Concrete thoughts to jungle dreams

When I walk on the hot cement streets in the city, summer heat, I miss the  gorgeous sunsets atop the simple but beautiful orange-brown dirt roads lined with miles of forest and trees of all shades of green.

Whenever I smell food cooking, or something burning, I think of the distinct  smell of Ghanaian food being cooked in burning ovens.  I miss that smell.

Whenever I see kids playing on the street on hot, New York city summer days, it makes me miss the kids in Anwia, Salman and Nkroful who were able to turn anything into a game of endless play, and never complained of being bored or not having anything to do.

Whenever I listen to my Ipod, it brings me right back to a day in Nkroful when my class made their paper bag puppets and happily sang along to Jay-Z and Michael Jackson songs blasting from my Ipod speakers, without a care in the world.

If I hear a baby crying in a stroller or carriage, I think to myself if only they were in a cloth-sling that mothers use in Ghana; they’d be sleeping in no time!

Whenever I hear a drum in the subway, I’m brought right back to the play yard in Anwia where we spent endless afternoons dancing and singing to the beautiful, strong, loud beats of the drums, played with such joy, contagious energy and talent.

The honking of a NYC car, makes me (surprisingly) miss the crazy winding dirt roads of Ghana, with their unforgettable potholes, seemingly reckless but strategic drivers, and long bumpy car rides in our van.

When I said thank you to my bus driver this morning, it made me instantly smile and think of our driver who spent (almost) 24 hours a day with us..so unsure where to go and what to do, but always with a smile on his face.

Whenever I hear African languages on the bus or subway, I’m brought right back to being anywhere in Ghana; it makes me smile big every time.

Whenever I meet a cab driver, friend of a friend or stranger who is from Ghana, I immediately want to know as much as I can about them, and share with them that I was there, and experienced the beauty of their country.

Whenever I see a paper on the ground, I am quick to make use of it or ensure it goes in the recycling bin; I know that a child in Ghana would be so thankful to have even just that one piece of paper, and he/she would  make use of every inch of that paper in a second.

Seeing a child playing with a jump rope, makes me smile as I think of all the kids who were so thankful for all the jump ropes we donated to each of their schools.

Whenever I feel even the slightest bit of stress creeping in, I take a deep breath and think of the amazing Ghanaian mindset of finding a solution to every problem, and thinking positively that there truly is always a way….and suddenly I’m at peace again.

When I wake up some days a little on the sad side, missing Ghana, and the beautiful children I had the honor of working with, I look through my hundreds of pictures and without even realizing it, I’m already smiling.

Whenever I think of anything from my time in Ghana, I smile and say to myself, how thankful I am that I had the experience and how much I can’t wait to go back..and I feel so good knowing I will forever be in the hearts of the children I worked with..and that they too, will forever be in mine.

Farewell Ghana, my dear friend

Written on the plane coming home, 8/7/2012, and recent

I’m on my way home, and wish more than anything else I  could rewind time and land back in Ghana.  I am not ready to go home, and face the craziness of it all. I can’t believe it’s over. I feel like the time flew by so fast. I have such a conflicting mix of bittersweet feelings… both really happy  it happened and went well, and sad that after all that planning it’s all over. (I wonder if it’s similar to what my newly married friends feel after all the planning of a wedding!)

One lost luggage for a week, 4 sick volunteers, 1 lost handbag…but we made it!!  I have to say I had such a great time. This experience only reassured to me that I love what I do, helping people and giving to others; it also showed me how much I enjoy working with communities and working in collaboration with leaders from other countries. Also, it really showed me how much I love to watch other adults share the same joy in the things I do; watching my volunteers work hard, grow and learn about themselves was something I really enjoyed being a part of. I feel SO grateful to have been welcomed so graciously into the lives of those I worked with, for a second year in a row. Words cannot express my gratitude!!

