Like So Many Others

A Story from The Field

Like so many others, Abigail got a loan for her provisions shop. Like so many others, she wanted to buy higher profit items so she could make more money – enough money to enroll back into University.  Okay, so the last part is a bit different.  But that’s just the beginning of how different Abigail is.


Her story involves broken homes, dreams of helping kids, perseverance, Faith, and more determination than one person normally has.

Abigail comes from a broken home, nothing she wants to talk about nor have another child go though.  So at the age of 18 she started finding kids in the community in bad situations – broken home, orphan, unsafe environment – and took them home if she was allowed, or looked after them daily if she couldn’t take them out of their situation.


She had gone to University for a semester early on, but decided to allocate her money solely for the kids – to pay for food, a house, healthcare, school materials, and clothing. Now at 24 years old, Abigail has 18 children she looks after – 10 that live with her, 8 she looks after at her rented home. Her provision shop has allowed her to pay for items the children need, while also saving to rent a larger house – and to save for tuition to attend a weekend University nearby.DSC00450

Through perseverance, she found a lovely home, with its own compound – plenty of room for the children to live and play.


I visited both homes, and the difference is dramatic – the kids will be thrilled!  Abigail is also starting up University again in a few short weeks.




Last year she held a community fundraiser with some success.  The community does help out in other small ways, offering some food and produce from their farms. She is also a pastor in the community.


How are the children doing? Her eldest is 22, and just started nursing school.  Her next eldest began teacher training college last year. The others that stay with her attend school, and there are signs posted at the front door of her house that says “Speak English”.  She is determined they get the best fresh start possible in life.

Like so many others, Abigail wants to see Ghanaians step up and out of poverty.  But unlike most people, Abigail is taking action every day to ensure that happens – one child at a time.

Thanks for reading about Abigail.  There is no ask or action here.  Just wanted you to learn about someone else’s life, and the amazing things people are doing in the world.

Snippets: Conversations

Sometimes it is snippets of conversations that show the soul of a country:

  • My Advans driver was taking me from Ho, the regional capital of Volta Region, to Hohoe – about 47 miles, a 2 hour drive. The road went through some mountains, offering beautiful views into the Volta plains. As we crested one mountain and looked at the vista below he got quite serious and asked  “Does the sun shine like this where you live?” Think about it.  I did and was humbled.

Ho to Hohoe

  • Getting quizzed by 3 Advans loan officers while driving crazy bad roads from Jasikan to Hohoe (30 miles, 1.5 hours) – “Why don’t you have children?” “We decided not to have children – it was our choice,” I answered, kind of dreading where the conversation would go.  The guys were obviously shocked by my answer. “When you get married you have a baby in 9 months-you have to have kids, it is what you do when you get married!” All three agreed, and I could feel the pressure for me to change my mind growing and to start having kids at 54.  I decided to try and turn the tables. “Are any of you married?” That brought lots of laughter. “No! But soon,” was the response.  I decided to push a bit, “So what are you waiting for?” “Because of what happens after you get married” “And what’s that?”I asked.  “Kids!”  I couldn’t help but laugh so hard I snorted.  I am sure anyone driving by would have wondered why everyone in our truck was rolling with laughter.


  • Electricity went out for the entire town of Hohoe just before 7pm.  It was already pitch black outside as Ghana is close to the equator.  I like to think of equator meaning equal – equal day to night, about 12 hours of sun to almost 12 hours of darkness. There was no light to eat my Cliff bar by, and more importantly, no fan or a/c. I went outside my motel room and just stared at the stars, marveling at the Milky Way. Sadly, the lights came back on after a couple of hours.

lights of Hohoe

  • On our way into Jasikan we stopped at an Advans borrower’s shop who happened to be funded by Kiva lenders.  I was formally introduced to Rejoice, and we exchanged appropriate pleasantries. She cheekily asked me what I brought her from the USA.  I said “The good wishes and encouragement from all the lenders around the world who worked with Advans (partner) to fund your loan.  They hope for your continued success.”  Rejoice listened to George interpret what I said, and after a second or two, she started laughing and nodding.  She got up and went into her shop, returning a few moments later with a kente scarf.  Rejoice motioned for me to stand up, and she put the scarf around my neck. George translated, “She is very happy you are here and thanks you!”

