Lillian Ketch (Cathedral), Cheryl Jacobs (Cathedral) and Robert Griffin (Parish of Grand Mann) departed Fredericton on 12 January 2020 for the Diocese of Fredericton’s Companion Diocese of Ho in Ghana. Daily logs will be here as they are made available.
The Dean of Fredericton offered prayer on Sunday, 13 January
your Son before he ascended to glory
declared that your people would receive power
from the Holy Spirit to bear witness to him
to the ends of the earth:
Be present with all who go forth in his Name,
protect them all the day long
and bring them safely home.
Let your love shine through their witness,
so that all who come to them
may see your glory in all that is given,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
22 January 2020
I guess this is my last update from Ghana – writing tonight from the British Airways departure lounge in the Accra airport. We leave in just over an hour.
This morning we got ready in good time and Bishop Matthias picked us up at the hotel at about 10:00. We then went to a bank so I could withdraw Ghana cedis to pay him back for the hotel bill. I had asked to do this a bit earlier in the trip. First, the bank machines were closed for servicing, then I had to wait further for them to stock them with 50 cedi bills so I could take out a larger amount, though I still had to make two withdrawals to get enough. Double fees, of course! Matthias wanted to be the one to pay the hotel so we could save on the tourism tax.
Finances taken care of, we headed to the Anglican compound to meet Edward and say goodbye to the family, though we missed the children’s recess so did not get to see them again. Also, Matthias had gifts of Ghana clothing for us which we had to try on. We had stopped at the tailor’s shop a few days previously to be measured. Amazing work for the time frame – he runs his shop as a training school. Dresses here are typically form fitting – with the heat/humidity and, just possibly, a few extra pounds gained here, I found it a bit of a struggle to try my two new outfits on – but think they will be okay.
Eventually we were on our way with Edward and Matthias, not quite at the planned 11:00, but rather at 12:30, over the crazy roads of Ho. We took a different, slightly longer route to Accra this time, in order to stop at a craft village. We all worked hard to get rid of our remaining cedis.
We arrived at the airport at about 5:00 pm here (it is now 10:00 pm) so have been sitting around a while. No troubles with check-in or security. This is a very fancy new terminal and it is surprising how many places one can fly to from here. We did have a light lunch since we had not eaten since breakfast (which may help with the new outfits), and expect we will have a midnight repast on the plane (which will counter the above). I watched a traditional weaver making what look like priest’s stoles – we had not previously seen much of woven items.
I will close off now as we expect to be called to board soon. We arrive London at 5:00 am, in the same time zone then will get some exercise at Heathrow! 3.5 hours there until we fly to Toronto.
Good night (or morning). Thanks for reading!
21 January 2020
Actually not much happened related to our purpose for being here today. We did not do the originally planned tour of parishes in the north of the diocese as Bishop Matthias thought the roads are in too bad shape now.
We had a leisurely breakfast and then hung around the pool and patio. I caught up on some reading and thinking re my diocesan spiritual development team, plus the three of us talked about the project some more.
Matthias came to get us at about 2:30. We stopped at some stores and then went to the house until the rest of the family was ready to go out for dinner. We had offered to take Matthias and Lucy out as a thanks for all the cooking she had done for us. But ended up with the whole extended family – that is, anyone Lucy would have made dinner for! We were 12 in total with Matthias, Lucy, their son Prosper, granddaughters Emmanuela and Henrietta, nephew Benedict, 7-year old Cadmon (we were thinking he is an orphan but not sure of that relation – more below), bishop’s chaplain Fr. Prince (who lives with the family) and Edward (who would not normally eat with the family but we included him also as a thanks for driving us many times. I think I mentioned before, but Edward is manager of the Ho Anglican Schools and also Matthias’ son-in-law, and the father of Henrietta. Mary, the mother in this family is currently living away due to her teaching position. Edward has his own place and Henrietta lives with Matthias and Lucy to make it easy to attend the school. This is a fairly common situation here.
We went to a local restaurant that they like to visit and sat at a big round table for 12. We had Ghanaian cuisine, pre-ordered by Matthias, though I expect the kids would have preferred going out for pizza, since Lucy always makes good traditional food anyway. Dishes included plain rice, seasoned rice with veggies, salad, yam fries, baked chicken, fish heads (yup – did not try these), green green (green stew with fish, a bit different from the version Robbie had at the other restaurant, this one had lots of okra but was less spicy) with banku (doughy ‘bread’ made from cassava) and a couple of hot sauces (not out of a bottle).
