Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beware of Bats!

I love bats. I find them to be delightful, quirky creatures (you know, mammals who try to be birds) who have done a lot of good for the world (eating mosquitoes and inspiring submarine technology, for instance). However, they can be very tricky sometimes. A word of warning: Beware of bats that trick you into thinking they’re shooting stars. Sometimes, the bats fly low enough at night to have their bellies lit up by the street lights, and it’s quite deceiving. I’ve seen several. It’s like, you go to make a wish, and the “star,” instead of burning out and disappearing, continues flapping across the sky and out of sight. You feel kind of stupid when you wish upon a bat.
So, although I (unwittingly) wished upon a bat on Sunday night more times than I’d like to admit, I did see four genuine shooting stars. Lucky me! Four wishes in one night! (If you’re wondering what it was I wished for... ha! Yeah right! I’ll never tell. They were good wishes, and if I tell they won’t come true.) That may seem like an exaggeration, but I really, truly saw four shooting stars. That’s one of the advantages of spending the night on the roof in a very small West African Muslim village, sleeping under the stars. You can see soooooo many stars it borderlines ridiculous.

The other advantages are that it’s MUCH cooler on the roof (the guest rooms don’t have fans), and also, it only costs Gh¢5.00 per night (about $3.75 USD). The price included a meal of rice and stew, but the proprietor of the Salia Brothers Guesthouse, Al Hassan, also shared his tisert with us. (Tisert is ground maize that has a texture similar to dough.) There were eight obruni girls, volunteers or students from Europe and America, and we all squatted around a big bowl of tisert and soup, eating with our hands like Ghanaian women do. All that food and a night under the stars for the price of a frappechino! On top of that, we had a session talking with a “rural intellectual.” He was Al Hassan’s uncle who happened to be visiting that night, the village sage whose words of wisdom were translated from the local dialect into English by Al Hassan.

Larabanga is a small village in the Northern Region of Ghana that is mostly known for two things: Its famous mud and stick mosque that is disputably the oldest existing building in West Africa (allegedly built in 1421 after the village’s first chief threw a spear from a “mystic stone” that landed at the site of the present day mosque. The mosque’s foundations had miraculously appeared, and the structure built on top still stands to this day. It is truly a gift from Allah, although unfortunately, because I’m not Muslim, I was not allowed to enter.) AND Larabanga is known for being the entry point for Mole National Park.

I say the best part of Larabanga is the Salia Brother’s Guesthouse. Oh, it’s not five-star by anyone’s standards. The little room I shared with my travel buddy, Molly, was painted a cheery bright blue. Just look up. Our ceiling had character! It consisted entirely of tree branches laid across the bigger branches that stretched from wall to wall. There was also a bed with a dusty white sheet and a table covered with an orange cloth. The shared shower and toilet were tucked away in a corner of the compound. The shower was just a little shower-sized room with a bucket of water and a hole in the wall near the ground for the water to drain outside into the gutter... but that’s almost normal for me. The “toilet” was a room about the size of the shower with a deep square hole and a little trash can for the used toilet paper (for clean toilet paper, ask Al Hassan, and he’ll let you borrow the roll).

But the view that night... the view was much greater than five-star! Five million stars is more like it. Al Hassan carried our mattresses up to roof, and that was where we slept. We had to climb up a rickety ladder that was really just an enormous tree branch resting against the wall that had been carved with grooves for stepping. It was difficult to climb up, and even more difficult to climb down, but I managed it several times without falling once. The sky was so beautiful I didn’t want to close my eyes, so I lied awake for quite a while. The moon was nowhere to be seen, which normally makes me lonely, but that night, I was secretly grateful for the new moon, because without the moon the millions of stars shone that much more brightly.

Sleeping under the stars, caressed by a cool West African breeze, was such an incredible, unforgettable experience! Not only did I get four real wishes (wishes on bats don’t count), but also I had a very nice chat with God; it was one of those delightful spiritual experiences as well. And as my sleepiness took over and my eyes resisted staying open, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was what marriage is like; you know, falling asleep every night with a smile on your face, smiling because the last thing you see before you sleep is the most beautiful sight imaginable. When I woke up in the middle of the night, all I had to do was peek open my eyes, and there it was, my sky with the stars, shining their comfort. I’m thinking I’ll have to end up with someone pretty freaking amazing if he’ll ever hope to make me feel like that night in Larabanga.

