Reflection – I am home!

The weather is cold here and the showers are hot!

It has been harder than I thought re-adjusting to home and remembering to do things like throw my toilet paper in the toilet and drink tap water. Reflecting on Ghana I realize what an amazing experience it was and how much I have grown from those twenty days. I realized that public speaking is only as scary as you make it and that I can teach and lead a class. I learned about a new culture and made friends that seemed so different at first. I learned how to dance Azonto, eat fish with bones in the dark, play drums, break up middle school disputes, navigate markets, laugh with strangers, sweep with palm fronds, make cinder blocks, pound fufu, enjoy cold showers, wear Ghanaian fabrics,  express local customs, think on my feet in class, and barter with market woman who don’t speak my language. The culture of Ghana is so different yet I found so many parallels with home. What I loved about Ghana was the sense of community and joy the villages held. They had chiefs and elders and everyone was responsible for their friends and neighbors. I felt safe and accepted walking through the towns to shop, hangout at the local dance spot, watch soccer, and visit where my kids lived. I have gained new found respect for the amount of effort it takes to live in third world countries and a slight disgust for how unfairly we live with our fancy electronics, kitchens, washing machines, cars, excess food, and clean water. Teaching the kids and seeing how driven they are while experiencing how they live has made me want to help give them the opportunities I have been given. I wish I could sponsor them all, but, I have chosen to sponsor Bernard, one of the many students I fell in love with. I grew closer to my Westtown friends who accompanied me to Ghana and became close with teachers I had never talked to before. In Ghana I learned what it was like and how to handle standing out in the crowd, I experienced the power of religion and a different code of ethics, and I became confident in my ability to handle myself in a new place. I have got the travel bug and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

Coming Home from Ghana

 

I can’t really put all of the experiences I’ve had in the past 2 and a half weeks into words. I’ve seen and been through so much. Even though it’s impossible to sum it up I thought that the best way would be through pictures because a picture is worth 1000 words. RIght?

Being back has been so surreal. I’ll be sitting on the couch watching T.V. and it will suddenly occur to me “Wait… about 48 hours ago I was in Ghana.” The first meal I had being back was a cheeseburger with fries and a milkshake and I can tell you that a burger and shake has never tasted so good. Although I do miss a lot of the friends I made I’m really glad to be home and share all of my experiences from the past 2 and a half weeks. With these pictures I hope to do the same with you.

Everyday we would have classes and then when we weren’t teaching we would help with the reading program where we would basically sit and read with the kids for about 50 minutes asking comprehension questions in between. 

This girl was one of my best friends from Heritage Academy. Her name is Felicity and she was in my 7th grade class. She is extremely smart and talented. Reading with her was always a breeze. She was one of the most kind selfless people I met on this trip. Everyday when we would come to reading period we would write each other notes. By the end of the trip these notes started turning into gifts and now we both have friendship bracelets we made each other to remember one another. Felicity unlike most people never asked for a gift or a letter. She always gave but never expected something in return which for someone her age in her environment is pretty remarkable.

ImageThese little cutie’s names are both Esther. I met both of them pretty late into the trip since I didn’t have any classes or reading periods with them but they became two of my favorite kids by the end. Every time they saw me they would run over and give me a huge hug. It made me feel really appreciative that someone was so happy to see me because I was just as happy to see them.
ImageThis was one of my other reading groups and they were always super fun to read with. Their names from left to right are Hannah, Dorcas, Samuel, Abigail and Abigail. They would always come up with creative ways to make reading more fun. For example, their favorite book was called Biscuit which was about a dog named Biscuit. Every time the book said “Woof Woof” they would have to say it as if they were actually a dog. By the end we would all get excited when we turned the page and saw that we got to say “Woof woof!” Hannah since she didn’t speak english very well always enjoyed the “Woof Woof” more than the others because it was easy for her to read. ImageThis is Hannah in the bus that took 600 kids to school everyday. Although this bus can seat probably about 25 kids about 60 kids would be shoved in at a time in order for everyone to make it to school on time. Traffic laws never really applied in Ghana…
ImageWhen we weren’t teaching we got to do some sightseeing! The bridge I’m on in this picture is at Kakum National Park. These bridges were about 300 meters about the ground. ImageThis was the Coconut Grove Beach Resort we got to relax on during the weekends when we weren’t teaching or doing community service.

Well that’s about it from me. There’s a lot more to say about this trip so I hope you read some of the other’s posts because we each had our own unique experiences. Although, at times, this trip was really difficult I know it was definitely worth it because it really did change my life. I want to thank all of the seniors and faculty who were also on this trip for being such a great group and really adding to this amazing experience. 

Until next time!

