3 August 2011 – Tamale to Sandema

This morning I awoke to crashing thunder and harsh winds. It was raining so hard it came through the hotel room’s bathroom ceiling. Check out time was noon so I snuggled under by two yard with my book. I had enough time to wait out the storm.

My mother always said “Rain before seven, shine before eleven.” Although it was not yet shining at eleven it was no longer raining. Since I was eager to get to Sandema to see my friends I decided to take the chance it wouldn’t rain again before I got to the station.

The tro was almost full which is lucky because we would probably leave the station within the half hour but unlucky because I had to sit in the back seat. People and luggage were piled in the seats and aisles. The aisles were hardly wide enough for a child let alone a this broad hipped woman with her two bags. Thank goodness Ghanaians are helpful. The other passengers sent my bags to the back seat while I navigated over the bags, boxes and cases in the aisles. I crammed my backpack on the floor between my feet and held my green L.L. Bean bag on my lap. There was no room under my seat or the seat in front of me to stow my bags.

At first I was excited; I was going to enjoy every minute of my last trip to Sandema. Then after about 45 minutes it was no longer exciting. My back hurt, my butt hurt, my knees were locked into position and my right side was 10 degrees hotter than my left because the person in the seat next to me was squished up against me.

After one hour and fifteen minutes I longed for the cushioned wide seats of the STC bus I had taken from Kumasi. But alas I was bouncing in the back seat of a tro tro. Just as I thought I couldn’t take it any longer we reached the outskirts of Bolga. Thank God it was only a two hour trip this time.

I alighted at the station and zoomed the last 45 minutes to Sandema in the relative comfort of a share taxi and Metro Mass Transit.

Sandema Here I Come!


20 March 2010 – Dust

Today when I woke up it was foggy out. I got my camera and took the following photos. Then I had to go teach my Master’s class. After class about 10 am it was still foggy. I mentioned it. Raymond said it was not fog but dust, that the harmattan was back. WOW!


16 March 2010 – Today I Shouted at a Class

The day started out very nicely. The morning air was cool. Very refreshing after the heat of the day before. I took my blue plastic chair, my local stool, and my small wooden side table outside to have tea and work a puzzle. As I was sitting Master Amino came by. I rose to greet him and offered him the chair. He took the chair and sat on the footstool.

We chatted small small then the real reason for his visit came. He wanted to tell me that the masters on duty were going to punish 3C. He said that they wanted to send a message that the students shouldn’t treat Madam Vicky like that. I admit that my first internal reaction was “It’s my class butt out!” But quickly I decided to take it as a compliment that they were covering my back. I asked what they planned to do to the students. He said that they would all have to kneel outside. I thanked him and he left.

I went to the classroom block about 9:15 and Master Morris was there. He said that he had made 3C kneel and that he also wanted them to write a letter of apology.

Then I went to 2B2 to give them their class test. All went well during the test. Things broke down while we were marking the exams. I turned my back and I heard students shouting “Who’s got my paper. i want my paper” then other students said “Madam they are tearing up their exams and writing new ones.

I turned and calmly said, hand in all your papers. They did. Then I sent everyone outside. Searched the room and had them come in and pull out their pockets. I was seething. It was the second time that week I had tried to help them learn and some of them were just wicked! Also I hated searching because I knew most of them were innocent and I hated violating their privacy like that. I hated having mistrust sown in that class. Now I would wonder who was cheating and suspect innocent people. That made me angriest of all.

So I shouted at them. I have never shouted at my class before. I told them that one reason I liked coming to Ghana was that the students were very committed to their faith, Christian or Muslim. I see them at prayers and going to church each Sunday. But I said that it was easy to be Christian standing in the field, holding hands, singing feel good songs. It was easy to be Muslim when you were praying in the Mosque. The hard part was the rest of the time. As I talked I could feel my throat tighten and my voice raise in pitch. I told them that outside of church or mosque, that was when it counted. Not when you were in church or the mosque but when you were in the world. I told them cheating was wrong. That when God or Allah looks down upon them cheating He feels bad that His children have gone astray. I told them I felt the same way. I asked do you want to give up your honor and integrity for a grade? By this time I was screeching as I asked what will matter when you get to Heaven? A grade or that you were an honest person.

