Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Only in Ghana

I recently spoke to Francis, our VOH student attending school at OC.  I asked him how he was coping with American culture and what he thought of it.  He said there are so many times when he just laughs at Americans.  I am sure many of the things we do are amusing to him.  The same thing is true living here.  There are times you just have to laugh.  Sometimes the kids tell me I am getting crazy because I laugh too much.  There are times when I see and experience things that could only happen in Ghana and I can't help but laugh.  Here are some examples:
  • when the discussion in the teacher's lounge is about whether or not dwarfs exist
  • when a woman shows you her menstruation calendar like its a normal thing to do
  • when you see a live goat strapped to the top of a van with the other cargo
  • when you see children running up the stairs at school holding a machete
  • when an invitation says a wedding will start at 9:00am prompt and it starts at 12:00pm
  • when you see entire bus loads of people peeing by the roadside
  • when you see a billboard advertising fashion for weddings and funerals all in one
  • when you share a giant bowl of food with several people without utensils
  • when you see an advertisement for Wormplex, "your one stop de-wormer"
  • when you are sitting in a tro-tro with baby chicks under your feet
  • when you see an elderly woman wearing this shirt in pink sparkly letters... "wanted: boys that don't lie"
  • when you see this page in a beginner's English book:

Monday, November 22, 2010

apples are for teachers

Pine-apples that is.  I thought the pineapple sitting on this teacher's desk was perfect.  What better reflection of the differences in our classroom culture? 

This picture was taken a couple of  weeks ago when I went to Nkwatia, a small town in the eastern region of Ghana to conduct a teaching semniar with Alayna.  Alyana has been working on a curriculum development project for a few years, and this seminar was part of the implementation.

The first day she presented on integration, lesson planning, inquiry, experimental procedure, etc.  The second day I presented on reading skills and phonics.  It was really short, but a good start.  We were only with the primary 1, 2, and nursery teachers.  Turns out rhyming was not a part of their training, they found it quite challenging to create simple rhymes out of words that I had written down and given to them.  They did however, get really into the "letter aerobics" song.

It is really interesting to try and present material and methods to individuals who have no previous experience with such methods and philosophies of teaching.  I felt like I was speaking a foreign language for most of the presentation.  Hopefully some seeds were at least planted to focusing on literacy skills in the primary classrooms! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

send the fairy godmother packing

If you had any illusions that mission work, or life in Africa was straight out of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, please throw those out the window.  There is nothing Cinderella about this story.  Sure, coming here for a week or a month as a playmate life might appear a bit Utopian.  But the truth is, some days it just plain sucks to be thousands of miles away from family and friends.  The truth is some days I just get down right frustrated with the kids.  The truth is, trying to control a classroom of 40 plus kids seems like it is not even worth trying at times.  There is nothing exotic or romantic about such a life.  All that wears off in a matter of days after you step of the plane. 

A group of visitors is here this week, and they were asked to sub in classrooms today so that we could conduct a reading seminar for the primary 1 and 2 teachers (1st and 2nd grade).  One of them had her bubble burst when she realized this was not the "disney land village of hope".  She realized that the reality is that the 1st grade class is just down right awful, and that the 2nd graders are not much better.  While it was kind of amusing to me to watch the guests realize just how challenging teaching is around here, I know exactly what it feels like to just want to walk out of the classroom feeling totally defeated.  I know what it feels like to wish you don't care and just be able to walk away. 
But I do.  I do care.  And that is why even when the reality of work here threatens to overwhelm and consume me, I sit outside and look at the stars and pray for the strength for tomorrow, and I know that it will come with the morning, and hopefully the weariness will fade with the night.

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself: the Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those who hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentatations 3:22-26

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Here's a question you don't get every day... "How would you like to be my second wife?"   I never imagined I would get so many proposals from random strangers in Ghana.  I sometimes get tired of all the attention the color of my skin brings.  As flattering as professions of love from complete strangers are, I can only come up with so fake phone numbers. 

Surprisingly, polygamy is still practiced in Ghana. Usually in more rural communities.  I have asked several kids that have come from families with multiple wives, but still can't quite seem to figure out how that could ever work.  An old man the other day told me to "try and come by his house later..."  I don't think he was talking about a game of scrabble either. 

They are never threatening, I don't ever feel unsafe, just feel like blending in a bit more sometimes. I have gotten used to stares, and shouts of "obruni," and I have lost track of how many proposals.  There are days I just wish I could travel somewhere without being noticed...  It would be nice to not draw attention for once.  Especially since it is attention just based on my skin color and assumptions of the money that goes with it.  The only perks are that I do often get free tro-tro fares, directions and advice, as well as the opportunity to tell plenty of fake husband stories thanks to the whole single white female situation. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It is more blessed

Acts 20:35 ...remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said...it is more blessed to give than to receive.

