Pat O'Malley

Pat O'Malley

Trip to West Hill Mall

 Posted by Pat O'Malley at 12:37 am  Uncategorized  Comments Off on Trip to West Hill Mall
Oct 252015

West Hill MallSome of you may know, that I decided not to try to renew my visa, and since they only issue 60 day visas, I will becoming back to NY on Sept 29.  So this is my last weekend here in Ghana, and probably my last post. While a lot of things didn’t work out the way I planned, today I went with Maeba (the school teacher I work with) and 4 of the older girls, for a trip to the Mall.  One of the girls had been there with her school, but for the other 4 it was their first time there.

They showed up with a taxi, which was good for me as I sat in front, but not so good as the five of them had to sit in a backseat that comfortably sits 3. It was an interesting ride, as the driver made a number of stops on the way. Once to drive through a gas station to say hello to the person working there, once to buy a frozen yogurt and a pastry. Then we were stopped at the light where we make a left turn.  He got out of the car, to buy a cloth, which he uses to clean the inside of the car of dust. He got back in, but then didn’t like that cloth, so he got out again to argue with the man selling it, who exchanged it for a different one.  Then there was another taxi broke down next to us, so he got out again to talk to the driver. However, he was back in the car by the time the light changed and we were finally on our way. Although we stopped again for something else for him to eat, and for the girls to buy water and a cloth from the numerous people that sell goods on the street and walk up to the cars.

The Mall is new and nice, not much different than the Kingston Mall, but a little smaller. It was air conditioned which they noticed right away. We walked around the Mall and went into one of the anchor stores which was like a Target. They wanted to take lots of pictures in the store, of items and of themselves in the store (see picture). I had to buy a lock for our water tank, but that was all we bought there. We walked around the Mall some more and took the escalator to the next floor. (they call the ground floor 0, and our second floor “1”) There we found a bakery and ice cream shop. Five of us had an ice cream, and one wanted a meat pie. The ice cream was a small dish, and cost 7 cedis (about $2), which is pretty expensive there, but probably like our Malls. They wanted to take the “lift” (elevator) down, as I don’t think they had ever been in an elevation. And this was quite exciting. One of the girls was afraid, and said she wouldn’t go on it again. It was only one floor, and it wasn’t a glass elevator. So for me the taxi ride was the excitement, for them it was the elevator ride!

We did shopping at ShopRite, some cookies and juice boxes for the kids at the orphanage, and they could pick out cookies or a drink for themselves. I think they all had fun looking around.

I wanted to take them to lunch, but they wanted rice, and didn’t really see any place that sold rice. They didn’t want to take the taxi, so we walked and got a totro to Kosoa, which is a larger town, and could get lunch there. We walked for a while but finally went up a flight of stairs to a restaurant. Maeba got banku, but the rest of us got rice and chicken, it was very good.  And including purified water, it cost 37 cedi, about $11 for the 6 of us. We also went to buy some paper for school, and then got a totro home.

They were all tired, but laughing about the day walking back to the orphanage. So while I have no idea what they were talking about, I think it was a fun day for all of us!

Spaghetti and Meatballs – for 30+ on a charcoal fire

 Posted by Pat O'Malley at 8:24 pm  Uncategorized  Comments Off on Spaghetti and Meatballs – for 30+ on a charcoal fire
Oct 132015

Since I have tried lots of African food, I thought maybe the children would like to try some American food. I heard that some other volunteers had cooked.  So I tried to think of something that wouldn’t be too unusual from what they are used to.  I decided on spaghetti and meatballs, since pasta and sauce would be something that they would have eaten, this would just be a different sauce. They don’t get beef or pork very often – probably just Christmas and Easter.

First I had to buy the ingredients, which I couldn’t get in my town. So early Monday morning, the two people who live in the house and I set out. It’s about a mile or so walk to the road where we caught the first totro, and then a 25 min ride to where we got a second totro, which dropped us close to the mall and the Shoprite.  Shoprite is more like a small Walmart here, but it had many grocery items I was use to and haven’t seen in the local markets. However, I think the two guys with me were more excited to see everything than I was. I was able to get chopped beef and pork, garlic, basil, tomato paste, pasta and pretty much everything I needed except bread crumbs, so figured we would make our own. It was 5 hours from the time we left in the morning until we got back to the orphanage with the groceries, so not a quick trip to the market.

