Monday, May 14, 2012

Signing off.

I got the note from Travelocity. :) OOOOORRR, I am psychic. Meeting in
Morocco sounds lovely, I'm game.

It won't be too late to book upon my return home? I don't know if I
can come to the Cape because Erin and I have had a road trip planned
during August and I believe it's during the same time that the trip to
the Cape is planned.

I am very excited to see you and get to spend time hanging out with
you. It'll be good too, to live close to you and be able to spend a
lot of time together.

I've got a pit in my belly though at the thought of leaving. I taught
class 4 today and they did well (apostrophes). Now I will work on
packing, writing in my students' diaries, cleaning, etc. I can't tell
you how grateful I am to have Hannah here. She has offered to take
over diaries with my students, teaching Richmond for me, and, well, I
just feel good about leaving the place in her hands.

Well, I'm gonna finish this here application and submit it. I think
this will be my last message before I return. I love you. Call me if
you need anything.

I hope graduation went well. Can we eat dumplings when I come home? I
hope the weather is nice.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Less than a week.

You booked the tickets! I am SO happy for you and dadzilla! You'll have an amazing time and I hope you'll both come back slightly fat and joyful. Also, thanks for the essay notes. Is it horrible? I just can't seem to get into the groove.

On that note, no flight to VT for me? Am I not going?

Less than a week left and, for the record, I've already started crying. Lemuel wrote me a little note in class and, well, I'm just so full of adoration for that guy and, sigh. Ha! And I wonder why all the students think we're dating. :)

I just talked to the U. After some pestering, I've found the best spot for cell phone service in my room. Good to learn it now. OH! ON THAT NOTE, I JUST learned that it's super rude to wave to anyone with a left hand or accept an item with your left hand. Why did no one tell me this earlier? Bah. I just want to apologize to everyone I've ever interacted with before.

So, my last week. Ugh. I pick up all items from my seamstresses on Monday. Tomorrow I have open, so I anticipate some general hanging around. Sunday I'm...cough...going to church because I promised Langabel I would once before leaving and, hey, it's my last one. Then Beauty invited me over to teach me how to cook banku. Monday = class and packing. Tuesday = class and packing and, if possible, a secret trip to the beach during school hours. Wednesday = parties in class (I'm bringing honey for all the students to try, but it's a surprise) and then I'll leave the village and catch a trotro to the airport at 4 or so. Oh, wait, on Tuesday we're also having a s'more party.

The week has been fine, the students haven't showed up to class much and none of the teachers have been teaching, I've taught apostrophes though...and "Down by the bay" and the like. It's been good.

The 4 young white Canadians left, and one, their mentor, is left. I really like her from what I can tell. She's chatty and fun and when I say, "Try this!" she does. Plus, she likes fish. I've been eating an insane amount of banku and tilapia with peppers. MMM.

Well, I should get back to my application. I love you a lot. Please let me know asap if there's anything you'd like me to bring you.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I love you, but I don't want to go home yet.

Hi! Thanks!

Don't worry, I have been making the most of my time. Yesterday, I went to the beach with Elom and Beauty...drank palm wine, ate groundnuts and coconuts and bofruit, swam, read. It was perfect. I've been getting a little irritable because, well, you know how I get when there are lots of people around (plus, I've been jealous because they're getting lots of special treats!), but, at this moment, I've got nothing but joy inside.

Right now, I like that I don't get special treatment (in truth, there hasn't been enough room at the table to include me, so I've been eating outside with other folks) because it means I'm part of the family. :)

Also, right now they are all at the beach and it's been kind of a perfect day. I woke up before 6 and sat on the porch and read. My book is slightly lame, but it's growing on me. Sitting on the porch in the morning means I get to get in all of my morning greetings with ease and see everyone else as they're just starting out their days. The weather is still cool then and if I have a cup of coffee, some bread and eggs, WELL, tickle me pink. Then the white people went to Keke's house to see a baby outdooring which I skipped because I was making Naomi a birthday card (she's 13!), then I gave her the card and some gifts and she was shy and sweet and just perfect as always.

Then, I watched a movie with Stronggy in his room with Mustapha snuggled in between us. The movie was cheesy, but the company was perfect.

After, we went on a walk (me, Nico, Naomi, Emmanuel, Wisdom, Mustapha) to Angona (the place where we took you where you can see the village across the lake, only accessible by canoe) AND when we got there I saw Raabi (a student at the school, I think she's 5, she's so adorable I can barely handle it) across the way and greeted her and THEN, a boat came to take us across! I have never been across, neither had Naomi (and remember it's her birthday!), Nico has once. Then I got to see their village. It's an island. We walked around and chatted and then we were gifted some coconuts (mmm!) and came back. Sweating and parched we trudged back to the village and now I'm working on my application (well, will be soon). Tonight we'll have some birthday s'mores for Naomi (no one here knows what they are except that they've seen them on the television).

Perfect day.


I guess I can't be too sad for missing the lilacs when I'm so spoiled here.

Also, there was so much afiangbe! We gorged on the berries and brought some back to give to the white people. They've been a bit scared to try new things, so I'm not so sure they will go for it, but maybe. :)

Anyhow, the computer is being very strange right now so I'll finish while I can. I can ask a friend to pick me up for the airport too, I don't want to inconvenience anyone. Let me know and I can ask. :)

Love you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

All's cool, mom.

Whoah. How do you feel? Sad? Relieved? I love spring! I hope it's not over.

I've been given the a-okay for the letters. Send them to Ellie and Jessica asap, please. Don't forget to include a stamped envelope with the SCSU address there (I love you).

I'm back in the village and all is well. After Burkina I flew into Ghana and visited the slave forts in Cape Coast (wait, I emailed you there already I think), then went to the beach town of Busua and lounged for a stretch. The owner of the only internet cafe in town was on holiday so there was no internet there.

In the town (which is a beach town like many other places, full of beer, surfers, and rastafarians) I took a surf lesson (I am still awful. Really awful. Like, I feel kind of guilty for being so awful because my instructors increasingly get desperate to try to, somehow, improve my performance, then I just fall off the board and hit my head/bottom/face/leg/etc.) and walked to a couple of nearby villages. I ran into two fellows that Dima and I met on the boat trip up North so hung out with them. Their company was most welcome. I drank a lot of beer and wine.

I came back last night and Keke literally knocked me on the ground with a running/jumping hug. I am completely obsessed with her. She missed me. I missed her. And Nicholas was there and I saw tons of students today and in Kasseh when I arrived and, well, I'm just feeling awfully lucky and loved.

Dima leaves tomorrow. I'm glad it's not me yet though I know my time is coming soon. Also, there are currently 5 new white people in my house. College students from Canada doing some program called Intercordia, 4 of them will be going to nearby villages to teach there and one will be staying here for 3 months. It'll be good that the school is not volunteerless, but it's also crazy to have so many bufonos around. I took them around the school and felt like the head of a white gang as they followed behind.

Today I will visit seamstress and Saturday I'm going to the beach with Elom and Beauty. School starts on Monday though, as it's the first week, I don't anticipate high attendance.

The fellows from Busua said they're coming to visit the village next week and stay at Ada Foah, so I think I'll sneak away for an extra beach day there too.

Oof, I'm going to cry like a crazy person when I leave. Can you pick me up from the airport?

Is there rhubarb in Minnesota? Can we eat at Charlie's Cafe and go for bicycle rides?

Love you!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Serious weakness for African rastas. Oof-duh.

Hi! I didn't name her! She had the name before I got her. I just don't want to create confusion in the world. Plus, she would be a lovely representative for the Mayan people (any people, really). I can't wait to see her.

On that note, HI! I am in Ghana now and glad to be back. It's hot, of course, but unlike Burkina, it's not so hot that I wake up in the night a lot drenched in sweat and parched. I am in Cape Coast. This is where Obama first visited upon his presidency. Needless to say, much like the rest of Ghana, they love him/Americans here...except maybe moreso. I would hate to be in Ghana if he loses the next election. It's good, you know, to have a whole continent behind you. Also, I get a bit giddy at the fact that Canadians sometimes fib and pretend to be American unlike it usually is. Also, overjoyed at the English. Seriously, no one speaks English in Burkina. No one at all.