I have always liked going Christmas shopping.  Mainly because I like buying presents for my family.  Every time I travel to a foreign country I have so much fun picking out things I know they will love.  I could spend way too much money on presents for other people.  I find great joy in getting presents for people, especially if they were not expecting them.  I have always enjoyed that type of giving.  However, while living in Ghana I have discovered what it really means to give.  To give of myself, my time, my energy, and my money. 

I have not solicited funds for my work in Ghana since March 2009 and yet every month I am blessed by friends, church family, and supporters who God uses to provide for all of my needs.  I am able to buy food, pay for transportation, pay the electricity/water bills, buy materials for the reading program, etc.  And every month there is money left over.  It has become my great to joy to share all that is left over with those in need here, or to use for particular needs around the VOH.  I have always known that there is more joy in giving than receiving, but not really.  Now I understand.  I don't ever want the people here to thank me, because the money is not from me.  Those wonderful, loving people back home that support me have touched the lives of people here in ways they do not even know.  Providing library chairs, sending students to extra classes, paying for textbooks, providing money for medicine, paying school fees for kids who can't, buying school supplies... It certainly is more blessed to give than to receive.  When someone gives me a great gift, I am very thankful, and humbled, and awkward. 

There are unending needs here.  Everyone could use more money.  You don't know shoestring budget till you have been in a place where there is extreme poverty.  There is no such thing as a budget at all for many of these people.  It seems sometimes that the needs are too great, too many. But one day, one need at a time.  I find that every time that I open my hands and heart to address the needs around me, God continues to take care of my needs.  I am sharing this for only one reason: because I hope that you experience what it means to give. To really give. To give when you have, and to give when you don't.  To give what hurts the most.  The most difficult thing for me to give right now is time.  I have made the choice to be here, but giving away time that could be spent closer to family and friends costs a lot.  More than money could pay.  But, the truth remains, it is more blessed to give.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Some might call it stupidity...

Sometimes I have moments in time when the world seems to freeze and I wonder how on earth I ended up in that particular situation. Last Friday night I was walking the streets of Accra hand in hand with a hotel manager helping me to look for somewhere to sleep for the night. While I realize that sounds rather sketchy I should back up and explain. Friday I spontaneously decided to go into Accra and do some research for graduate school. I brought along a list of recommended hostels/hotels in the area I would be for the evening. I was at the internet café for a few hours researching schools when I realized it was already 8:00pm. So I packed up and went outside to hail at taxi to the YMCA (yes ladies and gentlemen, there is a YMCA in Ghana!). Turns out it is not a real popular place, and the taxi driver had trouble finding it. When he finally dropped me off there, I was told it was only for men. Oops. The information had failed to state as much. Oh well, it looked sketch anyways.

Plan B was a hotel not far away that was rather cheap and reportedly clean. Upon arrival I was informed it was all full. By this time it is almost 9pm, and I was started to worry a bit. Apparently the hotel manager was also concerned because he took my hand and told me he would walk me to a few nearby hotels to see if they had vacancy. Ghanaians are rather hospitable, and I was thankful for his willingness to help me. IN fact, he spent almost two full hours helping me look for a place to sleep for the night. We checked several nearby hotels, and took a taxi to one a bit father out: all were full. Who would have guessed that cheap no-name type hotels would all be full on a regular weekend?? I had stayed somewhere a few weeks before with no problem, but it was already closed for reception at that time of night. I had the option of some expensive places not too far away, but ended up accepting the manager’s offer to have me sleep with his sister.

I had to go and get something to eat, as I had not had lunch or dinner yet that day, and then promised to be back soon. By the time I returned the sister, whom I had never spoken to, was already asleep. So, he banged loudly on her door, woke her and her roommate up, and rolled her over to make room for me. -She is probably a few years older than I am, and was sleeping on mattress that barely resembled its original form. There was no sheet on it, and no padding left to speak of. He did bring me a cloth thankfully. So, I dropped into bed completely worn out well past midnight. When I woke the next morning around 6 next to a stranger it felt rather strange. I was greeted by a “Good morning obruni.” The situation struck me as rather funny at this point. I had never spoken to either of these ladies before and I shared the bed with them.  I was rather thankful for it though. 

While some might call it stupid or naive to think I could find a place to sleep without planning, I prefer to think of it as another lesson in Ghanaian hospitality.