Yesterday was my second full day in Ghana, and it was already so much easier than my first. I woke up at 5AM, again to the sound of chatter and singing. One thing I am beginning to learn about Ghanaians (or at least the ones I am living with) is that there is not much emphasis on/respect for personal space. In this specific case, bedroom manners such as turning the lights off when people would like to sleep, or speaking in hushed tones in the early morning, do not exist. It wasn't terrible to wake up that early, however, as I had already getting more used to the bedtime-at-9pm-wake-up-at-5am thing, and have also become more comfortable sleeping without blankets, sheets, or a soft pillow.
My first and only class of the day began at 8AM. Throughout my time here I will be teaching three different grades of students: grades 5, 6, and 7. Yesterday I had grade 5, a class consisting of about 17 students. I struggled through my lesson plan a little more than I had anticipated, just because I had only written down broader subjects to cover with the class as opposed to very specific points. Though I was told that I would have a projector I could use to show the class presentations, I found quickly that this was not the case and that my entire presentation would have to be oral. I tried my best to explain to the class what photojournalism is by passing around newspapers that I had bought in the Philadelphia airport. I asked the class to categorize the photographs so that we could discuss what kind of topics photojournalists cover. I think that some of the students grasped the concept, but others did not and just nodded so that I wouldn't press them on it. The class was eager to learn, but very antsy. If I ever asked the class a question, so many people would jump up and point and yell that it began to hurt my voice as I continuously had to ask them to sit and listen. The class ended a little earlier than it was supposed to (I had already gone through all of the subjects I wanted to cover and still had twenty minutes left in the class), so we played hangman for the remaining time. The class loved this, but it hurt my voice again to constantly ask them to stay in their seats and only call out one letter at a time. At the end of the class I questioned how successful I had actually been at teaching them anything, but it felt good all the same to have more of a purpose here than I did before.
I was exhausted after teaching and decided to take a brief cat nap in my apartment, which is directly across from the school. After my nap, I was greeted by Rebecca who told me that she had taken half of the bread that I bought the day before. I was confused by how naturally she told me "Hey, I took half of your bread, I hope that's ok," so I really thought that I must have misunderstood her. After I checked my food stock, I realized that I understood her perfectly and that she had in fact taken half of one of the loaves I bought. Though the bread was extremely cheap to buy, I was a little troubled by how easily she had gone through my things while I was sleeping to take my belongings without asking. I wasn't sure how bothered I should be by this, so I jokingly asked her not to do it again, to which she didn't really reply.
I hung out with the teachers and kids after this, and sat with them as they ate their lunch. The lunch of the day was rice and beans, which I tried but for some reason did not especially enjoy. I really do love both rice and beans, but something was a little bit off about these--I could not tell what. After a few bites, I made a small peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then played with the kids in the school yard.
After lunch, Gideon (the headmaster of the school) asked me if I could go around to all of the classrooms to take pictures of the students. Yesterday was "Career Wear" day, which meant that all of the students dressed up as what they would like to be when they grow up. Many young girls dressed as nurses, while the boys dressed as policemen or soldiers. The majority of the students didn't wear the garb of any specific career, and instead wore a fancy dress or a formal suit. Since Halloween is not a holiday that is celebrated in Ghana, I don't think many children had a costume that they could wear, yet they still wanted to partake in the special day. I told the kids that they could say that they were business men or women, and this seemed to satisfy them.
It was fun going around to all of the classrooms, and the kids loved posing for the camera. My last classroom stop was the assembly room where I was able to see one group of kids practicing a drama and another practicing their dance for graduation. Two of my student roommates were dancing in this group and the one, Emmanuela, was very talented. The other (I cannot spell her name yet) only danced for a little before running off to pout... the other teachers have told me that she has some behavioral issues, and is possibly bipolar. The students in this room were so sweet and were constantly touching me, hugging me, and kissing me. I played a few hand games with them before leaving, and was accompanied by about four of them, all trying to hold my hands, who had insisted that they walk me out. The kids at this school are so amazing and so loving that they are making it much easier to enjoy my stay here.