So, Cape Coast is the site of several forts/castles that were used in the slave trade. The people were rounded up by the area chiefs from surrounding areas (stretching North to BF) then brought to the forts here and kept in horrid conditions for weeks to months before a boat arrived to take them to Brazil (the most slaves from West Africa were sent there, did you know that?), the Caribbean (the second most), or the US (the least, can you believe it?). I did a couple tours this morning. It was heartbreaking and educational. I realized throughout the tour that I've actually received a pretty good basic education on the slave trade from grade school. Compared to the Ghanaians I've known here, I would have been an expert on slavery in grade 6.

Tomorrow I shall go on to Busua to spend a couple of days drinking beer and surfing (surfing BEFORE drinking, I know...). Then, back to the village to check on the progress of my seamstress (did I tell you I found an AMAZING one? She's the sister of Ernest, the science/maths teacher, however, he's a flake so it's tricky trying to do things with her as she's located in the middle of nowhere).

Also, mom, have I told you my current fear? I might want to...teach more than just English. Like, be a regular grade school teacher. This desire is rooted in my new favorite love Don't be shocked. It's just, at the primary level (not the nonsense you teach, don't worry that stuff is WAY beyond my interest level :) ) it's SO cool and fun and interesting. So, there's that. SCSU doesn't have a Master's in that though (from what I can tell), wait...does it even exist? Probably does. Probably ought to do some research.

Oh! Please wait until I give you the a-okay before sending the reference forms out, okay? I'm just double-asking my writers.

So, all is well, solidly. It's exactly 3 weeks until my arrival back. Whoah.

Hope the weather there stays nice and that you gave Calvin some birthday hugs for me. Also, have you booked my East Coast trip?

Love you!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I have enough sand in my nose to build a castle.

Hi Mom, This keyboard is not laid out like any I have seen before!
Also, I can't find a period! Prepare for a lot of exclamation marks!

I am quite happy to have received your emails, sometimes you get a bit lax about responding, so I always wonder! I am in Ouagadougou! Remember how we thought Tamale was hot? Child's play! I love that you read about the camel ride as being pulverising to the behind! Mostly, the wooden seat was pulverising for my thighs!

I don't know if words can explain how annoying this keyboard is!

So, yes, though rumors abounded about the unrest in the Sahel due to the Tuareg unrest/rebellion in Mali. Wait, look at that, I just found the period! Anyhow, though deserted (the local kids said that the last white folks they saw were a couple weeks ago in a place the internet refers to as "The town has modernized a lot and is getting timbuktu-ified with tourists. The guides are pests.") the only unsafe feeling I had was from my guide and his attempts to constantly touch me. Actually, that's a lie. I was conpletely terrified on the bus ride North, though, let it be clear that it was only in my head and there was nothing on the trip to elicit my fears. The ride was nice, a bit boring really, as we were just trekking through desert, there wasn't much to see. As I rode the camel (boy was he irritable!) the guide walked (boy was he irritating!) and the camel boy (who was lovely, but had an utterly unprounouncable name) rode on the back of the camel. We slept on mats on top of a dune. The second day we went on to a further little mango grove, then back to Gorom. The guide ditched me and camel boy, but I was grateful. Also, camel boy spoke only limited French so it was nice and quiet. I spent the night in, from what my guide and I could find, the only operational lodging in Gorom. It was like a prison cell, except they didn't even make any attempt to remove the cockroach carcasses, and MY GOD hot. What I learned in Gorom is that sometimes a breeze isn't a nice thing. Sometimes it's like you're sitting in a sauna (without the luxury of being able to strip down to your skivvies) and a BLAZE OF FIRE comes rushing at you. Ooof. Definitely the hottest place I've ever been.

A good learning experience though, I saw Tuaregs. They look just like Arabs. Are they (historically, that is)? They don't ride camels, really. They ride motorbikes like everyone else, or take the bus, you know? Normal stuff. I met fulani (my guide) people and Bella (camel boy) as well. The Tuaregs and Fulani used to hold the Bellas as slaves. Though it's now illegal, the Bellas are still in the lowest class and considerably less wealthy. It's like the US in that way - the light skinned people use and abuse the dark skinned people and still now the repercussions of the subjugation are felt.

So, yes, now I am in Ouaga, have been fending off consistent and annoying shouts of "La Blanche!!!!!!!!!!!" all day. It's exhausting. I could never live here.

I miss Ghana. The people there are more well behaved (people here smoke and drink!) and love white people more (here people are less in love with white people, they "tolerate" white people). Plus, French is so difficult and I am completely inept.

Tomorrow I fly back, via Air Burkina. Then I plan to go to Cape Coast to see the Forts and do some surfing. Oop, time is up!

You never told me why you spell Maya incorrectly. Will you do that when I have children?

I love you so much!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Last one before leaving the country.

Hi Mom!

How are you?

Everything is fine here. Dad said you were worried. I am in Bolgatanga, I hear it's 45 minutes from the border so I'll be heading there tomorrow. The boat trip up the Volta was lovely. Dima and I splurged to get a cabin and, after a couple hours of effort, we got the last one. It was mangy and smelled awful, but, compared to everyone else sleeping on the deck, it was luxury. I had beer and coffee and nutella and drove the boat for exactly 2 seconds before getting shooed away. Also, snuck to the roof of the boat and saw 6 potential UFOs (or satellites, maybe) and one shooting star. Last night we spent in Yeji and today spent 10 hours travelling by trotro to arrive here.

I don't know how things will go in BF. Some people who just came from there said that the Tuareg rebellion in Mali is also strong in BF and, in the region I want to ride my camel, apparently there are thousands of refugees arriving daily so, rumors say that the entire area may be a closed military zone. I hope not sincerely, of course, and, don't worry, I'm not a foolish girl.

Anyhow, love you desperately and, holy cow, I'll be home in less than a month.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I suck at riding bicycles in Ghana.

Hi Mom!

Microscopy went well. I am worried whether or not it shall actually be
put to use because Ernest is under the impression that the kids will
not be able to understand. Silly, really, because you can teach almost
anything to a way that kids can understand, you just have to make it
small. I told him he must do it before I leave because, if not, I'm
sure it shan't happen.

Like I said before, there are so many unused resources here, just
looking at the spare room in my house and you can find so many neat
things donated by volunteers that are sitting there, gathering dust.
You know how you said Rebecca seemed a little disillusioned with the
school scene when she left Gabon, I wonder if I shall feel the same
leaving here.

Yes, boat trip...well, I hope. I had thought Dima made the
reservations, but today she said she hasn't yet and she might be going
on a roadtrip with Godwin instead. I'm disappointed, of course, but
hopeful. Either way, I'll do it on my own. The trip is 3 days, from
Akosombo Yeji, then I'd zoom on to Tamale again, then North to
Ougadougou. Fingers crossed, of course. :)

I think this was my first Easter without chocolate. Lemuel brought me
a huge bag of mangoes, so I wasn't suffering at all though. The day
was spent running races, hunting for afienga berries, reading, and, my
new favorite hobby, watching Merlin, a British TV show on DVD. Within
the village we have seasons 2-6. I am currently borrowing season 3
from Keke and season 2 from Nicholas' uncle.

Keke has been on it lately. She nearly killed me when I turned the TV
off the other day to teach microscopy, hugged me the day after, tried
to cane me a day later, and now is taking me to her seamstress. She's
terrifying and I adore her. I'm also pleased to hear that I'm in her
"People I Like" circle. I've learned that she dislikes many people. On
the other hand, Mustafa has made a little turnaround. His English
suddenly got loads better, he hasn't broken anything in ages, and he
keeps asking me to help him with writing. So, he sits, silently, and
we write together. It's mind blowing. I'm feeling solidly infatuated
with him. I have a recording of him singing the Ghana national anthem,
it's SO cute I want to squeal.

It's 36 days, do you know that? I'm already feeling the pangs of
imminent depression. I'm really, really going to miss it here. The
kids, the teachers, the housemates.

On that note, we have a temporary new housemate. Solange, she's from
Switzerland and gradated high school there, but then her Togolese
parents shipped her here to attend school and learn English. The whole
situation sounds a bit strange, but she's here and nice company. Plus,
she believes in evolution and, unlike me who's so careful not to
offend, she's been calling everyone fools for not believing. I
silently praise her.

