3 December 2009 Memento

1 December 2009

Scene: Evening. I am sitting in my hall. Sister Pat in a blue plastic chair; she is facing my windows. I am to her right in my wooden chair. The setting sun is coming into the windows and it is the only light in the room.

 Sister Pat: So Cantuace is gone?

 Me: Yes I had let her go but yesterday Francesca came with her to plead for Cantuace’s job. I agreed to take her back but she will have to wait until school starts next term. I think we both need a break. She needs to realize what she is loosing by not working for me.

 Sister Pat: So she will come back in January.

 Me: Knowing her situation at home I feel bad for her and want to give her one more chance. Francesca and Perpetua have both talked to her. I hope that Cantuace will listen. Although I have never made any promises or even hinted that I would help her after I left her both of them told her that it’s very possible that the relationship would not end with me when I left and she should think about that.

 Sister Pat: Yes she should work hard today for tomorrow.

 30 November 2009

 Scene: I am sitting in my hall (living room) in a wooden chair. The setting sun is illuminating my blog book as I write about Thanksgiving Day 2009. There is a knock on the door.

 Me: Just a minute. [I put my book down on the table to my right and go to the door. Francesca, my landlord’s wife, is there Cantuace to her far right. ]

Me: Tia (welcome)

Madam Francesca: N Jam (I have come)

Me: Junaia (Evening)

Madam Francesca: Junonaloaaa (Fine Evening)

Me: [Opening the door] Come in.

Madam Francesca: I have come with Cantuace to plead for her job. She is afraid you will say no to her if she comes alone.

[We enter the hall I show Francesca to the chair I was sitting in and pull out my desk chair. Cantuace stands.]

 Me: [Looking at Cantuace] Junaia

 Cantuace: silence

 [Francesca tells her in Buili that she should greet madam]

 Cantuace: Junonaloaaa Madam Vicky

 Me: Francesca, I don’t know about the job. This girl has been troublesome. I no longer trust her and she is disrespectful to me and those who come to my house.

 Francesca: I talked to her. I told her she should do her work fast fast, as soon as she came home from school, then she would be free.

 Me: Yes what does she have to do here? Not so much. She needs to fetch water, sweep and wash the bowls. I want all that done before she goes to serve the evening meal. I told her. I asked her brother to explain but still she doesn’t do it until late. One night she was here until 7:30. I want to bathe and get ready for night so I want the work finished before she gets her evening meal from the hall.

 But that’s not the only problem she has been insulting the students who come here. Portia and Rofina are like daughters in this house, they deserve that respect.

 Francesca: Oh I have been insulting Cantuace about that. I have told her who does she think she is. She is not even in Jr High she is only in P5 and she is insulting those SS girls. They are not her colleagues they are her seniors. She could learn from them but she has put herself too high.

Me: I don’t know. I have talked to her. Her brother has talked to her. Madam Kampusi has talked to her and now you.

Francesca: Oh we just want to come for her to apologize and say she is sorry.

Me: [Turning to Cantuace] You can’t apologize to me yourself in English or even Buili?

 Cantuace: I am sorry madam. I won’t do that again.

 Me: Thank you; I forgive you.

 [Cantuace smiles it is the first smile I have seen on her face since they came in.]

Me: [Turning to Francesca] I will take her back on two conditions. There will be no second chances if she does wrong again she is finished. The second is that she must wait until classes start in January. We both need a break. She can have some time to think.

 Francesca: [Rising to leave] Madam Vicky, Thank you.

 29 November 2009

 Scene: late afternoon. I am in my hall, in my chair. Francesca and Tenni are pounding Fufu   in their yard. I go out and stand at their gate.

 Me: Junaia

 Tenni and Francesca: Junonaloaaa

 [I step small small into the yard and lean lightly on the gate.  We exchange greetings]

 Me: I came to tell you that I have let Cantuace go.

 Francesca: I haven’t seen her around. Why? What happened?

 Me: Oh so many things. I just decided it was enough. Remember in August when she took Dizzy with my bike? She’s not getting her work done. I want her to finish before the evening meal and have told her often. On my birthday she was rude to the girls there cooking a meal for me. It is enough.

