Alaskan Lessons in Ghana

After a fun weekend of activities, our group found it difficult to get out of bed this morning, and upon arriving at the Heritage Academy, discovered the students were also not fans of early Monday mornings. However, we developed ways to wake the students up, such as taking them outside for activities. Rachel J. and Sam used jumping jacks as a way to energize their students. Hayley taught the names of bones in the body outside, Simon Says-style, which turned into her learning some new Fante words from the students. There were also other teachers who found that the students were as eager to teach us their language and culture as we were about our subjects. Kacy and Rachel H. presented a preschool nursery rhyme in Fante taught to them by the kindergarten teachers, who were ecstatic to hear their attempts at trying to speak their language.
The students’ love for learning is inspiring to all of us. Education at the Academy is a privilege, not an obligation, which is a concept foreign to most American students. The Heritage Academy students’ passion for learning is seen most evidently outside of class. We have found that students do not want to stop learning when class is over. Grace had students approach her with French questions during free periods and Debra had students personally express their excitement about photography. Even when the drums signal the end of the school day, students in the reading groups wanted to continue onto the next story. Both students and teachers look forward to the reading periods because of the one-on-one interaction that has developed a bond that extends past a student-teacher relationship to one of mentor and friend. When several of us were running late, we were met with the sight of them eagerly awaiting our arrival with books on their laps. It was apparent how important this time is to them.

While the vast majority of our interactions with the students are positive, sometimes we feel set apart due to a few children’s idolization of us as their stereotype of wealthy Americans. During our time at Heritage, our own stereotypes of Ghanaians are being reshaped, and we are also trying to show the students that we have more valuable things to offer them than money. We are slowly transforming from a group of 13 Obrunis into Lilah, Andrew, Grace (aka Adom), Rachel H., Salma, Debra, Kacy, Hayley, Rachel J., Brianna, Kelly, Sarah, and Samantha – their friends, peers, teachers, and students of them. While we may have more education than them, we by no means have more wisdom. We admire their relaxed natures and lack of concern about precise times, while we stress about deadlines and trivial details of day-to-day life. Many of us anxiously prepare for our lessons at night, but each day the kids are more pleased by our mere presence, enthusiasm, and encouragement than the facts and figures we’re presenting.

As we were writing this, we learned a lesson first-hand from Alaska, a Heritage Academy driver-turned-student. While touring the Elmina slave castle on Saturday, many of us felt immense guilt at the past atrocities performed by those whose skin color we share. However, Alaska expressed that he does not blame the Whites for what was done to his people. He feels that Ghanaians are also at fault for partaking in the early stages of trading. It was interesting to hear an individual Ghanaian’s perspective that differed greatly from what was taught in our own schools. This conversation with Alaska demonstrates the variety of perspectives that we are exposed to each day. We are not simply learning one lesson from Ghanaians, nor are they learning just one from us, but instead we are taught something different by each person we meet.

On that note, we’re off to an early bedtime of 9:30 for yoga at 6:30 tomorrow morning, before another day of teaching and learning. – Debra, Hayley, Kacy (with help from Alaska)

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One thought on “Alaskan Lessons in Ghana

  1. It took about 55 hours but I am finally home. It’s Tuesday morning and I just finished my first class. Basically, DeGraft and I left the guest house soon after after 4.00pm and arrived at the airport at 8.05pm after wasting two hours in traffic just outside Accra. There were still long lines at the counters but a delta agent said check-in stopped at 8.00pm so I would not be able to fly with them. Tried to buy a new ticket out of town later that night but the guy at the KLM counter said the only seats available were in first class and cost $5000. Defeated, I went to sleep at the Granada hotel and returned Sunday morning. The new woman at the delta counter was a lot more pleasant. Changed my flight–rerouted throught Atlanta and set to leave at 9.55pm–for $322.00; the price of being five minutes late, I suppose. And then guess what! The plane from Atlanta got in an hour late so we left Accra around 11.00 pm. Consequently, I missed my 7.45 am connecting flight from Atlanta to New York and had to change my ticket again. I had gone with the flow so far but I started getting really annoyed when I had to go through security all over again in Atlanta and my pants kept falling down because I had taken off my belt and some guy ahead of me didn’t want to leave behind a juice box he had taked off the plane so he stood in front of the x-ray machine drinking the juice while we waited… and then he tried to crush the box and spilled juice all over the floor and the TSA folked had to scramble for paper towels to clean up the mess.

    After a hike to gate 12 and a rather long wait, we eventually boarded a plane for New York but the pilot promptly reported a mechanical fault of some kind and said it would take 15 minutes to fix it. About 30 minutes later he told us to get off the plane because it would not be fixed until 3.00pm. At this point we were sent to a different gate (A21, I think) where we waited for a new plane. I must have fallen asleep soon after we boarded the new plane because the last thing I remember is seeing Melissa’s lovely face at baggage claim around 3.00 pm yestrday (Monday). We drove home to Westtown and I went straight to bed–woke up today, Tuesday, trying to piece together what has happened since Saturday. I am glad to be home, finally! However, since it cost me over 300 bucks for being five minutes late, I wonder how much delta will pay for wasting almost two days of my life! And if I ever hear another delta agent say, “sorry for the inconvenience,” I swear I will find a juice box and spill it on him or her.

    Hope you are all having fun at Heritage. I miss you all already!

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