Day 20

When I woke up on Monday, I was exhausted after having gotten back from my trip so late. Though I had expected Mariana to be in the room, she was nowhere to be found and the other teachers mentioned that they hadn’t seen her all weekend. Usually she stays with her boyfriend Quasi over the weekend, so I sent her a text to make sure she was okay and then got ready for the day. 

I was still caked with mud from hiking Wli Falls, though the night before I had been so tired that I fell asleep before I could shower. Needless to say, a shower in the morning was extremely necessary. After I had scrubbed myself clean, I then thought it fit to attend to the rest of the weekend consequences that I had neglected the night before. The clothes I had packed, for example, were still completely soaked and starting to smell mildew-y (ew). I also had a wet wallet, a wet backpack, and a wet camera bag that needed to air out. I threw my clothes into a bucket of soapy water to soak, and then laid my other belongings out around the room. I would have to attend to them later as I was already late for morning assembly. I walked around assembly collecting the cameras from my Form 1 students and then hung back to watch the kids as they sang, played, and marched. 

After assembly was over, we had our normal teacher meeting. This meeting was slightly dramatic as (I think I’ve mentioned earlier) most of the teachers received their paycheck extremely late this month. The head of the school, Mrs. Nti, came over to the group to apologize for this inconvenience. As soon as she heard what Mrs. Nti had to say, Auntie Alice couldn’t help but burst into laughter. While the response was a tad inappropriate, I can’t say that I blame her. I really haven’t known her for long, but what I’ve gathered about Mrs. Nti is that she does not look after her school, employees, or students at all. There is quite a wealth divide between Mrs. Nti and the teachers/pupils as Mrs. Nti is a pastor’s wife (and thus has a large, air conditioned house; three cars; a washing machine, etc.) and the Brainbirds employees and students are borderline impoverished. I think that, because of this divide, Mrs. Nti has a hard time understanding the struggles that people go through at the school… or perhaps she just doesn’t care about them. As far as the teachers’ pay checks go, not receiving a pay check for 8 days is a major set back as most of the teachers live day to day and do not have savings accounts or any backup money to rely on. I don’t think that Mrs. Nti fully understood the magnitude of the issue, as was evidenced by the fact that she hasn’t done literally anything to remedy the situation besides this one “I’m sorry” (hence, Alice’s laughter). It is really upsetting to me to see the way that Mrs. Nti treats her employees… though I will talk about that more later on. 

Though our teacher meeting ended at 8AM, I had a 4-hour break before my photo class started. I took this opportunity to bring my laptop to the library and work on my blogging since I was so many days behind. I plugged away at this for a bit, but I soon was too tired to concentrate and ended up taking a quick nap back in my dormitory. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to charge all of the cameras before my class (since Form 1 had killed all of the batteries over the weekend), but I quickly crafted up a no-camera-needed lesson plan for Class 5, which worked out perfectly since they are ahead of the other classes anyway.  

I headed up to teach Class 5 at noon, though Sir Gideon intercepted me along the way. He looked quite serious, so I was a little nervous to hear what he needed to tell me. Do you guys remember that missing 15th camera that I told you about in the first week that I was here? Well, it turned up… sort of. Gideon explained to me that several students had been playing behind the school when they noticed the camera box. They were obviously pretty confused by this find and immediately brought it to Gideon who, upon opening the box, realized that it was completely empty. I was shocked by this discovery and had no idea who could have taken the camera (and when?). Gideon told me that he suspected it was one of the students that I live with that had taken the camera, though I told him I really didn’t think this could be true. Regardless, he called Alice over and asked if she knew anything about this. She said that she didn’t know, but told us to talk to Peace. 

Though I wish I could say differently, it was apparent from the second she walked over that Peace was responsible. While Alice looked peacefully confused by our questions, Peace looked defensive and nervous. She mumbled profusely in response to our questions, so it was a while before we got the story out of her. Apparently, when I had first arrived at the school, Peace saw my bag with all of the cameras in it and was really intrigued, as she had never used a camera before. She took out one of the cameras so that she could have a look at it, and she did this behind the school so that no one would see her. Though she knew she should return the camera, she was nervous that she would be found out and get in major trouble, so she decided to leave the camera behind the school for fear of being caught. Peace swore that the camera was still in the box when she left it, so I guess at some point after she walked away someone else came up, saw a “free” camera, and ran off with it. 

