Leadership Camp for the Deaf

I know, I know….it’s been a REALLY long time. Here is an article I wrote for our Peace Corps Ghana newsletter about the leadership camp I hosted. By Sunday you’ll also get a full update about the progress in the vocational department I’ve been working on creating at the school. Stay tuned!

I was a ball of stress as the overcrowded bus struggled two hours late up the bumpy dirt road towards my school – The Gbeogo School for the Deaf in Upper East. Inside that bus were my fellow Deaf Education PCVs, their counterparts and four exceptional students from each of their schools specifically chosen to attend the first (hopefully annual) Leadership Camp for the Deaf. Many of them had been traveling two straight days, coming from all over Ghana, to arrive here, at my school, packed like sardines in a hopelessly unglamorous school bus. I’d spent so long working towards this moment and now that it was here….well, all I could think about was how hot it was, how the dorms were uncomfortable and that there was no running water. I held my breath as the bus heaved to a stop in front of me, the dust settled and the engine let out a sigh, the first students stepped down from the doorway and- to my surprise -smiled.

The idea for the camp started during training. With only seven Deaf Education volunteers in the country, all working at Primary/Junior High schools for the deaf, we realized early on that we could achieve a lot by collaborating. We also noticed that despite a relatively large population of deaf in Ghana, there is still very little awareness about deaf culture and extremely high levels of stigmatization. Often ignored or rejected within their families and villages, the deaf in Ghana lack an overall sense of pride and belonging and thus have no foundation on which to build a powerful and unified community and fight for their rights. After noticing this trend throughout our schools, we decided to hold a camp geared to create confident, capable leaders throughout Ghana, who can then encourage their schools to become more vocal in their cause and create a national correspondence. We wanted to motivate our students to take a spotlight in their communities instead of being shunned to the corners. Most importantly, we wanted to allow students and teachers from all over the country to meet each other and feel what it means to be part of – to belong to – a nationwide community.

The camp itself took place from July 29 through August 3, and was organized into a variety of events. We started with two days of leadership, goal-setting and confidence building workshops. The tone of the entire week was set by guest speaker, Robert Sampana, who was born deaf and is now incredibly successful working as Head of Advocacy at the Ghanaian National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) in Accra. His presence at the camp was crucial to inspire the young, brilliant and, obviously, deaf campers. He was able to relate to the campers and communicate with them in ways that would have been impossible for a group of hearing, American PCVs. He started conversations about how the deaf are viewed in Ghana, how each of them can help fight stigma and stereotype, and the importance of the deaf community’s actions in igniting change. He also gave examples of opportunities available for the students, and the steps he followed himself to get to where he is now. Another deaf counterpart, Emmanual, gave a presentation on what “Deaf Pride” means, and how each camper could help spread the word to their peers using Deaf Pride Clubs when they get back to school. It was incredible to see our students active and inspired during these discussions, and we often talked well past the scheduled time for the session.

Interspersed among these sessions were crafts, games and ice breakers, meant to get the campers comfortable with each other and give them a chance to relax, socialize and have fun. We had two half-day excursions to the Upper East tourist destinations, Paga and Sirigu, to allow students who had never been to UE or even north of Kumasi to get a feel for a different part of Ghana (and, of course, to allow them to practice their ever-so-creative poses). To continue this trend, we ate all local northern foods, however, T.Z. got mixed reviews from those southern students who had never tasted it before.
The evenings were filled with entertainment. Our second night at camp was a talent show which highlighted the campers’ talents in dancing, acting and even talking and singing (honestly, proof that the “deaf can do anything except hear”*).
The next night was movie night, followed by a night of trivia from facts and questions taken from every session in the camp. It was during the trivia that we were able to assess just how many of our lessons the students actually absorbed, and it was amazing. We were hard pressed to find a single question they didn’t know the answer to, and finally were only able to stump them with questions like “What is Lauren’s father’s name?” (If you know the right answer, I’ll give you toffee).

