I am now finishing my 11th week here in
I do not even remember where I left you hanging in my stream of crazy stories, but I do believe the next big adventure was to the city of
When we arrived in
On Saturday we went out to explore the city. It was a very cool place! We went to the cultural centre and were able to see all of the local crafts being made. It was so interesting to see the local artists making the pottery, carving the drums, weaving the Kinte clothe and creating beautiful paintings. It was very fascinating to spend time with the artists and learn more about their lives. I love how friendly people here are! I ended up leaving with a very beautiful traditional drum. I am not really sure how I am going to get it home, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. After spending hours at the cultural centre we made our way across the city to the largest open air market in
When Nick and I arrived back in Fotobi/Obodan we both turned to each other, and almost in unison said, “It looks like home”. It is crazy how comfortable and at home I feel in the village now. It is strange that a place that is so different from anything you have ever known before can feel so normal and comfortable. It is also strange how close to people you can feel in such a short time. Nick is virtually the exact opposite person I am, yet we have become close friends during our time here. It is always interesting to talk to him about anything and everything really because we have such different views, values and opinions. This summer has definitely moulded me in many ways, and by discussing my opinions with someone who feels so differently I have really been pushed to critically re-evaluate what I believe and why. It has already been an amazing summer of personal growth, and it is not even finished.
FAWE, and in particular the school I am working at, are in a lot of financial trouble right now. The major funding source for the school was the Rockefeller foundation; however about a year ago they lost all of that funding when the foundation decided to switch its focus from education to the environment. As a result funds are very tight at the school. The teachers here had not been paid for four months! I know now why they sometimes come to school and sometimes don’t. It must be hard to show up everyday when you have not been paid for months. I cannot imagine what would happen back home if teachers had not been paid in that long! They definitely would not still be showing up to school that is for sure. A few days before midterm break the teachers decided enough was enough and threatened to not return after the break if they did not receive some payment. Some of the teachers barely had money left to buy food. It is amazing the dedication they show to the girls by continuing to work. FAWE was able to come up with one month’s salary for every one in two days. It makes us all a little suspicious that they were able to come up with the money so quickly, yet they had not paid the teachers in such a long time.
I am continuing to struggle with some aspects of school life here, particularly the punishment. It is so far from anything I have ever known before. Thankfully they do not use the cane here at my school (the other Canadian girls working in the Western region still have the cane at their school), but they have many other punishments that I find just as hard to witness. I know that it is not my place to pass judgement on a system; however I have noticed that at almost every level of society you will find people who were once abused by those in power now abusing those they have power over. It is a vicious cycle, and I am sad to say I do not see an end to it in the near future (I also do not know how they would be able to fully break the system). I have been able to talk to some of the teachers about the punishment here though because they have asked me what punishment we use in
My next great adventure after
We made it into Tamale at 4:45 am on Sunday. Amelie and I decided it would be a good idea to take turns sleeping on the benches until 6. We then ventured to find a way to get to
Not long after we arrived and had gone for a swim, we had our first encounter with warthogs and baboons! It was crazy to see them so close. The baboons are very cute and funny to watch, but can be very dangerous at the same time so you have to be careful. They try to break into the rooms to steal your things, and it is not uncommon for them to jump onto your table while you are eating and steal your food. Always very exciting! I went on a walking safari later that afternoon. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! While walking around I was confused by something that I smelt. It seemed so familiar, yet I could not place what it was. Turns out it was a mixture of wild mint and age. I saw so many interesting plants, not to mention wildlife! There were so many different types of monkey’s and antelope running everywhere. And let me not forget the elephants! My guide was amazing and he was able to track down a little family of elephants. They were no more then 10-15 feet away from me. It is incredible how silent they are! You would think that they would make a lot of noise because they are so large, but if it was dark they could have walked by and I would have never known. We also walked through an area frequented by hyenas, but thankfully did not see any =) It was one of the most magnificent things I have ever experienced! One thing I did not anticipate was the intense Northern sun. I did not think it could be much stronger then the sun in the Eastern region, but I was sorely mistaken (literally I was sore from my sunburn).
