Friday, July 31, 2009

A Day with No Teachers

Nicole: On Wednesday night, after eating dinner at Raymond’s house, we went next door to visit some young girls who live there and adore us (we adore them as well). They put on a show for us as the five girls (ranging from maybe 7-12 years old) danced and sang. They were adorable. Cynthia (one year old) got up off of Melissa’s lap and started dancing with the older girls. She had a blast and kept laughing at herself and at the other girls. She made Melissa and I crack up numerous times. We both agreed that she would sleep well that night.

After the girls ran out of songs to sing, they started reciting their numbers, letters, and multiplication tables for us. We listened in awe as Albert, one of the students at Christ who lives close by, recited his multiplication tables. Melissa was confused as Albert is probably only 5 or 6 years old and was reciting multiplication tables – something we didn’t learn until we were in 3rd grade. I explained that although he was able to recite them perfectly he more than likely had no clue how to use multiplication and would not be able to perform simple multiplication problems out of order. One of the older girls, Bright was unable to correctly recite the multiplication tables and was laughed at by the older women who were sitting around and listening. I told her to come over to where Melissa and I were sitting and practiced her problem area with her. After going over it many times, she was still convinced that 2x7 was equal to 8. We let the children recite their multiplication tables up until 6s before we decided it was time for us to leave. I told Melissa that if we didn’t leave, we would be stuck there, listening to their multiplication tables up until 12s.

Melissa: On Thursday, Nicole and I did our normal routine in the morning; wake up at 7, eat breakfast, get ready and head out to the orphanage. Little did we know that today would be very different and crazier than any other day. We arrived at the orphanage to all the children running around, playing and going a bit crazy. I started playing with them, picking them up and twirling them around. Nicole came out shortly to inform me that Raymond was sending all the teachers home because they had all arrived late to school. I just stood there not really comprehending that that meant I would have my own class since all the classes would have to be taught and controlled by the white volunteers. Since Nicole is the only one that can actually control the kids, you can just imagine how crazy the orphanage was that day.

I ended up in KG1, the class I usually help in with my little babies Happy and Anthony. I was excited to be with all of them and be able to experience what Nicole had really been doing here. I decided we would read books, since I didn’t really know what else to do with them. I went and got a book and started reading it to them. Slowly but surely they all had gotten out of their seats and ended up on my lap, my chair and holding on to every part of my body. You can imagine how difficult it would be to read a book to little kids while they are basically attacking each other to get closer to you to see the book. Eventually I just couldn’t read anymore because I couldn’t even see the book anymore. I got up and told them they all had to go back to their seats. Of course none of them listen and just grabbed on to my legs, making it impossible to even move. One of the older students, Israel, had come into my class to listen to me read the book as well. He started to take control and yelled at all the kids until they got back in their seats. I was so relieved because God knows they would never have gotten them all in their seats by myself.

Israel and I went into the storage room and get more books for the kids, so they would just look at them and attempt to read to themselves because trying to read to all of them was just too crazy. Of course having them read and look at the books by themselves caused even more problems. The kids didn’t want to share the books with each other and would grab them out of each others hands. I had to get tons of books so each kid would have their own book. At this time there probably were 20 to 25 students in my room, as somehow kids from all of the classes had flocked to my room. Some kids didn’t want the book I had given them and started crying and acting out in everyway. I just stood there staring at all of them, watching them go crazy because I really did not know what to do to control them. Raymond was in the room next to me and could hear all the noise. He came in and told the students to sit down and be quiet. Of course they all listened to him but wouldn’t even think about listening to me if I would have said the same thing. It was pretty frustrating but I let it go and just read to a few of them and let the rest do their own thing because there was really nothing I could do to control them.
Its pretty hard to get annoyed or upset at any of the children because they are just so adorable and they don’t mean any harm when they want to be holding on to you every second of the day. But I am pretty sure they didn’t learn anything all day from me. Eventually it was lunch so Nicole and I had a break. We looked at each other and both remarked that the kids and school in general was crazy and uncontrollable. We both agreed that Raymond should never ever do this again and I could tell the other volunteers would agree as well.

Nicole: On Thursday evening, Melissa and I walked over to Raymond’s neighbor’s house – the place where the girls we have become close with live. We had bought two loafs of bread earlier that week but had not yet eaten most of it so we decided to share it with them before it went bad. When Melissa pulled the loaf of bread out of her bag, all of the children and adults started cheering. They were all so happy to get a piece of bread and so thankful for it. We ran out of bread before giving it to everyone so I sent Godwin, one of the older children at the orphanage who lives with Raymond to buy another loaf. It was amazing to see how happy and grateful the people were for the bread.

Today, Friday, we woke up and waited for Godwin to pick us up. He was running on Ghana time which gave us time to watch some Prison Break. He finally arrived and drove us to town. We first went to the Internet Café to print the questionnaires for my thesis research project and some other documents for the orphanage but upon arriving at the café, we learned that between the time that we left our hotel and the time we arrived at the Internet café, the electricity had gone out. We gave up on that and headed over to the post office to send out some mail. From the post office, we drove over to the two little shops I always visit to buy containers and bought some plastic cups. Melissa and I had put together a plastic bag for each child with their name on it and a toothbrush inside a few days earlier but had been informed by the teachers that their were not enough cups for all of the children to rinse their mouths.

