Final Days

We have now been home for a couple days and other than getting used to the time zone, I have found myself missing many aspects of the life-changing trip. I miss my wonderful students, even if some of them did constantly talk over me in class. I miss our reading groups where I could see so many of the students’ determination to learn. I also miss spending hours working in the library in which I categorized and labeled hundreds of books. Even though there are so many aspects of this trip that I miss, there are definitely some parts of the trip that I won’t miss such as the random power outages, sometimes for the whole night. I also won’t miss the constant staring for being an “obroni”, or foreigner, everywhere I go.

There are many great lessons I learned while on this trip, but one of the most useful lesson/values I learned would probably be the importance of being flexible and going with the flow. I was very determined before the trip that I was going to teach my class the basics of ballet at my warm-ups at the beginning of the trip, but I had to scratch that idea after the first day because I realized that it wasn’t what the students enjoyed. They need to move around more to focus. So I decided, with the help of some friends on the trip, to teach my class different warm-ups that we do with Westtown’s dance program. We started off our second week of the trip with a lot of rain. This meant that we had to relocate my class to a smaller space. As a result of this, many of my warm-ups had to be scraped due to lack of space, so I had to think quickly to figure out what we could do and what music would go well with the warm-ups to keep the students interested. One of the last days of the trip, we went to pick up pieces from the woodcarvers in a nearby town. When we were a couple minutes away, our trusty red van that we had been riding the who trip broke down halfway up a hill. Our van driver slowly backed down the hill to the side of the road and parked there. We quickly got together and started walking the rest of the way to the woodcarvers because we still needed to get our wood. When we walked back to the van, a man approached us and started to explain how he and a few other men were growing different food plants including coconuts to help feed those who needed food. He then offered us coconuts from his trees, which we accepted after making sure that they were safe to eat and not infused with unpurified water (they do that with watermelon in the area). We then were picked up by taxis that T. Kwesi sent for us. This kind of event would normally make me stressed and uncomfortable because I am not the type of person who is able to go with the flow very easily, I usually like everything planned out and to go with the plan. However, this trip helped me understand that there are many things, such as red vans, that don’t go as planned and that you need to often think on the spot.

We finished up our trip in Accra where we went shopping in an craft market as well as going to W.E.B. Dubois’ house. We then relaxed at our hotel for the rest of the evening preparing ourselves for a very long flight home. Thankfully, there were no screaming kids on the flight home unlike our flight to Ghana.

This trip has allowed me to grow as a person and create lasting memories that I will be able to share with so many people in the future. I hope to return to Ghana at some point in the near future (study abroad in college maybe?) to continue the work that I started in the two brief weeks.

Pushing Through to the End

Our days in Ghana are quickly dwindling down, and we are all trying to make the best of the time we have left here. That might just be why we haven’t been posting many updates to the blog. Oops. The time between our last post and now have consisted of a canopy rainforest walk on a suspension bridge (yikes,) slave castles in Cape Coast, a rockin’ church service, more teaching, of course, construction of bookshelves, and further library restoration. Not to mention, all of the seemingly small but significant moments in the midst of the very Ghana-esque relaxed chaos.

Over the weekend we had a long, bumpy ride all the way to Kakum National Park where we conquered the canopy walk. I was terrified to say the least, but I couldn’t be happier looking back on what I accomplished. It was an unforgettable experience for those of us who were able to go. Unfortunately, Rebecca and Hannah had to stay behind that day due to illness. That same day we drove again to Cape Coast to see the slave castles. Gaining a perspective on the history of Ghana was an important experience for us all.

Even after a jam packed, sweaty Saturday, a few of us including myself attended a service at a local Pentecostal church. Despite being obvious outsiders, the church was expecting us, and wanted to make us feel as welcome and a part of the community as possible. There was a lot of song and dance, which was not only enjoyable, but also extremely passionate. It was really indicative of the natural livelihood here that I feel we lack in the States. Nonetheless, the people here have unknowingly lent me quite a bit of wisdom just by showing me their way of life. I hope to bring some of that home with me.

