Tag Archives: peace

Sorry to our 8th grade teachers…we finally understand.

Mondays.  Oh Mondays.  Why must they come so soon?  After a relaxing and eventful weekend we felt a little apprehensive starting such a daunting, teaching-heavy week.  Whether it be lesson plan anxiety, mild bodily discomfort, or feeling a little homesick, it was clear we all had our worries about how this Monday would go and whether we would be successful in engaging with our students in meaningful ways.

Some challenges we continued to face today revolved around effectively managing our classrooms and dealing with troublesome students. Having drawn a lot from our own experiences in grade school, many of us are feeling like we are, at times, falling short of being able to command their full attention and gaining 100% of their respect. Breaking into the already predefined “classroom culture” here at Heritage has been a definite barrier, but one that we are slowly breaking down and becoming a part of. This has lead all of us to realize that teaching is a skill that is honed over time and is causing us to feel a great deal of respect for the teachers that have helped shape our lives in many apparent (and subtle) ways.

The day was filled with highs, however, as we continued to connect with our students in new and surprising ways. For example, after having a difficult start to the teaching process, one of the students in Katie’s Human Rights class came forward with a completely finished final project days before it was due. The students were instructed to create their own countries, including designing a flag, constitution, and structure, and it was so encouraging to see this student really embrace a challenging concept with such creativity.  Kyle also experienced a breakthrough today in his Creative Writing class when a quiet, yet confident student proudly read a short story of his own.  For us, who seek to teach material that will encourage students to explore their creativity, these moments of expression are self-affirming and inspiring.

After school today, several of us journeyed into town to explore the market. The rest of our group stayed behind at school to organize their ever-growing library. Growing up in America, reading was a natural part of our lives, and a way for us to learn and be influenced by our culture. Because of the lack of Ghanaian culture represented in the literature that they have access to, the students at Heritage are consuming American culture as they learn to read.  This seems to be leading to a certain disconnect with the books they read every single day. Despite these cultural differences, we are noticing more and more how similar children are all over the world. The hand-games and silly childhood habits that we all experienced growing up are present here in Ghana as well, and this makes the world feel just a little bit smaller.

Thanks again for keeping up with our trials and tribulations. We love you all and are eager to share our stories in more detail when we get back to the States!

Peace, Love, & Plantains,

Molly, Kyle & the Crew

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From Humble Beginnings…

Dearest Internet-using Obrunis (among others),

In this day of all days….we are exhausted. We have traveled all over Ghana in just a few short days and honestly this blog post comes at a time that we would really rather sleep. But we–Kyle, Erika, and Katie–your intrepid bloggers, are here to tell of our experience thus far. It has been interesting to say the least.

Let us rewind to the beginning. Over the past 5 days, we have been in a vehicle for a total of about 2. Water bottles were passed like flasks around the back of the van by those of age (#collegelife), and are the new hottest commodity. We feel like Chia pets. It is quite possible that the only person keeping us alive on the Ghanaian Audubon highways is our amazing driver, Kobe. He tackles the Ghanaian mountains (speed bumps) like a true champ. Finally, the massive amounts of rice………have taken its toll on the bowels of some.

But on a serious note, these past few days have been some of the most interesting of our lives. We arrived in Ghana thoroughly exhausted on December 28th and since then have been all over the country. We traveled up to Northern Ghana to stay at Hand-in-Hand Orphanage, a safe haven for intellectually disabled children. Initially, we all had different expectations and reservations about what our experience would be. On behalf of the group, the three of us can say we were extremely impressed by the community there and wished we could have spent more time making deeper relationships with the kids and adults. Also in the North, we had the opportunity to visit and learn about the Ashanti tribe at the Manhyia Palace and Museum. In addition, we visited a monkey sanctuary and learned the importance of monkeys to the neighboring villages. We realized the monkeys were also super friendly when they ate bananas out of our hands. Not only were the monkey’s mad chill, but the huge trees, so different than the ones in the US, were off the chain (not that they were cut down, but that they were really neat).

Upon our return to Ajumako on New Years Eve, we were able to attend service at the Headmaster of Heritage’s church. To be blunt, it was unlike anything we have ever experienced. Many of us have been to church in different countries, celebrating different types of religion, yet this particular service was like none we have experienced before. The people of Ghana are very religious, and church was full of passion, emotion and intense dancing. As the awkward foreigners sitting to the left of the podium, we embraced the service by joining in any way we could. A pastor helped translate the 3-hour event, and we all left the service feeling that we would bring in the New Year with a new mind, heart and body.

[Emotional Discretion is Advised] So, now is the time to get down to the mushy gushy part of this blog post. Parents reading this- no worries, we don’t miss you THAT much… Friends- we may not come back to F&M, sorry in advance. But here are some of the themes that we have discussed in the reflection group we have at the end of the day:

Each and every one of us has questioned our role as a tourist. We have all expressed the desire to create connections that go beyond a hand-shake or a purchase, but we find it difficult to connect with the individuals we come across in our short travels. For example, upon our arrival at Hand-in-Hand, all of the children greeted us with open arms and smiles. We all had a deep desire to cultivate individualized relationships with these people, as opposed to being just observers and leaving after such a short period. Furthermore, we felt that it was unfair to the children to attempt to make these short-term relationships, and then just leave. Ultimately, our time at Hand-in-Hand was fantastic, but our desires to be more than just a passing group was conflicting.

