Friday, December 4, 2009


I just wanted to say thank you to all my readers for taking the time to read about my life in Ghana! Since I’ve been back, I’ve found out about all these readers who followed my blog whom I didn’t even know about. I know I’m late in saying this, but thank you so much! I really do appreciate it.

I realize it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this. I had honestly expected to write more about my experiences after I came home, to share stories that I didn’t write about in this blog (there were quite a few), and to use this blog to help me process what happened during those ten months. But life doesn’t always turn out the way I expect it to.

I’ve found that my family and friends have replaced this blog. Why write in here when I can tell the stories in person, using pictures, voices, gestures, and facial expressions to help my stories along? Those here with me in California now have the inside scoop, while my other readers may have missed out a little. I’m sorry. But I no longer feel the need to write about everything that happened to me there. Maybe someday I’ll write my Ghana memoir, but the time is not now. I need to distance myself a little more from the experience before I can truly understand what I went through. So this blog isn’t dead yet; it’s just on a break.

Now that I’m home from Ghana, I’m living in California and working as a teacher. Four months was too long for me to stay in America, so I jetted off to Ireland for a week with my sisters last month to try to satisfy the travel bug, but it didn’t completely work; I still have itchy feet. But I can’t really go anywhere else now until I get a new passport. I’ve already filled my first one up! I’m still writing a lot, just not in this blog, obviously. I don’t want to publicly reveal any more about myself in order to protect my privacy from those who mean to stalk me. That might sound dramatic, but it’s a legitimate fear. I guess you could say that one crazy creeper has ruined it for the rest of you, and I can no longer reveal intimate details of my life in a public place.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks again, and happy holidays!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I’m sitting on the sofa in my parents’ living room right now, watching the Angels playing on TV and listening to my sister make music. I did it. I survived three hundred days in West Africa, and returned to tell about it!

I’ll write more later, but for now, I haven’t slept in a bed in over forty-eight hours, and I can barely keep my eyes open.

In the clouds

July 28th, 2009 1:20PM PDT

I have been waiting for this day for so long. The day of my return to everything I hold dear. I am writing from the airplane that will take me home. In less than two hours, I’ll be in Los Angeles. Right now, according to the flight information screen, we are somewhere over Wyoming, I think. My own country!

As the plane was taking off from Amsterdam, I was struck with the notion that Los Angeles wouldn’t be my next destination; the sky would be. The plane rose higher and higher into the air, soaring between the clouds, and suddenly, I knew where I was. I was (and am, as I write this) in the sky.

My stay in Africa? It suddenly feels like a distant dream, a memory from a distant past, years or even lifetimes ago. Was I really just in Ghana for nine-and-half-months?

Likewise, my former American life also feels like a dream. Images of people and places float through my mind as effortlessly as these cushiony clouds float through the sky, delicate memories that surely must have been memories from beautiful dreams. And the fact that soon those dreams will become reality, that these wispy images will soon materialize, why, that’s as easy to grasp as the idea that an enormous metal object weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds is currently speeding thousands of feet above the ground. Yes, of course I understand that it’s possible, but when I really think about it, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

So, my life in Africa feels like a dream, and my life in America feels like a dream... where, then, do I belong? At this moment, it feels like I’ve only really truly known one life and there’s only one place where I belong... right here, in the clouds, sailing in a bird-shaped boat through a sea of endless blue. Whatever lies beneath the clouds feels as accessible and as mysterious as the bottom of the ocean, but here, in the clouds, this is where I belong, with a past that goes back as far as I can remember and a future that stretches on until the sun sets.

I know I’m sounding crazy, but I guess that makes sense because I’m so deliriously tired right now. I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours traveling! The flight attendant is about to bring the coffee. I hope that will help. Bring it.

PS: Some of the flight attendants started speaking to me in Dutch. They thought I was a Dutch girl! I think Dutch people are very beautiful and awesome, so I took that as a compliment! :)

2:52 PM

Looking out the window, I can see California. At last, I am home. In approximately twelve minutes, the plane will land. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello Goodbye

You say, “Goodbye.”
And I say, “Hello.”

I’m writing from the Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam. I arrived here at 5:20AM and am stuck here until 13:25. Eight hour layover! I’m sitting by a big window staring out at a beautiful blue sky that reminds me of a Dutch landscape. If Holland always looked like this, if its cloudy, gray, and rainy days were few and far between instead of dominating the year’s weather, I would move here in two seconds; I love Dutch people. However, I’m aware that they don’t always have such nice weather, so I feel very blessed to have such a beautiful view while I’m here. I’m relaxing in a seat in one of the international lounges, surrounded by people of all colors who speak all different languages. I’m once again inconspicuous; No one stares or points or calls me, “Obruni!” The airport is clean and big and full of shops with expensive imported items: Italian perfume, Irish liquor, Belgian chocolate, American cigarettes, French cheese. I smiled as I ran my fingers over European treats I used to love when I lived in Austria and in France (Milka, KinderSurprise, Bounty bars, Liege waffles, etc.) I also passed by some golden arches that I haven’t seen in 10 months (and quite frankly, haven’t missed at all). They have coffee here, real coffee, not that Nescafé instant crap that is the only type available in Ghana. I haven’t bought anything because I don’t have any euros with me and I know they’ll serve me on the plane. When I visited the restroom, I was amazed by how clean it was, and how people could brush their teeth with the water that flowed from the tap. Anyway, only about three more hours until we board, another hour and a half until we take off, and then eleven hours after that, I’ll be in Los Angeles!

So, I made it this far! I survived the craziness and busyness of the last week or so in Ghana trying to finish everything, pack, say goodbye, wrap everything up, etc, etc. Somehow I managed to finish everything I needed to do and get to the airport in Accra on time. It’s a relief just to be able to relax at the airport without having to worry about anything for the next three hours.

Saying goodbye was very hard. The last two hours or so before closing, in between supervising Elsie and Henry recording the classes’ grades (and I definitely did not have time to double check, so I hope they did it well!), I went to each student one by one and told each one his or her “secret.” I rested my elbows on their tables and whispered into their ears what I thought about them. I started each “secret” with something like, “Zubbaida, your secret is that I think you are such a wonderful girl. You’re so beautiful, kind, smart, lovely, great, and I’m going to miss you very much...” The script was a little different for the boys (which boy wants to hear he’s beautiful or lovely?), but I said something unique to each of them, what I like about them, how they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. The looks on their faces surprised me. These kids, some of whom can’t sit still for more than five seconds during a class, became as silent as a stone, and had trouble looking me in the eyes. I could tell they were concentrating hard on what I was saying, and I was amazed by how many watery eyes my “secrets” created.

But then, last but most definitely not least, I came to my favorite person in all of Ghana: Ohemaa. She already knew that she’s my favorite, but I told her again anyway, for what I knew would be the last time. As I was telling her how special she is to me and how much I love her and will miss her, the tears came from my eyes and dripped onto her desk.