 Francesca: Oh that girl I will have a talk with her. I will tell her to do her work well. I will remind her that she has food and a place to bathe.  That she has someone to do for her. You know her father is gone and it’s just the mother in the house. She and Samuel (her brother) have been sleeping in the classroom block.

 Me: No I didn’t know about her father. I knew that she had little to eat in the house and have hesitated to let her go for that reason. I didn’t come to Peace Corps to sack people I came to help them. It has been a very hard decision for me.  But I don’t know, Madam Pat, Madam Perpetua and her brother have all talked to her. She is a stubborn girl.

 Francesca: Has she come to apologize?

 Me: No

 Francesca: I will talk to her again.

 Me: Thank you.

 28 November 2009

 Scene: Early afternoon. I am sitting in my chair marking papers. Someone knocks on my door.  I rise to answer the door.

 Me: Hello [I open the door and Tenni (the assistant headmaster’s small girl) is standing to my left of the door.

 Tenni: Madam is Cantuace there?

 Me: No she is gone. I sent her away.

Tenni: On is she gone to the grinding mill?

 Me: No she is doesn’t work for me any more. [I open the door and close it then sit on the stoop. Tenni sits beside me.]

 Tenni: Why?

 Me: She doesn’t respect me and I don’t trust her.

 Tenni: I told that girl to work harder. That she shouldn’t take things without asking you. Samuel has warned her. She won’t listen to anyone. She tells Samuel it’s not your work! She is a stubborn stubborn girl. When she’s playing that’s all she cares about.

 27 November 2009

 Scene: Perpetua, Dizzy and I are sitting outside in their yard around a small round wooden table. Dizzy and I are eating from a bowl of TZ (tee zed) and vegetable soup. Cantuace walks by from the direction of my house with at tall slim woman. The woman greets Perpetua.

 Perpetua: That is Cantuace’s mother.

 Me: Oh yes. [I raise my right hand] Junaia.

 [Cantuace’s mother says something to Perpetua and Perpetua goes with them around to the bakery side of the house. I think they are going to get bread so I continue eating. About a half a bowl of TZ later Perpetua returns. Cantuace and her mother head down the path to the village.]

 Perpetua: The mother wanted me to plead with you for Cantuace’s job. I asked her did she know what Cantuace has done? How can she ask me to plead when she hasn’t even asked Cantuace what she’s done. The mother said that she saw the girl headed home with her things but the girl wouldn’t tell her what happened. Then the mother asked Cantuace again what she had done and Cantuace just stood there with her mouth shut. So I told her about Dizzy and the bicycle, Afisah and the bicycle, the potatoes and how she doesn’t do her work.

 Me: Thank you Perpetua.

 Dizzy: Are you finished. I want to give the rest to Vanity.

 Me: No. I’m Hungry! Let me finish it if you are done.

 Dizzy: But Vanity is hungry too!

 Me: The dogs have food. I saw your mother pour some TZ for Vanity and Veto.

Dizzy: But they like it with the soup.

 [Enter Cantuace’s and her mother coming back from the path to the village.  They walk to the table. Cantuace’s mother and Perpetua talked in Buili.]

 Perpetua translates for me: The mother has asked again asked me to plead for Cantuace. I said has Cantuace recognized what she has done wrong? Will she apologize? But as you can see Cantuace is just standing there with her mouth shut.  I already said these things to her when we went to the bakery side. Even Master came out and insulted Cantuace and told her mother what the girl has done.

 Me: [I nod towards the mother then talk to Perpetua] Cantuace and I need a break. Some time apart. She has been disrespectful and I no longer trust her. She needs some time to think and I want her to apologize. Maybe she can come back in April for my last term here.

 [Perpetua tells them and they leave.]

 Perpetua: That girl will go home. I told them she could come back when she was ready to apologize and say what she did wrong.

Me: It will snow in Ghana before that girl will apologize.

 Perpetua: Ha When does it snow in Ghana.