~Arielle

Some of the Things I Learned in Ghana

March 20

1. Money is not the cause of happiness

2. I am not a very good dancer

3. Hot water doesn’t exist

4. Red Red is my favorite food

5. Sweat is a lifestyle

6. Old works just as well as new

7. You can fit 73 students into a small blue bus

8. It’s the little things that make you happy

9. The music is bumpin’

10. $1.00 can get you a ton of plantain chips

11. Photographs are treasured

12. Electricity is completely unreliable 

13. Sunscreen is not always successful (Jack)

14. Anything can be made into a game

15. Everything white will soon be brown

16. One of paper equals four of coin

17. Nobody but Alaska should be allowed to drive a car

18. “Obroni” gets old

19. Keep your limbs within the vehicle at all times (unless you want to lose an arm or have an uneven sunburn)

20. “Will you marry me?” is thrown around often

21. Teaching is harder than you think

22. If you take a camera out you will be mobbed by children and adults alike

23. Everyone is named Emmanuel 

24. Friendships form quickly 

25. I absolutely love Ghana

10 Things I Will Never Take for Granted Again

My time in Ghana has just about come to an end. Tomorrow at 10 p.m. we get on the plane and head back to the U.S. I’m feeling a lot of different emotions right now. I’m super excited to head home and see my family but I also think that the culture shock coming back will be even bigger than the culture shock was coming here. I’m going to appreciate everything a lot more. From my teachers (I now fully understand how hard they work) to cold refrigerators, this trip has really made me realize how much we take for granted. I tried to make a list that was different than things you usually think of.

Some things that I know I take for granted that you shouldn’t are:

1) Clean Bathrooms- We really do have nice bathrooms in America. I won’t go into detail on this one but just trust me. They’re nice. If there’s toilet paper and it flushes, then give thanks. Continue reading “10 Things I Will Never Take for Granted Again”

Ghana Day 17

What a day. This was our last day of teaching, so Minji decided to do something new and fun for the kids. In other words, we taught them how to play Ultimate Frisbee. It was a blast. Once we had established that you can’t run with the Frisbee, if it falls you have to give it to the other team, and that just chucking it as far as you can isn’t a good strategy, things really got fun. They love throwing the Frisbee, and they caught on well. I played with all three of the classes and am exhausted now. Not only are my feet tired, but the combination of my sweat with all the dust floating around coated my feet in dirt, and there are stripes of white where my flip-flop straps are. It was so bad, the kids kept scolding me to wash my feet!

Afterwards, some of us went for a last stop in Ajumako where it was market day! I know I haven’t talked about the markets so I’ll do that now: it’s certainly an experience. Today, we went with T. Melissa, which definitely makes it more fun. She can speak some Fanti, and whenever we say medasi (thank you) they smile and laugh. She brings a fun, practical attitude and always laughs with the people sitting around in the market. We hopped on the first taxi we saw then waded through the crowds into town when we got out. The market is basically a bunch of wooden scaffolding to separate the stalls (they’re barely even stalls), where wares are generally spread out on the ground or in baskets. My mission: find the cloth, and stay away from the stalls selling fish. (They smell and there are lots of flies. Trust me, you don’t want to eat those fish.) We don’t really bargain, because cloth prices are generally the same. If you want to test your bargaining skills, the best place for that is the touristy craft shops near the beach and slave castle.

I was very successful with my cloth-buying mission. I’m sitting here now, clean, tired, hungry, and happy, but it’s dinner time now and the food is going fast, so I’m signing off for now. Until next time!

Laura

TGIF!

In Ghana we get as excited about the weekends as we do at Westtown. Teaching is fun and I have been learning a lot, but there is no denying that it is exhausting and that by the time Thursday hits we are longing from a break from our energetic students. Ghana is a much slower paced place than America but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of work. Everything simply takes longer because it is done by hand.

On Saturdays we travel to visit historical places in Ghana. We take a cramped, bumpy van ride to the coast to visit slave castles or the rainforest. What I have found the most interesting about these trips, besides visiting the castles themselves, is seeing how the coastal village people live. Ghana has not caught on to the tourism trade and the slave castles have tours but they are not built up in the way you would expect to accommodate tourists; you get to see the local life and markets. The people on the coast live off the ocean, and you can smell the fish in the air. The men are thin and wired with muscle from controlling sails, and the woman are muscular from carrying the fish. Everyone is working hard. There are groups of young children sitting along the rocks sewing nets and drying fish and old sea-worn men patching sales in the shade. They live in grass and wood huts crammed together off the rocky shore. What I thought was really cool about the coast was the boats. They make long wooden canoes and then use a pole and patched together fabric as sales. They are beautiful boats and are often painted by their owners who move them with comfortable skill over the rough waves.