My last day was kind of a blur, but especially the last hour... handing out candy not only to my class but also to the other kids who invaded the classroom, giving and receiving countless hugs, trying to make sure the grades were recorded and everything in the classroom was in order, taking pictures and videos, saying goodbye. At about 4:15, I finally said that I really had to go. By then, most of the students had already left, but the ten or so who remained followed me to the gate where Fred was waiting in his car to take me to the airport. I hugged them all one last time, and again I saved Ohemaa for last. I had a really hard time letting go of her, and the tears came again as I sadly watched her walk back to the car park with her friends. I ran to my room, took my luggage downstairs, said goodbye to the nuns, and jumped in the car with Fred, Sister Juliana, and Sister Dorothy, who came along to see me off. It was really weird driving away from the school, down the road to Accra, and realizing that this would be the last time I saw that kenkey boutique or that lady selling roasted plantains on the side of the road. I don’t know when I’ll go back to Ghana or if I ever will. Sad sad.

Once I said goodbye to those in the car with me, however, and made my way to the airport customs and security, I became very excited about going home and seeing everyone! I slept most of the flight to Amsterdam, but I’m still feeling very tired. I just traveled two hours’ time zones ahead, and now I’m about to travel nine hours’ time zones behind. It’s still yesterday in America!

Mmm... looking around the airport, I’m reminded of how beautiful Dutch people are. You have to look really hard to find an ugly Dutch person! There are a lot of Dutch volunteers in Ghana whom I’ve met, all of whom were exceedingly open-minded and personable, and I’m happy to here in their country.

Anyway, there is WiFi here, but it’s like 3 Euros for 15 minutes, and for that kind of money you could go online for 10 hours in some internet cafés in Ghana. I’ll wait until I get home to post this. I can’t believe I’ll be home in less than 15 hours! I can’t wait!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


This is my last ever blog I’m writing in Ghana. I’m leaving TOMORROW!

When I poured cold water over my head from a bucket this morning, I said to myself, “Yes! Only one more cold shower until I’m back in America!”

But then Ohemaa called me tonight, and told me she would miss me “very, very, very, very, very, very much, Miss Kate,” and I was really sad.

This is my LAST NIGHT in Africa.

See you SOON!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Three days to go

I’m leaving in three days.

Part of me wants to cry.

Part of me wants to jump and down on the bed with excitement.

M-I-X-E-D emotions.

The reason why I’m online right now is because I don’t know the baggage limit for KLM, and I don’t want to pay any excess baggage fees if I pack too much. Yes, I’m packing tonight! I have a super busy weekend ahead of me, and I just hope I can accomplish everything I need to do before Monday at 5:45PM, when I need to leave for the airport. My flight departs at 9:20PM!

Today was my second-to-last day with my students. (Monday will be my last). How on earth will I say goodbye to them? The school had a send-off party for just the staff for me and the teachers who won’t be returning next year. I’m having a few friends over on Sunday for a little party to say goodbye to me, too. It’s just so WEIRD that I’m leaving so soon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A headless chicken

I believe the cliché is “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” That’s actually kind of a gross image.

Today was the last day of school! I had no idea until this morning! I thought that exams were supposed to start on Thursday, but they actually start tomorrow, so today was my last day teaching. I hope all the students are prepared for exams!

I only taught three periods today, however... we went on a field trip today! I took the kids to the National Museum in Accra. Looooong story but it worked out and they were really well-behaved at the museum. They loved it!

I’m supposed to be marking (grading) their composition books... I’m way behind. There are some compositions from June that I haven’t marked yet! AH!

Sister Regina and Sister Dorothy have been ganging up on me telling me how unattractive I look at my current weight. They think I’m too slim. They think when I go home everyone will think they didn’t feed me enough OR that I have AIDS. I think that when I go home, everyone will laugh when they see me and wonder how on earth anyone could possibly think I’m too slim when in fact I’ve actually put on a little weight. Regardless, I’ve been jogging every morning. Less than a week to become chingilingi!



Sorry everything is so disjointed, but that’s how my mind is working right now! Here, there, everywhere, trying to get everything done without going too crazy! I’m going to sleep soon, but when I wake up, I’ll have only 5 days left in Ghana! I can’t believe it!

With everything going on, I’m not sure how much more time I’ll have to write. There is soo much I wanted to write about, like, how well I get along with the dogs now or how my biggest pet peeve in the world (seeing men urinating in public) makes me feel, but I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write at all in the next five days. OH WELL.

See you SOON!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

For Good

Lately, I’ve been soooo excited about going home. Like, jumping-up-and-down excited. Oh yes. Those who know me well may be familiar with how I sometimes can’t contain my excitement. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at the table during breakfast, I begin to tremble just imagining myself stepping off the plane in LAX. I laugh to myself in anticipation of just drinking an iced coffee at a green table with my friends or watching a movie with my family. I can now laugh about the things about the culture that bother me. For example, yesterday I was walking from my house to the junction on my way to Accra, and I heard so many, “obrunis!” but all I could think was, “Ha! Only 9 more days of this, then I’ll be back in America!”

I can’t wait to go home... but leaving Ghana? Leaving hadn’t hit me until today. Just now, as in a few minutes ago, I was listening to a song from the musical Wicked. The song is called “For Good.” Here are some of the lyrics:

It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part, so much of me is made from what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a hand-print on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.

I started crying. How will I say goodbye to my students? It’s true that they exasperate me more often than not and make me question why I ever wanted to become a teacher, but when it comes down to it, despite the noise and the excuses and the headaches, I really love them. I am so grateful for this experience of being their teacher. It was simultaneously the most challenging and most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

I have to say goodbye to these people in a week from tomorrow. Oh my God.

Monday, July 13, 2009


It finally stopped raining on Saturday. I was able to go for my morning jog on Sunday and this morning. I still haven’t seen the moon yet, though, because the clouds come and go, and at night they come. I miss the moon and the stars, but on Saturday I witnessed a very beautiful sunset that made me very, very happy.

“Kate, you need to stop reducing,” Sister Regina has been telling me lately. (“Reducing” is her way of saying “losing weight.”) “You used to look very nice, but now you are too slim. It doesn’t suit you.”

When she first said this, I was like, YES! All those morning jogs have been working! I’m becoming chingilingi!

The nuns are very concerned about my weight. They don’t want me to go home too thin, otherwise, they say, everyone in America will think they didn’t take care of me very well by not feeding me enough. Ha!

I was feeling pretty good about myself until today at school, when my students told me how big I’ve become.

“Miss Kate, why are you so big?” Nathaniel asked.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“You’ve gotten really big,” he said, and Maame, who was standing by, nodded most emphatically.

“You mean I’m fat?” I asked. They both nodded. “Where?”

Nat pointed to my hips, and Maame grabbed her own arm and jiggled it to demonstrate which part of my arms are obolo.

“Okay. Thanks, guys,” I said. What else could I say? Kids can be painfully honest sometimes, but I’m glad they are. I guess I still have a long way to go to become chingilingi! I think that I’m thinner than I was a month ago, but still bigger than when I arrived, which just won’t do. I still need to lose like 79.3 pounds to look like I did when I first came here 9 months ago.

I hope it won’t rain anymore so I can continue jogging. I only have two weeks to reduce. Can you believe it? I’m leaving in two weeks!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Here comes the bride?