We ended with a bonfire and glow stick party, and as the students ran around with each other, smiles on their faces and glow sticks in hand, it was impossible to tell who had come from which school. They were enjoying their last night with all the new friends they made, stopping only to tell the councilors we needed to have another camp soon. And so, at an ungodly hour of 4:30 am the next morning, the PCVs, counterparts and campers boarded that dusty old bus again to make another long and uncomfortable trip home. But they left a different group than they had come. They left as one community: proud of their uniqueness, confident to mobilize their peers and united in a goal of spreading deaf advocacy and pride.

Thank you very much to Austin and Paul with PCV media, who made an absolutely incredible movie of the camp. Check it out online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX4nUqwGcKE

*quote: Dr. I. King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University

The Obruni Dilemma

Integration. This word is said over and over again during Peace Corps Training. It’s the very basis of Peace Corps. It’s the reason we have a minimum service of 27 months. We pride ourselves in the fact that we live long enough in communities to share their languages, their customs and their thought processes. We start to crave their foods, tell their jokes and wear their clothes. We are given local names, accepted into families, and crowned as Chiefs or Queen Mothers in our villages. Integration is held central to how successful we view our service, which is why, I think, so many volunteers struggle with the fact that nearly all of us are treated differently from our Ghanaian brothers and sisters – even up until the last day of our service.

It’s a common conversation among us PCVs when we get the chance to get together and gripe. We want so desperately to be seen as nothing more than a member of our villages that it frustrates us to no end when we’re given special privileges. A certain trotro driver will always give me the front seat in his car when he sees me. After waiting 3 hours in a bus line, and still about 50 people away from the ticket counter, I’ve been pulled aside and given the last ticket. I was invited to an exclusive dinner at an expensive hotel after a funeral I attended solely because I was the only white face in a crowd of 500.

While I can sometimes brush these interactions off as practice for when I’m inevitably a celebrity or a princess, most of the time they leave me with a feeling of blended unease, annoyance and guilt. I’ve certainly struggled with it a lot since I arrived in Accra last June, and in a way, it’s become magnified the longer I’m here. Like, alright guys, I’ve been here a year, when are you going to start treating me like a normal person? I’m trying to integrate, remember?

But then again….what would I say? “Please, don’t treat me so well. I’d much prefer that 6 inch wide back seat slot with no leg room or ventilation next to the toothless drunkard than this front row window seat that has a real seat cushion and its own door.” “No, sir, I know it’s the last bus of the day and the only place I have to sleep tonight is that open gutter reeking of sewage, but I simply can’t cut the line and buy the last ticket that you’re so kindly offering to me just because I’m white.”

This, my friend, is what I like to call the Obruni Dilemma.

Many of us foreigners in Ghana become annoyed at, or even reject, these open gestures of hospitality and welcome simply because they point to the fact that we’re different. They put us at a crossroads: do I accept this kindness (which, quite honestly, would make my life a lot easier) but was only offered to me because I’m white? Or do I insist upon receiving no special treatment because I want desperately to be seen and treated as a local (despite the fact I glow in the dark)?

I recently took it upon myself to dissect this Obruni Dilemma, and came to some relieving conclusions. In many ways, my passion to integrate has blinded me to what integration really is. Being treated differently doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not integrated. I still like to think I am to the degree I can be given one certain fact: I’m white. I’m American. I’m a guest. Who am I to say that Ghanaians are not allowed to treat me with the respect their culture has deemed appropriate for guests? And more so, who am I to assert that the fact I’ve lived here one whole year has somehow made me Ghanaian? I’m not (clearly, I’m a redhead for christ’s sake). Saying I am after a total of 27 months in country would be an insult to an extremely rich culture that has been around for thousands of years. Although I honestly forget I’m white sometimes (true story, sometimes I’m shocked by the amazing reflectiveness of my skin after being at site for a long time…have I mentioned I’m pale?), doesn’t mean my Ghanaian friends have, nor that they’re required to. I think integration isn’t about being treated the exact same way as a culture or ethnicity to which you are a guest, but it’s more about understanding their reasons and motives behind treating you differently. In the past I’ve weighed the former so heavily that I didn’t even realized I’d achieved the latter. Ghanaians aren’t doing what they’re doing to point out to me that I’m different. They’re not doing it to annoy me. They’re doing it because it’s polite and they want me to have as enjoyable a time in their country as possible.