The slave castles dwarf the fishing towns, sitting high on a cliff. They serve as a sad reminder of what happened to Ghana not long ago. The tours are interesting and sad. We are taken through the dungeons and the rooms of no return before we go up and see the contrast of the governor’s quarters. After the tour, we get to shop before heading home for a relaxing evening of hanging out and playing cards with are local friends. This Saturday after touring a slave castle we went to the rainforest to walk on canopy bridges. The bridges are built high above the ground with just ropes and some wooden planks laid across ladders reaching from tree to tree. It was really fun and the people who felt comfortable loved to mess with everyone else by bouncing the rope, luckily we all made it out alive. Sunday is beach day!! We get to travel to one of the few resorts on the coast, eat pizza, swim in the ocean, and relax. I am nice and sunburned so I will have to lotion a lot tomorrow!

I can’t wait to get back to school tomorrow and see all my kids, I can’t believe this trip is almost over!

Erin

Transitions

March 14, 2014

Wow. As I am writing this I am lying on my mattress on the floor, listening to music and eating plantain chips. Our group had a meeting about transitioning last night and my head has been spinning ever since. I can’t believe that the downhill of my senior project has begun. It feels like I have been here for months, but at the same time, I feel like I could stay here forever. The simplicity of life here is going to be impossible to forget. I have come to love when the power randomly goes out and when a soccer ball or uniform is somebody’s most prized possession. I am going to miss relying on only my feet for transportation, and not having to worry about what I look like to other people. I feel comfortable here, like there is always somebody looking out for me, just because I am a human being. I love being forced to say “hi” to every person I pass on the street, or hearing cars honk as I walk to school, just because people are so friendly. I will miss being called “obroni” even though I hate it. I will miss being able to buy Fanta in a reused soda bottle for $0.40 or a loaf of bread for $0.80. I’m going to miss being expected to do service every afternoon, no matter how hot it is outside. But most of all, I will miss the kids. Even if some of them can get on my nerves, I feel so much compassion for them. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be born here, into a family of who knows how many people, and be expected to fight my way out of poverty. Through all of their struggles, I still see their smiling faces getting off the bus in the morning, see the accomplishment in their eyes when they finish reading a page of a book, or their gigantic smiles when they get a 100% mark. They are so dedicated to education. To getting out and making a life for themselves. I will never look at a student the same way again. I now know what commitment to school really looks like. It means waking up at the crack of dawn to walk to your bus stop, it means shouting “keep quiet” every five seconds to be able to hear what your teacher is saying, or spending $75 (possibly all you have) a year for your education. One of the group members brought something up that has stuck with me. I will never be able to look at anything that costs $75 again without thinking about what a year’s education could do for a child. There is no better way to spend your money. Empowering a child with knowledge is unbeatable. With my yearly tuition at Westtown, I could pay for the tuitions of more than 600 students at Heritage Academy. I will never look at my belongings the same way. I will never take what I have for granted again. I know that I will feel sick when I come home to a room full of things I don’t need, with a fancy mattress and a closet full of clothing and shoes. I will never again think that I don’t have enough. If I have clothes on my back, a roof to sleep under, and an education, I have more than enough to live a good life.

I will never forget this experience. A life-changing experience is an understatement of my time here. I plan to change many lives with the experience I have gained here. My life has changed forever. All because of the smiles I see on the kids faces every day.

124 Feet Above Ground

March 16, 2014

Yesterday our group went on another outing. We spent our morning at Kakum National Park, and our afternoon visiting another slave castle and shopping. Kakum was awesome. One of its features is a series of canopy rope walks over the forest. The height of the 8 suspension bridges began at 10 meters but the highest one was 40 meters above the forest floor. Of course, some of the group decided to freak the others out by jumping up and down, shaking the entire bridge, and getting screams out of some of the members of our group. It was pretty walking over the forest. We didn’t see many animals, but we did see what the guide told us was a green viper hanging from a tree branch on the way up the mountain. We ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch in the picnic area, and packed into the van for the drive to the slave castle.

The slave castle was pretty much the same as the one before, just 200 years younger. After listening to a monotone voice for 45 minutes, we got to shop. Heather and I were on a mission to find backpacks and a Ghanaian flag. Luckily, we were successful and many of you will see me sporting my backpack at school. I spent the night hanging out with the four Emmanuels, Bright and Godsway (some of the high schoolers) Overall, it was a good day. Now for a long day at the beach….

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Building a Cathedral

During soccer season, Kwesi always liked to make metaphors that related soccer to other real life experiences. His go-to story was about building a cathedral. He would tell us to look at every single game, and even practice, as building another block. He would always try to make the point that we should not always think of it as the journey to winning a championship, but one block at a time; and before you know it, you will have yourself a full cathedral. Continue reading “Building a Cathedral”