    Looking at the scarf now hanging across the tv in my apartment, I smile.  Life is Good.

Rejoice kente and Betsy

What if a mouse…

I mentioned before the potential hazards of constantly moving computer equipment around, especially for someone with my genetic makeup (klutz gene). After 6 weeks and only one issue, it was only a matter of time…

The mouse smashed into 4 pieces when it hit the tile floor of my apartment. (I have decided I am going to stay away from tile flooring in any future home). Never having seen a mouse motherboard before, I spent 10 seconds in admiration of the technological prowess of the thing before spending 45 minutes not-so-silently cursing trying to put the pieces back together. Technology is fun right up until you have to pay special attention to it.  Like a rollercoaster – fun to watch, rather terrifying to be a part of it.

The first 30 minutes proved the definition of insanity – I kept trying to fit the pieces together the same way and it kept not working.  When I finally turned the thing upside down (figuratively-kind of), it slid into place.  Leaving the next 15 minutes trying to put the two outside pieces together.  I finally resorted to brut strength and presto! Of course, there was that annoying clear plastic piece left over, but since everything fit together, I figured it was an unnecessary bit put in to confuse and annoy people like me.

I was on a tight time schedule to leave Accra and head to the Volta Region by tro-tro – a small van full of people smashed together for a 3 hour road trip.  Lots of smashing in this blog…hmmm…

I got to the Advans office in Ho, regional capital of Volta Region, without mishap.  Until I tried to use my computer and mouse, and the mouse didn’t work.  There was a hole on the bottom I didn’t remember from the past years of using a mouse.  Ah-ha!  It was what focused the red light to allow the mouse to move the arrow!  Perhaps if I stuffed a piece of tissue in it…

It quickly became obvious I needed the annoying leftover piece.  Had I saved it or pitched it before I left? The genetic thing of course came to mind, so likely I had pitched it.  But I had paid $5 for this mouse here (because the bluetooth one I brought from home smashed when I dropped my computer 6 weeks ago), and I wasn’t going to just toss this new broken one away.

5 days later I got home.  The plastic leftover piece sat calmly on my table. (😜😜😜to genetics!) 10 minutes silently pleading and cursing the thing to come apart and go back together.  (The back together part took 9.5 of those minutes.)  VOILA!!!!!  A WORKING MOUSE!!

I feel inordinately proud of myself.  If I could high-five myself I would.  Instead, I put it all on blog for posterity, to remind myself that “What if a mouse gets smashed…I can fix it!” really happened.


It’s been awhile, and I am afraid I will start forgetting all the fine, wonderful, wacky things that are making up my current life.  You get to help me keep the memories and share in a laugh and a nod.

  • Exploding curry powder – it wasn’t the curry powders’ fault, it was the ants. Of course, I blame the ants.  They were converging en masse in my kitchen, and I had to move my recently bought spices, cans of tuna fish, and top ramen aside quickly so I could kill the tiny buggers.  And the bottle of curry powder dropped to the floor – a glass bottle.  It absolutely shattered. A haze of orange filled the kitchen, and I thought for a moment I was in the best Indian restaurant ever.  But I wasn’t, I was in my kitchen on a Saturday morning, not even having a cup of coffee yet.

Do you have any idea how invasive curry powder is? Let me just say I was finding orange particles for 3 days, hiding in cracks and crevices I had cleaned only an hour before.

The great news is that my whole apartment smelled fantastic for about 48 hours.

  • I really was going to buy a dark backpack last weekend. I somehow got sidetracked while shopping the streets of Osu (area with nice shops, bars, restaurants – a bit of an obroni hangout) and found myself buying yards of fabric from Woodin.  My new goal was to hunt down a wonderful tailor named Esther who made me a dress 3 years ago (also from Woodin fabric).  She was around here somewhere…

After wandering the streets of Osu for about 30 minutes (no mean feat, it’s not that big, but dodging cars and open sewers was a bit exciting), I heard a “Hello Madam!” Sure enough, there was Esther welcoming me back to her shop that I had just  walked by +3 years!

