, neither will Ebola.

card4445-380x228[from www.thisisindexed.com – a fun website that puts everything in perspective]

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Transparent Man at The Zayaa Mosque

1-IMG_9636

Typical architecture of northern Ghana

The architecture of northern Ghana is so different than the south; homes are round, in collective compounds, and made of red mud and thatched roofs.  But 20 minutes south of Bolgatanga on the main road there is something that doesn’t seem to belong anywhere: The Zayaa Mosque of Walagu.
1-IMG_9523

The Zayaa Mosque of Walagu

This shrine has square corners, was built to be many levels, and looks more like it belongs in Santa Fe than the savannah of Ghana. I have no trouble imaging Luminaries atop its walls at Christmas.
2-IMG_9427
Today known as the Zayaa Mosque, it dominates the landscape, making the mud houses that surround it look out of place, and ancient. Our guide tells us it was just built in the 1990s, using traditional materials and methods.

6-IMG_9519

Sheik Abdul Karim, was given a vision for a house of prayer. In a series of dreams he was directed to this location and then given a vision that specified its design and purpose. The story goes that the morning after he came to Wulugu, a hand dug well appeared on the site. God had provided water. As the Sheik started building, new levels would appear in the night at he slept, as if some unknown person had continued building. In another dream, he heard “The land I have shown to you is a place to be kept holy.” Dave and I are invited to remove our shoes before we enter, this is holy ground.

Ghost

Do you see the transparent man?

2-IMG_9446

While our guide tells us this story, I look over and see what appears to be a man, a transparent man, sitting, watching us.  I have that feeling of being watched, but don’t say anything to Dave. I snap a few pictures to make sure I’m not loosing it I’m wasn’t or imagining things I was.

4-IMG_9441

Close up of “transparent man”

When we take off our shoes and go inside, I see transparent man up close, but all I see is his shirt, on closer inspection, he goes away. The site makes me feel energized, adventurous, something our tour guide doesn’t quite know what to do with as I go scampering up any incline he points me to.

4-IMG_9501

Mud PlayLand

Though the Sheik built this as a house of prayer, it feels like a grown-up version mud of a McDonald’s PlayLand with all sorts of cool tunnels, turrets, and walls to climb. No wonder they keep the goats out, they would love this place.

3-IMG_9428

Keep those goats out!

Labels:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bolga–Neighborhood Bible Study

Steve is on a tour of Ghana to visit our Mission Society Colleagues serving in northern Ghana and Togo. Having spent some time with Sue K [her blog], he is now in Bolgatanga, with the Bolga Bartletts, Dave and Ellen.
See Dave in Action!
In the afternoon we prepare for the neighborhood Bible Study, when about 70 high energy kids show up before 7pm to study the Bible and learn about Jesus in a positive way. Dave and Ellen host it each Monday night, but a group of friends and local pastors do the bulk of the teaching.
Imagine a weekly Vacation Bible School, with 100 kids that goes on all year, in your home and you have a good idea what Dave and Ellen are doing here.  Week by week they are building a relationship with each child and their through the gospel. Tonight, even a grandmother shows up just to see what has so captivated her granddaughter’s faith.
10-IMG_9205

A grandmother came to see what’s happening.

I had been warned that worship was intense, but nothing could have prepared me for its intensity. When overwhelmed, I have been known to crawl into my camera and observe from the safety of a lens, but tonight the drumming, neighborhood kids singing and dancing crashed into me, like a huge ocean wave.  I wimp out and sneak into the kitchen to see if Ellen needs any help, abandoning Dave. He does fine, after all, he does this every week.

09-IMG_9184

Why Dave holding up six fingers?   

Friday, August 22, 2014

Return to Bolgatanga

Steve is on a tour of Ghana to visit our Mission Society Colleagues serving in northern Ghana and Togo. Having spent some time with Sue K [her blog], he is now in Bolgatanga, with the Bolga Bartletts, Dave and Ellen.

03-IMG_9283

Ellen and Dave Bartlett

On the field its called it Member Care, when missionaries care for each other, what we in the church would call pastoral care, trouble is, I have difficulty relating to our friends until I can visualize their ministry setting. I come to the north thinking I am coming to meet their friends, experience their ministry, and learn how I can better help, but not long into this journey I realize, as Brian Mann put it so well, “that my deepest spiritual discoveries can be found in observing the lives of ordinary people who seek to practice their faith in ways that are authentic, truthful and unheralded.” [1] Dave and Ellen help me into a spiritual discovery from the highly relational ministry they live, “authentic, truthful and mostly unheralded.”