I am never getting married. Ever. Thank you. Amen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thoughts on a rainy Friday

It’s another gray, rainy day, the kind of Friday that makes you want to curl up under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and either your boyfriend or (if you’re spinster-in-training like I am) your cat while you watch movies all night. If this weather continues, it will be very strange for me to return to a sunny California summer in eighteen days to discover Christmas is still another five months away.

Today’s big news is that Barrack Obama is here, or will be soon. For his first visit to Africa as president, the first African-American president of the United States of America has chosen to visit Ghana. It is a huge honor for the country and everyone is so excited for his visit.

This isn’t a political blog, so I don’t want to get into that, but, politics aside, I’m already sick of Obama, Everyone here is obsessed with him. It’s quite annoying, really. “Obama fever” was highest in October/November leading to the elections, January (inauguration), and in now July, now that he’s coming. Everyone in Africa seems to think that because his skin color matches theirs he’ll give Africa free handouts and solve all their problems for them. There are songs about him, T-shirts and local print cloth with his picture, and even plastic take-out bags with his face and “Greetings from Obama” written on them. He’s like a god to them, and the only thing they know about him is that he’s black. No one here has any idea about his policies or what he stands for, but he’s African-American, so he must be wonderful, they think. Living with religious nuns doesn’t help. He holds many views that are contrary to their religious beliefs, such as his stances on abortion and homosexuality, but the nuns either don’t believe me when I tell them (Sister Anne), or defend him and his views even though when any other person holds them they are condemned as sinners (Sister Julie), or are convinced that once someone just tells him that the church says it’s wrong, he’ll realize the grave errors of his ways and repent wholeheartedly and rid the world of these sins with his divinely-given African superpowers (Sister Germaine). The most annoying part is that, anytime I express a negative opinion of him, the number one response I get is, “Ah, so you don’t like him because he’s a black man?” It bothers me so much that people would think that a person’s skin color is the only reason I’d disagree with one of his statements! I’m thrilled that we have a black president, but as an individual with freedom of speech, I don’t have to agree with every single thing he stands for. I’ve heard mixed reviews from the US about his performance as president, so I’m not sure what to expect when I go home, but I’m hoping for the best. At least I won’t have to hear his name mentioned anytime someone finds out where I’m from!

“Obruni! Where are you from?”


“America! Ah, Obama! He’s a good president.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he’s a black man!”

Whatever. As for my life.. despite the rainy weather, today was better. Class 4A remained almost miraculously quiet while their classmates’ teams gave presentations about the countries to which they were assigned. This week, we heard presentations on Peru, Spain, Russia, and the United States of America. I somehow had more patience today, so my students were better behaved. I think many of them felt guilty about being too disrespectful lately, so they were extra sweet and affectionate today.

One of my best friends has told me several times that my biggest fault is that I think too highly of others. I hold myself to very high moral standards and I expect others to do the same. I try my hardest not to let people down and don’t expect to be let down by others, so I’m always surprised and disappointed when I am. I think this fault of mine is why I’ve been in such a bad mood lately. I expect my students to be good not because they’re afraid of the cane, but because they want to be good. Silly me. The sad truth is, many of them don’t want or don’t care to be good. I just need to get that into my head and accept that not all children are naturally good. Some of them do want to be good and usually succeed (Ohemaa, Chris, Dean, Stephanie, Kwasi, Lisa, Lina, and a few others), but most children only think about themselves and don’t care that their insults can really hurt their fellow classmates.

Ah! Sometimes, I wonder how I’ll survive the next now it’s seventeen days until my departure... but I know once I’m back home, I’ll really, really, really miss my students.

I won’t miss washing clothes by hand. I won’t miss ice cold bucket showers. I won’t miss banku with okru stew. I won’t miss walking through the mud and always feeling dirty. I won’t miss being called “Obruni” everytime I step out of the house. I won’t miss the mosquitoes. I won’t miss Sister Suzy. I won’t miss seeing men pissing in the streets. I won’t miss typing other teachers’ exam questions because they don’t know how (like I’m supposed to be doing right now, oops). But I will miss my students, that’s for sure.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Breakfast At Tiffany's

If my life were a movie, right now it would be Breakfast at Tiffany’s, except set in 2009 in West Africa. I just had a Holly Golightly moment, if you can guess what that means! All I’m missing is a nameless cat...


I believe that last night was the full moon, right? My last full moon in Africa, and I couldn’t even see it. The clouds, which sometimes make the sky even more beautiful and entertain me with their endless parades, last night were the ugly type, the kind that are soggy and gray like an old sweater dragged through the mud, clouds that served to hide the stars and the black and the full moon, that made going outside to enjoy the view quite pointless. When I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain pounding on the rooftop, I turned off the alarm on my clock. Why wake up at 5AM to go jogging when the dirt roads would have turned into mud roads and I’d spend 40 minutes being drenched with rain water? I slept in until 6:30. I had to trek through a muddy compound to get to school this morning, and during worship service, it began to pour. It rained off and on the whole day, and during the “off” the sky remained cloudy, with the ugly type of cloud that just dampens your spirits.

The weather matches my mood perfectly.

Yesterday, it wasn’t quite as rainy yet, but something worse than rain happened. At morning assembly, they had “inspection,” which happens from time to time, in which the teachers inspect the children to make sure they are following the dress code of black shoes, white socks, and a belt. Usually, those who haven’t followed the dress code are called forward and points are deducted from their teams (the school is divided into 4 teams, but I’m not sure how that works). But yesterday, instead of deducting points, they LASHED the children who weren’t wearing socks or who had forgotten to wear belts (the boys). Can you imagine being lashed with a stick for forgetting to wear a belt? I was too upset to watch, so I went into the classroom and skipped the rest of assembly.

Later, I was told that Sister Suzy was in the next classroom (4A) lashing the children who had forgotten to bring handkerchiefs to clean their desks. What the hell? I went into the classroom at the very end of her class to start my English class, just in time to see Sister Suzy calling forward three students who had gotten some of the answers wrong on their homework. She gave them all hard lashes, and when she finished with the last student, Martin, she said spitefully, “That will teach you to get answer wrong, you and your ugly face!”

Martin went to his desk and hid his face in his arms, and there were tears on his cheeks. May I remind you that this boy is ten years old?

“Martin,” I said, loudly enough for Sister Suzy to hear, “You have a wonderful face. You are so very handsome.” He peeked up and gave me a small, sad smile.

Immaculata was also crying. I went to her desk to comfort her. I whispered into her ear, “I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve to be lashed, just because you got the answer wrong. Sister Suzy is wrong to do that to you! She’s just a wicked witch. Don’t mind her.” Because Sister Suzy is seriously such a wicked witch. The way she treats these children is evil. She lashes them if they get any answers wrong, or if their parents didn’t sign their homework. They line up in the front of the class to receive their lashes as she calls them forward, one by one, for getting 4 out of 5 questions correct on their homework. One time, she told them to learn a certain prayer, and those who didn’t have it written down in their jotters were lashed. Um, what a great way to get children to want to pray, by lashing them if they can’t recite or don’t write down the prayers!

When I went to the other class for their English lesson, I learned that Sister Suzy had lashed everyone whose desk was dirty. “It’s not fair,” Elorm complained to me. “We had R.M.E. (Religious and Moral Education) right before Maths, and because we were drawing, there were eraser marks on our tables. Almost the whole class was lashed.”

