Entering the Homestretch

Four days. That’s all I have left here in Asamankese.

From last Wednesday to Sunday were spent in bed, and time seemed to stretch on endlessly. I watched movies, I read, I listened to sermons but I could do little else besides lay in bed. Finally my backpain started to lift and today I am feeling almost back to 100%, praise the Lord! But now that I’m up and at ’em again, the next few days already seem like a blur.

This is what they cook on outside.

I came home from school today, and sat with Auntie Jo and the boys outside while they made dinner, and then wandered around the compound taking pictures and taking in sights and sounds. I’m trying to hold every moment as precious, from the feeling of the breeze just before it rains to the sound of Auntie Jo chattering to the boys. I’m lingering a little longer to on the roof or the courtyard, committing every hill and building and tree to memory. I’m holding each laugh and conversation close to my heart, because I know in a short time they will be settled in my soul, a distant memory.

Seth: “Get a picture of my Asamankese dimple!”

I’m grateful for this place. For what I’ve learned and all I’ve seen. I’m grateful for the conversations that have challenged who I am and how I see others. I’m grateful for the feeling of hands cupping a student’s face, for the sound of a giggle erupting in a quiet classroom (but don’t tell my students’ that!).

Beautiful Belinda!

This place, this time here, has shaped my heart and soul in more ways than I’ll ever count. No matter how hard it has been at times, I am going to hold onto that. I know for sure, as I board the plane and arrive in a snowy country, I am not the same person that left, and my heart is full of gratitude for that tonight.

Left our mark on the roof.

See you all very soon … on the other side of the ocean!

Much love,

Angie

“An adventurous life does not necessarily mean climbing mountains, swimming with sharks or jumping off cliffs. It means risking yourself by leaving a little piece of you behind in all those you meet along the way.”

As Things Wind Down

We are winding down to our last days here in Ghana. In some ways, it feels like time has flown by and I can remember everything about the first day I arrived on African soil. Then there are other days, when I am anxious to be home, to see my family and friends, and feel the cool winter air. A friend wrote me an email a few days ago, and she encouraged me, “Take pictures of your room. Breathe in the African air. Bask in the colours. Enjoy every minute you have left.” And so even though I am excited to see my family and friends in just a couple of weeks, I am doing my best to keep my eyes here and now and to feel the blessing in every moment. Even today, as we are having a scheduled power outage for fourteen hours, I’m paying closer attention to the roosters crowing outside, the rain falling on the tin roof, and the quiet and silence that a dark night and no computer will bring.

As the girls prepare to leave this Saturday, we are cherishing every moment we have here, from our prayer times on the roof to ‘Parenthood’ marathons to our walks around town. Yesterday was the women’s literacy class’ graduation, and so all three of us dressed in our African cabahs and celebrated the accomplishment of the women in their classes. It was a long day for me, having had kindergarten all day, and then the graduation until 5:30 that evening, so we made a pot of soup and climbed onto the roof to enjoy our last African full moon. Tonight the Mormon missionaries we’ve become friends with are joining us for a last visit before we go home, and I can already smell the jelof rice that Belinda is preparing in the kitchen! I’m hoping to get a crash course in her cooking before I go home so I can attempt at recreating her amazing meals.

Things are winding down at school, and I’m trying to finish report cards and prepare for the intern who will take my place … I’m jotting down things we need, organizing files and students’ work, and trying to stay sane. Some days the kids are wilder than others, and yesterday we spent a good chunk of time learning what a detention was, but we do have a lot of fun and the kids are slowly stealing my heart. I will miss them when I am gone – not the crazy time-outs, detentions and suspensions – but those beautiful children’s faces and laughs!

Last weekend I had my first ever PTA meeting, in which I had to address and read my first principal’s report! Although I was nervous, I heard great feedback from the staff which was incredibly encouraging. It was a great moment for me to look back and see that even through our challenges, we’ve improved so much as a class.

As night falls and the rain continues, I should probably end for now. Your prayers are all coveted as I prepare to head home, and as I spend the last two weeks here without the girls. Please continue to pray for protection that we would all end strong, and that our hearts would be prepared as we come home at one of the most consumeristic times of the year.

I miss you all and am so looking forward to sharing my heart and my journey with you when I’m home. You are loved even from across the ocean.

At Smart’s 6 am soccer game.