Oh, yes, and guess what mom? Per some people recently, I learned that
my butt is not big like African ones because you bathed me incorrectly
as a baby. Also, ahem, that is why I am "not fit like an African." The
girl who said this positively got me irked so I challenged her to a.
tell me how she came across the information about my physical
abilities and b. duel with push ups. She couldn't do even one push up,
but still insisted that I just don't understand physical strength
because I am too weak to comprehend. Gah.

I've become completely obsessed with buying fabrics lately upon the
realization that I can't buy them at home. So I've had to budget
myself at the market. Currently I've got items being made at 4
different seamstresses. Lush, eh?

I'm sorry you didn't see Karl on Easter. He's a bit of an airhead
about telling people when/where/how he'll be coming places.

As for visiting Rebecca, just check with her. I asked her briefly, and
she said that she doesn't get out of school until late, so bear that
in mind. Also, be sure it doesn't conflict with dad's planned trips
(Did you book the East Coast and Austria? If not, please do.) so I can
run the restaurant.

Also, if I were to hypothetically smuggle seeds to the U.S. (not that
I would) would I dry them first?

I miss you and love you. Thank you so much for the microscopy help. I
wish you were here to teach it for me, I'm not so savvy and can't get
many things to work, but, I try.

Ps: Last day of exams today, hooray! That said, I have to be marking
compositions from the 4th graders. Time, perhaps, to put a beer in the

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I want exams to be over so I can stop failing people.

Hi Mom,

I’m guessing the jaw pain is stress related. Clenching, you know? You should do some yoga and/or meditation.

Hooray Opera! It can be my birthday and Christmas present, eh? :)

Do you spell Maya incorrectly on purpose? Are you trying to change her name? We have had water NONSTOP for two days. It’s obscene.

Also, I think the rainy season has officially made its debut. We’ve had some awesome rains both yesterday and today. Unfortunately, one of the major rains occurred during exams while the students were in the primary building (see the photo from the beginning of the blog) and so the students got soaked and moved and there was rampant cheating and LORDY me, it was loud.

Also related, though not as dramatic. Twice in the past day a frog has lept on my foot while walking. Both times I shouted, “Jesus!” thereby leading several people to the assumption that I have allowed Jesus into my heart. I’ve argued to the contrary, but they’re unconvinced.

Approximately one million of my students just failed their exams. Big time ugh.

Of the 6 million that did not fail, approximately 4 million of them cheated. Are exams always this hard?

I have 4 beers stored under my desk to be put in the fridge and consumed in extreme need (as drinking beer is moderately frowned upon) and I’ve put two in.

On the plus, the microscope project is fun. I wish I had discovered them earlier too. There are so many things that people/organizations have donated to the school  and/or village that are unused. I’m sure whoever provided the microscopes thought, “Wow! Those African kids are going to love these!” and that would be true if anyone actually put them to use, but, no. They’ve sat on a shelf gathering dust for who knows how long? As I said to Nicholas, without knowledge and inspiration to use them, they’re no more useful than a stack of wood. (Somehow from this statement he decided that I had said that without use they would turn into a stack of wood, so there was about 15 minutes of solid confusion following this comment.)

On Saturday Lemuel and Ernest (science teacher) will be coming over to learn about microscopes. They have never even seen a microscope before and, from what I can gather, don’t know what it is or is used for. They’re excited though. Everyone is. With some students we’ve been busily making “slides” with laminating paper and examining them. We have: 4 kinds of soil, 5 kinds of hair (Caucasian, African, fake, goat, cat), one ant, one squished spider, one spider exoskeleton, one butterfly wing, my blood, 2 flower petals and one leaf, spider web, onion skin. That might be all so far. I’m trying to fashion my student Naomi into being the expert. I want her to be a scientist because a. she’s got the right sort of thoughtful personality, b. she bombed her English exam, and c. this area is in desperate need of a good scientist. She ran down a goat to get the goat hair (it was hilarious, as you can imagine) and, don’t ask me how, but she’s the one who got the butterfly wing.

Also, can you please send me information about the basics of cell stuff and about anything interesting to note about the slides we’ve made so far?

Seriously though, the knowledge of science here sucks. Everyone teases me for “believing in science” and they largely suspect that scientists lie and that the true in science (as with everything) is only to be found in the Bible and tradition. Some things that make me crazy:

1.      1.  A student of mine, Christopher, who I generally like a lot (though he also bombed his English exam) lives in the boarding house. He broke his wrist (I think) playing football and it was HUGELY swollen. I asked him if he went to the doctor and he said, “No, it’s a fracture. I saw a twin.” Insert my confusion here. Apparently, in Ghana, twins (like, you know, people born from the same lady at the same time) are considered to be good at healing fractures by placing their hands on the injury or some such nonsense. Flabberghasted I recommended going to the doctor as well and was met with, “But, Madam, it’s our culture.” This was a week ago. He’s still swollen. Also, related to this, I said, “He needs ice” when I saw it, largely spoken to myself, and the students there said, “But, Madam, we’re in a village. There is no ice.” Which I know and is true and that’s why I didn’t actually say it with any intention, but that’s something I didn’t really even consider that we don’t have here.
2.No one here believes in evolution. There is a serious belief that the world was created in 6 days and that Adam and Eve were, in fact, the first two humans, fashioned from clay. Even the science teacher for senior high believes as much. I argued with him about evolution and said that I’d never met a scientist before who didn’t believe in evolution and we got into a bit of a shouting match. He’s still teaching the students nonsense. I’m still trying to get my way.

You know, it’s a good thing you’re my mom because any other sort of mom wouldn’t be so helpful when I ramble on in my hypochondriac ways. That said, I am pretty sure it’s not a problem to not have my period while I’m outside of the U.S., but WHY is it so? I eat enough here, I ate enough in Central America and still, BAM, no period, but immediately when I return to the U.S. it does too.

In other news, I’m studying French in preparation for BF. I’m wondering if it will be really rainy while I’m there and, if so, will a 3 day camel trip even be possible? We’ll see, I guess.

Well, I love you still.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

I met a woman named Modest on Tuesday, less funny than Hilarious (oh! a pun!) but still, funny.

Hi Mom!

I was thinking. You know what would be lovely, season tickets to the opera. J So, I was, uh, wondering, if, uh, maybe they’re available you could check it out. You and dad and I could go, eh? As of now, of course, I have no fall plans so, I’m game for anything. Just something to check out because the cheap ones get snapped up quickly. So, yes.

Were you able to print the pictures?

Today Lemuel had a headache and was feeling sickly. I said I could bring him some Advil, “An American medicine” and, swear to god, he looked at me a bit skeptically and asked, “Are you sure it will work on a strong African like me?”

Which leads me to the next part of my email (also, the Advil worked, he was visibly shocked):


1.       We have weak bones. Legitimately there is agreement that our bones are not strong and flexible.

2.       From that they believe that we are incapable of lifting heavy things. If given the choice of asking an 8-year- old African child to help lift something or me, the child is always summoned.

3.       Additionally, we do not have strong blood. They’re always encouraging me to drink/eat different things to help strengthen my blood.

4.       We can’t ride bicycles. Whenever my students see me do it they roar with applause.

5.       We can weed. Can’t wash clothing. Can’t wash dishes. I spoke to Lemuel about this and he said he thinks they think so because they assume we have machines to do all these things so that we are no longer able to perform the tasks.

6.       For some reason they don’t entirely understand, our skin turns red in the sunshine. There is little comprehension of why this happens or what it means, but I am often encouraged to leave the sun so I don’t turn red.

7.       Another mystery to them is how my hair strangely turns brown after I bath. Then changes again to blonde after a while. They don’t understand this.

8.       We are all the same. I swear, every week I get at least one person who says, “Whoah, you and Dima are not alike at all!” I smile, unsure of how to respond and they look at me expectantly. Awkwardly I say something like, “Oh! Okay!” Of course we’re different, by golly, we’re from entirely different countries (continents even), we’re different ages, different socio-economic backgrounds, etc. We’re different, solidly.