No wonder there are so many problems in Africa. From such an early age, children are taught not to respect themselves. The culture here doesn’t allow for individualism, for innovation, or for anything different from the norm or “tradition.” The children are told that they can’t behave unless they are caned, and they believe it! They don’t respect their classmates, their teachers (they only respect the cane, they’ve admitted several times), the environment (as evidenced by the vast amount of litter everywhere you go), time (we’re on “African” time, where everything and everyone are always very late because they have absolutely no respect for time), and worst of all, they don’t respect themselves. Because, I tell them, it says in the Bible to love your neighbor as you love yourself, or treat others the way you would have them treat you. If they treat their neighbors with such disrespect, that’s how they wish to be treated as well.

I’ve tried so hard to teach them self-respect, but I feel like it hasn’t worked. They wouldn’t stop talking in my English class both yesterday and this morning. Oh, some of them were really good and quiet, but there was so much noise going on, so much bickering amongst themselves, so much humming, so much talking while I was talking, that I looked around and wondered where their respect was. This morning I sort of broke down a little bit. After telling them to keep quiet for so many times, I tried guilt manipulation.

“Why don’t you respect me? I’ve been so kind to you. I never lash you or make fun of you if you get the answer wrong. I bring you candy when I can, and I give you stickers when you do well on your homework. You don’t appreciate me at all. I came here all the way to Africa and left everything I knew in America, just to teach you. What have I taught you?” Here’s where they interjected “conjunctions,” or “full stops,” or “prepositions.” I silenced them. “Ah! What does that matter? If you can’t learn to respect yourselves, you will never become what you want to be. Without self-respect, you will never go to the university and become doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc. If I haven’t taught you how to respect yourselves, then what’s the point? Why did I even come here? I feel like the past 9 months have been a waste.”

I guess it wasn’t entirely manipulation, because that’s how I feel. What difference have I made, really? Right now, I’m really doubting that I’ve helped anyone at all. I haven’t touched any lives or changed anything for the better. When I leave, everything will be the same. The children will still be lashed, and this cycle of lack of respect, or rather, respecting only “the cane,” will continue. And actually, the children have become so used to the cane that they are hardened against it, and it has so little effect on them at all.

My prayer lately has been for some sort of sign that my time here hasn’t been entirely wasted, a sign that I have made a difference here, however small.

Anyway, to top it off, I have sooo much to do this week (and I actually shouldn’t even be writing in here, but I can’t even concentrate with all of this on my mind), and yesterday afternoon was basically completely wasted. I had two objectives: to pick up a letter from the National Museum approving my request to take my class there on a field trip, and to stop by the post office. Fred had called the night before saying that he missed me and wanted to spend some time with me, and when he learned of my errand, he offered to drive me. He and his cousin came later than I had hoped to pick me up, and when we got to the museum, the place I needed to go to was already closed so I would have to come back the next day. I asked a museum guard where the nearest post office was, but instead of listening to my directions, Fred said he had never heard of a post office being there, and turned too early. There wasn’t any place to make a U-turn for several blocks, and by then, it was too late; the post office would have already closed. It took a lot of effort to keep from expressing my annoyance, but I know that guys take driving criticism very hard, so I didn’t say anything. I was pretty upset that I had failed in both of my objectives, though! Then, to top it off, instead of driving me straight back, Fred drove around town to do an errand, then we had to drop off his cousin at his house, where we went inside to greet his uncle’s family so Fred could eat fufu. I was feeling very frustrated that I had already wasted so much time, and here I was wasting even more time waiting for Fred to eat when I could have easily gone back by trotro on my own. The guy sitting next to me on the couch was being very rude to me, too, which was making me even more upset.

THEN, something wonderful happened. It was definitely the best part of the day, and the best part of the week so far. On the television was Michael Jackson’s memorial service. About five minutes after we arrived and I sat down to watch, an extremely good-looking white man walked out onto the stage with his guitar. He played a stunning rendition of “Human Nature” on his guitar, and I’ve never been happier to see someone. I breathlessly explained to those present in the room that this was the man I wanted to marry. Fred complained that I was seated on a couch with four other men, but all I could talk about was that man on the telly, and I quickly shushed him. I wanted to listen to the music. I’m convinced that John Mayer is God’s gift to the world, and particularly to me, and the comfort I received in just seeing him play on TV reinforced this conviction.

Thank you, God, for the gift of John Mayer’s life. Amen.

Anyway, Fred finally dropped me off around 7:40, which meant that, besides the few minutes I spent watching the memorial service, my entire afternoon and evening were wasted, as I accomplished nothing. Today, however, I left school early so I was able to pick up the letter from the museum and stop by the post office. I still have so much to do, though. Sorry, for this long rant, but I just needed to vent, you know? I actually feel a lot better now after having written this!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ice Cream

I came back from midterm break with (according to I believe it was Andy, who took the time to count them) “no less than thirty” mosquito bites covering my legs and feet. Nathaniel was outraged by the lack of quality of the hotel I stayed in while in Abidjan, and declared that Ivory Coast is not a nice place. Most of the other students blamed my nights sleeping in a tent on the beach. I’m not entirely sure where I got the majority of them, but oh well. By now they’ve mostly faded, but they were prominent the first few days I came back to Ghana.

“The mosquitoes must really love me,” I said.

Ohemaa raised her hand and waved it in the air. I could tell she was bursting to tell me something.

“Miss Kate! I know why the mosquitoes like biting you so much!” she said. “It’s because when they see your skin color, they think your legs must be ice cream!”

Oh, my dearest darling Ohemaa! She says the most adorable things.

“Miss Kate,” she said when she came to my desk during snack break one day, “Do you know what... go away, Paa Kwesi, I’m trying to ask Miss Kate something and I don’t want you to hear!” Ohemaa shooed Paa Kwesi away, and shyly whispered into my ear, “Do you know what minstration is?”

“You mean like administration?” I asked.

“No! Minstration! Don’t you know what that is?” she demanded.

“I don’t think so. Where did you learn it?”

“Elsie taught me. She said it’s when...” and she just giggled, too embarrassed to tell me.

Elsie happened to be walking by at that moment. “Minstration,” she said. “You know, when you minstrate.”

I started laughing. “You mean menstruation?”

“Yes!” said Ohemaa in the tone of voice that I use whenever a Ghanaian “corrects” my American pronunciation.

“Yes, I know what that is,” I said.

“Miss Kate... have you ever minstrated?” Ohemaa asked, and held her breath, as though waiting for me to reveal a deep secret I’ve never shared with anyone else until now.

Her seriousness made it difficult to keep from laughing, so I just smiled and nodded. Ohemaa’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. “You have? Really?!” she exclaimed. “Yes, I have,” I answered, barely succeeding in keeping my voice steady.

“What are you talking about?” asked Paa Kwesi, who had been listening in.

“It’s a secret, only for girls!” Ohemaa said proudly, as though simply being aware that this particular mystery of femininity existed somehow initiated her into womanhood. A few of the other girls came in, whispering, “Minstration!” and doing a little dance, as the boys all stared at them, slightly puzzled.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Okay, I realize it has been a while since I’ve blogged, but I’ve been out of the country!

