In this week’s edition of “Classroom Nonsense…With A Smidgen of Embarrassment,” after starting my Monday morning strong by spraying my armpits with bugspray, my Politics of International Economic Relations professor (“Ghanaians have nothing to be proud of!”) decided that out of the class of 200 he would call on me specifically to answer a question. “Is there a Robert in the class?” he asks while looking directly at me. After I stare in bewilderment for a couple seconds he asks me what my name is before giving an answer to “What is Intellectual Property?” Luckily this exchange went monumentally better than the first time he asked me a question. A couple of days later during the “discussion” class for Colonial Rule and African Response, the Teaching Assistant (“What is history?”) asked an equally provocative question: “What is a compass?” Luckily this question was posited about 10 minutes into discussion so I knew I could safely spend the rest of class doodling. I paid attention enough to hear bits and pieces of the discussion; one kid insisted that the Fountain of Youth was a significant reason for exploration, and another girl was outrageously concerned with where the doctors who were brought along during European exploration were kept as the interior of Africa was navigated. The answer? On the damn boat. Good Lord. On Tuesday I had my first exam since arriving here. Since it was a Twi test, and since my knowledge of the language so far is infantile, I wrote fun sentences like “I know papaya!” (instead of I eat papaya) and “I have a lot of hats!” (instead of I have a lot of money). Whatever. At least the professor will be entertained. Hopefully.
On Saturday I traveled with 3 friends for the day to Shai Hills, a wildlife/resource reserve about an hour (hypothetically) outside of Accra. I don’t think I would trade the over 3 hours/3 tro-tros it took to get there for anything. Tro-Tro #2 featured a very passionate man selling highly questionable ointments and weight-loss capsules to the van of 28 Ghanaians. I’m only guessing it’s weight-loss related because he made numerous hand gestures that suggested he was talking about reducing stomach girth.
The whole time he was looking directly at me which was just a tad uncomfortable. This nonstop selling/sermon went on for at least 50 minutes, and I’m a bit concerned over the amount of people who actually gave him their money.
About 40 minutes into Tro-Tro ride #3 the engine started smoking so we had to pull over pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The driver told us we were only about a mile away from Shai Hills, so we decided to just walk the rest of the way even though we all agreed that the driver probably had no clue how to estimate distance.
After walking for 25 minutes a car pulled over in front of us and asked us if we wanted
a ride. Because the car seemed to be nice enough (there were leather seats!) and it was a youngish couple offering us the ride (women=safety, right?), we decided it was safe to hitchhike with these wonderful people. Turns out we underestimated the tro-tro driver’s knowledge because 3 minutes later we finally arrived!
Our guide first brought us to the Ostrich enclosure, where 4 ostriches just run around and do other massive bird activities. Seriously? What do ostriches do all day? We walked a short distance to visit
a baboon family and to feed them bananas! As we approached I was thinking about the hazard level we were stepping into since there wasn’t anything separating us from them (and baboons are freakin’ terrifying). One baboon leaped from a rooftop onto a tree directly above me, and at that moment, I thought my end had come. As the baboon was soaring through the air seemingly towards my head, I experienced flashes of Steve Irwin and that poor lady who Oprah interviewed whose face was ripped off by a chimpanzee. Dramatic? Yes. Always yes. In the end all was well and having a baboon snatch a banana from my hand was awesome.
The 4 of us and our guide hopped onto the back of a pickup truck (solidifying this day as the most adventurous ever) to drive to Sayu Bat Cave. Throughout the ride I couldn’t stop thinking about last summer in Botswana, that my life basically consisted of riding around in a safari car for hours a day in an environment just like Shai Hills. It’s like I was transported back 15 months and I was on one of Legodimo’s Biodiversity Drives; I half-expected to see hordes of impala rushing across the road and an elephant family that we would have to escape from. While none of that happened, for those 15 minutes I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation, perhaps more than I’ve felt before, for those 30 days I spent in the “wild.”
These feelings of nostalgia were replaced with revulsion when we first entered the bat cave. Their feces? Not too olfactory-pleasing. This unpleasantness was quickly erased once we saw/heard literally thousands of bats in the cave.
Our next and final stop was Mogo Rock, a place girls were kept for 6 months as part of their rite of passage into womanhood. After climbing up the rock (which at one point required hoisting ourselves up with rope), and absorbing the beautiful views of the reserve, we agreed that being forced to spend half a year up there didn’t sound too bad.