I stopped talking. Picked up my things and left.

As I was walking down the classroom block I heard Rofina say “Now look what you have done. You have made Madam annoyed with us!”


15 March 2010 – Today I walked out on a class

The Form Three Home Economics class pushed me too far today. Here’s the back story. The school calender I have says that classes will end April 14. This morning at assembly I found out that is not so, since Easter is the first weekend in April, we will send the students home 31 March, two weeks early. Therefore this week should be for revision but I was having a class test. How was I going to revise with them. How would they know what they needed to study since I probably would not get the class test back to them before exams. Ah-free-kah!

So I tossed around the options. Don’t give the class test and just revise.(No the Form 2s need the chance to take more tests from me to prepare for the end of year exam.) Give the class test and revise with them in the evening. (Yeah like I could be effective at 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm!) How can I correct all those tests in time for them to see what they don’t know? I’ve got it. I’ll give the test then we can mark it in class and that can be a revision as well.

Three C is very close to my heart. They were some of the first students I met, when I came on my site visit. They are full of life and laughter and they love to sing. The girls in the class love their Madam. Other masters say they are not serious. Well not always but they do know their food and nutrition and plenty of them are serious about the computer. I’ll admit that I am loose with that class but we usually get our work done. The class meets the last two periods of the day and we are all tired and hot by the time I get there so that is another reason I cut them some slack.

At 12:35 I entered the classroom. I greeted the students and I joked with them and asked if they were ready for the test.They began to moan and complain. I quieted them down and said to take one sheet of paper and put all other books and papers away. They were still moaning and complaining and not complying with my request so I walked around the room and assisted them in putting away their books and papers.

Finally the test was under way. About 10 minutes into the test people began to talk. I walked to three different people and asked them if they had any questions. “No Madam” each one replied. The class quieted down.

When I announced that there were 10 minutes left, students who were finished left the classroom. I reminded them that we would mark the exams and to stay near the classroom so I could call them. When I announced there were five minutes left the remaining students begged for another 5 minutes. I gave it to them. It was the first time I had given this test and maybe 30 minutes was not enough time.

When the extended time was up I told the remaining students to put their pens down. Many did and they passed their papers to the front. Some did not. So I walked around and collected the papers from them. When I do this I take the pen and then the paper. Usually students are very compliant to this routine but today one student held the pen tight and tried to keep writing. I said to her if you had focused more on writing during the test you would have had plenty of time. One student said “Madam I need to put my name on it and continued to write her answer. I snatched the paper, it tore small small. I showed her that her name was on the front. I had seen her put it there when I walked around during the beginning of the test. As I was collecting the test Jane (name changed to protect the guilty) had two papers on her desk. I took them both, I assumed she was recopying her paper, but no it was someone  Marsha’s (again, name changed to protect the guilty). Marcia is a one fo my daughter’s who visits my house frequently, but not Rofina or Portia, and I was shocked. I put a zero on both papers and expressed my disappointment with both of them. They tried to explain there in class. I told them to talk to me after class.

I asked the class captain to call the rest of the students back into the classroom so we could mark the papers. I explained again that I wanted to mark them today so that they would know what they needed to study for the end of term exam. My voice rose as I was explaining as the class began to chatter amongst themselves. I stood and waited, my usual strategy to get a class to quiet down. “Be quiet, Madam is waiting’ “Sssssssss”(the Ghanaian shhhhh) “Quiet down we are going to mark” came from the class and they were quiet.

I gave the answers to questions one through four each time raising my voice a bit higher above the noise. I tried reason. “Be quiet” I said “we won’t meet again. Don’t you want to know how you did so you can study for the exam?” I looked around Mary-Emmaculate, Charles, Christiana and a few others were with me. The others were quiet but clearly uncaring. I turned to put the equations on the board for question 5. The noise erupted again.

I turned around. Asked for the papers and said “Clearly you don’t want to do this now. I am leaving. You won’t see me again before the exam.” I put the tests in my bag, and gathered my things. Charles came and said “Madam, let me help you with your bag.” As we walked out he pleaded with me to come back, that some of the students wanted to learn. I told him no but I would be in the computer lab at 10:00 am on Saturday and anyone in class who wanted to learn could come then.

