Monthly Archives: July 2010
…is a virtue,
This I know…
but mine is wearing thin.
My opinion is that there are three stages to becoming an African at heart. 1) You’re a newbie so everything that could frustrate you, you excuse because it is a different culture. Stage 2) You still realize it’s a different culture but your frustrations are at an all-time high… 3) This stage is reserved for those who are aiming to live in Africa–for you there is no such thing as frustrations because you’ve adopted many of the native practices as your own.
I am clearly in Stage Two, but despite my frustrations I am still thoroughly enjoying myself. A lot of my frustration comes from the fact that Ghana has rules that people are expected to abide by, but the enforcers choose when they want to enforce them.
The other day we were just trying to cross the street, but it wasn’t a cross walk because there are only crosswalks every like mile and the police were like turn around a go back where you came from; we’re trying to teach you. Bologna. Two hours later we were walking on this path that had been made in the grass and we get to this guy that says turn around and go back where you came from, you can’t walk here. Well clearly we were not the first people to walk here. He then wanted to charge us 20 GHC to pass there. I wasn’t paying his backpocket though…
Then later that night we were trying to go out and dance for someone’s birthday and we get to this place and everyone can get in except me because I am wearing shorts, nice shorts, though. My knickers were unacceptable… That was the final straw for me that day… Then some guy was like I’ll get you some pants and I said I’m not gonna pay you a lot of money for a pair of pants your friend is giving me. He said, “How much you pay?” Um, no more than 2 GHC. “Oh, that’s no good. Gimme 5 GHC.” Okay, fine… So he leaves and then 10 minutes later a different guy comes back wearing some pants that look like he just took from someone off the street and I just couldn’t do it… I’m sorry… So I just decided to sit outside under the steps and wait for the rest of them… They came out in like 45 minutes because they said it was super lame and just a bunch of wealthy Obrunis and Obibinis. We didn’t come to Ghana to associate with the elite group so we left… I probably wouldn’t have been so frustrated if we had just been able to get there but our taxi got a flat tire on the way there so I helped change that… That day was just like one thing right after the other. You know what I mean?
Yesterday we had a very relaxing day at the pool which we all needed very much. So today we woke up refreshed and ready to take on the day. Some people are going to the botanical gardens which I’m sure are gorgeous, but you could see those anywhere. I would much rather take in the culture in another way…
Before leaving the U.S. I made sure to find out what languages the people of Ghana spoke; all of the information told me that most people spoke English in their daily business. NOT.
Most everyone speaks Twi (pronounced chwee) and they speak English as well but not very much. You could look right in someone’s face and say “Is the sky green?” and they would say yes and then five seconds later say, “Is the sky purple?” and they would agree yet again. And while most people speak Twi, they also speak their own tribal language. One day in school I asked one class to tell me what language they spoke and each student spoke a different language—it’s pretty remarkable actually.
Learning the language isn’t as difficult as I expected because EVERYONE wants to teach you… However, there are some sounds that are just hard to make; it’s like one letter is a combination of three sounds. As if that wasn’t hard enough, a lot of the meaning comes with intonation—you can say something one way and people will just look at you with a blank stare and then you can simply change where you put the emphasis and it’s like someone flipped a switch. Even English words have to be said the exact same way the locals say it or they have no idea. Take for example the word “Circle.” Kwame Nkrumah Circle is in the center of Accra and if you get there you can basically get anywhere else you need to go; however, if you look at someone and say, “Where are the trotros to Circle?” they’ll say, “Where?” And it takes about six times before you realize you have to pronounce Circle as “Suckle.” All jokes aside.
So, let’s have a Twi lesson. Please realize that I have no clue how to actually spell these words; I have just been writing them down by sounds so that I can remember how to pronounce them because often they words written don’t look like they would sound the way they do.
Mepaucho (may powcho) – Please
Medase (meh-das-ay)—Thank you
E te san (ay-tay-sane)—How are you?