 Me: Exactly

 27 November 2009

 Scene: I am standing outside Perpetua’s bread room, facing the wall to the courtyard. Cantuace is sitting on a wooden stool, leaning against the wall of the courtyard. Her hands are folded in her lap and her eyes are looking down at her hands.

 Me: Good afternoon Cantuace.

 Cantuace: Nothing.

 Me: Cantuace let’s go to my house and get your things.

 Scene closes as I walk down the dirt road with Cantuace a few paces behind me.

 26 November 2009

 Scene: It is early evening the sun has just gone down. Perpetua and I are sitting at a small round table in her yard.

 Me: I let Cantuace go today.

 Perpetua: Why? What happened.

Me: It was my Birthday. Rofina and co came to my house to make a birthday dinner for me. While they were cooking there was some shouting in the kitchen.  Cantuace insulted them and just made the evening miserable. She wouldn’t help them with bowls or do anything they asked. I learned later it was because Hamdia gave her burnt rice from the bottom of the Jollof pot.

 Perpetua: Who does she think she is? No wonder they were upset. In their houses’ they ate the burnt rice when they were juniors. Does she think she is better than they are?

 Me: I feel so bad but I just don’t trust her anymore, ever since the thing with Dizzy this summer, then the potatoes, the chicken and then with Afisah and the bike

 Perpetua: After the incident with Afisah I advised Cantuace. Someone is lying to your mother and you don’t tell your mother even worse you are found with that person in the lie. Do you think the relationship will end when Madam Vicky goes away? You don’t know what that woman could do for you in the future. She could help you for a long time. I told her she should start acting smarter.

 Me: It’s true. I have thought of how I could help her. I have not said anything or made any promises but I have thought of it. I know I will help Portia and Rofina.  I don’t know what happened to Cantuace. Portia, Rofina and I all said what good girl she was. She was a hard worker. She knew what to do without being told. Now even when I tell her sometimes she doesn’t even do. Is it her age? Is she hanging with the wrong crowd?

 Perpetua: She has grown horns. [She puts her two index fingers on the top of her head.]

Here we say a child has grown horns when they become troublesome. When a young goat gets his horns he begins to fight and be stubborn and generally troublesome. That’s where it comes from.

 Me: Yes that sounds right. It hurts me to have to let her go. Well maybe if she goes away she will realize what she has lost.

 27 November 2009 Morning

 Scene: I am in my back room packing two Ghana gucci bags, a back pack and a polytin with Cantuace’s things.

 26 November 2009 Afternoon

 Scene: I am just returning from 3C cooking practical. I am about to unlock my door; Cantuace meets me at the door. I unlock the door and hold the screen door so Cantuace can bring my bike into the house. I enter my hall and Cantuace puts my bike in the back room.

 Me: Cantuace I’m sorry….. I don’t know how to say this…. Cantuace your working here is just not working out. You are not doing the small work I want you to do.

 Cantuace: Madam I beg you I beg

 Me: Cantuace you have been disrespectful to me and those who come here. You don’t respect me and I don’t trust you. You will have to go away for awhile.

 Cantuace: [She comes and puts her arms around me] Madam please. I beg I beg I didn’t do anything wrong.

Me: Cantuace we will take a break. In April you can come back and we will talk about you working for me again. Now I have to let you go.  You must leave tonight. Pack your things.

 22 November 2009

 Scene: My hall. Portia, Rofina and I are eating. I am in my chair. Portia is in the wooden chair under the windows and Rofina is sitting across from me in a blue plastic chair.

 Me: What was going on with Cantuace on my birthday?

 Portia: Oh that girl is wicked! Hamdia gave her some rice and she insulted her. She turned up her nose and said “Is that rice.”

 Rofina: Madam, she refused to help us cook or wash the bowls.

 Portia: Madam, she is a disrespectful girl. If it wasn’t for you I would have slapped her long before this. She has no respect. If she were my sister I would beat her.

 Rofina: We gave that same food to her brother and that other boy.

 Me: Thomas?

 Rofina: Yes the assistant headmaster’s boy. They ate it.

 [We move into the kitchen to wash the bowls]

 Me: But remember when she first came. You both said what a good girl she was. She was such a hard worker. She knows what to do.