In other major news, Precious left the school. She’s taken a temp job doing voter registration because apparently the pay was too good to pass up. Now the students have no teacher for two of their classes though. It’s a bit sad to see her go, but I’m not terribly affected to be honest. If Josephine left too it would be weirder. I need to have African girlfriends…or, at least one. I hang out with too many men.

After a solid 7-9 days without water, it came last night at 11. I mopped and cleaned like a crazy lady in the night. God, it’s good to have it back.

In other dramatic events, Nicholas (who’s currently obsessed with Britney Spears…a benefit only in that his obsession with Amy Winehouse has been muted) and Naomi lost my iPod. I was really disappointed in them. I didn’t yell though, didn’t raise my voice. Told them they needed to get it back to me and that I was upset and disappointed. I learned later that they both cried after, as well as two other students in commiseration. Then, they skipped school to search for it. And consulted a fetish priest. Turns out Godwin found it on the table and gave it back to me later. Still, days later, complete stranger children are coming up to me to ask about it. They are all very relieved about it.

On that note, I was thinking, if I were to write a novel about my times here I would call it something like:



That said, my kids have actually been really good lately. Like, really good. I don’t know what happened, but I believe we’ve come to an understanding. Finals are next week and a little the week after. Then, Dima and I will go on a boat trip (hopefully) and I on to BF.

Hooray! Also, I just learned that Easter is this weekend. Is that true? If so, Happy Easter! I hope you eat cake. Mmm.

Anyhow, how are you? Why have you not emailed me? What’s up? How’s school? How are the taxes going? I liked your Ghana emails.

Well, love you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I am pretty sure my neighbors are raising their cats as food. The kittens that turn to adults disappear.

Hi Mom!

Maya caught a bat?! Don’t let her get rabies. She’s one tough booger, my littlest love. The tulips are up? Good golly! Also, ha! Dad told me you were worried about my plans for the 3 day camel trip. I laughed and said, “I love that she is not worried about me journeying to Burkina Faso, but IS worried about back pain from camel riding.” I think it means you’ve come to trust me and my wayward ways. True or false? I paid $665/month. Poor Lynn’s son. He was into hitching rides on trains to travel to protests. Plus, nonmonogamous relationships.

Sorry it’s been so long, but I’ve been legitimately busy with schoolwork and the like. How are you? Everything is fine here. It’s hot as heck, como siempre and there’s no water, also como siempre. Some things have changed though including:

1.       My sandals have been fixed! My FABULOUS student John (1/2 of the pair of smartie boy twins John and Johnson) patched ‘em up something wonderful.

2.       I miss Maya with an intense desperation new to me. I’ve been dreaming both about her and about other cute and cuddly things.

3.       I’ve been very into BOTH grade 4 and 5 this week.

a.       Grade 5 finished their book report to some “eh” results, but, by golly we did it. As a reward they got to make bookmarks which I laminated. Lawer decorated his with “I love Madam Nix,” Nicholas stressed out over his for days, the girls all covered theirs with flowers, and John (see above), the cheeky devil included the school logo on one side and, ahem, a small picture of a white woman in a bra on the other side. I admire his decision. J

b.      Grade 4 finished making their books (also thank god). On Wednesday I had been prepping them that we would be having 25 guests come to class. The students would each get one guest to themselves and they would first read their story and then, with the help of their guest, make a small book. The kids were dying of curiosity and I was badgered with questions such as, “Madam, are they white people?” “Madam, are they teachers?” “Are they from the village?” “Are they from your country?” etc. I did not tell them. Precious egged them on, telling them they must tidy the room for the guests and, “The guests just called to say their plane landed.” The guests were…kids from KG1, preschool. J I gathered all the babies with me, walked them to the classroom and the students had a righteous laugh. They made the books and the babies are cherishing them. They’re everywhere with them and I’ve accidentally acquired a small mob of MAJOR fans. Adorable.

                                                               i.      Other Grade 4 news: I’ve acquired myself two project students. One, Prosper, is too smart for his own good. He’s taken to writing stories for me to edit. His most recent one, created over the span of 3 days is a solid 17 handwritten pages and details the story of a mouse and her babies and a snake and her babies and their difficulties because they both keep eating each other. Second, Richmond, who is in grade 4 and, well, I asked him to write every word he could think of that he knew and he finished with: Richmond, ICT, RME, book, cat, is, so. And that was all. He doesn’t really have a good grasp of the alphabet and, honestly, has no chance of passing grade 4. He should not be in grade 4. He should be in grade 1 and I think the school is foolish for forcing him to associate with his friends in age versus his academic rivals, but, heck. So, I’m teaching him words now and he’s in a fever to learn. He wants to have class with me after school for one hour and in the evening for one hour. I’m trying to cut down, but he’s really, really interested in learning and I can’t say no to that. So, projects. Glad to be here. J

4.       Solidly stoked for break in Burkina. Not that I’ve yet done any research or anything productive like that, but, emotionally, I’m there. On that note, apparently, I’m done teaching for the term. Next week is “revisions” which means studying for the finals and the week after is finals. HOW TIME FLIES. On that note, 55 days until I leave. I’m pretty sad, but it’s still a number big enough that I’m not in too big of a panic.

5.       My vomit count holds at 3, which I think means I’ve turned African.

6.       Wanna know one of my new favorite things about Ghanaians? The words they use like, even from the little, little ones: vernacular (“Madam, Philo is speaking vernacular!”), flattulate (solidly unsure how to spell it) (*Snicker* “Madam, Lawer flattulated!”), buttocks, urinate, mucus. I’m also a 12 year old that I secretly giggle every time they use these words.

7.       OH! In other news, Keke was sick for 2 days and the whole world felt wrong. Random students cooked and things, but the vibe was all off without her sassy ways. I jumped and hugged her when she came back.

8.       I have to go to Accra tomorrow to get my passport back. I tried to go today, but after a late moto, flat tire, then complete engine failure I decided to call it quits.

I think that’s about all that’s going on in the hood. Oh, also, got into too many discussions about religion. Ghanaians are all nice, and welcoming, and lovely…just until you mention atheism, good golly, I’d prefer back surgery to more religious talk.

Love you,

Tell me all about the tulips.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My mother's "Final Thoughts for the Blog"

(She's wonderful, my mother.)

What I enjoyed most in Ghana:
·     Spending time with Nix.

·     The Children

·     Village life.

·     Mole National park

·     The market

·     Keke¹s cooking

·     Ada Fao

·     Lizards

·     Star beer

What I enjoyed least
·     Hard mattresses

·     Unremitting heat

·     Thrash

·     Lack of running water

My hopes for the people of Ghana re that they:
·     Will complete the village school and library

·     Provide affordable education for all children

·     Protect the environment

·     Replant trees

·     Find ways to manage thrash

·     Invest in clean drinking water

·     Adopt effective malaria control measures

·     Use solar-powered stoves instead of charcoal for cooking

·     Pave the road from Tamale to Mole

From My Mom...

My Spring Break Trip

During my spring break I traveled to Ghana to visit Nix and reassure myself
that all was well. Getting ready for the trip while working full time and
chairing the Biology Department was challenging. I hesitated because I did
not want to cut class.  The result was that I submitted my visa application
at the last minute and agonized over getting approval for days before my
departure.  I had to make an appointment at St. Louis Park for the
compulsory yellow fever vaccination and the malaria preventive medications.
While at the Travel Clinic I got three other shots for good measure.  I was
also waiting for the delivery of the books that I ordered from Amazon for
Dima.  In the end everything clicked except for one of the books. 

On March
2, I was on the overnight KLM flight to Amsterdam.  After a few hours delay
I boarded the plane to Accra.  The plane arrived in Accra at 9PM local time,
but we spent another hour waiting in line to have our passports and luggage
checked.  At first I did not spot Nix at the airport; she was waiting just
outside the terminal.  We spent the night at Afya Village Hotel. 

The next morning we boarded a tro-tro van and headed out to her village.
The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the teacher¹s house was the
children. They were lounging and watching TV in the living room.  Several of
them came up to Nix and greeted her warmly.  There was one adorable 2
year-old boy who had only a shirt on.  We unpacked the games and candies I
brought along and shared them with the children.