At the end of the school day, Mariana showed me around the community that we live in. Though I had originally lamented over the fact that I did not live in the heart of Accra, I found the area around the school to be much more populated than I had previously realized. On our walk I saw many clothing and barber shops, seamstresses, pharmacies, and "fast food" restaurants (their fast food is a lot different than ours, and typically consists of fried rice, grilled corn, chicken and fish). She showed me a fruit stand where I got two massive mangos for about 2USD, and we then sat down at a restaurant so that she could have a sweet pear-flavored malt drink. I took my camera with me on our walk and was a bit worried that we'd be targeted as the white tourists that we were, but we were surprisingly left alone. It was amazing to see that the area is more developed than I thought it was (though, to be clear, it is still very much a third world country).
Besides all of stores that she was able to show me, walking with Mariana was great because she was able to give me a lot of advice. She better explained how to use the tro tro system, and she also explained to me the importance of laying ground rules in the apartment. Mariana had also had issues with Becky taking her things, and she had experienced similar situations with the other teachers. It was interesting for me to hear that the Ghanaians were so often stealing bites of her food or borrowing her clothespins or toothpaste, solely because I have always found Ghanaians to be extremely giving above all else. Also, you would think that their extreme religiousness would steer them away from the sin of stealing? I wasn't really sure how to take this news, though Mariana did say that she had much better luck after laying down some ground rules (which I guess I will have to try now with Becky). It was very helpful to hear her talk about what problems she had and how she resolved them, and I am now hoping that similar problems will be easier for me to deal with.
Before returning to our apartment, we made one last stop at a local seamstress. The seamstress is one of Becky's good friends and she has been working on several dresses and skirts for Mariana. Her clothing is beautiful and custom designed, yet apparently extremely cheap (about 10USD after you buy the fabric from a local market). I am definitely going to commission a few things myself and am very excited to have real "African wear."
When we got back to the apartment around 7PM, we were alone as all of the teachers were at Thursday night church services. It is grossly apparent how religious everyone here is, as is evidenced in the fact that one of the students told me that I only liked the taste of marmalade because I am a Jew. The comment was so nonsensical that I did not take it to heart, but you can see in her statement the kind of information the kids are learning here. This is something that is extremely frustrating to Mariana (she told me she has gotten into countless arguments with the teachers about the morality of homosexuality), though I am trying not to let it bother me.
We also learned at this time that we had run out of water, so we were not able to flush our toilet or shower. I washed my feet with the water that remained on the floor from earlier showers, though I am really hoping the water will be back tomorrow so I can have a proper shower (instead of wiping myself down with baby wipes).
The night ended with me planning out how I could accompany Mariana on her safari. The one thing standing in my way is the fact that I got a single entry visa instead of a multi entry visa. From the brief internet research I did it seems pretty difficult to upgrade your visa, though I am going to do everything I can to try. If I am not able to, I am considering other options such as traveling to other countries after the safari instead of returning to Ghana. Though I am loving my stay here more every minute, I did not realize until recently that the school will be ending on July 31st, which would leave me nothing to do for the following five weeks. I am hoping to better figure out the situation tomorrow.
Also, I found out that the outdoor market I went to was not the Accra mall! Becky said it was for whatever reason, though Mariana tells me that the Accra mall is a real mall--with air conditioning and fast food and familiar stores. She said that there is actually another mall that is closer to our school and that we can go there on Friday to check it out. I am so glad to have someone here that also wants to explore the area, as the teachers here do nothing other than sleep, work, and go to church... I don't think that they ever leave the school grounds.
I want to end this post with an assurance that it has already gotten a lot easier for me to live here. The first day was stressful for me because I was thrown into the Ghanaian way of life so quickly and did not know what to expect, but now that I have a friend here and a connection with the outside world (you guys), it is already so much better and I am able to take more pleasure in the good things that happen in my day. Thanks for all of the advice that you guys have given me, but please do not worry! I'm ok!!