Love,

Angie

A little bit of everything

Tomorrow marks exactly ten weeks of being on African soil. At times it has seemed to pass by slowly; and other days, it passes like the wind, and I fear before I know it I will be stepping out of the airplane into the brisk, cool winter air.

Concentration during a test! Look at those eyes!

School is keeping me busy and on my toes! Last weekend I spent quite a few hours marking midterm reports for my students. Since it’s something I have never done before, I jokingly remarked to Kylie and Lauren that I felt like I was twelve again playing teacher! But I spent a lot of time going through the kids’ marks and really trying to look for not just negatives but positives about each student too. As difficult as it is to sometimes teach, these kids are beautiful creations in all of their crazy-ness. I find myself caught up in the little moments of the day, like when one student, Mardiatu, always somehow finds herself in my office, asking if she can have her examinations today (because that means of course, a sticker!). Or when I, exhausted by two students who would just not stop wrestling, grabbed both of them and playfully joined in, and then the whole class noticed madame on the floor, and all of a sudden we had twenty students and a teacher in a pile up! Or the moments I am in awe of a few of my students’ eagerness to help clean up the books, or wipe off the white board, or sweep after lunch. Even amidst a crazy class I find rest in these moments, and I am acutely aware that when we have eyes to see, we can see God anywhere.

One day the girls and I decided to dance in the rain with the kids.

Saturday night we took a break and invited two of the ladies we work with at the school, Rytha and Dora, and Belinda to join the three of us girls out for supper at the one restaurant in town, First Stop. It marked a very important night for us in recognizing a Ghanian custom, that when you invite someone out for dinner, you are expected to pay! Luckily between the three of us we had just enough cash to cover the bill and our taxi ride! But even despite that awkwardness, we had a great time, got to have some Western food, and dance to some African music. I am in awe that everyone here has some sort of ability to dance – I wish it was that easy for me! πŸ™‚ But it was still a lot of fun.

Right now I am sitting outside, under a beautiful night sky, and the crickets are chirping loudly. Just moments ago a church service was loudly announcing its presence to the community, with prayers and songs and cheers being heard for the past few hours. It is never quiet here. Although there are times when I long for the quietness of home, the sounds and noises have become familiar and almost comforting here. You are always reminded that you are never alone, the community around you a constant presence.

Ghana has been a place where I have learned so much in the short time that I have been here, and my heart swells with the stories I have heard and the smiles that I have felt touch deep within me. I am amazed at the laughter that we share in our small little home even amidst times of homesickness. I’ve fallen in love with our rooftop that overlooks Asamankese, where I have gathered in my batik fabric (the only ‘blanket’ here in Africa I suppose) with my Bible and journal in my lap, and found that God doesn’t just listen when we pray, but He loves to talk with us, too. And how, when we come to know God, He never restricts us, but shapes us more into the person we were always meant to be (and isn’t that flipping amazing?!).

Well, it is getting late here for this exhausted Kindergarten teacher, so I must head to bed soon. But know that I miss and love you all and you are all in my thoughts tonight.

With love,
Angie

On Being the Bad Guy

She sits across me in my tiny office, her slender frame settled in on the flimsy green chair. Around her back, swaddled in cloth, rests a tiny baby, quiet. Her dark hair is pulled back, and her eyes are thick with eyeliner that I’ve noticed most Muslims here wear.

Beside her on the floor rests a little boy, one of my students. He has most recently taken a black crayon and scribbled across the floor, quite proudly I might add, as he awaited his mother’s arrival. He was sent to my office as the last straw, the final result in a string of time outs and shouting and reprimands of “Say you’re sorry!” He is a boy who leaves us exhausted every day, tired of not seeing any change in his behaviour. So the warning was made to him, and after it was repeatedly broken, a phone home was placed with an explanation of his suspension.

And so here I find myself, across the desk from his mom, who only later I would find out took that position after his biological mom left. Her eyes are sad, and I feel my heart break and voice waver as I explain to her his behaviour. I look to Rita, our teaching assistant, to explain what my English cannot, and afterwards his mom turns back to me, that familiar defeat in her eyes.

I try to find words to convey that he’s not a lost cause, even though the defeat in her eyes surely has convinced her of that. I think of the moments where he hugs me at the end of the day, the rare occurences where he jumps in his seat anxious to offer an answer to a question I’ve posed. “He has so much potential!” I offer feebly. “I know inside of him there’s a beautiful boy that’s waiting to emerge.”