But yeah, those tricky bats. Beware.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The best things in life are ELEPHANTS!

Is there any feeling in the world that's better than fulfilling one of your dreams/life goals? I seriously doubt it. One of my life goals was to go on an African safari and see an elephant in the wild. Guess what! I DID IT!

My African safari was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! To be soooo close to wild elephants was absolutely thrilling. It was a walking safari, too... infinitely more exciting than a driving safari. If you're not stepping on antelope shit and walking on the same path as warthogs and baboons, you're not a real adventurer, are you?

To see an elephant in the wild sent chills down my spine. I think the experience was made about 1000 times more amazing by the fact that this has been my DREAM for so long because I looooooove elephants more than I could possibly say. It was freaking amazing to be walking within 50 meters of such beautiful, amazing, wonderful, magnificent, dangerous creatures!

After the safari, I sat at the look-out point by the pool, which had a spectacular view of the valley and the elephant watering holes. Five elephants were splashing around the watering hole. Antelopes danced across the grass. A warthog and its baby plodded along on the hill a few feet below the look-out point. A monkey was fooling around the tree right next to me. I couldn't believe how fantastic it was. Honestly... five real elephants? My smile was huge. Only in Africa!

I'm a very happy girl right now. VERY happy. I'll write more about the safari when I go back to Accra. In the meantime, I've been bitten by the travel bug again, and I can't wait to explore the rest of Ghana. There is still so much to see! I have no idea when I'll go back to Accra. School doesn't reopen until 4th May, so I still have like 9 days of vacation or something. I bet I can see a lot in 9 days! :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I have my ticket!

I just bought my bus ticket and I’m leaving for my safari at 3PM tomorrow!

I’ll spend about 13 hours on the bus and arrive in Tamale at 4AM. From there, I’ll have to find a bus or trotro going to Mole National Park, which allegedly takes about 3 hours. I’ll spend however long I need to at Mole, and I’m quite excited about it because I read that from the pool at the motel inside the park, you can see the elephants’ watering hole. Imagine how incredible that would be, just swimming and watching elephants! I hope the internet wasn’t lying!

My tentative plan after Mole is to find a way to get to Paga, so I can go swimming in the sacred crocodile pool. Haha, yeah right! I’m not stupid enough for that. The local children swim in the pool and ride on their backs across. I’m not local, however, so I’ll do the tourist thing... buy some chickens to feed to the crocodiles, and go with an experienced guide to touch the crocodile and sit on its back for a picture. Yes, I’m stupid enough to do that much. How amazing would that be? Seriously, how many people do you know who have sat on the back of a crocodile and lived to tell about it? I decided to do Paga after Mole just in case something bad happens (like a crocodile bite, which I’m afraid would take longer to heal than a dog bite), then at least I’ll have had my chance to see an elephant.

Elephants are my favorite animals in the world! This will be my first time seeing them in the wild!

After Paga, I might try to spend a night in Techimen, because it’s not far from this one monkey sanctuary where allegedly the monkeys just come out and hang out with locals, and sometimes steal their food. That just seems like a fun thing to do, don’t you think? I’d also like to visit the cultural center in Kumasi, possibly, and maybe the zoo. (Although I have a feeling that after seeing the animals in the wild, the zoo won’t do much for me, you know?)

Well, all this is tentative. I have no idea how long I’ll be gone or when I’ll be back. I don’t have any set plans, other than a Gh¢19.50 bus ticket for Tamale. I can’t believe it took me this long to start, but I can blame FRED! He said he wanted to go with me, but he wasn’t 100% sure, so he asked me to wait for him. I postponed and postponed my trip just to find out he’s too busy! So now I’m going alone. Fred thought that maybe Mavis might want to come, and she wants to, but she has classes and no money. So... I’m traveling alone. It’s a good thing I’m so damn independent!

I realize that I still haven’t written about Cape Coast yet. Maybe I’ll start writing later tonight. I finally was able to post pictures, though! I put them on Facebook. Here are the links, if you’re interested to see the pictures of Cape Coast and Kakum & Elmina. You don’t even have to have a Facebook account to view them!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cape Coast 1 & 2

I just got back from Cape Coast about an hour ago!

