Melissa: Now let me tell you something about my sister, she is seriously a celebrity here in Wegbe. Everywhere we go someone is there calling Sister Nicole or waving to her. Everyone knows Nicole and if they don’t, they want to. My sister walks through the town like she owns it, and she basically does. When Nicole waves to the towns people she brings a smile to their faces and seems to make their life a little better. It is amazing how much confidence she has and how much she is truly in love with Ghana.
Today I had my first day at the orphanage. Nicole and I woke up at 7 am, got ready, had breakfast and started on our short walk to Raymond’s house. This is the walk where people from all over come outside to say hi to Nicole. Nicole has become pretty good at speaking Ewe and responds to them in their language, which amazes me. I find it difficult to understand some of the people even when they speak English so I think picking up any Ewe will take me some time. The adults and kids laugh when Nicole responds in Ewe, as they don’t expect her to speak it.
We arrived at the orphanage and all the kids were already in their classes and taking exams. Nicole brought me into each of the rooms and introduced me to the kids and teachers. One of the classes sang a welcome song to me which was just adorable. The kids attack you once they see you. A few of the students pulled me down onto the bench with them in their class. They wouldn’t let me go and held onto every part of my body. When I eventually had to get up so they could learn and pay attention, I had to pull them off me because they wouldn’t let go. It was so cute.
One of Nicole’s projects is to give toothbrushes to all the students. We had bought plastic bags the other day so we had the task of writing the student’s names on each of the bags and placing a toothbrush in each bag. Of course the pens and markers we had wouldn’t stay on the plastic bags and we had no permanent markers. Nicole decided we would go into town and buy some. We got in a cab and headed over to Daphils, the stationary store. We found what we were looking for and then called Godwin, Nicole’s basically personal taxi driver, to come pick us up. He was going to be a bit so the owner of Daphils offered to take us back to Raymond’s house. We said okay and got in his car. He made small talk with us during the drive and asked if Nicole or I had children or were married. It’s so funny to me how everyone thinks you should already have children and be married by our age. I can’t even imagine how my life would be if I was 18 years old and it was normal to have kids and be married off already. When we arrived at Raymond’s house, he asked for Nicole’s number and told us he would take us to his church on Sunday. Nicole explained at we would be in Ho this coming weekend and maybe we could go with him another time.
It took us awhile to write all the kids names on the bags but eventually we finished and headed back to the orphanage. We did some organizing in the storage room and put all the kids work in their corresponding folders. Nicole then told me I could work with some of the students with their math skills. I took a little girl named Jennifer outside and we sat down and started practicing counting. She wasn’t very good at it, as she would say 1,2,4 everytime. We went over that 3 came between 2 and 4 about twenty times but she just wouldn’t get it. After about 5 minutes, she was obviously done trying to count and wouldn’t pay attention even when I would call her name. I brought her back inside to her class and went to Nicole. It was so difficult trying to teach just one of the kids, I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to teach a whole class of the students. It is very hard to make the kids take you seriously when you are white; apparently Nicole is the only exception.
When break came along, the kids ran outside to get out their energy and play for a bit before class had to start again. The kids seriously think Nicole and I are human jungle gyms. They grab onto every part of our bodies and don’t let go. Somehow even if you are just holding their hand they find a way to hang from you and make you hold them so they don’t fall. They also all like to be picked up and never put down. But once you pick up one, all of them want to be picked up as well. So my arms tend to ache from time to time.
After break was over, one of the other volunteers, Steven, told me he was leaving on Friday and asked me if I would like to take over his job of teaching the kids phonics. Of course I wanted to, so he showed me what he was teaching them and how to teach it. The kids learn the sounds of letters along with specific hand movements to help them remember better. It’s a pretty easy concept of teaching, but some of the children just don’t get it and don’t pay attention so sometimes it gets difficult. I am happy that I do now have a role at Christ and that I get to have some kind of learning impact on the children.
We had lunch at Raymond’s house which was pretty good. I’m not going to lie I like the food so much better here than in Spain, even though every meal here consists of rice. We rested for a bit after lunch then headed in to town to go to the seamstress. We bought some fabric along the way and explained to Beatrice, the seamstress, what we wanted made. Nicole then showed me CCS, where she stayed last summer. The guy at the front gate was very nice and kept asking me how my mother was. It was pretty funny. When we returned to the orphanage we took all the students to play at the field. They play soccer, jump rope, Frisbee and lots of other games. Here as well they all want to hold you hand and for you to play with them.
We walked with a few of the kids that live in the direction of our hotel and then we said goodbye. We let little 5 year olds with a couple of ten year olds walk all the way home. It was kind of strange for me to just leave them because I would never think of letting such little kids walk by themselves home.
