Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ghana, No. 10

Curious creatures: children in Esiama

Feb. 16, 2011
Word Alive Introductions and Site Orientations

Dr. Peace came to pick me up this morning at 8.30am. I was happy to wakeup knowing that my day would be filled with some sort of activity to get me through it. Arriving at the school, the students were all gathered in the largest room on the site, partaking in their Wednesday morning worship service. They were singing "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands," and when I walked in and was offered a chair at the front of the room they all started to smile and whisper. Ten minutes later I was standing in front of them, introducing myself, explaining how happy I was to be there--I clapped my hands, stopped my feet and said "Amen," (just like the song instructed them to do) and they all laughed.

After the assembly dispersed, I was taken from classroom to classroom. Walking in, all the students would stand up and in unison say, "Good morning Madam, how are you today?" They would not sit down again until instructed to. When I would turn to leave the classroom they would all smile and wave at me.

Word Alive Mission school, boy collects the dried laundry.

I spent the rest if the morning with the school principle, Alfred, assistant principle, Raphael, and Dr. Peace, arranging my teaching schedule. Besides art, I will be teaching English, French, and Computer Science. We were able to arrange the schedule in such a way that guarantees me time with every class. I will spend my last two days (Feb. 24 and 25) with the nursery and kindergarten classes, singing songs and reading books.

I returned to my temporary residence just after 1pm, and spent the afternoon resting under the ceiling fan, trying to escape the hot afternoon sun. Esiama is sweltering heat. One of the teachers, Doris, stopped by around 5pm and we walked to the beach together (about 20 minutes of slow walking down the main road and to the right), and she showed me the village along the way.

All the people were waving and calling me "whitey" in their local language. I have started to reply to this by calling them "babrini" (black person), which always gets a good look of surprise followed by a laugh. I was told that the people are happy to see me, but it still feels a little overwhelming to be the center of attention wherever you go.

Arriving down at the beach, the shoreline was filled with rows of beach huts: bamboo columns covered with palms. Children roaming about in their birthday suits, men gutting fish and women burning coconut shelves. There was no plumbing, no electricity, no door to the hut, no bed inside---nothing. Peaking in, each hut had a central fire pit, a few chairs, a pile of large metal bowls for cooking and washing, and some grass mats. I asked if anyone could build here, or if you had to get a permit, "anyone can build," I was told. Beach front free living in a house made by found materials, with a couple purchased chairs and metal bowls, even the grass mats are made by hand from fallen palms, simple living, indeed.

Happy to see a white lady on the beach.

At 7.30pm Dr. Peace picked me up and we went to the orphanage together. Arriving, he sat down with the older children and I sat down with the younger ones. They were shy and timid and didn't really know how to interact with me. I offered homework help and had no takers. There were a few boys making paper boats, so I decided to start making paper cranes for them out of ripped out pages from an old 1971 National Geographic, issue on Orchids, which was lying around and already torn-up a bit. Within 15 minutes I was giving a large tutorial to the group, each with paper in-hand all folding their own paper cranes. My fingers were covered with ink, but every face had a smile. Dr. Pease then started to distribute new socks and whistles to the children, about 20 in total, and they were all thrilled--the joy of new socks and a whistle. After an hour we left, and Dr. pease dropped me back at my temporary residence. Another day crossed off my countdown to home and Koda, a warm feeling in my heart from time with children.

First day teaching, Feb. 17, 2011

Computer Sciences and French, Junior High level 1 (equivalent to grade 6)

Feb. 18, 2011

13th day in Africa. Teaching yesterday was great, I really enjoyed my time with the kids. I missed my first class because the bus was a little late picking me up, so I sat with the principle at a desk placed under a tree in the shade, surrounded by four chairs--the outdoor office they, and I, are all so fond of. I spent a few minutes with his assistant, Raphael, showing him how to use his iPhone. With no 3G network it doesn't seem nearly as awesome, but still, the camera, photos, and voice recording works, and the calendar and calculator. He was thrilled.

The first class I taught was Computer Sciences, which is not easy when in a class with no computers where only a few of the students have actually used a computer. The lesson plan of the day was all about different types of software and operating systems. It's funny teaching things that I had previously accepted as common knowledge, you "install" an application, then when you "open" it, it is "running."

The second class, which was with the same group of students, was French. We had fun, going over the days of the week and an introduction to reflexive verbs using ĂȘtre and s'appelier. The teacher told me they have a hard time speaking so I spent the majority of the hour and five minutes engaging them with speaking. When I wasn't speaking with them, I was either wiping sweat off my face or writing notes on the chalk board. In Ghana, the students are not given text books, so they rely on the teacher to write good notes to help them study when it comes to exam time. Writing on the board was a task all on it's own. The heat and humidity causes the chalk sticks to disintegrate quickly when you add the extra heat and moisture of human hands.

Note: the power just went out, it's 3.30pm in the afternoon, as another wind and rain storm is coming through.

The children were wonderful. I have a soft spot for the boys as they tend to be a little more outgoing and friendly with me than the girls, who are very shy and very quiet. Some of the children are quicker than others, but all were happy to be there and eager to interact with me. I'm looking forward to next week, when I will be teaching the art classes--the school and orphanage have slightly overlooked my own goals for being here, and created a program that suits their needs first, which is totally fine, I'm happy to help in anyway that I am able to; however, I'm looking forward to arting with them.

The boys.
I finished my classes just before noon, and headed back to my temporary stay for a bit of a rest and hydration. 4 hours in the African heat is tough on this white sistah, and the classrooms, beyond roofs for shade, have no protection from the elements.

In the evening my teacher friend, Doris, came over and we walked back down to the beach so I could take some photos with my camera. On our way there, she took me to her house to see her family animals, and I met her sister, nephews, cousins, and grandmother. The young ones all wanted me to take their picture so I could show them afterwords. The teenage boys took me around to the different animal stalls, and were proud to be showing off the rabbits, chickens, cats, dogs, and pigs. They were all happy to see a white sistah, Doris told me.

Bringing in the boat, Esiama shore.

Walking to the beach I was again the center of attention, and the children again would repeat over and over, "hello Madame, how are you? I am fine, thank you." they would ask and respond all in the same breath over and over. They all got a kick out of me calling them babrini when they would call me "bofran" the local equivalent to "obrini."

Walking by Dr. Peace as we made our way back from the beach we decided to skip the orphanage so I could spent the evening with Doris and Louise, the young art teacher who spent the night with me at my temporary home stay. The girls made me some rice for dinner, and we enjoyed a few bad African made for t.v. movies before the rain storm came through and the electricity was cut. This is standard procedure in Ghana. I'm not sure why, I was told it has something to do with the thunder.

Doris, luckily, headed home before the torrent down pour, and Louise and I spent the evening by candle light, looking at the book of recycled and reused art I brought with me.

This morning I woke up exhausted with severe stomach pain, and had Louise call Dr. Peace to let him know I wasn't feeling up to a morning at the school -frequent trips to the loo (a bottomless dirt hole) in the bush while trying to give my very best to a bunch of students would have been a bad way to spend the morning. So, I rested and slept until 2p.m. local time, a shocking thing.

It is currently now 4p.m. and the rain keeps coming down with hurricane force, the wind is knocking the palm trees about. Next door there is a group of naked young boys (2 to 8 years of age maybe) playing soccer, screaming, being happy. I'm settled inside with the door open enjoying the loud sound of pounding rain against cement, and rolling thunder dancing on the roof.

© Habit & Style, 2013.

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