Monday, November 23, 2009

where did my week go?

hello everyone,

I'm at an internet cafe in Accra, so I thought I'd give a quick update on the last week - -which went by very quickly!

The week's sessions went well ... on Friday it was nice to have my professor's father, Rev. Dr. Apea, come visit. He just observed quietly, and before he left he gathered all of the students, speaking to them in Twi about the importance of literacy.

Like I said in my last post, I've really enjoyed getting to know the students more and more. In Level 2, especially. There is Sister Comfort, who is older and very serious about her studies. On Tuesday she interrupted the class, standing up to "speak on behalf of her sisters." She explained that they were not able to finish their schooling and "had been praying for an opportunity to further their education." She was so grateful for the program!

And then there is Sister Helena, the woman who sells plantain chips. She is round and smiling, with a little rim of facial hair under her chin. Sister Josephine is very clever and quick. She has been asking about the test next week, and has decided to postpone a trip to visit family to make sure she can write it. She said she needs to write the test because she plans on "topping the class." I see her at the tro tro station and at the market, selling a variety of goods. She'll be carrying a bowl of "pure water" (mineral water in little bags), or a platter of bananas on her head.

And Sister Sophia is very sweet, but honest. Last week I was chatting with her after class, and she asked me, "What are the benefits of learning this?" The work can be difficult for her sometimes, and she wanted to be reminded that it was worthwhile. I asked, "What do you think the benefits are?" Sister Josephine was sitting nearby and jumped in. "There are lots of benefits! Let me give you some examples..." and went into a little list. You can tell Josephine sees opportunities and takes them. Since that conversation, I've tried even more to link literacy to the "real world." Reading Bible passages together. On Friday I photocopied an interesting newspaper article, for us to read and discuss together. I even cut out job postings and added them to the photocopied paper -- every single one of the jobs asked for good English!

Anyway, on Friday Sister Sophia surprised me with kindness. Somehow during the previous session, I had misplaced my hankerchief (these are necessary, as you are always dabbing at sweat or wiping away dust!). On Friday Sister Sophia told me she had found it, and returned it to me freshly washed. From the nice smell, Felicia and I concluded that she had even sprayed it with perfume. After the class, she gave me a plastic bag. Inside, were two new bars of fragrant soap in nice packages. There was also an envelope, sealed closed with the words "to Sister Erica" on the front and "From Sister Sophia" on the back. Inside was a new hankerchief folded neatly, and two one cedi bills, crumpled but smoothed out flat against the hankercheif.

I found out that she had given the other Level 2 leaders envelopes as well, with a one cedi bill inside. When she gave Felicia hers, Felicia asked her why. She responded that she was grateful for the program, and knew that anywhere else she would have to pay for this kind of teaching. She's older, and she said she doesn't have a job, but this is what she could offer.

I was so touched. This kind of sincerity stands in stark contrast to others I've met, who seem to see a foreigner and instantly see "money!". It's a reminder that you can't focus on people like that, when there's this kind of generosity here, too.

Speaking of generosity, Suzanne and Michael invited me back to Mampong for the weekend, and of course I took them up on the offer! So I'm heading back to town today, after enjoying a weekend in Mampong. Poor Suzanne is recovering from malaria, but we still had a good time hanging out in the kitchen, drinking tea together, and of course lots of talking! It's nice to live with a family on the weekends -- the guest house can feel a little lonely. So it was fun even just to help with normal things, like taking out Aba's braids and helping give the girls a bath.

Also -- Michael tells me the harmattan has come. A cold front blowing all the way from Europe, picking up dust as it travels over the Sahara desert. It can get very dry, the lush greenery turning brown. The dust can sometimes act as a trap for the heat, making it hotter -- or the harmattan can make the weather cooler, especially the mornings and evenings.

Already I can see its effects -- as we drove up to Mampong on Friday, the sun was burning orange and yellow through a haze of dust, a haze that settled on horizon and clouded the hills from view. Michael explained that people looking at our location, from far away, see this same haze, even though we can't see it up close.