For dinner we walked to Raymond’s house. On the way there we got stopped at a local bar by some people that knew Nicole. One old man told me that I would be his wife and wouldn’t stop holding my hand. It was pretty funny seeing as he was like 60ish years old.
The way Raymond lives is so simple. They are so grateful and content with everything they have; it is truly amazing to me. While we ate dinner, Raymond’s wife bathed her son. She had warmed up some water outside and mixed it with some cold water and started scrubbing her son in a big bowl. They also cook outside under a little hut thing. They make a fire and put a pan above it and make their food. It’s nothing simple, as they have to cut, cook and prepare everything by themselves. It is similar to camping, in my eyes.
Nicole: On Wednesday morning, we were brought our breakfast of eggs, toast, and pineapple. We got ready for school and then headed over to Raymond’s house. Of course, we were stopped numerous times to give hugs, high fives, and hellos to children along the way. The children ran up to us and were excited to see us. At Raymond’s house, we met Godwin, our taxi driver who drove us to the new site of the orphanage. Melissa had seen photos of the site but was excited to actually see the site with her own eyes. We drove down the bumpy road to the new site, picked up one of the workers who was walking, and then turned and faced the even worse road leading directly to the site. I explained to Melissa why Raymond said she should start her Ghana’s Road Project with this road. She definitely understood. We walked up to the workers and parents who were at the site and said good morning to them. One of the workers shook Melissa’s hand and told her that he loved her. The other workers laughed as she just stood their in shock, somewhat confused that a complete stranger had told her that he loved her. She still thinks it’s pretty crazy but I have told her that its pretty normal here, as are the marriage proposals.
We went into the first building, the building that will house 30+ children and walked around, seeing the toilets, showers, and bedrooms. We went upstairs to the top of the building which is currently just flat and has no walls but will eventually become the second story of the living facilities for the children. After looking at the beautiful view from the top, we walked over to the dining hall area. The dining hall has been built very quickly – it was started after I arrived and already has walls. It is amazing how quickly they have built this building, considering its size and the fact that everything is done by hand – from making the bricks to carrying the bricks to making the mortar.
After viewing the buildings at the new site, we walked back to the car and conquered the extremely bumpy road back to Raymond’s house. We then walked over to the orphanage. The children at the school called out ‘Sister Nicole and Sister Melissa’ as we approached the school, alerting all the other students and teachers that we had arrived. As all the classes had more exams on Wednesday, I did some organizational stuff at the orphanage. I have made folders for each child’s school work and have been going through all the schoolwork that has been collected and thrown around over the last few years and separating it by child. Melissa went out to the yard with the kids for break while I stayed inside and continued organizing the papers. She had lots of fun playing with the kids and taking their photos. She already has a bunch of children, such as Happy and Anthony who are crazy about her and love to hang out with her.
One of the little girls, Cynthia, who is probably one year old and who lives close to Raymond has become attached to me and always wants me to pick her up and take her with me. It is so sweet that she never wants me to leave but sad at the same time as she cries and often refuses to go to her mother when I need to leave and try to hand her over. She came with me to the school on Wednesday morning and just hung around with me. Eventually I tied her to my back and she quickly fell asleep. I put her on the mattress and she slept for a good hour and a half.
Melissa returned from break and helped me finish organizing the papers. With her help, we finally finished going through all the school work. It is now up to the teachers to separate their student’s work and keep it somewhat organized. While we were finishing separating the papers, Cynthia woke up. Melissa put her on her lap and just held her for awhile. Cynthia got up and a minute later started peeing on the ground. Melissa was so glad that Cynthia was no longer on her lap and is still so surprised that Godwin, one of the older kids cleaned up the pee with no problem. I think she is still realizing how much responsibility the children here have and how they are expected to help with much of the housework. The children, as well as the adults take care of the younger children and care for them, punish them, and love them as their own. It is an amazing thing to see Dina, Raymond’s wife totally take care of and feed Cynthia when I bring her over.
Yesterday afternoon, after playing on the field with the children, we walked a number of the children part way home and then returned to our hotel. We relaxed for a little bit before leaving to walk to Raymond’s house for dinner. Makafui, the cook at our hotel followed us out of the hotel as Nicholas, another staff member at the hotel begged us to listen to our ipods. I let Nicholas borrow my ipod for awhile as he loves to listen to American music on it. Makafui told us that she needed a teddy bear. Melissa told her that we would be her teddy bears but Makafui told us that if we were her teddy bears, then we could never leave her. I told her that we would be kicked out of the country but she told us that Ghana is different from America and they wouldn’t kick us out of their country. I told her that I would see what I could do about the teddy bear.