She nods as she smiles and thanks me, reaching down for her son’s hand. And my heart breaks as I watch them walk away, wishing I could have done more, wishing that a warning had sunk into his heart or a time out had made a simple impression on his behaviour. My heart hurt as I wished I hadn’t seen her despair and defeat in her eyes; wishing, wishing, wishing.

I take a deep breath. Sometimes it sucks to be the bad guy.

Empty parking lots, the bead market, and teaching

I can’t believe it has been almost a week since I’ve written! I had started to write a blog post last weekend, but got interrupted by a power outage (our first since having been here – I’m told they are a common occurence, but we had yet to experience one). Last weekend was fairly relaxing; we spent the time doing laundry, cleaning, and enjoying the hot African sun out in the backyard. I didn’t expect the sun would feel hotter here, but it really does – my skin literally burns in the afternoon sun some days! But I just slather on the sunscreen and am determined to be as dark as possible when I return home! πŸ™‚
This week marked a busy week for us. The kids are incredibly difficult to control in the classroom, which continues to be our biggest challenge here. Our methods of discipline in Canada are very different than here, as children are quickly hit with a cane or a hand as a way of creating obedience. So here we are, a small group of Canadians, entering an entirely different culture, and expecting these children to understand what it means not to hit, not to bite, and what a time out means. They don’t. So we leave the school quite exhausted from chasing children who run away, holding crying students who’ve been bitten or beaten up, and swallowing sarcastic comments when children laugh at our instructions. Consequently our evenings are filled with laying on the couch, eating fandangos or fanmilk, and watching a movie. 
Needless to say, when Lesley and I took off Thursday to go to nearby Kofuridua, we were quite excited for a breather! It is a town about two hours away that has a famous bead market on Thursdays. We hired Issac, Belinda’s friend, to taxi us there. We left around 9, and I have to say although I was exhausted and tempted to sleep the ride there, the drive was beautiul! We seemed ot be driving in more of the hilly and jungle-y areas, so it was mesmerizing to this artist’s eye. We had lunch at a nice air-conditioned resaturant (had a burger and cheese – so lovely! haha). Then we headed out to walk to the market. On the way there, we veered off the main street into a fairly empty (but huge) parking lot. Lesley and I sort of looked at each other, then at Isaac, who said, “Last night Auntie Jo told me to take you guys here. This is where funerals are held.” Les and I managed to hold in our laughs, because apparently this was a big deal for Auntie Jo, this empty parking lot, but to us it was just that – an empty parking lot!
We continued on our way to the bead market, and I have to say it was absolutely amazing! Beads of every colour, of every shape and pattern were scattered among vendors. There were beads made from Ghanaian glass and beads imported too, but all were handcrafted by the vendors (as you could see, because most of them were busy making necklaces right in front of us). We spent almost three hours walking through the stalls, trying on necklaces and rings and earrings. Everything was beautiful. They had really old beads there too – they said that some where a hundred years old. But these were incredibly expensive. 
By the time we were finished looking at the market, and found our way back to the restaurant where we’d left the car (and made an impromptu stop at a fairly modern looking store for jam), we assumed that becaue of the late hour (it was probably almost four) Isaac would take us home then. We had hoped to have enough time to visit Boti Falls, which was a waterfall about an hour away, but Isaac had said it was quite late so we just assumed we were headed home. Never assume here, is a lesson I’ve learned – too much gets lost in translation!! So about an hour into our drive of what we thought was headed home, we pull through a set of wooden gates and have arrived at Boti Falls. Les and I look at each other with a look much similar to when we first saw the parking lot earlier that day, and just laugh.
Boti Falls turned out to be a lovely sight, even without there being much water since it’s the dry season right now. There are 250 steps down to the falls, and along the way we saw not only gigantic trees, but gigantic slugs as well! I managed to wait until we were heading back up at the end of our trek before asking if there were snakes in the area (answer: yes, black cobras and vipers, but much deeper in the jungle than where we were). The falls were beautiful; Les and I took our time exploring and taking pictures.
So, as we left the fall area, it was beginning to get closer and closer to dusk. We were sure we were headed home at this point, but as we are driving off, Isaac tells us he has one more thing to show us. A palm tree with three trunks. Not sure why this is significant, but once again, Les and I just laughed and agreed we wanted to see it. It was literally in the middle of no where; down a dirt road, through a valley (which was beautiful – pictures can’t seem to capture the beauty here) and up a path. At the foot of this three trunked palm, there lies a rock engraved with an insignia of some sorts on it. Isaac pointed out that it is considered by locals to be a magical stone, which, if you sit on it, will bless you with the birth of twins. Lesley laughed and she no longer needed that blessing; I stepped forward gladly, but Isaac grabbed me and wouldn’t let me sit on. Oh well! Haha!
Across the road from where the palm tree was was a cemetary. We headed back to the car, but Isaac kept walking towards the cemetery, so Les and I followed him, down a long winding path up this amazing rock. It’s hard to describe it to you, but it was basically a bunch of smaller rocks with a HUGE slab of rock placed on top of it. And this rock overlooks a huge valley. There was a rickety ladder that you could climb to the top (which I almost climbed all the way, then decided it was too safe to risk it and climbed back down), but even without being on top the view was amazing. I want to go back at sunset, because by then it was dusk, but even still, it was spectacular. I think this was my favorite spot I’ve discovered here – I wish it was closer!
It was a long ride back again, because of our many detours, but it was so worth it. We had an amazing day.
So after our day away on Thursday, Friday marked my first day of teaching on my own. Lesley is still here, but I am feeling a bit hesitant in regards to teaching – I feel like a fish out of water. I didn’t realize how much work goes into teaching kindergarten, from lesson planning to different types of learning to understand curriculum. It’s hard! But I managed to make it through the day, and for the most part the kids listened – it was during play time and outdoor play that they got wild again. This weekend Lesley and I have been going over more teaching things – I feel like I am getting my BEd in just a day – but she sadly is sick and in bed. So I am getting caught up on blogging and emails. Tomorrow us girls plan on getting up at the crack of dawn (by that I mean 5:30) to go see a friend, Smart’s, soccer game and then we are going to forgo three hours of Twi church and do a Bible study here at home. Last weekend we visited Auntie Jo’s church, and it was a great experience, minus not understanding a word spoken! I love how joyful church is here, filled with dancing and so much singing. But, I do however love understanding the sermon and the hymns being sung as well! Belinda told us that there’s an English speaking church here in Asamankese, so we are going to visit there next weekend.
Hard to believe we are already half way through September. Thinking of you all at home and missing everyone very much!
Lots of love,
Angie