Steve in 2010, at Bongo Rock

In 2010, our daughter Anna and I spent a week in Bolga, and we have such fond memories from that trip. I was anxious to see it again, and see if I still felt the same way.
Read more about my 2010 Bolga Trip with Anna:
Welcome to Bolga, Crocodile Pond
Bongo Rock, Coming Alive
Navrongo Cathedral, The Art of Barter
Four years ago, Anna and I stayed near the center of town, but staying with Dave and Ellen, their home is on the outskirts, in a community of scattered houses that seem to have spilled out from the road, like an overturned truck. I’m sure there is some order to the houses, some rational in the placement of the traditional, and cinder block structures, but from the ground, I can’t see it.
What I do see is how connected Dave and Ellen are to this community.

04-IMG_8888

Grandpa walking home from the bread store

“Grandpa, hello!” I hear as Dave and I walk to the corner store to buy bread. Along the way Dave drops off some paperwork to be photocopied, he knows everyone by name, and they by “Grandpa” . We do not walk alone either, at every part of the journey, kids or adults join up with us, to carry our bag of bread, to chat with Grandpa for a while, or just joins us along their journey. It is good to see their connection to the people around them.

 

References:

[1] Mann, Brian D. Spotting the Sacred: Noticing God in the Most Unlikely Places, Baker Books, 2006

[2] Rothman, Barbara Kartz Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Religion, Beacon Press, 2005

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Sudanese Architecture Tour

IMG_8561

The side entrance to the Palace of the Chief of Wa.

From Lawra I travel to Bolgatonga with the Mission Society friends I had planned on visiting, Dave & Ellen Bartlett, known as the Bolga Bartletts. They came to Wa on the Metro Mass, a fleet of dingy orange buses that go where no other bus dares to go. If their fleet of rattletrap buses have seen better days, it has been a long time since any of those buses have seem them. Dave and Ellen spent 11 hours on one getting to Wa for a two hour meeting. Sue K and I were at the hotel when they arrived, shell shocked, and suffering PTBD, Post Traumatic Bus Disorder.
Since the meeting was starting at 7pm, Dave and I decided to do everything in that the Bradt Travel Guide to Ghana suggested for the city of Wa. Dave is a natural traveling companion, and we worked well together. I could get us into the place, and schmooze the guide, or whoever was standing between us and what we wanted to see, and then Dave would take over and distract him so it was open season on picture taking with a no bag limit. 500 pictures, No-Wa(y)?

The Sudanese Architecture Tour

IMG_8595

Based on the ancient Sudanese architecture, and built between the 14th century and late 1800s, most of what we saw felt very old and somewhat restored, like an old car that looks great on the outside, but when the nostalgia wears off, you miss the modern conveniences.

IMG_8485

Inside the palace of the Chief of Wa

First up was the palace of the Wa Naa, or chief of Wa. Until last year this palace had been closed (with military guard) due to a dispute in the line of succession. Visitors were discouraged, and picture taking illegal. Today, the palace is open but navigating a way in, well…

IMG_8489

The roofline of the front of the palace.

IMG_8521

Later, Dave examines the roof we were just standing on.  Its about a foot thick.

Dave and I find the palace next to OA Bus station. OA is the premium bus line in Ghana. OA is totally worth paying nearly twice the price, for half the suffering; they only go where the roads are well paved. Finding the palace is different than finding a way into the palace. Dave and I sit for nearly 20 minutes spying on to coming and goings of the palace entrance (like two old white guys didn’t stick out). It seems like we could just walk up to main entrance, but the military outpost across the courtyard must be there for a reason we think. There is an old man, a 30ish guy old, and four or five young boys hanging out under the car port awning with us, our observation post.

IMG_8557

Next to where we wait, two goats stand on the grave of a former chief.