Riding in the back of the pickup truck to the reserve’s entrance was a perfect way to conclude a fantastic day trip.
To make this week even better, I was lucky enough to spend another 25+ hours at the orphanage. I mentioned last week that I was going to work on Beacon House’s blog, and hopefully the posts I wrote will be finished editing soon. It isn’t anything too substantial, but hopefully substantial enough to make the supervisors stop asking me to do something that leaves some grand, monumental impact on everybody’s lives there. Again, I just wanna play and help in the classroom.
On Tuesday night, I was asked to lead a prayer. You can imagine how I reacted to that (If you guessed uncomfortable giggling and declarations of embarrassment, then good job!). Before this happened the kids were read Bible passages about the importance of being honest, so all I could think about at that moment was how disappointed Jesus must be in me. But telling these people that I’m Jewish after all this time just doesn’t seem like something that needs to happen. Instead I’ll let them think of me as a really bad Christian. Definitely the safer choice.
On Thursday, I went through the normal morning routine of playing with the preschool-aged kids and babies and helping in the classroom until lunch. I ventured off during naptime to a restaurant called Luscious Temptations (!!!) to indulge in some Western, Oboruni food. In other words, it was the most expensive meal I’ve had since
coming here. I spent a hefty $12.00 on pizza and passion fruit iced tea, but damn it, I think I’ve earned this “luxurious” meal. I devote so much of my time to these kids, and yeah, I really love it, but sometimes, those kids can be
a pain in the ass difficult. As Donna from Parks and Recreation would say, Treat Yo Self!
I had 30 minutes to kill in the office before naptime was over so I decided to read…until an unnaturally large cockroach crawled next to me across my bag. I’m not about to stay in the room with that monster with me!
That night right before it was time to watch a movie, the power went out (again). So much chaos ensued, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it:
Not everybody was miserable, at least:
Friday’s highlights include me trying to help collapse a baby stroller (does it look like I would know how to do something like that?), reading The Gingerbread Man to the kids, and splurging some more on Chinese Food. My plan is to just starve myself all week so I can afford these 2 days of extravagance.
(WARNING! SEVERE MELODRAMA FOLLOWS)
I’ve already spent over 70 hours at Beacon House, and it’s been beyond amazing, but I think I need to start worrying about how close I’m getting with some of the kids. I’m finding myself falling into similar patterns that forced me to leave the day camp I spent 10 summers at. I mentioned vaguely a few weeks ago why I left, but I guess I can elaborate more now.
You spend so much time with these kids, and they’re genuinely happy, even ecstatic to see you. (Seriously. So many hugs). They say the cutest things like “I want you to come every day.” They start depending on you to help them with whatever they’re learning, and you feel wanted, needed, appreciated. I’m not really used to feeling these things, and just like I did 5 years ago, I’m getting emotionally attached to a few of them. I know that this is happening, but I don’t know how to detach myself.
I don’t know why I’m so good at forming relationships with people 10 and under but am completely clueless at forming relationships with people my age. Maybe it’s because they don’t expect much out of me, and for whatever reason I don’t feel intimidated like I normally am when talking to people. Maybe it’s because I have some yearning to go back and redo parts my childhood. I see how wild, free, excitable these kids are and I don’t remember ever being like that. I’m connecting with these kids for the same reasons I did at camp—because they represent aspects of myself that I wish I possessed. I wasn’t able to form many friendships growing up, and I think that jaded me, affected the way I interact with people today. My confidence is…negligible, and I just don’t put in much effort with people because I expect them to automatically not be interested. I’m still always surprised when people seemingly want to talk to me or be around me. Case in point: My uncle just asked me via Skype if I’m practicing “safe friend.”
So here are these wildly enthusiastic kids who run over and hug me every morning I arrive and again every night I leave, desperately fighting for my (MY!) attention and I just…turn to mush. These feelings of acceptance are so rare for me that I just latch onto them whenever/wherever they come about. I know I’m just making it harder on myself for when I leave. I like to think that three months from now they won’t see me as just another person who has come and gone in their lives, but that is the most likely scenario. Maybe they’ll miss me for a little while, but they will definitely get over it. And then it’ll be me, five years later, missing yet another kid.
Yikes. Maybe working with kids is just something I should avoid.
If you managed to make it through the messy ending to this post, you’re rewarded with the wisdom of Amy Poehler. I’ll post two videos from her web series “Smart Girls” here, but I seriously recommend watching them all when you get the chance. Thanks for reading!
Alright, one more!