Mampong is in the mountains, so it's cooler to begin with. But even this weekend I can feel it's gotten cooler. Even though it's still hot in the afternoon, in the evening I actually wrapped my blanket around myself while watching TV on the couch. Michael had to snap a picture -- me in Africa, bundled up in a blanket, sipping hot tea.

My skin, too, is getting a little drier already. Good thing I brought lotion! :)

Suzanne said the harmattan always makes her think of Christmas. It's strange -- being here, I don't even see Christmas coming. Obviously my usual weather and surroundings are different. But in Canada, the Christmas commercials and billboards fly up immediately after Halloween, it seems. And so you hear about Christmas for about two months before it actually comes. But this year I'm going to fly back to find my Canadian Christmas in full bloom, to enjoy it just in time.

So right now I'm in this strange mix of emotions. Watching my time here dwindle, I'm getting panicky and sentimental, trying to savor everything. "I have to get a picture of this! I have to remember this!" but at the same time knowing that it will be wonderful to go home and see everyone again.

The question on many people's minds is ... what about the program? I'm praying that it will continue, and it seems that both students and teachers are willing. Six weeks of instruction isn't enough -- and i hope it is a trigger for something bigger and longer-lasting. Especially for poor Level 1 students. They've diligently learned their alphabet, its sounds and its letters ... they've begun to put those letters and sounds into words, working with simple and short words ... and then the program is over? I feel like they'll be left hanging.

So there's a prayer request, I suppose. Pray for direction. Pray for students and teachers to have the motivation to continue. Even if it's something small -- like once a week instruction for level 1, or the students of level 2 organizing an English Bible study or book club ...


gotta go head back to town :)

i love and miss you all <3


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

African Rain

As I write this, I am sitting on the couch. Fan blowing towards me. Earphone in my ear, listening to Fine Frenzy … (I have a bit of music Isaac put on the laptop for me) … Listening to the sound of the rain outside. It’s been raining often. Almost every day this week. The sun will rise in the morning, and all afternoon rage against the earth. Against me and my poor white skin. And then the heat and humidity will thicken, the clouds will gather, and the rain will finally break. It’s refreshing, and gives everyone an excuse to rest from the heat of the day and wait for the rain to stop.

This weekend, Belinda and I cooked together. By that – I mean Belinda cooked and I watched and performed some of the more repetitive tasks. Haha We went to the market on Saturday morning and bought what we needed. We prepared the light soup and boiled the chicken in it. I learned how to cut and peel plantain and cassava, boiling both of them to be pounded into fufu. And yes, I attempted to pound the fufu. I did it for a few minutes, and then Kwaku pushed me aside to let him finish it for me…

This morning (Sunday) I went to Auntie Jo’s Presbyterian church for a change. To me – it wasn’t all that different. There was dancing (I danced – yikes), singing, and it was still three hours of Twi. I try to occupy myself with my own thoughts and just looking at all of the different dresses and bright patterns, but it was getting so long I started feeling sleepy and started randomly flipping through my Bible …

After church we pounded a bit more fufu, and ate it with the soup from yesterday. Although I usually try to eat it with my fingers, the Ghanaian way, I was lazy and opted for a spoon. Now, full of fufu, I’ve been sitting on the couch. Reading a bit from “Cry, the Beloved Country” (great book – saw it at the market and decided to buy it), and listening to this little bit of music I have ... Actually, right now the maid has joined me, sprawling out on the other couch and even though she said she wanted to sleep she is singing to herself. So I have Damien Rice playing in one ear, and Akwea the maid in the other. Haha

This week went well. I was sad to leave Michael and Suzanne’s, but happy to get back into the program. Last weekend I retrieved the Level 2 tests from the pastor’s wife, and marked them. There were some areas that the students excelled in, and then one specific “rough patch” – tenses. So we’ll have to head back into tenses again, more slowly, keeping it as simple as possible. I’m trying to think of ways to make that kind of grammar fun – blah! Flashcards, games, boxes …

This week we’ve been trying to focus on different things. Trying to get in more small group time, so that we can watch the students’ progress and check understanding more closely. I’ve also been trying to bring the Bible into the lesson plans – they all have English Bibles and being able to read them is one of the strongest motivations for them. For shared and group reading, it’s great to just be able to flip to the same passage, and then read it in the Twi Bible afterward. We’ve used it to introduce lessons and the students like it – it relates to them.

