We Have Bread!

By Leah Plummer 

Amidst a Ghanaian Christmas and festive week in general, we baked our first loaves of bread on the 28th. They were our “sample loaves,” so we just made a little (which was actually a lot!) of each type of bread we will bake (mostly tea bread, sugar bread, bran bread). The group started mixing ingredients in the early afternoon but had to wait until 4am to put them in the oven because the dough was not rising! At 4, about half the loaves had risen, but we baked everything and it all tasted great. We have some ideas about how to alter our next batch so it will rise better. The members shared the samples and brought some home to their families. Everyone is excited for our first commercial production on Wednesday!

Everyone was very tired on the 29th so we began the bakery inauguration on the 30th. On the night of the 30th, everyone came to the bakery to start cooking for the next day’s celebration of the bakery opening. After we finished cooking (Peanut soup, Light soup, and chicken stew), Antoinette’s friend the pastor led the group in prayer. They are all devout Christians (Christianity is the dominant religion in Southern Ghana) so they participated fully in the prayer. It was very  unlike any sort of prayer I have experienced in the US. The pastor was very dynamic, yelling and then whispering, gesturing and sweating. Sprinkled throughout his words, we would call out songs and the group would all sing together. It was very powerful to be present at, but it was all conducted in Fante so I had a hard time following the details. The next afternoon, everyone came over to pound fufu (a popular food that’s eaten with soup or stew, made out of boiled cassava and plantains that are pounded a lot! you just swallow it, no chewing!) and then we had a party. Music, so much food, and “minerals” (soda). Everyone was smiling and laughing. I am really glad that this bakery is more than a business, it is a community of people who all care about each other and are excited to work together to make the bakery cooperative a success. More updates when we start baking!

The Tropics are among us

After an easy 28 hours of travel, I shake off the stiffness with a cold Carlsberg at the Malwatte Household in Colombo.  The bottle quickly sweats in the humid air, but hits the spot just right.  Although I arrived in seamless fashion, my lugagge was not as fortunate. It remains in Chicago, the first layover of my journey, and will be delivered to Vin’s house in three days time. 

As it turns out, according to the Royal Jordanian Airlines clerk, if TSA detects batteries in your checked luggage, even if they are simple AAs like in mine, they open your bag and examine the contents. Such a strip search is not conducive to a very short layover time. 

Be that as it may, I am in the country and we are stoked to begin our project. 

• • • 

Quick Side Note: In preparation for the dugongs, after finals Vin accompanied me home to Jacksonville, Florida for about four days. On the second day, we took a trip to a place called Crystal River in central/western FL where there exists a manatee sanctuary of the same name.  During the winter months, once the Gulf of Mexico becomes too cold, manatees inhabit the sanctuary and surrounding waters due to its year around temperature of 75 degrees F.  You can pay any number of private businesses to boat you to manatee aggregation spots in order to swim/snorkel with these amazing animals. We trust the legendary Captain Mike to get the job done. Here is the link to a very brief, sun/fun-loving video recounting our first sea cow experience: https://vimeo.com/56174792


Beginning and Returning: Northern Minnesota

Northern Minnesota

I’m in Northern Minnesota again. In a week, I’ll be up at Northland High School in Remer working on a college access program. It’s been years since I’ve been there. (Although I was homeschooled, I visited that public school occasionally for tests and such.) The guidance counselor seems glad that I’ll be back to help the students find colleges and jobs. I bought most of the materials I’ll need while I was in the cities: ink, paper, and folders. It’s amazing how quickly $100 disappears in OfficeMax. I tried to be sustainable  — most is recycled or reusable. I bought 72 paper folders: that should be enough for most of the 10th-12th graders. It’s a small school (about 390 students total in K-12), but serves a wide area. It has some college access resources already, but they haven’t been utilized to much effect by students in recent years. I talked to a few who went to 4-year colleges, several who chose not to go at all, and many who go to the community college because of confusion about financial aid. So I’ve been designing a series of workshops for the past few months around paying for, and succeeding in, college.

I’m very excited to start in January and rejoin this community!!!

Update from Ghana

By Leah Plummer 

So much has happened in the last few days! Nyame Tsease (the cultural group) has been working incredibly hard in incredible heat (which I’m sure is much less incredible to them than it is to me) and making incredible progress. The space began as a somewhat run down fenced in area with some structures that needed quite a bit of improvement. Since I last wrote, a mason has come to smooth out all of the concrete surfaces and structure foundations, a carpenter has strengthened the fence, made benches, and fitted the doors, the members have been scrubbing the area with disinfectant and painting everything blue and yellow (Nyame Tsease colors!), an awning has been erected over the open space, and we got two puppies! Wow. The relevance of puppies to a bakery probably need some explanation. We got them because they will one day be dogs who will guard the bakery from thieves. But for now they are puppies and they are adorable!

Natalie and I have been having a lot of fun getting to know the members better, spending time with Antoinette, and drumming with the group at rehearsal every night. They play so fast and so well! We have a lot of work to do in order to be able to keep up.

The next few days look to be ask exciting as the last few. We should be getting the oven this weekend, gathering ingredients next week, and baking our first loaves of bread next weekend! Wow! Things are moving so fast, each day the bakery space looks like a new place.

All Days are Equal

by Leah Plummer
All Days are Equal? For those of you who read my email blasts from study abroad, you may remember the snippets of wisdom from the backs of taxis. For those of you who didn’t, in Ghana, most of the taxis have decal letters spelling out phrases in English or Fante on their rear windows. On our way home from the airport we saw one that said, “All Days are Equal.” It sure doesn’t feel that way right now.
It’s been a whirlwind to get to this point. Wednesday: Capstone due, Champagne toast with capstone class, errands for the trip, house dinner, packing with the band, bed. Thursday: More errands, flight to Chicago, beginning of flight to London. Friday: rest of flight to London, flight to Accra (the capital of Ghana), landed around 9pm, two hour car ride home to Cape Coast. Woah.
From the moment Natalie and I stepped off the plane, we knew we had arrived in Ghana. Some combination of the sticky, humid heat and the distinctive, though indescribable, smell. It immediately brought smiles to our face. Antoinette, our host, the only female master drummer in Ghana, and the leader of Nyame Tsease African Traditionals (the cultural group we will be working with), has already made us groundnut soup, both mine and Natalie’s favorite. In short, it’s good to be back.
As far as the bakery goes, we’ve had a some great conversations with Antoinette filling us in on everything we had missed. The group went to Sweden at the end of August for a month. A Swedish church group funded their trip. It sounds as if the trip was both challenging and rewarding, and Nyame Tsease has come out of it a stronger, more committed group. They are very excited to work on the bakery and have spent a lot of time gathering updated information on the prices of the items we will need. Natalie and I spent some time compiling the budget and tomorrow we will begin buying the things we need to build the structure. Once we have the structure up, we will buy the ingredients and being baking! I keep having to remind myself that this is real. We have been talking about this trip for so long that it’s hard to believe we are finally here. And that the bakery is underway! It is great and exciting and maybe even a little scary.
Alright, my time at the internet cafe is about to run out. Akwaaba! As they say here. Consider yourselves welcomed to Ghana.
Find out more about Leah’s project and all the J-Term Live It! recipients at http://www.macalester.edu/igc/igcstudentcouncil/liveitfund/january/january2013/