Missing school and a weekend in Accra

Hi everyone! Sorry it has been a few days since I’ve written. Last week I found myself under the weather … I will spare you the details, but Thursday I spent the day in bed and missed a day of school, and Friday was spent recuperating. I was very thankful to have everyone checking up on me, from Belinda running to the pharmacy to Auntie Jo and Auntie Emma who stopped by to see how I was doing. I am well taken care of over here! No complaints from me πŸ™‚

Thursday night the semester interns, Kylie and Lauren, arrived! It was exciting to have them move in. They’ll be doing the women’s literacy program here at the school twice a week. Since I was feeling sick, we decided to change our plans for the weekend (we had planned to travel to Beyin Beach, which is about six hours away along the coast) and it ended up being a good thing because although I felt better by Friday night, Kylie got sick, so a weekend of travelling wouldn’t have been great for either of us. Instead, Saturday Lesley, Lauren and I boarded a tro-tro for our first trip! Lauren had already been on one earlier on the week, so she instructed and explained! Tro-tros are basically overstuffed vans that can seat about twenty or so people but are incredibly inexpensive to use. It cost us about 3 cedi ($1.50) to take the tro-tro to Accra, which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive. It wasn’t as horrible as I expected – it was just incredibly squished – but I’m glad Lauren knew what she was doing, because it’s hard to navigate here! There are no street signs, if you can believe it, so getting directions (and giving them) is a huge challenge!

After arrive in Accra, we arrived at “central” station. This is basically a central location where there are tro-tros heading all over the city and beyond. There were vendors selling whatever you can imagine and kids and homeless asking for money – it was a bit overwhelming. We found a taxi to drive us to our hotel, where we checked in, then cabbed it to Oxford Station. I was in search of a pharmacy to find new anti-malaria pills to take, and we found one almost right away. Unfortunately, buying malaria pills is extremely costly here – so I am trying to figure out a more cost-effective way of buying the pills. Please keep this in your prayers as I’m hoping to get this figured out as soon as possible. Right now I am trying to be extra cautious in always wearing bug spray and avoiding woody areas.