 Portia: Yea madam we were praising her saying what a good worker she was.

 Rofina: Yes she was a good girl.

 Me: When I was away in Accra I talked to some of my friends. I don’t want to do this but I think I have to let her go. Can you find me some juniors if I let her go.

 Rofina and Portia: Oh madam she is a stubborn girl maybe you should let her go. We are having two juniors each. We will share them with you.

 19 November 2009

 Scene: Hamdia, Charlotte and Mari are washing the bowls outside on my patio.

Me: Why are you girls out washing bowls. Where is Cantuace?

Hamdia: Oh Madam she has refused to help us. She is a wicked, stubborn girl. She insulted the food when I gave her some. She would not eat it.

 Me: Was that what the shouting was about when you girls were cooking?

 Hamdia: Yea Madam. We didn’t want to tell you and spoil your birthday. It that girl were my younger sister I would beat her. The food she wouldn’t eat I gave to the two boys and they ate it.

 Me: Her brother and Thomas you mean?

 Hamdia: Yes Madam. Madam, whenever we come that girl is very disrespectful. She doesn’t listen to us. She won’t help us. Madam she is not a good girl.

 14 November 2009

 Scene: Kumasi Sub Office(KSO). Mike and I are sitting in the screened porch. He is on my left facing the outside door and I am looking across the green lawn.

 Me: Thanks Mike. I feel silly asking to talk to you about this it seems like such a small thing.

 Mike: Sister Vic, there is so much shit here we have to put up with sometimes it’s the little things that push us over the edge. What’s up?

 Me: It’s my small girl. She’s more trouble than she is help. She has stolen things from me, she endangered my friend’s child and she has lied to me. I want to let her go but I feel so guilty because I know she has very little food in the village and she serves my meals from the kitchen. If I let her go she won’t get those meals.

Mike: Have you talked to her?

 Me: Yea

 Mike: Has a friend talked to her?

 Me: Yes Perpetua talked to hear after Afisah lied about needing my bike. Perpetua let her have it and Perpetua is a force of nature. Her brother works for Perpetua. You know I feel guilty too because in a small way I feel like Cantuace is invading my space she is there early in the morning and then late at night. I tried to explain to her that I wanted her chores done before dinner and she didn’t do it. Then I talked to her brother and asked him to tell her.

 Mike: You gotta do what you need to make it here this is a tough job. You know you can still give her food if you like.

 Me: Yes I could. I could give it to her brother.

 Mike: Here’s what you can do. You can tell her that Peace Corps won’t let you have a small girl.

 Me: No I don’t want to lie.

 [Someone came in the porch to ask Mike a question]

Mike: Sorry. Ok how about this. You tell her how hurt you are by her actions. You say you don’t think you deserve to be treated they way she has treated you. You are so hurt you just need her to go away for awhile. Maybe she could come back later and see about working for you again.

Me: Yes! I like that idea!

Mike: Sista Vic you gotta do what ever you can to keep sane here. If she’s making it harder for you then let her go. Don’t feel guilty. You know a Ghanaian wouldn’t analyze it or worry or anything. They would just do it. We worry ourselves too much sometimes.  The second year is tough. There of stories of second years going off on their counterparts. You know it’s always the people you are close to that you lose it with.

 Me: So when I lose it with you Mike you’ll know its cause I care.

 2 November 2009

 Scene: Morning. Cantuace has just arrived with the sunrise. I open the door for her and step out to talk to her brother, Samuel.

 Me: Good morning Samuel.

 Samuel: Good morning Madam.

 Me: Samuel, can you help me? I have told Cantuace something to do and I am not sure she understands me clearly. You know my Buili is small and her English is small. Two nights ago she didn’t come back from serving dinner until after 6:30. You know she was late because you were here waiting for her to finish the bowls at 7:30. That’s too late. I told her yesterday but she still didn’t come back from serving until after 6:00 and I sent her home without doing the bowls. So could you tell her that I want the bowls done and the barrels full before she goes to serve?

 Samuel: Yes Madam.