Nix informed me that there was no running water and we would have to use the
water from the barrel in her bathroom to bathe etc until the flow resumed.
In the afternoon we took a walk through the village and out to a couple of
lakes nearby.  I was grateful that we had waited until the temperature
dropped a bit. Even so, it was quite hot. The houses in the village are
either built out of cement or mud.  The mud dwellings have thatched roofs
and a dirt floor.  Chickens, goats and sheep wander around freely in the
village.  There is rubbish scattered everywhere.  At the lake we spotted,
egrets, herons, hawks and vultures.  We examined a termite mound as we
walked along and picked blackberries.  One of the boys caught a colorful
striped grasshopper.  He let it go unharmed after Nix photographed it. We
came across a few baobab trees as we continued toward a smaller, more
picturesque pond.  By then I was getting a little anxious because I did not
want to return in the dark.  However, we made it back in good time and were
served a fine supper the Keke prepared.

I slept well that night.

Over the next few days:
·     We went to the market at Kasseh.

·     Purchased colorful fabric for matching outfits for Heinrich and I.

·     Witnessed the marching celebration on Independence day.

·     Returned to Accra for an overnight stay at Byblos hotel in the
Lebanese district.

·     Flew to Tamale in the North.

·     Took what is alternately described as the ³bus ride from hell² or an
³African adventure² from Tamale to Mole National Park.

·     Spent two nights at Mole Motel and went on walking and riding safaris
while there.

·     Saw elephants, baboons, crocodiles, antelopes, warthogs up close.

·     Sampled Star beer each night of our stay.

·     Decided against visiting the famous mosque at Larabanga.

·     Returned to Tamale by taxi.

·     Arrived covered by red dust.

·     Cleaned up at Gariba hotel.

·     Flew back to Accra in the morning.

·     Traveled to the village by taxi and tro-tro where a funeral was in
full swing.

·     Ate fufu for supper.

·     Relaxed at the beautiful beach in Ada Fao

My impressions of Ghana are the following:
·     The people are friendly, helpful, good looking and strong.

·     Both adults and children appear healthy and adequately nourished.

·     Outside of the capital there are very few whites.

·     The climate is hot; it barely cools down at night.

·     In the South the landscape is flat with alternating scrub and

·     Long-horned cattle graze in the open pastures.

·     It is more wooded in the North, but trees are being cut and converted
to charcoal at an alarming rate.

·     Termite mounds are everywhere.  The taller ones resemble Gothic

·     Large wild animals are not encountered outside of the game preserves.

·     Traditional villages look very picturesque but the lives of the people
living in them are neither easy nor comfortable.

·     Funerals are big, noisy, expensive, 3-day affairs.

·     Children are required to do a lot of fetching and work on farms during
school holidays.

·     Markets are exciting and colorful venues where women, children and men
sell everything from sunglasses to boiled eggs that they carry around piled
up on trays posed on their heads.  Babies are strapped to the women¹s backs.
The women wear long, beautiful, close fitting dresses at the market.

·     Both men and women wear their hair short.  Long locks, if present,
consist of artificial hair that is woven into the short curly strands of the
wearer during a lengthy, painful session at the hair dresser.

·     You can tell young boys and girls apart by the fact that, in addition
to dresses, girls have their ears pierced.  Other piercings and tattoos are

·     Women may expose their breasts somewhat, but never their midriff or

·     Buses and other modes of transportation make travel within the country
fairly rapid and inexpensive. However, there is no air-conditioning or
toilets on the bus. Even a long, hot, smelly, uncomfortable bus ride can be
bearable with the right companion at your side.

·     Ghanaian cooking is spicy and flavorful.  Eggs, chicken, cassawa,
rice, beans and soft bread are common staples
Though I did not enjoy the heat, if you asked me whether I would go to Ghana
again, I would say, yes, in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Doing Actual Work is Boring.

Hi Mom,

You did not write my blog entry yet. Don't forget!

Totally strange. It's been super hot here. Like, especially super hot.

Apparently clay also gives you constipation (extra funny because no
Ghanaian I know knows the English word for constipation so every
discussion also includes an enactment). But, weird about the minerals.
I hear it's a hit especially with pregnant ladies.

The worst thing about the story (which I neglected to remember until
today) is that the students will be copying it into story books and,
ahem, drawing pictures to go along with the words...then, they will
read their stories to the nursery students. Lord help me. Did I
mention that the student who wrote it is my tiniest student of all and
good golly adorable?

How was the neighborhood meeting?

I got a tour of Lemuel's farm today. I hope to be gorging on his
watermelons in a month or so. The entire student base thinks we're
shagging. Also, most of the folks in his village. I was trying to be
extra flirty to embarass him more. He's very tolerant though
"accidentally" forgot to show me which house is his. I'm trying not to
take it personal. He did tell me recently that I was "created, not
born" which, aside from the religious implications, seems a nice

I've been typing up final examinations. It's dullsville.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Welcome back to America!

Editors note (read, me): I told my mom that she should write an entry for my blog about her trip and impressions. Once she does that, I'll post it, so you'll hear nothing of it until then!

On another note, remember when I asked my mom about the change in my sweat smell? Because the smell of sweat is caused by bacteria and I was wondering if my sweat smelled like Africans because of my change of diet or because of African armpit bacteria. Well, she had an answer for me - apparently, she believes it's the latter option. My American armpit bacteria have been annihilated by the African armpit bacteria and now the newcomers have settled in and changed the entire scent scheme. Needless to say, I'm feeling kind of guilty. My poor little American bacteria had no desire to come here, then I force them into it and BAM, they're shoved aside, no ceremony to the loss. On the plus, apparently bacteria can hibernate for a long time, so maybe they're just hibernating until I get back home.

That said, here's my email to my mom.

Hi Mom!

I shall anxiously await your email to add to the blog. :) I do not look forward to the flight home. That said, it was really wonderful seeing you and I'm forever grateful that a. you're largely tolerant of me and b. that you're my mom.

Want to know the WEIRDEST thing I've learned about Ghanaians? So, yesterday Mustafa (our cook's son, he's a complete little firecracker who breaks everything he touches, but looks adorable and giggles all the while) came in the house with a white mouth and sticks out his tongue to show Stronggy and I. I ask what it is and Stronggy tells me that it's aielo. Aielo is...processed clay. Like from the ground white clay. And Ghanaians eat it. Dumbfounded I pressed him, "Like dirt? Why in the world would adults eat dirt?" He explains that it tastes/smells like it smells right after a rain (you know that nice smell, right?) and people like that. So, anyhow, today I went to the market and bought some. While Precious was getting her hair done I sampled it (under the careful watch of half a dozen women), it's dirt. Grimy, dirty dirt. Ghanaians eat dirt. Not all Ghanaians mind you, but some. I don't know how to come to terms with it.

In other news (tragic news!) my flip flops of 3+ years have just broken. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I was in fact pretty saddened by the loss.

In other other news (also on the Ghanaians are strange front) I got the stories written by the 4th graders today. They're kind of boring largely, with a few really neat ones and, this one, which, in the States would have me running the kid to see a therapist, but, apparently it's cool here and not a big deal.

With no further adieu, The Hen and The Mouse.

(Note: I'll fix spelling, but nothing else.)

Once upon a time there lived 2 good friends called hen and mouse. One day hen told mouse that they should go and cut sticks to build a house. Mouse told hen that he had his own house so that if rain would fall he would go to his own house so he would not go. So hen went and cut the sticks to use to build the house.
When rain was falling his house was full of water so he ran to hen's house and said that hen should give him a towel so he can clean the water. After insulting mouse she gave the towel to mouse. The mouse said she should give her cloth.

And hen was insulting mouse. After insulting mouse, she gave the cloth to mouse.

So mouse said he would sleep on hen's bed and hen was insulting mouse. After insulting him, she said mouse should come and sleep. Then, when they were sleeping mouse called to hen and said that he and hen will get love.

So when they are sleeping mouse said, "I will sleep with hen." When they are sleeping then mouse said that he will rape hen. And he was raping her and his penis has cut into hen's vagina and they tight it and they are doing it and the penis has cut into hen's vagina and they tight. Once when they are doing it his penis cut into hen's vagina.