I could divide my trip into two parts. The first part was awesome! The second part was awful! At the moment, I’m too exhausted to write about the first part and still too upset about the second part even to talk about it. The awful part wasn’t a huge deal, but the last time something like that happened to me it took me a few days before I could talk about it.

But please... If a beggar asks for food, don’t turn him away. You will regret it.

And now I hate all men again.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Change of plans...

I’m going to Cape Coast tomorrow morning. I’ll spend one or two nights there.

I’m saving my safari in the north for next week.

I can’t wait to leave because the past few days have not been very great at all. I have hopes, however, that the thrill of traveling will considerably raise my spirits.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Good job, Ghana

So, I’m back at the internet café. The internet hasn’t been working at the school for the past couple days, and I haven’t finished planning my trip, so I’m here again! Wonderful. Ghana Telecom, you suck.

Also, I’m thinking I’ll probably leave on Thursday instead of tomorrow, simply because I’m not ready AT ALL and I don’t want to rush. I’m planning on going to Fred’s office today so he can help me plan and make phone calls. I’m anxious to plan my vacation and leave already! I want to see an elephant! However, I just realized how ridiculously far the place with the crocodiles is. Paga is on the VERY north of Ghana. I don’t know yet how long it will take to get there. I really want to go, but the idea of sitting squished in the back of a trotro for all those hours doesn’t appeal to me too much. But... sitting on crocodiles? That’s too unbelievable to pass up! We’ll see what I end up doing!

Also, I came across this:

Interesting. Good job, Ghana!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Three good choices and one bad one

Today was a horrible day for a picnic.

Fortunately, however, I made several good choices and only one bad choice.

The first good choice: Agreeing to go with Sister Juliana to pick up her nieces and nephews from their house in Sakomono.

Since today (Easter Monday) is a day traditionally celebrated in Ghana with picnics, I had planned on accompanying the nuns to one of the church picnics that were planned. At breakfast, however, when Sister Juliana told me she was going to pick up her brother’s kids to take them out for the day, I told her how fun that sounded, remembering all the fun times I had as a child when my aunts took me and my sisters out. I didn’t mean that I wanted to accompany her, but that was how she took it, so she invited me to come. I didn’t want to intrude on her aunt/niece and nephew bonding time, but she said she really wanted me to come, so I went. We picked them up from their house (Felix, 13, Judith, 7, and Linda, 4)and took them to the shopping mall, a place they had never been. They each picked out a treat from the bookstore, which meant I got to spend some time browsing the books and despairing at how ridiculously overpriced the books are here. Then we left to go to a picnic.

My second good choice: NOT going to Legon.

We drove through Legon, where the Madina parish and several other parishes were having their picnic. We found the picnic spot, this big field with a few tents set up and people playing soccer. Sister Juliana paused for a moment, considering the situation, and asked me if we should stay here or go to the one at Agbogba. I secretly wanted to stay at Legon because there was grass on the field and I could have called my friend Joe, who lives there, to come hang out with me, but I shrugged and told her it was her choice. She chose to go to Agbogba, which was a much smaller community and would be easier to mingle.

The church at Agbogba, St. Barnabas, is only half built. It only has one wall, really, and pillars supporting the roof. They’re not finished with it yet, and in fact, when I first came to Ghana, they were having their services in the second story of an almost-abandoned building over a little provisions shop. In November they moved to the wallless structure a little ways away, and that was also where the picnic was.

The picnic itself was kind of lame, so I was bored for a little while until Sister Regina showed up and I could chat with her. One of the activities was “Pick and Act” in which people picked a paper with something to act out, lame suggestions like “Act like a Sunday School teacher,” or “Act like a mad person,” or “Act like Obama giving a speech.” In the middle of the game, the wind unexpectedly picked up very strongly, blowing dirt and dust into our eyes. I’ve never seen wind that strong before! The sky became increasingly dark, and quite suddenly, the skies opened and released a torrential downpour. You wouldn’t believe that rain! The wind blew the rain sideways into the church, and with only one wall to protect us, we became a bit wet and cold from the mist. It lasted about 20 minutes, so loud they had to stop playing “Pick and Act” because no one could be heard above the rain. When it became slightly less intense, the youth choir began drumming, singing, and dancing... live entertainment. It was nice.