 26 October 2009 Afternoon

 Scene: Kampusi’s yard. Perpetua and I are standing near my bike.

 Me: So who brought it back?

 Perpetua: Neither one of them some boy I don’t even know carried it here.

26 October 2009  Morning

 Scene: I am sitting out under my summer hut in a blue plastic chair. My tea and some student papers are on a small wooden table. I am marking papers. Abraham walks into the summer hut. (He is 6 years old)

 Abraham: Saluia

Me: salunaloaaa

Abraham: Madam Vicky, Afisah sent me to ask for your bike to take me to the hospital.

 [I look at him he looks fine until I see a bandage on his left leg]

 Me: Are you sick? What’s wrong?

 Abraham: [He points to his leg] The dressing on my leg needs to be changed. There’s no one home to take me.

 [I hesitate because I don’t lend my bike to the kids but Afisah is going to SS surely she will be responsible and it seems like a good reason.]

 Me: Cantuace has my bike at the bore hole. Tell Afisah to go get it then come talk to me about borrowing the bike.

Abraham: All right Madam. [Abraham leaves]

  Fifteen minutes later Cantuace comes from the borehole with the gallon on her head.

 Me: Cantuace where’s the bike?

 Cantuace: Afisah told me you said she could have it.

 One hour and a half later I walk by Abraham’s house on my way to market. Abraham is outside playing. I know Ghanaian hospitals. There’s no way they could have gone and come in this short of a time. I  begin to think I trusted the wrong girl with my bike.

 Me: Abraham, come.

 [Abraham comes to me]

 Me: Abraham, where’s Afisah?

 Abraham: I don’t know. She’s not here.

 Me: Where’s my bike?

 Abraham: With Afisah.

 [I look at Abraham and see he has a new bandage on his leg except that it’s on the right leg now not the left.  Now I know something is up.]

 Me: Abraham did you go to the hospital.

 Abraham does not answer me.

 Me: You tell Afisah I want to see her when she gets back.

Abraham: Yes Madam

 I go to the borehole and ask the girls fetching water if they have seen Afisah. One tells me that she has gone to Cantuace’s place to do wash. I go to the cross since there is nothing else I can do about the bike right now.

 At the cross: I am entering the lorry in the front seat when one of my students from the back of the lorry speaks.

 Student: Madam isn’t that your girl and your bike?

 [I turn to look behind us and there are Cantuace, Afisah and MY BIKE coming from Navarongo side. The Hospital is in the other direction in Sandema. I wait until they are even with the driver’s window in the lorry then I lean out.]

 Me: Cantuace! Afisah! Take that bike to Kampusi’s NOW! I am calling her to tell her you are bringing it now.

 [I sit down and call Perpetua on my cell phone.]

 Me: Perpetua, How are you? Me to I’m OK. Can you do me a favor. Cantuace and Afisah are coming with my bike. Will you lock it and keep it there for me? I’m on my way to market. Please call me back quick when it comes. Yeah I’ll talk to you later. Thanks!

 30 September 2009

 Scene: Rofina, Portia and I are eating in my hall, sitting in our usual places.

 Me: Rofina did Portia tell you what Cantuace did the other day?

 Rofina: Oh Madam how it hurts me what that girl did to you. You have done so much for her. The new uniform, the school bag and the school supplies then she turns around and does that to you.  Oh Madam it is paining me!

 27 September 2009 After School

 Scene: I am sitting in my hall Cantuace comes home from school.

Me: Cantuace please come here.

 [She comes]

 Me: Cantuace did you boil all the potatoes this morning?

 Cantuace: Yes Madam

 Me: Cantuace that was One Ghana Cedi worth of potatoes. We could have eaten them for two meals. From now on don’t take any food without asking me first. This and the chicken are just too much.

 27 September 2009 Morning

 Scene:  Sister Pat enters my hall. I am sitting in my chair.

 Pat: Madam Vicky, what has happened.

 Me: Pat my girl she stole has stolen from me. I wanted to make an American dish for Portia and Rofina and I went to cook it this morning. I had one Ghana Cedi potatoes in the cupboard to make potato salad. When I went to the cupboard this morning I couldn’t find them anywhere.

