Ghana Team Journal

Weekend relaxation & new friends

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Written by: Terra

Fuelled with porridge, we set off on our drive to New Akrade. I was struck by the vast economic and cultural differences between Senegal and Ghana. The lush, green landscape and beautifully finished buildings remind me more of Europe. Ghana truly is the model for Africa. I enjoyed our drive having the ability to daydream and enjoy the gorgeous views. I also have decided plantain chips should be sold on the roads in the United States. It would make road trips much more tolerable.

Upon arrival at the guesthouse we were introduced to Ruth and Megan, both of whom strike me as lovely ladies. I look forward to hearing more of their stories and sharing our experiences. The team building meeting was helpful in establishing common goals and objectives here in Ghana. One of which is o enjoy the delicious food prepared for us with love you can taste.

I unfortunately missed the meeting of the village leaders due to an overwhelming desire to stay horizontal, but I heard the people are wonderful. I’m excited to start this adventure! After a delicious dinner and great talks with the ladies, I’m ready to call it a night.

School & Soccer in Ghana

Friday, June 17, 2011

‘If you are in a hurry to get to an appointment, and you are riding on a train that is moving too slow, do you think you will arrive at your destination any faster by getting up and running through the train? Likewise, when the time is right for you, you’ll be arriving at your destination – no sooner, no later. In the meantime, make sure you are on board.’

- Rabbi Eliezer Benseon Bruk

Written by: Megan

Today’s morning classes were Math and reading. Susana put several of the lower level readers into a group at the back of the classroom for me to read with. During break I had a wonderful time with some of the kindergarten students drawing flowers on the blackboard. And finally after break, class continued with Citizenship Education – electing a president and the three levels of government.

No library today due to the soccer game going on in Senchi Ferry. Dozens of people lined every side of the field as they waited for the game to begin. With the afternoon off, Amo took us through the town towards the Volta River. As we walked along the path the heavy beating of the drums in the pre-game march could be heard for miles. We sat for a while taking in the serenity of the sounds of the water and the wind, drums lightly pounding in the distance.

We were able to catch some of last few moments of the soccer game as it came to a close only to be interrupted by the looming clouds in the sky and the small droplets of water that began to fall. We hurried back to the guesthouse and managed to make it in the nick of time, missing the downpour by a minute.

Each day, a new adventure!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

‘Merkavah is the mystery that carries all existence. It is the mystery that carries you right now, that holds you, that steers you, and guides you. Merkavah is the embrace of the Four Winds, the four breaths that emanate from the one single primordial breath of God that brings all into existence. In this embrace we are carried as we journey through this lifetime. The literal translation of mer’kavah means “to ride,” as opposed to walking or running; it means to ride, as in being carried by something else. It means to have faith that you will get there, wherever, whenever.’

- Rabbi Eliezer Benseon Bruk

Written by: Megan

Class was delayed about an hour and a half today as the students were outside cutting the grass with machetes. I was amazed they didn’t slice each other open as they swung 12-inch blades around, something they are obviously used to using.

Susana was not at school today but somehow I was able to manage. The students did individual reading as I walked around and listened to them for a while or answered questions for them. Another teacher came in and removed many of my students only to replace them a short time later by other students from another class – ones he thought might benefit from the reading session, I suppose.

Some girls brought a jump-rope into the class during break and asked me to join them. Needless to say my jump-rope skills were a little rusty but they returned quickly. Esther came in near the end of break and I informed her that the teacher wasn’t around so she did not want me in the class alone. Abigail and Elizabeth, two girls from my class, walked me up the street to the clinic to see Ruth. No one came in while I was there so Ruth, Mary, and I had a nice chat about Ghana and Canada.

Fewer kids came to the library today, however Linda attended again, and once again I saw improvement.

Another great day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

‘Each morning sees some task begin,

Each evening sees it close;

Something attempted, something done,

Has earned a night’s repose’

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Written by: Megan

Arrived earlier at the school today to attend the church service the students have every Wednesday morning – a passage from the bible was discussed accompanied by some singing and praying. Following the service we returned to our classroom and started class. First was Religious & Moral Education (or R.M.E.) and after break – Math. I helped a bit with the class today and performed my usual marking duties.

The library was especially fun today. About halfway through our time there, Samuel gathered us all in a group and read us a story, Edward in the Jungle, followed by a fable about a Frog and a Rat. Samuel is so great with the kids – he pulled us all into the story with him. He was very interactive and used many expressions to help illustrate the story. Absolutely amazing.

Day two in Ghana!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

‘How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.’