Once we finished, Prosper (who is director of music for the Cathedral), Lucy and Prince had to rush off for choir practice. Since I would be missing my own choir practices tonight, we looked in for a couple of songs when we got back with everyone else. The choir was a bit small this evening – Prosper sings bass, Prince is the tenor, Lucy and another lady made up the Altos and there was one soprano. Prince also played a mean Dondo drum on Sunday.
I had also expressed interest in purchasing Ghana fabrics for the quilters in my family (per yesterday’s update). I had forwarded a picture from a store and Mom had suggested how much she would like. Matthias, always in search of the best deal, however, had Gloria, a seller of cloth at good prices, come to his house. She did not have quite the variety as at the store, but we all purchased some pieces. Mom and Michelle had asked for 1/2 yard pieces, but the norm here is only to sell in 2 yard increments – as they don’t want to be left with a single yard which would not be of use for anything. The other part of the story is that we found out that Gloria is Cadmon’s mother but he just likes to stay at the bishop’s house.
Tomorrow, Edward and Matthias will take us back to Accra – as noted before, distance 165 kms but will take at least 3 hours due to roads. They plan to take us to a local craft shop and perhaps show us some sights, then leave us at the airport fairly early in order to get back to Ho in decent time. Our flight is at 11:00 pm, overnight to Heathrow, then to Toronto tomorrow, landing in Fredericton at 5:00 pm. I will finish here and try to check in now before sleep.
Good night and see some of you soon!
20 January 2020
It was a bit of a later start this morning with not much planed for the morning. The breakfast buffet today included tasty spicy stir-fried veggies (cabbage based) rather than the standard cold salad – and I am happy to be getting oatmeal more regularly than the other porridges.
Bishop Matthias came by late morning and we went shopping for some Ghanaian items. I have been struck by the ‘wax print’ fabrics worn by many, women and men, and found everywhere in fabric bolts – so very colourful and bold and with intricate batik patterns. I will try to find some coordinating pieces for the quilters in my family.
We stopped at the bishop’s house for a bit to chat with Lucy, his wife. During school days she has a stand with candy, biscuits, water and drinks and school supplies outside her house which the school children shop at during school recess and lunch. We were given some of her homemade sobolo, a Ghanaian drink made of Bissap leaves (Roselle hibiscus), ginger, sugar and water which was very good, even for me who has never been a fan of straight ginger.
The big event today was a meeting at the Ho Teaching Hospital with several hospital administrators and department directors and the Rotary club leadership regarding the mobile clinic project. The teaching hospital people have already put much thought into the idea in the few days since they were suggested for a partner – even with a prepared PPT presentation. The idea fits ideally with their public health focus and village outreach strategic plan. It turned into almost an informal launch of the project! There is still some work to decide on the major specifics (e.g., what type of van/truck and where to get it), to write up the needs assessment and sustainability plan for the application for a Rotary Global Grant, and drafting a MOU between all the parties – but there is certainly a will to see Matthias’ and diocesan vision through. The first working meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday!
We returned to the hotel for a swim and then went to Matthias’ house for another delicious supper: chicken, steamed plantain, abolo (steamed bread made of corn flour, sugar and water), pino (gari – powdered baked cassava – in beef stew sauce but without the beef), and Lucy’s hot sauce gravy. Dessert was again fresh mango and pineapple 😋
It is hard to believe our time is almost up here. Until tomorrow,
19 January 2020
Sunday (or Monday) greetings,
Pick-up was at 8:30 this morning, after my oatmeal with watermelon (and toast), to go to Cathedral for Mass, as they call it here. Only two and a half hours long – very high Anglican style with much incense and ceremony. It was an interesting mix of old English liturgy and hymns interspersed with high-energy African drumming, singing and dancing. Mama Lucy got Lilian and me up to participate at one point. We also spoke at the end to bring greetings from home and explain our purpose. And really, it did not seem as long as it was – and weather was cooler today so comfortable in the Cathedral which also has many open doorways. Despite what you may think of as a Cathedral, this one is really quite small, maybe 8 rows of pews for 4-5 people each.
Lunch at the bishop’s house followed. Another large meal of rice (enough for 4 people, maybe), cabbage+ and fish. Lucy’s hot sauce is very good though. But Lucy never eats with us, nor the others who live there: their son, grandchildren (children of their daughters who live there in order to attend the school), a nephew, a priest and at least one other orphan.
After lunch, Matthias drove us around the city of Ho to see some places, including the Ho Teaching Hospital, which will likely be the church’s partner for the mobile clinic, and some universities. One new campus of the health services university, which works with the teaching hospital, was very modern looking. Universities, schools and hospitals are always built as a campus of small buildings, mostly of concrete, rather than large sprawling buildings like at home.