I’ve also been playing teacher more and more. In Level 1, it’s difficult because if I went up there to speak they wouldn’t understand me! But as long as I speak slowly, the retired teacher and I can tag team the Level 2 large group teaching, or I’ll just do a lesson and he’ll be there to check that they understand – using Twi. I’m getting to know the students a little more, remembering names and seeing their booths at the market and laughing with them. I’m realizing more and more how much I want to be a teacher – I’ll be all pumped up for the ed program now!

Level 1 students have finished learning the sounds and letters of the alphabet. We’re using picture flashcards to introduce a bit of English vocab, and working with two letter and now three letter words. Level 1 numbers are very steady, because every class is building on the last. The students in Level 1 are very serious and very dedicated. Here is where we have some older women who never attended school, or young mothers who bring us a little group of babies and toddlers. For the children, I’ve started bringing a few toys so that they can play in a corner while their mothers learn. (Isaac – I have to confess that little teddy bear from you is being drooled on and played with by several little ones – I didn’t think you’d mind!) Next session, I’m looking forward to teaching Level 1 “head and shoulders knees and toes …”! It may be a children’s song, but it will help with the body part vocab and I know adults have fun singing it, too! Haha

It was so funny – last session I had my camera getting snapshots of students working. After taking one woman’s photo and showing it to her on the screen of my digital camera, I was being poked from all sides with requests of, “Madam, snap me!” And the moment I pointed my camera toward them, they would pull out their notebook and pencil and strike a studious pose, pretending to be in the middle of writing! Haha They know exactly what I’m looking for … haha

I’m getting to know people here more and more. Relationships are growing into true friendships. Talking about real things like future plans and dating and family life and parents and teenage pregnancy (which is pretty rampant). People are people are people. Even though things are different here, or the problems in this town differ from the problems in Canada … it’s surprising how much is common between us. How similar experiences can be… Hard to explain, I guess…

I’m reading another good book here, called “20 things you should read” – and it includes snippets from 20 influential Christian thinkers. I read this poem, and thought you might like it, too. I’m just sharing it because I read it recently – it’s kind of unrelated to the point of the blog, but whatever …. I’m not trying to be profound or anything, but I know the blog “regulars” (aka Ange and my mom) would like it:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

No hands but yours, no feet but yours;

Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks

Out on the world.

Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good

And yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

* by St. Terea of Avila

Hm. There’s a challenge …

Monday, November 9, 2009

Belated Update

Hello everyone,

This week has gone by so quickly!

I’ve been enjoying my time with Michael and Suzanne, of course. They’ve been very busy, but managed to take me to the beach on Saturday J as well as Aburi Botanical Gardens. The beach in Tema was beautiful, despite the unfortunate amount of litter! Michael and Suzanne were disappointed at the amount of plastic bags floating in the water and Styrofoam cups half-buried in the sand. The waves are very strong! Instead of swimming, I went out with Michael and Aba (five-year-old daughter) and we just waited for wave after to wave to hit us, throwing us back towards the shore. Aba is so tiny, with small bones and big eyes. She’s so light, I had to grip her arm to keep her from being washed away! The Ghanaians were complaining that the water was cold – Aba was shivering – but as a Canadian, it was wonderful! Very refreshing! Afterward, I sat under the shade of a little beach hut with Suzanne and Afua. I’m not even trying to tan, I’m too busy avoiding sunburn.

