Wednesday 21 July 2010

Ghana - Summer 2010

Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Resources coming to Ghana
Just a couple of days until i leave and i have pretty much sorted out everything i am taking.  I have bought/made a number of resources (right) to help me teach, a lot of which i can leave for the school once im done.  Still not knowing much about the school and what resources they already have, i will wait to buy anything big until i am there.  I have made my own mini whiteboards by laminating coordinate grids.  To buy they were looking to be stupidly expensive where as mine work just the same if not better! 
More resources
Looking at extra curricular activities i am hoping to teach them how to play ultimate frisbee as hopefully this will be something new and different to them.  I figured that the Ghana pupils would love anything thats from England (though i could be completely wrong!) and so as wee prizes im taking English super sour sweets and will keep a look out for others before i leave.

So theres 12 of us altogether and luckily they all seem pretty sweet.  Though it is me, one other guy and 10 girls!?  Now i know that sounds brilliant on paper, but through experience i can say that its not necessarily so.  Its like The Apprentice, or Americas Next Top Model (not that i watch any of these *cough*)... its the girls that always fall out!  Having said that,  im not anticipating problems as again, they genuinely all seem great.  Further still the guys a top dude and i know a few of the girls already who are absolutely lovely.  we'll see...

Being Michael Jackson...  
Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Though a few mishaps from BA (overbooking the plane and making 3 of us wait until the following day to fly), the whole team have arrived safely and happily in Ghana (below - ok so this photo was taken way into the trip and it is missing Stacey but its the closest to a group photo i have!).
The whole group...almost
We are staying in University accommodation but most students are on vacation.   The accommodation (below) is half decent though pretty much the bare minimum.  A bed, a wardrobe, a desk and no hot water.  A cold shower in the morning may turn testicles into raisins but it is sure to wake you up. For charity work, the place is great!

Having slept one night, the plan was to head off into our schools the next day.  This however was not the case as our transport to and from school was not really organized as planned.  Our group of 12 has been split into 3 lots of 4 with the intention for us to spend our time in 3 separate schools.  So the first day one group managed to spend some time in their school, my group didn’t make it into our school at all but best of all the last group managed to spend the whole day in the wrong school completely!  Though they were slightly confused to why the school weren’t expecting them, they introduced themselves to the school and planned their whole 4 week stay with the head teacher!  They now have to find a way to politely tell them that they’re not coming.  Anyway, for the evening a meeting was called for us to sort out and organize the rest of our stay and clear up the mess of transport etc.  The meeting was interesting… we wont say more than that.
After the meeting however, we had our first real Ghanaian meal!  We all strolled down to a night market and I paid the equivalent of one pound for a bag of Jollof rice, fried chicken, roast plantain, cow hide stew and drizzle of shito (Ghanas type of hot sauce).  We all carried our bags back to the accommodation, sat on the grass outside, and ate (left) :o).

Today, having finally taking things into our own hands, we had a taxi to take us to and from our school… on time!?  It is seeming that in Ghana, the term ‘on time’ does not exist.  However, drilling in that we must be on time and that he loses money if he is late, we were well sorted.   Low and behold, this morning we got to school on time.  On arrival, we were welcomed with smiles, stares and an invisible red carpet.  The pupils seemed somewhat nervous to approach us yet would happily stand there gazing and beaming directly at us from afar with little discretion at all.