I always liked challenges, and this was perhaps one of the biggest ones I’ve faced in a while. We had some bumps in the road, but in the end, we came to Ghana to give to 3 communities, provide days filled with activity, fun and learning, and that’s exactly what we did. I am so proud of the volunteers for making it happen,  and for doing an amazing job! Happy as well that I was able to ensure the programs at each school ran smoothly. At the end of the day, we didn’t just meet our goal, we excelled it, and I think that’s an achievement for both myself and my team to celebrate. We had never worked with two of the communities before, and as with anything new, there’s always that chance of it not going as planned. Working in a team, also comes with it’s own challenges. You may come across personalities with whom you clash with, or have trouble getting along with. Though there’s always going to be differences, I have to say that I think my team did an excellent job trying their best to work together, and enjoying each other’s company. On this trip, as team leader, I learned not only  about myself, but also, about  teamwork and people in general as well. 

At times I had the volunteers come together to reflect on their experiences, to help them learn about themselves as well. We did one in the beginning, the middle and the end of our program. I think it’s always helpful to stop and think about what you are doing, how it makes you feel, especially for a team of adults working together. The girls did a great job really thinking about the program and how it was affecting their own personal feelings and growth, mostly in positive ways. I loved it most, when volunteers would share new things that they’ve learned about themselves. That’s the only real way to grow.  From my own last year, I know that an experience like this really makes you think, and in a way, forces you to learn more about yourself..what you enjoy working in a team, and what you don’t, how volunteering can impact you differently than it does to others, how it affects your own life back at home, what challenges are the hardest to face, and most of all, how powerful it is to try something new. I think reflecting through out the program was a great opportunity for the volunteers in so many ways;  If nothing else, it helps to remind ourselves what we were in Ghana for, and that we all had one common interest…helping and giving to others, working with kids, and trying something new (for some). I felt so proud hearing what some of the volunteers have shared. (Made me think back to some of my teachers, and thought ‘I bet this is how they feel when some of their students get really into class assignments’!) Overall, it was great. If you know me, you know I’m a thinker, a processor, and am always encouraging others to write, journal, and just take a minute to think about things going on around you, when life moves so fast. I can only hope that the volunteers found it as helpful as I intended it to be for them.

As a team leader, I have learned so much. I’m a planner. I usually have a busy week and know what day I’ll be doing what. That is my sense of calm. This summer, helped me to learn and stretch my boundaries of planning. As my role of team leader, I was constantly emailing, on the phone, coordinating all our services…our drivers, school work, the kid’s meals, our meals, our hotel stay, etc. etc. The list goes on! As many phone calls it took to make things work, things were always changing..and more phone calls had to be made. There were days I thought, ‘Ah hah! I got it nailed, it’s all planned and things will be perfect when we get there!’… and then we’d get to a school and everything was switched around! It felt wierd at first, it was frustrating at times.  There were so many things up in the air and shifting…breakfast and lunch times at the school were sometimes moved last minute, volunteers had to swap scheduled with someone else, dinner plans were delayed, and sometimes messages got mixed up and lost in translation due to  language miscommunications. Those were the best! But, in the end, I embraced this lifestyle, and  I learned from the Ghanaians that even when things aren’t planned, or unorganized, or delayed..it still always works out. As one of my friends from there always tells me, “There is always a way”. I hope to take some of this Ghanaian mindset with me into the next year, and wonder if I may grow at least a little bit more faith in that things will just work out in the end even amongst chaos. It makes me wonder if our overall definition of “chaos” in America, is just different from those in Ghana as well.

I also learned how to be a successful leader (at least I hope so!).  I can now check off ‘lead a group of adults in a foreign country’ off my bucket list! I know I was always a natural leader in activities when I am with friends, or when I was younger, but I never had an opportunity to be one for adults. Well I did this summer, and am really happy to say, overall it went well. I’ve always been good at being calm when things are stressful for others, so that was one characteristic that played as a strength in my role as leader. We had a few stressful situations; one volunteers luggage was lost for a week! I was on the phone or texting to get updated every hour of the day, and ensured to update her whenever I heard news. I was SO excited for her when we found it, as I can imagine she was as well. I have to say she did an excellent job staying calm and being patient.(You rock girl!) Everyone was so generous in sharing their things with her as well! I also had a few sickies; I hate talking myself up, but one thing I’ve always been is giving to everyone around me. I gave the girls as many of my meds as I could, while trying to leave 1 or more to spare in case I got sick. So glad I ended up buying that cough syrup at the airport last minute! (Hope that cough is gone by now Soph!)  One of the other volunteers had to go to the clinic, but it was also a very smooth process and I made sure to wait with her every step of the way. She got better in no time! (Hope you are feeling better Steph). Another volunteer got sick and had to stay home one day..which killed me. I felt so bad. The show had to go on though, as her group was waiting for her, so I jumped in and worked with her group for the day. (MaryBeth, they didn’t stop asking about you!) I’m glad she stayed home though, the rest was definitely needed and helped her recooperate. There were also moments that the volunteers were frustrated with some of the program logistics, and this was definitely hard on me. But, I wanted to make sure they felt heard and held a group meeting to discuss the difficult topics, with the hopes of alleviating some of their frustration and other feelings. I wish I was able to do more to have made it a better experience for them, in those areas which they may not have been satisfied, but I at least feel happy knowing that most all of the volunteers felt a high level of satisfaction with the actual time they spent with the children in our camps.