We ended up crashing pretty early that night (not all that much to do once the sun goes down at Mole because you can no longer see the animals). It was good though because it meant we were up early to watch the animals play in the waterhole. We saw a whole herd of elephants go walking by, and I guess they forgot one because the next thing we saw was one lone elephant running like crazy to catch up blowing his horn? Trunk? I do not know how to describe it haha making a lot of noise anyways. It was a very cool thing to see. I love elephants. I wish I could bring a baby elephant home with me, but it would definitely be over the weight limit for baggage! =)
Later we went to a little mud hut village about 12 km from the park. They are trying to start an eco tourism program. It was really interesting to spend time in the village playing with the kids and seeing the different way of life there. It is constantly astounding how much diversity there is within
The next morning our journey began at 3:30 am on a bus back to Tamale. It was quite an exciting bus ride. I really do not understand some of the systems they have here. I also do not understand why everyone always feels the need to yell about everything. There is no such thing as a normal conversation. People do not wait for other people to finish what they are saying before they start yelling. As a result it is a lot of people all trying to yell over each other. It is amazing that anything is able to get done!
We made it into Tamale at around 9 am and spent the day wandering the city. We caught the 4 pm over night bus back to
I am finding the gender attitudes here to be extremely tiring. I am always astounded by some men’s attitudes towards me and other women. When I was in the North I do not think I went past a village without seeing the women working away cooking and doing the wash while the men were all sitting under trees in the shade talking to one another. Men here are unwilling to help with the household work and expect the women to take care of everything they want. At the school I am really struggling with how some of the other male teachers interact with me. I do not mind helping them do different things (even if it is part of their job and not mine), however I cannot stand it when they are rude. They never ask me nicely to do things; it is usually barked out commands. I have begun to flat out tell them ‘I will help you, but I am not doing anything for you until you ask me nicely and treat me with some respect’. Some days it frustrates me to the point where I am close to tears. I do not like being treated like an object there to make their lives easier. I am a person who needs to be treated with the same amount of respect that I show them. It was especially tiring a few days ago when I was the only female teacher at the school. The male attitudes seemed to be especially overwhelming and hard to deal with that day. Hopefully they will get the point soon that they need to ask nicely for favours and treat me with respect. And hopefully, though I know it is a long shot, I hope that it might carry over into their interactions with all other women. I hope that it will at least influence how they interact with the next female volunteer who is coming to the school when I leave, and she will be here for a whole year. I hope she does not have to deal with the same things I dealt with because I do not think I could take a whole year of it!
This summer I have had to deal with a lot of male attention, some meant in respectful ways and others not as respectful. I have gotten used to laughing with the guys when they ask me to marry them, and usually everyone just has a good laugh at the end of it all. However last week I had an encounter with one of the teachers that left me extremely shook up and uncomfortable. I tried to brush it off, but I really could not get it out of my head. I told Nick about it later that night and he said “No wonder you are upset, that is what we call sexual harassment”. It was an extremely uncomfortable situation, and when I tried to talk to Anita about it the next day (to let her know I did not want to be left alone with this teacher) she blew me off and did not really believe me. I think that was even harder to deal with than the harassment. I have been doing my best to avoid that teacher, but every time I see him it throws me off again and makes me feel very uncomfortable. Needless to say I was not really on top of my game for a few days.
As I am writing this the most beautiful butterfly has come into the room and has decided to take up residence on my book. The butterflies here are absolutely magnificent. They are so graceful and colourful. It is amazing the diversity that can exist among one species. Though I suppose we have just as much diversity in the human race since we are all unique and special in our own ways. The butterfly has reminded me of one of the small mud houses I walk by everyday on my way to Nicks. The have the most stunning sunflowers growing up one of the walls. It is so peaceful and picture perfect that every time I walk by it puts a smile on my face and fills me with a sense of calm. Speaking of walks (each thought leads me to another haha), this week while walking to Nicks I have realized how much a part of Obodan/Fotobi I have become. I always greet everyone I meet when I am walking, but it is strange to realize that I actually know most of the people I greet now by name. This truly has become a home away from home for me. It is going to be hard to leave it behind despite how excited I am to see everyone back home.