I was SO glad we didn’t stay at Legon! We would have been caught in a ridiculous downpour and been completely soaked with water. I was also glad I was with Sister Juliana, because some of my housemates didn’t even make it... they were about to leave the house when the rain started, and they didn’t want to walk through that storm. It would have sucked to have been stuck at the house all day in the rain. Also, since I was with Sister Julie, I didn’t have to worry about walking back... I rode in her car.

My bad choice: Walking around the front of the car.

When Sister Julie wanted to leave, we hurried across the dirt to where she had parked the car. I went as fast and as carefully as I could, wanting to escape the rain without falling into the mud. I have a very strong aversion to mud; you might say I loathe it with all of my being. When I tried to pass in front of the car, however, I didn’t realize how deep the puddle was, and my foot went into the mud! Horrible! I kind of freaked out a little, but Sister gave me a rag to let me clean it. It was still quite disgusting, though. Then, instead of driving away, she drove the car closer to the church, and we got out to eat the food some of the parishioners had brought to share. (I was like, “So you mean I became muddy for nothing?!”) It’s quite handy going to church events with nuns, because everyone treats them with special care, giving them free food and drinks, and as their guest, you also receive special treatment. I recommend it. The food was very good.

My third good choice: Staying with Sister Juliana.

I had considered just leaving to go back to the house after the picnic. There were a few things I wanted to get done before my trip. For some reason (probably the fact that I didn’t want to walk through the mud to get back to the house), I decided to stay with Sister Juliana as she went to pick up a few things with the kids at Shoprite and take them home. I’m sooo glad I did because when we were at the mall, we saw some tables set up where people were giving out samples of this type of evaporated milk mixed with syrup or tapioca and sugar. Sister Juliana recommended I try a taste, so I went up and asked for a sample. It tasted nice, but not spectacular.

However, as I stood next to the table with my tapioca and cream, I heard a little voice say, “Miss Kate!” I turned around, wondering which student it was, and to my delight I saw Eno, the little sister of my favorite student Ohemaa. Next to her was their even younger sister, Nana, and this girl with long hair and sunglasses I didn’t recognize. Eno gave me a hug, and as I looked at the mystery girl, I realized she was Ohemaa! I took her sunglasses off her face and sure enough, there were those beautiful brown eyes that I adore. At school, the dress code states that they all must have short, buzzed hair, but since it was the break Ohemaa had gotten hair extensions. She was wearing a white headband and a white shirt over jeans and jelly shoes. She looked so ridiculously adorable! Ohemaa is my favorite student. I call her my mini-me, because she reminds me soooo much of myself when I was her age. Of all my students, she is the one I miss the most now that school is out, so I was completely delighted to see her, and looking so adorable with her long hair, too! She gave me a huge hug and a huge smile. Seeing her at the mall made my day!

When we had finished shopping, we waited in the parking lot for about 30 minutes in a line of cars trying to exit, but once we were on the road, the traffic was minimal. We dropped off the three kids, hung out with their mother and their one-week-old baby sister for a little, then Sister Julie and I got back into the car. There was no traffic coming back, which was miraculous and wonderful. I’m strangely exhausted now. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, why I become so tired now. Maybe I’m getting old?

Anyway, it turned out to be a very lovely day, despite the rain. Happy Easter Monday!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Happy Easter!

I just spent my first Easter in Africa. It started last night, with a service at the church which was supposed to start at 7, but didn’t actually begin until about 7:45. It lasted until 11! It was ridiculously long. I had a bit of a headache, some stomach pains, and was feeling very tired, so sleepy that when I rested my head on my hand I fell asleep, so I didn’t really appreciate the extreme length. There was a lot of dancing and jubilation throughout, but since I was feeling so crappy, I didn’t participate fully. I watched the others as they danced and clapped and celebrated, but kept my joy (or lack thereof) to myself.

Something very strange and unexpected happened during the service. At the very end, the priest told everyone to wish each other a happy Easter. For about fifteen minutes, everyone went around hugging each other and wishing each other a happy Easter as the choir sang an upbeat tune. They did the same thing at Christmas and New Years, but for both of those I was feeling joyful, not sick, and less jaded, so I was as joyous as the rest. This time, I stood politely at my place, but if someone (like a nun I know or a stranger I didn’t) came up to hug me happy Easter, I hugged her back. I was, however, feeling quite lonely, like I didn’t really belong there.