This job required multi-tasking on a whole new level! I’ve also always been good at multi-tasking, but I even impressed myself with the amount of daily tasks I had this summer. I actually looked forward to each new task and embraced every new task with excitement. There were so many tasks on my to do list each day, and at first I thought it may be daunting…but in the end, I loved it, and it felt easy. I also learned that I can indeed get over my (silly) fear of talking to locals, being on my own, and that I actually really enjoy it. My trip was that much more special to me because of the fact that I got to work with so many different community members… they were all so interesting and I learned something from each and every one of the people that I had the honor to work with..the chiefs, the principals, amazing Adamus staff, etc. They were all so friendly and conversations were endless when it came to learning more about their own backgrounds and stories. As a team leader, I also learned that I can handle multitasking more than I ever thought was possible! I learned how to be firm with Ghanaians, when you need to be (because otherwise we’d still be sitting at breakfast waiting for our juice and fruit!) 🙂  After having one summer experience in Ghana under my belt, I finally mastered how to understand the local English as well as how to have the locals understand me the first time rather than the 4th or 5th 🙂 I learned how to constantly get used to changes, and work with things not going as planned- and still seeing positive results and learning to trust that everything will be ok. I learned that as a leader you are going to have people not like you, or listen to you, as much as you have said something over and over…and how not to take that stuff personally, because most often than not it’s not about you. I learned that sometimes you can’t please everyone but the best you can do it be yourself and know that you’ve tried your hardest. That perhaps was the hardest for me; I tend to be someone who likes to make people happy but I’ve learned to accept that with a large group of people, it’s just not realistic.  When there were some group frustrations, all I wanted to do was make everyone feel better and alleviate the upset feelings. If you know me well, I hate more than anything in the world, when people are upset and will try to do what I can to make them feel at least a little better. In this type of position, I learned sometimes no matter what you do may not help, and sometimes you have to let things be. Settle with the uncomfortable feeling that I can’t fix it all….it’s really hard for me to do that, even in my professional social work world. However, from this experience, more than ever before I’ve learned that it’s just going to happen that you can’t please everyone, realistically.  And, I’ve learned to settle with that feeling and accept it as it. I’ve also learned what it feels like to have pride in a team of hard working adults. Finally, I have learned what it’s like to feel a sense of pride to watch something you have put so much time and effort into, take off and be successful!

Ghanaians have this beautiful way of handling life that I continue to admire. I know I spoke of it a bit last year in my blog, but it’s just so inspiring to me. Ghanaians make the best out of everything and genuinely are happy and positive people; they deal with problems as they come, and never stress too much about anything. I spent time with so many different Ghanaians..some old, some young, some who spoke Twi, some who spoke Nzema, all from different places, and with different stories. Amongst them all, I noticed an inspiring sense of calmness. There was always a way, things were always worked out, nothing was too big of a problem or too much trouble for anyone. I found all the Ghanaians I worked with, to be so generous and always willing to help. I love that about the Ghanaian culture as a whole.

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I love that most places you visit in Ghana, are filled with the friendliness people. They say Ghana has a reputation for being one of the friendliest countries in Africa, and I completely see it. The ones I have come across, are just amazing people with warm hearts and sensitive souls.