We felt similar unease in Bonwire, the town famous for weaving Kente cloth. This town was so rich in culture and history, yet it was so difficult to build meaning around such a short encounter. We didn’t like the feeling of just being ‘consumers’, especially when we are all dedicated to learning more in depth about this fascinating place.

Now that we are back at our home base, we are excited to make deeper connections with the students and teachers at Heritage Academy. Earlier today, when we had a lunch with some of the teachers at Heritage, and tomorrow is our first day of teaching. It’s a glass case of emotions- some of us are nervous, some excited, and each and every one of us does not know what to expect.

K………………..Night.

– Kyle (Ky; Larry), Erika (Er-bear) and Katie (Kath; Pineapple Express)

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From Gold Coast to Gold Rings

Early this morning we packed into a tro-tro (van) and headed down the coast to Elmina Castle. With the windows down, we could smell the sea as we followed the highway towards one of the most famous slave castles in the world.

Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482, originally designed as a trading post, but quickly became a major exporting site for the Portuguese, Dutch and British in the trans-Atlantic slave trade that brought millions of slaves to Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas.

Despite recognizing that being at this site was an extremely valuable experience that taught us a lot about the history of Africa and the role that we as Americans play in that, being at Elmina was very emotional for us all.

Standing afoot the same ground where hundreds of thousands awaited their journey of no return, or took their last breath before dying of starvation or disease was eerie and heartbreaking. We had the opportunity to look out to sea where boats would dock to pick up slaves and make their way to the new world. These close quarters which were dark, poorly ventilated and still alive with the scent of the past, made us feel claustrophobic and nauseous at times.

Though a harrowing experience, we did become mini celebrities when a man (who strongly resembled Lenny Kravitz) was crafty in taking pictures that pretended to feature him but actually featured at least one of us. Greg noticed this quickly and felt upset that he wasn’t able to give his consent when the guy pretended to take a picture of himself that actually was a full on picture of Greg. This continued to happen throughout our tour and hopefully his family will get great joy out of seeing us in their photo album.

Today we were also the guests at Kobe Essiama’s (and the new Mrs. Essiama) wedding in Cape Coast. I think you might recall Kobe from our previous post – he is our driver who was coasting and replacing tires and fan belts throughout our trip through Northern Ghana. This, clearly, was a bonding experience that warrants our attendance at his wedding.

When he first invited us last weekend (no formal invitation, just casually mentioned he was getting married in 6 days), he told us if we came we would be his “special guests.” Today we found out that couldn’t have been more accurate.

When we first arrived, we realized that we were too late and had missed the church service. Instead, we got there just in time for the reception and were immediately videotaped by the official wedding videographer and placed at tables in front of the bride and groom’s on-stage high table. People seemed confused at why we were there, especially since we were extremely underdressed in comparison to the women wearing traditional cloth, men wearing suit jackets, and the children who were in color coordinated outfits. The MC quickly acknowledged us and said that we had come all the way from Lancaster, USA for Kobe’s wedding and in our honor would play just a few English songs. To a highlight a few, we heard “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne, “I’m Your Angel” by Boyz 2 Men and a song we will not repeat the name of which was surprisingly profane and involves breaking up with your significant other. This song ironically played as the couple was walking down the aisle to be presented to the crowd for the first time as man and wife.

After about 25 minutes, we were guided outside to take wedding photos with the bride and groom, and then upon our return, we were invited, along with the parents of the bride and groom, the best man, and the flower girl, to sit up on stage facing out to the crowd of wedding guests. This, as Oduro referred to it, was called the VIP. Kobe was not kidding at all when he said we would be his “special guests.”

After the bride, groom and family members were called to eat, we followed directly after and were met with a large spread of chicken, salad, three types of rice, banku, and fufu. Due to only having a flimsy plastic spoon to consume this delicious meal, some were confused about how to eat it properly and so we had to wait until we saw Kobe just go for it with his hands to follow suit.

The wedding was more than eventful. After the bride and groom’s first dance, which wasn’t a slow dance but more of bopping around and smiling, we were invited onto the dance floor to join them. Meanwhile, Kobe was texting and answering phone calls while wearing short nike socks with his dress shoes. Since we were the only ones really dancing, people took pity on us and came to relieve of us of our embarrassment. This included several small children who should probably be the next Dancing With The Stars contestants, and a large older woman who took a liking to Jake 😉

After Michael made a baby cry, children used chicken bones as microphones, the speaker system got turned up a little too high so that we all had a slight stroke, and we danced and took many pictures, we decided that we would head out. Kobe promised he would meet us again before we left, despite Lilah encouraging him to spend time with his wife to which he replied, “No, that’s okay. I’ll see you guys next weekend.”

It was a great day, overall. Even though the morning at Elmina was an emotional rollercoaster, the wedding was an opportunity for a new beginning, one that celebrates love instead of pain and loss. The joining of two people in marriage, which we were invited to share with them, was an opportunity to bring all of us together in peace and harmony to celebrate what really matters: union and togetherness.

We hope this blog post brings you the opportunity to reflect on the value of love and life for you and those around you.

– Lilah and Anita

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