Primary school kids
The headteacher reminded me very much of 'The Last King of Scotland' dude with a very friendly, smiley character but at the same time somewhat scary.  The school consists of 2 buildings (with 3 rooms in each), an orange sandy football pitch and a makeshift volleyball court… that’s it.  The classrooms (left) are pretty bare with broken furniture and crammed with around 50 pupils a lesson.  Pupil behaviour, as predicted, is wonderful.  Total respect for their elders.  Even the younger pupils listen to the older pupils doing exactly as they are told.  Me and Kate spent some time going round classrooms and played naughts and crosses with them with coordinates and the enthusiasm of the pupils were simply unmatched to England standards.  I can tell already that it is going to be an absolute joy teaching these guys next week.
The Lord is with thee...
Wednesday, 29 July  2010
Wednesday morning Worship
Today was a worship day at our school (and all the schools in Ghana it seemed) and we turned up to our school with the sound of pupils worship.  Ghanaians are largely Christian and being a practising Catholic myself it was something truely special to observe.  The pupils were leading their own worship going from hymns to worship songs to their own sermans and talks on Christ.  I have noticed that Ghanaians in general tend to talk very softly, but my gosh they have no reservations when in worship.  In a time of personal prayer the  room filled with a gentle hum of mumbling as where i am used to praying in my head, these guys do it out loud and proud.  It really was quite an emotional experience and went on for a good half an hour.  On finishing they asked if i would like to do the closing prayer and i felt more then honoured to do so.  :o)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Wednesday night was amazing!  Seriously had so much fun with the group.  We went to a beach party called "Raggae Raggae" in some place called Labadi Beach (on every wednesday).  Was only 7 Cedi by taxi from East Legon and had live music all night.  Now i would be lying if i said that i had much to do with Raggae music and never have i before danced to it.  This was all a first for me and damn i enjoyed myself.  Tunes such as "we're Jammin'" just set the tone for a really chilled but fun night.  The locals were more than keen to teach me the steps and dance with us all.  Their uber friendliness was mostly welcomed... well i was happy to be taught how to dance by a drunk old Rastafarian, didn't care much of being grinded from behind and saw the humour in the smelly guy trying to dance with Kirsty.  In all, a recommended experience. 
Reggae Reggae!
Winning at Cluedo
After a good night on wednesday, thursday was a welcomed "do absolutely nothing" day.  Well for the most part.  I won at a number of board games (Left) and a small group of us eventually decided to head off into Accra centre to visit Makola market.  What is interesting is Accra poor people are nowhere near as persistent as other poor countries that i have visited.  People selling things along the road side and in the markets never really tried asking more than once or made you feel bad for not buying anything.  On the other hand, they're a little funny about us taking photos.   Some people (only women as far as i have noticed) get pretty angry with the idea of being in a photo.  Having asked a local, it has something to do with showing everyone in England how poor people are in Africa.