During the week, I’ve been driving into Accra with Suzanne and Michael, to their office there. From there, I’ll either stay at the office and do some “homework” or go out. Felicia is in Accra this week, staying with her cousin, so I’ve met up with her a few times. Felicia took me to her cousin’s salon yesterday, and I spent the whole afternoon there. I got my hair washed, flipped through magazines, and I got my hair braided! I figure – how many times will I be in Ghana? I might as well make the most of it! I like the braids, more than I thought I would. It feels different to have a mass of thick stiff hair on my head, but it’s okay. At one point I had three girls working on my head, and I just sat and watched as their fingers flew at an amazing speed. This morning I was told I look “very beautiful and very Ghanaian.” Ha

We went to the Accra Mall, and it is so strange. Walking into the giant Shoprite supermarket, with long aisles and Christmas decorations and uniformed employees – I felt like I could easily have been back in Canada. Or somewhere in the USA. It’s strange how the world is getting more similar! It is also an interesting mixture of people at the Shoprite. I see more white foreigners there than anywhere else. After being the “obroni” in Asamankese, it’s funny to see white people. I even saw a family of white Amish walking through the mall, complete with bonnets and everything!

Quote from Michael: “Wherever you travel, don’t live among Canadians. If you do, you will still be in Canada.”

Very good point. At first, being the only intern in Ghana was a little daunting. But it’s been good for me. I like having Ghanaian friends, living with Ghanaians, eating with Ghanaians … Being at the Shoprite, I realize it’s human nature to cling to the familiar. Seeing the foreigners there pushing their shopping carts, buying foreign food and sporting foreign fashions with their foreign friends … And they’re willing to pay a higher price for the “familiar” – that place is expensive!

But I’m glad I haven’t had the option of retreating from culture shock. At first, the local market was such a buzz of activity – selling strange food and speaking a language I can’t understand – that I wanted to get out of there! But I’ve been forced to adjust. From learning a few Twi phrases, to how to take a tro-tro on my own, it’s been a gradual process of adjusting. I know there is still a lot to learn, and more ways I could participate – but from my experience so far, the extra “stretch” that comes along with jumping into new things is worth the challenge.

I travel back to Asamankese tomorrow – already! Although I don’t want to leave Mampong, I do want to get back to Asamankese and get back into the program. Since many of the students couldn’t attend Friday session, they wrote the test on Tuesday under the supervision of the pastor’s wife. So when I get back I’ll be busy marking tests, and I’m interested to see how the students did and if there are any clear trouble spots. I also want to see their book creations on Tuesday!

Side note …

I had a conversation with Suzanne, discussing whether a man or a woman has a harder life. Suzanne thought, despite women’s pains of childbirth and inconveniences of pregnancy, men still had a hard task and a lot of responsibility. Besides that, she added quite seriously:

“If you’re a stupid woman, someone will marry you. But – really – who is going to marry a stupid man? If you marry a stupid man, your friends will make fun of you. You’ll just say, ‘Great. Here comes my stupid husband.’”

I laughed. And we concluded that both men and women have their difficulties.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

pictures ... finally!

hey i couldn't figure out how to post pictures here, so I was able to post some on facebook! check them out!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

some thoughts

Hello Canada,

This is the third and final week of "Phase 1", where we got organized, assessed the students, and began instruction. Tomorrow we have our last session before the one-week break (during which I will be in Mampong -- excited to see Suzanne and Michael again!). Over the break, Level 1 students will be making "Alphabet Books" and Level 2 students will be writing storybooks -- so I've been busy stapling the blank books together. Level 2 will also have a test tomorrow (scary -- not!).

So ... some thoughts of mine:

I think after this internship, I will have a lot more appreciation for immigrants in Canada. Crossing cultures can be very difficult. I'm only here for three months -- i can't imagine moving somewhere else. Having to arrange housing. Navigate public transportation. Here's a thought -- imagine landing in a classroom in a language you don't understand, and be expected to pass tests!

Here, people have been pretty gracious with me. With my white skin, it's easy for them to spot me as a foreigner. So when I don't say the right thing, or mispronounce a Twi greeting, or do something considered as "rude", they're pretty understanding. For example: in Canada, giving eye contact is a sign of respect and attention. Here, if a young person is looking an elder in the eye too much, it can be interpreted as disrespectful or a challenge. Another one: in Canada, it is polite to ask people older than you, "how are you?" Here, the older people ask the younger people that question -- the younger generation isn't supposed to be asking them. Or, one thing to remember is that the left hand is not used to shake hands, pass things, or eat with. Waving to people with your left hand can be considered an insult. Another one: saying "excuse me" in Canada is polite. Here, "excuse me" is often used as a sarcastic insult between children on the playground.

