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.”

Monday, May 4, 2009


Vacation was great! I had so many incredible experiences! Here’s a brief recap:

After exploring the castles at Cape Coast and Elmina, surviving the canopy walk at Kakum, and going on my first and second date with a Ghanaian man, I headed north. I spent 13 hours on a bus from Accra to Tamale and another two hours to Mole, where I went on my first African safari and saw more wild elephants than I ever dreamed of (and baboons, antelope, warthogs, monkeys, and crocodiles)! I went on a canoe ride in this little village; it was a genuine jungle cruise. I spent an incredible night under the stars in Larabanga, which ended all too soon with a 4AM bus ride back to Tamale and another 3-hour trotro to Bolgatanga. After depositing my luggage at a hotel, I took a shared taxi with my new friend and travel buddy, Molly, to a town called Paga. At Paga, I sat on the back of a live crocodile! I also had a tour of a traditional village compound with all the mud huts, which was interesting, and walked through a former slave camp, which was sad. The next day I left the hotel at 6AM, and traveled the whooooole day, finally arriving at my house in Haatso at 11:30 PM. I rested for a day at Haatso with the intention to visit a monkey sanctuary and waterfalls in the Volta Region. (I had planned to stop at the monkey sanctuary near Techiman after I went to Paga, but decided to go to the other monkey sanctuary in the Volta Region instead.) Again, my plans were changed... my bags were packed for my trip to Tafi Atome when I decided to save the monkey sanctuary for midterm break. You see, Sister Juliana’s younger sister was getting married on 2nd May, and I was invited to the wedding! On Friday, I rode with Fred and his sister Ruth to Homase, the village where Sister Juliana’s family lives. It was so wonderful to be with the Gyamfi family again! They’ve become my adopted extended family in Ghana. They all call me by my Ghanaian name, Yaa Asantewaa, and treat me as a special guest. On Saturday, they had the engagement ceremony in the morning, the wedding in the afternoon, and the reception in the evening. They also had second reception on Sunday morning, and afterwards, Fred dropped me off in Kumasi so I could visit the Cultural Center. When I had finished there, I took a trotro back to Accra and arrived at the convent last night at 8:45. I was asleep by 10. What a vacation! I fully intend on writing about the highlights in further detail when I have the time. If you want a sneak peek and a look at the pictures, I’ve posted pictures of my Safari and of Larabanga & Paga. Enjoy!

School reopened today. It was nice to see some of my students again. Only half of Class 4 showed up, however, so it was a bit quiet, which was probably a good way to ease back into this whole teaching business. I realized that I’m leaving in 12 weeks from today! That’s nothing! It means I have less than 60 days with my students. I only have 12 more weekends. There is still so much to do and see in Ghana before I leave!

Today was fine except that literally every teacher at school told me that I’ve grown fat! Every one! “Wow, Kate! You’ve gotten fat! Your vacation must have been good!” In Ghana, fat is considered beautiful, so they all meant it as a compliment, but all I could think about was how NOT a compliment that would be in the Western world. If my coworkers are surprised by how fat I’ve become in the past 3 & 1/2 weeks... what will my family and friends say when they see me after 9 & 1/2 months? So, I’ve resolved to lose weight in the remaining 12 weeks I have left in Ghana. This is weird because I haven’t bothered about my weight at all in about 3 years, and now I’m suddenly very self-conscious, and it sucks. My goal is to leave Ghana with everyone here telling me I’m too thin and everyone at home telling me I’m just right. We’ll see how this goes!

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading more about any of the above mentioned adventures... stay tuned! More to come!