There never appears to be a dull moment in Ghana. People have been asking me how it's going and I've come to this conclusion; I'm having an amazing time experiencing the good, the bad and unfortunately the ugly. I like my summary, I think that hits the nail squarely on the head for me as it's been a roller coaster. As I read through the rest of my blog I realize it's all over the show! There's warm and fuzzy moments, victorious elements, amusing times, scary parts and gut wrenching challenging times. Yep, the good + bad + ugly = my greatest, most valuable personal and academic learning curve.
THE GOOD: During the school holidays i held a Puppet making workshop with the children thanks to the help of Naomi Marsh & some of her friends as they did some shopping back home for me and sent the items over with Eddie. The idea behind this was to introduce the girls to sewing as being a seamstress is a reputable career in Ghana. Also, the kids really aren't very creative - they don't have opportunity to be! We had colourful felt, cotton bally stuff, cotton flowers, feathers and boggley eyes! What the children came up with was fantastic! All the different aged children got into it - our little ones, Kojo and Pursela were even able to glue and decorate. Kojo had a ball smearing glue down his chubby little legs, then getting to peel it off later! The older kids planned their designs and then meticulously glued their decorations on, then lay them in the sun to dry. Elvis popped through to say hi bit later in that day and they all showed off what they'd made and proudly wanted photos taken of them with their master pieces! So much fun.
THE BAD (at the time at least, immediately amusing after leaving the scene): Sitting in the tro the other day in the markets waiting for it to fill up so we could leave for work, steph and I noticed a bit of a commotion. We Weren't sure what was going on, then all of a sudden there were police everywhere with big guns and then there was a flash mob. Awesome! Just what we want to be in the middle of! We were inside of the van though, so we felt safe enough. The police appeared to be doing a bust of some kind cause they managed to arrest a number of people. I messaged my editor to inform him that something was going on, if he was interested in looking into it. He called me later to inform me that it was a big drug bust. He then asked "were you sacred?", "not really, we felt safe in the tro", "did you get a good photo then?", "no, I didn't have my camera on me sorry". Liar - there was no way I was pulling it out in a mob like that!
Had a wonderful Friday with the kids at the sports program - there was soccer, frisby and steph got to back Kojo! However the day ended on a Disturbing note... Yep this place is definitely pushing me towards my emotional threshold.
THEN THE UGLY: We were leaving the orphanage for the day, but as we left we saw Pursela sitting on the edge of the road - as you may recall, she's our 'special' one who's all energy. However she just sat still looking blankly at us. This wasn't right, so I walked up and squatted next to her and still nothing but a vague look... then I realized there was a huge lump and gash on her head with all blood in her hair. She can't understand English, or even Fante really, so I could not ask her bout it so I gestured toward her head and she proceeded to show us a big graze down her side and on her knee. There was a couple of women and children sitting near by so we asked if they knew what happened to her. To our disgust they sat there laughing, pointing and speaking in Fante so we could not work out what was being said. We picked her up and took her to the orphanage to clean and dress her wounds. She is normally all over us, however she was terrified when we tried to tend to her. It was awful cause we couldn't even try to soothe her with words. She was in tears and so distressed, but we got there in the end and managed to calm her down. Our kids were also concerned bout her and helped out where possible. Ruth (11yrs) offered to show us where she lived, so we carried her home. The mum came out grabbed her from us and flung her onto her shoulder in the most unnatural, un-nurturing, forced way - she was going to put her on the ground but held onto her for show. Then aggressively asked her what happened. Ruth translated that she said she fell - I'm not sure how acquiring such injuries from a fall would be possible. The mother didn't acknowledge the fact we'd tended to her child! We weren't looking for thanks, but the lack of acknowledgement made it obvious that she couldn't care less bout her daughters injuries. Pursela had to have also been concussed given how out of it she was. We walked away and I looked down at the blood smear on my shirt, whilst not being able to shake the imagery of this poor little mentally disabled girls terrified face and then of her nonchalant mother. all I could think was "I'm drained". I've been drained of my patience and faith.