Jane and Marcia followed me to my bike. Marcia said that she had recopied her exam and it fell on the floor. That is how Jane must have gotten it. My face must have shown that I was not buying this story. They both shut up. I told them that if they did well on the end of term exam they cold still pass the class even with the zero on the class test. I reminded them that they had other class work as well.

I had to go to the exam office to give one of my exams for printing. When I got there three of the master’s who take classes with me were there. I told them about the class today and how I walked out. They all said ‘You must punish them” When I replied that I had walked out wasn’t that punishment enough, they said no.

Now what was I going to do?


15 March 2010 – Ginormous Creepy Crawlie

Tonight a huge multi-legged creature came into my room. “Not another one” I said to no one. About two weeks ago one came into my room and it was a wild battle. It was just the most awful looking thing ever, oval shaped about two inches long and one inch wide. It had many legs like a spider but the body was long like a butterfly’s. That night it ran across my hall floor. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and shuddered. I then grabbed my trusty purple Teva sandal and went after it.

It scurried to a corner; I followed and tossed the shoe into the corner. It scurried under the table. I retrieved my weapon and tossed it under the table. It scurried across the floor, I retrieved my trusty sandal and with a battle cry swatted at the thing. It scurried behind my folding bed. I kicked the frame, Nothing. I shook it nothing. Oh I was going to have to touch the bed. There were visions of this horrid creepy crawlie climbing up the frame and getting on me. I tossed my two plastic chairs across the room. Then with one finger crashed the frame of the bed to the floor and then the mattress. There it was with another battle cry I went for the final kill. It scurried across the floor, AAAIIIIIEEEEEE and whack. It was dead. Big sigh.

There was a knock on my door. Nathaniel was there. “Madam Vicky, are you ok?” I showed him the creepy crawlie in my shovel (this is what we call the small tool that collects dust when you sweep and for the life of me I can’t remember the American name.) “Oh madam, we thought it was something dangerous with the banging and the screaming.” he smiled.

“This is not poisonous? Thank goodness!” This is one thing I love about Ghana. If there is screaming and banging in your neighbor’s home you come and see if everything is ok.

When I went the next day to apologize for the noise so late at night, I told my neighbors that in America most likely no one would come to see what was happening. The assistant headmaster’s mouth opened his eyes widened and he said “All that noise and the would ignore you?!” Francescia, his wife, suggested that I should have a can of bug spray, like the woman was selling the other day. Oh I do have bug spray flashed through my mind. I asked to leave and went home to find it. There it was in the back of my kitchen cupboard.

So tonight when ANOTHER awful creepy crawlie scurried across the floor . I shut my bedroom door then i rushed to my kitchen cupboard for a new weapon. Armed with such a powerful weapon I didn’t feel the need for war cries as I attacked. It scurried I followed and sprayed; we danced around the room until it hid behind the folding bed again. The enemy was overwhelming me, time to go for reinforcements.

I went to my neighbor’s window.” Junia”, i called. “Madam Vicky, good evening. What do you want?” “Tennie the awful bug is back. Can someone come help me?” Tennie called to her mother who came quickly. Tennie, her mother, and I went to the battlefield. It scurried across the floor as we entered the hall. Just like that wily thing to be scouting the battle fiield while I was away.. I grabbed the spray and Tennie grabbed my trusty purple Teva. Her mother searched here and there. it scurried across the floor and went under the table. It sprayed then Tennie tried to swat it. It scurried somewhere. We could not find it anywhere.

We lifted book bags, moved chairs, pulled back the folding bed, searched the kitchen, the bath room, the toilet, the back room. Nothing.

Francescia said “Madam Vicky it’s probably gone outside now. Don’t worry it’s not poisonous.”

“I am worried” i confessed “that it will jump on me and bite me”

“No” she soothes me “it won’t bite you Madam.”

“Madam Vicky” laughed Tennie “why are you afraid of that little thing.”

“Now Tennie we are all afraid of something” instructs Francescia “You are afraid of snakes”

“Madam Vicky you aren’t afraid of snakes” asked Tennie

“Well some snakes I am afraid of. But I am not afraid of chameleons at all and you fear them. Thank you both for coming to help me.” I said as I walked them to my door.