I have done almost all of the things listed in the above paragraph -- but people understand that I'm foreign, and don't take it the wrong way. Ghanaians are quick to educate you about their culture, teach you a Twi phrase, or tell you openly, "we don't do that here -- we do this."

Here's one interesting exchange I had with an elder in the church the other day. I was talking with him, and he was very interested about Canada, etc. He was discussing free trade and the cocoa industry with me ... And then he started asking about Canadian culture and family life. He said, "I hear that Canadian and American men are very bossy!" I didn't quite get where that came from/ "Bossy?" "Yes -- they can divorce their wives very quickly and very often. They sound very bossy." Oh .... that's a different take on it! haha I explained to him that in Canada, marriage is seen as a romantic union between two individuals -- unlike here, where it's a fusion of two families. Unfortunately, this could be one of the reasons divorce is more common ... He was very intrigued by this, and couldn't believe some of it!

Another little tidbit about Ghana: the driving is very different here! haha Here are some driving rules i've observed:
1. Your foot must always be pressing down on either the gas or the brake. Never cruising.
2. Biggest vehicle has right of way.
3. Vehicles -- taxis, trotros -- often do not have seatbelts, and so they are not limited by them. Instead, you can cram as many passengers as you can fit in the vehicle!
4. Drive on the left side, the right side, or the middle of the road until you see another vehicle coming in your direction.
The busy roads sometimes remind me of currents in water -- there's two directions of flow, and things somehow are movign ... but it's all very fluid and kind of smooshing together/

haha Finally, another good quote:
Felicia and I were preparing the booklets. We bought one stack of computer paper. later, we needed more. We were surprised to see that the two lenghts of paper were different ... she just laughed and said, "That's Ghana for you!"

Africa has been good to me, but it is teaching me patience and flexibility! haha


Friday, October 23, 2009

so far so good

Reflections on the past week:

On Sunday I went to church, as usual. The church services are getting a little long – three solid hours of Twi in the heat can make me a little restless. Even with a friend giving me the “jist” of the sermon, it’s still difficult to pay attention (or at least look like I am). On the bright side: Sunday services give me a lot of time to think! Also, the singing and the dancing is fun. Last Sunday I was given a tambourine and joined in with the dancing. The pastor wanted me to sing a song we had learned last Monday at the youth service. (Here, you don’t have to have a perfect voice to go up and lead the congregation in the song – good thing!) So I went up along with another girl, and the two of us led the congregation. Surprisingly, it was fun. By the end of the first chorus, the rest of the youth group had joined us up front, I was belting it out in my microphone, and some of the women had started dancing. Don’t worry, Canada – this side of me will stay in Ghana!

Tuesday and Friday of this week we had literacy sessions – Level 2 first, and then Level 1. On Monday Felicia, Priscilla and I painted blackboards so that we would be all ready to go. Once we set up the church, it looked like a real classroom! Both sessions went very well, and the numbers have grown to almost 70.

I realize now that my fears of the program “failing” were unnecessary. It would be almost impossible for this program to fail. And that has nothing to do with me – I simply say this because of the efforts and experiences of the assistants, and because of the energy of the students.

Two of the assistants are retired teachers, and so their experience has been key. The fact that the others know the women and understand both English and Twi has been absolutely crucial.

I am also very impressed with the students. They come early or on time with everything they need, and even though some of them are shy they are eager to participate in class. Several little children have been forced to tag along while mother learns, and so I’ve decided that it would be a good idea to bring a few toys to keep in a corner!

Many of the students in Level 1 have never been in a classroom before. It was so exciting to watch them “read” the vowel sounds off flashcards and come up to the blackboard to write the letters for the first time! Level 1 also has a number of older women, who are eager to learn how to read and improve their English! I watched one woman in Level 1, leaning over to carefully copy out the vowels in her notebook, while nursing her baby at her breast!

