This morning marked one week since I have been in Ghana! On my first day here I did not imagine that I'd last this long, yet here I am and excited as ever for my remaining 11 weeks.
The morning started off with school assembly at 7AM. For assembly, the kids gather in the courtyard outside of the school and line up in their grades (or classes, as there is only one class per grade). A student named Precious bangs a drum and the kids march in line for a bit before filing neatly into their classrooms. At the close of assembly, the teachers gathered in the courtyard for a meeting. I am not sure if this is something that happens daily (and I have just been missing them?) or weekly, but this was the first meeting I attended. Gideon welcomed me to the meeting, congratulated me on my first week, and also asked me to remind him when my birthday is. For those that don't know, it is next Wednesday! We discussed several things such as graduation and bathroom cleanliness, and then I waited in the library until my class began at 8:15AM.
Today I taught class 7 (or as they call it here, "Form 1") and showed them the cameras for the first time. They were very eager to take photos and I had to stop talking several times to ask them to turn off the cameras and listen. Overall, they were a great audience and we were able to get through everything I had hoped to (camera safety, as well as camera settings). A week from today, we will take a "field trip" around the neighborhood and try our cameras out for the first time. I am hoping that I can convince some other teachers to accompany us on these trips as I imagine it will be pretty difficult to keep 15 students together.
After my class, the students had a break which is sort of like a recess. I had promised the boys that I would play basketball with them, so I changed out of my long skirt and into some sweatpants and running shoes. It turned out there were actually too many people that wanted to play, so I let the boys go ahead and instead did some "exercise" with the young girls. We ran in place, did jumping jacks, and ran from one end of the courtyard to the other. This is something I wanted to do anyway, as I haven't gotten any exercise since I've been here, though the girls had so much fun running around and chasing each other.
At this point, I had a tough conversation with Gideon: the headmaster here. I was walking across the courtyard and, as per usual, he called me over by yelling "Obroni!" Though Obroni is a word I hear many times each day that I am here, and something that usually does not offend me, I don't necessarily think it's appropriate to use in all situations. Since Obroni literally means white person/foreigner, if it is used it is often because someone does not know your name and must use some sort of descriptor to refer to you. This being said, since Gideon has known my name for months now, it is a little annoying to me that he chooses to use a label to refer to me instead of my own name. I asked Gideon if he could please not call me Obroni so much, though he didn't seem to really understand what I was asking him and, honestly, I doubt anything will change.
When break ended, I was called into the office to speak with Mrs. Nti who is the owner of the school. She told me, first of all, that the boys are not allowed to play basketball unless it is a Friday. This was a huge surprise to me as many teachers saw me give the ball to the boys and did not say anything about it, and even Mrs. Nti helped me to find the ball without mentioning this. Anyway, Mrs. Nti then mentioned that they would love my help during their summer school (a time in which I was planning to travel, though I don't know how to break this to her), and also asked if I could take on a role in their graduation ceremony. When I asked how I could be of help, Mrs. Nti fulfilled my low-key *dreams* by asking me to put together a Miss Brainbirds pageant. I really feel like all of the Toddlers in Tiaras marathons I've watched have prepared me for this step in my life.
After meeting with Mrs. Nti, I went back to the room to find that no one was there so I decided to get some real exercise and go on a run. I was a little worried about how running would be perceived in my neighborhood, as no women in this part of town wear shorts and I have never seen or heard of anyone exercising, though the experience went a lot smoother than I thought with no one giving me any real trouble. I only ran about a mile before the super-high humidity and sweatpants (... I decided the shorts were too risky) had me dripping in sweat, and then I headed back. Throughout my run I saw many little goats, some of which ran with me for a few steps!
In situations like this one, the fact that we only have cold water available to us is so desirable--it felt great to have a cold bucket shower after my run. I was going to go to a nearby shop afterwards to get some bananas and bread for lunch (I am thinking about switching up my peanut butter and jelly to peanut butter and banana--daring, I know), but decided to eat at the school when I saw that they were having noodles for lunch. The noodles were good but super spicy! Apparently they had been cooked with red chili peppers. The cooks told me that they always cook even spicier when it is "cold" out (for the record, it was probably about 75 degrees fahrenheit today). I needed to drink a lot of water after this meal.
After a brief nap, Becky took Mariana and I to a new seamstress who worked right around the corner from the school. Mariana explained to her what we wanted (she is a fashion designer in Brazil, so she is very well versed in this kind of thing) and I left the girls with three yards of fabric to make me a dress. We will be able to pick up the clothes one week from today so hopefully they will be fitted well enough that I will not need alterations and can wear the dress on my birthday! This seamstress was a bit more expensive than the last (40 Ghana cedes compared to 30)... though this is still just over 10USD.
At this point, Becky and I took a brief walk around the neighborhood. I wanted to try to find the goats I had ran with earlier so that I could get a picture with them, but I could not find any. Instead, I found a chicken coop and had a great time fleeing in terror.
This seemed like a good time to start planning my pageant, so I walked around to each class to inform the teachers that they would need to submit their selections for the pageant contestants by the end of the week. I am thinking that, for pageant categories, we can have formal wear, African wear (traditional dress), a talent portion, and a question round. We will have judges but will probably give every girl an award whether it's for best smile, best talent, best dressed, etc.
Right before dinner was served, the school distributed juice boxes and packs of cookies to the kids still present. As Alice passed me and Becky with her snack, Becky called her over and took four (out of six total) cookies from her pack. I was really taken aback by this and asked Becky why she would take the majority of a young girl's food. Alice did not say anything, though this is pretty in line with her personality. She is such a nice and giving person that the teachers and students will often take advantage of this by asking her to do extra chores and tasks since they know she will do so without complaint. I felt bad for Alice and asked Becky if she could please give them back. Becky explained to me that, since she does so much to "provide" for Alice, she deserves to take this. I told Becky that, when I was a kid, my parents provided everything for me but they always gave, they never took. I guess they do things differently here.
When it came time to have dinner, I decided I would try to use the school's "kitchen" for once. I say kitchen in quotes like that because there are not any real appliances in this kitchen besides two large freezers. Really, the kitchen is just a room where the women can light fires, put pots over the fires, and then cook their food this way. I asked Becky if she could show me how to cook eggs because the kids had never seen a sunny side up egg before. I bought two eggs across the street, and then Becky showed me how to light a fire and prepare the pan. Though I was hoping that Becky could tell me all of the steps and then I could do it myself, Becky ended up doing most of the preparation and clean up by herself (she insisted) which I felt so bad about as I genuinely was asking for guidance, but not for her to do everything. I had two eggs and two slices of bread, which was surprisingly so filling as it was probably the largest amount of protein I've had since coming here.
I hung out with the kids a bit and then the power went out yet again. Mariana and I used this as an excuse to leave, and we met up with Quasi at +233, a jazz club on the other side of Accra that Victor plays at on Tuesday nights. I was really excited to visit this venue as Elisabeth, a girl I met on the plane to Ghana, had told me all about it (and I love jazz). We drank wine and watched Victor play from 9-11PM, at which point I was fighting sleep. Mariana and I took a taxi back around midnight and, thankfully, the school gate was left open so we did not have to wake anyone up to get inside. I can't wait to see how much judgement we get tomorrow for having gotten back so late...