I watched Sister Suzy go around the church hugging almost everyone a happy Easter, knowing she would never bother to greet me. However, much to my surprise... she danced over to the row in front of mine, pulled the plastic chair away that was in front of me, and gave me a huge hug and said, “Happy Easter, Kate!” I was so shocked but at the same time touched. Maybe she’s finally warming up to me?

Back at the house, we snacked on mini-donuts that Sister Constance had made in her room. I don’t know how one makes mini-donuts in one’s bedroom, but apparently that’s how they do in Africa. There were other snacks and drinks, but I didn’t partake. I was so unbelievably tired. I have no idea why. The rest of the house gathered around the television to watch a Ghanaian film. Ghanaian films are generally terrible, so I excused myself and went to bed. I was asleep by midnight.

I had considered going to church again in the morning, because it was Easter and I was curious to see how it was celebrated in Ghana, but yeah, I definitely didn’t get up in time. I slept in until 8! It felt lovely. When I got up, I went for a 50-minute walk, came back, showered, and went downstairs. Sister Anne was lounging on the couch in her pajamas watching the end of Free Willy on TV. I wanted to wait until Sister Juliana and everyone came back from church to eat, but by 10:30, I realized they must have already eaten before church... how could one go so long without eating?

When I had asked them what they do for Easter, they said they go to church and eat a good meal. The “good meal” was a sausage (a fried hot dog, more like) and cheese with the bread. I ate alone. Sister Julie didn’t come back from church until after 11! It had started at 7. She said I would have loved it because of all the dancing, but honestly, I was so churched out from the lengthy service the night before that I wasn’t too disappointed to have missed it.

For lunch we had rice, chicken, salad, and ice cream! The ice cream was a treat. After lunch, I went to the school to use the internet, but both my computer and the school’s wireless are having problems, so I didn’t accomplish very much before the internet stopped and my computer crashed. Lovely.

Frustrated with my computer and with how fat I’ve become, I took another long walk in the afternoon during which I reflected on how different this Easter was from the four Easters previous. Four Easters ago was the day I turned 19. I spent it alone at college working on homework for my Shakespeare class. The next year I was home for Easter, and spent the day partaking in traditional Easter activities with my family. Two years ago, I went to church at Notre Dame, and afterwards had a picnic lunch with two of my best friends at the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris. That night, we went out with some friends and drank a bottle of cheap wine at a Chinese restaurant. After dinner, the girls wanted to have an Easter egg hunt, and the boys wanted to go to a bar, so we compromised by having an Easter egg hunt inside a bar. That was definitely an unforgettable night, made even more unforgettable by the fact I met my French boyfriend Alex that night in the bar. He was fantastic. Oh, and last Easter, I spent the weekend in Philly/New Jersey/NYC. I went to church at my friend’s parish in the Bronx where she sang all the songs for the mass. I spent Easter afternoon wandering around Central Park by myself... also unforgettable.

Easter wasn’t as great as I thought it would be here. Sure, we did have wine with dinner tonight, which was a treat, but it was nothing spectacular. This Easter will be unforgettable, however, just by the fact I spent it in Africa. Now, I’ll only miss 4 more holidays away from home... Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and 4th of July. I’ll spend Labor Day in America!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My American Education

So I came to the school today to use the internet (no more cafés!). The key to the staff room wasn’t where it normally is, so I stopped by the office to ask for it. Sister Anne and Sister Juliana were working on something, and when I came back to drop off the key, Juliana asked if I were busy and if I wanted to help. Well, of course I didn’t really want to help – I wanted to go online to plan my vacation – but how could I say no?

They were making coupons for the canteen. You see, the students have a choice of either bringing their own lunch from home or eating at the school’s canteen (like a cafeteria, but with no selection). Those eating at the canteen need to buy a “coupon” for one cedi at the office. At lunchtime, they bring their coupons to the canteen and are given a bowl with the day’s food. Apparently, it was time to make new coupons, so at the office, they were busy printing, stamping, and signing them.

“You can help me laminate,” Sister Juliana said.

“I don’t know how,” I said.

“Okay, then. You can cut.”