I have no idea what to do with this story. Precious said it's good because they've been studying rape in RME (religious and moral education).

Well, that's all. Love you!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FLUSHING MY TOILET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hi! Cool idea! My camera is a Sony Cyber-shot, 16.1 MP, 10x optical
zoom. I would guess the card would work on my camera just as well
though. I am SO happy you got your visa. I spent the night up and
worried about it after I spoke with you. I am SO excited for your
visit. Also, please be prepared for MANY people (by people I mean
largely little kids) to be excited for you to come too.

We write in diaries weekly and today's topic was, "My mother is coming
on Saturday, she is a little scared to come to Ghana because she
hasn't been here before, what would you say to her to make her less
scared." Grade 4 (who I usually want to disown) blew me away. I will
include some quotes here.

"Please Madam Elizabeth, do NOT be scared. Ghana is just the same as
your country. If you are scared of my country, maybe I will be scared
of you."

"Do not be afrid, people do not kill people in Ghana. No one lies or
steals or does bad things."

"There is no wicked person in Ghana. Do not be afraid of anybody not
even a theif or the police."

"Madam Elizabeth, you will have many friends in Ghana and you will
play umpe and read story books in Ghana."

"Please do not be afrid, please, Madam Elizabeth. Please do not be
afrid of Ghana. It is a peaceful place. Please."

"Ghana is sweet like a mango and an apple."

"Do not be afraid. I will be your friend. You are like a mother to me."

Also, there were several photos of the Ghanaian flag. The students are
stoked. There was some cheering and jumping up and down and, yes,
downright pandemonium in the classroom today over the prospect of your
arrival. So, please tell them their words made you less scared.

On that note, any chance you could bring a few bags of some small
American candy (enough for 90 kids?) One piece each. As your
reputation has nearly promoted you to diety status, I think a candy
would put it over the top. Eh? Eh?

Dresses, mom. Legit. And deodorant. Legit.

ON THAT NOTE, after a long and ugh 5 days, WATER IS BACK! Oh, to
flush! To wash panties! To wash hands! To flush! To flush! To flush! I
can't explain the joy of flushing away my 5 days of...waste, shall we
say, in the toilet.

You know how I'm still, 8 years after living in Thailand,
exceptionally grateful for washing machines to wash clothing? I
anticipate Ghana shall yield a residual giddiness with flushing
toilets. Flush. Flush. Flush. I am drinking an abundance of water now
largely because I am so excited to flush some more.

Good god I hope there is water when you're here. Let's keep our
fingers crossed, eh?

In other news, I went to the beach yesterday with Dima. It was DIVINE.
Beautiful space, water, sand (mmm!) and we were the only ones there.

Saturday I took Precious to the Accra Mall. It's like a US mall, but a
bit smaller. It's an expat hangout and she'd never been. Josephine was
supposed to go too, but she fell into a hole while riding her bicyle
so was laid up. The trip was...not exactly a success. She was so
scared, I think. She refused to go into any store and was stonefaced
throughout the trip. No smiles, no laughs at all. I took her to see a
movie -Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud (I think that's what it's
called) and she had never seen a movie theater before or even knew
what to expect. Approximately 2 minutes into it, she fell asleep and
remained asleep throughout the entire movie. I bought her a pizza,
something she hadn't heard of, as well. She had 1 bite and then said,
"I am only eating more of this because you eat things I cook for you."
After she forced down a piece, we left and, at the first market we
found, she bought all the Ghanaian breads, meats, fruit, and drinks
she could find to cleanse her mouth. She said she had a nice time,
but, eh, I'm calling the trip a failure. I can't feel too bad though
because it's the same thing I've done, you know? Someone spends a lot
of time/effort to do something for you or give you an experience they
are SURE you'll enjoy, and you don't. You try to be grateful and, in
fact, you are for their effort, but, it's not a nice experience. For
example, when Beauty slaved away to give me a fufu feast and I so
desperately wanted the eating experience to be over. Live and learn
and try again. :)

I hope the snow is perfect when it comes and leaves at JUST the right
time as well.

I love you! I don't think I'll see my email before you come, so call
me with anything last minute. ALSO, please get dad's chest and belly
and length of shirt measurements.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Hi! We talked since this right? I will see you at the airport, after
my debacle buying our tickets, I'm getting good at it.

I'm glad I don't have worms, but the ones in my drain are
de-sgust-ing. I have no tolerance for them and yet no ability to get
rid of them for I fear I might die/barf if I try.

I hope the books come for her. St. Cloud, man, there's not much there.
I shall go mad I think if attending school there.

I would like 6 dispensers and just enough candy for each dispenser.

Tell Dad I am. :) Though, you know what, sometimes here I wake up
crabby. That doesn't usually happen in the U.S. (well, post-coffee is
better than pre-coffee of course, that part goes without saying) and I
don't know what to make of it. I can't shake it either for a long time
when I wake up crabby and I can't discern any legitimate cause.

Also, yes, you must love me. Good thing I love you too, otherwise it'd
be terribly awkward. How were the shots? Are you feeling healthy? Has
your visa arrived?

Just a little over a week, can you believe it? Crazy soon!

Before I forget, Godwin just asked if you could bring some colored
paper, one packet of regular printer sized paper and one that is sized
something called, “A3” and apparently, dimension-wise is the length of
legal sized paper and the width of 2x printer paper. Check Office Max?


Guess what? The water finally returned! I cleaned my toilet and life
is pretty good. Not much has been happening. I went to Accra on Monday
to buy our flight up North and it caused me nearly 100 headaches, but,
thank goodness, I was able to buy it. Whenever things are strange or
non-functioning here it seems that someone will smile and remark,
“That’s Africa!” and typically I just think, “Well, that’s very nice,”
but in Accra I wanted to say “That’s Africa!” and then pummel a
punching bag. :)

It takes a lot of patience, you know? I mean, not just planning your
time here, but life generally. I think, on the spectrum of patience,
I’m on the more-patient side (by no means the most patient, but
definitely not the least), but it sure takes a lot out of me. In Accra
to show the patience for the ATMs, the flight company, the general
lack of understanding. In class everyday for the kids. It’s so easy to
be patient when it’s 1:1 or 1:2, but when it’s 1:47 and you’ve got 3
punky kids who are just annoying the spit out of me, it’s hard. Some
days, I just want to toss them all out of the room and have myself a
good scream (most days, however, I just want to collapse into a group
hug). It’s something that I constantly have to think about and
practice and really put in painful effort. It’s all good for me
though, I know.

Oh, another thing, to give you a heads up so that you are not
disappointed to see it. There is a lot of garbage on the ground.
There’s no system for waste except for sweeping it away and then
burning it, so please be prepared for it.

I’ve led my second teacher training workshop. This one on sensory
integration. I think it went well, and hope the information will be
utilized. Next week I’ll be teaching them ice breakers and games. Any
suggestions? I’ve got about 12 students. What a cool opportunity it

Grade 4 drove me half mad this week (see the previous note about
patience, sigh) and, as of next week, will be working on making their
own books which could be cool if I don’t disown them all in the
meantime (I love them, I promise, but, gosh they’re hard). Grade 5 is
doing poetry. I am having them write a Shakespearean sonnet for
homework this weekend. How adorable is that? Well, modified to lack
the iambic pentameter (they’ve just learned what a rhyme is this
week), but still. It’s adorable. The ones I’ve seen so far are sweet.

I just learned my Friday classes will be cancelled again because
they’re sending the kids to farm. It’s a bother, you know, Godwin
wants really high results from the kids and is trying to implement
strategies to elicit improved marks, but, at the same time, the
farming he asks for reduces the time allowance for the students to
learn and reduces their chances of actually being able to improve
their marks. He doesn’t really seem to see any issue with the high
expectations of academics and farming, but when you take away a whole
day every week, it’s a huge deal. Blarg. I’m glad we don’t do that in
the U.S.

This Saturday I’m taking Precious and Josephine to the Accra Mall for
an outing. They’re always pampering me so much and buying me things
and cooking for me so I want to give them something and, a trip to the
mall is as close as a trip to America as I can afford. I told them I’d
buy them pizza too. They have no idea what pizza is, but are both
excited nonetheless. Also, on Tuesday Dima and I will field trip to
the beach after I finish class. I’m desperately excited.
Also, I’ve booked us a swanky hotel for the night you arrive. I hope
it’s as nice as it sounds.