- Anne Frank

Written by; Ruth

Megan was up at 4:00 am this morning, but the rooster was not heard by Ruth – looked at the clock – 4:45 am. Finally got up at 5:30 am to shower which proved to be a real art in order to wash your hair while not wasting any water. Breakfast consisted of oatmeal (which we later learned was called porridge here), bread with chocolate delight on it – good but sweet, and juice. Had a very lively discussion with Esther involving some rather heavy topics - evolution and agnostics, Judaism, Gays, right and wrong (including robbery and prostitution), and something a bit lighter, our upcoming weekend.

Walked to the clinic for my second day, Mary had gone to the post office while Agnes handled the check-ins. Today was pediatrics day – well, children’s day – lots of shots to go around, not fun. Took some pictures under duress – they cried but mom made them get their picture taken anyway, another child ran away so that was a “no go”. Slow day in the clinic afterwards, watched material sales and one attractive woman tried on seven tops but did not buy any.

I shared a picture with Mary at around 11:15, learnt it was her birthday tomorrow and that her day of birth is Friday meaning her name would be Afria. I asked her what they do for birthday’s here in Ghana and she told me that if parents had money they would have a party and if they did not, they would only give 1-2 gifts.

Lunch was excellent – fried plantains, black-eyed peas, bananas, and mangoes. The discussion covered some other travel experiences, the difference between Tanzania and Ghana is clear, and talk about animals and crocodiles.

While we sat and waited outside in the much loved breeze that graces us every once in a while, Amo happened to be waiting in the dining area – somehow we missed each other. Amo finally came out, tired of waiting for us, only to find us waiting for him.

Not quite as hot today as we headed over to Senchi Ferry. Fewer children in the Library today. Isaac and Frances were with me today – both 11 years old and very good readers. Left at 4:30 pm back to the guesthouse for a short break and dinner at 6:00 pm.

Written by : Megan

Today I taught the students in my class ‘The Yellow Submarine’, although I couldn't quite remember how the song went so by omitting the chorus I presented it to them as a poem and it went over quite well. They had some trouble with the word ‘submarine’ and kept pronouncing it ‘sum-marine’. The other classes for today were Math (decimals and fractions) and reading again. Tried some sugarcane – it was very sweet but I was not able to chew and swallow it.

One of the girls, Linda, from the previous day at the library returned once again and this time chose a book that was a bit more difficult – it was really amazing to see improvement in only a single day – giving both her and I a sense of accomplishment. Samuel (the librarian) later provided us with puzzles to work on, adding a time limit to a few of them – soooo much fun.

Day one!

Monday, June 13, 2011

‘The world is before you and need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.’

- James Baldwin

Written by: Ruth

Woke up to the rooster’s calls this morning – multiple times in case he thinks we were still asleep, 4:15 for Megan and 4:20 for me. Breakfast was at 7:00 am, Esther beat us to the table, Yaw and Isaac had already been taken to school for today. Fried eggs, toast with jelly and butter, and OJ.

We walked to New Akrade (about 10-15 minutes) and met up with the host, Samuel, and the mayor, William. We toured the school grounds and met the Headmaster and the teachers of the primary school. Left Megan with Susana, one of the grade school teachers (grade 4) and Esther and I walked back to the clinic to meet Mary – the best clinic coordinator – a hands-on, nice person who checked people in – handling their insurance card, asking their reason for being there and then sending them along to the nurse. I took some BP’s and learnt some words:

  • Medase – Thank you
  • Akwaba - Welcome
  • Maakye – Good Morning
  • Wo dim den sen – What is your name? (and all English names)

I also learnt that when Mary would say “I’m coming” she really meant “I’m going” which a kind man at the clinic explained to me.

We left the clinic at 12:10 to walk back to the guesthouse. Lunch was fresh fries, chicken, and salad followed by a much needed trip to the showers – and cold ones. We finally received our mosquito nets as well. Amo showed up soon after and walked us to the Senchi Ferry Library to tutor the kids in reading. We were introduced to a room of exuberant kids who were all very polite. We took pictures all around. However it was all over so quick and we had to leave. More pictures as we walked back – trees, people, ducks and goats.

We sat and relaxed for a bit until dinner at 6:00 pm – we had sticky rice with sauce (green peppers, yellow peppers, cucumber, and chicken) – very good. And as a treat – popcorn! Which according to Esther, popcorn is something you get only when the cook likes you. Had a nice meeting with Amo – we discussed many things before he had to leave. And finally it was time for us to sleep – mosquito nets added a much greater sense of security.