Aye De (ay-yay-do)—Happiness is Here/The environment is enjoyable
Cobra—go and come
Oyare—Are you sick?
Neyare—He/she is sick
Shay hoon su yay—Take care of yourselves
Ti mi su ca cra—I don’t want Obruni price
An no mah—Bird
Ah fa fran toe—Butterfly
Ah coo coh—Chicken
Oo co scoo—Are you going to school?
Wo hubon se aponche—You smell like a goat
Acom di may—I am hungry
O free he—Of where are you?
Me free—I am from…
O te hey—Where do you stay?
Me coda—I am sleeping
Me koffi—I am going home
Meeni oh by ee—What’s for dinner?
Oh by ee—We are eating…
All this week the kids at school have been testing… Final exams. I’m still trying to construct my opinions on them because they determine whether the kids pass or fail whichever class they are in, but it just doesn’t seem fair; Granted I don’t want the kids to go to the next class when they don’t understand the work they are doing now, but it also isn’t their fault—the school is failing them.
On Monday, the head teacher approached me and directed my attention to the new Ping Pong Table sitting in the court yard; he said that was his most recent project and that he had talked to the teachers the Friday before and they had all donated money to purchase it and that he would bring me the form to donate on Tuesday. It’s all about priorities, folks. The kids love school—they thoroughly enjoy it. It isn’t your job to entertain them, but it is your job to teach them.
There are two kids in Class Five that cannot read a lick. They were taking their English exam on Monday and I went up to the head teacher and asked how they were supposed to take the test when couldn’t differentiate the word “the” from “as.” He asked if they were in my reading group… Duh, pay attention please. They have no idea that the kids are failing and have no idea what is being taught but yet they call themselves a school. Might I add that the tests they were giving had been purchased and had so many errors on them it was almost impossible and will be hell to grade. One section wanted the kids to circle the word most similar in meaning to the underlined word and there was no word underlined in any of the questions… On other questions every possible answer was RIGHT… Furthermore there was no punctuation used in the test. Only a couple of the questions had a period at the end. This is the students money that is being wasted to buy tests that the school could have made on topics that were actually covered during the term.
I’m still trying to determine how I went to bring the issues I have noticed to complete attention. I still have six weeks and don’t want those to be awkward because I overstepped my boundaries as an Obruni volunteer, but I also want these kids to get the education they deserve. A head master and head teacher are not both needed—neither of them do anything to where they need that kind of title.
If a school fails to teach a child to read, it’s that child’s entire future. Accountability is such an important thing, but it is non-existent from what I’ve seen thus far…
Today at school as I was getting ready to leave (around 9:30 AM because I didn’t have an exam today) I noticed that one of the kids wasn’t okay… He’s normally all smiles whenever I see him and he has two younger brothers, Christian and Luis, and a sister, Eunice. I asked him what was wrong and he told me his head was spinning so I took him to the teacher’s office to sit and then went to ask what I was supposed to do and they told me to take him to the headmaster so that we did. We walk in to the headmaster’s office and I tell him that Jackson’s head really hurt and he also said his stomach hurt so he pulled two pills out and a water sachet and gave it to him. Later when I called one of the other volunteers working in the hospital I asked what paramol was because that’s what the child was given, she said it was like a vitamin. Seriously? What is that going to do? This kid was sick. He had serious chills and was shaking.\
I decided I wasn’t going to sit there and wait for the Headmaster to get it together and told his teacher I was taking him to the doctor and then home. I also asked one of the other teachers to make sure his siblings got on the right trotro to get home because they live quite far away from the school. We go to the clinic in Pokuase (where I live) and wait… Eventually we get in and the nurse weighs him, gathers other information and takes his temperature. He didn’t have a fever so she said she was going to do a test to see if he had a malaria parasite. Most of the time doctors/nurses here just listen to the symptoms and diagnose malaria so I wasn’t sure what a test was going to entail until she opens up three different packages, one of them revealing a razor blade. I soon realized it was similar to a blood sugar test or the one before you give blood to determine if your iron is high enough… She says something to the boy in Twi and then I say, “This is probably going to hurt…” and right as I’m saying it she pokes him and the look on his face was horrendous. I just grabbed his hand and squeezed it—I’m not sure it helped too much but it made me feel better.