Now…it’s important to differentiate between expecting this kind of treatment, and simply accepting it when it’s offered. I do not expect special treatment. Ever. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m flooded with relief on those days when I’m shoved in the back of the tro with a strange lady’s baby (aka nugget) on my lap and a goat under my feet. But now, when it’s given to me, I will strive to accept this treatment with gratitude instead of annoyance.

And hey, when I become a celebrity someday, I’ll also be a little more prepared for that red carpet treatment.

LIFE… according to a Ghanaian Child

  • A white person sighting can make or break a day
  • Snow kills
  • Juju kills
  • A monkey is King Kong
  • An Asian man is Jackie Chan
  • A white man with a beard is Jesus
  • A white man without a beard is Mormon
  • Another black person is a brother, sister, mom, dad, aunt or uncle. End of story.
  • America is somehow close to Accra
  • In trotros or buses one is not eligible for one’s own seat until they are in their teens, so quick! Take the strange white girls lap before another kid gets it!
  • Clothes are optional
  • If you haven’t had worms yet, you haven’t lived
  • A boob is food, even if it’s not your mother’s
  • Slamming your head against a wall, being hit by a friend or having a fever of 103 is not a valid reason to cry. Being asked to bathe is.
  • Going through a white person’s trash can yield new and exciting toys
  • Why look when you could STARE?
  • OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • The best way to insult a friend is to make fun of the shape of his/her head.
  • Adult supervision? Never heard of it.
  • Yelling is the only way to talk to a peer
  • Whispering is the only way to talk to an adult
  • Not a single item of clothing, no matter how pink and sparkly, is gender specific (….but why would you wear clothes anyway? Fool).
  • It’s ok to relieve oneself…anywhere
  • Running with a tire and a stick can lead to hours of entertainment
  • America=UK=The Netherlands=Germany=candy

FAQs

How many volunteers are in Ghana?

About 160, all over the country.

Do you live with another volunteer?

No. We all live alone at our sites unless we’re a married couple (which I am not…SURPRISE!). The closest volunteer is about 20 km from me (as the crow flies), or an hour(ish)* by public transit.

*There is no actual reliable public transit, an hour(ish) means roughly anywhere from one to four hours.

Do you live in a mud hut?

Unfortunately not. I live in a 2-room cement building in a compound with another teacher. I have electricity (MOST of the time) and used to have running water. Those days of luxury are over – the water pump broke, the school has no money to fix it, so for the foreseeable future I’ll rely on the borehole on the school campus like everyone else. Minuses: back to the bucket bath, my toilet no longer flushes. Pluses: FINALLY an excuse to really practice balancing things on my head…and……no, that’s about it for pluses.

Are you going to steal a child?

I’m going to call forth all the powers that lie within me to try.

Do you ever feel unsafe?

Not at all. I’ve been stolen from once, and it was a small boy sneaking into my house to steal crystal light packets while I was in the other room. He was caught, all packets were returned to owner and promptly consumed.

If you stay in the sun of equatorial Africa long enough will all your freckles meld together and you’ll turn black?

A note to the wise…never ask me this question again.

Are Ghanaians amazed at your red hair?

Not at all. They think it’s brown. I’m going to write a blog about my first-ever experience as a brunette later. But to summarize my semi-scientific analysis: redheads DO have more fun.

Do you get sick a lot?

I’m pretty much in a constant state of sickness. With that said, I have yet to get anything remotely serious beyond a fever of 101 every now and then. My body prefers to take the long and steady route, and while it might take 5 full years for my digestive tract to regularize again, I have no complaints. Of course there are currently outbreaks of both Cholera and Anthrax in Upper East so…we’re gonna move on before I jinx myself.