 Pat: One Ghana Cedi that is plenty of potatoes.

 Me: Yes I planned two meals for them. Well I turned to the stove and saw my silver there. I took the lid off and there were two small potatoes in the pot. Cooked.

 Pat: You think Cantuace took them?

 Me: Yes. What should I do? I am so angry I want to let her go. The chicken, Dizzy and now this. I just don’t know.

 Pat: Well maybe you have bee too free with her. You don’t know our ways and now she thinks this is her house.

 Me: Yes, maybe but I have wanted her to think this was her house. What should I do?

 Pat: First tell her she can’t even take a spoon of sugar without asking you. That’s just how it is here. And kids usually bath outside not in your bathing room. You have seen Tenni and my boy bathing outside. That’s how we do it.

 Me: Pat, thanks so much for coming from work to talk to me I feel so much better.

 Pat: Oh our Madam Vicky has a problem and of all the people here who does she call but me. It’s a pleasure.

 11 September 2009

 Scene: My back room. Cantuace and I are standing by the refridgerator. I am holding a plate with one small piece of chicken on it.

 Me: Cantuace did you take more chicken last night with your jollof?

 Cantuace nods.

 Me: I gave you chicken with the jollof. The chicken that was in the fridge was for tonight’s ground nut soup. Don’t take food from the fridge without asking me.

 21 August 2009 Evening

 Perpetua’s (PeePee) yard: She is sitting on a stool bagging sugar for her store. I am in a plastic chair beside her.

 Me: Perpetua I came to apologize that my girl took Dizzy to town on my bike today. I have sent her home. I just said go home I am so mad I don’t know what I will do or say. She won’t be able to use the bike for quite some time.

 PeePee: That girl is wicked, not only did she take Dizzy but she also taught dizzy to tell a lie. She told Dizzy that if anyone asked she should say Madam Vicky said it was ok to go to town.

 Me: Please in America when a child does something wrong to a neighbor they must apologize and do something for the neighbor. Say they broke a window, they should apologize and pay for the window. I want to send Cantuace over to apologize and to do something for you.

 Peepee: I don’t know what that girl could do for me.

 Robert:(Peepee’s husband) Madam Vicky I talked to the girl. She’s sorry and I don’t think she will do that again.

 Me: Perpetua and Robert I am so sorry.

 Perpetua and Robert: Madam Vicky you did nothing to apologize for.

 21 August 2009 Noon

 Scene: I am walking into my yard. Dizzy and Cantuace ride up to my house on my bike.

 Me: Dizzy where have you been? We have been looking all over for you.

 Dizzy: To town with Cantuace.

 Me: Cantuace what do you think you were doing? Go Go back to your house. I don’t want to see your face. I am to angry to talk to you. You can come to my house again Monday. No sooner.

Cantuace: Madam, it’s not my fault. Dizzy just jumped on the back.

 Me: STOP Cantuace. Stop right now. Who is older? You couldn’t get her off the bike? You couldn’t turn around and send her home? I won’t talk to you I am too angry. Go home.

 21 August 2009 11:30 am 

Scene: Robert Kampusi and I are standing in their yard.

 Me: Robert, Samuel came by my house earlier asking for Dizzy. I told him the last time I saw her was just after breakfast. She had been at my house. She helped Cantuace wash bowls and then they sat outside eating some porridge. They were thick as theives. After that I sent her home because Cantuace was going to take my bike into town. Samuel said that no one has seen her. We just went around to the master’s houses again. No Dizzy. I went back to the house. In the house I began to think. Maybe Cantuace took Dizzy to town on the bike. I can’t think of anywhere else she might be.

 Robert: Oh I don’t think she would do that. Peepee’s in town I will call her. Thanks for coming over Madam Vicky




  1. Krista said,

    January 13, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    This is a chronicle not to be missed. Thank you for posting, Vicky, it gives great insight (although I did read your and Mike’s voices in Ghanaian tones while going through this).


  2. Vicky said,

    January 16, 2010 at 4:18 am

    Thanks Krista.

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