I went back to my hall and worked on my Kukaru. Then something was crawling on me. Oh it was the creepy crawlie thing. I leaped out of my chair brushing it off me. It landed on the floor. I tossed my book on it and stomped on the book. It was dead. The book IS mightier than the spray.


18 March 2010 – Little Things

Today I decided to meet the 10 going on 11 bus into town. I couldn’t go to market on Tuesday because I had classes and then Cantuace was coming to fetch water, so I needed provisions. Just as I was getting to the cross (junction) the bus went by in the opposite direction. Oh it would be at least an hour until the next bus came to Sandema and since it wasn’t market day there was little chance of tro tros coming by either. I was stuck for a while. To add to my misery I had forgotten my phone so I couldn’t catch up on text messages or play snake to while away the time. And I was sitting on a rock and my thinner butt provides less padding for such a seat.

I was sitting, dejected, oh I had wanted to go to town fast fast, but it looked like it was going to be at least a two hour expedition. I started silently grumbling about transportation in the upper east and geesh it was only three miles why does a three mile journey take three hours!

The papers I needed to correct and the meal I wanted to prepare for Rofina and Portia were crowding in on the moment.

Two women were selling pure water under the bus shelter. They greeted me in Buili and were so happy when I returned their greeting in their language that they chattered on to each about how the white woman could speak their language. Then the one who was sitting on the bench moved over and patted the seat telling me in Buili to come and sit. We smiled at each other then they resumed their conversation. I took a deep breath and relaxed. I listened to the musical tones of the Builsa’s language. Waited for the warm breezes to come and cool me. Looked over the harsh dry season landscape that I have come to love. I won’t be here in Sandema much longer I told myself. Don’t miss the moments in your rush to get things done.

Two motos each with one passenger went by but I can’t ride motos so I didn’t beg a ride. Then a vehicle came down the school road. YEAH! I went to the side of the road and begged. It wasn’t one of the masters but the owner of the vehicle was happy to stop and give me a ride into town. He dropped me at the market.

I did my shopping and headed to the station to pick my two new dresses. Sister Baby greeted me with a smile and found my dresses right away. They were lovely. One is a blue swirly pattern on white and the other is green and golden stars on white. Both are simple sleeveless dresses. I headed to the bus stop in a pretty good mood figuring that I didn’t have long to wait for the bus to Sandema now and I saw a yellow school bus. Oh it wasn’t San Tech’s school bus. it couldn’t be. It was too soon for them to come pick the master’s children up from school. I walked, hopeful, until I could read the name on the side. It was our school’s bus!

As you know from previous post’s that this week has been very frustrating but I will remember how the kindness of strangers and a small surprise turned the week in a better direction.


One day in December – Crème Caramel My Turn

 Ever since Thanksgiving I wanted to make Crème Caramel. Twice I bought the eggs and ended up using them for something else. Today was finally the day.

 Last night I took the top off two Ideal Milk cans and let them soak in warm soapy water. This morning they were sparkling clean and ready for the burned sugar and custard. So was I.

 I collected the ingredients and laid them out on my cooking table. First I set the water to boil. Then I beat the eggs and sugar with a fork. Oh how I wanted a wire wisk. The eggs were somehow frothy when I added the milk to them.

 Then I remembered I should have burned the sugar. While the sugar was carmelizing I greased the milk tins and the notebook paper with Moi margarine. It is by far the best margarine in Ghana.

 I poured the carmelized sugar into the tins. The margaine melting made a lovely pattern and gave the sugar a sheen. Then I put the custard in. I folded a napkin (Dish towel) and put it in the bottom of the pan with the boiling water. Then put the filled milk tins on the dish towel.

I set my alarm for 30 minutes, grabbed a book and sat in my favorote chair. I could hardly wait.

The alarm rang. They were finished. Hot as the tins were I managed to loosend the sides and dump the crème caramel out on to a plate. All along I had been documenting the process with my camera. As you can see from the last picture taking photos was not the first thing on my mind.


20 january 2010 – First day second term Second year at SHT School

For the first day of classes I had oatmeal with raspberries (thanks Mel), and ground nut paste. I rounded it out with a slice of bread and some tea. I was ready to face the masses.

