Where did the time go?

Remember the blog about plans?  Those words were so very true.  Time slips away every day and plans morph.  Each day has been packed full of work, meetings, and outings.  Whether we have been gathering food for meals, engaging in service projects, doing laundry, etc., there is always something to do to keep busy.

With internet connectivity issues and power outages…please understand why the blog postings have been few and far between. For the sake of making note…here are a few things that happened over the past week – or so:

  • Cape Coast Castle
  • Painting of the Hovde House
  • Cooking, cooking, cooking
  • George Kweku Annan’s funeral
  • Carly and Issac’s Knocking ceremony
  • Meetings with the Minister (goods still stuck in Tema)
  • Frimps
  • Bimbidisms
  • Planning for “Item 13”

Perhaps some of the aforementioned items have intrigued you…if I have some more time, the internet works, the power is up, and I’m not otherwise busy…I will flesh out some of these amazing experiences.  If not, please take note and we can talk about the experiences in their entirety upon my return.  In the meanwhile, here are a few pictures to keep you satiated.




hovde lunch hovde lunch 2hovde paint multitasking


Menu for the week of 15/7/2013

***NOTE** * Recipes are not complete….will tweak later 🙂

On Monday morning, once everyone has left the compound for their various service sites, I will sit with Emmanuel and select a menu for the week. Everything is, of course, subject to change…but it is nice to have a food map of the week.  It allows for more productive trips to the market. Here is the menu we came up with for this week…I’ll work on getting additional photos of the food:


  • Tatal – ripe plantains are mashed and mixed with onions, garlic, and flour – then fried in palm oil and served with black eyed peas.


  • Chicken and Chips – marinate chicken in grated onion, garlic, and ginger (grill, bake, or fry). Chips are either prepared from potatoes or yams and fried. (Pictured below: Papaye’s chicken and chips)



  • Groundnut Soup & Rice Balls – mashed peanuts are sauteed to release oil. Then blended onion, tomato, and “moko hume” (I believe to be a strain of scotch bonnet peppers) are added…sometimes seeded 🙂 This mixture is then brought to boil and cooked down for 20-30 minutes. At this point you may add your cooked protein (fish, chicken, goat, beans, etc.). Rice Balls are simply mashed wet rice (instead of 2 cups water to 1 cup rice you use 2.25 cups water) rolled into balls.


  • Jollof and Chicken – diced tomato is added to sauteed onion and green pepper. Chicken bouillon, red pepper, and tomato paste are added and the mixture is brought to a simmer. Rice is prepared from this sauce and additional water and/or stock. Cooked carrots are also added. Chicken is marinated in onion, garlic, ginger mixture and baked, grilled, or fried.Image


  • Emmanuel and Christian’s Surprise – We are working with friends at the local market to acquire more difficult items.  If we can’t get what we need…we will make:
  • Vegetarian Palava (also known as Kontomire) – Sweat diced onion, minced garlic, and minced ginger in palm oil.  Add chopped scotch bonnet pepper and tomato. Simmer and season (we seasoned with Adobo – which is powdered garlic, oregano, onion,etc.). Add egusi (ground pumpkin seeds) and simmer for a few minutes. Lastly, you add the kontomire chiffonade and more palm oil – simmer for 20 minutes and serve over rice. Typically this is made with de-boned Tinapa (smoked fish)…but most of the students prefer the vegetarian version.


  • Something good (can’t quite say what….but it will be great)


  • Red-Red –  diced tomato is added to sauteed onion and green pepper. Chicken bouillon, red pepper, and tomato paste are added and the mixture is brought to a simmer. Black eyed peas may also be prepared along with jollof or vegetable rice. VERY ripe plantains are sliced on a bias and fried.  This dish is typically served with chicken or fish.

This is what our plates look like at the end of a meal…and Chubby gets the spoils!



This year’s program has had a challenging start.  We’ve had the unfortunate experience of  sending two students home (due to medical circumstances out of our control), one accompanying staff member, and one additional leadership team member (we only had planned for the last of these departures).  The operative word in the previous sentence is planned.


A challenge often encountered by “obrunis” in Ghana, is the consistency of inconsistency.  It is inevitable that on a daily basis your plans here will not reflect reality…

  • You planned to take a shower…but the water was out so you had to go without OR fill a bucket of water from stored water in the poly tank and use that instead.
  • You planned to work on course work involving internet use and a computer…but rolling blackouts have left you with a uncharged computer and no internet.
  • You planned to meet with a community member…but you and/or they were caught up in a conversation with a family member or friend and either were late or missed the meeting completely (relationships are more important than meetings and timeliness here – lest timeliness was specifically discussed).
  • You planned to have a set schedule for your service work…but you’ve experienced constant changes in times, locations, and tasks.
  • You planned to serve in Ghana…but you needed medical attention simply unavailable and had to return to the U.S.


