13 November 2010 – A rock and a hard place

Louisa, Johan, Werner and I are having some trouble with the children on the weekends, when the Ghanaians who live with us go away. They have been noisy, disrepectful, unhelpful and generally disobedient. For me this was just so surprising after seeing how the kids behaved at my last school.

Three weekends ago it was so bad I complained to Pastor Victor when he came to visit on that Monday. The worst thing the children had done was to shake our locked door at 5:30 or 6:00 am. We were still sleeping or wishing to sleep, so we ignored them but then one of the boys came round and pounded on the screen of my window. I told him to go away! When we did get up, around 7:00, these same children who were disturbing us had not fetched us water to bathe. I told them to do it now. They didn’t and eventually Werner and I had to go fetch it ourselves. Let me tell you in Sandema  I NEVER carried an empty bucket to the bore hole let alone carry a full one back. The children there would all run to help me before I even got to the bore hole. These children saw two adults going to fetch water and ignored us. I told Pastor Victor all this and asked for new boys to fetch water.

The Thursday after the weekend the children misbehaved the headmaster called us all  into his office. He was very angry because we had told Pastor about the children but not told him. He was in charge of the children – how did it look us complaining to Pastor about this-why hadn’t we told him ya da ya da ya da. I am sure you have all heard the same kind of talk from bosses or co-workers.

Well I took the lead and begged the headmaster to forgive me. I had told Pastor on Monday when he came to visit. He had asked how was the weekend and it all just came out. There was no intention to bypass the headmaster just one person talking to another. So on so forth.

Last weekend the children were even worse! They again shook the locked doors well before 6:00 am. They shouted in all our windows. I finally went out to yell at them. Yes lost it and yelled at the children I had come to help – poor ophans at that! When I went out I also saw that one of them had spread dirt all over our porch. The rest of the day the children were awful. Just laying around on our porch, not working. They ignored me when I told them to work or leave. Oh it was not good. To top it all off Corinna was visiting us. She is another German volunteer. I was embarassed.

Sunday when the headmaster came back from Koforidiua he asked me if I had trouble with the children. He said the administrator told him I had been shouting at them on Saturday morning. So I told the headmaster what happened.

The headmaster dealt with it right then. He changed the boys who fetch water for us. He talked to the girls asking them if the boys were misbehaving so badly why didn’t they stop them. They were much bigger and older than the boys etc.

Two days later the Pastor came. During our talk he asked me how the children were acting on the weekends. I told him that there was trouble but I had spoken to the headmaster on Sunday and the headmaster had dealt with it.

Guess what the Pastor said to me about talking to the headmaster about this problem!?

You gotta laugh or you will go crazy.


6 November 2010 – Steal this idea!

This morning I am enjoying a book club on BBC and they are talking about “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas”. I expended my own energy so I could listen to the radio and while I was cranking it I remembered my idea for an invention. The life style here in Ghana is filled with meaningful exercise like fetching water, walking to meet the bus, pounding fufu and hand washing clothes. I like this kind of exercise much better than running to no where like we do in America so how could exercise in America have an immediate purpose? Voila! My idea.

What if a treadmill or a stationary bike were hooked to a battery? This battery could be used to power entertainment devices in the house.  The television, stereo and computer would all be powered by this battery. There would be a direct correlation between how long you exercised and how long you could use an entertainment device. Now for you parents who say my kids would steal the time I put into the battery ah but we could use technology to put passwords and store time for each person then when you wanted to watch tv or use the computer you would enter your password.

The benefits of this idea are many. It would help with the couch potato syndrome. You couldn’t watch TV unless you did some exercise. There would not only be the long term benefits of exercise but there would also be the immediate results as well. And it’s green! It’s a totally renewable source of energy.

So if there is anyone out there who has the technical skills and the desire please steal this idea!