I tried as hard as I could to understand Peace’s actions as I was also super curious (and super afraid of getting in trouble) when I was a kid. That being said, though I somewhat understood Peace’s initial impulse, I could not understand her reaction as she stood in front of me. Peace is a major crier and is always getting upset when kids tease her, when Emmanuella says something snarky, or when the teachers punish her for misbehaving. Weirdly enough, when I tried to explain to her why it was wrong to take my belongings, she did not look upset at all. For a while now I have been wondering if Peace is on the autism spectrum (or maybe she’s a sociopath?) because she genuinely seems to lack an understanding of how it is appropriate to react in certain settings… and this situation only solidified my beliefs. She looked nervous, but not guilty or remorseful. In fact, throughout the entire conversation I didn’t receive a single apology. I was really disappointed in how she was handling the situation, but I had my class to attend to so I decided it wasn’t worth it to continue the discussion right at that moment. 

From 12:30 to 1:30, I taught Class 5. We went over their Brainbirds Assignment in which they used photography to tell stories about their school. Some kids chose to focus on the school’s food, while others focused on the teachers or students. Some students did pretty well, as you can see below.

 A portrait of Auntie Lilly by  Perlin, Class 5.

A portrait of Auntie Lilly by Perlin, Class 5.

 A shot of Mame's fried chicken by  Hakeem, Class 5.

A shot of Mame's fried chicken by Hakeem, Class 5.

 Students studying (or sleeping?) are captured by  Joyce, Class 5.

Students studying (or sleeping?) are captured by Joyce, Class 5.

After going over this project, I introduced their next project (for which there is no title as of yet). I wanted this new project to help them to show the world their unique perspectives of their country. Because it is a bit ambitious to ask the children to go out and capture all of Ghana, I thought I’d start small by taking them to Alhaji: the neighborhood adjacent to the school. I asked the kids to answer a small writing prompt in order to describe for me what they really liked and what they really didn’t like about this neighborhood. In general, most of the students wrote that they really liked the people in Alhaji (the shopkeepers especially), though they were really not fans of all of the garbage lying around everywhere. A few answers surprised me and opened my eyes to the way in which they regard their surroundings, as one students said that he liked the gutters (they keep the trash contained), while another students said she liked all of the trees (I didn’t even notice that we had any). I will be taking all of them on this “field trip” on Thursday, and I am really excited to see how their images can help to show other people (for example, both me and all of you guys) both the good and bad of Ghana (and that there doesn’t necessarily have to be just one or the other, nor one singular view).

From class, I went back to my room and clued Mariana in on the Peace situation (she showed up to the school later in the afternoon; apparently she had accidentally slept in at Quasi’s). She was even more upset than I was and, when Peace sauntered in soon after, she explained how angry she was. Becky and Emmanuella were quick to chime in, letting Peace know that what she did was extremely wrong. Yet, again, Peace had a blank face that seemed utterly remorseless. At one point I even commented on the fact that she hadn’t even tried to apologize, to which she offered a halfhearted apology (which I told her I couldn’t accept because she really didn’t mean it). Peace couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t forgive her. In fact, even Emmanuella (who had just been yelling at Peace) couldn’t understand why either, and begged for me to accept Peace’s apology.

If I’m being completely honest, I think that this interaction was another example for me of how much the church rules these girls’ lives. By this, I mean that many Christians habitually attend confessionals. In my understanding, a confessional enforces the belief that, if you sin, you have only to “repent” (admit your sin) in order to be completely absolved. I think that this custom is an explanation for why both Emmanuella and Peace could not understand why I wouldn’t forgive Peace’s actions simply because of a one-sentence apology. I tried to explain to Peace that it takes more than a few words, but a desire to redeem yourself, in order to make things right after you have done wrong. Honestly, my words seemed to go right over her head so I just gave up. Maybe this girl really is a sociopath.

I spent the rest of the day charging the cameras for Form 1 to use in class the next day, grading past photo assignments, blogging, and coaching the girls through another pageant rehearsal. I also spoke with Ayse, Toby, and Dom, and we planned to meet up the next night for Turkish food! My night ended with a movie night with the girls in which they decided to watch Shrek (again). We only got through about half of it before they started nodding off, so we paused it with promise that we could resume another night.