Recently, I overheard my sister sharing a nugget of wisdom with her children, “Patience is being happy, while waiting.”  It seems that many of us have become so comfortable in our privileged lives, that we have forgotten the importance of patience.  I feel our group is incredibly blessed to be comprised of students who are patient, who complain little, and who genuinely care.

As we complete the academic piece of this trip and dig into being of service here in Ghana, my hope is that each of us will fiercely hold on to being patient and, “trusting the process,” as Joe would say. The motto of Challenging Heights serves as the perfect reminder :

“To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Tuesday is…

Market day!

(guest post by Emily)


Each morning we go to the market to buy the ingredients needed for our day’s meals.  What a beautiful thing it is to be more closely connected to the food we eat. We’ve definitely had to adjust to making our meals from scratch… it takes time and creativity to cook for 17 people when Costco convenience isn’t available. Preparing our food fresh daily is a good practice- it reminds us of how most people in the world prepare their meals, and how food is supposed to taste… fresh!


Tuesdays and Fridays are the most popular market days when all the neighboring merchants come to sell their goods with local merchants of Winneba. It is busy.



A typical visit to the market entails weaving ourselves through a labyrinth of merchants and customers while hearing several hollers of “Obruni, Obruni!” as we pass by. Obruni means “white person” or “foreigner” in Twi Fante, the language spoken in this area of Ghana. Locals are curious about our presence and are quite amiable, but mostly entertained by our stumbling about the market. They love to greet us and love to be greeted back with “Good Morning!“, or the Twi Fante word “Obibini!“, which means “native person” or “black person”. People get a kick out of seeing a group of foreigners try to speak Fante, and welcome this friendly banter. Greetings are very important here, so this exchange is not only fun, but necessary to show respect.

Many friendships are created in the marketplace. Now that Christian has been frequenting the market, he is recognized each time we go and is greeted by name.

Here’s a friend we met today while on the hunt for bananas. She was quite amused by us asking every person we met for bananas, and was kind enough to allow us to take her picture:


We never found the bananas. But we did happen upon some plantains, which are a staple here, and delicious!


Our most cherished friend at the market, Madam Naomi, helps us locate more obscure ingredients, like cinnamon and baking soda.  She’s kind to us Obrunis when we are bewildered by the hustle and bustle of this vibrant marketplace.


A typical booth at the market can have any variety of things, from produce to jeans to fabric to oscillating fans. Here’s a peek at the colorful scenes we happened upon today, enjoy!









Introductions (guest post by Emily)

Greetings! I am Emily, Christian’s wife, and I’ve had the incredible privilege of being a part of this service learning trip thus far. I leave Friday, and I am dreading leaving this beautiful place and extraordinary group of people. We’ve been so busy experiencing amazing things we haven’t had much time to document it. I’ve taken it upon myself to assist with the documentation and share some of our experience. It’s difficult to put into words all the things we have seen and learned and even more difficult to do justice to the beautiful relationships that have been created since our arrival. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

 But first, allow me to introduce our group:

This is Joe, our fearless leader/ Faculty Director:


Christian, his amazing Student life Sidekick (I suppose I may be a bit bias…):


Sherry, our I.T. Guru:


Azizur, our Faculty Director next year, who graced us with his presence the first week:



And the REMARKABLE GVSU Honors Students, in no particular order:


































What a fantastic group of people. Almost every night we debrief and talk about what we’ve learned and experienced throughout the day. 
As we learn about poverty, Ghanaian culture, and ourselves, our minds are continuously blown. The lives of these students are being changed this summer- it is a beautiful thing.Image


Can you tell we’re having fun? This is going to be me Friday…




More to come soon.


Welcome (akwaaba) to my blog! I will be using this blog to update you all on all the happenings here in Ghana. First off, this place is purely amazing.  The culture and traditions are rich and as Joe Verschaeve pointed out, life here is much more communal (as opposed to a more independent style in the states). I must say I am truly enjoying this experience.  The work is never ending, yet I don’t feel drained completely (I should really try to get more sleep, however).  I suspect that as the students begin their service at various sites, I will have more time to take care of the administrative tasks a bit more easily (or rather earlier in the day).

We’ve eaten all kinds of great food…speaking of which, I need to go help Emmanuel make red-red.  I’ve mostly been eating rice, chicken, red-red, etc.  I made PB&J for lunch 🙂 Hard boiled eggs and toast for breakfast.  I will do a blog on the food at some point.  Also, I will work on posting some pictures as well. (Emily took that attached picture around sunrise a day ago). Don’t get confused, this is not vacation.