Friday we had a sweet day planned.  Sarahs Aunty lives in Accra... in a pretty damn nice place too and she invited us all round for dinner and a swim in their pool!  Again i thoroughly enjoy hanging out with the group and so it was real nice to lounge by the pool, plan lessons and play games.  Come the evening, a bar opened by the pool and we... well, lets say we bonded and leave it at that.  This followed through to be a sleep over and so 2 days worth of lounging by the pool was gained with a wee trip to some trade fair on saturday morning (above right).
Waterfalls in Volta
Kids in Volta region.
A trip to Volta was long in the planning and was finally sorted for Sunday.  3-4 hour drive got us to baboons, a waterfall, a cave and monkeys.  The Baboons were a no show but none of us really cared.  We arrived at Logba, a small village seemingly out away from most busy civilization (left).  From here the plan was to do a short trek through some rainforest to the waterfall and caves, guided by 6 or 7 guys from the local village.  The waterfall was pretty sexy (right), the cave on the other hand was just a small hole in the rock face where you have to walk through a couple of inches deep guano (bat shite) to look at one small stalagmite.  Not to mention that the ceiling was absolutely covered in some form of 6 legged insects that looked like big spiders.  Literally 100s of them!
Swimming under the waterfall
The trek back up however lead to some unfortunate turn of events.  And i mean whole heartedly, real unfortunate.  15 of us plus 6-7 'guides' trekking back up to the village and suddenly a lot of noise was coming from the local guys.  Shouting and stampeding past each other, confusion was in the air for just a short while.  It turned out that a heavily poisonous snake had entered our walk path, out of nowhere, and managed to bite one of the local men.  Having the rest of the guides carry him back to the top, he was already feverish.  Our driver decided that we would take him to a main road and find a taxi to get him to the hospital.  On our way home, during a visit at the monkey sanctuary, we recieved a phone call that informed us that the gentleman did not make it.  I have prayed for him and his family and i know we all offer our condolences.
Anyone need a pen?
Wednesday, 4 August 2010 
Our real teaching started on Monday.  We arrived to a staffless school where it was the job of the 4 of us to make headway.  Having gathered them outside the classrooms (using an old school bell you shake by hand) we split them up accordingly (by ability) and started our days teaching.  As mentioned previously, aside from a little over excitement, behaviour was great.  you feel such genuine respect from the pupils and power of what ever you say goes.  Working through the day we started to realize actually how much work we had given ourselves.  Our timetable (that we created) means that we teach 2 hours in the morning, 1 hours activity (im teaching ultimate frisbee) and then 2 hours of lessons again after that with just a few minutes break in between.  Ultimate frisbee in a suit, in such heat, is hard work!  Having said all this, the pupils really are like sponges in how eager they are to learn as much as they can from you.  To me this is a whole different ball game in comparison to teaching in the UK.  Another thing, these kids are really properly poor and many walk over an hour to get to the school.  This being in mind one would presume pupils would be lacking pens, pencils and general equipment!  In England, a pupil with a compass would be hard to come by.  Here, every child has a compass, protractor, ruler, pen and pencil.  Ok so nobody has a calculator but we can let this slide as this would clearly be the most expensive of the set.  This is how teaching should be...
Colourful Cheerful Coffins...
Monday, 8 August 2010

After a whole week of teaching the weekend was welcomed with arms wide open.  On Friday I was in the middle of teaching my class whilst a load of cattle started walking by (below)...  Something quite random to me was just a common occurence for the pupils and they seemed rather amused by my excitement.  The pupils are reeeaally getting into ultimate frisbee (left) and it has come to a point where i could quite easily just sit back and leave them to it.  Considering that none of them had ever thrown a frisbee before and now are playing the full sport competitively gives me some great sense of achievement.  This is something i know will definitely still be played several months after i leave.  Overall my time at the school is still going extremely well.
me amongst the cows outside my classroom
Sarahs Aunty (the absolute star that she is) invited us to stay at their complex in the guest flats for free for the whole weekend!  I could not think of anything better than to lounge by the pool, with good company, after a long weeks tiring work.  Furthermore, it was decided that this night we will go out out, a club and everything! In the end, after an evening by the pool, just 6 of us were up for going.  A number of us by now had been ill with some form of stomach bug so its fair enough.  We started by the pool bar (above left - Sarah with Aunty Gene and her uncle at the pool bar) winning at giant Jenga before heading out to a bar called Bella Roma in Osu.  A slightly pricey (though we wouldn't have thought twice about it in England) but lively, clean and half decent bar.  This was followed by a taxi to the club Tantra.  Now we had been given mixed reviews on Tantra, some saying its the best night out in Accra and others warning of the several thousand prostitutes that hang out there.  From the outside, the latter seems closer to the truth and then first impressions once inside does not do it any favours.  The place is pretty damn small and doesn't get busy till at least 2am.  We got there at around 1.30am and once we got over the initial "is this it" and onto the dance floor we had an absolute blinding night!  The atmospheres great, musics good and people aren't toooo intimidating.  Ok so the girls did get hit on at pretty much a constant rate but this all added to the entertainment... for me.  
Kirsty, Laura, Kate, Vimal, Tash, Katie and Sarah at Bella Roma.
Arriving back at our luxury flats (hot water and all!) at gone 4am we had an Accra tour bus (organized by Warwick) picking us up at 10am.  By now, several people were either ill, hungover or just plain exhausted and so the Accra tour had a few empty seats.  Also, it being two weeks into our trip, we have kinda seen most touristy things in Accra by default. Still, it was free and it included lunch, i'm in.  We traveled in an air-conditioned bus with a friendly guide who seemed to know the answers to all questions thrown at hi.  First stop was the burial place (right) of Kwame Nkrumah... who? i hear you ask.  None other then the first ever ever president of Ghana! Ok so it didn't mean all that much to me but it was somewhat, if only vaguely, interesting.  Next was the reason to get out of bed; lunch, and then it was the burial site of the world renowned Du Boi...  sorry was that "who?!" again??  ok this time its fair enough.  I spent the best part of an hour following a guide around Du Bois Centre and still have no idea of who or what he is (and if indeed he is actually a he!?).  Obviously this is just me.  If you are interested in such things then these places are really well organized and worth the visit.  That is a pretty substantial if though...
Last stop was an art gallery, which actually i enjoyed a lot.  Accra is supposedly famous for their elaborate coffins (above - yes that really is a coffin!).  Taking possibly the most morbid object out there and turning it into something pretty damn cheerful is a unique yet slightly strange skill.  There were coffins designed to look like fish, crabs, coke bottles, cars... you name it they would have it.  One was even designed to look like a bag of flour!?  This was pretty much our weekend, sunday was a good rest day where we made use of a number of the complex facilities in the day and then prepared for schools in the evening. :o)
How's school?
Thursday, 12 August 2010

