Sunday, November 15, 2009


The trip up north- school boy at the village, and Mosque. This Mosque was particularly famous- it as believed that the first man who found the place and set up the community was buried next to it and then the tree sprouted three days later. To this day the people eat the leaves of the tree on special occasions in a ceremonial way.

The mosque had different entrances for different people- men, women, chiefs, and is still used on Fridays for prayers, however we did not get to enter.

Sitting under a tree at school, feeling the cool shade, the heat of sunburn, the airy trees, the red earth, the human tall termite mounds, the black etches of a cracked path, the sinking benches, the pastel sky.

So, Life. Mosque at sunset, this was actually on the day of the festival that happens right after Ramadan. We went to a Muslim community and watched a parade of chiefs, there were tons of people- and I turned around and here was the sun setting against these wires, well, as you see.

Ahimota Senior High. I am sitting upon Lover's Lane, in my school uniform which what I wear now for a majority of my existence. I have to say that I appreciate the uniform, in all of its conformity and sometimes discomfort... I love it because it is the tag which says that I belong here- that I am a part of this place, not just a visitor. Now, when I am taking the trotro home people call "Motown girl", instead of "Obruni". That sums it up right there.

So what is Achimota schooling like? How does one of the most prestigious
high schools in Ghana run?
Here is a typical day in school:

I wake up and leave the house by 6:30. On the way I pass the women who sell oranges and bananas at 10 peswas (about 7 cents) a piece, but of course if you buy more then they "dash" you an extra or two. We always greet and pass a few words in twi, and I tell them I'll go and come. Waiting for a bus is never long- in the morning at my station there are never that many passengers waiting, though those that there are can be business men or old women with baskets of things to sell all on our way to work. I love the trotro because of this, because everyone uses it- policemen, school children, fashionable young women, people coming from funerals, going to weddings, and somehow we are all in the same place at one time... So I pay my 20 peswas (maybe 15 cents) to the junction where I get down (they don't say get "off" and I remember the first time we all took a trotro with AFS, and they said "get down, get down" we thought there was a shooting or something! Though now that we know Ghana, we would never make the same mistake even if we didn't understand).

When I walk from the junction to school- about 25 mins- I pass the same man who wears a blue baseball cap and hustles past with a small look and smile, I pass the same three women with large baskets full of plantain chips going to the junction for a day of hawking, I am passed by the same trotro full of school kids who one time all stuck there head out to call GOOD MORNING to me, and Mrs. Suspicious because she always gives me a sidelong glance until I smile, and she usually smiles back, and Mr. Blue Shirt because I swear he has worn the same type of blue button up every single day and he is always holding a radio out in front of him, and we always exchange an "etesen - eye" (how's it - it's fine) and a smile and if I am eating a banana, he asks me where his is and we laugh, and I could go on but the day has only just begun.

I love these morning walks, when it is still cool and my mind is open and fresh- the feeling of belonging given by these interactions. The walk up toward the school is long and under these magnificent shading trees, some of which have small yellow petals of paradise which float to the ground like fallen sunshine. But then there is all the trash among the trees- backlit bags, like dandelions, on a lawn of leaves.

First we all go to morning devotion at the chapel. Led by a female student, everyone sings, listens to some sort of sermon given by a student or teacher, usually about discipline, religious devotion, or something, and we sing more hymns and give the school prayer which is as follows:

"O God, who art the King of kings and the Lord of lords and the Father of this people, we thank thee for this School and all the opportunities that we have in it.
Blesss thou this place adn may thy glory dwell herein. May the sons and daughters come to know the life that is life indeed, and go forth from it as living water to a thirsty land, for thy name's sake. Amen"

Chapel is always mixed for me. While I find the sound of the music- the soft voices in such a mass as to produce a lovely melody, I feel like people sing them as words, and without much though into what they mean. Two days a week (I think?) the small percentage of Muslims and Catholics may go to their own places of worship- for the former it is my class room because it is big enough, and for the later, they have their own chapel.

Then classtime, and my classes are as such:
Core- English, Math, Social Studies and Integrated Science (Agriculture, Physics, Biology and Chemistry, each given two periods a week)
Elective- Textiles (in which we are actually finally doing traditional weaving!!!!) and Ceramics (and we are actually working with clay!!!) and Literature (in which we are reading both The Tempest and a Ghanaian story-A Woman in her Prime)
Other- Religous and Moral Edu., PE (which is a class ABOUT PE, and its role in history, so far in Ancient Greece and in Ghana, though we don't actually DO any PE) and General Knowledge in Art. and ICT.

The day is broken into 10 periods of 40 minutes and I usually have 4 or 5 subjects in a day, no subject more than twice a week. Unlike the American school system, I am with the same kids for every class- we are all 2Voc2- Form 2 (like 11th grade), Vocational track, option 2 which is Visual Arts. (Voc. 1 being Home Economics- cooking and marriage stuff). When we first entered the school we were given the options- Science, tracks 1-4, each with different focus, slightly, General Arts, tracks 1-5 which had electives like History, Geography, French, Government, etc. or Vocational 1 or 2. Personally, I though the vocational class, with textiles and ceramics and artsy stuff would give me more sense of the culture- though I would have loved to do French and History... one more note on classes is that in the elective category there were some other options, and during those lessons the students split up- eg. while I am doing textiles, others are doing Picture Making or Graphic Design. Ceramics or Jewelry. Literature (4 students) and the rest in Economics.