Our next stop was to find a restaurant for supper, and we had a wonderful treat! We had mochas and pizza!! It was an amazing, Canadian, delicious supper and worth every extra penny we had to pay to get it πŸ™‚ We enjoyed our supper, then walked down the street to Koala Department store. It was the first time I really experienced Accra, and realized how different this city is than any other city I’ve been in before. Open sewers lined the street, and although they were covered at times, you had to be aware always of where you were stepping so that you foot didn’t slip through a hole or broken crate. This also meant there was an undeniable stench to the air as we walked along! By this point night had fallen, so we were able to see vendors with open fires, cooking over them and warming themselves up by the heat. We found the supermarket we were looking for, and discovered a wonderful treat – all imported vegetables and foods and canned goods! For certain things, the prices were atrocious, and other things it wasn’t too bad – we all got a few treats that reminded us of home. I got an Aero chocolate bar, Lays chips, and some shortbread cookies. It’s amazing the cravings you have when things just simply aren’t available!

Afterwards we headed back to our hotel and settled into watch a movie. It’s interesting that back at home we tend to be so picky about the places we stay in – here in Ghana, not so much! As long as you have a clean bed, you can’t be picky if you have hot water (or running water in general – ours lasted one shower and that was it!) or if the garbage wasn’t taken out! But being here has challenged my perspective – I am thankful simply just to have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on, when so many have far less than that. We watched a movie, then Lesley headed to her room and Lauren and I stayed up far too late talking … needless to say we almost napped in the morning while waiting for our ride to church to arrive!

So this morning we had the opportunity to attend an English speaking Ghanian church! The family that Lauren and Kylie stayed with this week in Accra for their orientation goes to this church, so their son, Kofi, picked us up from our hotel and brought us over. It was an interesting experience – lots of shouting, lots of cheering, lots of falling down, and lots of “Can I get an amen?” It was very different than what I am used to but I am glad to have had the experience. Everyone was incredibly welcoming; Lauren and I even had a poor girl forced to say hello to us by her mom, but I think we terrified her because I am pretty sure she’s never seen a white person before and screamed and bawled her eyes out! Afterwards, Kofi’s family invited us over for lunch and cake to celebrate his mom’s birthday. We joined in and I managed to eat the fish stew they served us – which was a HUGE feat considering I don’t like fish very much! But I am trying to be aware of cultural customs, and did not want to be rude by refusing a meal they so graciously offered us even if I didn’t like the taste!

Kofi and his friend Eugene offered to take us to the market, so we made a trip there after lunch. It was a different experience, as the last time we were there we were with Mary, and this time vendors were much more bold. They were incredibly forward with us girls, always touching your arm or complimenting – it gets to the point where you don’t want to buy anything they have to offer, no matter how much you like it because you are so annoyed. We didn’t stay long – Kofi said that they were more forward than usual just because it was a Sunday, and very few people shop on Sundays. So we made a couple more stops, then we headed to Circle station to catch our tro-tro back to Asamankese. And we made it! It was a great experience, a quick weekend that went by very fast! Tomorrow is a market day in Asamankese, so we will head there, I have to stop at the bank, and then we are going to the dressmaker, Doris’ house to hopefully pick out designs for our African dresses! Then Tuesday is another school day. Lauren and Kylie have gone off to bed, and Lesley and I am sure will soon hit the sack as well. It’s funny how travelling can take a lot out of you! πŸ™‚

Miss you all lots!
Love Angie

Being the new kid on the block

Today on our day off, I found myself up earlier than normal (at least on our days off!) around 8:30. I actually got eight hours of sleep for the past two nights, so maybe that means my body is adjusting! I found that I was having a bad reaction to the malaria medication I am on, so I am trying to skip this week of meds to see if it helps. So far I have been able to sleep a bit better, been less anxious, among other things, so I’m hoping a switch in meds will help me feel better.

This morning I had my first experience washing laundry by hand. Every day it seems Lesley and I have moments where we realized just how SPOILED we are as Canadians! Who knew laundry could actually be so much work? Belinda assisted …. or rather tried to teach me in between her laughing … how to wash everything by hand. She filled three big basins of water, the first was for the first wash, the second bowl for the second wash, and the third for rinsing. According to her I couldn’t get the technique right and she quickly took over (although I kept trying). To me I suppose it doesn’t matter how much it’s scrubbed, as long as it gets some soap in it, but not according to her! I think my clothes will be quite worn out by the time I return, since putting each piece of laundry in each bowl meant that there was a lot of soap residue. It’s so interesting, that this to them is completely normal and they know no different. But here I am, sitting by a big basin in the backyard, thinking about how much washing machines save time. Can you imagine our grandparents and great-grandparents and the amount of time they must have spent washing a family’s worth of laundry? I can’t even imagine!