There were 18 coupons on each sheet. I took a pair of scissors and began cutting away. Sister Anne and Sister Juliana were delighted with how fast I was cutting, particularly Sister Anne.

“Well, I’ve had a lot of practice,” I said as a joke.

“In America, they learn in nursery school,” Sister Juliana told Anne.

“Oh, I see,” said Sister Anne.

“Wait, don’t they learn in nursery school here?” I asked.

Juliana shook her head. “The children aren’t allowed to use scissors. They might hurt themselves.”

“What? I learned in preschool, and I never cut myself!”

“I guess we want to protect them more,” Juliana said, and shrugged. “The teachers do all the cutting for the children. If the children could use scissors, it would be less work for the teachers.” She paused for a moment with a thoughtful look on her face. “Although, the children aren’t allowed to use paste either, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.”

Africa! How ridiculous are you? You won’t even let your kids cut their own paper?

I sat in the office for two hours, cutting away. They were making, in total, I think 2000 coupons. I wasn’t quite finished cutting them all when my hand and wrist began to hurt. I didn’t say anything, determined to finish with my job. I paused for a moment to shake my wrist, and Juliana saw. She insisted that I stop right then if my hand was tired.

“But I’m not finished yet!”

“If you’re tired you need to stop. We can finish this later. But thank you so much!

“Well, at least I can do something good with my American education,” I said.

I stopped cutting. I went to use the internet, but my laptop was having problems. It’s getting old. I’m a bit worried about it, I’m not going to lie. I’ve had it for almost five years. I’m hoping it lasts another two years more, until I’m finished with grad school, but really... at least work until I’m home from Africa! So, I couldn’t plan my trip today as planned. What a bummer! I’ll try again tomorrow.

Okay, sorry this was kind of boring and lame. Now that I’m not in school, I feel much lonelier. I don’t have my students to keep me company all day, and I guess that my writing in here is my way of talking... to myself? I don’t know.

Anyway... Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Vacation started yesterday! I slept in yesterday and today... how glorious! I was sad to say goodbye to my students on Wednesday, though. I found out that the vacation lasts for three-and-a-half weeks! School doesn’t reopen until 4th May!

Since we’ll have such a long break, I’ve decided I have time to stay around and relax before setting off for my safari. There is no need to rush. I’m using this time to relax, to catch up on the correspondence I’ve been neglecting for the past few busy weeks, and to research where I want to go when I travel. I definitely want to see an elephant in the wild! That’s like my number one objective. I also hope to visit the monkey sanctuary and the place where you can sit on the back of a crocodile. That’s all in the north. I think I’ll have time to travel down the coast to Cape Coast, where they have castles and beaches and the “Canopy Walk” at Kakum National Park, which is a suspension bridge high above the jungle that you can walk across. There’s so much to see!

I’ll stay around Haatso for Easter. On Monday, apparently Ghanaians will have picnics celebrating Easter, and since I love picnics, I’ll stay around for that. On Tuesday morning, the parents and some of the students will come to the school to pick up their reports. If I can plan where I want to go by then, I’ll leave on Wednesday for my adventure. That’s the plan, anyway! Hopefully soon my blogs will soon be filled with elephants, monkeys, crocodiles, castles, and canopy walks. :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blessing in Disguise

There is a lovely expression that goes something like this: a blessing in disguise. We use it when something seemingly bad that happens turns out to be actually a good thing.

For example: On 10th March, our school had its “Open Day” in which the parents came to school to look through all their children’s books to check on their progress. I was a bit stressed before that day, having to go through all my kids’ English books making sure I had graded everything correctly. The day was good/bad... I loved being able to talk to the parents of the really good students to let them know how wonderful their kids were doing in school, but for the bad students, I had to tell their parents how they misbehaved all the time in class and didn’t do their homework. Whatever. Not having anything to do, the kids were a bit noisy, talking loudly in the classroom and kind of running around, but nothing too bad, I thought. They didn’t have any classes, and I didn’t expect them to sit silently at their desks the entire day. They’re only nine or ten! However, Sister Juliana came into the classroom and yelled at them for being too loud (her office is right next to my classroom).