After my trip to Ghana last year, I felt a life change. Slowly, I instilled this sense of calm into my life the past year and I noticed it made such a difference in all my interactions with the things and people around me..the way I’ve dealt with my own stress, and that of friends, the way I deal with friends’ drama or with arguments. I found myself at the end of this year, realizing that I have handled things a lot better than before I went to Ghana. I also changed so many of my priorities. Things like Facebook and shopping, lost it’s appeal after returning. Naturally, the new perspective I had when I returned wore down a little bit over time. So many people told me, it won’t last a whole year. My answer is that it lasts as long as you want it to last. Realistically, there are definitely things you just have to adjust to, living in a city as crazy as NY, but I definitely noticed a big change in my life over the past year; I hope to be able to do the same thing, after this trip. I hope to be able to pass this on to some of my friends and family at home as well. It makes me hate coming back to NY where things are moving so fast and everyone is on the go but if  I take the Ghanaian love for life and sense of calmness with me, I know that I will be able to practice that way of thinking no matter where I am.

I know for sure, that this summer with our Summer Camp Team, we made an impact that goes beyond the kids. We affected families, teachers, principals, Adamus workers, and so many kids. We made friends along the way, left some lessons behind, and walked away having learned ourselves. We taught kids things they never knew before, and gave teachers new ideas of alternative ways of learning. We enhanced lives. I’ve mentioned this before, and will again..people wonder what kind of impact you can make with such short time. I myself struggled with that idea this trip because we were only with the villages of Anwia and Nkroful for 3 days each. I went back and forth about whether it would be successful. Though I do think if we stayed longer it would have been even more powerful, I believe strongly that we still left something with those kids that they will hold on to forever.

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I loved Ghana after returning last year, and I think this trip only enhanced my attachment to it. The connection I feel is the type you may have with a friend who you don’t see that much, but think of often. Whenever you see them again, it’s like you never left eachother. It’s easy and effortless. There’s a sense of excitement yet also a sense of calmness. That is exactly how I feel. You know you’ll never have to worry about losing touch with that friend, because you know they’ll always be there. If there’s something you may ever need, they are suddenly right there by your side. You know even though you can’t see each other, you are both thinking about each other. Whenever you are with that person, life feels carefree and perfect. Cheesy, yup. But it’s how I feel. Ghana, is that friend to me. I feel so at home there. I’m always so genuinely happy when I am there. It’s comfort, happiness, excitement, and tranquility all at the same time. I honestly feel like some time in my future I would be perfectly happy staying there for a longer period of time. Some of the kids asked me if I’ll ever come back, if I’ll be back next year. I answered by saying I don’t know when, but I know I’ll be back. It’s true; I know it. I love it too much not to. It’s a part of who I am and always will be. Each and every person I had the honor to work with will forever be in my mind, and thoughts. I look forward to sharing all my pictures and stories with friends, because there are so many amazing memories!

Soon, my birthday is on it’s way. “The” birthday. As a single female in NYC, there is so much stress put on that number. Being in Ghana this summer, has helped me feel a lot more at ease, and ready for it to come. As I approach the dreaded 30, I am going to be positive and feel happy for all the amazing opportunities I have been fortunate to have in the 30 years of my life thus far.  I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity 2 years in a row; as with all my memories and experiences, it has made me who I am today and experiences like this continue to make me a better person. As I move on to this new period of my life, I am ready to embrace it and look forward to more exciting opportunities in my future. Before I left, I was really anxious about being 30, but after coming back from Ghana I realize…it’s only a number; kids in Ghana don’t even know their birthday. As I wrote in one blog, priority there is about health and happiness. And that is exactly what I am going to make as mine. Instead of dreading it, I am going to celebrate another amazing year of life, and instead of being bothered by it, will be happy I am healthy and alive. I miss Ghana and am still so sad, but I am ready to embrace the Ghanaian lifestyle as I take on this new chapter in my life, since it is a country that will always be close to my heart. I will continue to blog in the next week or so because I have so much to continue to share with you all! I hope if anything I have inspired some of you to pursue this dream that I have continued to live out for the past 2 summers. I know some people have shared with me that this was their dream too. Always remember, life is what you make of it, and anything is possible 🙂 To all my Ghanaian friends, you are in my thoughts every day, miss you SO much. I leave you with the quote that rings so much truth whenever I think of all the kids and adults I had the honor to work with in Ghana for 2 summers in a row..it’s a quote repeat from last year, but I don’t care..it puts exactly how I feel, into such perfect words..””Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.”

