Friday, November 14, 2008

Myyyyy Kiiind of Town, Otumi is...

It’s been close to three weeks since my last post, so I’ll just give a brief outline of whatever I jotted down in my journal, and then elaborate on anything important. Before any of that, here’s a recap of what I had written in my last entry: a certain jaw situation left me in limbo while D.C. figures out what to do with me, two new teachers arrived at my school, freeing up my schedule somewhat, I was at odds with many of the teachers in my town, and I almost choked to death on a cocoa bean. Much has passed between then and now, so here we go…

Friday 11/1

Got Giardia for the third time now

Sunday 11/3

Chihiro came over for lunch

Tuesday 11/4

The Peace Corps doctor called to tell me that DC wanted more info from my dentist back home before taking any measures

My friend Stephen slept over to listen for the presidential elections outcome, and subsequently we recieved texts asking us which one was the "big spoon"

Wednesday 11/5

Celebrated early- 4:30AM for us- over Barack and America’s big win

Showed Stephen around my school a bit before he headed back.

Raised around $60 from the students and teachers to purchase a computer for our school

Was asked by the headmaster and my Form 2 students to teach math again, putting me back to teaching 5 different classes

Mary, my Associate Peace Corps Director (APCD), visited my school as part of her tour de Ghana.

Learned from Mary that my counterpart (whom I’m not what you’d call “buddy buddy” with) will accompany me to the in service training (IST) seminar in December.

My bout of Giardia evidently ceased

Thursday 11/6

My headmaster, Mr. Donkor, gave me a brief account of a rivalry between our school and the Presby school on the other side of town, just before we went there to pick up science equipment.

On the way to the Presby school, Mr. Donkor chased and shot at pigs with his slingshot

After picking up the science equipment, Mr. Donkor and I, on a whim, took a walkabout in Otumi. I met a lot of people and discovered a lot more about Otumi than meets the eye.

I happened to be the first whitey this toddler in my town had ever seen. My god you should have seen his face.

Talked with some neighbors I had neglected visiting for quite some time.

An earwig got in my ear

Broke up a troupe of ants, who seemed to be filing their way towards my bed.

Realized that I am in love with my town, and would severely regret having to leave if my jaw situation got serious. I do miss big cities, though.

Friday 11/7

Parent/ teacher argument over confiscated cell phone

JICA showed up at KMS, my humble school

Played my iPod off the speakers for the first time for the children around my home. We enjoyed our daily workout while such hits as Morris Brown (Outkast) and Summer Love (Timberlake) played in the background

Saturday 11/8

Went to Boti Falls with Chihiro, then grabbed some burgers(?) in Koforidua before heading back to Kade

Sunday 11/9

Caught up on my work for school

Got chili pepper in my eye

Monday 11/10

Made AWSOME science posters with students

Started to plan out what I’m going to cover for the rest of the semester.

Tuesday 11/11

After school, ran into the chief while on my way to grab a tro bound for Kade, the main market town near Otumi. He and I talked for a while. I also almost gave a dog a heart attack when it saw I was both white and abruptly running for a fast approaching tro.

Went to Kade to get some vegs and use the slow ass internet at the internet café, where I met this guy Michael D. More about him below.

Got 6 yards of funeral cloth since I’m invited to the event weekly.

Wednesday 11/12

Gave math test to my Form 2s, then graded their papers only to find out that 95% of them horribly failed it.

Thursday 11/13

Rebuked my students about how they were not putting in any work in my math class.

Friday 11/14

Went to Kade to type this sucker and meet up with Chihiro. Stephen was SUPPOSED to sleep over, but got caught up with a school event.

And that is an account of the last 3 weeks since my last post. Before I go, I’ll go into detail about my current state of affairs, and elaborate on some of the things listed in the outline above.

Firstly, this jaw situation hasn’t gotten any better. It feels like I have about 5 goddamned marbles tucked away in the left side of my cheeks, and it’s a feat to try to communicate with people while pretending this invisible sensation isn’t there. My face isn’t swollen at all, and a passerby wouldn’t be the wiser about what’s going on with my jaw. It’s just so annoying to wake up each morning and feel like Droopy Dog’s face was grafted on to the left side of my own. Thankfully, the eye twitching has ceased, while the kidney tingles are fading. Still mark me down as being a mess, though.