Anyways, after my catastrophe of doing laundry, this afternoon Lesley and I made our way down to the market for the first time by ourselves. On the walk there I was able to talk to Shelby for a few quick minutes – it was too quick though, and made me miss home quite desperately! But I try to think how blessed I am to even just have a phone to communicate home with, even if it doesn’t seem like enough or as long as I’d like to chat. We stopped at the bank quickly, then wandered into a few shops for some odds and ends we were searching for. I think it was nice for both of us to go out on our own, without Belinda or Mary, because it made me feel a bit more confident being in a new place on my own. But as we walked along the streets, with shouts of “obruni!” following us, I had to wonder if I’d ever get used to the attention we receive simply for being white and foreign. It doesn’t seem fair to me that their kindness extends to me just because I am different; and it makes me think about the way I treat others moving to my country. It also makes me think with sadness the way our ancestors treated those moving to a new country; it’s hard enough being unable to speak the language and communicate, knowing how to interact or understanding the cultural customs, but to be ignored or rejected must have been incredibly hard. It’s hard enough being in a new place and being welcomed; I can’t imagine the difficulty of being in a new country and being treated as if you are unwanted.

We are busy ironing out weekend plans as the new interns, Lauren and Kylie, move in to Asamankese tomorrow night. It’s one of our last chances for a four day weekend before we start full five-day school weeks. We’ll see how that goes!

Lots of love,
Angie

Cultural differences and first day of school!

Note – I meant to post this Thursday night but got distracted πŸ˜›

Hi everyone!
So today we opened our doors to our kindergarten class! It began with a bright, early wake-up call by Mary at 6:30 a.m. – and since I am still struggling with jet lag, my eyes finally closed last night around two, so it was a short, short sleep indeed. We made our way to the school about ten to eight, and as school starts at eight, my Canadian expectations were that the students would be waiting for us. Indeed, I was quite wrong, as students trickled in for the first hour we were at the school! That will take some getting used to I’m quite sure.
For the most part, I observed Lesley teaching. Our Ghanian teacher, Rosamund (who will eventually take over when I leave as the primary teacher) also taught some lessons. It was a lot of fun – much more laidback than when I volunteered in a kindergarten class back home. I think it was really a trial day for all of us to see how the schedule went and what needed adjusting. It’s quite a long day for our students – from 8 am until 3 pm – but that is the way the Ghanaians school their children, from what Mary has explained to us. Mary said that even in kindergarten there is more lecturing than interacting and far less play than we use in our Canadian schools. Even after one day of observing, Mary noted that Rosamund taught in a much more interactive way than she would have had she not seen us Canadians. It’s exciting, because Mary’s hope is that we can blend both the Ghanaian and Canadian way of teaching, equipping their teachers here to be able to teach in similar ways and styles to what we do in Canada.
It was a lot of fun to spend time with the kids! It took some time for them to warm up to us, and the language barrier is really hard to overcome as most of them don’t speak very much English (it’s basically the equivalent to an ESL class that we are teaching). But they eventually did and it was amazing to see their personalities start to emerge as they became more comfortable. The kids were enamoured with my long brown hair, and loved petting it and playing with it and even rolling it between their fingers.
Today (although I suppose I see this everyday!) I saw a lot of cultural differences between North America and Africa. For one, Ghanians seem to be much more comfortable with their bodies – Rosamund has an eight month old, and she regularly breastfed in open public with all of the students and parents around. And this was another thing – in North America, no woman would ever take her child to work with her! But Rosamund does, and it was amazing how she blended both taking care of her own child and the children around her. Her little baby laid snuggly wrapped in a blanket around her back, and when he needed nursing, she nursed, but for the most part he was quiet and allowed her to teach to the students before her. It was amazing to see her teach a lesson with a baby on her back! I was reminded of how different our cultures are as well when parents brought their kids late to school and were late to pick them up, and how it seems that we are always so concerned about teachers’ touching students, and about their safety (like not sharing juice boxes or water) but that doesn’t seem to really be of concern here at all.
And a funny story regarding cultural differences – you know how you wave and push your fingers down (not waving your hand side to side)? Well, here that means “come here.” I had noticed kids running to me when I did that, but not understanding why, and then today I waved this way to a mom and her child, who followed me into the bathroom! Needless to say I was a bit confused just as she was!! Thankfully Mary had a good laugh and explained my mistake πŸ™‚
It’s definitely been an interesting day. I’ve been feeling a bit better as I get adjusted and settled in, but am still struggling with homesickness. Please keep me lifted up in prayer! This weekend Lesley and I are leaving bright and early (6 am!) for Cape Coast to see some of the castles which housed slaves during the slave trade, and spend some time along the beach. We also hope to go to Kakum rainforest (she wants to walk along the top – I am terrified of heights, so we’ll see how that goes!) and we hope to do a Batik printing workshop at the Global Mama’s location in Cape Coast. We will most likely return Sunday night if all goes according to plan!
Anyways, I am hoping to get some good rest tonight as we have an early start in the morning! Love and miss you all.

