It is our final full day at the guesthouse. We leave for Accra tomorrow at about 1:00PM (8:00AM Westtown time). Everyone is in the middle of packing their suitcases for the trip, since we will be staying in a hotel in Accra overnight tomorrow to wake up early (around 6:00AM). If we waited the extra night, we would actually end up having to leave here at 2:00AM to make it on time, and no one wants to do that.
It is a sad time for us. We get to go to Heritage tomorrow for about two hours to say goodbye to the kids, and most have told us they will show up even though it is a holiday for most of the other schools around (sounds like Westtown…). We all wish we could stay for at least another week, even two if possible. We hear fewer calls of “Obronyi” and more and more of our names. The kids all know us now, and we have gotten to know them.
We finally have internet here at the guesthouse, although it relies on access through phones. There is still no running water, but we are all saddened by the fact that tonight’s bucket showers are the last we will take here.
I realize that I have gotten very far behind, so here is as quick summary of the past week as I can give:
Last Saturday we went to Kakum National Forest. Kwesi assured us that the drive was around 30 minutes, 45 minutes at most. The drive actually took two hours, so we joked that it was actually 30 minutes in Kwesi time. There are two time systems in Ghana. Ghana time (between 10 and 15 minutes behind actual time) and Kwesi time.
Kakum has seven bridges made of rope, each about 200 feet off the forest floor. We then went to Elmina, where we visited the slave outpost St. George Castle. This is both the oldest (around 500 years) and the largest (it held up to 1000 slaves) in Western Africa. It first belonged to the Portuguese, was taken over by the Dutch, and eventually bought by the British. After visiting the castle, we drove to Cape Coast to do some shopping and price-scouting before driving back home.
Last Sunday, when I wrote the previous post, we went to Mr. DeGraft’s church in the morning. There was a great deal of singing and dancing before Mr. DeGraft began his sermon, which held a very powerful message even when heard through an interpreter. Later on Sunday we intended to go to a semi-pro football match in which Osman, one of the teachers at Ochiso Heritage Academy, was playing, but got delayed at the Internet Cafe. We got to the game just as it ended, with Osman’s team winning the game.
Monday through Friday were once again focused on teaching. Harrison and I taught J2A conversion between Fractions, decimals, and percentages, and we even began intro-algebra by the end of the week. With J1A, we struggled a bit more, but we ended up making sure that they could multiply two three-digit numbers without too much difficulty. One of my most rewarding moments of teaching these kids was when a student came to me after class and thanked me for helping him learn the methods. We do our best, but we aren’t really teachers. When a student thanks us for what we have done, it gives us at least a moment of certainty that we have made a difference.
Reading groups can be difficult sometimes. The range of skill varies a great deal, even among a single class. We try our best to keep the group moving forward, but in the end, T. Michael would meet with some of the students who were having the greatest difficulty so that we could continue with the others. A few students stand out, in that they go beyond what is asked of them. One girl in my reading group was especially good at translating english words into Fante in order to help others out.
On Monday afternoon, we turned over the cinderblocks from the first week, and then moved into the library. We reorganized the library completely, and it certainly looks better now. There are some books that are far above the reading level or interest of students here, and even above some back in the US.
On Tuesday afternoon, the last class period was an hour and a half long. We end when one of the prefects sounds a drum, but no one did. T. Michael usually finds a prefect if the timing gets too far off, but he was busy all day helping with one of us who was feeling sick. By the time the period ended, we had about half an hour back at the house to rest before heading back to Heritage to make cinderblocks. By the time we got there, it began raining and we couldn’t make them. It was a rather frustrating afternoon, but we walked into Ajumako after the rain stopped. The town of Ajumako isn’t huge, and there is a shortcut that goes though the University of Ajumako campus and lets us avoid “Death Corner.” We enjoy walking in Ajumako because there is a high likelihood that a Heritage student will recognize us on the street and take us around to show us more of the town. Each time (this happened three times) a student led us to his or her home to introduce us to his or her family.
Tuesday night, we went to the University to watch the Chelsea-ManU football match. Chelsea is a hugely popular team here because Michael Essien is from Ghana. Chelsea won, prompting a rather loud celebration afterwards. We also had some other Americans from the Philly area visit. They work with an organization called “Hope for Future Generations.” They are here doing something similar to what we are: teaching in schools, but also teaching health awareness and empowerment to younger women.
On Wednesday, we made more cinderblocks. The workers who had helped us before with the mixing of sand, water, and cement, were not there, so we had to guess. The first batch didn’t turn out great, but we figured out what we were doing for the second batch.
Thursday afternoon, we visited the woodshop in a town whose name sounded like “cocoa bean.” Last year, Katie and Laura apprenticed at this place and learned to make unity figures. We were then supposed to go to a Heritage football match, but it was cancelled because the public teachers went on strike. They still are today, as far as we know. Instead, Heritage held a scrimmage against a town team from Ajumako, which Harrison, Will, and I got to play in. Heritage won, even though the other team was both older and bigger.
On Friday we began the sad process of our last classes with the students. We each took pictures of our reading groups and classes. Harrison and I played trashketball with J2A, and they picked the team names Blessing, Exponent, Queen Harrison, and Princess Daniel. We laughed a great deal about it.Clara, who graduated from Westtown two years ago and also came to Ghana on her Senior Project, visited us. She was working with another organization and was staying in Cape Coast.
Friday night, everyone went for a walk in Ajumako. We met Georgina (a Heritage student) and she took us to meet her mother. On our way back to the main road, the power went out, and all we could see were the stars. It was an incredible sight, something that we could never see at home from all of the lights in West Chester and Philadelphia.
Yesterday, we went to Cape Coast to shop, and then went to Coconut Grove Resort. It was incredibly strange having running water and swimming in a pool, but we had a great time.
Today, we had a late start and went to go watch March-pass, or 6 March. It is Ghana’s Independence celebration, and all of the schools usually have students march in the various towns. This year however, with the teachers’ strike, very few schools participated.
We finally got our clothes back from the tailors, and they are both hilarious and awesome. Patrick got a matching shirt/pants set of Ghanaian fabric, and it is quite an amazing outfit.
It is hard to put the rest into words. So many things have happened that it is impossible to remember them all. The days seem to blur. One moment we are teaching classes, the next we are playing football or volleyball with the students or walking through town at night. There are so many pictures that we would love to share, but they will have to wait until we get back.
This may be my last message here, so “medase,” thank you to all of our friends in Ghana. We hope to see you again, whether here in Ghana or elsewhere in the world.