Most of the way through the second week of teaching and I feel that i am really getting into the stride of Ghana life.  Cows arrived the second time at school to feed on our pastures and i barely batted an eyelid... settling in just fine.  I have pretty much covered the topics that the pupils listed as priority and so next week will all be extra stuff that i feel they could do with learning/practicing.  Yesterday it was planned by Kirsty that we would have a sports day (after worship in the morning which i did the Serman to!).  And my gosh what a brilliant plan it was.  Hats off to her as really it was 99.9% her organisation.  My lack of contribution to the planning however did result in my team colour being pink (above) but obviously this did very little in stopping my team from winning.  The pupils loved it, every single bit of it.  Completely out of the blue, halfway through the day, some very important people from England turned up.  The lady that is head of the whole Warwick in Africa project and the family that seem to fund a heck of a lot of it,  along with camera men and recording equipment had decided to pay us a visit.  I wasn't sure whether taking a day off teaching and doing sport instead was showing us in a great light but really, in the end, they can get footage of us teaching any day.  Capturing a sportsday was something different and they really liked it.  Having said that, the next day they chose to come back, record some of our lessons and interview me on camera.
Pupil at the front of my classroom
The lovely Lauras school
So far i have spent about £75 on sports equipment for the school.  This included sport bibs, footballs and volley balls.  Unfortunately, frisbees are no where to be found.  Though the school that i am working in has whiteboards, the other 2 schools our still working with blackboards and chalk (above right).  I think it would be money extremely well spent to have new whiteboards installed in all the classrooms.  The English teachers seemed to have found some decent books, from novels to junior dictionaries, for a good price too.
Last night a few of us were asked to go meet these important people (above) in the place where they were staying.  This time there were many more important people including many highly respected Ghanaians that were potential funders for the future of the project.  After getting suited and booted, we put on a best smiles and mingled with the best of them.

