Posts Tagged ‘cpgc’
I’m sitting here on my last night before college, reflecting on my time in Ghana. What did I do? What did I accomplish? I feel like I learned and gained so much – what did I give back?
I just sent off a package to everyone in Ada, so I suppose there are the physical things. But did I bestow on any of the kids an excitement for learning? Are any of the teachers going to stop caning, and is that even the right thing to do? Are any of the students going to take to heart my advice to study hard and apply to university, maybe in America, maybe even Haverford? If they wanted to, would they even be able to? Are any of them going to stop throwing their trash on the ground; start recycling their water sachets? Are they going to continue the warm-up I taught them for the play? Is acting going to be a useful skill in their lives? Are any of them going to get past Ada? Will I make a difference?
The time went by so fast. It was filled with eating banku and okra stew, going for runs along the beach, doing washing, heading to market with Euphemia, laughing with Alfred about “my monkey in the US,” walking back from the internet café with Kofi, listening to the radio with Gladys, taking pictures with my students, talking with them about American and Ghanaian culture, watching football matches and African TV, greeting “hihowareyou finethankshowareyou.”
And what about what I did in Accra? Meeting with artists and getting to know the city – it was so great for me, but what was I doing for others, for the organization? I think the most useful thing I did was set up some excellent contacts for the JAC. I hope we make use of them. It will be easy for them to slip away if we don’t keep them up.
I left for Ghana having very little idea of what I would be doing. I made up some things on my CPGC application based on the JAC website and the few emails Kelvin sent me, such as making a documentary, writing a newsletter, and organizing exhibitions. I did not do any of those things. We did not have the materials or resources for those things. But I did end up meeting a whole bunch of people who changed my life. I think, if only in a small way, I changed theirs.
At the CPGC retreat in the spring, they had us write an entry in the journals they’d just provided about how we were feeling about our upcoming internships. At the time, I was just stressed about the Bi-Co News and all the papers I had to write. “Ghana feels a million miles away,” I said. “Maybe in two months I’ll be reading this, and Haverford’s Quaker Meeting House and its wooden benches will feel like the couldn’t be farther.”
I did indeed read over it in Ghana, on my last bumpy tro-tro ride to Ada. I had written in the spring, “It’s weird that now Kelvin is just someone I’ve been exchanging emails with, and in a couple months, he’ll be a real person I’m working with.”
As my eyes skimmed the words on the page, Kelvin was sitting right next to me. And now, I’m reading it here at home, about to leave for school again. Both Ghana and the CPGC retreat feel like a million years ago – or maybe just yesterday.
At the time, my journal was fresh, a shiny new black. Now it sits on the dining room table, wrinkled and falling apart. It has traveled to Ghana and back. Its gray pages are falling out. My tiny scribbles cover the green-lined pages; my students’ drawings claim a few.
It’s strange to me that my eight weeks are represented inside this journal. Where is my trip contained? Inside this little black book? In the photos on my computer and now on Facebook? On this very blog? In the notes on my computer that never made it to the blog? In my head? In the heads of all the friends I made and the people I interacted with? If I had to go and track down what I did, where would it be?
What has come out of my time and work? In the end, was it for them, or for me? That was my main question when I wrote my journal entry at the CPGC retreat: who am I really going to help, and who am I doing this for?
Maybe I thought I was going to Ghana to find answers or solutions. Instead, it has filled me with more questions. My task now, after I ponder, is to keep up my work.
Wednesday, June 16
Wake up. Say good morning to Gladys, the nice grandma I’m staying with. Say hi to Kofi, her grandson who helps out around the house. He will probably insist on filling my water bottle or giving me some sliced fruit (washed and peeled, don’t worry Mom or CPGC).
Breakfast at Headmaster Samuel’s, made by his lovely wife Euphemia. Maybe an omelet and tea bread. Maybe oatmeal and bread with that French cheese that comes in packets and has a cow on the packaging.
School: Presby JHS (Junior High School)
Teach my first class, probably creative arts at the primary school. Remind the kids to look at what they’re drawing, not just draw what they think they see. Look at the million pictures kids are waving in my face and get excited by how excited they are.
Sit and read in the teachers’ office until they give me something to do. Make small talk with the other teachers. Hear about what they wish they could do and all the setbacks at the school. Wait out the rain, cause it’s probably raining.
