Ghana and the afterlife

Bear with me here…I bought a book called “Travel Writing” and reading it in combination with hot-season boredom led to this article about a funeral I attended in January. If you actually want to know about what I’m doing, I’ll give a brief update now: sweating, stressing about the halt in progress of the Vocational Department I’ve been attempting to create for the past year, attempting to fit various parts of my body into a mini-fridge, and enjoying the company of my 406 absolutely perfect students. Now, moving on to my attempt at real-person writing…

The loud music oscillates as the wind carries the sound to and from my approaching ear. The drums have been replaced by speakers, the musicians by never-ending mp3 playlists, yet this tradition of playing music at exorbitant volumes to alert neighbors of upcoming festivities, has remained. The volume of the music deceives me into thinking we are closer than we are, but after twenty more minutes of bumpy dusty driving on a road that disappeared long ago, we finally arrive.

The blasting music is now accompanied by the smell of the freshly killed goat being prepared for a stew, and the familiar (but friendly) stares of a mass of Ghanaians, wondering who brought the white girl. A giant baobab looms like a creature above the traditional mud compound, reaching its arms as if to protect it from the expansive surrounding bush.  I’m surprised at the size of the crowd that has already assembled, given the fact that it’s just after 8 am, until I’m told that the majority of guests came the day before to take part in an all night drinking and dancing celebration. That explains the reek of booze on people’s breath and the familiar droopy-eyed pallor of a party that lasted too long. This must be rural Ghana’s version of a frat party.

And then I turn to see the reason why we have all congregated at this remote compound on the very edge of northern Ghana – the body of my friend’s late mother wrapped in the traditional straw mat, waiting to be brought to her final resting place.

Carrying the bodies to the grave site is harder after 5 shots of Apatesche

Carrying the bodies to the grave site is harder after 5 shots of Apatesche

This is not the first funeral I’ve attended over the course of my two year stint in Ghana, and definitely won’t be my last. Unfortunately, malaria, motor accidents, and medical care that leaves much to be desired, are constant reminders of the fragility of human life. However, Ghanaians have proven their resilience and have found a way to shed light in the shadow of ever-present death. Funerals are….well…..fun! They emphasize celebrating a life more than mourning a death, and are one of the few remaining events held in today’s Ghana, where genuine traditional beliefs and practices are still very much alive.

First of all, despite the recent development and urbanization of Ghana, people still maintain the “come one, come all” attitude of a small village. Everyone is invited and, in fact, encouraged to come even if they have no relation to the deceased or the family. Funeral size has become a sign of wealth, power and standing within a village. More affluent families hang posters and billboards around town to announce the funeral, much like concert posters adorn telephone poles of American college towns. “Come Join Our Thanksgiving and Burial Celebration for the Late Pantia Kolog Nyog-Naab!” Coffin shops line the streets with their colorful creations like the birthday decoration aisle at Michael’s; pepsi can caskets, race car caskets, caskets that look like a disco ball.  Once you arrive at the funeral, informative pamphlets are handed out like playbills. “Part one: musical interlude, opening prayer, tribute of family. Part two: Short Exhortation, Wreath presentation.”  Apatesche (the locally made hard alcohol) flows endlessly out of 3 gallon jerry cans, and the DJ makes sure the upbeat, bass-heavy hip-life music can be heard for miles. A typical celebration usually lasts from 3 to 5 days, depending on the wealth and stamina of the hosts, and it’s common for families to set aside more money for funerals than they do for university or insurance.

Of course, each funeral has its own flair depending on the tribe and traditions of the hosting family. In the mostly Christian south, funerals tend to be bigger and every attendee sports the traditional red and black funeral attire. They’ll sometimes wait six months after the death in order to spread the word and draw the biggest crowds. In the north, where tribal culture is more active and religion tends to be a blend of traditional beliefs and either Islam or Christianity, funeral traditions vary slightly from village to village. In some, mostly naked men baring bows and arrows do a War Dance – a beautiful, extremely athletic dance that mimics fighting – all around the family compound in order to scare away evil spirits. In others, the women do the dancing. They stomp their feet, gyrate their hips and flail their hands, while onlookers clap and chant rhythmically (the DJ is kind enough to turn Chris Brown down for this portion of the days’ events). The one thread that unites nearly every  funeral I’ve attended is the sense of jubilation, not sorrow, of life prevailing over death. The only exception is the death of a young child – an occurrence that is universally tragic.