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Happy weekend everyone.

What will tomorrow bring?

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They say in life you never know what tomorrow may bring. Never did this saying ring more truth than it has for me this past year. In the middle of July 2011 I spent time with some of the most beautiful, talented, special children I have ever met, and had the best time both teaching and learning about the culture, life, people, and everything else about a country I previously knew absolutely nothing about. 3 weeks later, I left with such a strong connection to this new country. I came back home with such a new perspective on life  and great memories. Who knew I’d be given the most amazing opportunity to visit for a 2nd year in a row? This July 2012, not only will I be visiting the same children I worked with last year, but I’ll be leading a group of volunteers to Ghana to run a summer camp.  When I left last August, I left feeling like my work with the community there was not complete and that I’d be back to visit.. but had no definite time frame in mind. Now, I am counting down the days until I will be there again.. 6 more weeks!! Every time I think about going back..seeing the same adorable faces, hearing the same laughs, receiving the same awesome hugs, I have the biggest smile on my face. I can’t wait! So, let Ghana adventure #2 begin!

Not only is it a privilege to be able to spend time with locals in a different country, I feel so lucky that I have the opportunity to go for a second time in a row! Besides my own, it will be such a positive experience for the kids I worked with; to know there are people in this world who care about you enough to come visit, to know that there are indeed adults who care and love for children, is a lesson that you can only learn from experience. Some of the kids we worked with didn’t have families, and when we told them one day we’d be back to visit in the future they simply didn’t believe us, as they have negative experiences with adults abandoning them in the past. It’s the best feeling knowing I’ll be able to instill at least a tiny sense of hope in some of these children, letting them know that there are indeed people who care a lot about them.

I also can’t wait to see the same children I taught….to see their school, the teachers, and especially how they have grown. As any parent or teacher knows, one of the joys of working with children over  time is that you get to see them evolve and change. You get to see how they’ve applied what they’ve learned, what new perspectives they have gained, and how they have blossomed and matured. In Harlem I feel lucky to have worked with some of the same kids for more than 5 years. I have watched them grow in so many ways. Having not seen the kids in Ghana for a year, it will be that much more exciting!

This summer, as most of you know, I was chosen to be Team Leader for the Ghana Summer Camp Program. It feels so surreal to have an opportunity in international leadership. The past 6 months has been a lot of work; marketing, advertising, budgeting, interviewing, etc. I’m a social worker, so this stuff was definitely new to me! Nonetheless, I’ve been enjoying this new role very much. Last summer  in my blog, I often reflected on my belief that the best way to live life is to take challenges and to try new things- go that extra mile, and push yourself to explore the world around you. This is definitely going to be a brand new experience, and as much as I am nervous, I am pumped! There are so many components I am looking forward to. The first is being the head leader. Last summer I was lucky enough to work under the guidance of Allison, the director of The Humanity Exchange (http://www.thehumanityexchange.org/) Allison was amazing at helping us with any questions or support we had, but she also balanced this well with an equal amount of independence which she fostered in every one of us volunteers. It is her guidance that made our trip such a positive one, and is truly my inspiration as I move into this new role.

The 2nd, is the opportunity to bring camp into the lives of children in Ghana. Though I’m sure all my camp Eddie I bunkmates would disagree :),  camp was something I truly loved (I was the THE most homesick child ever!!). Seven years of summer camp left me with great friendships, and most importantly memories I find myself referring to at least once a week in my life today. Camp allows kids to show a different side of themselves, a side they don’t get many chances to show in school.  Camp allows kids a chance to laugh with their friends, explore who they are,  to play their favorite sport, to learn, and most importantly, to try new things.  Many students in Africa have a strict academic, structured environment throughout the year; they have limited opportunities to be silly and goofy through out their school day. Camp is the place just for that! Last summer, it was the most amazing thing to watch these kids let loose, have fun, laugh and enjoy their time together. Some of the kids who at first thought they’d never get too into our play activities, ended up being some of the most involved! Two of my most favorite memories from the 1 week summer camp we led last summer- One,  was when I had the kids self-lead a puppet show with the paper puppets they each made; they had a blast! At first they were pretty shy and weren’t sure what they should have their puppets talk about…but 5 minutes later they were raising their hand so they could have a turn. The second, one which instantly brings a smile to my face, is when I told the kids we were going to NY. On a plane. They looked at me like I had 2 heads. What unfolded was simply amazing; I had them all line up outside their classroom and told them we were going on an airplane. They got SO into it! Even the teachers got in line to come on our “trip”! I laughed so much when I overheard our “captain” turning down one of the “passengers” because he told her that her passport was expired. Ha! Awesome. From there, we spent almost an hour transforming their every day classroom, into a “plane”.  We lined up to take our seats, we got our drinks served by the airplane staff…we eve had the “pilot” tell us how high in the sky we were through out the ride! It was the best. Watching the kids find such joy from simple imaginary play made me so happy, and it was in that moment that I felt so honored to bring camp to a local village in Ghana for the first time. Creative play like this is something the students we worked with rarely have the chance to do; as explained to me by teachers whom I worked with in Nkroful, there are very high student expectations at Rock of Ages Academy, and as a result many students take their own learning very seriously. It was a little hard at first for these kids to unravel from their strict school mindset, but once they did, it was the most beautiful thing. I can’t wait for us this summer to bring this to them once more.