Post weekend classes began again on Monday, and we’re now down to our two final days of teaching at Heritage. Some of us are gearing up for Dance, Music, and Theatre performances, and others are trying to plant their final seeds of knowledge into the kids. We’re also trying to finish up the library before we depart. Progress has been going strong and steady, sorting and labeling tons of books, but there’s much left to do. I think we are all feeling a bit pressured with the two days left to make the biggest impact possible on the lives of these students. Just their presence has taught me a great deal over the past eleven days or so. I just hope I can do the same for at least one of them.

I haven’t been able to sufficiently articulate our time in Ghana thus far with such limited space in this blog post, but at a glance, I hope I’ve given a bit of insight as to what’s been happening here. With that, our group is now pushing through to the end, and we will keep you posted on the coming days. It’s Ghana be great!

-Brooke

Fufu Friday!

March 11, 2016

Today we all felt the relief of our first Friday here in Ghana, especially after a not so restful sleep on Thursday night. Overcome by the heat in the midst of a power outage, some of us took the advantage to go outside and spot the stars last night. Surrounded only in the company of friends, the smoky African air, and the occasional goat or rooster call, I had never seen anything so beautiful before.  I had never felt as alive as I did in that very moment. Okay, so Teacher Lynette may have come to yell at us for being too loud so late at night, but I’ve got to say, it was still totally worth it. And I’ve had many significant moments similar to those during our journey thus far.

Today was our fourth day of teaching, and I still find myself overcome with anxiety before I lead a reading group or teach an Acting lesson. Despite that, the upbeat energy and openness of the kids brings me back to level. Every time a little girl asks you to be her best friend, or a little guy takes you by the hand to walk to class, everything seems to be happening just as it should be. Before leaving for this trip a teacher gave me some wise advice I thought I’d share. She told me not to worry too much about my teaching. Instead, she said to really let the kids teach me. Allow myself to be enlightened as to what gives them so much life. I’ve found that when I’m most present with that in mind, all feels right and well.

I finally feel like I had a successful day of classes! My kids created masks inspired by characters they came up with, and they seemed excited by the idea. It was rewarding watching them take creative license, and I was happy to see them so engaged even if they may not have understood the point of the acting lesson.  Another note, Ghanaian kids love the camera, and they know how to work it, too.

Additionally, the reworking of the library seems to be coming along well. Teacher Victoria has taken charge of the project, with the rest of us helping from time to time, mostly in the afternoon as another service component after classes. I helped out with organizing books a bit this afternoon once I got too tired from our little “Friday Dance Party.” It took us all a while to recover from that one. The energy those kids bring is just amazing.

To top it all off, we finally got to try Fufu! Fufu is a popular dish here made from pounding plantains and cassava together. It definitely isn’t something we’re used to in the US, but the group seemed pretty satisfied. We’re soaking up as much of the culture as we can in between teaching and sleeping. Since tomorrow begins the weekend, we are going to explore a bit outside of the Essiam village where we’re living here in Ghana. Our other blogger for the trip, Rebecca, hasn’t been feeling too well, but either way, one of us will continue to update on our adventures here. Check back soon!

-Brooke

Dropping Like Flies

Yesterday, we went to Mankessim’s market. People were bustling around us and staring at us because of our obvious difference in looks that they are used to. Many of us bought fabric so that we could have one of T. Melissa’s friends make us dresses, shirts, or aprons.

Today was our third day teaching, and everything seems to be falling into place. Students are consistently coming to our class and wandering off a little less than before (quite an accomplishment we think). Yesterday, I finally got the correct class, the wrong students came the first class. My class yesterday caught onto my choreography really well and quickly, and I believe they enjoyed it because today they came to class and started dancing the moves I taught right away.