I decided that after my great midterm adventure to Mole it would be a good idea to stay around the village for a weekend to relax. It was a great idea in theory, however despite my best intentions to have a relaxing weekend that is not the way it turned out in the end – it ended up being just as busy, if not more so than usual.
On Saturday I woke up ridiculously early to the sounds of roosters crowing (it should be illegal for them to make noise that early) and could not fall back asleep. So I decided to just get up. No one else was up yet so I sat outside under a tree, read a book and watched the animals. Not long after that, Naomi (the lady who cooks for the students) came by with her little daughter. I must have played with her for hours. She is so adorable! It always amazes me that she can stay amused with the same game of hide and seek/peek-a-boo for such a long time.
After play time I had to do laundry… I know it does not sound like a big deal, but it is truly a major undertaking. You have to wash everything by hand, and depending on how dirty things are it can take hours. Though on the plus side it is a great upper body work out =) Later I ran some errands in town (picked up my new African dresses) and then watched baby Grace so Julie could have some time to ‘relax’ (I say ‘relax’ because with 6 kids I do not think she can ever truly stop doing things). That evening I hiked up one of the hills/mountains that surround my little village. It was such an amazing view! I had never truly grasped how small Obodan is until I saw it from above. There is no way there are more than 100 people living here. It is so peaceful at the top, being able to see everything happening below in the valley. I was sad when it was time to come down. But the sadness did not last all that long because after coming down I was off to a party at the FAWE FM radio station. It was one of the most interesting parties of my life. I have been to parties where I am one of the only girls before, but this one took the prize for being the biggest sausage-fest that either Nick or I had ever seen! It was an interesting night, but it was never without laughter which is good. As always I was thankful that Nick was there to help me when I needed it.
On Sunday I decided to go to one of the Presbyterian churches in Nsawam. I wore a traditional Ghanaian outfit (the kappa and slet), which proved to be a great source of amusement to everyone I met. =) I left for church at 8:30 am, and I did not get back home until 3 pm… longest church service of my life! And I even ended up leaving a little bit early! However it was definitely an experience. Most of the service was in Twi (only 10 minutes at most was in English). It was definitely a lesson on being outside of my comfort zone, and really gave me an idea of how new immigrants must feel when they do not understand what is going on around them. After church I ended up going back into town to try and find some food for dinner. This proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated due to the fact that it was Sunday. Thankfully there were a few places open in the market and we were able to find enough food to get us through a dinner. We ended up making a homemade pasta sauce and some makeshift garlic bread. It was pretty much one of the most exciting meals I have had here. No fish and not to spicy…it was heavenly!