After exchanging greetings and catching up a little, we got down to business of fitting me for my new wardrobe: two dresses, a skirt and a simple short-sleeved jacket.

Fabric: $30

Tailor: $55

Reconnecting with a lovely lady: Priceless

Stay tuned for photos!!

  • Same theme – fashion: I wore my dress to work last Monday. The one that Esther had made me 3 years ago.  It created a bit of a stir; everyone was quite excited I had something with Ghana fabric.  Three of the Loan Officers I knew demanded photos with me.

Can’t wait to see what happens when I wear my new collection!

  • The picture of me doing aerobics for Advans’ 10th Anniversary Walk is showing up on various office powerpoints…I am choosing to be flattered, although hand-covering-eyes was the first reaction.


  • Toe kicks are an interesting thing. I don’t have any in my kitchen.  The lower cabinets have doors that I now call ‘toe scrapers’


  • I can get my 2-room apartment cleaned and sheets and towels washed for $4.50. I wanted to get it done every 4-5 days, but management asked me to keep it to every 2 weeks.  Some concern about water consumption, and the comment “This is Africa after all”.

I have compromised to every 10 days.

  • I have found a place to stay in Tamale, my next 2-month stop on my Kiva Fellowship. I had lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago (okay, a Facebook Friend whom I had actually never met in person) at a local restaurant.  He lived for a while in the US, and understands the hopes of comfort an obroni has.  Since he spends a lot of time in Tamale, I asked if he could help find me something, preferably a house-sharing situation.

Turns out he has a friend who is going to be out of town for several months – and a housemate willing to share the empty space!  With hot water and A/C!  AND A COFFEE GRINDER!!

  • About the coffee grinder…a sweet friend from Pfizer days was in town (really – she was here visiting another friend from her Global Health Fellowship days and I was a bonus). She had just finished a safari trip to Tanzania, and was travelling home with some coffee beans.  I didn’t know about the beans when I exclaimed over her luck in visiting a country with good coffee.  She promptly made me a gift of a pound of delicious Tanzanian coffee beans.

I have been searching off and on for a coffee grinder ever since.

My finding the house in Tamale is obviously a God-wink.  Must be doing something right!

  • There is a mosque not that far from my apartment. I can hear the muezzin calling the Muslim for prayers.  It is quite beautiful and haunting, and I know I will miss it.


  • Hitting the road for all of next week, back for the weekend, then out for the following week. See MAP in Photos for locations, and keep good thoughts!


  • What I am hearing: dogs barking, cars honking , a soprano singing opera, the beat and bass of dance music, the muezzin, a radio talk show…but nothing while I am writing.


The Potato Salad Caper

Women in their bright fabrics with children tied to their backs dodged in and out of the traffic –  both human and vehicle – with fully loaded heads. Why use your hands and arms to carry stuff when you have a perfectly good head that can balance buckets with fish, bananas, glass cases with baked goods, clothes, etc.


Well, when in Ghana…seriously, did you not read my post about being a klutz?! I will eventually give this a try, but not during work hours when I am chasing down my dream – a potato salad.

Tomorrow (August 21) is a Muslim holiday that celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and God’s intervention.  This got me thinking about the 4th of July. And yes I know, other than they are both in the summer months, they have absolutely NOTHING in common. Other than the requisite feast, of course.

Potato salad came to mind.  It’s easy, totally American, and holiday appropriate.

And I am in Ghana, at an outdoor market that sells everything from mangoes to salt to flip-flops to…you guessed it, potatoes.

My colleagues (2 Advans loan officers I was tagging along with to Nsuwam and its market) assured me they could find me potatoes – sure enough, a bag of 8 dirt encrusted slightely odd-shaped “yellow” potatoes cost me about $.75. I had mayo at home and an onion…what else could I possibly need? Ohhh – EGGS!

I hadn’t touched an egg since my traumatic experience two weeks ago.  It was time I stopped being chicken (  😜 ) and faced my fears.