Written by: Megan

I was placed in a grade four class, the teacher’s name – Susana Likpiti. Just observation for today. When I entered the room every student stood up from their desks and welcomed me loudly and enthusiastically, it was clear they were happy to have me. They then proceeded to stand up one by one and introduced themselves – as if that was enough for me to memorize all of their names. Susana said they would put their names on the corner of their desks for me. The lesson began and the students read in their primary readers about dreams and dogs, followed by a quick review of their homework from the previous day. Then it was time for a science test – forces, energy, and the solar system. Seemed a lot to cover in a single topic. As Susana wrote down the questions I sat there trying to answer them. My answers were over-thought and complex which immediately brought to mind the TV show “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?” and in that moment I didn’t even feel smarter than a 4th grader considering I couldn’t simply and confidently answer several of the questions. As the notebooks with their answers began to trickle up to the front of the class I helped Susana mark them – with a list of answers she provided me of course. I continued marking as break rolled around. But it wasn’t long before my peace came crashing around me. Children poured over to the window to see me and more came into the classroom, many wishing for me to take their pictures, which I was quite happy to do.

Break ended and the students dashed off to their own classes, as 4B, too, began to fill up. Susana went over the test questions and continued on with Citizenship Education – How we are governed, a topic involving the purpose of the country’s constitution.

As class came to a close Susana asked me if I could bring in a poem or song for the kids to learn tomorrow. I tried to think of something but my mind had gone blank. I told her a reluctant yes and hoped I would be able to find something to use....

A new team to Ghana!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Written by Ruth:

Up early today, both Megan and I had a good night sleep – we were warmer than I would have thought and it rained, and lots of it, felt good. The room was nice at the Airport View Hotel in Accra and breakfast was good. I had oatmeal which felt just like home in North Carolina, as well as toast with strawberry jam. Megan had toast and rice plus water – lots of water. Packed and repacked twice – too much stuff, where did it all come from?

Bus driver “picked us up” (a colloquialism from North Carolina) at 9:00 am. Esther, her two children, Isaac and Yaw (nine and almost three years old respectively), and her sister, Lydia, were with us on the trip – made it very easy for us to settle in from the very beginning. Esther is very fashionable and she is calm and caring for both her children and her charges (us). I tried to take a few pictures during the trip, but was unsuccessful – the bus drove too fast for my camera to handle but not too fast for Megan’s camera.

The road was good – except of course for the “speed bumps” which are not really speed bumps at all but where the paving has worn away. We passed Twin Rock Quarry sporting some very magnificent rocks which looked to have faces on them, the front one reminded me of an American Indian. I noticed a sign about a place for old folks, Esther explained that it was the first place of its kind in the area where the elderly with no children, whose children had left or who had no place to live, can be taken. The population of New Akrade is ~2000 people and the proportion of those that include the old folks is growing, fast.

We arrived at the St. James Guesthouse – lonely behind its tall walls. The owner, Agathar, brought water (2 cases) and Esther told us to drink, drink, drink. The room is quite nice, two single beds – the mattresses are softer than at the Airport view hotel. Plus air conditioning, windows with screens, chair and table, and a dorm-sized refrigerator (nice and cold too! Good for my protein bars.) There are four closets with shelves and keys to lock them although the keys seem to be only for decoration. Toilet is nice and has large towels.

We met Esther in the guesthouse dining room to introduce ourselves formally and discuss our goals for the trip, summarized as:

  1. To Learn About the Culture
  2. To Have Fun
  3. To Serve, and
  4. To have a Personal Experience

We also chose some characteristics that a volunteer should have, they were: Creative, Hardworking, Flexible, Spontaneous, and Friendly.

We went outside and Megan tried to “catch” the lizards on film. The breeze was wonderful – much needed for a hot day – and fortunately few flies and mosquitoes and lots and lots of green.

We ate lunch – chicken, rice, pineapple, and salad (without tomato for Megan). After our delicious lunch Esther drove us to the Volta hotel to exchange money (Megan’s card did not work however). The Hotel had a wonderful view and we took many great pictures of the dam. Inside was a small gift shop where I was able to get postcards to send back home – however no patches or shot glasses so alas we shall continue to search.

At around 5:00 pm the community leaders came to the guesthouse to greet us – normally a larger team would meet them at the community centre however as there were only two of us they decided to come to us. The entourage consisted of:

  1. Mr. Samuel Adomako – the Host
  2. Wana Asafootse – the Chief’s Representative
  3. William – the Mayor of New Akrade

We performed the introductions and were formally welcomed into the community. We discussed at length the goals of the trip and determined whether we would be in the clinic or the school. Esther did an excellent job, she is a very good emissary for Global Volunteers. Samuel and William told us they would meet us in New Akrade tomorrow to visit each site.

Dinner was wonderful – pasta with green bell peppers and carrots, and of course the recommended water. Sleep that night was punctuated by the sound of the TV permeating through the walls – ear plugs are great.