Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Change of Plans

The weather here has been extremely rainy. Two nights ago (Tuesday), Patrick and I went over to Raymond’s house to eat dinner there as there was no electricity and it was very dark at the hotel. We sat outside and enjoyed our meal. Anderson (Raymond’s son) and Lillian (a little girl who lives in the same compound) both ran to me and hugged me. I asked Dina (Raymond’s wife) what she did the children as earlier that day, Anderson who knows me and is usually fine with me around started screaming his head off the minute he saw me and ran away. Lillian decided to mimic Anderson’s behavior.

Being white in a black country causes numerous encounters like this. Many of the children here get very excited when they see a white person (‘yevo’) and jump up and down with excitement. There are also the children who have never seen a white person before and run away in fear, screaming and crying. And some of the children who are very excited when they see a white person from afar aren’t so excited when the white person gets closer and tries to approach him/her. Yes, I know from experience.

On the walk over to Raymond’s house, we witnessed the most insane and amazing lightening I have ever seen. You know those photographs of lightening lighting up the whole sky. This lightening was like that. And the lightening would strike at one point and the sky was so clear that you could watch the lightning’s path extend across the sky for a good 10 seconds. It lit up everything. It was incredible. This lightening continued throughout dinner and after. I didn’t get tired of watching the lightening make its path in the sky.

When the lights came back on about an hour later, it took some of the beauty out of the natural event occurring in the sky but as the town doesn’t have bright lights, it didn’t ruin the magic.

I watched as Dina began to bathe Anderson with him sleeping on her. It was quite a task as Anderson is only 2 years old but is a pretty big child. She laid him out on her legs and dipped the washing cloth into the bucket full of boiling water and cold water that she had mixed and then rubbed the soap on the cloth. With the white bubbles covering Anderson’s limp, bare body, she scrubbed his body to cleanse him of all the dirt. She washed his hair and then gently wiped his face while protecting it from the bubbles. After she washed the front of his body twice, she took a cup full of water out of the bucket and washed him off. She then flipped the child over and started to clean his back side, which appeared to be a much easier task than his front side. She washed the soap off and started to dry his wet body which was glistening in the light. She proceeded to cover the creases of his body with baby powder. This is a bit of a funny sight as the white baby powder covers the black skin. Dina even was able to pour Anderson’s medicine into his mouth without him screaming like he usually does. She wiped her wet legs off and took her baby inside to sleep.

Yesterday (Wednesday), during the break that I usually take from the orphanage, I decided to go to town to use the internet café. About ten seconds after I walked out the hotel’s front gate, a taxi honked, a hand waved from the window, and the car pulled over. It was Dela, the driver from Cross Cultural Solutions. I hadn’t seen him or the staff from CCS since my first visit there a few weeks ago. I asked Prosper, the taxi driver if he would drop me off at the internet café on their way back to the home. He happily agreed. But then, I changed my mind and decided to go back with them to the home base so I could say hi to the staff and visit with them.

We took the backroads as there is construction and building occurring on the road that we usually took to get to the home base. I was greeted with a warm hug by Rebecca, one of the ladies who take care of the home base. She told me how she had been calling me numerous times during the last few weeks but that the number hadn’t been going through. I apologized to her and explained to her the story of how I lost my phone in Ho and didn’t have any of the numbers that were in my phone. We exchanged numbers again and she told me that she would call me so we could arrange a time for her to come visit me at my hotel.

While at the home base, I got to see a lot of the staff who were not there during my visit a few weeks earlier. Makafui, the director of CCS was happy to see me and said that someone told him that they had seen me in town but he wasn’t sure cause he hadn’t seen me yet. He inquired as to what I was doing during my trip and told me that they were still there and available if I needed anything.

After my trip to CCS, I went to the internet café to check my emails and send out some blog updates. I was happily surprised by the fact that my sister was online and excited that we were able to talk. I then headed back to my hotel to put down my stuff before going over to the field to play with the children.

Today (Thursday), I arrived at the orphanage at 8:30 as Evanx (one of the teachers) has been giving me a hard time about not getting there exactly at 8:30. I told him that I was on Ghana time and asked him what he was complaining about especially after his hour and a half lateness in picking me up to go to church two weeks ago. He said that he likes the way I treat time as being something that is so precious and said that he wants me to arrive on my time, not Ghana time so that he can learn from me. I’m not sure how well this will work but even if we can cut his lateness down by half, that would be a huge improvement!

After being warmly greeted by the children, I took my five children from Class 1 into our new classroom. It had only taken me a few short days to realize that a number of the children in this class are way behind in their writing and number, color, and letter identification skills and this is greatly affecting their performance in class. Because these children are so far behind, they are completely lost during class and cause trouble. I asked the teacher of this class (the class I taught last summer) to pick 4-5 kids from the class with whom I could teach. He happily agreed. I got a white board, a bench for the children, a chair for me, and a little table for the papers, pencils, and other learning materials. We set up class in the classroom at the orphanage that is not used by any of the classes. Between my visit last summer and my return this summer, the classroom had been decorated and adorned with the alphabet, colors, and other educational learning tools. The children love the colorful letters because they help them when they can’t figure out which letter I am asking them to identify.

Today, we took a break from the game I had them play the previous two days. This game was that the child had to pick a colored white board marker from my hand and tell me which color the marker was. We only used three different colors as to make it not too difficult or confusing. The child then had to go to the white board and write any letter that they wanted. The rest of the kids were instructed to raise their hand if they knew which letter it was. This was a game that I had developed in my head as it required the children to practice writing their letters and identify their colors while also recognizing and naming letters. It was so successful and the children enjoyed it so much that they begged me to let them play again the next day.

But today, I decided to introduce a new learning material – alphabet flashcards. I had the children identify the letters, the picture that was illustrated which started with the particular letter, and the name of the object depicted in the picture. I then gave each child a few of the flashcards and had them go through them, look at the pictures, and pick out their favorite card. Each student shared their favorite card with the rest of the class and then I had the students write the letter they had chosen and draw the object that was illustrated on the card.

I allowed the children to color in their drawings and then instructed them to practice writing the alphabet on the back of the paper as I worked with one student in particular. This student, Patience is definitely the student in Class 1 that has the most trouble learning and retaining information. She cannot write many of the letters so that, as well as working with her on spelling her name are my first priorities for her. I had her come to the white board and worked with her on writing a lower case e. This was not an easy task and took quite some time. But eventually, after breaking it down and having her draw a horizontal line with a rainbow on top and a tail at the bottom, she finally did it. I was so excited. It finally clicked in her head and she wanted to keep practicing. So she filled the entire board with pretty close to perfectly written e’s.

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