There are other things I’d like to write, but they’d all sound so
terribly disconnected if I included them in this email so I’ll wait
for another day. Can you bring my small Elements of Style book, Strunk
and White, which is grey and in my bedroom on the shelf?

Love you!

Oh, the hotel is Afyia's Village. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ps: Mom, you ignored my question.

Do I have worms? Or is it only my drain?

At least 2 packages shall be arriving for me. Just so you know.

Hi Mom!

I'm booking flights and hotels today for your visit. I must really love you. :)

We haven't had water for over 3 days and, good golly, I'm disgusting. Not to mention my unflushable toilet. Ugh. Here's hoping there's water while you're here.

If not though, I can promise an "authentic African experience."

Yesterday was my fufu cooking class with Beauty. We spent a solid 6 hours making palm nut soup and pounding the fufu. Also, to be completely honest, I suppose I should clarify that by "we" I mean "she" as she quickly decided that I was not only incompetent at cutting vegetables, I was a lousy pounder, and I lacked the courage to flip the fufu while she pounded. Though she insisted on taking pictures of me "pounding" the fufu, it was entirely for show. Then, I was served the LARGEST portion of fufu ever, which I could not possibly finish though, by god, I tried. It wasn't unfinishable due to the non-deliciousness of the food (though that was a struggle), simply due to the sheer amount. I have no idea how Africans can pack away so much food at one time.

Also, of course I'll worry about you and dad (and the catbrains). Just as soon as you stop worrying about me I'll be done though. :)

Okay, Afia Village Hotel in Accra booked for the night you arrive. 1 king size bed with ocean view. 2 nights booked at Mole Motel, 2 single beds. Whew. Flight next. Bus we'll have to get the morning we arrive in Tamale, but, per my housemate and the fellow at Mole Motel that shouldn't be a problem.
Oof. And, apparently I have to go to the office in Accra to book our flight. It can't be booked until paid for and it can't be paid for via phone or internet. Gosh. Apparently, I shall be taking a field trip this week.

Well, I've tried. I'll work on it more.

You know what I was thinking lately, it's amazing how being foreign or relating to a foreign person/situation makes interaction so childish. I don't mean childish in that negative, silly/unintelligent way, I mean it as simple and excited and, truthfully, a bit foolish sometimes. Yesterday as Beauty, Elom, and I were chatting there was so much discovery going on amongst ourselves. Beauty asked at a moment, "Is it true that they burn people when they die in America?" Me - "Yes, creamation, perfectly normal." As for me, this week I accidentally showed my beads to half my grade 5 class. My shirt came up and pants sank down a bit. I hadn't noticed until, in a bit of a flurry, several of my girl students surrounded me and yanked down my shirt and up my pants and I heard Lemuel (are you still following the characters?) say, "I did NOT see your beads!" Of course this means he did see my beads. I'm not bothered at all, of course, but it caused a touch of a panic and several people since have sat me down and explained to me the importance of keeping your beads secret and the implications of the fact that Lemuel now almost certainly knows the color. I also got into a bit of a discussion with Elom and Beauty about homosexuality. It's illegal here, a concept completely mind-blowing to me (how does one ban a natural disposition?) and the idea that there are actually people who are gay is mindblowing to Elom and Beauty. I got a bit flustered, of course, as it's an issue that I hold in very high esteem and, despite the fact that they both believe it should remain illegal, we had a civil discussion on it. Beauty - "So, does that mean that a man and a man will share a bed? Can they have children together?" Me, "Of course they can share a bed! What couples don't? And, no, they can't have a child, they don't have the parts for it, but they sure can adopt."

My god, I smell so gross mom. I can barely concentrate.

It's a lot of innocence in questioning, in assumptions, in discovery. It's nice, though, of course, it makes you feel quite foolish often enough (I bought some under short things that I thought allowed me to sit with my legs spread while wearing a skirt, they covered me solidly down to my mid-thigh, then, when attempted Stronggy told me quite sharply, "Put your legs together!!!" Lesson learned, kind of).
In other news, I've accidentally found myself vaguely addicted to a Mexican tele-novella. I've been watching at Precious and Josephine's house and it's pretty amazing. It's called Teresa. I've spent entirely too much time thinking about it. Lawer and Nicholas are pretty jealous of the time I spend there, but it's nice to be so girly with them. Nicholas and Lawer are also not in favor of me spending so much time with Elom as they keep suggesting to me, "He canes a lot, you know. Why are you going to see him? Are you wearing perfume? Why do you wear perfume when you see him?" (For the record, I've been wearing perfume daily, to hide the stench - common theme of this email, eh?)

Anyhow, does that mean you haven't had an actual snowfall at all over winter?

Also, before I forget. Be sure to have my cell phone with you when you travel. I'll pick you up at the airport, but, so you know, first there will be people meeting you off the plane, those will not be me, then there will be people in the first room after the visa checking, those will not be me, then more people in the 3rd room, still not me, then, when you walk outside of the airport, I will be there. I'm guessing there won't be many white girls there, so I suppose I'll stick out.

Please do not forget the jawbreakers. The kids have gotten excited as I've vaguely promised to share one or two.

Love you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mom, there are gross wormy things in my bathroom drain. Do they live there I have worms and are they falling out of my booty? Is that possible? (Please say no.)

Umm, hey mom, you didn't email me back. It's been nearly a week. What's up? Are you okay? I'm calling you tomorrow to make sure you didn't slip on the ice in a dramatic way. You didn't did you? And, if you didn't, why did you not email me back???

I've been wanting to write you at various times so I've previewed them in my notebook in preparation.

Man, now I'm all worried and can't even concentrate on emailing, moooooom.

First, in brief, things are going well. Vomit count is still steady at 3. Saturday I went to visit Elom at his house in Kasseh and we ate coconuts with a cool lady named Beauty. Saturday she's teaching me a fufu cooking class. Fufu is like the national delicacy. It's...umm...not very pleasant. It's a gooey lump, like a sticky dumpling, composed of plantain and cassava that you pound for a long time. Sunday I went on a walk with Nicholas and Lawer and it was really nice. We mucked through bogs and ran into foxy farmer who we caught farming in his boxer briefs. He quickly put his pants on as soon as he saw me (what a pity!) and proceeded to dote on me while consistently calling me "white man!" Then he gave me a ton of sugar cane to bring home. Delicious!

Today I led my first teacher training workshop. I taught them 4-mat class construction (per Rebecca, of course) and I think it went well. They all took notes and I am excited to see what they have to show for themselves next week. Next week I'll teach them sensory integration. Good stuff since I know what that is. :)

Caning is...well...driving me crazy. I can't explain how much I fear bursting into flames of ire. Actually, I wrote about it in my notebook, just wait.

Grade 4 is still in English boot camp. Grade 5 starts poetry tomorrow. All is well with the kiddos. OH! Guess what? Grade 5 moved into the new building. it's not done-done, but it's done enough and, lordy me, it's wonderful! I can hear students when they talk and they can hear me too!

Anyhow, per my notes:


Stop caning. Stop caning. Stop caning.

Seriously. Stop hitting children.

Teaching here and having the opportunity to watch others do the same has caused me to reflect on my own education. I'm incredibly grateful for the education you provided for me, both in terms of my formal schooling and my informal education.

I'm grateful that my teachers in grade school believed in fun. To Ms. Opitz in grade 1 for playing guitar. To Ms. Krebsbach in grade 2 for having such a loud, easy laugh. To Mrs. Kuennen in grade 3 for being such a good sport in dealing with our whoopie cushion exploits on April Fool's. To Mrs. Scott in grade 4 for...well, I don't remember much of grade 4, but I do remember that she had no eyebrows, only a line drawn in and that fact was both hilarious and incredibly strange. To Ms. Younger, grade 5, for letting us giggle throughout the Family Education section of class upon every uttering of the word "penis." To Ms. Neiber in grade 6 for the cool science experiments.