A quick update on the school opening!

I am feeling quite tired and not the best today. I had a two hour nap this afternoon hoping to feel a bit better, and although it did help, I am just feeling a bit under the weather, but before I head to bed I wanted to write a quick post. Yesterday was the school’s grand opening. We dedicated the school, honoured God and those who have supported and served in raising up the school. It was a wonderful ceremony! I got to meet all of our students, and they are incredibly shy! But awesome at dancing πŸ™‚ It must be an African tradition to dance at celebrations, and yesterday was no exception. The kids are awesome at it! I hope they can teach me a thing or two πŸ™‚ 

Today we had off, as tomorrow is our first day of full day teaching. So I slept in – as I couldn’t sleep again until 2:30 a.m. – and then went to town to go to the post office and do other errands. Then took a nap this afternoon to try to shake off my yucky-ness, and then have been doing some random things to get ready for tomorrow. I am excited to meet all of them again, and get to know them and feel what it will be like to teach in the classroom!
I will try to write more in detail tomorrow night about our first day. Love you all and miss you!!
Angie

I’ve Arrived!

Hi everyone!

So I have arrived in Ghana safe and sound! Everything went smoothly with our flights, the only upset being our flight from JFK to Accra was stuck on the tarmac for a couple hours as we were waiting on some luggage. So that meant we arrived later than expected, unfortunately. Fun fact I noticed on the plane – did you have any idea that planes travel at over 900/kmh? I suppose that’s common sense, but it blew my mind to think about how fast we were going!

When we arrived at the airport, we were greeted by Mary’s cousin who works in the military. This meant that we were β€œVIP” – and consequently got to skip all of the lines at Customs! Woo! Through Customs they scanned our eyes and fingerprints, and then we were off to the long baggage claim line. Once we found our luggage, we went to find our driver, Evans, who was waiting for us outside. Mary’s cousins and his friends all carried and unloaded our luggage for us … it was a nice treat!

Our first drive through Accra was very different than driving back home! So much honking, driving all over the street, no seatbelts – it was quite fine through Accra, but then heading towards Asamankese which is much more rural there are huge potholes that are scattered along the road. There are vendors that sit by the side of the street, trying to sell you quite literally anything you could imagine. There are bright colours painted on buildings, and what was amusing is how nearly every name of a business or bumper sticker has been β€œChristian-ized” so to speak. So for example, a store might be called, β€œHoly Spirit Hair Dressing” or something of the sort.

For our first stop we rested at Mary’s parents house outside of Accra. We had something to drink, had some fresh mangoes, visited with her parents and then headed off to Asamankese. It was about an hour and a half or so until we arrived – lots of houses along the way, varying in their levels of poverty. There were compounds in Accra, but along the way to Asamankese most of the houses were what we might describe as shanties. People worked alongside the road – some doing carvings, others selling items.

Finally we arrived in Asamankese and visited the school first thing! We climbed out of the van and stood by the road for a little while, while Mary and Lesley were both overcome with emotion. It has been a long road for the school to become what it is now, and the idea of knowing that children will soon be walking through its doors is incredibly exciting. We explored the grounds, Mary and her Mom showing us the rooms, and describing to us what land was theirs as well and her dreams of what would come next for the school. Mary is a dreamer, and she always inspires me to dream big and then never stop pursuing them!