It did come as a relief when I found out that I am not in fact going back to the States before the end of the first term at my school. I’ve worked too hard to let things fall apart, which I’m more than sure would, if I left early. As I stated earlier, I also love my town, and became even more enamored with it that day Mr. Donkor and I did our walk about. I consider myself to be a city boy- in love with towering metropolises like New York, Chicago, and Tokyo. But there is something about Otumi; I can’t put my finger on it yet, but I feel I’m close. Otumi can be considered an island, one with buildings (and I’ll use this word loosely for some structures) surrounded by a dense tropical forest. Trails only a native Otumian can discern have become apparent to me, and following them, sometimes for what feels like an hour, I’ll come upon a home I never knew existed. Some days I wish I could be a fly on the wall, watching and listening to the daily conversations that take place throughout town; but my whiteness immediately curtails my going unnoticed when I leave the house. About my home though, it is situated all the way at the farthest end of my town, which means I get more privacy, and I’m far away from the speakers that blare music almost every night.

A red road slices through the green bush that lays everywhere that isn’t taken up by road or building. Red dust coats viridian-colored houses, whose inhabitants always call out to me- using my Ghanaian name- to join them for food. The children in my town even have taken to calling me Nana Boateng, the title Nana being an esteemed prefix in Ghana. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking a lot with many of my students parents, and on top of compliments on educating their children, I get hooked up with a salubrious assortment of fruits and vegetables. This week’s haul included tangerines, bananas, a pineapple, cocoa, apples, an egg sandwich, oranges and some cucumbers. So yes, I’m in love with my town.

And the inimitable JICA volunteer Chihiro. All I can say is this girl is smart, she can speak English and Twi, as well as her native language Japanese, she is well traveled, she has a good sense of humor (she admitted to being fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm of all things!), is a good cook (strangely she can make an excellent Italian dish) and is sadly leaving in less than two months. Just to remind you, Chihiro is the JICA volunteer ho visited my school a while back to schedule a lesson with my students. She came last Friday to my school to educate my students on HIV/AIDS, and was pleasantly received. The first time she came, though, I silently languished through a bout of Giardia, which I've had now two times previous to this while in Ghana, both times leaving me with soiled underpants. You need to do the research on your own on what Giardia is. Let's just say the fear of shitting myself while Chihiro was over was the only thing on my mind that day. And I'm not ashamed of saying I soiled myself during my adult life. It is so ubiquitous amongst volunteers that we even have a club for it. In a discussion with one of my friends who has been here for over a year, I could quote him on saying that "Every fart should be considered with suspician."

It’s sad knowing that Chihiro's leaving so soon, but we’ve talked extensively on visiting each other in our respective countries. I wish I could invite her to Thanksgiving, which I’ll talk about in a minute, but I’m nervous about asking if I could have her as a guest. One last thing, before this paragraph becomes categorized as obsessive, Chihiro is from Osaka, Japan, and is not as familiar with Tokyo and Northern Honshu as I am. We’ve been talking about visiting each other’s old stomping grounds, bringing back fond memories of living in Japan. Also, another Japanese volunteer will take her place, allowing me to further my practice of Japanese since they will live in the same house as Chihiro, only an hour away from mine; but no one can really replace Chihiro. Interestingly enough, a few of her friends in JICA have met or are located near some of my Peace Corps friends.

As for the situation with the teachers in my town, I’m happy to say things are getting better. They’ve been acting much more amiable to me over the past several days, and I’ve lightened up as well with them. I feel like I need to have an in with them if I were to every make a positive impact on my town in terms of pedagogical methods. I wish I could swap counterparts. Technically we could switch, but I don’t think it would go over well, and I sense things are kind of tense sometimes between my headmaster and some of the teachers. I like this one teacher I work with a lot though, and I wish he could come with me to the IST we have in December.

When I went to the Presby school on the other side of my town to pick up some science equipment, I offered to help train teachers in ICT, and help them learn how to use a computer. Right now, my students have raised close to $75 for a computer, which means we are about $25 away from getting one. We still don’t have power at our school, but once we get the computer we are going to try and put some pressure on the chief to get our school electricity. I’ll also use the ICT training as a guise to teach alternative classroom discipline compared to the harsh and ineffective discipline they use daily in their classroom.

On Thursday, I spent the morning giving my Form students a diatribe on how just coming to class and taking notes in Math isn't enough, and that they need to at least spend maybe 5 minutes doing practice problems. Going back to the beginning, I was originally teaching Math to my Form 1 and Form 2 students until we had a new teacher come in to take over those classes; I wrote about this in my last post. Unfortunately, my Form 2 students were doing terribly, and I would notice that the teacher rarely was in class when he was supposed to be. The headmaster and many of the Form 2 students came to me to take over the class again, and at first I was annoyed that the other teacher was being rewarded for his laziness. I probably know less about the math than he does, and yet he wasn't putting in any effort. The headmaster promised that the other teacher would take on a new class, so I acquisced to his and my students' pleas.