After quizzing my colleagues about the likelihood of coming across another chick-in-the-egg, and (more) assurances that it NEVER happened to them, I bought 6 eggs for $.80.

Let me clear up the ingredients list issue right now.  No one sells celery, and I was so excited about potatoes I forgot about peppers, which they have plenty of here. I know, I know, I was already on shaky ground for good results.

Things back in my apartment were going fairly well.  Potatoes were cleaned, peeled, chopped and immersed in boiling water. A few minutes later, they were done, and I cooled them off the best I could – lots of running water, finally putting them in my fridge’s little box freezer compartment (no ice cube tray).


On with the terrifying part – the eggs.

I spun each of them, promising myself if one spun oddly I would pitch it.  They all spun the same odd way, so I went ahead and boiled 4 of them.

Done!  But how to cool them off quickly so they didn’t overcook?  Easy! Put them in the freezer!

You remember what happens to Ralphie in A Christmas Story?  The tongue-on-the- flagpole thing?  Turns out eggs in a freezer compartment react the same way.  They were practically glued down.  I tried water to little effect.  I wound up wrenching them out of the freezer, leaving chunks of egg and shell behind.

Will frozen egg smell up the freezer/fridge? The water I used to try and unfreeze them created a nice layer of ice over the actual egg and shell.

Eager to move past the ridiculousness, I tasted the cooled down potatoes. Hmmm…not bad…but not what I expected from a slightly white/yellow potato.  Ummm…sweet???

Yup.  My good ol’ fashioned potato and egg salad sans anything green was now a sweet potato and egg salad.  I threw in some chili powder, onion, salt, pepper and mayonnaise with an air of desperation.

It’s almost 10pm, and I have decided to do the taste test tomorrow.  That way I can go to bed hopeful.


Let’s not drag this out any longer…it’s edible!!  And not bad, in the grand scheme of things.  The chili powder is a definite plus.  Gumby oversaw my tasting, reminding me to be flexible – just because it isn’t a perfect reproduction of what I wanted doesn’t make it bad, just different.

potato salad-ta da

And as I sit at my table eating sweet potato and egg salad, listening to the sounds of Ghana around me, different seems to be pretty darn good.

A Walk in the Streets

The music being blasted from the truck’s speakers was stunning – as in, if you stood too close you would get stunned. But with 40-50 people between me and the truck, and another 150 or so behind the truck, I figured I was in a pretty darn good spot in the parade. What parade? Why, Advans’ 10th  Anniversary walk/dance through the streets of Accra parade!

My colleagues at Advans informed me everyone would be there on Saturday at 6am for a 7am start.  I set my alarm for 6:15, knowing if I got there by 7 I would still be an hour early.  Sure enough, I got there a couple of minutes before 7am and I was probably the 10th one there.

20180818_085301 The rest of the Advans employees from around the Greater Accra Region – about 180 I would guess – trickled in by 7:30, and we were off by 7:45am.



Banners, music, dancing, handing out flyers, a police escort to manage the traffic (we were under police orders to say on street and off the sidewalk – go figure), a truck with massive speakers, a DJ and support vehicles – made up the 2 hour walk around Accra under fairly cloudy skies – thank god!


DSC00121Our band of merry-makers drew quite a crowd of onlookers, who were eage to take the flyers.  We finished up back at HQ for more water and of course, aerobics! Yup, because 2 miles walking wasn’t enough, now that the sun was out and merciless, it was time for some real sweating-to-the-beat! I took some pictures, but was quickly called in to join the ‘fun’.  I lasted about 15 minutes, and then made a beeline for the water and shade. I definitely made a better cheerleader than participant!!

Aerobics post walk

Once the jumping, swaying, flailing and good times came to an end, next on the agenda was kenkay and fried fish. I grabbed my driver, who had been ecstatic to be invited to join in the walk (I think it was all about the t-shirt), and declared it was time to leave.

I may be embracing my new adventure, but really, too many adventures in one day…hmmm, will have to come up with an ending for that!  Any ideas anyone??