The next day, she called me into her office and told me she had a bone to pick with me. Those are words you never want to hear from your boss. I sat down at her desk and she let me have it. She told me I can’t control the kids well enough, that they’re always making noise in the class. It’s because I don’t cane them, she said. I was a bit upset by this because for the first month or so that I taught them, yes, they were a little out of control, but a couple weeks prior to Open Day I had discovered a wonderful method of keeping them quiet during class. I make a sort of competition between rows to see which row is the quietest. When I raise my hand, the first row to all quietly raise their hands gets a point. At the end of the week, the every student in the row with the most points gets a prize. It works marvelously!

However, on Open Day, they weren’t sitting in their rows because no one was teaching, and they were being a bit loud. Sister Juliana said that since I can’t control them, I can’t be alone with them anymore. She decided to take Monsieur Kofi out of 4A and put him in 4B with me, and reassign Mr. Roland back to 4A. She said I’m too nice to the children, that I allow them to hug me and talk to me too much. I’m their teacher, not their babysitter, she said, so I shouldn’t be so personal with them.

When she told me this, I wanted to cry. I felt like I was making breakthroughs with some of the troubled and insecure students, and she told me I couldn’t talk to them anymore! Who would tell the the girls that they’re beautiful? Who would encourage the slower students in class that even though they didn’t get a very high grade on their homework, they’re still winners and they’ll do better next time?

Also, I felt so incompetent. I’m a horrible teacher and a horrible person!

The only difference I saw when Monsieur came to the class was that I didn’t have to mark the attendance register, because he took over. Very kind! And the kids were a bit quieter in between classes, because he threatened to cane the ones who made noise. I didn’t pay much heed to Sister Juliana’s admonitions that I shouldn’t love the children so much. I still talk to them all the time during breaks and in between classes and hug them when they need it. That hasn’t changed.

Blessing in disguise. Well, the class teachers have to prepare their class’s report cards. This means collecting all the grades from each subject, recording the marks onto a report form, adding all the scores together, figuring out who was first, second, third, etc., etc. It’s a ridiculous amount of work, but, since Monsieur Kofi is officially the class teacher, he did all the work so I didn’t have to! Luckily for me! I was already in over my head just recording the marks for English. It took so long to put together their English forms because some of them didn’t leave their homework books with me, and often they did the work in the wrong book (for example, writing a composition in a comprehension homework book).

Anyway, I was quite relieved that I wasn’t the official class teacher, because I barely managed to finish the English reports in time. If I also had to calculate all their scores and write their reports... I never would have been able to do it all in time.

Okay, so now I’m officially exhausted from not having slept enough the past two weeks or so since exams started. Today was “Our Day” in which the kids could do whatever they wanted. They all brought food to class to share with each other, and some of them brought food for me. One of my students even gave me a beautiful piece of purple cloth for me to make a dress! They all brought play clothes and changed so that they could run around without fear of dirtying their uniforms. Some of the kids put on a play of Cinderella... it was so cute! It reminded me so much of my childhood, when my friends, sisters, and I acted out plays all the time. I told them about how I was in a play of Cinderella when I was a little girl. I was one of the stepsisters. It was a good day, but it’s sad that I won’t see them again for a few weeks!

Saturday, April 4, 2009


They FINALLY fixed the internet at the school! It stopped working in mid-December when the phone company (I think it’s called Ghana Telecom) was bought out and they new company had to relay all the cables or something. Our internet service provider was supposed to set up a temporary thing like a jump drive that could be reloaded like a phone card and used on only one computer, but they couldn’t get it to work. So for the past three and a half months, I’ve had to go to an internet café to go online. It was quite inconvenient and became expensive after a while. Now, instead of having to walk fifteen minutes to pay 80 pesewas a minute to sit cramped at a little table with creepy Ghanaian men harassing me all the time, I can just walk the forty second walk from the house to the school and go online for free in the comfort of my own classroom. Fantastic!

I’m at the school right now. I’m supposed to be grading and recording the results of the exams and homework, but I’m much too distracted by this wonderful invention called the internet! I’m great at procrastinating, but somehow I always manage to get everything done in time, and I’m confident that putting together the kids’ reports will be no exception.

Tomorrow I’m going to a wedding. On Monday, the reports are due, I think, but I’m not sure. Wednesday is the last day of school. We have two-and-a-half weeks off for Easter, I think, or maybe longer, but again, I’m not sure. They forget to tell me these things sometimes. Anyway, I’ll be busy for the next few days until the reports are finished... see you then!