Sure enough, poor little Jackson had malaria. Uncomplicated Malaria—whatever that means.
The nurse gave him three different medicines and explained the dosages to me. He really wanted to go back to school to meet his sister and brothers, but I wasn’t sure that if he went back and took the medicine with him it would make it home so I wasn’t taking any chances. We got some lunch. Rice and beans for me and when I asked him what he wanted he said just rice… I asked the woman what meat she had and she opened a pot and there was the front half of a fish, eyes still attached, covered in a red sauce—I’m pretty sure my face scared the woman…
The kid got the fish. Ew.
It took two trotros to get to Jackson’s house and then a fifteen minute walk. Can you imagine being 12 and having three other siblings with you and doing that EVERYDAY?
Only his Dad spoke English so I explained what the nurse said to him. He was extremely nice. The entire family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) were all there as well. It was neat.
Eventually I made it back to ACP and sat down for a coke.
Never did I expect such a reaction when giving a test.
Junior High here ranges between ages 13-18 and they are all different levels. I taught them two chapters and gave them a weeks notice to study for this test and they were lost… Earlier in the day when I went to borrow one of their textbooks to make the test one of the students said, “Make it cheap; cheap questions.” I clarified to make sure cheap meant what I thought, easy… I tried explaining to them that me giving them an easy test would do nothing for them as students; if they want to learn to think and succeed they have to be tested and pushed…
So, I made out the test: Four ID’s (basically you just write everything you know about something) and then four other questions that needed about a paragraph for each one. I wrote the questions on the board and one kid hollered out, “This is not how we do in Africa.” I replied with a casual, “Okay, well it is today,” and the student grumbled. I said, “If you don’t know or don’t remember something then make a guess–just try. However, do not let me see you looking off someone else’s test or yours will get ripped up and i’ll make you up a new one.” They wanted to test that last part. I started to rip one students and I think they got the picture. Little does that student know though that he will probably not even get half credit because he took it upon himself to mouth the answers to another girl. I asked them if they thought I was stupid and also reminded them that I was only 20 and was just in their shoes so I know all the ways of how teenagers try to sneak a peek at their neighbors paper.
I am going to have to give myself a couple of hours rest before I even begin to grade these; I’m gonna need a lot of patience! What really got me was that one of the teachers had written one of the answers on the back of the notebook and thought that I wouldn’t notice. I marched right back there and took that notebook from both the students who were rapidly trying to copy it down and kept it for myself and gave the other teacher a mean look. This was the same teacher whom the other day kicked the soccer ball and knocked a girl’s food right off her desk all over the floor and didn’t offer to pay her back or get her something else. 50 pesewas, about 25 cents, may not seem like much, but when it can buy someone an entire meal here…it is a lot of money. The girl was crying, REALLY crying. I just went and got her some crackers and water because I didn’t bring much money to school that day… But seriously? You call yourself a teacher. Oh, and now that I think about it, this is the same teacher that carries the whip when playing soccer with the kids and literally whipped one of the students when they went for the ball. Butthead. Forgive me.
Oh well, today was a good day at school for the most part! In Class 3 I worked on the tenses with them. We went outside and each person got three concrete squares and I would say a sentence and then they would determine if it was past, present, or future and write it with chalk in their appropriate square. I had fun, I hope they did too… Lol
Alright, well Spain just scored and all the other volunteers went wild (we have three Spanish girls here right now) so I better get off here and partake in the happiness!
Aha Yede (Happiness is here!)