After visiting the school, we came back to what will be my home for the next 11 months. It is a guest house, and when you walk into the brightly coloured hallway, there is a bathroom and bedroom to your right, and a kitchen down at the far end of the hall. To our right you enter our area, with a sitting area and dining area, and then three bedrooms off of that. Lesley and I are sharing a room with a bathroom attached, and once the interns arrive (who will be teaching the Women’s literacy class) they will stay in the two other rooms. A woman named Belinda works for Auntie Jo (who owns the guest house) and cooks for us. She is a sweetie, and so is Auntie Jo – everyone is so welcoming!

We had our first official Ghanian meal, fried plantains, fried chicken, rice, vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, and green beans) and watermelon for dessert. After that we settled in and unpacked, Lesley phoned home and I opted to email everyone instead. I knew if I phoned home I would start to cry, and I was trying to avoid that!

Last night was, however, incredibly hard for me. I think it all began to sink in how far away I really am from home, and I shared with both Mary and Lesley how overwhelmed I feel (which they both assured me was completely normal!). I think I was plagued with doubt of whether or not I could survive a year here, and I was also faced with how everything is different here, from the food to the buildings to the nature to the language to the weather. And I felt incredibly disconnected, with a huge time change from home and no cell phone to instantly stay in touch (or internet constantly available). I know that I am meant to be here, and had felt incredibly at peace about my travels up until that point. So I don’t doubt for a moment that it was the Enemy attacking me, and the next morning Mary confirmed it when she told me how her mom had phoned and been worried and wondering about me, sensing the day before that I was overwhelmed. It was difficult to sleep last night, even though I was exhausted (and running on six hours of sleep in 48 hours) but I managed to, and Lesley and I both slept in until 12:30 p.m. local time.

We got up, had lunch that Belinda had prepared for us, and then we headed to the Market in Asamankese. New sights and sounds overwhelmed us as we walked through the busy streets. Vendors were cramped side by side, and literally everything you could think of was available. Everyone was so incredibly friendly! Not everyone speaks English, however, most speak Twi, and so it was hard to communicate. Mary or Belinda translated for me. Many of them called out, β€œObruni!” meaning white person, and many asked how I was doing, told me how beautiful I was, and told me how welcome I was in Ghana. Little kids were the most fascinated with me and Lesley. One girl kept touching my skin and giggling, and while walking by one of the vendors I stopped to talk to an older woman who was holding a young toddler. I guess my white skin terrified him, since no matter how hard I tried, laughing, teasing, and talking to him all made him cry and crawl deeper into his grandmother’s arms!

After we picked up a few things including a kettle, some laundry soap, and toilet paper, we stopped by Mary’s aunt’s house. The building which she lives in used to be Mary’s grandfather’s house, and it was the first house she saw when travelling to Ghana for the first time from England when she was young. We visited with her aunts, and as soon as the kids saw an obruni coming, they shouted and yelled and all came running towards us! I think that was the most fun part for me so far, getting to play with the kids. They couldn’t really communicate – some spoke broken English, but mostly the older ones – so I laughed and let them all try on my sunglasses, took pictures of them and showed them my camera, and then asked them where the football (soccer ball) was so we could kick it around. One girl didn’t stop giving me hugs, and kept telling me how much she liked me. One boy picked up his young sister and shoved her towards me, wanting me to hold her. I did, but I think I scared her because she started to scrunch her face, about to cry! The kids were most fascinated with Lesley’s iPad, and we have one picture of them all crowded around me as I show them their pictures on the screen – if I can get it from Mary I will post it, because it is something else! We all agreed it would make the best Apple advertisement!

Afterwards we relaxed back at the house, and figured out cell phones and internet. I now have a phone, and you are more than welcome to text me if you have an international phone! I would love that! Send me an email or message me to get the number. I also have an address that you can mail anything to, and will give that to you as well. For tonight we are settling in, going to go through a few boxes of things for the school, and Mary has left for Accra for a few days. We will join her early Saturday morning for the weekend. The next couple of days Lesley and I will plan for the school, as the school opening will be Tuesday and we will have parents and students tour the school with us.

It still seems all a bit surreal to me that I am in Africa. It all seemed like another world away, only visible through pictures and movies, and here I am able to fly across the ocean and be here. Despite feeling unsettled and overwhelmed, I am incredibly blessed to be here and thankful for all of you back home. I already miss you incredibly and can’t wait to see you again, but I am thankful for the new faces and culture I get to experience here.

I will write again soon!

Lots of love from over here,

Angie