Filling your belly
Friday, 13 August 2010
I think i have eaten enough Ghanaian food by now to be able to share my opinion.  The conclusion;  Ghanaian food fills your belly really really well.  They have so much carbs and starch in all their food and i guess this is what comes out of a still developing country.  Fufu, Banku and Kenki all seem to be the locals favourite food.  All of which are seriously dense starchy carbs.  Next on the list is Jollof and rice 'n' peas, again both staple carbs.  Fufu is made by pounding (left) ground cassava and plantain into a doughy ball.  Banku and Kenki are very similar but made with maize flour and fermented (kenki being fermented more).  These are all eaten with some form of soup (light soup, groundnut soup, goat soup, Okra soup etc) and eaten by hand.  I have to say that i am not all that fond of fufu or Kenki.  I think they simply are both just textures that im not used to (though there is a definite taste eliment of the fermented feet in the Kenki) and so i still struggle to find them palatable.  Banku is just a happy medium that really i can more put with than genuinly enjoy.  I had Banku with a crab and okra stew (which i presume is Gumbo?) not to long ago and that was lovely.  All the rice dishes are great and goes well with the local hot sauce (shito).
Food can be really cheap some places but then stupidly expensive in others.  Many places, Lobster (right) is cheaper then crab!  A platter of 4 good sized grilled lobsters with chips (easily enough for 2) cost a tenner.  In the night market you will get the Ghana staples for around 2 Cedi for a meal.  Water is sold everywhere in little square bags which would be great for England to introduce for a greener planet.  However, I am sure we would turn our noses up at sucking water from a bag.  
The slave trade was not very nice...
Monday, 16 August 2010
Our third weekend and Warwick have organized another trip for us.  This time to a place called Cape Coast which is famously the port where the slaves were held and shipped out to be sold around the world.  We travelled in the same bus and with the same guide as last weekend for about 3-4 hours.  We visited two castles and spent a night in a "boatel" aptly named as it kinda rests on a crocodile lake.  The visit to the castles (above) i found very interesting and it is all put together really quite well.  You can really feel (and almost smell) the horrible events that took place whilst walking around the dungeons and cells and finishing at the "door of no return".  The Boatel had potential to be an absolutely beautiful hotel and im sure that once upon-a-time it really was.  Now, however, not so much.  The experience was still nice, crocodiles were easily visible from the restaurant (top right) and me and Laura took a wee pedalo boat trip to get even closer.  This trip also involved a canopy walk (below) in a place called Kakum on the way back to Accra.  This was pretty fun and our guide was the loveliest woman you could ever meet.  The bridges are totally safe but at the same time, if you have a fear of heights, they don't really look (or sound) all that welcoming.
Kate and Laura 30 metres up in the trees
"Kwame and his 3 beautiful girls"
Friday, 20 August 2010

Today was our last day in our schools and I had woken up with the worst stomach ever (Potentially bad decision to go for the sushi last night).  I was in two minds whether to go in or not but eventually came to a decision of drinking a load of thick pink stuff from Kirsty and braving the lack of toilets for the next few hours.  Had i not gone, i could not have made a worse decision.  The last day was something i will remember for a very long time.  It started with just a chill out hour with pupils and chatting about non subject related topics with a few goodbyes.  Pupils kept giving me reassuring hugs as being as ill as i was, i didn't look to good, and they thought it was because i was very very sad to be leaving.  Don't get me wrong, i am a lil sad to leave, just considering the nature of my work last year, big group goodbyes are a pretty common occurence for me.
Final group photo
We gave out several prizes for effort and achievements in the subjects, sports day winners and various other things before donating all the things we spent our money on.  By this time there were footballs, volleyballs, games, maths sets, English novels, African Novels, Maths text books, white board sets and sooo much more piled up infront of the pupils and teachers.  They all seemed (including the head master) extremely grateful and appreciative of our contributions and rewarded us back with Kente Cloths and necklaces.  Further still, the head teacher announced that they will be building a library which they are going to name after us!?  If this follows through, it would be the biggest honour i'd have recieved in this life time so far.  

So this is it.  The end of Ghana.  Many pupils were crying as we left and so did some of us teachers.  It really was an emotional day as we slowly realised the true extent of our impact on the school and the pupils.  Its actually enormous.  And to think that in Ghana this was happening in three different schools, and then further still in schools in South Africa and in Tanzania; due to one small project.  This is goodbye from Ghana and long live Warwick in Africa.  :o) 

Here is the video that came out to promote the Warwick in Africa charity.  I'm in it!!