Home Again

April 5, 2013

Last day of teaching at Heritage
Last day of teaching at Heritage

It’s several days into spring term and I’m steadily adjusting to life back at Westtown. Everything feels so surreal – graduation is just around the corner and then my classmates and I are off to college. But in this whirlwind of activity, there remain things I have taken from my experience in Ghana that will never go away.

  • The amenities we take for granted are luxuries and we should always be thankful. Air conditioning, hot showers, flushing toilets, reliable electricity – these seem like miracles.
  • Middle schoolers in any culture are extremely difficult to control. But even if you feel like giving up, remember that they are good kids at heart and really do want to learn.
  • Get anti-malaria pills from a trustworthy source.
  • Stick ten teenagers in a guest house during a power outage and a hacky sack becomes a godsend.
  • Nothing goes according to plan – but it’ll turn out alright in the end.
  • It’s never too late in the year to meet people and really appreciate them. (And share lame jokes and tell embarrassing stories.)
  • Teacher Kwesi was right, I’m not Bill Gates. And while I certainly don’t think I changed the world, maybe a lesson stuck with one student or a comment I made helped another student connect the dots. Our group was thrust onto a new continent and into a new way of life. I didn’t just leave my comfort zone on this trip; I was catapulted into my “oh-my-god-new-experiences-but-let’s-try-not-to-panic” zone. That’s more than enough for me to feel like my time in Ghana was worth it.


Originally written March 16, 2013

Our love group at Kakum
Our lovely group at Kakum

We spent all day out and about. It was a fairly early morning and we all piled into a bus to begin the two and a half hour journey to Kakum National Park. It was considerably cooler and damper under the dense trees and we had to watch our step on the uneven stone path up the steep hill. We were drenched in sweat before we even made it halfway up. Continue reading “Treetops”

“Oh My God, White People”

Originally written March 10, 2013

View from Elmina Slave Castle
View from Elmina Slave Castle

Today was a brief break from “rural” living and a respite in paradise (tourist traps). In the morning we made a two-hour drive and found ourselves in Elmina, touring its slave castle and practically pooping our pants over seeing all the obronis that weren’t in our group. Despite all the terrible things that happened in Elmina Slave Castle, the architecture was beautiful and the views from the buttresses were breathtaking. (Though being shut in one of the windowless cells for several moments by our tour guide was a little unsettling.) Continue reading ““Oh My God, White People””

“What Is Your Name?”

Originally written Friday March 8, 2013

Heritage Academy

I have never been a more extreme mixture of exhausted and exhilarated. It’s been a whirlwind of a week, full of turbulent planes and culture shock. The first few days in Ghana were mellow, spent growing accustomed to our new surroundings. We visited Heritage Academy briefly and within minutes every one of us had at least four Ghanaian children trailing on our arms, asking “What is your name?” Later we visited the bustling markets of Mankessim. Everywhere we went we were met with stares and exclamations of “Obroni!” (foreigner). In the tight alleys men and women weaved about each other, expertly balancing immense baskets of vegetables on their heads. Almost everyone in our group left with several yards of rich fabric to be tailored into shirts and pants and dresses. Continue reading ““What Is Your Name?””

It’s Ghana be a Good Time!

Feb. 27, 2013

Well hi!

My name is Rachel and I am one of the ten students going to Ghana for Senior Projects. In Ghana we will be teaching at Heritage Academy, a school founded in 2004 by Westtown School’s Teacher Kwesi, as well as doing community service and touring cultural and historical sites. Since this progressive school’s founding, enrollment has grown tremendously and every year Westtown students hold classes there, in subjects ranging from science to history to music and theater and everything in between.

I will be co-teaching an English/creative writing course with my friend Taryn, as this plays off both of our academic strengths. Truth be told I’m terrified. Not only will I be thrust into a completely foreign culture, I will also be expected to stand in front of a classroom full of kids who seek to get something out of what I might have to offer them. Continue reading “It’s Ghana be a Good Time!”