Ghana Girl

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Trials and Tribulations

First of all, I got the dreaded disease MALARIA! It was a Nightmare! One of the main symptoms is body pains and I had always wondered what that meant. Well, now I know. It means your whole freakin body hurts! Felt like muscle cramps all over and I had a ridiculusly high fever. The first 3 days I took some medicine and thought my body would fight it. WRONG! I had to be driven to the clinic and when we got there my temperature was 104 degrees! This is after taking medicine. The immediately put me on IV drips and my temp did go down. The next 3 days were a different hell. All the medicine was making me sick and it completely wiped me out. I literally couldn't get out of bed and I kept vomiting. I had to go back to the clinic for another IV drip but this time for energy. All my boys were really sweet. They came in different shifts to pray over me and yesterday a big group of over 15 crammed in the room to pray for me. Thank God, I'm now much better. I'm still very weak but I was able to go back to school today. But that's not my problem.

My big problems is Immigration. It seems they have changed their policy allowing volunteers to continue extend their visas. They told me I can no longer extend my visa. I only have 2 more months left. Martin, the director, is pleading with them to let me finish my time here but so far nothing. Tommorrow he is going to try again and it's my last shot. I'm very upset because there is so much work that I haven't finished and some I haven't even started yet. I also can't suddenly leave all my boys like that. Oh! I ask everyone to pray or send positive thoughts for me to finish my work in Ghana!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Jesus has Risen.....Everybody Party!

Hello all,

Sorry I haven't written in a while but the internet here can be ridiculus. For it's own reasons, it would not let me post a new blog. Oh well.

We are now just finishing our Easter break. We had a little more than two weeks off from school. Easter in Tafo is a Big Deal! Everyone that has moved away comes back for the Easter celebrations. A lot of them have moved to Accra (the capital city) and want to show off how citified(I know that's not a word) they are now. They will be walking down the street in these really nice outfits but,Hello it's Tafo, there is nowhere to go. Then there were all these really nice cars and motorcycles racing up and down the street and once again, Tafo, the road doesn't go that far. There were parties everywhere, including the in the street,and even
one at the library. The women were dressed in their skankiest outfits, the men
were wild and I don't think anyone was thinking about Jesus, if you know what I mean. Also, in Mpraso there were big concerts and there was para-gliding off a nearby mountain. I did not partake in the para-gliding.

I think in America, we put too much focus on Jesus during Easter time. From now on it should be an excuse to have wild parties!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Hostel

Hello All,

I thought I'd tell about the hostel the boys stay at that are part of the football acadmey. The hostel is for the really good players who are from out of town. First let me describe it for you. It is a hell hole. It is a medium size room squashed with 15 cheap wooden bunk beds to fit 30 boys but I suspect more sleep there. They only have two other rooms. One small room to house everyone's luggage and the water containers. And next to that one an extremely small room where Eric sleeps who watches over the boys. There is no bathroom or toilet. They have walk 5 minutes to the coach's house to use his toilet which I hear is falling apart. There is no kitchen. They are provided one meal a day by GIMAT which is dinner. Their parents are suppose to provide the rest for them. Which usually means giving them money to buy for themselves. However, sometimes parents don't have the money so it does happen that some kids only get that one meal. Which is scary when you consider how extremely active they are. I know that they do look out for each other so if someone is without they do try to share. One volunteer last year generously donated enough money so they got 3 meals a day for almost a year but that money has run out. Anyway, back to the hostel, the roof and the walls don't meet. The roof is a tin covering more so than an actually roof and there is a big gap where the top of the walls are suppose to meet the roof but instead there is a overhang. It feels like you are still outside. Through the generiosity of another volunteer they boys all have foam mattresses on their beds but the quality is so poor most of them are falling apart now.

Now the boys themselves are a riot. A typical night in the hostel is like this. First there's Frank being chased by Guana because while Guana was sleeping Frank removed all his clothes. Now, Frank, even though he is a 13 year old boy, has a high pitch giggle when he laughs and you can't hear it without laughing yourself. So all around the hostel you here Frank running from Guana and giggling like a little girl. Then I'm sure collins will be doing something crazy like tying a shirt on his head "like an Arab" and flexing his non-existent muscles ( i have a hilarious picture of this). If someone turns on music then everyone starts dancing and most of the are really good and really fun to watch. Then someone will of course be challenge someone else to a fight. I've personally arm-wrestled most of the boys and beaten them I might add.
The boys are great I just wish they were living in better conditions but their spirits is not spoiled by any of it. GIMAT is trying to raise money to build their own hostel right now they rent that place. Currently, they have the land and the sand to build the bricks but it will cost like 10,000 dollars with them doing all the building themselves. I hope it happens for them.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Few of My Favorite Things...