Later that week, Nick and I had to run a bunch of errands in Nsawam. However due to the fact that it is rainy season we quickly found ourselves caught in a torrential downpour! It was actually pretty funny, especially now that I am thinking back on it. Everyone else had taken shelter under the over hangs of buildings or inside little shops to wait out the storm. However, we decided that we were already wet so there was really no point in waiting for what could be hours for the rain to end. We just went about our business, running down the streets that by this point looked more like rivers. This provided endless entertainment for the Ghanaians who were watching us. It is nice to know we can bring joy into their days by being crazy Obruni’s haha While we were running through one of the market streets I heard “Hey, more Obruni’s”. I looked up, and much to surprise I saw other white people, but not just any white people, I saw Mennonites! Or at least I think they were Menno, the woman was wearing the traditional outfit, so I am pretty confident in my assumption. It felt like I was back at Grebel again =) On the way back to Nicks place we had a very exciting tro ride – at one point the tro mate went to slide the door closed (they do this after the car is already moving) and the entire door fell off! I thought for sure the mate was going to fall out with the door because he seemed determined to try and hold onto it. By the time we made it back to Nicks place we were absolutely drenched! I have never been able to wring that much water out of my clothes before haha I was also cold for the first time since leaving
After making it back to Nicks place we made a very…interesting dinner. His neighbour Julie sells chickens, and usually she will kill them and get the chicken all ready for you. However, last night Nick decided he wanted to kill the chicken. So for a while we were hanging out with Dinné (that is female version of the name dinner). Yes, Nick decided we needed to name the chicken. This turned out to be a big mistake because I then started to become attached to our dinner... It was definitely an experience! It gave a new meaning to fresh food! And I now know how to kill and prep a chicken, which I am hoping I never really have to do a lot of, but good to know I can just in case of an emergency situation haha. The two other Canadian volunteers who we had met up with in
We were planning on going to
As always the tro ride was very exciting. I think I will stop telling you that, and you can just assume the rides are always exciting unless I tell you otherwise haha. The ride was a lot longer then we had anticipated. Due to the fact that Obama was arriving later that evening,
The next morning I was the first to get up (ridiculously early because that is when it is best to see monkeys). I was amazed by how peaceful it was when I walked outside. You could hear the birds and monkey’s starting to wake up, and the sun was just starting to peak over the tops of the trees. It reminded me of early mornings at the cottage when everything is so still and serene. After everyone else decided to greet the day we went on a walk through the forest to see/play with the monkeys. The monkeys there are Mona monkeys and they are absolutely adorable! They even came and ate bananas right out of my hand! It was incredible. Though less incredible was the moment when a monkey was a little over zealous to get the banana and accidentally bit my hand instead, but it makes a cool story to tell. It will be an even better story if it ends up leaving a scar! How cool would it be to be able to say “yea, that’s just a scar from a monkey bight I got when I was living in
After my great morning of monkey adventures we ventured to another village fairly near by that is on top of a mountain. It was such an interesting village, and nothing could compare to the view! From that village we hiked down the side of the mountain (it took a while because it was a very treacherous climb – very slippery, little rock slides, etc.). Eventually we arrived at the most breathtaking oasis of a waterfall I have ever seen before in my life! Honestly, this felt like I had found a little piece of paradise. Since it is such a secluded waterfall it is not a main tourist attraction, so we were the only ones there. There were also some caves behind the waterfall to explore. They were unbelievably dark, and I must admit I was a little worried that the bats would decide to fly out at me haha. We spent a lot of time swimming and exploring the caves before beginning our hike back up the mountain. It was a very intense hike up, but it went a lot faster than it did going down. It is opposite of what I would have thought, but it is a lot easier to go up the mountain than down.
Once we made it back to the mountain top village we were again faced with the dilemma of having no mode of transportation down. While we were waiting for a taxi to come we hid from some rain under the porch roof of the village square. It was a fun detour to our afternoon plans. We ended up talking with our guide and some other people in the village for close to an hour. Once the rain ended we made our way back down the winding mountain road to the main junction town, grabbed some food at the side of the road, and ended up sitting and talking with some of the village elders for a while. It was a really neat experience! They are so full of wisdom and proverbs, but also have the ability to make me convulse with laughter haha. After that we headed to another small village near by called Tafi Abuipe where they do the traditional kente weaving. It is so interesting to see the traditional crafts and ways of life here.
The next morning we were able to play with the monkeys some more. A monkey ended up holding onto my finger for a while. It was like it was trying to hold my hand…it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I wish I could bring one home with me, but then he would miss all of his monkey friends, so I do not think it would be fair. We had to head back to
This summer has been truly amazing. It has been filled with struggles and trials, but they have all pushed me in new ways, and have truly moulded me into the woman I want to be. I have come out of my shell here, and have grown in ways I never knew possible. Though at times this summer has made me wish I could be like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz – have the ability to click my heels and be home – I am so glad that I had the courage to come here this summer and see it through till the end. It has been a life changing summer and I would not trade my time here for anything.