After school, I found the cook and told her I was there and we could start whenever good for her. We probably didn’t get started until around 4. I had assumed that we would have two fires, one we would cook the sauce on and one we could cook the meatballs on, and then combine them and use the fire to boil the water for the pasta. But things don’t usually go as I imagined. The cook said that the girls had to go and buy some charcoal, so I realized that the plan was to try to cook it all over one charcoal fire.  So we started with the sauce.  We wouldn’t have been able to carry all the cans of tomatoes, so we got a large can of tomato paste, (which the cook opens with a knife) added onions, peppers, garlic, basil and water.  I also bought a container that said “tomato sauce” but it tasted more like ketchup, but it went in as well.  Not the best sauce I’ve made but it wasn’t bad.  Next we started on the meatballs.  I had bought about 6lbs of ground beef and pork, and we added the handmade breadcrumbs (which were much too big), onions, peppers, garlic and eggs in a metal platter that was around three feet in diameter. I mixed it, and then a number of the girls, helped roll it into balls. We added oil to another pan and cooked the meatballs in batches and then added to the sauce.  At this point there was around 20 children watching how this was going. Our pasta and sauce was then put into the 3 foot diameter platter as we boiled water for the pasta. I’m not sure how many pounds of spaghetti we cooked, as we kept opening packages, until no more would fit. Of course this made it hard to stir, and we had to add more water, but eventually the pasta was cooked, and the cook, with help from the girls, strained the pasta in batches. We put the sauce back on the fire to heat up, which didn’t take long, as the coals were now white. And now we were ready to serve! Everyone gets their own bowl, and the cook gave then each some pasta, then I gave them each a couple of meatballs and sauce. They each also got a piece of bread with butter. The youngest children are served first, but then it’s a line and I just kept serving. Usually the adults eat something different, but there was plenty and so all the adults had spaghetti and meatballs as well.

It was after 6 before we finished so it was dark. All the kids went into the dining room, which has 3 long tables. They don’t usually eat at the same time and place so it was nice to see them eating together, even if some are sitting on the tables instead of the benches.  But everyone seemed to enjoy it, and I got lots of compliments and thank yous.  I walked home under the stars and felt that I had maybe given them a memory of “spaghetti and meatballs”, so while I was tired it felt good.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, so will have to rely on my memory of this day.

Weekend in Accra

 Posted by Pat O'Malley at 8:01 am  Uncategorized  Comments Off on Weekend in Accra
Oct 052015

Sometimes chance is amazing! When I arrived in the Accra airport I first had to show my Yellow Fever certificate, and then proceed into the immigration line.  It had been a long trip, so I know I was a bit hazy, and was trying to make sure that I did whatever I was supposed to do. There was a woman in front of me around my age, so I asked her about luggage, and she said you would get it after immigration.  She then asked me if this was my first trip to Ghana.  I told her, yes, and explained what I was planning on doing. She was born in Ghana, but had spent 30 years in the US. She was a little amazed at what I was doing, and asked me many questions.  She said that she would make sure that I got my luggage and that someone was there to pick me up before she left the airport.  When we got outside the gate area, the person from GVN was there with a sign with my name on it, so I told her (Dorothy) I would be fine.  But she got a business card from her husband who was picking her up, and told me to make sure that I called her, and let her know how I was doing. 

I had probably been here for around 10 days, when I thought I would call her, and let her know that I was surviving just fine. It turns out that she and her husband run a Bread and Breakfast in Accra, and she told me that they would be honored if I would come and visit them, and that they would have me as a guest, at no cost.  I told her I would think about it.  It was a very generous offer, but she had only met me for maybe 20 minutes.  I also wasn’t sure how I would get to Accra since I wasn’t comfortable taking a totro. But I told her I would think about it.  I called her a couple weeks later, and said if the offer was still open, that I would like to come visit the first weekend in October, and this was fine for her.  I was able to get a taxi to take me there and back, for about $30 each way (it’s about an hour and a half to 2 hour drive).