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This summer, we’ll be working in Nkroful, the same village I worked with last year, but also another village close by. We debated about doing a 2 week camp instead, but then we realized it’s more important we spread the love and give more kids the opportunity of a lifetime! So, we chose to do 1 week-long camps in 2 separate villages. We will be staying at a beautiful beach-front hotel on Axim beach, (http://www.aximbeach.com/) about half an hour away from our work site, where we will leave from and return to each morning and night.  We’ll also be going on 2 awesome excursions that I visited last year with my fellow volunteers. Here’s the link to my program, in case any of you still don’t know what to do with your summer and want to join me on this adventure! If you know anyone who may be interested, please spread the word as well.

http://thehumanityexchange.org/tours/ghana-summer-camp-team/

I’ll continue to write as this journey unravels, but for now, I leave you with this quote:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  ~Winston Churchill

A school like no other: Part 2

 

Since Monday, I have grown so much more comfortable in the classroom with the kids, and am starting to grow very fond of them. Though they have had exams every day, I am able to spend time with my class, Stage 5, from 9-10, and then later in the day between 1-3:30. Every day I find something new and it’s been such a surreal amazing experience. Though we don’t always understand each other, we find a way to communicate. The kids in my class vary in levels, though a lot of them speak fairly good English. At first I was pretty nervous going in, because they didn’t tell me what to teach and I had no idea what to do with them. However, over the past 3 days I feel like I have already made a small difference in their learning. I continue to grow and learn on this journey as well, mostly that trying new things can sometimes end up being something really great.

I taught the kids about NYC…where we are on the map, our transportation systems, and who are kids are. They LOVED hearing about Harlem Link kids. Here I was, teaching a lesson I wasn’t even sure they understood, and one of our really smart kids raised his hand and asked “What is the population of the kids at your school?”. I was blown away!! It was just one of the many moments of this trip that have made me laugh and one I’ll always remember. The kids seem to love learning in general. Any time we are on “break” and they are allowed to play in the “yard”, they gravitate to their classrooms and if I am near they will ask me if I can teach them. Some things I have taught them so far: American greetings, funny morning meetings from Harlem Link (THANKS Tara and Elah!!), currency and geography, NYC transportation and schools, Simon Says, and lastly, what makes me happy the most, different feeling words and how to use them 🙂 They really loved learning about this, and now even come up to me and say “Madame, I FEEL happy today”. Ha, ahhh..music to my ears. I played “Feeling Charades” with them and they really loved it!

All smiles after our feelings lesson!

 

One of my students named Monister showing a pretend angry face

As I tell the kids back in Harlem, feelings are universal. No matter what language one speaks, feelings are the same everywhere. I can’t wait to give them the feeling poster I brought from home next week.

Beatrice and I have learned that not only are we working in the school teaching kids, we are also teaching the adults. They are just as curious about us “bafaleh” as the kids. They are muh better at English and though they don’t speak perfectly it’s a lot of fun to talk with them about-different parts of our cultures and religions, the students in their school and Ghana in general. With Beatrice being from Spain, and me from America, we have a lot to talk about! So far, we have introduced them to pizza, American sports, and antibacterial gel (which the male teachers put all over their arms and shirts they loved the smell so much!). I really enjoy the staff here and love that we have just as much a chance to get to know them as well.

