Albert

I am pooped. Today was long, exhausting, and fulfilling all wrapped up in a bundle of screaming schoolchildren. It started with going to school to teach Special Education, and is ending with CNN talk of how we can help Haiti.

Classes weren’t particularly thrilling. The best parts came with my interactions throughout the day with the staff. The teacher that I am working with, Auntie Lizzie, is an intern in her last year at the University of Accra. She made me feel very welcome in her class, even though she was mistakenly told that I am an education intern. The children were a handful, but still loveable, and most of them worked diligently to learn three letter words. Notably, there is a set of triplets in the class- Edward, Edwin, and Edwina (no joke), although Edwina didn’t come to class today. I find class structure to be very strange in Ghana, however. More attention is put on courtesy and obedience than on education. Children are allowed to play outside during class, and often perform errands for the staff. Disciplining takes up most of the day, even though children are relatively well behaved.

I also successfully avoided Nicolas today. This evening I asked Senam what to do in situations like these (not telling him that I was referring to Nicolas, since he is a friend) and he told me to lie about having a fiancé, and to tell them not to touch me if they try to do so. I think tomorrow I will be sure to mention my fiancé, Seamus, or something as manly as that (Stephen? Amos?). I will also talk about not being religious- that seems to be the best turn off in this country.

I also managed to bruise my ankle very badly. It is my first injury of the trip, and I am a little bit embarrassed by it. I was trying to sit at the children’s bench at lunch and smashed the part that sticks out on the outside of the ankle against solid wood. I thought it was broken, but I played it off (although I was very thankful to be sitting down and not standing up so that I’d have time to figure out how to deal with it). Then I thought about the fact that first aid kits are quite useless if they are at home. After checking for blood and being distracted by five six year old girls all vying for my attention lunch was over and I could put weight on it.

In the afternoon I had a few hours free so I decided to take some pictures of the school. Along the way I met many maintenance staff workers who wanted me to take a picture of them. The best was a man who insisted on having his picture taken alone. When I offered to send him a copy he told me to keep it and show it to my friends back home. He said to tell them that his name is Albert, and that his heart longs for an American girl (totally made my day). I promised him that I would, so to stay true to this I will attach his picture to this blog. Any girls interested can give me their contact info!

At seven I went back to SOS to join Auntie Essie, the head counselor, in her session. We both were mistaken about my reason for being there. She was told by the Village Director that I am a counseling psychology student, and I was told that she was actually counseling kids. It turns out that she was only discussing report cards with the house mothers. After visiting our last home for the evening she asked me what I am interested in. I confessed that I was actually an anthropology major and interested in the effects of parent loss and displacement, and she suggested a different branch of SOS, the Youth Leaders, for these pursuits. Apparently the Village hosts children from destitute parents; most come during infancy, and therefore do not have memories of their loss. The Youth Leaders are older children who have lost parents. I did notice during our consultations that there was less nurturing by the counselor and more discipline. These children are constantly told what they are doing wrong, or what they should stop, or how much of a pain they are being, and are rarely praised. It is a strange dichotomy- everyday at 2pm there are many loving parents, genuinely happy to see their children, but most interactions I see between adults and children is that of disciplining.

I just wish that some part of my experience could be as predicted. I feel as though there is a major communication lapse even though we all speak English. I have continued to be upfront with my training and interests, but it seems as though no one understands. I also would like to travel, but am finding it difficult to do so without having a travel companion. My host family has roots that keep them in Tema, and all of the people I have met have either been interested in courting or work very unpredictable schedules. The weekend is rapidly approaching and I would like to go into Accra but I am not sure how to accomplish this safely. Any suggestions? I wonder if there is a social website for people in my position…

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #15: Cell phone etiquette is quite different in Ghana than the United States. It is acceptable to answer the phone during dinner, to carry your charger in your pocket and plug the phone in upon entering a home, and to answer the phone in the middle of a face-to-face conversation.

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #16: Brush up on your British English. Cookies are called biscuits, transit stations are lorry stations, and ‘z’s are replaced with ‘s’s when spelling.

Albert

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