What do you miss the most about America?

Is that a serious question? The food obviously. Oh….I mean….my friends and family.

Are you fluent in Sign Language now? Do Ghanaians use a different type of sign language?

I’m conversational in ASL. I can communicate well enough to teach a class using a lot of other visual cues, but I think it’ll take me years before I really feel like I’m fluent. Ghanaian sign language is essentially the same as the ASL from the 1980’s (read: the ASL before Americans realized some of the signs were politically incorrect and changed them. I still feel weird when I use the sign for Japanese. Luckily that particular word doesn’t come up much over here). Of course, there are subtle differences and some new vocabulary (weirdly enough the American Sign Language dictionary doesn’t have a sign for “fufu”), but I’m sure a deaf Ghanaian and a deaf American could understand each other without too much trouble.

What are you working on right now?

A couple projects, all of which I’m VERY excited about

  • Looking for funding to create a Post Junior High School vocational department at my school. This will allow even students who fail the national senior high school entrance exams to continue their education and learn a practical trade. I just need $20,000 more, so if you find it growing on the trees over there or something, feel free to send it my way!
  • Hosting a Leadership Camp for the deaf at the end of the month with 6 other volunteers. Every other deaf ed volunteer will be bringing 4 students and a teacher from their schools up to the Upper East for 5 days of the best camp ever. It’s a ton of work but I have no doubt it’ll probably be the best thing I do with my service.
  • Running an after school vocational club. Right now my students are sewing and basket weaving. We’re hoping to jump-start the bead making in the next week or two.
  • Working on an IFPRI study (International Food Policy Research Institute) – they work closely with the Ghanaian government to consult on agricultural policy. They’ve asked PCVs to help out by doing weekly interviews with a farmer from their village for the duration of the farming season and sending in reports so IFPRI can better understand the decisions farmers are making at the grassroots level. The farmer I interview is name Buzong Kennedy Sandoog and he’s awesome.
  • Hopefully planting some fruit-bearing trees around the school campus to create an internal income source
  • Planning out the logistics of fleeing the country with one or several Ghanaian children (“nuggets”) in tow

What’s the most frustrating part of service?

The transportation. No, no, no, the fact that it usually takes 4 weeks, 15 cancellations and uncountable hours of waiting for someone to actually have a meeting with you… no wait! Probably the heat. But then there’s also the aggressive men who don’t take any female seriously and propose constantly despite assertive claims that she’s already married (ok, I know I told you earlier that I wasn’t, but work with me here alright? I’ve been working a year to convince these guys and I trust you won’t blow my cover). Being called WHITE PERSON everywhere I go and always being the center of attention? No, the lack of volume control on anything that makes noise. Oh man, I can’t decide. Point is, there are a LOT of really frustrating things about service. That’s what makes the awesome parts (see list above) so damn awesome.

Is everyone a really good dancer? Are you becoming a better dancer because of it?

Yes everyone’s a really good dancer. And I’ve ALWAYS been a really good dancer and resent anyone who says otherwise. Mary’s embedded those skills in my DNA. Ok, but yeah, maybe Ghanaian’s have taught me a thing or two.

Do PCV’s ever date locals?

All.the.time. In fact many get married to locals- we have a PCV-Ghanaian wedding this month, a PCV with a Ghanaian child already, and another recent engagement announcement. You’d be surprised. Will I? No… I’m married, remember? Unless of course a prince comes along and then all bets are off.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?

The other day I helped one of my students, Sumaila, catch hundreds of flying termites after the rains. I thought we were just catching them because they were everywhere and it was annoying (literally, there were so many that if you walked outside all you could hear was a loud hum from the beating of all their wings). Turns out fried termites are delicious with a little peppe, groundnut powder and salt! Also, I tried dog (and it was delicious). I’m sorry America, you might hate me now but you’ll forgive me when I bring you African NUGGETS!

Leadership Camp for the Deaf!