We were also pleased to visit two houses. The first was that of one of the church wardens and his family. This family of 6 was all in their backyard with the mother and one daughter making fufu in the traditional way: a mixture of plantain and cassava pounded in a large stone bowl with a long stick with a flat end. Between each pound down with this stick, however, the mother would roll the mixture around, like kneading, with one hand. It was an amazing synchronized act of knead and pound at a fairly rapid pace. We were told the daughter was better at this than their son who would go too fast – and hard on mother’s hand! They were making this for their supper so we did not get to try it, but it turned into a gelatinous consistency that was formed into large blobs (quite hard to describe actually) – I hope to try before we leave to see if it tastes better than it looked, haha. We also had a horticulture lesson as they had a number of trees in their backyard and next door: plantain and banana (hard to tell these apart before the fruit is ripe), mango, palm nut, and even a pineapple plant almost ready to pick. As this is close to the end of the dry season, there was not much left in their garden. This was not a standard house for here given the amount of land they had.
The second home was that of the diocesan treasurer, a retired professor, who still teaches marketing courses for distance ed. students some weekends. His house was spacious enough but side by side with others on a narrow street. He had a relative there whose main language was French – we had a short basic conversation!
We also drove by a whole subdivision of ‘condo’ buildings, one of which Edward lives in and another where the Archdeacon lives. We did not go in these though.
Peter had sent me some pictures of the new snow in Fredericton this morning so I have been showing to people today. Not many seemed willing to experience in person!
We finished the day chatting with Bishop Matthias at our hotel pool patio until it got dark (close to the equator here so fairly consistent day and night). This was followed by a LIGHT supper (vegetable salad for me) in the hotel restaurant. We have found the service rather slow for meals there, other than the breakfast buffet. So now it is quite late and I will sign off.
18 January 2020
Lazy day today. Bishop Matthias suggested a rest day, though we really don’t need to rest but exercise!!
But we did sleep in some – breakfast buffet goes longer on weekends – some things the same everywhere I expect! In fact, Peter was messaging me when I got up, before the crack of dawn Canada time, and reminded me that he was going to work at our Cathedral breakfast. Sorry to miss the early hour and the -28 degrees, really!!
After breakfast, the three of us went to the market, on our own, as it is a short walk away. The extent of number of booths and items for sale is amazing, and this was not even big market day. The produce available all looked great: fresh green leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, plantain, cassava, yams and sweet potatoes, peppers galore; then mangoes, papaya, coconut, bananas, limes, oranges, even apples; breads, banku and other similar fillers; eggs, dried beans, spices, and a very great number of smoked whole fish (think very dry) of varying sizes. The Volta Lake to the west of the diocese boundary is very large but I have seen docs on how children are exploited to fish it.
Then there were the booths with cloth for sewing, premade clothing (not Ghanaian traditional) and much cheap accessories. But very interesting and fun to visit. I bought some ground green spice which I was told is hot and some limes. Robbie got some oranges – not quite in season he suggested after. He also needed a hat as he had forgotten his home – something that said Ghana, but he only found ballcaps with American sports company logos and settled for a fedora like style. I guess it was not exactly a tourist hub. Lilian got a few gift items, some for herself.
Later Lilian and I swam (I used the short set she bought while waiting for her luggage as a bathing suit) and sat at the pool and read. Matthias had said he would pick us up between 2:00 and 3:00. We assumed it would be closer to 3 of course, but it was actually closer to 5. He came with plantain chips and nuts and we had beer on the hotel patio. Snacks we did not need as we then went to his house for another delicious and filling meal, though this time we could serve our own portions. Dessert was mango and pineapple, which I could get used to. We also got to speak more with Matthias’ grandchildren who are less shy with us.
Once back at the hotel, Lilian and I walked around the lot, 4 times as it is not that large, to get a bit more exercise and digest dinner. The security guard was not quite sure what to make of us. I’m still stuffed as I sit here writing.
Cathedral service is at 9:00 am tomorrow. We are not expected at the 7:00 am one.
Good night everyone,
17 January 2020
We were given a lazier morning today with nothing planned until 11:00, though we still had to get to dining room before 9:00 for included breakfast buffet. The options are always the same except for the ‘porridge’: one day rice, another a corn base (not my favourite, like a sauce), but today for second time was good ole oatmeal (with watermelon) – enough so that I did not need to go back for the mains. Serving sizes are always generous here – clothes already getting tight!