5 November 2010 – Visit to the village

Today on BBC the business show did a story on Rwanda. The Rwandan government has started to lay fiber optic cable all over Rwanda. The government, with out any foreign aid, has hired a Korean firm to lay the cable and assist in moving the country to a knowledge based economy.

The Minister of ICT had a good grasp of what ICT(Information and Communications Technology) could do for the country. He gave examples of uses in schools, international trade and banking. I was impressed with his knowledge and the pratical applications he saw for his country. I wonder if Rwanda had a Peace Corps program?

I have been sick with a stomach bug for the past few days and have not left the house for three days. Today I just needed to get out. I decided to go to the provision store across  from the school gate. I wanted sugar, sickele in Twi, and maybe some crackers.

A man was sitting on the bench, his lanky legs were folded up against his chest and his arms wrapped around them. He greeted me and we exchanged names. His is Seth. Seth is leggy and lean;he looked about my age. We chatted for 10 minutes. He invited me back to talk again sometime. He won my heart because he didn’t ask me to marry him and take him to America!

Veronica came to the store. I met her one day when I was taking a taxi down the 3 mile dirt road back to BASCO and offered her a ride. The store keeper asked her if she had onions and she left and brought me three. When I offered to pay her she refused! She then asked me to come greet her parents. She held my had as we walked over the eroded ground. When we got to her house not only was her mother there but also her father, two uncles and her junior sister. I greeted them and we chatted for about 5 minutes then Veronica offered to walk me back home.

One of my goals here in Trotor is to get to know some people in the village. Today was a good beginning.

27 January 2010 – Another day teaching

(Here’s another long forgotten blog entry)

The morning came at 7:45 how delicious to sleep in! At least I had prepared my notes for class the night before. I had to rush to get ready for my 9:35 class. It was going to be a long day with three double periods so I made sure to have a big breakfast.

I got to the classroom block early and at under the tree to wait for breakfast to be finished. The masters talked about playing football (soccer) against Green Green, our rivals in town. One master tried to recruit me for goalie. I told him Green Green would certainly win if I were goalie. I offered to be cheerleader.

When I entered class 3B1 I saw that the same tiredness that has been plaguing me for the past few days was also effecting the students. The end of January is the beginning of the hot season and even the Ghanaians are effected by the heat. I saw it when I passed 3A there was no teacher and some students were talking in groups, others had their heads down on their desks, sleeping and others were just staring out into space. The eyes of the students in front of me had a glazed look.

Shock therapy was recommended. I put up a flip chart paper with a pop quiz about spreadsheets. We talked about this at the end of last term but I am sure that most of them have forgotten it. Maybe showing them what they don’t know will wake them up. Today it worked. Everyone was awake and asking questions. Is this a class test? What is this? Have we talked about spreadsheets madam? Will this count? I told them to think of it as a pre test. The class settled down and answered the questions. Then they all listened for the answers in that day’s class.

On my way to my next class I passed 3A again. They still had no teacher and more of the students were sleeping. Well if they sleep now maybe they will be awake for my class at the end of the day.

My next class, 2C, was as bored and tired as the other two. Time for an ENERGIZER! I made everyone stand to do the peel banana energizer.

Peel banana

Slice banana

Eat banana

Go bananas

This energizer starts with hands over your head palms together then you move one arm down at a time saying peel banana, peel peel peel banana and ends with everyone going bananas.  I think the kids like it because I really do go bananas. I needed the energizer myself because I had to lecture the first half of the class and I hate lecturing. Twenty minutes into my lecture I handed students chalk and asked them to put ways to format text on the board. Then I finished the lecture on how and why to format text in a document.

The second half of the class they worked on an ICT crossword puzzle.  I had them work in groups because it was something new.  As with any new task they required a lot of assistance to understand the concept but once they got it they were engaged. As I walked among the groups some needed more help on how to do the puzzle, others wanted me to answer the clues for them and a few just wanted to show me that their answers. The bell rang for 15 minute break and no one moved. They wanted to finish the puzzle. SUCCESS!