Help me host a Leadership Camp for the Deaf this summer! We will be training deaf JHS students from all over the country leadership and confidence building to help them create a nationwide community and advocate for their rights in Ghana!

You can make donations here:
https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=641-321

Every donation helps, no matter how small! I get a full list of donors and can assure you, you’ll be thanked and appreciated for your help!

Thank You!!!!

THANK YOU to everyone who donated to my grant! I’m happy to say the project has begun, and was funded so quickly that some interested people weren’t even able to give! This coming week I’ll be working with the school carpenter to start the classroom renovations. This term is nearly finished, so renovations should be complete by the start of next term and we’ll begin our club then! I’m also really really excited to announce that we’ve now received official permission from the District Office of Education to transform this Vocational Club into a full-fledged Vocational department within the next year. This essentially means that the department will be recognized by the federal government, thus the school will be awarded extra funding for it and will be given the necessary permanent staff to keep the department running. This couldn’t be better news for me, the project, or the school, because it means it will continue after I leave! It also means that once the official department is registered, the students at my school will have another Post-JHS option, since it will be open to post-JHS students regardless of whether or not they pass their SHS entrance exams (which almost none do – no one from my school has since 2009).

So that’s where my project stands. The rest of my life is slightly more difficult. We’re now in the middle of hot season, which is……well……hot. Really hot. For example, I’m currently sitting in my computer lab with a student who I’d promised to let use the computers this afternoon. In order to get here he had to knock relentlessly on my door to get me off the floor, where I was lying under the fan with a soaked piece of cloth covering my entire body. My cat was in his usual place in the fridge and refused to get out when I opened it for a fresh bottle of water (he’s still in there…spoiled brat).

BIggie in his usual position


I attempted to follow the student up to the computer lab, but his pace quickly overtook mine and I was left in the (literal) dust. So, 2 more minutes of walking (dragging…or, what do sloths do? I was doing that) later, I arrived where I am now, exhausted, with a completely empty water bottle and a dry, panting mouth. I can’t think about the 2 minute walk back down to my house yet. It might actually be a one minute walk. Either way, it’s too far.

What else? I’ve been basket weaving with my students after school. And by that I mean I’ve been sitting with my students while they weave baskets. I try sometimes and we all have a good laugh and then they take out what I did when they think I’m not looking. Turns out basket weaving isn’t my strong suit. It’s been fun though, and is incredibly labor intensive. First you take the straw and rip it in half, almost all the way. Then you take the halved pieces of straw and spin them on your thigh until they are like double helixes (this is the part I REALLY can’t get). Then you take the double helixes and dye them different colors. And then ONLY then do you unravel them and begin to weave your basket. Once the club gets up and running this will be a more official activity – along with glass bead-making and tailoring – but for now it’s really informal.

I also held a cultural day at my school right after Ghanaian Independence Day (March 6th, for all you IGNORANT folk who don’t know Ghanaian Independence Day). Kids did their local dances, while others drummed and honestly, when they dance you’d have no idea they’re deaf. I, of course, did my usual mom-dance stint which made them laugh but also probably reinforced the stereotype that Americans can’t dance. My friend Melissa then fire danced for them (yes….my friend Melissa can fire dance. I’m learning, don’t worry, but I’m about as good as I am at basket weaving). I’ve never seen my students so excited. They made her do the whole routine twice and then pounced on her with hugs after the second round. Then they asked when I was going to do it and I had to explain that not every American knows how to dance with fire. In fact, very FEW Americans know how to dance with fire. I’m still not sure I got the point across because they still ask me about it. Really, though, I take it as a compliment, they must have really liked my mom dancing.

My student, Monday, showing off his traditional dancing skills


This was longer than I intended it to be, but THANK YOU again to everyone who has supported me. You’ll be receiving something in the mail someday in the future (hopefully soon, but you never know with Ghana)!

GO BRUINS!

A Day in the Life

Of me, if that’s not already clear.