As I sit and think, I am reminded of a place closer to home. A place very similar to the one I am experiencing right now.
That place is Appalachia.
Both areas are facing similar problems in similar extremes. Poverty, land degradation, and disease are all disrupting the daily lives of the people in both areas. Think about the water issue–due to Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia, very few people have access to clean drinking water and here, in Africa, the only water you can drink comes in a small plastic bag or bottle and sometimes the bottles have just been refilled with tap water. In addition, there is a severe need for environmental education. Here pollution is extremely bad–walking down the street requires one to cover their nose and mouth with a handkerchief to avoid inhaling exorbanate amounts of dust and exhaust fumes. The streets, in both places, are watered daily to help keep the dust from being so severe. In Africa, Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Yellow Fever, and Typhoid are all critical diseases and at home in Appalachia, the diseases take a different form–that of Asthma, Emphysema, and severe birth defects.
I guess what I am getting at is if you aren’t able to make it all the way to Africa to help, there is no excuse for not helping in some way at home. Appalachia is in need of your assistance, even if it is just your voice.
don’t even think for a minute that we forgot to celebrate the fourth of july!
On Sunday we spent the day aboard the Dodi Princess. I have personally never been on the Belle of Louisville, but I’m assuming the Dodi Princess is Ghana’s equivalent–with some major differences of course.
For 30 cedis, approximately $22, you got to board the boat, have a barbecue meal, free drink, and enjoy a live band. The sun was also out in full that day so we got pretty burned. The cruise lasted about 5 hours and halfway through they stopped at Dodi Island–a place of absolutely nothing but a few locals playing instruments and asking for money. I did swim in the Volta Lake while we were there though… It was really nice; the landscape was absolutely beautiful, especially the way the sun was shining through the clouds on top of the mountains.
This past weekend we traveled to the Volta Region (it is in the Eastern part of Ghana) for breathtaking scenery. At sort of the last minute we decided to take a trip to the waterfall there and see what else we could–we had no idea what we were in for.
Wli Falls is about a 350 foot tall waterfall and is probably the most beautiful thing I have seen to date. After about a 40 minute hike, you reach the pool that the falls drop into. It was a party. There were gigantic speakers, people dancing, and plenty of people swimming and taking pictures. It truly was one of the best experiences I have ever had. WE STOOD UNDERNEATH THE WATERFALL. Some of the locals showed us how to walk hand in hand with our backs to the falls so our faces didn’t get pelted with mist. Once we reached the falls we got in a circle and danced around–it was very surreal. So many gallons of water pouring down on you at once, at times it was hard to bare. Afterwards however, I felt extremely clean–probably the cleanest since being here. All the dirt, grime, and dust had been washed from my skin and my hair was the softest it has ever been. Did I mention I did all of this in my underwear? I felt like a local for sure; they all swim in their underwear EVERYWHERE! When you get ready to go you just put your pants back on and go. I, however, wore my underwear out of the forest and then took them off and just put my shorts back on to avoid any unnecessary discomfort.
Before ever making it to the falls we visited the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. This monkey sanctuary proved far superior to the one outside of Cape Coast. I fed a monkey from my hand! We also got to see two different groups of monkeys compete for territory. As they made their calls for their troops all the goats and chickens went wild; I felt like I was on an episode of The Wild Thornberry’s!
This was definitely a productive weekend–so, so, so surreal! Even the more trying parts of the weekend were miniscule when I remind myself that I stood under a 350 ft. tall waterfall and fed a monkey from my hand. We had “reservations” at a hotel, but reservations here don’t mean anything so we got to the hotel and he called his friend and tried to get us to stay elsewhere. I did manage to get us somewhat of a bargain at the hotel though…
I am now getting excited to go to the other two falls in the area–they aren’t as tall, but they’re supposed to be just as beautiful. I. Can’t. Wait.
If you ever make it to Ghana, Wli Falls is a must-see!