I have completly lost my heart to all my children. The children here are, without a doubt, unlike children anywhere else in the world. So respectful and naughty at the same time. I, of course, have a few favorites.

First, there's Jingo. Jingo is his nickname and I don't know the meaning. He's one of the footballers (the program has two sides: the cultural group where I am and the football group). He's 13 year old and already has six pack abs! He's built like a man, solid muscle. He's an extraordinary athlete! He's the fastest kid in like 6 towns. We just had the inter-school athletic competition and they put Jingo in 6 of the 10 events. He took first in the 100, 400, 4 by 400, and the 4 by 100. He ran the 400 in 59 secs on a grass field with bare feet. That's impressive for a 13 year old. Of course, because he's soo good, everyone in town knows his name and are always bothering him at competitons. At the inter-school competition, after he won the 400, some men from town picked him up and then poured perfumed powder over him. Another man was trying to argue with some kids from another school because one of them said he could beat Jingo. Crazy! And of course, all the girls go crazy over him too but my Jingo is a good boy. He doesn't pay the girls any attention and works hard in school. I worry about him though because they push him too hard. Because he's soo good, they push him to play even when his injured or overworked. I've been mothering him to stretch more and to not let anyone push him beyond a healthy place.

I also have two,that's right, TWO sets of twins. First there's Albert and Alberto (which is some lazy naming, just adding an O). The only way I can tell them apart is that Albert has a small scar by his eye otherwise it's a guessing game. They work harder than anyone else in school. You will always find them studying or copying notes. They have a funny nervous laugh that sounds like Beavis and Butthead. He he he heh. They are brillant football players! They are absolute sweethearts but put them on the footbal pitch and whoo! watch out! they turn into seriously aggressive players. I adore them! I'm always bothering them but I can't help it.
My other set of twins are Felix and Phillip. They are like 10 years old and are also identical. I can mostly tell them apart but it's easier if they are together. I usually just look at the clothes, they both have shirts they wear all the time. Felix is the naughtier twin. He's already started with girls though if you ask him he'll deny it. Phillip is a little angel though. They are super cute and sweet.

Then there's my Thomas! He's actually the younger brother of Martin, the director of the program. He also with the football group but he's the smallest one so he never gets to play. Thomas is 10 years old and already a little man. He acts like he's soo tough. He's a good boy but he does bad things. When we first came he use to bother us during meal times but you look into those big brown eyes and you had to forgive him. Now the tables are turned, I bother him all the time but he loves it even if he won't say it. He'll hold my hand if we're alone but as soon as we get to where we are going he drops my hand and runs away. Nobody believes it but I know Thomas will cry when I leave.

Collins is another one I seek out. He's the one who's nickname means "big, ugly head." He's super super cute and he knows it. He tries to use his cutness to get things from me. He's a brillant footballer and he's good at scoring which is impressive since he's very small (he's arms are like twigs.) He's cocky too, when he scores a goal he has a little booty shaking dance he does. Sometimes he wants to act like I'm his girlfriend and hang all over me but I put a stop to that.

Your probably wondering why I mention only boys and footballers. It's because I see them the most and spend the most time with them. These are just my fav favorites. I have lots of them I just love. They're contagious.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How To Speak Ghanaian

I've decided to teach all of you some Ghanaian phrases. I think that when you learn the language, how they organise thoughts and ideas, it is very telling about the people and the cultural. So, I'm going to teach you how to speak Ghanaian.

"I'm coming" --- seems straight forward but people say this when they are leaving. It means I'll be back.

"Go and come" --- means whatever your going to do make sure you come back.

"I like your foot" --- no, there is not foot discrimination. It means I like your shoes.

"You like _______ too much" --- fill in the blank with fighting, eating, (in my case) popcorn, etc. They love telling you what you like.

"Come on time" --- once again seems straight forward until I tell you people say this to you when you are leaving them. It means come back early.

"Where from you" --- where are you from

"more grease to your elbow" --- work harder

"macho your voice" --- speak louder

"tape" --- this one bothers me on a personal level because they use this word to mean a stereo system. They keep thanking me for the tape I sent and I'm like no it's a whole stereo system with a tape deck but they don't listen.

"Auntie" --- they use to mean like sister but not blood relative. just in general.

"Why" --- they always use this one at the end of what they are saying. It means is that right, have you heard.

"Is that right?" --- people put this on the end of what they are saying. I think it's to check that you are listening.

Ghanaians also use a lot of sounds when they are talking. I've tried my best to phonetically re-create them.

Eh
Oh
Aiii
ummhumm
why
I can't re-create the tongue clicks, sorry. But the funny thing about all of this is that I now talk like this and use all those sounds. Crazy! And I haven't even gotten into nicknames. They love to give people nicknames for defects they think they have. One of our young footballers nickname translates into "Big, ugly head." Awful, I know. I told them he's just got a really big brain, which is true. I told him that he's body is small now but he'll grow into his head, which is a lie because his head is HUGE. But hey, it's perfect for football. They also love to tell people their fat and mock them. Here it's not so much of an insult. If your fat you should know it, is how they feel.

Well, now your Ghanaian should be perfect. Are you ready to come over and give it try?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

And Number 5 on the list is Education

Hello all,

I haven't written much about Tafo so this blog I will tell you all about the joys of teaching in a school in Ghana.

First, I teach English to the second year students(8th) in Roman Catholic Junior Secondary School (J.S.S. like middle school). Where should I start, there is so much that you wouldn't believe. Well, like in my title, actual education is very low on the list of priorities at the school. They will cancel classes for the most silliest of reasons. For example, they have canceled class for the students to:
1. to do weeding in the catholic shrine
2. Do grounds work and weeding around the school
2. fetch water for the teachers
3. To train in netball (sport)
4. to go farming.

They, of course, never tell us or even plan ahead to when they cancel classes. You'll go to school and they'll be no students in the classroom. That's how you find out.
A lot of the teachers, themselves, are completely unmotivated. They'll go to their classes late or sleep in the staff room. Which is actually understandable. Teachers get no respect in Ghana. They are paid an amount so low it's impossible to live on it. Some schools pay their teachers only like 16 dollars A MONTH! AND on top of that most of the time they don't pay the teachers. They have to fight for that small money. I've met a teacher that has been fighting for 15 months to get paid and he told me there is a teacher at his school that has been fighting for 2 years. That's crazy!
Most of the students are really undisciplined. Mostly because the schools are too but a lot of students really don't care. Most of the parents don't really know what their children are doing in school and don't care to know. Education is not a priority. A lot students don't go on after J.S.S. You have to pass a major exam to qualify to get into Senior Secondary School (S.S.S. or high school) and most students can't do it. Not an exaggeration, but half my students can't read. They just been pushed through the next grade without actually passing. So now, they are in JSS and they can't read well enough to do any assignments or even understand me when I'm talking to them. umff! It's really hard to teach because students will be talking up a storm in class, coming to class really late with lame excuses, or they don't understand your English so aren't able to follow instructions. The English taught in Ghana is a joke. Is rare to find someone who actually speaks decent English. When I was going over one of the District exams with the students that they had just taken, I found at leat 5 grammar errors and quite a few spelling mistakes. This is on a DISTRICT test!
Another problem is the schools lack so many resources. The classrooms are bare. The children have no visual stimulation at all. Which of course makes learning harder. The textbooks are kept at the school and the students can only use them during class time. There isn't enough anyway. The students must buy their own pens and exercise books (to do homework in) but sometimes they can't afford them. They share cheaply constructed wooden desks. When farming season starts the students will have to farm during the morning hours because the school needs the money to subsidize the little they are getting from the government. The students will also be doing a lot chores and work for the parents at home also, which will hinder their learning.
A big problem is the teaching style. Most of the teaching is very poor. It's mostly just copy this into your notebook. Before we worked with them they were completely incapable of being creative. They had only learned to copy and imitate. If you asked them to make up a story they would freeze up and be completely confused.
They also teach English like it's a first language and have no tools for teaching English to students as their second language. Hell, most of the teachers don't have any teacher training. In most schools you are only required to have gone to college or technical school to be a teacher. It's rare to find an actual trained teacher.

Oh, so many problems but I just try to do what I can. That's all I can do.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'M BACK!!!

I'm back from traveling. Actually I've been back for a week but the internet has been down where I usually go. But today I'm in Kumasi and I can tell you all about my great trip.

First we went to Ejura to visit the former project of Rebecca (fellow volunteer from Holland). We spent Saturday and Sunday there and got to see what they were doing at that project. The have had a lot of volunteers over the years so they had a ridiculous amount of excess supplies. So Rebecca gave us some musical instruments, masks, and books that they were not ever using to give to our kids in Tafo. I heard the kids went crazy when they saw the stuff.
On Monday, Me, Rebecca, and another volunteer went to Tamale to spend the night. Our goal was to go to Mole National Park. It is the largest park in Ghana with a huge variety of wildlife and they also offer safaris. We had to wait a day in Tamale for the next bus going to Mole. Tamale is about 10 hours up north from Tafo. The northern part of Ghana is so different that it almost as if we had entered another country. First in the north it unbelievably Hot and DRY! I now know what it would be like to visit a desert. I couldn't drink enough water! Also, although most of Ghana is Christian up North (where's there's a lower population) it is almost 90% Muslim. We also saw a lot of mud adobe houses with straw roofs riding through the towns. There was plenty of donkeys around that people were still using to haul things. Oddly enough, donkeys are really beautiful. It sounds strange but look at one up close.
When we got to Mole, we stayed in the hotel that is actually in the park. So we were literally living with the wildlife. Just driving up to the hotel we saw elephants, monkeys, and wart hogs. In the morning, I went on a walking safari further into the park. You have to go with an armed guide because the animals ARE NOT tame. We are actually watching them in their natural habitat doing what comes natural to them. They don't take care of the animals at all.
So, the first thing we saw were ELEPHANTS! I'm in love with Elephants now. Their so grand and regal. We were by their watering hole. So they came really close to us and were swimming and drinking in the water. I mean I have a picture of me with an elephant right behind me! It was so amazing! We also saw wart hogs, antelope, egrets, a shy monkey, and hidden crocodiles.
Now, I had heard about the Baboons at the park. A friend of Rebeccas' had one jump on her and run off with her bag. And the people at the hotel told us that they come in the afternoon to the hotel and cause trouble. But I still was really anxious to see a Baboon. Me and Rebecca were walking back to our room after buying water and juice and I was complaing about not seeing any Baboons. Well, spoke to soon. All of sudden we saw at least 10 roaming all over the hotel. I was trying to hurry to our room to get a camera, when we saw a really big one in the trash can of the room next to ours. All of sudden, he turned around and started coming for us. We both acted like a couple of little girls and dropped our bags and ran screaming into our room. Or I went to our room, Rebecca in her fear ran to the wrong room and then had to run back to our room. The baboon only took my juice and some children chased him away. But me and Rebecca had a good laugh over that. In my defense, let me say it was a really Big baboon. It could've took me.
I also went to the town next to Mole called Larbanga. It boast of having the oldest mud mosque in Ghana and possibly in West Africa. The mosque has an interesting story that sounds completely made up so I won't share it.
My next trip was by myself further up north to Bolgtanga. I've been reading my fellow volunteers' travel book and read about a couple of places that I wanted to go. First to Paga where they have crocodile ponds and then to Sirigu where they have a community art project.
In Paga, I went to a crocodile pond. Here they consider the crocodile as sacred. They are their totems. So they've been keeping crocodiles for centuries. They are two ponds in Paga. I went to the Chief's pond where they have like 500 crocodiles. I was a little scared but people were washing their clothes in the water and other animals were drinking in the same water where the crocodiles were. So my guide whistled to a crocodile and slowly one started to come forward. He coaxed it out of the water. Then he took a picture while (you won't believe this) I sat on it and another picture of me holding it's tail. I swear I have photographic proof. I sat on a crocodile! Also, in Paga I went to the Pikworo slave camp. It was one of the major camp sites for slave traders taking slaves down toward the coast. There were a lot of remnants of the history there. There it is unusually rocky as if maybe there once was a great river running through that area. In the rocks you can see where the slaves carved holes into the rocks to use as bowls. There was also a resonant rock which they used for drumming. The wanted to boost morale so those slaves that drummed and danced got more food. We also visited the punishment rock and the cemetery where they buried the ones who couldn't make it.
My last trip was to Sirigu. Where the women keep up the tradition of painting their houses. The women have started a community project to keep up their traditional arts like house painting, pottery,jewelry making, etc. They had a wonderful gallery full of great things. I bought myself a necklace. I also had a tour of two traditional painted mud compounds.
After all that traveling. I finally returned back to Tafo. I missed all my kids even if some of them are bad.