5:30– I wake up to the sound of sweeping, roosters and radios on full volume. On a good day, I get up and go for a jog, listening to a playlist that is predominantly Ke$ha (i dare you to judge me), and watch the sunrise over African savanna. On a bad day I stay in bed, think nasty thoughts about my neighbor’s radio, and throw pillows at my meowing cat’s head until 6:30.

6:30– At this point I put on some water for oats and coffee (if i have electricity that day…i don’t right now), and probably do the dishes I failed to do the night before. Sometime during this portion of my morning, Sumaila, a p5 student, will come knocking on my door and remind me, as he reminds me every day, to put my bowls in the kitchen so he can get me school lunch at 2. I’ll tell him, as I tell him every day, that the bowls are already there, and yes, I am going to teach p5 today. We part ways.

7:30– After I am cleaned, dressed, fed and caffeinated, I will make my way up to the school classrooms (about a 500 yard walk from my house in the teachers’ quarters). The students will all be lined up in rows according to their classes for morning assembly. This is the time to make any necessary announcements, and also when the students sign the national anthem and morning prayers. I enjoy watching the small ones the most because:

  1. they’re small and therefore cute 
  2. they don’t know sign language very well yet, so usually during the anthem just repeat the same sign over and over again and pretend they’re following along.

Once assembly is over the students MARCH in their lines to their classrooms. Again, I watch the small ones.

8:00 – First period begins. Let’s say this is a Wednesday, and I’m teaching my P5 ICT class. When I enter the class every student stands to great me “Goodmorninghowareyoufine” and we begin. Sign language is very good for some things – story telling, descriptions etc. Sign language is not very good for other things – like teaching ICT for example. I will begin my lesson using the small sign vocabulary there is for ICT-related words, sometimes making up my own signs for things like “hard drive” and sometimes just relying on the written form. Some students understand, some students dont but nod their head anyways, some students are signing to someone outside the window. Yes, the class is quiet, but MAN it’s still distracting when they try to sign over you. Dependable Sumaila sits tall in the back row, diligently copying down everything I write in his wobbly handwriting. Three students will come in late and I will scold them and they won’t care. Finally, I’ll tell the students that it’s Group 1’s turn in the ICT lab and the 10 group one members will peel off with me and enter the lab. I have printed out and laminated paper keyboards that I hand to the rest of the students with the intention they work on their typing even though we both know that won’t happen.

    side note: our computer lab used to be a tiny room with one working computer. It is now a tiny room with FIVE working computers thanks to my parents and sister-in-law donating old laptops and fellow PCV Travis taking the time to come help me set them up! Thank you guys for your help and donations, it’s made such a difference to have more computers! If anyone reading this also has an old laptop they’d like to donate to our school please contact me (via an email or comment).

Anyways, I have all my classes broken up into groups of 10 so they can fit in the lab. They will take turns doing whatever assignment I’ve made for the day, pertaining to whatever lesson I did on the board. Sometimes typing their names, using the shift key, saving and re-opening documents, or their favorite, making a Ghana flag in paint.

9:00 – breakfast time! Students head down to the kitchen for some cocoa porridge and the teachers gather under the mango tree. We discuss everything from politics, to American culture, to sick students, to whether or not deep massaging a breast will make it grow, to “church services” (ie eating dog), to the recent news from Bawku (a region about 50 Km from me that is currently undergoing tribal violence over the chieftancy). Don’t loose sleep over it, Peace Corps doesn’t let us get within a 30 km radius of the area.

9:30-12:00 – classes continue (or don’t as the case often is). Teachers not in class remain under the mango tree or make various trips to town. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I’ll teach ASL to the teachers, in addition to my other classes, which usually ends up being one of the highlights of my day.

 
12:00 – I’m not scheduled to teach my p4 art class until 1, but upon passing the room I notice half the class is sleeping on their desks and the other half are playing with the paper airplanes we made last week. I decide this is the moment. It takes about 15 minutes to wake everyone up (with very hard and painful looking hits to the head!) and collect the other ones who figured the school day was over and went back to the dorms. I’m feeling nostalgic today, so we talk about snow.This involves me acting a lot of things out, like shoveling, and walking and penguins. I look like a fool, the children laugh and everyone has a grand old time. I pass around some pictures of snow and then the questions start.