During long break I went back under the tree and ate a PB and J sandwich. Master Morris asked me what I was eating. I also shared with him the iconic nature of and PB and J sandwich in the USA. Clement said he was going to go home and try it. Cultural exchange under the baobab tree.

When I went to 3A the previous master was still there; he had kept them through the break. Drats! Now they wouldn’t even have had a chance to get up and walk around. The pop quiz shock treatment didn’t work. Peel bananas didn’t work. I lecture on creating formulas in a spreadsheets and even had them go up to the board to put their names in specific cells. They love writing their names on the board. Nothing was working to get them engaged so I gave up and had them do the crossword puzzle even though it was for the second year students.

You can’t win them all!

Guess what I did after classes were over?

16 November 2010 Football game

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I thought you all might like to see a bit of a Ghanaian pick up football (soccer) game. The two white boys are Werner in blue and Johan with the big head of hair. My counterpart – Eric – is a Ghanaian in orange.

E njoy

19 November 2010 – On the occasion of my 53rd BIRTHDAY!

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I awoke this morning to the mellow sounds of the saxophone. Yes that’s right the saxophone. Johan was standing outside my bedroom door and playing Happy Birthday. Louisa and Werner were saying Happy Birthday Vicky! I rushed out of bed and found a note on the floor by my door. It said “Good morning, Vicky! Please don’t come out between 6&7 o’clock! Thank you!” written in purple crayon. It was well past 7 at least 7:15 so I yanked open the door and hurled out into a birthday celebration. MINE!

The table was beautifully decorated. There was a large palm leaf at my place as a place mat, a large collage 53 leaning against the fruit, three presents – cocoa jam, cocoa butter and a coke – some wild African flowers in a jar, a single candle and my plate and mug all set for me. It was then that I smelled the cooking aroma. Crepes! Louisa had made crepes.

It took all this time to realize I had forgotten my glasses so I went back to my room and got them. When I returned Werner handed me the lyrics of a song and they began to sing in German. A German Happy Birthday song!

Today the weather doesn’t matter,

if it’s rainy, stormy or snowy!

Because you are shining bright

like the sun.

Today it’s your birthday, therefore

we are celebrating.

All your friends are happy with you.

How awesome, glad you are born,

i would have missed you so bad.

How good, glad we are together,

Congratulations dear Birthday-Darling.

All your wishes have a reason.

Then we feasted on the crepes.  With this start to my birthday I am sure to have a great day!

The day ended with a lovely cool rain storm.



11 November 2010 Some Photos of my new place – BASCO

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18 October 2010 – My Room

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My 10 by 10 room is painted pale yellow with a white ceiling. It has two double windows, one set on the west wall and the other set on the south wall. They are the typical glass louver windows we have here in Ghana.  I have reused my old curtains on three of the windows and put a shawl on the other. Mix and match in Ghana.

There is one twin bed, a desk and a chair, a folding table and a set of bunk beds. The bed is beside the window on the west wall and the cool air from the window floats on my feet at night. When it is really hot in the room I lay my head at the bottom of the bed to catch the cool air. The bed has three American pillows that I carried from the US in vacuum bags. The sheets came from Target and are covered with purple, pink, teal and mauve flowers on a white background. One pillowcase matches the sheets and the other two have white pillowcases with delicate flowers embroidered on the open end and three rows of tatting. My mattress is three inches thick. I have put a student mattress under it and two Ghana pillows placed strategically under my butt to keep it from dropping through the slats.

Above my bed are two abstract paintings from Ghana. They are on 6×18 black poster board painted with red, blue, yellow and white. One pretty much looks like a woman carrying water but the other one has had many interpretations – fireworks, rain, and confetti to name a few.