The students are also very grateful. One woman in Level 2, who sells plantain chips, thanked me and gave me two bags of them! Of course, I had to share them with the other assistants at the leaders’ meeting on Wednesday! Also, the pastor has been very pleased. Since I am keeping all of my lesson plans, he asked if I could compile them all at the end of the program, so that it could be either continued or repeated. I was so happy to hear that – six weeks isn’t long enough and it would be great to have it continue!

So although things are going well so far, please keep the program in your prayers. Pray that the assistants would be encouraged and refreshed – they’re doing a wonderful job and we need them to keep coming! Pray that the students would be encouraged in their learning and benefit practically from the lessons. And pray for me, too!

I can’t believe I’ve been here for over a month already!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hello everyone,

Sorry it’s been awhile since the last post. For some reason, I can view my blog (and read your comments – special thanks to Ange! Haha) but it’s difficult (no, impossible) for me to add a post. The same is true of facebook – I can get to the sign in page, but can’t actually get to my profile, inbox, etc. For some reason my student email works REALLY well – so if you’ve sent me a facebook message, please forward it to my student email and I will get back to you. Even now, I’m emailing this to Isaac so that he can post it on my blog! Using my cell phone it only takes me a few moments to check my student email right from my laptop! So email me!

So… updates (sorry if this becomes long):

This week we had the first literacy session! It went really well, and we organized the women (around 45 of them) into two levels of literacy ability. Level 1 has received no formal education, and Level 2 has received basic education. It was really encouraging to meet the women. There were seamstresses, hairdressers, traders, farmers, etc. We had a discussion time, where they could (in Twi or English) explain why they came to the program and what results they are hoping for.

Many of the women said that they want to be able to help their children with their homework. Others wanted to read their English Bibles with English commentaries and studies for themselves, so that, as they said, “No one can deceive.” Some women joined the program so that they will be better equipped to develop their businesses. Some just want to “write a signature anywhere”! One woman said she was there so that she wouldn’t throw out a “good letter” that belonged to her husband – when she sees a piece of paper on the floor, she has no way to tell whether she should keep it or sweep it up into the garbage!

When the session began, we were all together in a big group and I welcomed the women (with Felicia translating) and the pastor prayed. I was a little surprised to a see a woman in the front row pull her dress aside, completely exposing herself to nurse her baby! At the same time, though, it was also an encouragement – a reminder that these are everyday women, with busy lives and growing families. The first session gave me fresh motivation, and I hope that the program can help them in some way. I also think that, in between learning, we will have a lot of fun at these sessions! Even on the first day, there was a lot of laughing, getting to know each other … I got to play with the baby … haha When it came time for the leaders to take over their groups, they were fantastic! Some of the leaders are retired teachers and so they are adding their years of experience to the program.

On Wednesday was the leaders’ meeting, where I handed out the lesson plans I had prepared and we discussed them. That went well, and so we’re all set for the upcoming sessions! Right now our schedule is: Tuesday and Fridays, level two meets from 8-9:30 and level 1 meets at 10 – 11:30. On Wednesdays leaders meet at 2pm. This is the schedule for the next two weeks (phase 1), and then a week break, and then phase 2, where we may pick up the pace and add a third weekly session.

This week I went to Accra with Felicia, which was fun. I had my first tro-tro experience. The tro-tros are large vans/mini-buses that serve as public transit. They’re very cheap, and they range from being quite comfortable to being held together by duct tape! At times, they can become very crowded and hot. On the first tro-tro, the one to take us into Accra, I was so surprised as people just kept piling in! The seats fold this way and that, so that when everyone is seated there are bodies from one side of the vehicle to the other, and you couldn’t get out if you wanted to! On that first tro-tro, I counted 23 adults and one baby packed into the vehicle – and I must mention that one of those adults was the size of two adults! But that first one was the most crowded – the other tro-tros were okay, and you really can’t beat the price!

