Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tuesday's Child

In Ghana the day of your birth carries much significance. They were shocked to learn that I didn't know which day I was born on when I arrived. I had to look it up on the internet so I would be able to tell them when they asked. I was born on a Tuesday. Each day of the week carries its own tributes. Ironically enough, "Tuesday's child loves to cook". In my case it would be more accurate to say "Tuesday's child loves to eat." But I have been learning to cook like never before since my arrival.

I have been experimenting with my cooking since I got here. The nearest source of food is a one mile walk. And even then, Fetteh can only provide me with plantains, bread, eggs, tomatoes, crackers, and oil. The rest has to be purchased in Accra or in some other larger town. There is no running to the store for something I forgot, I only get to go to the store once or twice a month. There is no such thing as a boxed dinner set, or frozen dinners, or fast food around here. I have to make everything from scratch. I can make some mean french toast and pancakes now. I also have mastered the frying of plantians. Those of you who know me well would be right in thinking it crazy that I would eat, let alone cook anything fried. But, nonetheless they are good! Not that that can be considered real cooking, but I am making progress.

Last night I had a couple of the older girls over to make cookies at my house. They had never made them before, nor used measuring cups or spoons, so it was an adventure. Especially when they put 1.5 tablespoons of sugar instead of 1.5 cups of sugar and I didn't realize it because I was busy getting the butter. Our "cookies" tasted more like bread. Thankfully we realized it after the first batch came out of the oven and added a little sugar to the dough of the second batch to try and salvage it. Tomorrow I am learning how to make jolof rice from one of the older boys. It is a spicy red rice that is delicious! I can't say I love cooking yet, but I am learning. Maybe the old addage is right, maybe I will love to cook before my year here is up. That would make my Grandma proud!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


There is a never ending stream of surprises here. Such as "surprise, you are librarian," "surprise there are student teachers coming from NYC for two months," "surprise, we changed your teaching schedule without telling you," "surprise, Monday is a school holiday," "surprise, you are subbing today in some random class." I never quite seem to know what is going on until it is happening. I showed up at school this morning after yesterday's holiday marking the end of the Muslim holiday Ramadan, and Ghana's first presidents would-be 100th birthday, to find they had changed my teaching schedule without telling me. I was fixing books in the library when a student comes to tell me that they are expecting me for teaching in their class. No one had bothered to tell me that my class periods had been shifted around. Good thing I was prepared.

I was not, however, prepared to substitute teach all day Friday without notes. The teacher informed me a few days in advance that he would be gone, but assured me he would leave me notes. When I got to class Friday morning there were no notes, and the cupboard containing their notebooks and textbooks was locked. Thus ensued a brutal day of 2nd grade. There was nothing quiet or respectful about them. Thankfully I had brought some notebook paper and supplies with me, and was able to wing some lessons. I hate doing that though, it is not in the best interest of me or the students. But, such is life here. There are constant surprises, or changes in plans. Keeps life interesting for sure.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Madam, please..."

Before students ask a question they say, "Madam, please..." I was blown away by some of their intelligent questions today as I delivered my first lesson. We were discussing the both physical and social aspects of the enviornment. They are going to keep me on my toes! It was amazing to have a room of 30 students quiet and listening. There was a little whispering now and then, but nothing compared to Bodine! I am so excited to teach these students, I will be learning right along with them seeing as how the social studies curriculum in 6th grade is all about Ghana.

I spent the afternoon subsituting in a 5th grade class. The work that he left for them was coping down the tables out of the inside cover of a science textbook about various quantities and their instruments of measurement. BORING! And yet, most of them sat quietly and did it. I rewarded them with playing the game "around the world" with multiplication facts during their math period. They loved it. I am subbing in a 2nd grade class on Friday. Looks like I will be doing a lot of that around here. At least I know in advance and can plan my own lessons for the subjects they will be covering!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today marks my first full month here! It took me over two weeks to upload the pictures for the slideshow above. The internet is so slow I could only upload a few pictures a day. These are only a few of the many I have taken so far. I can't beleive a full month has passed already!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


This week school re-opened. To say that it is in session would be false. In actuality it is a week of registration and preparation. Which means that the majority of the day the students sit in the classrooms by themselves doing nothing. It seems quite strange to me, but I am not Ghanaian. Normal teaching begins next Monday. I do a lot of sitting and waiting.

Monday morning I sat in a staff meeting all morning. I felt quite out of place. I was half-surprised to see my name on the staff list that was passed out at that meeting. My official titles: P6 social studies teacher, library assistant, reading facilitator. There is not much for me to do this week. I have lessons prepared for next week, but they will have to wait. I walked into the library Monday afternoon to help and was immediately overwhelmed. The place is dusty and disorganized. Stacks of books are sitting everywhere, waiting for labeling materials to be shelved. Not surprisingly, lizards and spiders have made their homes among the reference materials (because no one ever uses them.) I asked what the system of checkout was and had to stifle a laugh as the librarian spent several minutes trying to locate the "checkout book" on his messy desk. I thought to myself, "So that's how it works around here..."