 Today I would give back the end of term exams. I decided to give small prizes to the student with the highest grade in each class and a pencil to the top students. Thank you Brother Jack and Mama Doil for all the pencils. I was able to give out 150 pencils 15 to each of my 10 classes.  The student with the best grade also got a pen, an American eraser and a small notebook. They students shouted their cheers, blessings and praise to my friends and family in America for thinking of them.

 3A was the best class in all of form 3. They had only one C and the rest As and Bs. I handed out bubble gum and Lollypops to them. Thanks again Mom. You are the class favorite. Some students came in late and their mates even reminded me to give them some. At the end one of the students asked me to do ya da ya da.  A smile came to my face and my heart beat quicker could this boy know Sienfeld? I asked him to explain. He wanted me to throw the rest of the candy in the air so they could all rush for it. I said no firmly. I could see the broken noses and stomped feet.

 Coming home from class I thought surely Cantuace won’t come.  Ah but she came about 10 minutes after I arrived.  I told her the deal. She will fetch water for me twice a week. Tuesdays and Fridays. She will not leave anything in my house. I will give her 50 pesewa each time she fetches water.

 My other girls also came back. Portia brought some girls to fetch water, so Cantuace had some help. Portia and I cooked rice and stew. Over dinner we talked about careers for girls besides nursing. It was good to have them back.

 After they left I took a bath, put pomade on my feet and hands, then settled down to read a book and go to sleep. 


6 October 2009 Full Circle

Oh my I am so behind on typing my hand written entries into my blog! I just found this one.

Today I pulled up ground nuts. This morning I stepped outside to brush my teeth and the field was ful of people – students, my landlord, his family and my neighbor, Pat. After brushing my teeth I shouted “I’m coming” and walked back into the house. I put on my shorts, t-shirt and grubby shoes and ran out to join the fun.

Unlike the  planting, where two people worked each row in an orderly manner, people were scattered all over the field like confetti after a parade. I watched my student, Alfred, he would lean down and spread the weeds then grav the groundnut plant with elbow bent he would then pull the plant out of the ground. When his upper arm was shoulder level he would raise his arm over his head and toss the plant into one of the large metal wash basins that were placed around the field.

I bent down to find my own plant to harvest. What

 was plant and what was weed? “Asandale, let me help.” Alfred said, coming over. As he was looking for the plant he told me that there had been too much rain this season to weed.The groundnuts would have come up with the weeds because the ground was so soft. He found a plant. So that is what they look like. I uprooted my first plant with less than coordinated movements but managed to hit the wash basin when I tossed it over there. Lucky the wash basin was a big as the broadside of a barn.

We worked together for about two hours. As we filled the basins one of the girls would put it on her head and carry it back to the compound. As the walked down the bumpy dirt path between the rows, they held themselves like models on a runway. They smiled at me like I was a fashion photographer. They dumped the uprooted plants under a tree at the compound and then returned the empty basins to the field.

Around 9:30 am, the air began to get heavy and hot. We quit to eat breakfast. After breakfast we gathered under the tree and began plucking the groundnuts off the plant. Last year I sat under a different tree on a different stool at the Kampusi’s compound and did my first agricultural work in Ghana. This year I was plucking the groundnuts I had sown and harvested. I had come full circle.


27 Jul 09 Strike One . . . They’re Out!

Today lightening struck my house. I  was in the middle of a wild African thunderstorm, my first one this rainy season. It had been almost a year since the last one. I was correcting papers. I had unplugged my computer and my phone. No premonition I always unplug them thanks to my mom!

 Then it happened. It was awesome. A round pulse of light, a crack of thunder and a singed smell in the air. Yes the thunder happens simultaneously when the lightening is nearby! Then the lights went out.

 When the storm stopped I looked out my door. There to the right was something hanging. I opened the door and looked – my meter was blown off the wall. Later I went to my water barrel for water and the switch above the barrel was blown out of the wall. When I  told my landlord Francis he said the same thing happened to his meter and Pat’s wall switch.

The lightening traveled through out the school to two more bungalows and to the girls dorm.

I am ok and I got all my electricity, lights and fridge back in 4 days.

-vcOutside meter

Wall switch


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