  • “me travel america die? (Translated: If I go to america will i die?)”
  • “someone tell me women old cold die! (I hear the cold kills old women!)”
  • “Me clothes more more more, ok? (if I wear a lot of clothes will I be ok?)”

The translations aren’t meant to make my students seem stupid – they aren’t (well…most aren’t) – it’s just proper ASL grammar vs. English grammar I’m using. People (including myself) forget that English really is a second language to the deaf, and tend to judge them when their grammar isn’t correct. Well, it IS correct in their first language – ASL. Essentially every class these kids take is a bilingual class, because nearly every teacher has to rely on writing on the board (in proper English) when their signing isn’t good enough (or when their signing is non-existent, which is an unfortunate occurrence at schools for the deaf in Ghana, see: my teacher ASL classes, above). These kids are dealing with a lot more struggles than initially meets the eye (and they’re not lacking in those either), and I’m learning to appreciate how strong and motivated they really are.

Back to my day… Finally, we talk about how snowflakes are all different and unique, and I hand out paper to have them each make their own. I leave class to 47 paper snowflakes being thrown in the air and realize the students think snowflakes are actually the size of paper….. something for next class.

2:00 – school is “over” although it’s likely there haven’t actually been any classes for a while. The students head to the dining hall for lunch, and I sweat my way to my house because at this point it’s too hot for me to think about anything but being stationary and horizontal on my cement floor under a fan (again, if there’s electricity). Sumaila brings me some school food for lunch (not great, but FREE!).

3 – 5 – Any range of activities including : laundry, sweeping my house for the 4th time that day, cleaning the mess my cats made, biking into my village for food or cellphone credit, working on Peace Corps grants/reports/stuff, writing more lesson plans, wiping the dust that layered itself on all my furniture in the few hours I was gone, hanging out with my teachers’ kids,wandering the campus and having students try to teach me the Azonto (a dance, look it up on youtube, it won’t let me post the video i have), going to America on the back of Agana’s motorbike, declining another marriage proposal, watching a football match with students crowded around one small tv the school owns, or remaining horizontal on my cement floor and sweating. This is also a time when the side of my house creates a nice shadow from the sun and turns into prime play territory for a lot of younger students. I’ve gotten quite used to the noises made by my deaf students, but when I have visitors it often catches them off-guard. It’s adorable and I prefer them to the jarring noise of a guinea fowl any day (if the students don’t play the guinea fowl take over the shade and like to be very vocal. I think the reason I like their meat more than a chicken’s primarily has to do with the fact that I feel like I’m getting my revenge…)

5:30 – DINNER TIME! Students head to the dining hall for dinner. I sometimes visit them, sometimes stay in my house and concoct some sort of meal out of whatever i have at the moment. It often involves lots of tomatoes, onions and starch, although I’ve gotten pretty good a mimicking mac and cheese using powdered milk.Peace Corps gives me pre-natal vitamins to fill in the nutritional gaps, don’t worry.

7:00 – Students return to classrooms for night studying. This time is intended for them to do their homework, but because they almost never are assigned homework usually just turns into a play time. I’ve found this is one of my favorite times to wander around and encourage them to take out their notebooks and answer the random questions they ask. Or, again, have them try to teach me how to dance (they’re just SO GOOD). If I don’t go up to the classes and hang out with the students I’m usually found in my house reading (or if it’s a night like last night, I fall asleep at 7:15 with my book open to the first page…)

9:00 – Night classes end, although many of the children have been sleeping at their desks since 7:01. If I chose to hang out with the kids that night, I’ll also head to bed and promptly pass out in a puddle of sweat.

And that, my friends, is my weekday in a nutshell!

This post is in response to a request. If there’s something specific you’d like to hear about, let me know!