It is now time to bring my friend’s mother to her grave, and a clan of shirtless men lift her body effortlessly and lovingly to their shoulders. To my surprise another bundle of straw is then lifted to another clan’s shoulders. Before I have time to even ask who the second deceased is, my friend leans over and explains to me that in their Frafra tribe, no one goes to the grave alone. They exhumed the body of the deceased’s best friend so that they could take their last journey together. I look to see how intimately that 7-months-dead woman’s body is lying next to the face of her carriers and squirm. It might take me longer to adjust to some traditions than others…

Men and women of all ages dancing in front of the body

Men and women of all ages dancing in front of the body

We parade to the grave site, bodies carried aloft, among more dancing and celebrations. Toothless women, whose ages were forgotten decades ago, leap into the middle of the circle, throwing their still-limber bodies into the throes of the rhythmic, athletic moves their people have been dancing for centuries.  They’re not dancing for cameras or tourists, they’re dancing for their friend, mother, wife, teacher, stranger or sister, who died, yes, but more importantly, lived.

2012 in Retrospect

Happy New Year! I hope 2012 treated you all as well as it treated me, and you’ve prepared New Year’s resolutions for 2013 that consist of eating lots of good food and traveling to wonderful places. Or working out and getting healthy or something boring like that……

Anyway, because it’s been so long since I’ve actually updated you on anything I’ve been doing over here, I’ve decided to give you a “2012 Retrospective” of my past year in Ghana. The good, the bad, the heart-warming, the heart-breaking, all peppered amongst pictures of cute African babies to hold your attention.

January – I don’t remember; that was 12 months ago, Jeez. Moving on to cute nugget pictures.

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Africa.

 

February  – Agana probably showed up at my house every morning without pants on, I taught some classes, and it was too hot and I sweated.

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AGANA!!!! with pants on…the many I have of him naked were deemed inappropriate for internet.

 

March – Hot season hit full swing, so I spent most of the day lying prostrate on the floor of my house under the fan and panting. Not much got done except a little work on the computer lab and some more teaching. Starred in super popular PCV movie (see link) and am now a local celebrity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toz4_vPmmIA

April – I turned 24, I paraglided, and we began the classroom renovation. Peace Corps hosted the annual All Volunteer Conference (“AllVol”) and I tried desperately to NOT compare myself too harshly to all the other PCVs doing amazing and life-changing work in Ghana.

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My birthday present to myself…paragliding! Too bad I was in tandem with a Yankees Fan.

 

May – Term 3 started, and it finally rained again. The classroom renovation was completed and I moved into the new space! I went home and saw my amazing family and my wonderful friends, WHILE gorging myself with cheeses, leafy greens and micro-brews. It was heavenly.

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The renovated classroom!

 

June – LAURA AND VINNY GOT MARRIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I returned happy, healthy, and several pounds heavier to Ghana.

The running water at my site stopped working entirely (still doesn’t work) and I had to adjust to living a little more ruggedly. It’s amazing how little water we actually need to get by!  A 5-week drought caused a lot fear and stress throughout my village. I got a taste of what it really means to depend on the farms and how terrifying weather can be when you don’t have a supermarket down the road. Right as whole fields of crops started to fail the village elders sacrificed a cow and managed to get those gods to make it rain again. Who knew it was that easy!?

I started a project working with the International Food Policy Research Institute which involved working directly with a farmer in my village and documenting what he does week to week. His name is Sandoog Kennedy Buzong and he’s awesome (see picture).

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Buzong in all of his glory!