Of course, my time here is made up of more than just light-hearted anecdotes. There’s been different ‘culture shocks’ to deal with – or things that I still have to learn to deal with.

One of those is time. When it comes to time here, people are laid back and time is event-oriented. So you don’t finish the meeting at the time you planned – you finish when you finish. In one way, it’s kind of nice. But at other times – like when someone leaves you waiting for an hour and a half – I have to remind myself that maybe Africa will teach me patience! The Internet at the café, though, still gets to me… there are times that I could literally cry in frustration when the connection is lost again, or the page won’t load, or it takes 12 minutes to open an email!

Another thing that’s been hard to get used to is having house help. In the beginning, the houseboys or maids I saw were either treated as part of the family, or treated as a business arrangement. But here in the town, I think some of the workers are a little more desperate, with no other options… Because of that, they can be taken advantage of and treated poorly. Watching someone yell at their maid, throw a plate in her direction, or threaten to beat her is really upsetting. One maid I know – I saw her yesterday with two band-aids on her face, forming a curved line down her cheek. I asked what happened, and it was to cover up the marks left by her mistress’ nails. It’s difficult to know what to do… for now I simply make an effort to be kind to the workers – maybe invite them to the literacy classes.

Another thing is the poverty. Not just the poverty – the lack of opportunity. To know hard-working people who cannot get a job. For instance, Auntie Jo’s grandson Kwaku wants to be an electrician and only needs a little less than 500 dollars to get the training. He can’t get a job, though, to make this money, and so he feels frustrated.

When I meet people in town (different from Accra), they very often ask, “Bring me back to Canada!” I usually joke that I couldn’t fit them in my suitcase, but it also gives a small insight into the lack of options they feel are available to them. In this way, Isaac’s ring has also come in handy – even just yesterday a guy asked, “Are you a married woman?” Showing him the ring shut down his idea of marrying me so he could come to Canada. He bounced back quickly, though, “Perhaps you have a sister…” Which reminds me – I have a message for my brother James – some schoolgirls here looked at your photo and announced that you “are very nice.” And you have an offer of marriage as well.

People love to see the pictures I brought of family and friends, especially the pictures of Isaac. It’s funny, I talk about him so much they act like they know him. When I was staying with Suzanne and Micahel in Mampong, by the end of the week Michael declared, “I like Isaac! We have so much in common!” – even though he’s never met him! Auntie Jo teases me about sending her wedding pictures, and Belinda sometimes calls me “Mrs. Isaac”. Kwaku, in his broken English, looked at Isaac’s picture and said, “I love Isaac. Very niiice boy. Very nice.” Every time I am quiet or I sigh, Felicia guesses: “You are missing Isaac.” Is it that obvious? I’m sure if Isaac ever came here, he would have a whole group of people he’s never met, greeting him like an old friend!

So – this is getting VERY long. Even though I mentioned cultural challenges, there are a lot of great things about the culture here. It’s lively and expressive and musical. People here are very polite, and for the most part treat each other with respect. Everyone is endlessly connected to each other, and life is very public and communal. From pounding fufu to stirring banku to arguing to braiding hair to nursing babies – things are done outside, in public. I think it would be impossible to come to Ghana and feel lonely – you could stand on the street and in five minutes you would have been greeted by half a dozen people. This was especially true yesterday, when Ghana won the world cup (?) in a match against Brazil. I saw groups of up to twenty people watching a TV outside of shops, and when they won there was a dull roar of people shouting. Late into the night, there was celebrating!

Anyway – gotta go. I visited the Queen Mother today, and she invited me to a funeral this afternoon … which you may hear about later.

Lots of hugs,


PS: I had Felicia, Belinda, and Kwaku try a “cup-a-soup” that I had brought. They hated it! Auntie Jo wouldn’t even try it, and gave a whole lecture about how Canadians can’t cook. And I quote: “This is why I say: They don’t know how to cook! They invite you to their home, they open a package and heat it up. They put it on your plate and say, ‘I cooked!’” I tried to explain that this is Canadian travel food, but she wouldn’t hear of it: “Travel food or no, it is Canadian soup!”