We had our midterm break Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday was a public holiday, so I had a five-day weekend which I used to see more of West Africa. I spent 2 nights in a tent on a beach in the Western Region of Ghana at a wonderful beach resort with delicious and inexpensive food and drinks (fantastic), a day traveling by bus to Côte d’Ivoire (torture), a day wandering around Abidjan (very French), and another looong day on a bus back to Accra. My weekend left me with a few interesting stories that I can’t wait to share.

I’ve been quite busy since I’ve been back, just trying to catch up on everything I missed while I was traveling. I have piles and piles of exercise books to grade sitting on my desk, as well as a pile of laundry waiting to be washed by hand and piles of correspondence that I’ve been neglecting (sorry). It’s a bummer because I’ve really been wanting to write about everything that’s going on here, my travels and daily life, but at this point, I feel like I have two choices: write about my experiences, or go out and MAKE new experiences. Since I’ll be home so soon, I’m more inclined to make new African experiences while I have the chance and save the stories for when I return home. Then we’ll have loads to talk about, right?

I’ve just been thinking about how amusing my love life is at the moment. I haven’t written about it at all, really, but it’s something, I tell you. It’s been a while since I’ve had this many suitors at one time, and it’s quite interesting experiencing how they do it in Ghana. This little game called “love” is SO different here from anywhere else I’ve been. I guess I’ve been too caught up in the romance – or, in most cases, lack thereof – to take the time to write about it, but the stories are really great, usually quite comical, and I can’t wait to tell them in person when I see everyone! I’ve kept two or three people very briefly informed when they call me on the phone, and their response is “You should write a book about this,” which maybe I will!

Other than that, I’m trying to make the most of my time left in Ghana. I’m leaving in three weeks from tomorrow! Insanity. I only have 16 days left with my students, and three more weekends. So little time. If I said I wasn’t excited about coming home, however, I’d be lying. I can’t wait to see everyone again and just live a normal American life with running water and good food and beautiful hair (the weather here ruins my hair). I’ll be very busy these next 3 weeks as I prepare the kids for exams and prepare myself to go home, so I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write in here. Don’t worry, though! Whichever stories I don’t write about in here will be on my mind, bursting to be told the moment I step off the plane. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A weekend away

I’ve still been getting headaches. Early in the week they were worse, but for the past few days they haven’t been as long or as painful. I think they’re caused by anxiety. It’s SO unlike me! I’m usually really easy-going and happy-go-lucky, but lately I’ve felt anxiety, and I’m not even sure why. When I arrive at school to find a classroom of noisy, disrespectful students who won’t listen, I feel terribly overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s weird and annoying and needs to stop. Today was actually much better, so that’s good. :)

In this past week since I last wrote, there were a few days that I felt such anxiety that all I could do to cheer myself up was to go out to the shopping mall and lose myself in the bookstore before treating myself to a nice cup of coffee or a milkshake. I think a part of my problem was my impending exodus from the country, having to leave by 30th June but not being sure of where I would go or how much it would cost.

Yesterday, I stopped by Ivory Coast’s embassy to apply for my visa. I have to go back tomorrow to pick it up. It was 5000 CFA. I had NO idea how much that would be in a currency with which I’m familiar, so I was nervous that it would be really expensive until I went to the Forex Bureau. 5000 CFA was only Gh¢16, which is about USD$12 or so. That’s not bad at all!

So it looks like I’ll be leaving Saturday. Right now I’m searching for a place to stay and trying to figure out how to get there. I’m kind of in a rush because Fred will be coming over any minute to hang out. Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to come online before I leave for Côte d’Ivoire. I’m planning on spending a day or two in the Western Region of Ghana on my way back. We’re having a midterm break early next week, but school resumes on Thursday, so I’ll be back in Accra by Wednesday night. See you then?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I’ve been getting headaches lately. Horrible! At times they can be so debilitating. I’m behind on correcting homework because I couldn’t concentrate today with this headahce. Today’s headache is one of the worst I’ve experienced here. I took some Motrin in the morning, but it didn’t help at all, so I took some Extra Strength Tylenol after lunch, which helped a little. Now it’s about 4:30 and my head is hurting really badly again. I don’t know why! I’ve been getting them a lot, and it sucks.

Another “headache:” On Monday night, Fred called and said he made a mistake, that actually, the Immigration Office only gave me 30 days extension. When I went to the office yesterday to pick it up, I saw that they had only extended it to 30th June! Somehow, Fred got “3 months” and then “30 days” from “30th June,” but it sucks. Now I have to go to Togo or Côte d’Ivoire before the end of the month. Oh, it would be nice to explore a new country, but it will be expensive, I’ll need to pay for a visa to get into these countries, and have to deal with exchanging the currency and finding a place to stay, etc.

Wow, I just realized how pessimistic that was. Headaches like the one I have now really alter my personality and make me hate the world. I should be happy to see a new country. Stop whining, Kate.

Okay, I think this is my cue to rest, which sucks because instead of getting things done, I’m stuck in bed. I hate headaches!

Monday, June 15, 2009

By the way...

I can’t believe that we are halfway through June!

Nor can I believe that we are halfway through the third and final term. Incredible! Time is passing too quickly.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lights Off

Saturday was mostly a really shitty day for me. So many crappy, frustrating things happened to me that I called my sister Kara at 10 PM almost in tears and vented to her in a long rant that included more seven-letter adjectives beginning with “f” in the first ten minutes of our conversation than I’ve used the entire eight months I’ve been Ghana. Luckily for me, she’s such a great sister and listened quietly so that I was able to get most of it out so I don’t feel the need to burden my blog readers with every little detail.

Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my room in the dark. One of the less crappy events of Saturday was a “lights off” (a power outage) that started at around eight in the morning and still affected the entire neighborhood when I came back to the house last night at a quarter to ten. The power was still out all of this morning into the afternoon. Now, I thought I was used to power outages. They’re quite common here in Accra, but they’ve become so much more common the past few weeks. When I first arrived, it felt like we experienced lights off once every week or two, at most two times in a week, and they usually lasted anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours, and usually during the day when I was at school and barely even noticed. Lately, as in for the past month or two, however, they’ve been occurring at least three times per week, and instead of depriving us of electricity for only an hour or two, the “lights off” of late last the entire day for twelve hours or so.

Oh, but yesterday’s lights off lasted all day, all night, and all day again, well over twenty-four hours. When there’s an all-day lights off on the weekend, I’ve discovered, I don’t have much choice but to leave the house. The heat becomes too much for me in the house without fans, so I went to the Accra mall after lunch and spent several hours browsing their air-conditioned bookstore. When I came back to the convent around 7:30, everything seemed to be well-lit, so I happily sat down for dinner. I noticed that the nuns weren’t watching TV, and I found out that we have “low current,” which means only half the house gets electricity. Upstairs (where my room is) is the half that doesn’t get it tonight. It’s my second night in a row groping around my room in the dark!

Okay, time to look on the bright side. What can be positive about not having electricity? I’ll tell you.