I will end this (very long) blog with my day today. I had by far the best day with the kids that I have had since here, and one that will certainly be a memory I will never forget. All week I have been telling the kids I will be bringing them in music and today I did (I’ve brought my Ipod and portable speakers). I wanted to teach them some American songs and Beatrice and I wanted to teach Stage 5 and 6 a song together, and we decided on K’naan’s ‘Wavin Flag’. So last night I got the lyrics from the internet, and after lunch I wrote down the words on the board and together she and I gathered both our classes into one room and taught them the lyrics. It was such a surreal experience and hearing the kids sing the words back to us after a while of teaching it to them; it almost brought tears to my eyes.

They did so well and I can’t wait to rehearse with them again soon. Hopefully, if we reach super star quality, the good news is that the headmaster said we can perform in the school’s celebration performance going on July 30th for all of the nearby towns!! That would be awesome. Bea and I are going to work extra hard all of next week to make sure they learn the words and perhaps a dance move or two, so we can be part of the experience with them. After they did that, we showed them some American beats…we taught them (warning, the following statement may leave you feeling disappointed or somewhat embarrassed) Justin Bieber (come on, he IS an American heartthrob), Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, Eminem & Rihanna, Jay-Z and some others. They didn’t just like it, they absolutely LOVED it! We had such a blast with them during this….all they wanted was to see us dance, so I finally put the speakers and Ipod down and Beatrice and I gave them a little dance. Then, we invited them to come up to the front of the class to dance, and it was hysterical! They were really feeling “California Girls”. The class got a bit rowdy so we moved to outside, where we proceeded to dance the Chicken Dance. The little kids were alllll over this one! There were children surrounding me and Beatrice, it was such a fun moment.

Playing music for the children outside the classroom. This picture makes me smile.

Our 10-14 year olds were a little too cool for school for this one. We eventually tired everyone out (ok, maybe more so us, the adults) and we spent time hanging out with the adults and some of the kids who were sitting down on a nearby bench as well. There were actually  kids laying down today because some didn’t feel well. Actually, we think they were sick because today was “cold” for the kids, compared to the normal heat. Me and Beatrice found this amazing, since at home it would feel really good to have a breezy day in 70’s! When I had the kids tell me how they felt today, almost the whole class said “cold” and many kids even got sweaters to put on. It was really funny to hear them be so cold.

One last bit of really exciting news! Beatrice and I have been invited to the school’s Graduation Ceremony…not just to watch it but to be IN it! Our principal has purchased material for all of the staff, and they have included us in this! They gathered all the staff members for a quick meeting a few days ago and we voted on the material we liked the best. Then today a seamstress came and got all our measurements and we will recieve the uniforms Wednesday. It was SO cool, we got to pick one outfit from the list of outfits below:

It made me and Beatrice feel so a part of the community. We are so excited to get to wear (and keep) African clothing! There is no doubt in our minds that we are going to look like fools (Um, we already stand out just a tad) but it sounds like it’s a very important event in the community and we are so excited to be a part of it. Oh, and if you are wondering which design the female staff and me and Beatrice all picked out together, you’ll just have to wait for the pictures after July 30th 🙂

Here are some more pictures:

One of the my sneaky little friends from Stage 1 or 2. She doesn't speak English but every day when I arrive she comes to hug me .

 

The seamstress asked me to hold her baby. I couldn’t take her fast enough!

This truly is such a unique experience and today I thought to myself, I couldn’t be happier being anywhere but here in this moment, singing, laughing and dancing with these Ghanian children.

 This weekend me and the 3 other volunteers (Beatrice and 2 sisters from England, Sophie & Pippa) are going to visit Cape Coast, so we have been permitted to take off work tomorrow. I’m going to miss the kids tomorrow but can’t wait to see them again Monday. For now, me and the girls are so excited for our roadtrip this weekend. I have to wake up early, so I should probably get to bed, but I’ll try and post about our trip next week. Also just a side note, I wish I could post more pictures, but our internet connection here is pretty slow, so unfortunately you’ll just be getting a glimpse now and will see all my pictures when I am back!

 Let this weekend’s adventure begin 🙂