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. :)