The days here keep getting better and better! Today was the third day of my trip, and my first time teaching grades 6 and 7.
I woke up at 5AM as usual, and this time struggled much less in taking my bucket shower. One thing I noticed, though, is that the water was starting to make my skin feel extremely itchy. This worried me because Mariana mentioned that the water made her skin break out a lot--so much so that she had to get a special antibiotic to treat it. I found out later in the day that the locals actually put a disinfectant in their water before bathing with it, though of course no one mentioned this to me (I bought the disinfectant tonight, so I'm all good now).
After a nice breakfast of leftover mango, I had classes first with grade 7 and then with grade 6. Grade 7 was extremely small with only about 8 people in the whole class. This made teaching them extremely simple as this, combined with their maturity, did not require me to raise my voice at all. They were so well behaved that it almost made my job too easy and we breezed through my subject matter. This time, however, I felt like the kids were actually grasping what I was teaching them, I think because I am now becoming more confident in my teaching approach. At the end of the class, the students took time to ask me questions about America. They asked me "Is everything better in America?" Though there are many more conveniences and opportunities available in America, for sure, it saddens me to hear the children constantly putting America/Americans on a pedestal while putting down their own country and people. For example, yesterday a young student asked me why my skin was so white. She asked "Is this because you were born in America? If I go to America, will my skin become whiter too?" It hurts my heart so much to hear such young girls already dissatisfied with their skin, hair, nose, lips, etc. These children are so beautiful and they really have no idea. I hate that society has ingrained these thoughts in their heads by creating such a white beauty standard by which to measure everyone by... This makes me feel like it could be impossible for the kids to ever love themselves or their country the way I do. Perhaps I will try to talk to the headmaster about creating a #selflove workshop for the girls here before I leave.
Class 6 was also amazing to teach, though much larger than class 7. The one thing that really surprised me was that, in the beginning of the class, a teacher named Isaac came up to the front of the room with a wooden stick in his hand. I have heard from Mariana already that the teachers here are very strict in disciplining the kids, though I did not see any sign of it until now. Isaac, who has always been so sweet to me and a real joy to talk to, asked if he could sit in on my class to make sure that the children behaved. The headmaster also came in to address the class and warned them that they had better behave for me. I was shocked by this and, though this was probably not what the teachers wanted of me, I made sure to quickly tell the class that I had faith in their good behavior and that I did not think anyone was going to act badly because I did not want anyone to get in trouble just as much as they didn't. I understand that harsh discipline might be "just the way it is" in Ghana, but it is very difficult for me to accept how tough they are on their kids here. The little girls that I live with wake up at 4AM every day to mop the floors, clean the bathroom, and wash the clothes. This is all before school begins at 7AM. When school gets out at 4PM, the kids come back into the room before having dinner at 6PM and going to bed at 8PM. They have no games, dolls, or movies to busy themselves. I expressed to Mariana today how sad it is to me that so many of these children do not have childhoods because they are too busy being mini adults. Even the kids that do not live here at the school spend all of their free time on the weekends and on holidays helping their parents to clean, shop, and sell in the market. Knowing this makes me feel so guilty yet so blessed to have had a childhood filled with little to no responsibilities, a plethora of Barbie dolls, and games galore.
Shocking moments aside, I left class 6 feeling great--like I was finally getting the hang of this teaching thing, and that my students were actually learning. I spent a good amount of time after class booking my trip with Mariana--we are going to Kenya and Tanzania for a safari! Though I haven't actually gotten my new visa yet, I'd rather buy the tickets now before the prices go up even more and then figure out the visa later. I am thinking that I will go the Ghana immigration office on Monday to try to get it.
After we got the trip stuff out of the way, Mariana took me to the mall--the real mall this time! I was so incredibly surprised to see that, like she said, it was exactly like the malls are in America. There were restaurants, fast food joints, stores, a barber shop, and even a Shop Rite. These stores accepted debit cards (the first time I'd seen this in the time I've been here) and were air conditioned! It was crazy to see such a modern venue, and across from a poor neighborhood not much different from the one I am staying in at the school. Though I expected to see many other white people (or "Obronis" as they say here), Mariana and I were actually the only foreigners there. Everyone else at the mall was a rich Ghanaian. Very rich. To put it into perspective, the lunch that I bought at the mall (a chicken shawarma and a small bottle of water) was 22 cedes. This was affordable for me and for everyone else at the mall, as the restaurant was filled with people. This meal would be a dream for the people at the school though, who only make 200-300 cedes a month. Let that sink in. These people make 200-300 cedes a month. That means that my one meal would cost the equivalent of 2.5 days salary for them. Seeing this wealth gap was insane and made me extremely cautious to tell the people at the school where I had been and how much money I had spent for fear of making them feel badly. Many teachers at the school have never been to or known anyone who has been to the mall, so they do not even know where it is located or that super markets exist.
After eating lunch and buying a few things at the Shop Rite, we took a group taxi home (like "uber pool") and went to get my passport taken at a local shop so that I can reapply for a different visa. When we went into the shop, I saw that the guy taking and printing my photo owned Photoshop CS3. This was so cool for me to see, and I wasted no time in showing him how to more quickly make the background of the photo white (since the way he was doing it took about 20x as long). I also used the opportunity to teach him how to edit out the pimple that has appeared in the middle of my forehead, no doubt because of the water I am showering in. Lol.
Mariana and I made one last stop on the way home--to the seamstress again. Mariana has one top/skirt set that the seamstress has been working on for a while and keeps making minor mistakes with. We sat there for a while while she worked and reworked the fabric, but eventually gave up to go home and have dinner. Maybe I will need to find a different seamstress to make my clothes (though the price was extremely cheap--about 7USD).
I munched on some cheese and crackers I had gotten at Shop Rite for dinner, and then the girls and I watched Finding Nemo, which I brought to play on my laptop. They loved the movie and were really upset when the disc started skipping halfway through. I will definitely have to fix it so that they can finish watching tomorrow.