I'm grateful that I adore reading. For this I thank you. I remember you reading me stories at bedtime from my earliest years. I remember feeling myself doze off and cautioning you, "Mom, I'm closing my eyes, but I am not sleeping, so don't stop reading, okay?" Followed by your, "Yes, of course."

I'm grateful, of course, that, other than my time in France, I never worried that I might be hit at school. Though we weren't in Cannes long and I was quite young, I still remember the fear of getting slapped with a ruler or seeing my classmates yanked off the floor by their ears. I remember the black hair, red lipstick, and oft worn black cape of the teacher (how I thought she was a witch!). I remember how hard it was to lose yourself in learning when already completely preoccupied with thoughts of self-preservation.

The kids skip school here a lot, sometimes because they are sick, working, or just uninterested, but I don't blame them too much. As an adult, there is no way you could convince me to go to school if I knew I would/could/might be caned.

Heck no. Seems to me that my time would better be spent making ant cities in the sand.

On that note, I'm grateful to the teacher/s that taught me (in junior or senior high, perhaps elementary as well) about ethnocentrism. I'm guessing many teachers taught it because it's a term so strong in my mind. Ethnocentrism: looking at other cultures' thoughts, beliefs, and practices without the immediate conception that your own are better.

Many things here are different, of course, and I'm grateful that I've been trained to approach most of these differences with an immediate reaction of "Whoah! That's totally different!" without labeling them as good or bad.

Even with caning, I've been deliberating whether my disapproval is based on ethnocentrism and, after consideration, I think it's not important whether or not it is or could be - caning is wrong. I say that not just as a white American in an African country, I say it as a woman and as a human.

Children are pretty perfect. They're still free to dream and think without too much fact bogging them down. They're still housed in bodies overflowing with energy that sometimes they can't possibly stand to sit still or slowly walk somewhere, else they might explode. They are still so open and vulnerable that every moment has the opportunity to change their lives as every moment they experience now is aiding in the creation of their adult minds.

So, no, it's not okay to cane. It's never okay to cane. I don't care if it's "part of the African culture." It's wrong.

Stop caning. Stop caning. Stop caning. Seriously.

Love you.

Kids say the darnest things...

Lawer came over the other day in a bit of a slump. He had done poorly on his math homework and had gotten caned something fierce (a fact he told me, then was reconfirmed as Nicholas came later and said, ""Madam, did Lawer tell you? Ooof! He got it BAD today.") I told him I was sorry and I thought it sucked and asked if there was anything I could do. He said, "Nah," and sat on my bed beside me as I read my book, then said:

"Our languages are different, you know? My language is for everyone, yours is the language with the power, but it's not for everyone. It's expensive."

Me: "What do you mean expensive?"

"I mean, you want to learn Dangbe and you've got many people here who will teach you for free. It's a gift. For me, if I want to learn English I must go to school and it's expensive. My family can't pay my school fees, but without your language I have no power."

(Lawer and I after our hike, sporting our sugar cane booty.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

You're coming to Ghana and I've got beads! Both major and exciting!

Oh my gosh. The internet just lost my entire email. I might scream.


So, yes. Good addresses. Excited you're coming! And I think, from what dad said on the phone tonight, that you're set on the visa junk. Also, don't worry about my blog. It's straight up my emails to you. That's why I haven't told you about it. :)

I've tried to send you my Ghana wish list via text to Karl, but in case it didn't take:
1. Pepto Bismal chewable tablets (uff duh)
2. Jawbreakers (for me, craving like a pregnant lady)
3. PEZ for the kids (ask Karl if you don't know what this is)
4. Boggle, the game. A cheap version, something simple.
5. Catchphrase, the game. I think that's what it's called. The rules are that you must get your team to say a specific word without explaining it using various related words.
6. 2 flower hair clips. Like you got for Della's girls once. For adults, so please make sure they look lovely and womanly.
7. Laminating paper (enough to laminate 90 bookmarks the kids make)
8. The Umbrella Man, by Roald Dahl (for a gift)
9. Glow in the dark star stickers and/or hologram stickers. Essentially, stickers that are cool for big kids too (remember, my students range from 7-18)
10. Kids crossword, word search, and mad libs books. Grade 4 appropriate.
11. Free maps. I used to get them in the mail from charities and am guessing you do too. Bring them!
12. Pictures of my home and friends and family to show people. I will HOPE that friends send you a photo or two to bring. :)
13. My old big box of Crayons, in the spare room. There are like 300 colors of something ridiculous like that. The kids would go bananas for them (they're learning idioms now).
14. My computer? So I could put photos on and have you bring it back. What do you think? If no, it's okay.

That's all for now. It's a big list, I know. If you don't bring anything I'll still be overjoyed at just you. Many people are already getting excited to meet you. I've set the bar high.

Also, to dress: light dresses is my major suggestion. It's HOT always. Also, in Ghana showing any portion of your belly (even on accident) is a major taboo. So, be sure all shirts are long. Funnily enough, showing your boobs is less taboo.
On that note (belly, not boobs), all Ghanaian women wear beads around their lower waist from infancy through adulthood. It's tied on and never comes off (even to shower or anything). In my attempt to be more African Precious and I went to the market and got me some. Then she put it on me and told me not to get more fat or I would have to get new beads. Also, she told me that she practically saw my bits when I pulled my pants down a bit to get to my waist. ON THAT NOTE, also please bring some more panties for me. Lacy panties are not holding up well against hand washing. I've got some in the house there I think. Anyhow, I've got some beads on. I'll show you when you come and, mom, they make me feel incredibly sexy. I told this to Precious and she said, "Of course! Why do you think we wear them?" It's nice. You have to be real secret about them though because the men can't know the color or, so the rumor mill goes, they've had some business going on in your nether regions. I've blabbed a lot about getting them (terribly excited am I) and have been ragingly obtuse with my "BUUUUUUT I'm not telling you the CooooOOOlor" said in a sing-song way like a child (I'm perhaps spending too much time with grade schoolers). Related, I went to the market for the first time this week. It's 15 minutes away by bumpy dirt road taxi (unrelated, guess what? It'll be the Ghanaian 4th of July when you're here, wahoo!) and, mom, it was AMAZING. Nothing touristy, but cool stuff and beautiful fabrics and, unlike markets elsewhere, no one hassles you. I love it. I'm going back tomorrow with some of my students.

On that note, Lawer and Nicholas. I told you about them, right? They're my buds from class.They took me on a big walk/photoshoot on Sunday around the village. I laughed so hard my belly ached. They're killer. I'll attach a photo (one of the 800 they took) if it works. We sang church songs and I learned how to climb a palm tree (easier than you'd think).

Also, to get a taste of Ghanaian music, go to youtube and type in azonto. Find the most viewed video which has two people with white masks on and watch it. It's awful. That's the hip sound here. The kids are awesome at dancing to it though.

In other news, class went well. My 5th graders had their plays this week and, though we've been working on it for weeks, the day before when I wrote on the board "Remember: EVERYONE must have a costume and EVERYONE must have their lines MEMORIZED" I was greeted with blank stares and "Memorized? Madam, what is that?" and "Costumes? Everyone? Does the alligator need a costume? Do I have to memorize my lines? All of them? But Madam, there are many!" Repeat 47 times. So, I was terrified they would suck. (I tried to nicen the language to say perform poorly, but in truth, I was worried about them sucking.) Do you ever worry that your students will suck? Anyhow, performances were today and some on them did, in fact, suck, but some were WONDERFUL and, the most important lesson for me was to learn that, sucking or not, we all survived. And learned something from the effort. Glad it's done though. Poetry next! I'll try to include a photo to the email from the plays, of one of the billy goats from the 3 billy goat's gruff.

Whew. Novel. Mom, what do you want to do while here? Please be honest and frank. Also, what do you not want to do? I am thinking I'd like us to go on a safari but it is 12 hours by bus or a flight, thoughts? I'll research.

Also, I drank 1 liter of beer last night and it was wonderful. I love beer. I love coffee. I love fruit. I love my new beads. I love my students. I love Ghana (even though we haven't had water in a long while and I wish I could flush). I love sweating. I love the market. I love learning Dangbe (I've now learned 1-9 and how to buy a pineapple and say cow and goat. Ghanaians are very impressed/laugh at me a lot).

And, of course, I love you lots. Excited to see you.