Saturday, June 20, 2009

Talking About America

This week has been busy at the orphanage. As Mark, a volunteer who initiated and has done most of the work and fundraising for the new site will be visiting soon, we have been working on some tasks that he requested were completed before his arrival. Our main task at the moment is developing updates for each of the children to put on the website. Every day at break, the teachers, Raymond, and I have been gathering and talking about the children. I take the notes, write down which class they are currently in, and make any logistical corrections that need to be made. We have almost finished going through all of the children so I have been working on turning the notes into short paragraphs and typing them.

Other things that I have been busy doing this week include trying to learn all 150 of the children’s names. I know a majority of the names but there are still a bunch of kids whose names I am still working on. Its good practice as I have also been trying to organize all of my photos on my computer. I have developed folders on my computer for each of the children and have been going through and sorting the thousands of pictures I have already taken.

One day this week, I taught the older children, Class 2. The children started asking me if I could call America so that they could talk to the people too. I was a little confused but then realized that Godwin, one of the students had told his peers that he had talked to my sister on the phone. As Godwin lives with Raymond and his family, he is around in the evenings when I go over to their house for dinner. While on the phone with my sister one evening, I had asked him if he wanted to say hello to my sister. He was very excited to talk to her and hear her say that she was coming to Ghana in a few weeks. Godwin communicated very well with her in English – I was very impressed.

I then had to explain to these 9-10 year olds that although it was currently 11am in Ghana, it was 4am in America. I asked the students what they were doing at 4 in the morning. They told me that they were eating and doing chores. I told them that at 4m, I am still sleeping. This made them realize that at 4 in the morning, they are in fact also sleeping. I asked them if they would want me to call them at 4 in the morning. They ruined my point as they shouted ‘yes.’ I just laughed and explained to them that I didn’t think it would be very nice to call my sister at 4am and wake her up. They finally agreed with me that we shouldn’t call and wake up my sister but told me that when I leave I must give them my phone number at home so that they can call me.

This conversation led to the students asking me questions about America. I was a little shocked when one of the boys asked me if there were blacks in America. I told him that yes, there are blacks that live in America and we call them African Americans. I then told them how there were also other people in America. People from all over the world – Asians, Mexicans, Germans, etc. This resulted in all of the children telling me that I should take them to America with me when I return there.

A few weeks ago, Patrick asked if he could use my computer to type his final project for the teaching college he attends. So he started typing. After a half hour, I noticed how long it was going to take him to type the first page which he was still on. So I offered to type it for him and he happily accepted my offer. I did not realize that the project was a total of 50 pages until he brought his draft the next day. And even though the draft had been ‘edited,’ it was a mess. As I typed the project for him, little by little, I could not help but edit it for him.

I had the entire project finished early this week but took it upon myself to go through all 50 pages once again to read it for clarity and mistakes. There were some sentences that I had come across while typing the project that did not make any sense at all but I could not edit as I had no clue what Patrick was trying to say. It was a lot of work but I couldn’t let him turn in a final project that had so many mistakes and made absolutely no sense in places. This afternoon, I finished typing and editing the final pages that Patrick had added.

Now for some cute things that I have been meaning to share with you.

For my 18th birthday, some of my friends bought me a Tiffany’s bracelet. It is a chain type bracelet with a heart charm on it. I wear this bracelet 24/7 including here in Ghana. The children love playing with the bracelet and when they see the heart, they say ‘apple...a for apple.’

In addition to the heart bracelet, I also wear an elephant necklace here 24/7. I had a similar necklace that my sister had made for me last summer before I left for Ghana. She made an identical one and wore it while I was away and even after I returned. On my last day in Ghana, I gave my necklace to the little girl in my adopted family, Melody. In this way, the elephant necklace has kind of become our thing and at my fundraiser for the orphanage in January, we had the necklaces available for a donation. I have a new elephant necklace which I have been wearing this year. All of the children love it and enjoy identifying it. I have learned the Ewe word for elephant as the children who can not speak English have taught me that in their language, elephant is ‘antigleeyne.’

My hotel is located a short walk from the orphanage. I walk there every morning and afternoon and greet all of the people I see. The children enjoy calling out my name and even some of the adults call me by name now. There is a point on my path in which I walk past a house that is home to a young girl. She is probably a little younger than a year old. Every morning and afternoon, she stands in the middle of the path and waits for me to come. She waits until I am close enough and then hugs my legs. She makes me smile as her face lights up when she sees me. I think it is the cutest thing in the world and it makes me so much happier than the children who cry when they see me.

A few weeks ago, Patrick and I went to town to purchase some containers for the school supplies I had brought for the orphanage. At one of the shops that we stopped at, there were three girls sitting and chatting. When one of the girls saw me, she asked my name and proceeded to touch my skin. She then tried to rub it like she wanted to rub some of the whiteness off of me and transfer it onto her. She was probably around 12 years old but she held my hand the whole time I was in the shop. She kissed my arms numerous times when I told her and the other girls that I had to leave after purchasing some items and didn’t want to let go. She shouted after me and told me how beautiful I was.

While her actions were cute, it saddens me when Ghanaians like this girl tell me that I am prettier then they are because of my skin color. I have also been told that my skin is softer and nicer than Ghanaian’s skin. I try to convince them that their skin is equally beautiful and soft but they refuse to believe me. It’s horrible how we Westerners have been able to convince Africans and other racial groups that whites are the most beautiful people. I personally think that Ghanaians are truly beautiful, inside and out. I think that their dark complexion is gorgeous and brings out their beautiful features.

After purchasing those containers, I filled some of them with school supplies. I brought two of them to the school one day when I returned in the afternoon. The children started chanting something in Ewe as I arrived with these containers. I was confused as to what they thought I had in the containers and what they were chanting. I asked one of the teachers and it was explained to me that since the people who sell kabobs use the same containers to hold the food, the children were shouting this in Ewe. After all of the craziness died down and the children let go of me, I was able to enter the school and put the containers in an out of reach spot in one of the classrooms. I asked the children in Class Two to stay in their classroom as the rest of the students went to the field to play. I explained to these older students that I needed their help and asked if they were willing to help me. They were more than happy to help. I took down the containers and explained to them that we were going to clean the very messy cupboard and organize the materials. I took out my ipod and the speakers and put on some Disney music for them to listen to. The children had no clue what this white musical device was but when I plugged it into the speakers and the music started playing, they first looked at it in shock and then started dancing. That afternoon, we organized the cupboard. It was quite a task but the children were a great help. They assisted in organizing the flash cards, putting rubber bands around them and then putting them in one of the boxes. They also helped to go through all of the books and pull out the ones that needed to be restapled or glued as they were broken and falling apart. I took out the piles of paper that had children’s artwork or schoolwork on them and organized them into a box labeled ‘Schoolwork.’ I made sure that we did not change things too much but that we made things neater and easier to find and use.

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