So Friday afternoon we left for Accra, and I was at the Bed and Breakfast by 3 pm.  I told Dorothy that compared to where I was living, this was the Taj Mahal! My room had its own bathroom, with running water and a shower.  There was also air conditioning and a working TV.  Plus she has laundry service, and had told me to bring my laundry, so not only was it done by a machine instead of a bucket, but I didn’t even have to do it.  Dinner was at 4, chicken with a red sauce, and many different vegetables, and fruit. After dinner we dove into the city to pick up some pictures that Seth had ordered from a shop and walked around a little. But it does start to get dark around 6 pm, so we headed back.

We went back into the city on Saturday and did some shopping. Accra is a very big city, and I’m sure I saw only a small section. There are people selling things on all the sidewalks. But then again, there are people selling things on all the streets, and try to sell you things while you sit at a traffic light or in traffic. I was paying more attention to this today. There are the regular things like plantain chips, water, drinks, bread, candy, other food items; but then there are random things that people will be selling, like a plastic first aid kit, or dog leashes or exit signs. It is interesting. Anyway, the city, like all of Ghana, has a lot of garbage around, which I’m sure they are used to, but for me, and I’m sure other tourist, it is bothersome.

We went to an “Arts and Crafts” area, where local people make and sell things. However, the custom is for them to tell you a high price and then you argue with them until you get to an agreed price. Well I don’t even like to negotiate with a car dealer! And here, they will follow you and offer lower prices and ask you what price you will pay. Dorothy didn’t seem thrilled with this either, so we didn’t buy much. I’m sure I could have gotten good deals, but at this point in life, I don’t need anything, and it wasn’t worth the hassle. So we headed out and stopped at a resort that had tables outside that looked over the ocean. We had water and fried plantains, and sat and watched the waves. It was as nice as any ocean vacation resort. What I realized was how relaxed I felt there, which I don’t think I have felt since being in Ghana.

Anyway, we went back and made fish and vegetables for dinner, a tasty healthy meal.  After dinner we played a board game, sort of like Parcheesi. 

On Sunday morning we went to Church, they are Methodist, and both were Methodist pastors. But the service they attended was in English, very similar to services in the US, and I don’t think we were even there a full hour.  We didn’t do much the rest of the day, and my ride arrived to take me back at 2 pm.

I had a very nice time, and Dorothy and Seth are amazingly nice people, I can’t get over how fortunate I was that Dorothy was in that immigration line at the airport!

Ghanian Diet

 Posted by Pat O'Malley at 8:43 am  Ghana, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Ghanian Diet
Sep 282015

Many people have asked me about the food here. At the volunteer house Issac cooks for me, I assume he was told what the volunteers probably like, and he keeps things pretty simple.  Breakfast is an African pancake or a fried omelet (no cheese) or the omelet on bread in an egg sandwich.  Lunch and dinner are interchangeable and might have a small piece of chicken for one meal and a hard boiled egg for the other, along with rice, noodles, or yams.

But at the orphanage, it’s unusually not to see people cooking.  Stella is the cook for the children, so what she makes is usually big quantities.  But the girls will make things for the adults or for themselves.

There are a few things that are grown on the property or at the farm, and so they are the staples; corn (maize), cassava, plantains and palm nuts.

Cassava is a root, similar to yam, but white.  They eat a lot of Gari, which involves processing the cassava by washing, peeling, grating, soaking, pressing and drying. The result is a small grain.  They then boil it in salted water, as it cooks it becomes a thick liquid, they add sugar and eat this often for breakfast, or other times.

The corn is dried and then the cornels are pealed and collected in very large bowls or buckets.  They are washed and drained. The children then carry these heavy buckets on their heads to the grinding machine, where they are ground.  They carry them back.  The ground corn is kept in a large plastic bin, but they put layers of sprinkled water in it to keep it moist. This they also put into boiling salt water and sugar to make “porridge” which they also eat a lot.