 

July – I spent most of the month running around all of Upper East making final preparations for the Leadership Camp. Chaotic and stressful but very fulfilling.

july - anita

Anita showing off my ‘specs’

 

August – I hosted the Leadership Camp for the Deaf (see previous post), in addition to my parents! They finally got to see my site, my camp, my cat, and my multiple Ghanaian families (HI GODFREY! HI HAWA AND DANIEL! HI FRANCIS!). All of Ghana and Peace Corps fell in love with Mom and Dad (as is usually the case), so I’m pretty sure their fan club now has an international base.

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The campers from my school, Godfrey and I all befriending a crocodile (as we are wont to do in Africa)

 

September – Celebrated Ryan’s birthday with pizza, gin and tonics, and a quest for bat meat (which still hasn’t been realized). The school year started with the typical 4-week wait for students to arrive and classes to start. The District Assembly finally agreed to pay for half of the creation of the Vocational Department (the other half paid by Canadian NGO Marigold Foundation), and we started to make REAL plans to make this department actually happen.

I found out I’m going to be an AUNT, and immediately started scouring the markets for African baby clothes.

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Unfortunately, Brains Foods didn’t have bat meat…or brains for that matter.

 

October – Kicked off a project to paint murals in the renovated art room which many of YOU made possible through your outrageously kind donations! THANK YOU! I also teamed up with a neighboring PCV to update a giant World Map on the side of a classroom block on my campus.

I attended a training workshop for teaching to children with multiple disabilities and brought two of my students who got HIV and peer education training.  Then I continued my travel down to Accra for my Mid-service medical appointment (NO WORMS!), and spent too much money on delicious Accra delicacies such as pizza, sushi, and bacon. Worth it.

(Emma would like to add here that she returned to Ghana, but not the Upper East; she is certain that everyone was and is terribly sad about this and insists on being obnoxious about it in a blog post that isn’t even hers …)

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One wall of the classroom with murals painted by some of the students.

 

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Britney and Me looking really super cool in front of our almost completed World Map!

 

November – Construction of the Vocational Department began!!!! And I subsequently became the happiest PCV in Ghana. And THEN the icing on the cake was that Obama got re-elected and I got a standing ovation from all the staff at my school (since I played such a pivotal role in his re-election, of course).

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving at the Peace Corps Office in Tamale which involved a live (and then dead) turkey, stuffing, mac and cheese and….sushi! I then attended a traditional fire festival at a friend’s site in Northern Region.

This festival was AMAZING. Words cannot adequately describe what it feels like to be in the middle of a remote village in Ghana, surrounded by people with white ash covering their faces and chests, wielding torches, screaming, drumming, chanting and firing rifles into the dark night sky (I realize how terrifying this might sound to someone who’s never been to Ghana but trust me… it was wonderful. Well…ok…and terrifying at times).

The festival originated hundreds of years ago when apparently a young village boy was lost in the bush. He was found days later, safely sitting under a Baobab tree. Ever since that day, members of his Dagaati Tribe participate in a yearly fire festival in which they mimic the search for the boy – thus the torches at night – walk from the village chief’s palace (that’s what they call it…it’s actually a hut) out to a specific tree in the bush. They throw their torches on the tree in a symbolic gesture to thank the gods for returned the boy safely to them so many years ago. On the walk back to the Chief’s palace they bring live branches in the place of their torches to signify bringing life back to the village. It was incredible. The entire village, all ages, takes part in the ceremony, and it’s a completely out-of-this world experience. I swear, it almost made me believe in juju. Almost.

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Ryan carrying his torch through the chaos of the fire festival

 

December – Ghana had its Presidential and Parliamentary Elections and once again proved itself to be a beacon of peace and democracy in West Africa. The elections itself felt much more like a drunken college football rally than an actual presidential election – people with faces and chests painted, waving flags and parading through the city streets covered head to toe with paraphernalia of their chosen political party. LOTS of energy, not a lot of actual content…. After seeing a friend in the garb of his opposing political party, I asked him why he changed sides so quickly and he hurriedly explained that NPP was providing the free food today and that tomorrow he’d return to NDC. Overall a grand time was had by all, and John Mahama was re-elected in an impressively peaceful democratic process. Hats off to Ghana!