After breakfast, I sat by the pool and read a bit. Lilian swam but I did not get the memo to bring swimsuit – actually the memo I got was that we should not swim but this is a standard chlorinated pool.
After Edward picked us up and we then picked up Bishop Matthias, we headed off on the ‘lovely’ Ho highway to Apaso, across the Volta River which is the border of the Diocese of Ho. I happily volunteered to sit in the third row of seats in the vehicle, only to realize a ways in that that was not a good plan. I made it most of the way before asking to trade seats with Lilian who never gets car or seasick. We went there to meet with a Ghanaian doctor, Dr. Nee Ayhre, who has been involved in medical missions in Ghana most of his 50 year career. He had come from Accra with visiting friend and had us meet at a very ritzy 4-star hotel. We just had cold drinks!
In any case, it was a very productive visit where he encouraged the vision for the mobile clinic and gave us many good ideas. He also reassured Matthias regarding making the local Ho teaching hospital a partner (along with Rotary club).
On the way back, we stopped to view a piece of land that the diocese owns and plans to build a high school on. Mostly treed at this time so long ways to go with that project. Peter can come over with chainsaw!
We also watched a woman making banku, a dough of cassava and corn which is steamed and used as the ‘bread’ with a meal, the traditional way over a charcoal fire, with her feet on metal rods holding the pot over the fire!
This evening, Matthias took us up the hill to a hotel restaurant overlooking the city. (Yes, our third hotel restaurant of the day 🙂 – this one’s quality rating in between where we had the meeting and where we are staying.). We had traditional Ghanaian dishes – though the bishop had pizza (traditional Canadian style). My dish was called red-red and Robbie’s was green-green.
Tomorrow will be a morning plus of rest, while Matthias gives his back some more healing time as well as finishing his preparations for Sunday services.
Good night from Ho.
16 January 2020
Today seemed warmer and more muggy than previous days, but good to not spend the day in vehicle, despite the AC. Also, I have yet to see a mosquito, but I am told they are around.
This morning, representatives from most of the Mothers’ Union branches in the parish came to the Cathedral to meet with Lilian and discuss their activities and issues. These groups operate much like ours at home, meeting weekly for prayer and study, and helping with the needs of their parish, but with very few resources. When asked about their needs, one lady instantly spoke up and said money, to which all the others agreed. Particularly, transportation is expensive so they cannot visit members or parishioners who are sick or easily get together with other branches. It was a hardship for some to come to the meeting today.
As part of this meeting, I introduced the Godly Play program and told a story, with Bishop Matthias translating for those whose English was not good. Ghana is a new country in the GP international association, though this diocese was not yet aware of it. They appreciated the story and way of presenting. For those reading this who are not aware of it, it is story and play-based Christian ed.
I also got to hold a baby of one of the ladies and was shown how to strap him to my back. Lilian has pictures.
As we were waiting for this meeting to start, we toured the school that is on the Cathedral grounds. This school includes the only classes for special needs children in the city. I was happy to see a computer lab as well, with about 10 workstations. I wish I had thought to bring some old IT textbooks still hanging about our house. Again, the children were excited to welcome us, and get their picture taken, of course.
After a very filling and tasty lunch made by Lucy (bishop’s wife), we then lazed about at their home for a bit – did I mention it was warmer and that lunch was very filling? Matthias’ back is still giving him pain plus sleepy from the pain-killers, though we could not get him to go lie down. As it is not considered a good idea for us to walk around by ourselves in the city, we stayed at the house as there was a follow-up meeting planned with some of the Rotarians regarding next steps for the mobile clinic late in the afternoon, particularly as Matthias had not been able to attend last evening. I was very impressed with all the Rotarians there and would have them on my project team any day.
After that meeting, Edward drove us back to our hotel where we had a light supper and chatted together. I am missing being able to walk places, but learning to enjoy air-conditioning!!
Tomorrow we travel south some to meet with a doctor from the Christian Health Assoc. of Ghana, to discuss other options for personnel for the mobile clinic.
Good night everyone,
15 January 2020
Today included a 10 hour road trip, first to the airport in Accra to get Lilian’s luggage and then through the southern part of the Diocese of Ho / Volta Region of Ghana. I have attached a photo of map with our hotel and the three Anglican K-8 schools we visited. It does not look far but with road conditions (which were not as consistently bad as they seemed to a sleepy person in the dark on Monday night) and city traffic, the trip to Accra, 165 kms, took 3.5 hours and then a good while to get out again.