We ask the old man and he motions across the parking lot to the guys wearing the AK47s. Dave and I walk across the courtyard and approach the least senior looking officer, and are shuffled up the chain of command. At the top, the BigMan asks our mission and then sends us back across the courtyard to the same guys who had just sent us over here. We again speak to the old man, who motions for us to speak the next youngest, who turns out to be the grandson of the chief. He would be delighted to show us around. His name is Gaddafi.

IMG_8481

Palace overlooks the Grand Mosque of Wa

Gaddafi shuffles us around the palace, including a roof top tour that he was trying to avoid. He walks with some difficulty; one leg being much shorter than the other, so climbing to the roof on under less than ADA certified steps must have been difficult. But I had asked, and he seemed eager to please. We have an entourage, Gaddafi and the small boys, who were just hanging out and now listen to the tour.
 IMG_8478

Rooftop Tour

IMG_8486

Inside the Palace Courtyard

IMG_8499

Guest rooms #6 & #7 are being remodeled.  I find it interesting that the rooms are numbered.

I guess I expect the inside of the Palace to be a lot more Palace-like, but instead it is like many of the other traditional dwellings I have seen here, run down and in various states of disrepair.

IMG_8547

Palace Imam.

Traditionally the gift for the chief would have been Kola nuts, Gaddafi says, but these days Cedis is are also acceptable, so we pay cash.
Cost: $3 for the chief, $1.5 for the Imam.

The_National_Archives_UK_-_CO_1069-34-120-2-001

From the British Archives, taken near Lawra in the 1880s.

This mud and stick Sudanese architecture came to northern Ghana in the 12th or 13th century from the human migration that came from the Lake Chad area.
IMG_8621
From the palace we walk to the remains of 14 century mud mosque, and along the way pick up some Kola nuts for currency, but the old Imam of this mosque prefers cedis.

IMG_8678

The inside of this Mosque is very small, and I have a hard time believing that anyone but the Imam would come here to pray.  I’ve been inside mosques all over the world, and their inside look nothing like this one.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.

IMG_8638

This is the largest room.

IMG_8656

This small boy, with big shoes is touching both inside walls.

IMG_8674

Cost, a gift for the Imam: $3

From the ruins we move to the similar but still very active mosque in Nokore, via a 20 minute taxi ride.  We have gone from seeing the ruined and rapidly deteriorating unnamed mosque to this magnificent structure:

IMG_8849

The Mosque of Nakore is still in use today.

IMG_8838

Our guide: Tehiru

IMG_8761

Dave says to me: “You are invited!”

IMG_8778

Light in a can for prayers after dark.

IMG_8828

IMG_8826

These stairs lead to the roof and were quite challenging.

IMG_8796

We’re all barefoot (as a sign of respect) and standing along the edges because the roof is very hot.

IMG_8810IMG_8813IMG_8784

Sleeping boys.  Inside the mosque is nice and cool.

IMG_8835

IMG_8756

Our guide tells us the five triangles are a reminder for Muslims to pray five times, daily.

IMG_8859

Man praying outside the mosque.

Cost for the tour: $10

The Metro Mass to Bolga

That night, the Bartletts and Sue K go to their two hour meeting, and 4am the next morning we’re off to the Metro Mass Bus station. Instead of the 11 hour “direct,” we choose to try the Metro Mass via Tamale (TOM-a-lee), over the new hard road, meaning paved. The Metro Mass, in which mass is pronounced with a long a, like the Spanish word for more, mas, extends about eight fast past the rear wheels, and that happens to be where our assigned seats are…at the back of the bus.
Ghana adds speed bumps to its paved highways, called rumps as they approach a village to theoretically slow vehicles down, except our driver doesn’t slow down like the speed bump try to encourage and hitting it, we, in the last row of seats, are launched to greet the ceiling. Ouch.
After six hours of a ride thrill seekers would pay good money for at Six Flags, we pull into the Tamale. A taxi away, and we’re at the TroTro station waiting for one to head to Bolga. Tros are supposed to be a lower form of transport, but after those last six hours of adventure, I’m ready for anything, anything, else. For me its Metro NO-MAS, thank you very much.

Closing Thoughts

I think about the mosques and palace I have gone inside, how amazing they look on the outside, and how small, or run down they are on the inside.  While it would be tempting to think they are just like the religion practiced inside them, I will not be the one to throw the first metaphor.  I am thankful to have been inside them, had a chance to pray from within them, and for them who follow their path from inside them.