With the “low current,” the outlet in which the television is plugged wasn’t working, so instead of watching TV, the nuns had to find other ways of entertaining themselves. Sister Juliana was lying on the couch, reading aloud from the user manuel to the brand new treadmill they had purchased this morning (which was a gift from one of her friends... I’m telling you, these nuns get so many free things given to them, even treadmills!). It’s really cute how excited all the nuns are about this new exercise equipment, by the way. They call it their “chingalingy machine.” Haha!

Anyway, after Sister Julie finished reading it, she started saying the website. “W W W dot...” Sister Anne picked up, “dot com dot yahoo dot UK.” I started laughing. “No,” Sister Anne said, “W W W dot, what’s the name of the company? Try-jam?”

“Trojan,” Sister Juliana said, also mispronouncing it slightly, something more like traw-jen. “W W W dot Trojan dot com.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Are you making fun of the way we’re pronouncing it?” Sister Julie asked.

“Kind of,” I admitted, “and also, Trojan is also a name brand for another type of product...”

“Ah, you mean the condoms?” said Sister Julie, catching on quickly.

And the next thing I knew, we were all sharing our best condom stories. Of course, they were nuns, so the stories had to do with condom mix-ups, but still, we were talking and laughing about them. All I could think in my head was, “What the hell? I’m sitting at the dinner table in a convent in West Africa with five nuns chatting away about condoms!” It was one of those situations I never imagined myself getting into, something that completely added to the comedy and irony of my living situation and well, my life, I guess.

See? If Accra had electricity 24/7, we would have been doing something typical like watching the evening news. Now, thanks to low current, I have several funny nun condom stories to share with whomever is interested... just ask!

Friday, June 12, 2009


I’ve found a fun way to get the class’s attention when they’re making noise. :)

They’re kids. Sometimes the noise volume in my class becomes too high to teach, which frustrates me quite a bit, but now that I’ve found a method of quieting them, life is good.

I simply raise my hand in the air. The few who are paying attention to me will follow suit. Then I do things with my fingers, making different hand signals... one finger, two, three, four, five, thumbs up, thumbs down, just my pinky, just my index finger, all five fingers, spread apart, fingers closed, into a fist, open, waving, etc. Just silly little things. The kids paying attention try to copy what I’m doing. Once the talkatives realize what’s going on, they become quiet to concentrate on following my hand motions. When I can see that the whole class is quietly paying attention to whatever I’m doing with my hand, I swoop my arm around and bring one finger in front of my lips... “Shh!”

The next thing I know, the twenty-one Ghanaian school children in front of me have one finger to their lips, and all is quiet.

“Thank you. Now, back to the lesson...”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A true story

“Good morning, class. Hey! Please keep quiet. Please, be extra good today. I’m feeling so, so sick right now. I think I have a very bad cold. Can’t you hear my voice? I can’t shout. My head is paining me, and when you make noise, it makes it worse. I had to rest all morning, and I couldn’t teach 4B this morning, but since we didn’t have time for your classwork yesterday, we have to do it today. Please. If you’re quiet, I’ll tell you a story. It’s a true story of something that happened to me. Please, keep quiet and listen.

“Do you remember how I had to leave early on Friday to go to the immigration office? I had to go drop off my passport so they can fix my visa so I can stay. Do you remember when I got a phone call on Monday during class and had to leave? Let me tell you what happened.

“The lady there wanted to talk to me. She asked me why I was here in Ghana, and I told her, but she said I’ve been here too long, and I have to leave. She said I could only stay until 30th June.”

Cries of protest went up throughout the classroom.

“Shh! Keep quiet! I’m not finished with the story yet! If you make noise I won’t be able to tell you! Okay, that’s better. Well, I told her my plane ticket is for 27th July, and that I needed to finish teaching you English until the end of the term. She didn’t care. I begged and pleaded with her, ‘Please! Please! Please!’ but she didn’t care. She said she was sacking me from Ghana. She would only let me stay until 30th June, and if I stayed longer, they might put me in jail or something.

“Oh, you don’t know how upset I was! I was crying! But still, she said, ‘No.’ When I walked to the trotro, I was crying the whole time. I don’t want to leave yet!”

Their faces were grave as most of them listened silently. A few looked like they were about to be sick. Akyena pretended to cry.

“Shh! The story isn’t finished yet! I was so upset that I cried on the trotro and I stopped by Shoprite to eat some ice cream so I would feel better, and I sat crying eating ice cream...” Some of the class thought this was really funny, and laughed out loud. Most were too anxious to know the final outcome to laugh, and quickly shushed the offenders.

“I called my friend Fred, and told him what happened, and he said he’d call his friend who worked there. They thought it might be possible for me to go and come to Togo or Côte d’Ivoire, but we weren’t sure. So I didn’t know if I could stay until 27th July or if I’d have to leave early on 30th June.”

“Oh! Miss Kate!” I heard.

“But then, this morning, when I was in the house, resting because I’m sick, I got a phone call from Fred. He said he had just talked to Evelyn, his friend at the office, and she said they’re still working on it, but they don’t know yet.”

The little faces looking up at me were grave and serious, particularly those belonging to my favorite students. I smiled.

“Then, about 30 minutes later, when I was still at the house in my bed, resting, Fred called me back... and he said... ‘Congratulations! They’re extending your visitor’s permit.’ That means I can stay!”

A great cheer of victory went up, and several students got out of their chairs and danced around happily. I felt very loved. I didn’t tell them that they had given me another three-month extension. If I had told them that, they would have wanted me to stay longer, until September 7th, but I’m definitely set on touching down at LAX on July 28th. I’m lucky to be friends with Fred, who is friends with Evelyn, who took my case to a senior consular to get the job done. Very lucky. I’m also very happy that I don’t have to leave early!

“Miss Kate! Question. How long will you stay in Ghana? Forever?” Ohemaa asked hopefully.

“No, sweetie, only until 27th July, and I’m so lucky I can stay that long! They wanted to sack me out at the end of June! But now, I can stay until 27th July. I’m so happy! But I’m still sick. So please, keep quiet. Kwabena, sit down! Priest, stop drumming! Shh.... okay. Once everyone is quiet, we can begin our classwork. Thank you. Who remembers what we learned yesterday about prepositions?”

Monday, June 8, 2009

Expat woes

During my first English class this morning, I received a call from the immigration office telling me I needed to come in for an interview, which had never happened to me before. I had dropped off my passport on Friday to get another extension on my visitor’s permit to make my stay in Ghana legal. Usually I just drop off my passport with Fred’s friend Evelyn, and she takes care of everything for me and calls me up when it’s finished.

I left right after lunch, and arrived at the office at 1:30. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I thought she’d just ask me a few questions, smile, and hand me my passport. I stopped by the Western Europe office where Evelyn works, and she directed me to the lady I needed to see, telling me that she wanted to know when I was leaving.

The lady sat me down in front of her desk and asked me what I was doing in Ghana for so long. I tried to explain, but she told me that I’ve been here too long and I have to leave. Visitor’s permits are only supposed to last 6 months, and she wouldn’t grant me another extension. I pulled out a copy of my itinerary for my flight home, promising her that I’ll leave on 27th July. She didn’t care. That was too long, she said. She said she’d give me ‘til the end of the month, and then I had to be out of here. So what if my plane ticket doesn’t leave until the end of July? I’ll just have to change it. So what if my students won’t have an English teacher? There are plenty of teachers in Ghana who could replace me.