I watched a show similar to 60 minutes exposing child abuse- probably not the best idea given my frame of mind at the moment but... It was horrendous! They showed the witches camps which I've previously spoken about. They said there was currently 890 something witches there - the footage showed very little children, most of which appeared to have physical deformities. Then the reported stated there are currently over 2000 children accused of containing evil spirits! A traditional medicine man was interviewed next, who said he'd been practicing for 30 years. He described how he killed children for a living, freeing them of spirits. He concocts a poison cocktail and feeds it to them! He gets paid by families to do this!!! The report went on to talk about pedophilia and how a 60 year old man was NOT punished having raped an 11 yr old girl. But luckily the child trafficking rate decreased to only 9 cases in 2010. ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!???!!! I have had one of my own children trafficked and worked in a village who were sending off over 100 children!!! You think only 9 kids have exploited and sold!!! Come on!!! My god... My kids may not have parents and may develop attachment issues due to the turn over of volunteers but they live in paradise at the orphanage compared to hundreds of thousands of other kids. They do not have to work, they are fed, they have a roof over their heads, they are tutored, loved and protected. For gods sake, Pursela is lucky she is not in a witches camp or had poison poured down her throat....
The kids sometimes ran up to us and jump on us for a hug when we arrive. When I spotted Pursela on Tuesday I ran to her! Then i wouldn't let her go. I was thrilled to see her in 1 piece and smiling. I made her draw (scribble) pictures for me & we managed to redress her wounds.
The weekend wasn't free of drama either. Saturday night a number of volunteers went out for dinner and drinks. At the end of the evening a few of us were getting a lift home with a friend. We were driving through the dark backstreets home when we spotted a number of the other volunteers walking home!!! Are you retarded???!!!! We are warned from day one not to walk those streets at night because everyone who does, gets mugged (sorry mum - ignorance is bliss. I'm not silly enough to get myself in a situation like that, so I've kept this bit to myself till now). The muggings haven't been too serious - their not out to hurt people, they just want obroni's money. It's usually a snatch the bag and run situation, apart from the 2 girls who had their bags cut from their shoulders with machetes - they were not injured though. Anyway, Salem spotted the group in disbelief that they do something so stupid and said "I may just drive behind them till they get a car". On saying that, he said "my god! Check that guy out!". There was a man walking behind them with his hand up the back of his shirt concealing a machete! He didn't even back off as we followed behind! So Salem speed up towards the group and Steph yelled out the window at them to climb into the tray of the ute (she may have used some colorful forceful language in shock at how stupid these volunteers were being.... WARRANTED). When we dropped them home we then had the opportunity to tell them what had actually happened and they got all attitudey and aggressive with us!!! OMG!!! I wish we'd let them get mugged to be honest. The 'i'm young and invincible and you can't tell me what do attitude' really doesn't sit well with me here! You don't walk down dark alleys at home, let alone in third world countries where people are desperate. Use your brain!!!
How about a little more 'ugly'?
Elise, another Adelaidian here, got herself caught in a right old mess on Monday. She was in a taxi when it came across a truck which had rolled. This resulted in cars piling up everywhere and her taxi wrapping itself around a tree! She was luckily ok, but clearly shaken, as she described to me that an old man came and took her by the arm and escorted her out of the angry accusing mob which had formed, and put her in a car telling her to get herself to safety. She said that 4 children hadn't been so lucky though. They'd been caught under the rolled truck and the medical volunteers in the hospital said they'd been left to die, as the hospital did not have the capacity/equipment to save them.
I wonder what happened to the people who were in a van and house that we saw which had had a crane topple over on top of them...? I don't want to know what our fate would have been the other week when we came flying round a bend in the tro after dark on our way home, to be faced with a truck stopped ACROSS the road! We served at speed, came off the road and onto the soft edges, almost into the trees, but somehow safely around. We all sat there dumbfounded and silent about what had almost happened.
I was helping a child with maths homework the other evening and they really weren't getting it. So there care taker came and rapped them over the head with their fist and yelled at them in front if everyone. The little girl, age 7, sat there still with fear as tears welled up in her eyes, daring not to look up and show her emtioms. I felt sick to the stomach and couldn't get anywhere with her from there on out because she was paralysised with fear of getting an answer wrong. So I called a break & we came back to it later. I found a private place and told her I would not hit her if she got an answer wrong. "I want you to have a go & if you get it wrong, it's ok, we'll keep trying to you get it right".
I tried, ohh i tried.... I explained it 40 million different ways and 1 hour later still nothing... She just didn't get it! Mind you, 20 mins in she got up, walked around behind me and gave me a big hug from behind and didn't say a word. 40 mins in, she asked me if I was going to cry! I wasn't going to cry, but I was ready to tear my hair out. She was clearly exhausted and frustrated so we called it a night. Maths isn't her thing, she's good at reading but not maths. But what does that mean for her? Beatings? The cane? Yep! Get out of the stone age people! Man, I'm going to be putting in some long hours....