I painted a giant map of Ghana on the side of the second classroom block and finished a complete handbook to hosting a Leadership Camp with the hopes that future PCVs continue the tradition.  Construction of the Vocational Department continued at an impressive rate and I spent another snow-less, homesick Christmas in Africa.

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Progress of the Vocational Dept construction as of December 29th!!!!!!

 

Ok, it wasn’t THAT bad, I was on the beach surrounded by the AMAZING friends I’ve made throughout my year and a half here. But there was a severe lack of Corke family antics, fireside card games and skiing involved.

Summary: 2012 was an absolutely incredible, frustrating, shocking, boring, fulfilling, guilt-inducing, character-building, pride-swallowing, chaotic, educational, inspiring year. Full of sweat, tears and gut-cramping laughter, the year 2012 will be remembered as containing some of the best days and worst days of my life, but also shaping me into more confident, well-rounded, independent and capable version of myself.  A version that is much more aware of my strengths while acknowledging my ignorance. Over the last 365 days I’ve proved to myself that I can take on Ghana…now let’s see about the rest of the world.

Wishing you all happiness, health and gluttonous portions of cheese in 2013!

Abridged Ghanaian English – American English Dictionary: 2nd Ed.

Abba!: WHY? Used mostly to express frustration. Best if both syllables are pronounced distinctly (AH—BAH!)

‘It’s the 3rd week in the term and the students still have not come to school. Abba!’

be free: to openly talk with someone, to be honest, to be someone’s friend (in the American English sense, see: friend)

‘Sister, you see how we are free with each other. That is all I want, just to be free with you. Also to take you as my wife’

chop: to eat

‘Is it true that in America you don’t chop dog? Be free with me’

dodge: to avoid, can be used in terms of people, inanimate objects or concept

I walk into a spot and the lights go out ‘AIE the electricity is dodging you’

  ‘You are dodging the point, which is that you are not a prince and therefor I will not marry you’

   ‘Charlie! It’s been a long time! Have you been dodging me?’

ehhhhhhh-hehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (very drawn out and nasal): I understand, or, finally, you understand (best when accompanied by an up and outwards movement of both hands)

‘So you are saying that because I am not a prince you will not marry me?’ ‘ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-heeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

foot: to walk

‘The tournament won’t start for small time because the other team has a long way to foot to get here’

friend: sexual partner. Not to be confused with ‘friend’- asexual partner, the difference can be confusing for non-native speakers, however when spoken in reference to a white lady, it is most likely the former. When referring to the latter, it’s best to stick with “brother” or “sister”

‘Silominga! I want to take you as my friend!’ ’Charlie, we’ve discussed this, and my father has yet to receive the cows in America so the answer is still no.’

 ‘This man is not my friend, he is another PCV and my brother.’

hot: angry, or painful

‘The coach the hot ohh, his team is losing.’

‘Aie, I have been playing futball all day without shoes or shin guards, my feet are hot ohhhhhhhh!’

          Editior’s note: this is a hypothetical situation imposed upon the people of Ghana by the author, they don’t actually complain about their feet hurting after such activities even if their toenails are all bleeding and/or falling out. Also, because I’m here I might as well add that I have a 6 week-old kitten on my lap right now.

how is/was back?: How is it at the location I used to be at but am now away from, or have recently returned to

On the phone with a teacher while at a meeting in Kumasi ‘How is back? Have term 2 classes started yet?’

After returning from the Bolga market, ‘How was back?’

lights out: power outage

‘It’s lights out for the 10th time today, good luck charging your phone.’

me my: my

I am going to me my classroom to teach.’

serious: bad

 ‘The Harmattan winds are serious today! There’s so much dust you can’t see more than 50 feet!’

 ‘Ghana lost the futball match last night, it’s serious ohhhh.’          

shit:  well,…ok….so the meaning is the same as in American English BUT it’s not a swear here. It still catches me off guard when the small children use it.

As spoken by 3-year old Anita (who can’t say her L’s) – ‘Sister Yaren, is this box is for the cats to shit?’