I’m still surprised by my reaction, because it’s something I normally never do in front of strangers: I started crying. I never cry in front of strangers. I hardly ever cry in front of my best friends! I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve cried in front of my best friends, but strangers? I guess I was in such a state of shock and so upset that I didn’t know what to do. I pleaded with her to let me stay, just one extra month! But, no! She was adamant. My time is up. She’d give me until June 30th, no later. I pleaded and pleaded, but she told me she was through with me wanted to eat her lunch. I should just get out now.

“But, my visa is for two years!” I pointed out. “Why can’t I stay?”

“It’s a multiple-entry visa, to come and go,” she said. “You can’t just stay here for more than 6 months straight.”

“What if I go and come? If I go to Côte d’Ivoire or Togo, and come back? It’s multiple-entry, so I can come and go for two years!”

She considered this for a few minutes, but I think I had already pissed her off enough, so she said, “No. Only if you go to the United States and come back.” F***ing bitch!

She kicked me out of her office, foreshadowing my being kicked out of the country.

I tried to calm myself down, and went back to the Western Europe office.

“Did she give you an extension?” asked Evelyn.

“No!” I said, trying to keep my voice level and the tears from leaking out of my eyes. “But would it work if I go to Côte d’Ivoire or Togo and come back?”

“If you do that, they’ll give you a new stamp that allows you to stay for 60 more days,” she said. I wondered who was right, her or the bitch of an officer who “helped” me.

I was still crying as I walked the few blocks to the nearest bus stop. I can’t tell you how upset the prospect of abandoning my students makes me feel! I promised them I’d stay until 27th July! I can’t leave them early! I needed to talk to someone, but I knew I’d get no sympathy from my American friends, who miss me and want me to come home as soon as possible. So I took out my phone and called Fred. I cried to him as I walked, telling him my problems. He told me he’d call me back in 5 minutes.

I decided to stop by the Accra Shopping Mall on the way back. After the merde of a day I just had, I deserved ice cream. As I was about to get off the trotro, I received a call from Fred. He had called Evelyn, and repeated what she said about visiting a neighboring country. Fred said he had a friend in or near Togo who could help me get over the border and come back in with a new stamp allowing me to stay for an extra 60 days. I shouldn’t worry, he said. “Let me see you smile!” (how on earth could I let him see me smile over the phone?)

I spent about an hour browsing the bookstore, which calmed me down quite a bit. I had two scoops of ice cream from Frankie’s, crunchy hazelnut and chocolate. It was served like gelato, except soooo not as good. Oh well, ice cream is ice cream, right? I wasn’t satisfied, so I also bought a little coconut cake. Then I was calm enough to go back to the house.

I “can’t wait” to go home and see everyone again. When I say that, what I mean is I’m really looking forward to going home... but I can wait. I’m not ready to go just yet. I still have 7 weeks left with my students. There is still so much more I need to teach them about English and French and life. I’m counting down the days until I can see everyone again (50 days left!), but I still need these days I’m counting down if I want to finish everything I want to do in Ghana. I want to leave on July 27th, not one day earlier, not one day later. That’s why I am determined to do this legally. The only thing that could possibly be worse than having to leave early would be if they detained me at the airport and I was late coming home.

I think that Evelyn was right about how I can leave to Togo or Ivory Coast and come back and be fine, but that bitchy lady did say otherwise, so I’m not 100% sure. I’m looking into it right now. So, I guess it’s possible that I’ll be seeing you at the end of June, but, (please don’t take offense to this) I hope I don’t.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My African Union Day Weekend in the Volta Region!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words... here are 60,000 words for you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What I think I should do and what I really want to do

Sometimes, what I think I should do and what I want to do are two different things. Which should I go with? What I think I should do, or what I really want?

I’m having to make some serious decisions about my future that will affect the course of my life. One of my best friends who was counseling me pointed out my problem: I’m torn between what I think I should do and what I really want. She recommended that I go for what I really want. I think that’s a marvelous idea.

I want to apply this same principle to blogging. I haven’t been blogging very much at all lately because I feel like I should write about certain experiences like my safari, the wedding, my three-day weekend, etc, but I don’t really want to write about that right now. So much has happened! Whenever I sit down to start, I become overwhelmed by everything I want to say, and this task of describing the indescribable feels too monumental, so I end up not writing at all. Writing becomes something I feel like I “have” to do, not something I want to do.

So... I won’t write about my travels yet. I’ll write about whatever is on my mind, which lately has had more to do with my students and my mixed feelings about leaving than my travels. When I’m in the mood to write about my travels, I will. If I end up writing a book about Ghana (you never know, it could happen someday), they would definitely find their way into there, so you’ll just have to buy the book! If not... ask me about it when I come home, and I’ll tell you all about it in person! Wouldn’t that be even better? I’ll post pictures soon, hopefully, and give you the link, but in the meantime, I’m going to do what I really want to do. I missed lunch today, so right now, I really want to eat dinner. Bye!

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's a holiday in Ghana, too

There was no school today! Apparently, it’s African Union Day, a public holiday. No one knew this until Friday morning. So, I decided on Friday afternoon to spend my 3-day weekend traveling. It was great! I’ll write more about it in detail when I have the chance, but for now, let me just say one thing I did...

This morning, when I woke up, I went outside with a bag of bananas. I stood next to a tree and held the banana up, close to the branches. Little monkeys came out of the tree, peeled each banana as I held it, and ate it.

It was incredible! Pictures and details to follow!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Amazing times five

I woke up before five to go jogging every day this week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Do you realize how amazing that is? Me, Kate Deaton, jogging every morning for a week? I was VERY sore the first few days, but I’m finally feeling better. I actually like it! I feel great! I’m hoping to keep it up for as long as possible, but I know once the rainy season starts it won’t always be possible with all the mud. I’m planning on sleeping in tomorrow and Sunday and hitting the streets again on Monday morning. I WILL become chingalingy before July. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thank you

The first class was horrible. I was tired with a short temper and shouted way too much at the kids. There were those four boys who always talk and cause trouble. They made me so upset, and one in particular was being so disrespectful I seriously wanted to cry.

When I went to teach my second English class of the day, I was feeling down and discouraged. I walked in two minutes early and asked the kids please to be extra good today. I had a stack of graded exercise books in my hands, and I went from desk to desk passing them out while we waited for the bell to be rung. I didn’t smile the entire time until something simple yet wonderful happened.

When I reached Ohemaa’s desk, and placed her homework book on her table, she looked up at me with a smile and said, “Thank you.”

Thank you. Such simple words. Sometimes “thank yous” are just a formality, but at other times, they can mean SO much more.

I had been kind of rushing from desk to desk, but when Ohemaa said that, I stopped. For the first time in hours, I smiled. “You’re welcome,” I said.

Lisa sits right behind Ohemaa. She also thanked me, and I also stopped and smiled when she said that. I continued passing out the homework books, but the only other student to thank me was Asabea.

Those three students with their three little “thank yous” really made a difference in my day. They didn’t have to thank me – I was just returning their homework books! – but their thoughtfulness put three big smiles on my face and gave me the drive to make it through another class.