As for my ABC project...! Elizabeth is coming along wonderfully! She can now recognize all of the letters of the alphabet! Now we are Working on differentiating between capital and lower case sounds and writing letters. It hasn't been easy for either of us given the language barrier. "J is for jelly bean, nope you don't know what a jelly bean is. Hmmm jellyfish? Jam? Jumper? Nope none of those....". I've been trying to pick an English word that she knows and that I can draw a picture of, so there's a visual trigger of a word that starts with the sound - not so easy to do, but when you get there it's effective. For instance, we worked on F today, so I drew a fish, to emphasize the 'f' sound. Later I pointed to 'f' and she sat there repeating the word fish slowly so she could hear the sound, then confidently said 'F'. Woop woop!!!! Success!!! I'm so proud of her! The little victories count! (yep, back to that) They mean the world actually. I am so thrilled to have achieved this but if you think about it, god knows what her failing to know her alphabet has meant for her at school leading up to now...? She is 10! How many years of the cane & humiliation has she already faced?
I promise there has been some fun bits the last couple of weeks! The children in my house are gorgeous and steph & I really enjoy playing with them. We've also made puppets with them and other craft activities which they really got into.
We have had 4 new volunteers at the orphanage this week, so we've divided the children into study groups - I may have picked one of my favourite kids and 2 others whom I really want to work with. I have Joshua, Angelina and Elizabeth. They are all eager and my preparation & reward system is working well. on the first day i photocopied maths exercises so that it looked fun & it gave me a gauge of ability levels. Completing the sheet warranted a sticker, then we moved onto some english and ended with a Mr Squiggle like activity! It took them a little while to grasp the concept then the creativity kicked in! They are rarely given the opportunity to do arts! They had a ball and were so proud of what they came up with - some pictures were unrecognizable but some were awesome! I asked them if they could write their names on them and if I could keep them. They loved that I wanted to keep them, so they moved on to doing portraits of me. They will be going on my fridge! To top this day off steph and I went "out" to dinner - chicken & rice - and splashed out on a bottle of wine! Ohh it was so nice. Our other Aussie mates Elise and Taylor joined us & it wasn't an eventful night, very low key, but normal - relaxing amongst good company. Just what we all needed.
So, grand final day we all felt very left out! We looked into watching the game here somewhere but it was all too difficult and on at 4am Ghana time. The 4 of us Aussies got a barrage of messages at about 7am with the result! Unbelievable! So we decided we'd try to celebrate the day minus watching the game. We bought some drinks and sat on the second story of an abandoned building with a fantastic breeze and view & just sat there all arvo.
Food in my 2nd house is great! But the servings are huge! We get congratulated if we finish all of our dinner! I feel 5yrs old - love it! I thought africa would make me skinny! Perhaps in my first house (thats what happens when you don't eat!) but here i think I'm putting on weight! We feel really bad if we can't finish our meals, hence, the other night Steph & I smuggled tissues full of rice out of the dining area in our bras & fed them to goats the next day!
One of my favourite new family members is grandma! Her English is minimal, she is up to my armpit, round, bald & waddles. Between her terrible English & my shocking Fante we can communicate, but minimally. When it's comes to doing washing, as I mentioned last blog, she has to get involved - or perhaps it's more like a spectator sport to her. They use cake soap here to wash there clothes while washing powder, & I mean Omo, gets used as a cleaning agent - to wash floors, clean the bathroom and toilet! So when I use Omo to soak my clothes.... "where your soap?", "it's in the water grandma. Powder", she waddles off and comes back with a cake of soap, "dabe medaase (no thank you) it's already in there". Off she waddles again, then returns with a bag of washing powder, "no thank you grandma, I'm rinsing now". Then there's shaking of her head, "ohh obroni, obroni wrong". No grandma just different. She's just trying to help - she's to cute and It's very amusing.
Unfortunately I haven't done anything for the newspaper over the last week. It's been editing time & considering I left kwamina with over 500 photos to choose from... Editing took much longer then expected & apparently there was problems with the printing too, but hopefully it will be out this Saturday! Ahh Ghana time. I can't come home without a hard copy of my first published article and my array of paparazzi style photos! Can't wait to see it!