My first full day in Dalun began with breakfast. Habib brought me Ghanaian Porridge, which is darker in color, spicier, and has a smoother texture than the porridge I have had in the USA. Porridge, locally called “coco,” is popular not only for breakfast but any time throughout the day. Most locals also take tea with their breakfast, accompanied by tea bread, butter bread, or sugar bread.
After breakfast Fatawu and Habib showed me around the Simli Center. It is a much larger compound than I had perceived from our nighttime arrival, and the smaller compound where I am staying is conveniently located near the kitchen, offices, and the rec room where there is a TV (although I haven’t had time to watch TV there!) There are other areas for guests to stay, and finally, the radio station, which transmits its signal throughout the region!
After meeting some of the people that work at the Simli Center we headed down a dirt and gravel road towards Titagya School. I was immediately taken by the expanse of fields stretching out on either side of me, and marveled at the large water treatment center just down the road, which purifies and provides water for Dalun and all of Tamale!
Soon I spotted the white and purple building that I have seen so many pictures of: Titagya School! Situated along a quieter road amongst mud huts and fields, the school stands distinctly from the rest of the landscape and is a beautiful sight to behold. The building currently has two classrooms, and a Computer Center is under construction as I type!
I entered one of the classrooms and met the teachers: Abdul-Azeez, a male volunteer teacher who teaches the older class comprised of about 15 four and five year olds, Alhassan, a male trained teacher who specializes in mathematics and computer lessons, and Baraka, a female volunteer teacher who teaches the younger class comprised of about 25 two, three, and four year olds. I instantly felt welcomed by their warm smiles and greetings, and sat down to observe a typical class.
Within the first few minutes of the lesson I was already impressed; the students in Abdul-Azeez’s class were spelling and reading three-letter words, in English! I recalled my five year old self, who was maybe beginning to recognize similar small words, but considering that English is the second language of these students, and not often used at home, I found their English abilities to be very impressive!
The younger class impressed me equally. Madame Baraka instructed them in an activity called “Letter Match” where they would draw a line to match upper case and lower case letters on the blackboard. Although her class has many students, they are enthusiastic and engaged, and the cries of “Madame me! Madame me!” when she asked for a volunteer to complete the assignment were ear splitting!
Over the next few days I explored more of Dalun Town, led by Fatawu and Habib.
Particularly memorable from the early days of my visit are the Mango Grove and the Football Park. The mango grove has ethereal beautiful, and the shade of the trees provided for a nice drop in temperature for me! All of the fruit has been harvested by this time of year, but I learned that you can pay the grove owner to “pick your own” in season.
The football park is a very popular place to socialize, and Dalun and most of Ghana for that matter is very enthusiastic about football. Dalun has an organized team for younger boys, and a team for men. At 4 pm footballers begin to gather to run laps and begin training, which involves inter-team scrimmaging. This goes on until 6:30 pm, the boys scrimmaging first and then the men, and I enjoy watching and playing with the children that live nearby (some of whom attend Titagya!) I am not the only spectator, as many people young and old sit on the ground or perch on motorbikes to watch the training each day.
Farming is the main occupation in Dalun, and I am lucky to be here during the rainy season, which is when fields are readied for planting and crops begin to grow. Thus, I have been able to watch the landscape change drastically. For the first few weeks the ground was very dry and dusty, but swiftly the fields have become moist, and I have been able to see how farming is done here in Dalun. There is a tractor that is shared between many farmers for plowing the fields to get it ready for seeding, but many farmers use cows to drag the field. After the soil is readied holes are poked into the dirt and seeds are planted by hand. After a few rain showers (which have been more frequent and have a cooling effect that I enjoy!) small green tufts begin to show, and over the past two weeks these small seedlings have sprouted into distinct corn, rice, and pepper plants! My walk to school is especially pleasant as I get to walk through the Chief’s corn and rice fields, accompanied corn stalks growing higher each day!
I cannot emphasize enough how friendly everyone here in Dalun has been to me! Within the first few days I had been introduced to more people that I could count, and everyone seemed very excited to meet me and learn about my internship with Titagya Schools. I began writing people’s names in a notebook, and am proud to report that I learned them soon enough! Many people also want to help me with my Dagbani skills, which is the local language of this region. My knowledge has expanded beyond the greetings and replies, and I can now inform people where I am going, where I have come from, as well as a few disciplinary phrases like “Go and sit down!” which have been useful at school! After only a few days in Dalun I was already feeling at home, and dreading August, when I will return to the USA!