As spoken by a fellow teacher during a professional staff meeting – ‘All the children are shitting in the cornfields because our latrines are full again.’

small time: long time (if accompanied by an invitation to sit down, expect at least a 2 hour waiting period)

‘Silominga, sit here on this bench, the tro tro will leave in small time’ (1 hour later) ‘It will just be some small time more, sister’ (2.5 hours later) tro tro leaves

suffer: A more diluted version of the “suffer” used in American English

 ‘Me my cat never stops begging me for food, do you see how I’m suffering? It’s serious ohhhhhhh!

take the lead: to leave for a mutual destination before someone else, even if you are not going to meet with that person when reaching the destination

When I foot to town and a teacher or friend passes me on their moto, which I cannot ride (I hope you’re reading and appreciating this peace corps!) ‘Sister Lauren, we will take the lead to market.’ – 30 minutes later, on the same road meeting the same teacher, now on his way back to school, ‘Sister Lauren, you still haven’t reached town? Ok, we will take the lead to school’

that: doesn’t really mean anything, but a lot of people start every statement with it.

‘That I should help you with your washing.’

tomorrow next: in two days

‘When is the next market day?’ ‘That it is tomorrow next.’

wee-wee: to urinate. Used by completely straight-faced adult professionals and children alike

‘Sister Lauren, that I want to go wee-wee.’ (it’s common for people to make such announcements about their bladder and/or bowels)

you are invited: you are welcome to come and eat my food. It’s insulting if you don’t invite someone to your food every time you’re eating, no matter what it is, where you are, or how many people you’re inviting

After buying a pepe egg off the top of someone’s head while waiting in your tro for 3 hours for it to fill (to the person sitting next to you) – ‘you are invited’

After receiving your food at a chop bar (to every other table of people in the bar) – ‘you’re invited’

After cooking your last coveted box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese your sister brought you for christmas (to the neighbor that knocks on your door) – ‘you’re…..you’re…….DAMMIT! YOU’RE INVITED.’

I’m too young to be a cat lady…..right?

So what’s really awesome about goats is how they form these little gangs. Like all goats about the same age are automatically friends, and you see little packs of baby goats scampering together, climbing on elevated surfaces together, freaking out together. The only thing that’s better than baby goats is the 6 baby kittens I currently have in my house. And cheese.

Little blind alien-baby kittens

That’s right! My cat had her babies. Six of them. Six little fluffy nuggets of cuteness with absolutely no sense of balance. That is one of the many things that has occured over the past 2 months during which i completely neglected my blog. And most other forms of communication. I’ll give a quick bullet summary to fill in the gaps:

– Paid a visit to the infamous “Topless Shrine” in the village next to mine. The Cheif there has 18 wives and 376 children not counting those below the age of 5. Busy man.

No...that's not a village. That's just the Chief's house.

– Found a woman near me who knows how to cook burritos and cake. Ate all.

– Went to the Thanksgiving celebration at the ambassador’s house in Accra, where I promptly got sick and was unable to enjoy any of the festivites. After a full night of vomiting i decided I should still force down an entire plate of Thanksgiving feast. Bad idea.

 

– Harmattan (aka the Northeast Trade Winds) arrived and now it’s actually cold enough to sleep with a sheet covering me. Pure bliss.

– “Successfully” completed term one. My students averaged 40 on their final exams, but apparently that’s considered a decent score here! I gave them stickers if they passed…with a 40. Seems wrong.

– Watched my cat give birth to 6 kittens. Alien babies.

– Watched my cat eat all the after-birth after having 6 kittens. Ate all.

– Watched little blind kittens attempt to move. So cute.

– My sister came. We found a drink named reds and drank it. Because we’re redheads. We also befriended a crazy dutch couple who had monkey-bite scars on their legs. Pure bliss.

– Celebrated Christmas and New Years. Received Cheez-its, goldfish, sriracha and mac and cheese as gifts (among other non-edible things). Ate all.