Two other common foods are Banku and Fufu.  Banku is mainly the ground corn, that they boil in water and mix. This is a long and strenuous process ( over an outside fire) but eventually it becomes a dough consistency. Fufu is ground plantains and cassava. These are first boiled so they are soft and then beat; this is a two person process, where one person puts down the plantain/cassava and the other using a 5 foot pounding pole, pounds the food. They have a rhythm that allows the one person to move the food without getting hit.  So although very different methods and ingredients, both Banku and Fufu are made into large dough balls, the size of a small bowl. These are eaten with soups and sauces of various types.


Palm nuts are also grown locally, they are orange/red berries about the size of a small walnut. First they are removed from the plant, then boiled for some time.  Then they beat them with a large stick, so that they open up, and the yellow stringy inside is exposed.  This is then boiled again, and the oil, palm oil, raises to the top, and is skimmed off. It is used for many things.  The rest of the liquid is used for palm soup.  But the insides are discarded, or sometimes used to help start fires.


Just want to mention one other food story.  This past Saturday on my way to the orphanage I met two of the girls walking the other way to town.  I said I would join them as they had a couple things to buy.  I stopped and got my money, and asked them if they wanted something to eat. I suggested ice cream, as I know they sell it in town, and I haven’t had it yet.  But they both said no, they opted for rice and beans which cost about 25 cents each, and they split a hard boiled egg that cost about 10 cents. Oh well, maybe I will get some ice cream yet!


Saturday at the Sea

 Posted by Pat O'Malley at 11:35 pm  Uncategorized  Comments Off on Saturday at the Sea
Sep 192015

Since I got here, the children at the orphanage have been asking to go to the Beach.  There is a former volunteer (Lauren) here for two weeks, who currently works for non-profit Mama Hope which does projects with the orphanage and school. She has taken the kids to the beach before, so we agreed we would split the cost (300 cedi which is about $100) for the bus and food and take the kids to the beach.  I thought I would be writing you about the great time that we had, and I do have pictures of the children who played in the water and the sand for four fun filled hours.  But the day ended in tragedy, so it is hard to write about all of the fun that was had.

Many of the staff at the orphanage also went on the trip. Their main role is to keep the children safe, but it is also a fun day for them as well, there was probably around eight staff who joined us for the day. At some point in the afternoon, I was told that they could not find one of the staff, and some of the children said the last they had seen him was swimming in the ocean. The bus arrived to take us back (it is over an hour ride there) but we still had not found this staff member, although many were going up and down the beach looking for him. Eventually it was decided that a few people would stay, and the children and others would go back.

At this point we assume that the sea took him in.  Lauren said that they had to pay the local fisherman 100 cedi and a bottle of alcohol, and they go out and pray and bless the water with the alcohol that his body would be found. He was 47 years old, but with no wife or children.  His other relatives have been notified, and where going back to the ocean town today.

Sorry for writing a sad post, but as Pastor told me last night, this is not too unusual. People die in the sea often, and die in other accidents.  Yes people are sad, but it seems that they go on as I guess we all do.


“Teaching” at United Hearts School

 Posted by Pat O'Malley at 5:53 pm  Uncategorized  Comments Off on “Teaching” at United Hearts School
Sep 152015

Today was my first attempt at leading the nursery school class.  But before I get into that, let me tell you a little bit about school here.  School started on Tuesday September 8.  There were only about 25 students who showed up, so they cleaned the school yard, but no learning that day.  Each day there was a few more students that showed up, and I was told that on Monday, most of the students would show up.  And they were right! By Monday there was probably over 90 students and more today, so who knows how many there will be by next week.

Not sure how but I seemed to get assigned to the smallest children’s class room.  The room gets divided into two groups, but by today there are about 40 students between two and six years old.  The younger group of 2-4 year olds has 28 children, one teacher, one aid and myself.  Many of the small ones just cry, so it is more like a day care, trying to calm crying children. But that’s fine, I thought they might be afraid of me being white, but most are happy to be held and just want to touch my skin.

Yesterday after the songs and dances that they all do, Jacklyn came over to me and asked if I had prepared anything for the children to do.  I was a little surprised, and felt badly that I had not.  But told her that I would for tomorrow.  So yesterday, I went through some of the educational materials here at the house and found colors, and I made of index cards with numbers 1,2 &3.  Now you also have to remember that these 2-4 year olds don’t yet know English, so I knew this would be challenging!

So after their songs, Jacklyn asked me if I wanted to take over, I said sure, but she would need to translate for the children.  I went through the colors asking them to repeat them, and then looking for them in the room. I also had a book of colors that had different textures that they could feel, so we did that.  Next I handed them each 3 index cards with the number on them and asked them to find #1, 2, 3. Only a couple got this one.  So I collected them, and asked if they would listen to a book.  I had a Bernstein Bears book that had different color cars.  I sat on the floor and they came over, but hard to show the pictures to 28 children! I had not planned on reading it, but rather showing them the pictures and story.  Not sure that was much of a success either as they were all talking.  It still wasn’t time for break, so we decided to give them each a colored pencil, and a paper plate and let them color it.

They went out for recess and came back and it was rest time.  I was amazed that probably three quarters of them fell asleep. Of course always a few that can’t keep still, but here the teachers can “beat” them.  They have a small thin stick and hit them lightly, but usually stops them and often brings tears.

Will need to figure out what to do tomorrow…if anyone has any ideas on things to do with two year olds who don’t speak English, I’d love to hear about them!

First Week at United Hearts Children Center

 Posted by Pat O'Malley at 8:42 am  Ghana  Comments Off on First Week at United Hearts Children Center
Sep 092015

So I have now been in Bawjiase for a week.  I can’t say that it went fast,  but I am glad to be here,  and I wasn’t so sure of that the first day!  I thought I would start by showing you the volunteer house that I am living in.  In comparison to the houses around me it is pretty nice.   We have electricity (although it goes out regularly), no running water,  but there is a toilet, which we flush with a bucket of water,  and a shower room which we use 2 buckets to pour water on yourself to shower.  No hot water, but room temperature feels fine.   There are four bedrooms a dining area, a kitchen/storage area.  Out back we burn the garbage, as everyone does.  And it’s a short walk to the well for water.  There are two Ghana’s living here,  NaNa is the volunteer coordinator,  and Isaac is the cook and care taker.  His job is to make three meals a day for me,  and even if I’m not hungry,  he is making three meals! In addition there are two dogs and two cats.  (Cats are a LOT skinnier in Ghana)

Breakfast consists of either a large pancake, which is not fluffy, but a little sweet and very good,  an omelette, no cheese, or one day we had “donuts” which tasted like biscuits,  they were fabulous. Lunch and dinner are similar,  I usually get either a hard boiled egg, or a piece of chicken, with either noodles (like ramen noodles) or rice.  The rice is covered in sauce that is always good,  vegetables and tomatoes paste.  Isaac usually makes more than I can eat,  so the rest goes to the dog,  Effie.  Effie has been like a guard dog, he walks to the orphanage and back with me,  and if a man gets to close he starts barking at them.  Effie is actually the size and color of PeeWee, (for those of you that remember our previous dog) but a little smarter.

I usually get up around 5:30 to 6 as this is when there seems to be a lot of noise outside,  loudspeakers talking about something, children crying and roosters crowing.  It gets light early,  but it is also dark by 6:30 pm.  Usually by 7, Isaac is making breakfast.  They don’t have coffee,  and at first my choice was “Milo” which is hot instant chocolate, but now we have tea, which is fine.  I then head up to the orphanage.  The children tell me that they get up at 6,  and they are always out and dressed when I get there.  Last week the children were on vacation, but this week they started school, so they have their uniforms on and are at school by 8.  I don’t have any specific duties at the orphanage, so I spend time with the children, and try to help out with chores.  I walk back for lunch and then back to the orphanage in the afternoon.  From what I can tell, there is no schedule,  I show up when I want and figure out who to talk to and what do to.  By the time we have dinner it is dark, and I haven’t ventured out at night, and probably won’t.  People are very friendly,  but even at this house they lock the door with added metal bars at night.

It’s getting late,  so going to try to post this… if it works will add additional posts later in the week with additional photo’s.


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