Friday, January 20, 2012


I have class Monday - Friday from about 7am until 12 or 1. It changes
based upon the day, but, on average. The weekends I have to myself.
This weekend, one of my students is taking me to see some fishing lake
nearby on Saturday and Sunday another boy in town is taking me on a
grand tour of the village (I anticipate this shall not take long).
Other than that, I'll be doing a TON of lesson prep and reading. I'm
reading A Short Guide to Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I'm really
liking it. You know, all that studying for the GRE has made me so
information-hungry I'm about to explode. The book is stuff. It's thick.

Probably like 50-100 people live in my village. But about 100 kids
live at the boarding house at the school, does that count? It's tiny.

There are no businesses, no restaurants, no markets here. The nearest
market is in Kasseh Ada. HEY, that's a town on some maps! You can find
that one (if you're curious). The market there is on Tuesdays and
Fridays. On those days our student number drops a lot because the kids
ditch to go sell or buy things. It's more a problem in the senior
high, but my little kids have to go too sometimes.

I would love a letter from Maya. Also, I've already started thinking
about things I'd like in a care package, but, I'm still so new here, I
figure I should wait until I'm really desperate (note: I shall be
requesting jawbreakers, I've never had such a craving in my life).

Perhaps we should go wig shopping even if my hair comes back (still
falling out, I shan't have much to donate, I fear). We can get afros.
Eh? Did you not hear my voicemail or did nothing come at all?

Some things about Ghana that I did not know:
1. There is a totally cool handshake that I am not good at. Next time
you shake someone's hand, as you're pulling away, take your middle
finger and thumb and follow their middle finger to let go with a snap.
That's it. It's very hip. I am still not hip, but I try!
2. The season now is Harumbah (that is NOT
it at all, but I am blanking). It is kind of a winter (I'm still
sweating constantly), but moreso the sky is constantly hazy so the sun
is never beating down.
3. Like I said, very little English here. And, very poor English by
the teachers at the school. Oof!

I taught my first week, success! My first day was the 4th graders, who
range in age from 7-15. The night before the first day I was up with
fever and shivers so I was not awesome (my 5th graders range in age
from 10-18), but it was okay. I puked later and felt much better. With
both classes I'm having them do journals which I read after they write
and write notes back to them. They're fascinating kids. Some talked
about wanting to be nuns, some talked about how much they disliked
caning, some spoke about their polygamous and, well, one little girl
wrote "when I grow older, my husband will not have three wives. he
will only have me and he will be happy."

The culture of polygamy here is interesting. Some are very pro, some
against. Even though everyone is Christian, they're all over the

Oh! I should back-track. I went with Dima (she's the other volunteer
here, she's from Lebanon and nice and will leave in February) on
Sunday to Accra to buy notebooks for the journals. The market there is
huge and hot and not touristy. Ghana overall is NOT touristy at all.
So, what was perhaps most exciting about the journals to the kids is
the notebooks. They went nuts. Mind you I got 200 notebooks for $60 so
I wasn't that spendy, but apparently they are very cool.

The poetry unit with the 4th graders is going alright. I had them
write a letter poem and read some poems. Next week, haikus and love
poems. The drama is going well with the 5th graders. I'm having them
perform and write a script as some item, like corn, a stone, the sun,
a rich person, a cow, etc. Some of the things they're written are
absolutely brilliant. They'll be performing on Wednesday.

I am also teaching the senior high French teacher English. He's from
Togo and, mom, he's terribly handsome. Whew! So, 3x a week we're
meeting and I'm working with him as well. That said, I am feeling far
less bored.

Today was a tough day. As I was teaching the 4th graders, from the
classroom next to me I heard a student being caned. To hear the sound
of the stick whipping down on his little 3rd grade self and to hear
the shouting from the adult male teacher and the sobs and hysteria
from him was too much for me. Needless to say, perhaps, I started
crying and had to leave the room. How is it okay for an adult male to
abuse a child like that? How can you do that and feel okay? What was
the grand offense - not paying attention in class, not finishing your
homework, not getting an answer right? How can a society see that and
think it's alright? How can you stand by and watch?

I've decided to abandon my original goal to Get the Kids Really Good
at English and will take up a new one - Love Them Like Crazy, Just the
Way They Are. Not to suggest, necessarily, that they're unloved, but,
I think it takes a LOT of love to make up for so much hurt. Ugh.
Crying again.

I'm also teaching Lemuel English. He's the one whose classes I'm
teaching. He sits in on mine. He wants to talk on Monday and I'm
pretty sure I'm about to hear a lecture about how the kids are crazy
in my class and they need punishment. What he will hear, of course, is
a litany of counter-reasons from me.

I can't stop the school from doing it, but I sure as hell will not let
anyone lay a finger on the kids while they're mine.

I know I said hell, but I'm standing by it.

My room is simple. I'll send a photo.

I love you.

Are you going to come?


  1. Nix, I love reading these posts. I am so proud of you! I too have tears when I read of the caning practices. Be a bright light. Thank you for writing this! P.s. You can imagine Charlie with a ton of hair and two bottom teeth. Love to you!

    1. Aww, thanks Jackie! Is he crawling? I miss your booger. He'll be huge when I see him next! Love you too!

  2. I love you too! I admire you so much, I could never (well, would probably never want to) do what you're doing. I miss hearing from you but I understand that it's easiest to just do this blog. Questions: what do you eat? Where do you get food from if there are no stores? Are you growing things? Do other people give you food? Are there any other foreigners there besides Dima?
    It is painful to read about the caning. I hope you can change at least some of their minds.
    I can send you a care package too if there is anything you want.

  3. Aww, shucks, thanks babe. Answers: chicken and rice and banku and fufu. INTERESTING FACT I FORGOT TO MENTION: Ghana-folks eat with their hands only, no cutlery. Also, they eat CHICKEN BONES (crunch, crunch). I use cutlery with rice, but not with banku or fufu. We have a lady who cooks for us (spoiled, I know). She goes to buy stuff from the market (a 15 minute ride away). Dima is the only foreigner. This means that children always pet my skin. It's completely annoying. I mean, sure, I get it, white skin is weird-looking and you want to know if it feels weird too, but, for goodness sake, ask me first. I think I shall want pictures of life and stickers (I spent $6 on sheet of like 30 stickers, wowza!)