– My brother and sister-in-law came. We saw a 3 day-old baby, ate rabbit (which I still maintain is the best meat in the world) and met a really cool guy named Samed. Pure bliss again.

– Went to another Peace Corps training session at a hotel with AC, and A POOL, and HOT WATER! I learned cool things like how to apply for grants and how to wood carve, screen print and do local pottery. But mostly I SWAM and SLEPT IN AC! So decadent.

Annnnd now I believe we’re up to date! I’m currently back at school, in the second week of second term. My schedule has changed this term so now I’m only teaching 6 classes (instead of the previous 12) and I’m starting a Vocational Club after school with some of the older kids. I’m excited about this change because I’m starting to focus in my efforts towards one thing that I think will really benefit my school and students. Hopefully 2012 will be a productive year for me! I’m still struggling against that common PCV feeling that I haven’t done anything worthwhile yet. Although to get over that feeling I’ll have to do things like reduce the amount of time I play with my kittens….. who are currently climbing on, and falling off of a cardboard box i put in the middle of my floor.

2012 is also an election year here in Ghana, so the debates are getting heated. Not that that’s very different from normal conversations here. Ghanaians can sound like they’re angry and yelling even if they’re discussing the weather.

“AIE CHARLIE, IT’S SOMEHOW COLD TODAY. I’M SUFFERING!”

“OHHH, THE HARMATTAN HAS NOW ARRIVED. IT’S TOOOO MUCH!”

Just a typical, yelled conversation complaining about the (quite pleasant) 75 degree weather of Harmattan. Although I’ll admit, even I wear sweatshirts during the day now. Unfortunately my efforts to train my kittens to puddle around me at night and keep me warm have been unfruitful thus far.

I’m definitely missing out some things but I’ll try to be better about my blog now that school is back in session and I’m in a routine again. At this moment my priority is to find a vehicle with which to eat my sriracha. Please comment and ask questions if you want to know anything!

It’s been one month at site and I’m doing great! There have been so many moments when I’m biking back from market, the sun is setting over the Tongo hills and the weather is starting to cool down, I dodge a baby goat sleeping in the middle of the road, the naked kids in the house near my school run outside to greet me excitedly for the 5th time that day and I think, “I’m SO happy to be here right now!” Of course, there are the other moments when I’m being shoved around the crowded, smelly Bulga streets by old women with sharp elbows and surprising strength, and my sweat-drenched clothing is starting to weigh me down and I think, “I’m about to pass out or vomit.” Luckily the former thoughts far outweigh the latter.
I can tell I’m integrating becuase of many changes I’ve undergone. No, calm down, my voice hasn’t dropped and I’m not sprouting facial hair, hold your horses.

  1. I kind of enjoy handwashing all my clothes now…. My back no longer aches from bending over the buckets, and I think it’s kind of relaxing (what?). I still cut my fingers open though.
  2.  I now sweep my house every morning like a real Ghanaian woman.
  3.  I no longer get homocidal thoughts when it takes a tro 3 hours to fill. In fact, I also find this somewhat relaxing, and I’m starting to think it’s endearing that Ghanaians take a long time to do things.
  4. I find it extremely hard to not sign when I speak.
  5. I plan ahead for my walk to town to take me an hour instead of 30 minutes because I have to stop and greet everyone and ask how they are/their husband is/their house is/their maize crop is/ their sick mother is etc. If I bump into someone new the conversation usually goes like this: “Silomina, how are you? [fine] What is your name? [Lauren, but we both know you’re just going to call me Silomina anyway] Where are you from? [America. Not the German kind] What church do you attend? [Protestant. Yay, Jesus] Will you come to church with me? [No, I won’t spend 5 hours of my Sunday in church, but you will continue to ask me unless I tell you that I will pray in my own house. I will pray in my own house] Will you marry me? [Not unless you’re royalty] Will you marry my brother/son? [Not unless they’re royalty].” In that order.

