Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ipso Fatso

“Holy crap.” These were the first two words issued from me today. Why? Because the horn of the bus I needed to so desperately catch was blaring not too far from my home. Usually, I’m much more composed and am standing by the road. This time though, I was sleeping like a baby at 2AM - 30 minutes before my alarm was to go off and approximately 1.5 hours before I should hear the sound of the bus idling up the severely underdeveloped road that snakes its way past my house. Bleary eyed and shaken, I quickly dressed and stuffed whatever I meant to pack the night before in my bag and ran out to the road. And here I am, in Accra, at 6:20 AM, still bleary eyed and shaken.

Today I have to go back to the doctors because the meds they put me on were making my kidneys go a little nuts on me. My right eye has been twitching for the last two days. I’m a mess, it seems. Hopefully the doctor will have sorted out my jaw situation and I can get back to teaching uninterrupted. Standing in for absent teachers has helped me catch my students up with the work, and now that we have TWO new teachers, things might start to change for the better. Then again, my headmaster and counterpart had to go and find the teachers who hadn’t shown up for two days, and Mr. Bbbbbb (another teacher) and I had the school to ourselves. Later, after the two teachers were retrieved, they just sat in the office and stared at books. They seemed rapt in making lesson plans, so we didn’t talk much. Ostensibly, they will stay at the school and teach maths and social studies, but that was what the last four teachers were supposed to before they mysteriously vanished from our school and Otumi.

Having a new math teacher means I can go from teaching 3 subjects to the much more manageable number 2. Since six 70 minute classes have been excised from my weekly schedule, my life is now unfettered enough to start planning other projects for my students as well as study Twi to the point where I have a good command of the language.

In my last entry, I was in Accra visiting my friend BJ before he leaves Ghana, possibly for good. That was Saturday. We said our good-byes to each other, but now we’ll do it a second time around, since I talked with him yesterday and found out he is leaving Thursday. Today we’ll probably go get lunch if the doc doesn’t hold me too long. When I got home on Saturday from Accra, it was pretty late, around 10PM, and my landlord Kwame and is brother were sitting on my/his porch. This was the first time I met the man, and seeing that I was tired, he told me we would talk tomorrow after our introductions.

Sunday, I went to church in the morning before really sitting down and chatting with my landlord. I hadn’t been to church in almost three weeks, and the last time I was there, I embarrassed myself by putting change in the collection plate when it turned out people were dumping something else in there. But that’s what happens when you leave a Jew to his own devices at Christian church- embarrassments all around. This time I was ready, and made sure the patrons were putting money and not envelopes or notes in the collection plate. Luckily, I get the impression that I’m well received.

After church, I called my host parents in Kukurantumi to see how they were doing and inquire on whether they had a host child from the new omnibus group that came into town. My group, the 2008 PCV education group, was the first to do training in Kukurantumi; before, Peace Corps training was done in Techiman, located in the Brang Ahafo Region. More about training is talked about in my first post, but I did not mention much about life with my host family. I turned out to have an incredibly nice host family, the Boatengs. My large and in charge mom (Mama Agy) was a great cook, but spoke rapid-fire Twi to me without including a word of English. Nana Boat, my host father, likened by many of the people in my group as the “Ghanaian Santa Clause”, was in fact one of the jolliest men I’ve ever met. His English was excellent, and he helped me with almost everything. He not only was one of the sub-chiefs of Kukurantumi, but also an electrician; we would have daily discussions on topics ranging from how the chieftaincy works in Ghana to how to repair electrical outlets. Both of my parents made me feel like I was part of the family, to the point where I would tell them I was going out or inviting them to my soccer games as if I were a teenager. One time some neighbors kept referring to me as Obruni, white man, even though I repeatedly told them in Twi that that wasn’t my name. Even though this didn’t really bother me, my host parents intervened and told them I was an Obibini (African) in heart, which I took as a major compliment.

There were several children and grandchildren who lived at the house as well; unfortunately I later found out that to accommodate for me, the children jammed themselves into two rooms. I became closest to the grandchildren, one in middle school and the other just entering high school (Ema and Kwazi, respectively). They would help me with Twi and we would talk about different things like what cold climates are like. I had a deaf sister who helped me pick up some sign language- I know how to say sit, mother, father, and stupid. I’m digressing. Getting back to the call I placed to my host parents, I found out they did in fact have a host child, and I got a little jealous. We made plans to see each other within the next two months, and I can’t wait for them to visit me at site.

Sorry, the rest of this post might be scatter-brained; I just got back from the dentist with some very bad news. It seems that the infection in my jaw is the result of a botched implant that left a severed nerve and some damaged tissue in my mouth; this means that they need to take the implant out or else the situation will get worse. My body is rejecting the medicine, and they say I’ll need to replace the implant with a bridge.

I’m waiting to see the Peace Corps doctor to find out if they can take care of this here or in S. Africa (where many PCVs go for complex medical procedures). Going back to the States is exciting in a way, but I felt crestfallen when I first heard the news because that means I’m away from my students for god knows how long. I just got to my site, and I feel it’s too soon to leave them, even for a little bit. The semester is almost over, and I need to get them ready for the end of the term final. I’m working out in my head just how to solve this dilemma. If worse comes to worse and I have to be gone for an extended amount of time, I think I might work with a student or two to teach the class for me while I’m gone. The other day I asked around to see which students might want to become educators, and whether or not they would like me to mentor them in becoming a future teacher. I had a about 4 students who were interested, and they are actually some of my top students. If it comes down to it, perhaps the students can teach out of the books while I’m gone. I’m just hoping I can hold out until the end of the term, but the inflammation is pretty nuts right now, so I might have to scratch that idea. We will see. Let’s get back on track.