On a less happy note, many of us are getting sick in one way or another. Dehydration has been a problem because we are not used to the temperature or humidity here in Ghana. Also, many of us, including myself, are having to deal with some really itchy heat rash. As Hannah likes to say, she has chicken skin on her legs. Unfortunately, the other blogger on this trip, Brooke, is one of our friends who is sick.

Westtown, I Don’t Think we’re in Pennsylvania Anymore

(From March 9th because of internet issues)

People always tell you right before you leave for another country that you’re going to experience major culture shock. It’s difficult to prepare yourself for what you see in a country like Ghana. People are everywhere, walking on the side of the roads that are covered with trash. Goats are everywhere, and yes I mean everywhere. Unlike in the States where cars move out of the way for people, people walking on the side of the road are expected to jump out of the way for cars because they drive all over the roads, on whatever side they can to avoid holes or just where ever they want.

For the first day, after the ten and a half hour long plane ride with a screaming toddler just two seats away from me, we took a bus two more hours to the guest house we are staying in for the next two weeks. We met some people from the village we are in and struggled to keep our eyes open so that we could adjust to the time difference.

The next day, Monday, we had to adjust our schedule because it was Ghana’s Independence Day, so there was no school. Instead of teaching, we went to Coconut Grove Resort and relaxed at the pool and the beach all afternoon.

Today was our first day at Heritage Academy. Throughout the day we taught classes that we planned weeks ago and led reading groups to help the seventh and eighth graders with their reading skills. My class, a dance class, was definitely a big learning experience. The teachers had warned us that the students don’t pay attention too well sometimes, but I was not expecting it to be at the degree it went to. I definitely had struggles with getting the students to commit to the activities and not to be self-conscious about dancing in front of each other, and students looking out from different classrooms. It has helped me learn about how important it is for teachers to be able to adapt and change lesson plans depending on what interests the students and at what level they are.

Tomorrow, is another teaching day but in the afternoon we are going to a nearby town to visit the market.

Ghana: One Week More

Lesson planning, meetings, shoe sorting, Yellow Fever vaccinations and Malarone galore. These past couple of months have been filled with ongoing preparation and a culminating excitement for our trip to Ghana. Seeing as we hop on our flight to Accra just a week from tomorrow, the project is starting to seem like more and more of a reality with each day leading up to it all. Now to start packing and put some finishing touches on our lesson plans!

 

While at Heritage Academy, I will teach Theatre classes to the students there. Recently, I’ve been asked to do a lot of reflection about my intentions for this trip and why it matters to me. I’ve realized I feel a real sense of gratitude toward my art and performance teachers and directors here at Westtown, from sixth grade theatre through the Outsider in Theatre Literature, and Directing classes in my senior year. They have taught me so much more than just stage-craft, or scene study, or even overcoming the challenge of hitting a high A in the opening number of a musical. Most significantly, they have taught me that acting is about sharing a story, and whatever story I have to tell is important. They have taught me that my voice matters. Those are the lessons I’ve learned that have inspired me to pursue theatre outside of Westtown, so among all else, I hope to pass down those same lessons that my teachers taught me, to my students at Heritage Academy.

 

As seniors move into our last week of classes before we head out, the anticipation is palpable throughout the dorm and the halls. I’ll be excited to blog about what I learn over the next couple of weeks. Please check back soon to stay updated on our journey in Ghana!  

Ghana: The Excitement Leading Up

Hello everyone! For the next couple of weeks I will be giving you the inside scoop on what is going at Heritage Academy in Ghana! With only a week and a half before we fly to Accra, the nine students and three teachers are getting final packing lists together as we pack for two exciting weeks. We are all teaching classes, in pairs or alone, and this past week has been full of writing lesson plans and meeting with teachers from Westtown who teach our subjects. In addition to preparing for our classes, we have been packing up shoes that Lower School collected, which  will then be donated to people throughout the village of Essiam. There are suitcases upon suitcases full with shoes that were donated, so many that we are struggling to find room for all of them!

Please check back often to find out what we are doing in Ghana!