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.
- 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.
- I now sweep my house every morning like a real Ghanaian woman.
- 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.
- I find it extremely hard to not sign when I speak.
- 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.