Teach creative writing maybe, or lead a French learning game. If it’s the former, help the kids come up with a story they would enjoy writing about. If it’s the latter, the game will probably involve drawing or charades, and me speaking very slowly in both French and English because they have trouble with both.
Sit in on Mr. Isaac’s French class, or possibly Mr. Fred’s ICT (Information Computing Technology, or something like that). Find it interesting but maybe zone out a little.
Sit in the office and read for a bit.
Head to lunch at Euphemia’s. Maybe fufu and chicken stew, maybe banku and fish stew (various doughy grain dishes made of combinations of maize, plantain, and cassava).
Work on Theatre Spectacular, the play JHS is putting on in collaboration with the Junior Art Club. Go through lines a bit, then lead tongue twisters and exercises to loosen the kids up. Direct blocking and acting and help prompt lines.
Head home. Try not to get my legs covered in red dirt from the road.
Go for a run on the road along the beach. Wave at the people who stare at me. Wave extra at the kids screaming out “Obruni” and running after me. (Seriously, it’s like having my own marathon cheering section).
Shower and do laundry (by hand! the bane of my existence).
Dinner at Euphemia’s. Maybe watermelon and fried rice or stew. Maybe this thing I just ate that I think is called obolo (spelling?). It’s a sweet, pale doughy crescent made of maize, and you can eat it along with scoops of a tiny tiny fried fish they get from the river here.
Go to the internet café or watch an African movie at Euphemia’s. Last week I saw the Nigerian film “Buy Me a Rose.” I found the elevator music that accompanied the raucous pool party scene especially amusing.
Sit and talk with Gladys and Kofi, read, write in my journal. Maybe I’ll show them my pictures of my friends and family from home. Kofi will have some serious trouble picking out which one is me in pictures with my friends. First he’ll think I’m Emma, then Izzy, then Lizzy, and in another one Jamie. We all look the same to him.
Tuesday, June 8
They kind of threw me into teaching at the Presby junior high (JHS) in Ada Foah (Ada for short), and last night before I began I was pretty nervous.
I’d shown up on Monday afternoon after arriving in Ada and they’d said, “So, you’ll teach English, French, creative writing, art, maybe photography, maybe computing. You’ll begin tomorrow.”
I was thinking, “Okay…ahh! What makes me qualified to teach these kids?” but I just nodded my head and said, “That sounds great.”
They didn’t give me a lesson plan or anything. They said I could do whatever I wanted. I asked to sit in on a couple classes before I began, and then I plunged in. I figured I could base my lessons off the games and activities I liked when I was in school.
Tuesday morning, they told me the computer teacher was absent, and I could teach whatever I wanted. Most of the kids were outside playing. There were only a few in the classroom, but that was fine with me. I like small groups.
I told the class that we were going to play a story game. I asked them to get up from their rows of desks and join me in a circle at the front. The students stood up and shuffled around, unsure what to do. I patted the floor and said, “Right here.”
Their circle was lopsided, but a circle nonetheless. I asked them to go around and tell me their names and favorite subject in school. Their Ghanaian names were difficult for me to understand (like Gifte, Berthe, and others I couldn’t even try to spell), but I would do my best to repeat them. They would laugh and help me out.
Then we started making up a story together. I asked them who they wanted our main character to be (a boy), how old is he (13), what perspective should we tell our story from (1st person), what’s our main character’s problem (he’s hungry), why (because his parents died in a car crash, and he’s living with his stepmother who is mean to him).
“Oh! We need a name for our main character. What do you think his name should be?” I asked.
“Silver Star,” said one girl.
“Okay, Silver Star. Do you guys like that?”
The class nodded.
As we came up with details, plot twists, and conflicts to embellish our tale, other kids started edging into the classroom. Soon the circle was huge, with students squeezed n and leaned over desks. There were so many I couldn’t catch all of their names. Sitting cross-legged in their blue uniforms, they huddled around me and waved their hands, bursting with ideas. It was picture perfect, but I didn’t want to spoil the moment by pulling out my camera. Sorry, CPGC.
P.S. As the kids settled into their desks to write their own versions of our story, I asked Elizabeth to put the major points on the board. I saw that she’d forgotten the first r in Silver Star and asked if they spell “silver” with a y here instead of an i. That’s when I realized that the whole time I’d been saying Silver Star, they were saying Sylvester.
Whoops. Still getting used to that whole accent gap.