The most frusterating thing about school is that teachers are often late or don't show up at all and either send a note with the class prefect (who is responsible for the class in absence of a teacher) or we do nothing- I mean we do nothing even if the note is sent, but at least then we have a feeling there is still a teach out there. Teachers will answer cell phone calls in class too and will come without the text book and have to borrow a student's one. But they expect us to be on time, awake, stand up when answering a question, keep the classroom clean (no such thing as a janitor) and do all of our assignments despite their own lack of discipline. Then there is the lack of resources which I find really depressing. Classroom, are just rooms with hard, terrible for your back desks, a black board (or in the not-vocational classrooms, white boards) and some chalk. No maps, not pictures, no mathematical tables, no projectors, no flag, no extra pens, no scissors, tape, rulers, absolutely no nothing except trash and it is for two reasons. 1. no funding. 2. if there was anything there worth anything, it would be stolen before it could be used twice by the village people who live on the outskirts of the place against whom there is no protection.

These are my Motown chickitas- Sofie the Dane and Anna Marie the Missouri girl who is on YES and whose videos are featured above. Someday we are going to write the adventures of the poedunk mexican, great dane and redhaired hippie. I'll give you all a discount on the sure to be best seller. Here we are in front of Frankies with Papa- a boy from Marie's class who we happened to meet at the American Embassy while we were all on midterm vacation (the boarders, which is 95% of the school, get to go home). The story is- we were going to get some school supplies, and enjoy a day out together, and we went to the embassy to pick up a package for me and while Iwas waiting, all the sudden all these Motown kids start coming out and I was like WHAT AREYOU DOING HERE? I mean we YESers haven't even been invited to the American embassy yet, but they had come for a program with a group of american exchangers that came to Achimota for a few weeks.... (btw, Motown is the local nickname for Achimota) and so Papa decided to join us for a day.

As far as academics, I am finding them very simple- not many assignments, no exercises to do, class mostly consists of waiting for a teacher and taking dictated notes... my favorite classes are Social because of the subject matter- leadership, resources, nations, etc. and the teacher is very very good in that he is not late, he leads an interactive class with q&a as form of discussion, and brings in real life examples and comparisons (quite a few having to do with the US). The only real way to measure our academic learning is by the monthly test and end of term exam... however the questions are pre set for those exams and not by the teacher, so sometimes the teacher has not taught us far enough, or not mentioned a specific answer or the information was from last year, form 1, which is all really frustrating, but still my average score has been great and I am not stressed over school at all, whatsoever period.

Last note on school.

When I was coming over there was a lot of talk of caning in school, but when I got here I forgot about it, being so wrapped up in everything else. Well, a few weeks ago our French teacher came to class, late, and the place was not swept... though I had been trying to sweep with my feet the large trash because there is no broom or bundle of sticks in the classroom. So he came in and said it was unfit for teaching and he would come back only once it was clean.... then he left. A few people looked for a broom, the prefect tried to rally the people who were supposed to sweep that day (we do have a chart) and, though it was slow, progress towards sweeping was being made... however when the teacher came back in the place was still a mess because we had just found a broom and were just beginning to sweep, i mean one person was sweeping and the other 51 (yes, my class is 52 students) were sitting, talking, rapping, reading, sleeping, staring, laughing, etc. so he was furious that it wasn't done and he marched us all to the caning man. He began with the sweepers- boys twice on the buttocks/back and girls twice on the hand. Some of the girls were tearing up at the prospect of it, and some were telling me to go back. I think there was a general interest in how I was taking it, if I was brave or chicken and if, ultimately, the man would hit me. As it turns out, fortunately for us all, day students were exempt because we are not expected to sweep, though somehow my name had been on the list for that day, but I had been foot -sweeping, as I mentioned, and the guy said he didn't want Obama getting mad, so I was ultimately exempt, with the other two day students. I don't really want to go into the morality of it. The way it was done or if it was deserved or is the right way to punish even when it is deserved, or if it is ever deserved to be hurt or how someone can do that to a child in the first place. All i know is that I was stony calm the whole time, not afraid, just disgusted, in my stomach a knot of tension.

I would like to take a moment to clear up some things that have since evolved ... mainly, my family situation.

When I wrote what I wrote way back in August, I was very disturbed and thought I had all the information,which I didn't, so let me reintroduce my host family.

My Dad did not move to South Africa, the trip he took there was only a few days. I really like my host dad, though we do not have many opportunities to really talk because his schedule and my schedule are directly opposite. But I can see he is a very benevolent and hard working man.

In the house also live the two younger girls, Abena and Afia who go to Junior high, as well as older Afia who is attending a college french course... she actually lives about an hour away with her family (her father is my Dad's older brother) but because of classes she has been staying here. To the left is her and her sister Abena at a wedding we went to. We definitely get along, though we may be very different in nature, and she has taught me plenty already just by being herself. We go clothes shopping together, and last night we went to the High Vibes Festival at the National Theater. It is an annual four day music fest of highlife artists from around west Africa- we heard bands from Ghana, Liberia, and Guinea all playing highlife, which is a bit like jazz meets reggae... maybe? Brass and drums, traditional and drumset, some used electric keyboard, base, guitar and vocals. Twi, French, and English songs mostly- it was very cultural and enjoyable.

We got matching dresses for the wedding....

My brothers, Ken, Bush and Kwesi are great. They are older, maybe 30s and are always willing to talk, take me places when I need, or tell me how to get somewhere.
this called Juxtaposition, With Clouds.

This was at Mole National Park, on our trip to the north.
So, I will leave you now and though I always say this, I'll try to be more consistent in my writing.
i have changed my comment setting because I heard it wasn't working so you can try it again and leave me questions.
Much love to all, and I hope you are all peaceful and well.