I picked up where the other teacher had left off- on adding, subtracting, and multiplying different bases- a subject I am not at all familiar with. I spent a lot of time trying to teach myself the math, then making lessons, practice questions, quizzes and tests, for nothing. I repeatedly told students to do the work outside of class, and to see me the two hours I stay after school if they need help. Not one person came to see me about Math, and close to 95% of the students completely failed the test. It was like I never taught the the unit. Maybe it was my teaching, but after a lot of reflection and talking with students, I've come to suspect that it was more the students' neglect to do work of their own. So going back to Thursday, I told them that if half the class fails the next test, I'm done- I will refuse to teach the class. As part of my morning harangue, I expressed my dissapointment by saying I felt like a farmer who spent several days planting maize and cocoa, only to find that nothing grew. The students are doing extremely well in my science class, but as for math they have no confidence and might find the subject vapid. It was weird though that all of them came to class, participated, and seemed to understand the problems when we worked them out on the board, but the end result showed all of this was fruitless. The next unit is on linear equations and inequalities, so I'm hoping for a successful turnaround in grades.

Thanksgiving’s coming up, and I plan on seeing a bunch of good friends at the dinner table in Accra. Jack’s coming over the night before and I’ll get to show him around my site. There’s this water tower at the other end of town, and I plan on sneaking us up to the top so I could show him all of Otumi (the thing’s about 4 stories up). I. Love. Thanksgiving. I hope there will be yams like the ones my mom makes. Oop. I have some drool on my shirt. I actually fell asleep one day while grading my students’ papers, and drooled all over them. I just remembered that.

Recently I talked to my parents, and when I asked about how Max, my cat, is doing, I found out he broke yet another cherished thing of my parents, a vase that’s been in my living room since forever. I spent weeks training Max to break that vase, and he finally accomplishes the feat only when I’m away in Ghana. He is still receiving what sounds like a gross amount of turkey from the hands of my mother, father, brother, and cousin. I love that cat. Unfortunately, he would not last a day here.

Another matter that’s been on my mind is the all volunteers conference coming up December 5th-10th in the Eastern Region. Because of the elections coming up in Ghana, and the possible violence that might ensue following the results, the Peace Corps is consolidating all volunteers in a dormitory-like compound. Although I get to see loads of friends I haven’t seen since swearing in, as well as close to 50 new volunteers that just came to Ghana, there is one person in particular that I am very reluctant to see- my ex-girlfriend from training. Don’t get me wrong, I have not one iota of ill-feelings toward her. In fact, it’s just the opposite. In case she or someone relevant is reading this, I won’t make it too embarrassing for her and not go into too much detail; but this is worth mentioning because the poignant thought of it creeps into my head daily, and comes almost on schedule once a week to haunt my dreams (which might be due in part to a side effect of the malaria medication I take). There’s nothing I can do about trying to not think about seeing her there. Instead of shifting my thoughts to something else, I found myself, out of dread, thinking up ways to go about inevitably seeing her in December. I’ve thought up a number of ways to act around her, none of them seeming to be realistic when I try to work it out in my head. I could somehow save her life and she would forever be indebted to me. She could save my life, and I would have a reasonable excuse for trying to talk to her again. I could only use head nods to communicate with her. I could employ a plane to fly over the compound with a banner reading “Hey, let’s talk.” Probably, though, and this is sad, I’m going to have to cadge her to forgive me or at least let me get in one good dialogue with her. If you have ideas, please message them to me. Otherwise, you can pray. Pray for Darren.

Music to accompany this post:

Slide- Goo Goo Dolls

Cherry Blossom Girl- Air

Beautiful Day- U2

1 Giant Leap- Braided Hair

Happy Valentine's Day- Outkast

Morris Brown- Outkast

Rescue- Eve6

You Sexy Thing- Hot Chocolate

All in a Day- Joe Strummer

Amy- Mark Ronson

The Puppet Show- PM Dawn

Kiss- Prince

Sussudio- Phil Collins

Can't Wait- Hepcat

Doorbell- White Stripes

Passing Me By- Pharcyde

Can't Hurry Love- Diana Ross

Tallahassee Love- T-Pain

Nutmeg Fantasy- Macy Gray

Gnossienne No.5 Modere- Erik Satie

My Kind of Town- Frank Sinatra

La Belle Excentrique- Grande Ritourelle

Build Me Up Buttercup- Dance Hall Crashers

It Takes Two- Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock

Wine to compliment this entry:

Chardonnay, La Crema, Sonoma Coast, 06

Waking up to the sound of a god forsaken parade in Kade

Chihiro (notice my nose shadow)


Too scared to come down from the "Umbrella Rock"

Boti Falls



Boti Falls

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