Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happiness Personified

That's right folks. Lydia's passport was finally issued today. It's been over 10 weeks since the first passport was applied for, and only 2 days since the second application was submitted. We have the passport in our hot little hands, and we are seriously thinking of bronzing both of these things for posterity. Now on to the embassy for our visa appointment on THURSDAY. So thinking it might be actually possible to be with my complete family this weekend!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Fihankra Foundation

Please visit the website for the non-profit I am helping to launch. The goal of the organization is to help provide for the physiological and educational needs of orphaned and neglected in Ghana. Many of these children reside in foster homes with 20 or more other children, homes that individuals have opened to these children without state or outside assistance.

We have launched our first fundraiser this weekend and are hoping to raise at least $250 for juice, rice, and medications for the children. Simply visit the Foundation's website (http://FihankraFoundation.blogspot.com) and enter a guess of the date that you think I will finally make it back to California with my children along with your donation of at least $25. Winners of the pool may choose a Moments to Memories Photography picture from my time in Ghana to hang in your home -- a $250 value!

Thank you for all your support thus far in the journey, and I hope many of you will be willing to take this next step with me! Please spread the word!!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Beach Makes It Better

Yesterday we received the news that Lydia's passport application file was lost during the transition to the new director. While a new file has been started (they still have her picture and her birth certificate, but the rest of the documents have been lost), I'm not sure if the new file has to go all the way through the approval process again or not. The approval for the first application took over a month, so I am really hoping the extra money our coordinator spent to expedite this application means that it will be processed quickly this time.

Our coordinator gave me the news as he dropped the kids and I off at Labadi Pleasure Beach. As I was trying very hard to observe Ghanaian custom and not show I was upset (Ghanaians only frown with their butts, not their faces let alone cry), the sand, surf, and sun washed over me. Soon I was hugged by children's giggles and how could my heart remain sad???

In total we spent 3 hours at the beach. The kids each got a ride on a horse in the surf (5 cedis each, Eddie with the horse owner, and then Lydia with me). That really helped improve my mood! We took several walks along the shore collecting sea shells and found several local sand dollars. Edward had a blast splashing in the waves, but Lydia was not as convinced and spent most of her time in the water firmly attached to my legs. I taught the kids how to build sand castles and decorate them with our seashells -- and Eddie quickly discovered the joy in wrecking sand castles. :) I didn't bring my camera to the beach, but I did get video and will post those later when I have the bandwidth to do it.

While at the beach I got to practice my bargaining skills. The locals see a white person and immediately think "Obruni = rich". Like in other poor countries prices are hiked and bargaining is expected. If you are willing to pay the high price then they think you really are rich and deserve to be parted from your money. The first practice I got on bargaining was with the horse man. He told me 5 cedis for Eddie to ride, and I asked if Lydia could also ride with him for the same price. The horseman agreed, but Lydia was terrified of getting on the horse. When Eddie finished his ride, the man offered Lydia and I a ride which I took him up on thinking it was part of the 5 cedis I had already paid. Let's just say I was more than shocked when I got off the horse with my daughter and the man asked for 10 more cedis! He had seen the 20 cedis I brought to buy our lunch and thought it should line his wallet. He explained that adults are 10 cedis to ride and children are 5 cedis, but he let Lydia ride for free because she was so scared. Um, yeah. When he realized I wasn't going to give him anything else he finally accepted the 5 cedis I offered and I realized that price must always be arranged before accepting service. After that lesson I negotiated for 6 bananas instead of 4 for 1 cedi and then for 30 cedis for a beautiful oil painting of coastal Accra by a local artist that was hawking his wares along the beach.

While Labadi Pleasure Beach was beautiful with its blue surf and fishermen mending their nets nearby, it definitely is a tourist destination. The beach is lined with cabanas for rent and local restaurants. People troll the beach trying to sell art, jewelry, shirts, and food. Horses are available for rent to ride along the surf. Yet, there are few (I found only 1) trash cans and garbage lines the beach. We sidestepped broken bottles, dirty diapers, water satchels, and small poo bags (yes, people poo in bags and then dispose of the bags). At one point Eddie and Lydia went racing off after a piece of garbage in the water that I quickly realized was a floating condom. I so wanted to grab a giant trash bag and start cleanup duty, but was afraid of offending the locals, plus I couldn't find any place to get rid of the refuse. Yet again I was struck by the dichotomy that is Ghana.

Since Uncle P drove us away from the beach Edward has asked to go back. Since we are here until further notice, I figure another trip to the beach is in order for next week to keep us from thinking about how far we still are from home.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

School and random hotel fun

Trying to prepare Eddie for kindergarten. He loves doing school work and is so proud of his workbooks. I just had to take a picture of him practicing his letters. We also do some simple math and read every day. This kid is bursting at the seams to start school (and his little sister can't wait to follow in his shoes)!

Honey loved his Lydia and Eddie, but he especially loved Lydia's clothes. Could this kid be any cuter wearing a tutu??? Of course, this is total blackmail material for when his high school graduation.

Honey copied everything that Eddie did the last two weeks he was here. Of course, there was plenty that Eddie copied from Honey -- like wearing Lydia's tutu. Needless to say, Hannah and I were close to tears from laughter this night.

Movie watching in the hotel room.

Momma trying to wear Lydia. Lydia loved it. Eddie was extremely jealous. All I could do was tell him that I wished I had him when he was small enough to wear. Rough night

Family snuggles. These kids love each other!

Brother-sister piggy backs. Lydia carried Eddie for a while too, but I didn't get the camera out in time to capture that cuteness. Gosh, do I love these smiles!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Learning about Ghana's Independence

Needing a break from the hotel, the kids and I packed up and headed off to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. Kwame Nkrumah declared independence from Britain on March 6, 1957, the first African nation to declare independence from colonial rule, and the park is on the Old Polo grounds where he made his proclamation. The park also is the final resting place for his body, and the Mausoleum is the main structure on in the park, along with a museum of the man's history. It was a nice way to spend an hour outside of the hotel and the kids and I had fun together.

Eddie, our water boy, checking that his peshwas are still in his pocket

The mausoleum

The kids were fascinated by the fountains in the park

The birds who serenaded our visit

The original statue of Kwame Nkrumah that was vandalized during the military coup in 1966. What is amazing to me about this picture is the fact that located behind this national landmark is such poverty. Ghana is truly a land of incredible opposites living side by side.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Can it be???

What is that the children are so fascinated by?

Look at the smiles as they stare in amazement

Yes!!! It is a Ghanaian passport!
Eddie has to look at it up close to believe he really has it!

One passport down. One to go. Could Lydia's be issued on Monday??? We pray so!
Dear new Director -- please hear our plea. Issue Lydia Annan's passport so our family may be united in America! Thank you. Amen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Friday, January 08, 2010

Half a family portrait

Per request -- here is half the family living it up on New Year's Eve. Starting to think we should start a pool for dates on when this half of the family finally returns to Cali (won't say US, seeing as Hannah got stuck in NY last night). Any takers???

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Day Trip to Aburi Botanical Gardens

Sunday, Dec 13th

Uncle P took us to Aburi Botanical Gardens for a day trip. Something to do to get out of the city and break the monotony of our routine. Definitely was more fun for the grown-ups than the kids, but at least there was grass for them to run around on for a bit.

The drive -- and you thought traffic in LA, NY, DC, Boston was bad. Seriously don't think "rules of the road" here. For example, cars have the right of way over pedestrians, and I mean literally OVER pedestrians. Then there is the always fun driving in between lanes to scoot up 3 car lengths and the constant blaring of horns. Will post video when I get home so you can get a better understanding of the insanity that is driving around here.

Street peddlers -- these people literally walk around all day with large loads of water, plantain chips, bofrut, bananas, etc. and approach cars idling in traffic to make sales for a few peswas (less than 5 pennies for a lot of it). Their balance, physical strength, and determination to come back out day after day never fails to impress me.

Once outside of Accra I got to see actual hills. The land is so beautiful here.

Eddie's less than impressed face when he realized I was going to make him walk around the park.

Lydia felt the same

The majesty of the trees at this park -- INCREDIBLE. I was half a football field from Hannah and Stephen when I took this pic.

HC laughing while getting some Eddie time

The saddest face I think I have ever seen.
I think she thought if she looked pathetic enough I would pick her up and carry her around with me. It almost worked. Instead, I took her picture.

Uncle P introducing the Sneddens to the less than pleasant odor of the local ants.

Looking up at the giant tree

Large ants (by American standards), larger befoulers of the air


Cooper was a little concerned about his Dad letting the insect crawl on him

Mmmm... cocoa tree

Sometimes it is really hard not to squish this kid up!

Taking a stroll

Crazy girl became much easier to handle after a chocolate protein bar. Girl after my own heart


Uncle P

Crazy child o' mine

Family moment

Two things: yes, this is the recording studio that Bob Marley used in Africa, and it is still run by his mom. Second -- check out the actual monkey hanging out above the sign!