When my landlord came back from a funeral taking place in town, which is what brought him up here, we talked for a while about politics in Ghana and the States. Kwame owns a construction company over in Medina, Accra, and only comes up to Otumi every few months for a funeral. He talked about growing up in Otumi, and explained he was happy to put me up in his home to help benefit his community.

On Monday, I went to school, and during morning assembly, found out one of my students might be getting kicked out of the school. He is one of my form 2 students, and although he does in fact disrupt my class sometimes, all I have to do is move his seat and he’s good the rest of class. Apparently, he stole some corn from one of the teachers and was caught, thusly prompting the headmaster to take action. He told me he was held back last year from going to Form 3, and he hung out with a rough crowd. I asked to speak with him alone while everyone else was in assembly.

I had the student follow me to the benches in the sitting area, and we talked for a bit before class started. I pretty much tried to relate to him, since as a kid I myself used to steal lawn ornaments and be disruptive in class. I told him that looking back, it was wrong for me to do that, and that he should catch himself and try to refrain from hanging out with some friends he described to me. I got the headmaster to give him one more chance, and I’m keeping a close eye on him. He’s got smarts, but he definitely has too much mischief in him.

When I got home, I experimented with vegetable oil, brown sugar, and corn kernels to make delic caramel corn which I enjoyed thoroughly. Later, while I was putting the container of corn kernels back on the shelf, I noticed a ton of beetles mixed in with the kernels. More protein! Later, when I went outside to do dishes, I could hear from the mosque across town the calling for prayer on the loudspeaker, and it was at that very moment that it hit me that I was really in Ghana, that I was really doing this. Since I came to Ghana, I hadn’t experienced any surreal moments; living in Ghana has been pretty much natural to me. I’ve wanted to do Peace Corps for well over a decade now, and I finally was a volunteer in a foreign country living the dream. That stuck with me the rest of the day.

Tuesday I got a call from my PCMO that I need to be at the doctors in Accra on Wednesday. Later, during one of my classes, a bunch of the primary school students came close to my classroom and started yelling obruni through the windows; I had one of my students kindly remove them from the area and take them to their teacher. Later, when I saw the primary school teacher, I told them that their kids are disrupting my class, and he just laughed.

This is part of what I mentioned last week. The teachers in my town, save for Mr. Bbbbbb show unabashed contempt for me, and I’m still trying to think of how to react to this. There are about 15 teachers in my town, counting the now 4 at my school, 5 at the primary school, and the rest at the Presbyterian middle school on the northern part of Otumi. Whenever I run into them, I act like I normally do with everyone else, I greet them, and they just laugh at me and put on a nasal whitey tone to mock me. Kids. The teachers in my town are kind of like kids. Which is what kills me about my students- their role models are scarce, and the teachers set incredibly bad examples. For instance, students are taught not to fight or hit one another, otherwise, they get beat. Students are expected to show up on time to school everyday, even though many of the teachers are nowhere to be found. I’m not saying all teachers in Ghana are like this, but I can tell you the ones in my town certainly are, save for Mr. Bbbbbbb. Mr. Bbbbb is alright, he cares about the students and is nice to me, but he canes way to much as well.

I think part of the reason they act this way towards me is because I actually put in work when I teach. The only other people I’ve seen show enthusiasm in class is my headmaster and Mr. Bbbbbb. Yesterday, I watched my headmaster give a lesson on the Twi language, and the students were really in to it. My headmaster told me he used to be a teacher, and missed doing it, though he plans on becoming a farmer once he retires in two years. My headmaster is usually really good with the kids in my town.

After school, since I was going to be gone the next day, I had one of my students stay after school so I could catch her up in science for the test Friday. The girl came from Nigeria about two weeks ago, and she’s one of my best students. I caught her up on the carbon cycle and climate, and a bunch of students ended up staying after as well. I’ve talked to the girl’s father on a few occasions when I see him around town, and I think it might be hard on them since they are so knew and don’t really know anyone. My town is a major produces of palm oil, so we get people from all over, especially from Togo, coming to Otumi for work.

Tuesday was also a close call when I choked on one of the slimy cocoa beans I love to eat. My headmaster gives me a bunch from his farm whenever he goes. I got Jack on board with this popcorn thing. He’s thinking of getting a popcorn maker. That’s not a bad idea….I also talked with one of my friends, who will stay the night next Tuesday to watch and listen for the election results. The next day he’ll observe maybe one of my classes and head back. I’m running out of money, but I would like to get a bottle of champaign for the momentous occasion. Aside from that, mine and Chihiro’s lunch plans were again postponed to this coming Sunday. I need to find mangoes to chill, but they are not in season

Music to complement this entry:

Cruisin’- Holly Cole Trio
Vagalume- The Mosquitos
Waiting for the Man- Nico
Friends- Luscious Jackson
Fortress- Pinback
Tallahassee Love- T-Pain
St. Thomas- Sonny Rollins
Tubthuumping- Chumbawamba
Gnossienne No.2- Erik Satie
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor- Mozart
Hold Your Head Up High- Bloodhound Gang
Isaac- Squeak E. Clean
Falling to Pieces- Faith No More
What You Know- T.I.
Do It- Nelly Furtado
Fire- Ohio Players
Hatchet- Low

Wine to Complement this entry:

2004 Stony Hill Chardonnay

Host family brothers and sisters

My host parents at swearing in

Family photo

At home in Kukurantumi

Kwazi, my host mom, and mom's friend

My headmaster at his well

Some students of mine

No comments: