It only took a month, but professors finally decided they felt like showing up and teaching! Well…not all of them. I haven’t actually seen the professor for Colonial Rule and African Response, and based off this week’s “lesson” I really hope he makes an appearance sometime soon. The Teaching Assistant started off with the monumentally deep, thought-provoking question “What is history?” Seriously, buddy. You need to come up with a better way to take attendance than spending 30 minutes having us write down and discuss our personal definitions of history. He spent the remaining 90 minutes attempting to convince the class that Africa does indeed possess a history.
Nobody Some people seemed to think otherwise. Along the way, he took the time to spell out “hieroglyphics” on the board. So considerate! As if there weren’t enough literacy issues in Africa, now there will be people walking around spelling that word as “hirogliphics.” Good work! At one point one bewildered girl behind me uttered “What is he talking about?” That about sums up everybody’s experience.
Anyway. That concludes my weekly class rant.
I spent another 14 hours at the orphanage this week. Just in case I didn’t make my feelings clear about working there, it really is the GREATEST. Tuesday afternoon was spent pushing the kids on swings, receiving multiple hugs, and watching Agent Cody Banks. At the time that movie came out in 2003, my 11/12 year old self thought it was just the coolest film ever, starring the coolest people ever: Lizzie McGuire and the boy from Big Fat Liar (or to most people the boy from Malcolm in the Middle). Now Hilary Duff is married with a child and Frankie Muniz is…(pause for a Wikipedia search) a racecar driver?! His last movie is entitled Pizza Man so a career change was probably a wise decision. Needless to say, I felt extremely old and silly for enjoying that movie after watching it again this week. And Hilary Duff looks the same as she did when she was 15. I can relate.
On Thursday I met my internship “supervisor” (in quotes because she’s basically my age) and the woman who owns Beacon House. As an intern, I’m supposed to have a long-term goal/project that will leave a “lasting” impact on the lives of the children and myself. I’m not really creative and possess virtually zero skills, so this is something that isn’t extremely appealing to me. Just making the kids smile and laugh and helping out in the classroom is more than enough to leave me feeling like the experience is worthwhile. I don’t need some grand project to make me feel like I’m making a difference.
I came up with the idea of a “Beacon House Olympics” since it could involve everyone and there can be educational (but mostly fun) events, crafts for uniform/medal making and cool prizes, but there wasn’t much enthusiasm displayed towards this plan. Whatever. I tried. I just wanna play.
I learned what happens when I allow 10/11 year olds to play with my camera. 50 random but adorable pictures and a 13 minute video later, I think I learned my lesson. The lesson? That giving them the camera increases my chances of having really cute pictures to show you guys and continuing to risk monetary damage is the only possible way. You’re welcome!
A couple more highlights from the orphanage this week:
- I was yelled at for the first time in years on Thursday for leaving toys outside. Apparently a jump-rope left unattended will result in children choking each other with it. Look, lady. Don’t you know who I am?! I don’t get in trouble. Ever. I’m the kid who never missed a day of high school, was never late to class, never got detention and feared doing anything that would result in a scolding. I don’t break rules! The last time I was yelled at was the first day of 11th grade for eating lunch in class. I almost peed my pants during that confrontation, so you can imagine how I felt during this reprimanding.
- I am way over my head when it comes to teaching. I really don’t know how what I’m doing. I’m trying to get the kids to add with their fingers instead of using counters and it’s just not working out too well. But I brought in stickers that my friend gave me and their motivating effect seemed to help. Who doesn’t love getting stickers that say “Muy Bien!” after completing monumental math equations like 14+8?
- There is no greater tragedy than the popping of a toddler’s balloon. I held a boy as he bawled his eyes out over this devastating occurrence.
- I was praised for my patience by one of the House “Mothers” after she witnessed me with one of the babies. She was surprised that I had no younger sibling. That was so nice!
This weekend was spent in the Ashanti Region and its capital city, Kumasi. After our 5+ hour trip into central Ghana we arrived at our first destination, a traditional Ashanti house. This current UN World Heritage Site is one of the few of its kind remaining after the British came and destroyed everything in the late 19thcentury, probably just for shiggles.
Our next stop was Bonwire Kente Village to learn about kente weaving and to potentially buy some cloth. I don’t really know how to go about explaining this experience, except that it was one of the worst ones ever.
Seriously, Ghanaians need to learn some salesman techniques. We couldn’t look at anything without being bombarded by multiple men, literally grabbing our arms to show us products for sale. The words “I’m not interested” didn’t really register with them. Look. I like to think of myself as a really calm person and I put in a lot of effort to maintain my composed demeanor. For example, whereas in my head I was screeching “I don’t want your fu#$%@* sh$@!!!” outwardly I just smiled and repeatedly said “No thank you”. The New Yorker in me made a rare appearance towards the end when a man followed me outside and literally threw some cloth at me into the bus. I opened the window and threw it back at him, and when he tried opening the door I slammed it shut more or less on his arm. That’s right. Don’t mess with this!
Another highlight of the trip was having the privilege to participate in a music/dance workshop led by one of Ghana’s music legends, Agya Koo Nima, who specializes in Palmwine music. I’ve done more dancing this past month in Ghana than I have in all my 20 years, and by some miracle I maintained control of my bodily functions during this ordeal. At least during my first dance workshop everybody was doing it at once. This time there was an audience of respected individuals. Please, Ghana. I didn’t sign up for the dance class for a reason. Leave me alone!
In all seriousness, the drumming and dancing we got to witness was truly amazing and beautiful, and is one of my favorite parts of the trip so far.
Other Ashanti/Kumasi highlights:
- We stopped at Ntonso Andikra Village to learn about Andikra symbols/their meanings that are used as stamps/designs on buildings and clothing. I bought the stamp that means inner strength and humility (two of my favorite traits), and if I ever get a tattoo, maybe it’ll be of this symbol. Sorry, mom!
- Manhyia Palace was a really cool pit-stop. We toured the Palace Museum that contained life-sized effigies of past and present Ashanti Kings and their Queen Mothers. Just a tad creepy.
- We visited Kejetia Market, West Africa’s largest open-air market. Good lord. I’m not a fan of large crowds and chaos, and this market had all of that plus the bonus of some pretty
putriddelightful odors. Other highlights included seeing goat heads and live chickens being placed into plastic bags. I think I’ll be alright if I don’t visit that place again.
- By virtue of my lack of male friends here I had my own room at the hotel we stayed at. See? I knew my social failures would start paying off if only I failed just enough times!
Wow, I really can’t believe that I’ve been here exactly one month already. I’m slightly surprised that nothing has gone too horribly wrong yet. However, the food situation is getting a bit concerning. I can’t handle rice and egg sandwiches anymore, and if that starts happening with chicken, plantains, noodles and pineapple my diet will consist of…nothing. Damn it, I just want some Dunkin’ Donuts and real pizza. And bagels. And burgers that don’t look like this:
Alright. You get the picture. Thank you all for continuing to read this, and especially to those who have complimented my writing! I don’t really see what’s so great about it, but we all know about my non-existent confidence/self-esteem levels. Have a wonderful week!