After purchasing cups, we stopped at the Hohoe Market. We had driven past many open markets like this one in Accra but I wanted Melissa to see the market here in Hohoe. We walked around looking at the huge bowls full of rice, grains, various types of beans, and all sorts of colorful vegetables. We found a lady who was selling flip flops and stopped to find some flip flops (or as they call them here, ‘slippers’) for the girls who live next door to Raymond. One of the girls had asked us to buy her some slippers as she did not have any, meaning that she walked around everywhere barefoot. We decided to buy slippers for all of the girls as one of the other girl’s slippers were broken and we did not want the rest of them to get jealous.

After our little adventure at the market which consisted of some lady stopping us and telling us that we should be her friends after showing us a photo of her and another one of her friends – of course, a white lady and some guys trying to get us to buy random shoes, we headed back to Wegbe.

We went to the orphanage and were bombarded by a bunch of children going absolutely crazy. I knew that this kind of behavior meant that the teachers were not supervising the children and were probably hidden away in one of the rooms having a staff meeting. I walked into the building and found all of the teachers and volunteers in one of the classrooms having a meeting. These meetings which occur during school hours are something that I am not fond of at all and have told Raymond on multiple occasions should not take place while the children are at school. Every time the teachers have a meeting during school hours, they put the older children in charge of the younger classes but the children go crazy, hurt each other, and run around screaming anyways. It is very sad to me to know that there are very capable teachers who cannot find a better time to meet and sacrifice the children’s educational time for their meetings.

Anyways, Melissa and I walked in and joined the meeting, listening to suggestions, critiques, and ideas proposed by teachers and volunteers. The meeting was adjourned not too long later as one of the volunteers was leaving that morning and there was a good bye ceremony to be conducted. All of the children were rounded up and brought into the nursery classroom. They sang and danced as some of the teachers played the drums. As Steven’s (the guy who was leaving) birthday was that day, we sang happy birthday and then Raymond presented him with a thank you present and made him promise to return to the orphanage. Of course he agreed to come back and told the children how much he would miss them. All of the children were directed to come outside to take a group photo. I started snapping away and the children at the front loved the flash on my camera so much that they kept making different poses and telling me to keep taking their photo.

On Friday evening, Melissa and I went next door to Gloria’s house. Gloria is probably 18 years old and is a very sweet girl who lives with her grandmother. We gave her some clothing which Melissa had brought from home. She was so happy and thanked us immensely. After eating dinner, we went to visit the girls we have become close with. When we arrived only one of the girls was still awake. We decided that we would just give her the flip flops we had bought for her and then would return another day to give the rest of the girls their flip flops and the clothes that Melissa had brought from home.

Our plan quickly changed as the other girls were woken up and came out to see what was going on. As quickly as the girls appeared, the adults appeared. They surrounded us and were as excited as the children. We gave all of the girls the flip flops which was difficult as we had to have them try them on and make sure they got the right pair. One of the older ladies asked if we have flip flops for her as well. We told the adults that we only brought stuff for the children. When I started pulling out the clothes which were for the children, the parents started grabbing at them. It was craziness. I don’t even know how to explain it to you. It was very sad to see the adults fighting over the clothes which weren’t even brought for them. I had to pull a very small shirt out of the hands of one of the bigger ladies and convince her that it would not fit her. She grabbed at another shirt and was so excited to get it. I couldn’t really do anything about it and felt very helpless. All of the people who were surrounding us were begging for clothes – I made sure that all of the children got at least one piece of clothing and then had to tell them that that was all that we had.

Those who had gotten clothing started showing it to others and some of the girls tried on their pieces. Melissa and I said goodnight and walked away feeling sad about what had just happened. We were approached by one of the young boys who attends the orphanage and lives close by. He just stood there in front of us and looked at us with very sad eyes. I felt sad that I couldn’t give him anything and knew that he felt jealous and left out. I gave him a banana which the ladies had brought to us as a thank you present. I knew that wasn’t what he wanted and probably didn’t make him feel any better but it was all I could do.

Melissa and I had wanted to do something nice for the girls but were made to feel bad by the adults that we did not have more stuff for them. It made us sad that the adults, most of them being the girls’ parents, grandparents, and other relatives did not respect the fact that we had brought the clothing for the children. The fact that the adults acted like children and just grabbed at the clothes made us feel very sad. Melissa remarked, and I agree that many of the adults do not understand that by helping the youth, their children, we are helping them – that their children are the future. Melissa and I discussed how difficult it is to do something nice for someone here without others becoming aware of it and becoming jealous which results in them begging for the same or similar thing.

We also talked at length about the fact that these adults, like a number of the people here in the black country of Ghana see that we are white and immediately assume that means that we are made out of money. Many of them think that we can just buy the whole world for them – one of the women who passed by us this day turned to us and said “money money money.”

To end this day on a happier note, when Melissa was on the phone with our mother she was telling her about the children at the orphanage, especially Happy, one of the young boys. While describing him to our mother, she said “hopefully he doesn’t end up in my suitcase but there is a possibility he might.” And also on this crazy day, Melissa and I received love letters from some of the boys in the oldest class. It was absolutely adorable as the boys handed us the letters and then ran away.

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