School has finally started. Ok well, it technically started on September 13th, but clearly that didn’t happen… It’s Ghana. Kids trickled in for 2 weeks, and when we hit about 75% capacity we “started” classes. However, we didn’t have a schedule for classes so everyone was still confused and not much teaching was actually done. Tomorrow, October 10th, will be the first day of teaching, with a schedule, and (almost) all of the students present. In a way, I’m extremely grateful for the slow start because teaching terrifies me and this has allowed me to get the hang of the school, watch some other teachers in action, and figure out a few lesson plans. I’m teaching Art and ICT to grades 4-6. ICT will be interesting because there’s currently only 1 working computer and my class sizes range from 30-45 students…
I enjoy my fellow teachers immensely. They’re a pretty funny and energetic bunch and I’ve been having a wonderful time sitting under the mango tree with them and listening to them chat (it mostly involves them making fun of each other). The new headmaster of our school has also now officially started and I’ve had some great conversations with him and Godfrey about my projects over the next two years. It sounds like we’re on pretty much the same page of focusing on creating a vocational program at the school for post-JHS deaf children. As of now there are only 3 options for deaf students who pass the national exam at the end of JHS (and not many pass because they take the same exam as the hearing population and often don’t have an interpreter at the testing site…): 1. To attend the one senior high school in Mampong, Ashanti Region, 2. To attend a 1 or 2 year vocational program at either Bechem or Wa schools for the Deaf (also a long trek from Upper East) 3. Give up on furthering their education and find a job in a city or go back home. Given the fact that there are 13 deaf primary/ junior high schools, and only 3 available programs for post-JHS deaf students, you can imagine the drop-out rate. Not to mention ALL 3 of the options are halfway across the country from Upper East. I, of course, will not be able to set up an entire vocational program in 2 years, but I’m hoping to start with the glass bead-making the previous volunteer worked on and slowly add different vocational skills as the program (hopefully) grows and starts generating some money. In the meantime I’ll also teach the kids very basic economics and marketing, which they can apply when they sell the goods they make in the program in the Bulga market.  I’m REALLY excited and inspired by this project so I hope it works out.
I had an incident with a mad woman while I was in the Tongo market. She followed me around the entire market and kept stepping on my feet and staring at me with glassy eyes and saying unintelligable things. I told her to go away in English, in Talen, and in ASL and she didn’t seem to understand any of them. When she started to follow me (and continue to step on my toes. Rude.) as I made my way to the path back to my house I started to get a little freaked out. Luckily, there was a gang of school children nearby who I called over and recognized the panicked look in my eye. They took action immediately. One of the older girls started dancing around the mad woman, and stepping on her feet (HAH, serves her right). The other children quickly joined in until the woman was surrounded, then they yelled, “RUN SILOMINA,” to me (Note: The word for “white person” is Silomina in the North. I’m no longer an Obroni. This may seem insignificant to you but believe me, it’s not). They looked like they had the situation under control so I decided to heed their orders and….run. I literally ran away from an angry mad woman and left children a fourth of my age to risk their own toes and distract her….. Not my proudest moment. Apparently this woman is a staple in town, though, so the children were familiar with strategies to get rid of her. And I was happy to provide them with the day’s entertainment. I do that a lot it seems. The other day I biked straight into a pole while attempting to sign “Good afternoon,” to some students. Cool, Lauren.
I left my site for one night to go to the Peace Corps sub-office and pick up packages, and when I came back the kids acted as if I had been gone for weeks. I crossed the gate into the school with 3 kids from the village who helped me carry my things (thank god, I was already drenched in sweat), and the students came RUNNING over to me, excitedly asking me how the trip was and what were in the packages. One girl told me I had done well, and that she knew computers must be in the boxes. Apprently white people have a reputation of always bringing computers to Ghanaian schools. Weird, huh? (But really…we need computers. Get on it white folks). They fought over who would help me carry my things to my house, and then three girls who didn’t get anything to carry paraded behind me, dancing. It was the best welcome I’ve gotten from one night away ever.

That’s it, let me know if you have any questions about Ghana, or my life, or deaf babies,  or mad women, or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

HAPPY CANADIAN THANKSGIVING!

I still miss cheese.