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 …


  1. Hi Erica!!

    All I have to say after reading this latest blog is - I sure hope it rains while I'm there! To cool us all off! I'm also struck anew how things really aren't THAT different between the two people groups - alot of similar challenges face both of our cultures. I can also see how being a teacher is such a perfect 'fit' for you! I have to say as a mom it is great to see your giftings being used! Keep up the good work!

    Love ya lots & lots & lots,
    MA & PA

    PS Thanks for the poem - you're right - this 'regular' thought it was great!

    PPS See ya in a few weeks!!

  2. I continue to be amazed by how much you fit in the grand scheme of this project, clearly God's will and plan for your life! You have made me proud and I am so glad its you right there. I can so relate to those experiences - the 'snap me' phenomenon! That fufu and soup sounds like it was de-li-ci-ous...my mouth is seriously watering! I pray a blessing for you in these your last few weeks...(not sure why it says I'm Gwen...its Dr. Ashun!)

  3. Ha! I also enjoyed your poem! I remember you telling me about that boook a long time ago... how no one wants to read the huge books that these Christian 'thinkers' have wrote, so someone took the best/well-known parts and compiled them...

    Also... I lent you the book Cry, the beloved country... I'm 99% sure its sitting on your bookself at home (in Canada)... glad to know you read it ;) haha.

    Me and Vikki have a pact to not use LOL unless we are actually laughing out loud... its in honour of this comedian.. anyways, just so you know.

    Its' so exciting to hear of you filling into your teacher role! (that was awkward wording.. sorry). I'm so happy for you! Hopefully you aren't reverse homesick when you come back to Canada.. (well you probably will be I suppose, but hopefully it won't be bad).

    Thanks for the update
    (... p.s. any chance you can give me some advance warning so I can beat your mom to having the first comment?)

  4. p.s. in your next blog can you talk about your braids?

    p.p.s. I was talking to cora and this weekend and she also follows your blog :)