Evening tutoring has been going well. Monday night was Ma Millicent's birthday. I made her a cake and some icing (the best I could with the ingredients I have). I brought it over and we sang happy birthday and somehow made a 9x9 cake feed 26 kids. They licked the pan clean, quite literally! It was so much fun though. As we were singing, Ma was singing happily along with us, "happy birthday to me" and I again felt that sense of belonging. I wrote out math problems, read books, and did addition flash cards with the girls for the rest of the evening. One of the girls had asked me to bring some glue to fix her shoe. When I pulled out the super glue I had brought along I suddenly had a long line of girls whose shoes were in pieces. Many of these girls have never owned new shoes, and the donated shoes they often receive are already worn. Some of the shoes would have required a miracle to put back together, even with super glue. They were so excited, I just hope the glue sticks...I wish I could buy them all new shoes. Last night's tutoring was at the Joy Barnett house. There are lots of kids in that house that need help. I wish I had time to do one-on-one work with them. After an hour of working on math and reading, we decided on an arm and thumb wrestling tournament to finish off the night. It was so much fun! Thankfully I was able to beat all of them but one high school boy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

see you later alligator

Silverware is something I have always taken for granted. However, I have had quite the humbling experience last week. For those of you who don't know there are two campuses of the Village of Hope. The main one is located in Gomoa-Fetteh, it houses and educates just under 200 children. The other campus is located near Accra in a suburb called Ayawaso. It is a Vocational Training Center that teaches 35 teens off the street. They can learn kente weaving, tailoring, or leatherworks/bag making. And now, thanks to the generosity of a man Jeff Roland, there is an auto-mechanic training facility. I went with he and his daughter to visit the Ayawaso campus for a few days last week.

We took a group of 6 guys out to dinner one night in Accra. Most of them had never been to a restaurant before. And in fact, one had never even used a fork and knife! Now, I must note that in Ghana many people eat each meal by hand. But it was still surprising! Some of the guys we ate with are my age, and have none of the opportunities in life that I have had. It was humbling to realize that I have finished high school and college—things they will never be able to do.

There is a house under construction at the Ayawaso campus, and one afternoon they needed help moving cement blocks. The boys were carrying anywhere from 1-3 blocks on their heads across campus. I decided to attempt to help, despite my lack of ability to balance heavy objects on my head. The boys whooped and hollered as I managed to carry the block across campus (with the help of my hand for stability). Some of the girls then decided to help out. By my fourth and final block the boys had laid out a pair of pants in front of me as if it were red carpet. I could laugh at their amazement at my ability to carry a few blocks.

During the course of block moving the boys found a treasure, or so they seemed to think. I heard them yelling and laughing, and saw that they had caught and killed the largest lizard I had ever seen. I gasped realizing what they were about to do. They were beaming and proudly began to roast it on the fire for dinner. They ate it quite happily. Over the course of the week I saw a goat and two chickens occupy that same fire. If you can catch it, you can eat it... As I told my prestoncrest girls that evening, they told me that it must have been in fact a baby alligator. It was the length of my arm. Vida, always the comedian, said "see you later alligator!" I was just thankful I was not invited to take part in this dinner.

I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with one of the instructors named Richard. I was blown away by his heart. He is an orphan that was taken in by the VOH himself. He was too old to start school, so he went through the vocational training program. He now teaches the kente weaving at the VOH VTC in Ayawso. He says that he was given hope and a family through the VOH and can't help but now turn around and share those blessings with others. He lives in a shack between two crates on the campus grounds and is perfectly content-except for one thing. He wants to learn how to read. He was talking about how God had richly blessed him and he wants to learn how to read the Bible with more understanding so he can share God’s word with everyone he knows. I have to come to believe that in America we have a limited perspective of service. We give only so much of our time and money, and feel justified in then keeping the rest to ourselves. I am humbled to realize so many like Richard here, who don’t get vacations, or days off. A life of service is a life spent fully committed at all times to the work which they have been called to. It is in such times that I am forced to examine myself and recognize the selfishness in me, and my necessity for growth. I was able to work on some basic phonics with Richard the other night, he is dying to learn and just has never been given the chance. It is so frustrating when he has such a deep desire but was never able to attend school, and yet our American schools are filled with kids who could care less. Most of my students last year flat out didn’t care about their education, and this man is dying to learn how to read... at the age of 25.