Ohemaa stopped by my desk at closing, and I pulled her aside and told her how much her “thank you” meant to me. I explained how sad and unappreciated I had been feeling, but how her thoughtfulness and appreciation had made me feel so happy. “Thank you for saying ‘thank you!’” I said.

She just smiled really big and wrapped her little arms around me in a huge hug. I whispered into her ear, “This is why I think you’re an angel!” and she squeezed me tighter.

It was some form of karma, I’m sure. I say “thank you” all the time for little things like that, too, but I never thought it could make such a difference in someone’s day. I mean, I’m sure it doesn’t always matter to people to hear it, but maybe that waiter was having a really bad day or something, and maybe when I thank him for bringing the water, it could put a smile on his face. I’m glad I say “thank you” so much because now, when I most needed it, my kindness came back to me. Anyway, just keep this in mind the next time someone does something nice for you, however small. Your “thank you” could make a huge difference in his or her day like Ohemaa’s, Lisa’s, and Asabea’s “thank yous” did in mine!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A brand new experience!

Today I did something that I’ve NEVER done before. It’s something that I never in a million years pictured myself doing.

I woke up early, at about ten to five, and – ready for this? – went jogging!!!

Me, yes, ME, Kate Deaton, on the streets of Haatso at 5:05 AM with my iPod, jogging! Do you have any idea how groundbreaking that is? First of all, I hate getting up early, and secondly, I hate jogging. What on earth, then, could prompt me to do something so ridiculous?

I’m not sure why, but I wanted to go. I know I never would have done it if I really didn’t want to. Some strange, uncharacteristic impulse made me do it. For 23 years, I’ve never had the slightest desire to something so crazy, but today it was there. Perhaps the deeper reason is that I’m very determined to become chingalingy (slim) before I come home. I’m feeling a little obolo (fat) right now. Or maybe a girl who is stupid enough to sit on a live crocodile is also stupid enough to wake up while it’s still dark outside just to exercise.

It was cool and lovely and quiet at 5:05. Since it was my first time jogging since, well, ever, I couldn’t jog the entire time, but for my first time, I thought I did pretty well. The moon was out, and the stars, and I watched the sunrise as I jogged/walked. You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes... it was beautiful. I was out for 40 minutes or so. I came back, took a shower, and felt really great.

Just when I think I know myself... I really am full of surprises, am I not?

I just realized how weird a word that is, jogging. Think about it. Jogging.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Something SO GREAT happened to me today!

Yesterday I trekked through the mud and rain to get to the Achimota post office to see if my birthday package arrived (That was an adventure in itself, sloshing through the mud under my umbrella, fiercely determined to make the forty-minute journey and to get to that damned post office if it killed me.) and found a slip of paper telling me to go to Accra North post office, which is an hour away and kind of a pain to get to.

Today, I boarded a trotro headed to Circle. It’s a big traffic circle surrounded by bus and lorry stations from which buses and trotros depart to all cities in Ghana. I don’t really like going there because it takes about fifteen minutes to walk from where the trotro drops you off to the post office, and the whole time people call out to you, especially if you’re an obruni, to buy the things they sell from their stands or blankets on the sidewalk. It’s hard to walk because the vendors are everywhere, taking up over half the sidewalk, and there are so many people pushing their way past.

Anyway, there is one place in particular where some creepy guys sell secondhand shoes, and every time I pass there, this guy sitting on the railing reaches out and grabs my arm or wrist and holds on tightly. I hate it so much! He was there on the way to the post office, and sure enough, he grabbed me, calling out, “Obruni!” It took a few seconds for me to free my arm from his grasp and keep walking. I made it to the post office without too much hassle and was delighted to find a wonderful birthday package from my family waiting for me. I sat on a seat in the post office in front of a Western Union counter and opened my package then and there, already having waited two months for it to come from California. As I left the post office, I bought a sachet of pure water. Water here comes in plastic sachets, by the way. You bite a corner off and drink it down, like this:

I drank it as I walked but didn’t finish it, holding it in my left hand. When I passed by creepy man again, still sitting on the same spot on the railing, what do you know? He grabbed my wrist AGAIN, my right wrist. But this time, I was ready. In one swift motion, I yanked my arm away, which caused him to lose his balance somewhat, and with my other hand, I raised my sachet of water and squeezed hard. It squirted all over his face, and he let go of my wrist to cover his eyes with his hands, almost falling off the railing into the street behind him. I didn’t stop to see if he made it. I kept walking, very determinedly. As I walked, however, I heard everyone around me shout and cheer. I can just imagine what they were thinking. Look at that obruni, showing that man!

I felt so powerful and awesome. It so great! Plus, I had a bag full of lovely gifts from home. It was a great day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I still have to blog about my safari and other travels and such, but I don’t want to stop writing about my day to day life while I’m working on them. I just wanted to share a little story about something cute my favorite student said.

My favorite student is named Ohemaa, my “mini-me” (she reminds me SO much of myself when I was her age, except she’s a thousand times sweeter and more thoughtful than I ever was). She’s my favorite! She gives me so much love and affection and always says the sweetest, most encouraging things. She has written me countless notes and drawn me dozens of pictures. When asked who my favorite person in all of Ghana is, the person I’ll miss the most when I’m gone, I answer Ohemaa, because it’s true. I feel like I know her so well, because all her fears and insecurities were once my fears and insecurities, and her strengths, likes, passions, and needs were once mine, too.

Today at snack break she wanted to tell me something. “Miss Kate, sometimes, when I’m alone and I’m thinking about you, I think that you...” she noticed Asabea was listening, so she said, “Come with me to the storeroom. I don’t want anyone to hear.”

As she pulled me into the storeroom, I wondered what she was going to say. She doesn’t always have the best self-esteem and sometimes puts herself down or tells me that everyone hates her, which is ridiculous because she’s the sweetest girl in Class 4 and is friends with everyone. I think sometimes she says these things because she needs me to reassure her that it’s not true, that she is smart and beautiful, and that everyone else and I love her. I understand her need for reassurance because I have the exact same need. Taking care of Ohemaa, having to reassure her every day that she is beautiful and loved, has made me realize what an enormous task it would be for a man to love and to take care of me (and so far, I have never found a man who was up to the challenge and capable of giving me the reassurance I need, which is why I’ve been single for the past 23 years or so).

I thought perhaps Ohemaa would say something like she thinks that I don’t love her or something ridiculous like that just to hear me tell her otherwise. Earlier in the day she had been upset because she didn’t do as well on her exams as she had hoped, so I began preparing my response in my head, something to reassure her that she is still very smart and talented even though her grades weren’t the best. What she had to tell me came absolutely as a surprise.

Ohemaa’s beautiful brown eyes looked up into mine. “Miss Kate,” she said a bit shyly, “sometimes, when I’m at home and I’m thinking about you... I think that you must be an angel.”

AW! How precious! I couldn’t say anything at first. All I could do was hug her tightly and kiss the top of her head. She’s so affectionate, sincere, empathetic, innocent, and sweet, and I just love her so much.

Finally, I said, “Ohemaa, darling, sometimes I think the same thing about you.”