I bought the folding table in Sandema last year when the decorating bug got me early in 2009. I am using it as a night stand. It is covered with a small quilted runner in Christmas colors made for me by my sister in law, Betty. Today John Updike’s rabbit is rich is sitting the table. A candle sits on the opposite corner waiting for evening to send its vanilla aroma around the room. A photo of Fiya in her dance costume is propped against the candle. Around the candle is grass necklace that Dizzy gave me and some red “filika” corn that the Adjagsa’s gave me. The rest of the nightstand inventory is as follows:

Queen Helene cocoa butter

Apricot had lotion

A yellow flashlight

A small pocket sized LED flashlight with white flowers on a pink and purple background reminiscent of the 60s

An envelope with a note from my sister in law, Melanie

A black hair scrungie

A yellow mechanical pencil

A pink eraser

Two yellow foam ear plugs

Red Sox playing cards

A box of matches

A wooden cross

An eyeglass cleaning cloth

One orange plastic clothespin

Strawberry Chap Stick

In front of the nightstand is a small basket, about the size of a handbag, filled with puzzle books and 4×6 photo books.

Beside the nightstand is a box of books, waiting until I buy a bookcase. On top of that box are a few books I am planning to read or that I think I need immediate access to – my bible, W Somerset Maugham’s Christmas Holiday(on the to read list), The White Giraffe, Brandt guide to Ghana, Unwinding Threads, Hoyles Encyclopedia of Card Games, Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan, and Ananse Stories.

My desk faces my bed. The chair is against the wall because for some reason I hate to face a wall in a desk or is it that I hate having my back exposed, like some gangster! On the right side of the desk is a purple, blue and yellow cloth place mat from France. A clay bowl from Ghana sits on the place mat with seashells from Ghana in it. Today my voltic bottle, cell phone and computer case are also there. A pile of school books, note books and folders is on the left of the desk, near the back. A doily I bought in Connecticut with a ring of fall colors sits under a mayonnaise jar full of pen, pencils, markers and a ruler. Two letters lean against the mayonnaise jar. A small notebook for lists is near the pencil jar and Archer Mayor’s The Ragman’s Memory, sits on top of it. I finished it yesterday and want to return it to the library.  The two drawers are stuffed with the usual office type stuff. I am sitting behind my computer which is on the center of the desk.

On the wall by the window is my Read poster of Stewy, beside it is also a Read poster of Jeanette, Sue Bethune and me. Stewy needs to be near my desk to inspire my writing!

As sit here and type I can look up and out the west window and see the rain forest one foot away. There is also rain forest out the left hand window but also a grassy lawn heading down to the school buildings.

My two suitcases are next to the desk, against the south wall, to my left as I sit at the desk. One is filled with presents for my friends here. The other has misc things I don’t need right now, extra body scrungies, a bottle of conditioner, wet wipes, and curtains.

An army green L.L. Bean bag holds my camera, all its peripherals and my computer. A pink plastic compartmentalized tote holds my bath supplies. My two purple pails are next to it and my pink Crocs are at the door waiting for me to leave the room.

Near the door on the wall adjacent is my string art picture of three Ghanaian women.

The door is on the wall to the right from where I am sitting. On the back of the door are three nails. My purple, pink and green two yard hangs over my towel on one nail. A decorated calabash hangs on a nail near the top of the door. Over the top of the calabash is a three yard by 2 inch strip of cloth woven from Daboya. The other nail holds a black and red robe. My keys hang out of the lock.

The bunk beds fill the wall to the left of the door. They are my ‘closet’. My clothes are neatly folded on the bottom bunk. The top bunk holds shoes, toiletries, and other misc junk. My new lavender Bean backpack usually hangs off the most accessible post at the door end of the bunk bed and my army green Ghana backpack off the other one. I have hung a linen hand towel on the ladder that says “In a perfect world every home would have a cat and every cat a home.”

The floor is white tile and the ceiling is painted white crisscrossed with wooden slats making the ceiling look like one big tic tack toe board.