Thursday, May 29, 2008

Funerals and Blackouts

Ndo! (Good afternoon.) Last night it stormed for 8 hours straight. The rain on the tin roof and the thunder is so loud it almost hurts, and the lightning so frequent that any epileptic would have been seizing like there was no tomorrow. The electricity went off in the entire town while we were eating dinner, so most of our evening was spent by candle and torchlight. Absolute, simple bliss. Life at the Homebase is quite pleasant - we eat three big meals a day, and sleep four to a bedroom. I am sleeping on the top bunk enveloped in my mosquito net, above a girl named Caitlin whose first words to me were "I don't think I'm going to last here very long."
Working at the school has become very comfortable and exciting. I bought a bike in town and now ride to and from work (about a 10 minute ride through tall bushes and muddy paths). They gave me my own office with a ceiling fan which overlooks the main building with the classrooms. When I arrived on Wednesday morning, all 70 of the students were in one classroom learning an Ewe song. I don't know how they do it but every single one of them has a powerful ringing voice and they learn harmonies in seconds. I joined the classroom (anytime I sit down on the floor or one of the students' benches, a student is ordered to fetch me a nice chair - I constantly feel like I'm being served but they are happy to do it!) I discovered that the women were rehearsing a song to be performed at a funeral this weekend for a student who died last week. She was 20, with a 3 year old boy. I stuck my nose in just enough to find out that she was ill and taken to hospital but I do not know how she died. The girls are all wearing red ribbons on their blue uniforms in honor of her passing, but they are not sad. In fact, they were so giggly during music practice that a few of them were taken out to be caned. Corporal punishment is common here, but too difficult for me to watch. They treat it so lightly - Stanley, the English teacher, came into my office this morning and said "I'm looking for a cane. I want to punish someone." I asked him who, but he said he was just 'getting ready for class'. And then he asked me to marry him.
There are 8 teachers and they have all warmed up to me quickly. In fact, I can't get them to leave my office so I can do work. I am not teaching, as I have decided to write 4 grants: 1 for a library, 1 for the completion of the main building, 1 for the completion of their dining hall, and 1 for the needed equipment (computers, sewing machines, chemicals and dyes for batik). They are incredibly grateful but they work so differently here: I asked the headmaster for his 5 year plan and he laughed in my face. I've asked him for budgets several times and he just smiles and nods, "I will get them to you".
The one challenge is the students; they hate me. At least they seem to. I went up to one girl the other day to ask her name in Ewe, and she just kept walking. I tried to speak to another in English and she just laughed and responded (in perfect English) "I don't understand you". I'm hoping to profile a few of them for the grants, and I would hate to leave the program without getting to know them. Fred, the Batik teacher, told me he would put in a good word for me.
We did
The town is slowly getting used to the bruunnies (whities) but continue to stare, and the children always ask for my water bottle so sweetly I can't say no (carrying a water bottle here is a sign of wealth). I am constantly sweaty and muddy and dusty and stand in awe at the women with bowls of 8 watermelons on their head, walking their bone dry bodies with grace and ease. I had two Batik dresses made for me at the market that I will pick up on our way out of town tomorrow. Lori's childhood nanny was from Ghana, and her cousin lives in a town about 6 hours away. He will pick Lori, Ashley, Jimmy and I up tomorrow and take us to his town for the weekend. On Saturday we will attend his brother's funeral (yes, funerals are sadly common here) and see the town, and on Sunday we will stop in the capital of Accra before heading back.
Please keep staying in touch - I am not homesick but it is nice to know that I can share this incredible journey. Jon, I will absolutely do my best to bring one of the little goats home. They look like My Little Ponies. Love!


  1. My Little Pony? I think Oona will want one too!

  2. Akua Yevu! I love your blog! Your account of life in Ghana brings back such good memories of my own travels. It sounds like you've really taken to life in Hohoe, and are making the most of the unique and wonderful experience. Keep the awesome stories coming!

  3. Please bring me a cane. Mah bebe's is always actin' up.

  4. That entry was at once beautiful and sad. Thanks for bringing a little perspective to our lives.

    Oh, and if you need goats I hear that accepting a marriage proposal is a good way to get them. ;-)