Due to the continual power outages this blog is a little late but better late than never, right?. :)
Last weekend, Jessica and myself made arrangements to spend two days at a city along the Gulf of Guinea about 2 and a half hours from Accra. We left early Friday morning and met up with a man named Seth who attends the University of Cape Coast. Right when we got into town he ushered us along to various tourist spots including the Kakum Rainforest and Elmina Castle. We also stopped to see some wild crocodiles at a local restaurant and the campus for the University of Cape Coast. During our ventures, I was frequently reminded that I was not in America by the re-occurring presence of tradition villages full of mud/clay houses. We also passed a Monkey Sanctuary which got me really excited!
After touring the typical tourist locations on Friday, Saturday was spent visiting the local market and walking around the city. I have to admit that it became slightly exhausting and overwhelming. The smells, views, languages, everything is new,different, and BUSY. Being an outsider and constantly feeling eyes on you makes it so that you feel like you have to present yourself in a way that is acceptable and appropriate, which also is exhausting. While we were in Cape Coast we had a chance to meet all of Seth's family, and by ALL I mean they live on the same "city block" and take up the whole block with their shops and living quarters. When Seth took us back into his neighborhood to see his home, I had my first intense instance of culture shock. Here children play in dirt streets with deflated balls. The houses are so close together you have to turn sideways to fit through the walkway that is laid out between them. A group of people had set up a makeshift band and the drums were "bumping" as they always are here. I was nervous as to how Seth's family would respond to us, being outsiders. It was a humbling experience. Everyone welcomed us with handshakes, hugs, "you are welcome" statements. These people truly are the friendliest people on Earth, as they claim. After the second day at Cape Coast, Jessica and I were very ready to come "home." We missed the security of our compound home and having Auntie and Daddy around. Needless to say the hotel we were staying in didn't have any sense of a homely feel. ;)
On a different note, I feel like since our Cape Coast trip I have really been adjusting well to and accepting the life and culture here. Yesterday, Jessica and I went with our Ghanaian friend Phelicia to the Madina market a short ways away from our house. The market, like most places in Ghana was intensely busy. We got Ghanaian fabric to make a Kenti dress, skirts, etc. As I talked about previously, Auntie said that every year her and Daddy have an original Kenti outfit made for each person staying with them. She decided to tell us this early so that we could get ours made and wear them next weekend to an engagement party that she is taking us to!
In school this week things have been going surprisingly smooth. I talked with my teacher and I was teaching Math, but now I am teaching English. The challenges that these teachers are faced with on a daily basis is unbelievable. My teacher told me today that she not only makes the students' "end of term" tests by hand on her own, but also is required to teach students from different textbooks. For example, I was supposed to teach Math all this week, however when I was going through the students' workbooks I realized that the pages are different, with some students having one activity and others not having it at all. The teacher explained that on a tight budget, the school went out to buy the same textbooks when they ran out however, the ones that they had were no longer in print. They now have the old and newer additions mixed throughout the classrooms.
From this experience I know I will definitely come to appreciate everything that I'm educated about regarding best practice teaching and how students are being taught in the United States. I also think that I am learning to greatly appreciate and respect people who live and work in developing countries. It is easy for me to "look down" on locals, thinking that they are "uneducated" however, they are just doing what they have learned works well for the circumstances that they are in. For example, earlier this week I offered to help my teacher sharpen the classroom pencils that the students share. The teacher took out a box cutter and showed me how they use it to shave the end of the pencils. I saw a plastic pencil sharpener on her desk in a little tub and wondered to myself, "Why not use that?" I asked if I could use it instead, feeling not to trustworthy with the box cutter and my unrefined skills. The teacher explained that I could use the plastic sharpener but that it sharpens the pencils so much that the tips often break. Not listening, I tried it and sure enough, the tips broke off. I decided to try her way instead. The box cutter took me a while to get working the right way but I learned that it worked much better than the plastic sharpener AND it saved more of the pencil, making it last longer. I had an "ah-ha" moment, realizing that sometimes the people and communities faced with the most basic struggles have learned how to adapt to their lifestyle. I'm definitely learning a lot here that I never thought I would.
Can't wait to see what I learn next! Until next time.