From Accra we headed east towards the Togo border, across the lower end of the Volta River, which marked the start of the Ho Diocese. After a couple of brief stops, including purchasing some giant yam fries, we then headed well off the main road to visit the first school, St. Matthias. We got there just after school closing time (2:30) but Edward had called ahead to ask them to wait for us. We had a short meeting with the teachers then visited the Jr. (our middle school) classrooms, and then attended the school closing assembly in the yard with all ~240 students. We three white persons seemed very interesting to the children. They were all beautiful/ handsome/ very cute and mostly very orderly and polite, well likely shy. They also all wanted to visit Canada.
The school needed about $1300 CDN to finish their kindergarten block; Peter will be happy to know that I did not have chequebook with me (not that a CDN cheque would have worked, of course).
We then visited two other schools, St. Mary and St. Mark, both near the Togo border. School was well out by this time but we met some students who lived nearby at the first. This one was waiting for significant repairs to the Jr. block – with deteriorating bricks sitting by it, waiting for funds for a mason. At the second we watched a man drawing palm oil from a fallen tree. We also saw a group of some type of monkey on the way to Accra.
These schools were significantly less equipped than the school in Belize that Peter and I and Cathedral team helped at a few years ago. I was particularly moved by a lesson on spreadsheets left on the board in one classroom and hearing the school has no computers on which the students can actually practise. And, similar to Belize, there are not enough places and personal resources for young people finishing Jr. school (similar to our grade 8) to attend high school.
I should note that we started the day with a phone call from Matthias to say he had fallen and hurt his back and so we went without him. Edward checked in after we got back to Ho. He had gone to hospital to check, but nothing serious and he was feeling better tonight. With Edward driving us, we visited schools rather than churches. He is the director of Ho Anglican schools but does not get to visit the farther away schools as he does not have a vehicle capable of going to these communities.
This evening we went to the Ho Rotary Club meeting. Bishop Matthias would like to see a mobile health clinic (in a van) for the rural communities of the region. Robbie hopes to obtain a large portion of the money from Rotary International but that would require his Grand Manan club partnering with the Ho club. The members were very receptive to the idea and one member, who worked for local doctor training college said it aligned with their goals and could likely supply the doctors/interns. And Lilian won a bottle of beer at the meeting
Tomorrow Lilian and I will meet with Mothers’ Union members in the diocese. I will also offer to tell a Godly Play story.
14 January 2020
We were late getting out of Fredericton due to weather and plane not arriving to get us. Then three planes arrived at once and ground crew got backed up in moving bags and de-icing – unfortunately, our plane was third in line. We then missed our connection in Montreal to Brussels, by less than half an hour (that flight was barely delayed for some reason haha) and were automatically rerouted via Heathrow, which only worked because that flight was delayed leaving. Arrived for breakfast in Heathrow and got our exercise getting to our departure gate – large airport does not begin to describe it.
Our new routing had us getting in Accra, Ghana, at 8:00 pm Monday, about 4 hours after we were originally supposed to arrive. There was a further delay as Lillian’s bag and one for Ho that she had checked were not amongst the baggage. The claim process took a while. Eventually we got out of the airport to a nice thick tropical heat and then on the road with Bishop Matthias and Edward Matsi driving. Vehicle had air conditioning. We arrived in Ho about 3 hours later at 1:00 am (I may have drifted in and out a bit). About halfway along the roads became very difficult to drive at any speed. Think of pavement half torn up and then left to erode for a few years. Edward, whose day job is Director of Ho Anglican Schools, turns out to also be an excellent off-road driver.
We are staying in the Freedom Hotel, with all the amenities we need, including air-conditioned rooms and a lovely pool.
On Tuesday we slept in some then had the hotel breakfast – rice porridge, omelet, toast, beans and salad, fruit and coffee. Bishop Matthias came by and we met about our plans for the week. We then went to the market so Lilian could buy a dress while waiting for her luggage. She got 3 outfits, with one for sleeping and one for the pool, all for less than $20 CDN.
We went back to the hotel and there may have been some napping. Lilian also tried the pool. Matthias’ daughter Angela, coincidentally in town for the afternoon, came by to say hello. A call to the airport then revealed the good news that the missing luggage had arrived there.
Then we went to Matthias’ house for a delicious and very filling meal prepared by Matthias’ wife Lucy and two granddaughters.
Plans for tomorrow include an early start to go back to Accra to pick up the luggage, then head east to the southern part of the Diocese of Ho to visit some parishes. We need to be back in Ho for Robbie to have a meeting with the Rotary Club here.