**continuation of Saturday 11/5**

After dinner, the real party started. Part 1 was our postponed lip sync battle, and just like last time, I was beyond impressed by everyone’s efforts. This is one of those rare situations where it truly is the effort that matters. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the words, as long as you own it!

In case you’re not familiar with the lip sync battle procedure, basically, each person chooses a song, you attempt to learn the words, and then you perform with the song playing, just mouthing the words and not actually singing. Dramatic performances are encouraged, as are props, and really nothing is out of the question. We even had some improvised spotlighting for this one (me standing on a plastic chair, wearing a headlamp, and holding a flashlight).

To make it even better, we made popcorn and Avy pulled out some gummies and other candy she had been saving for a special occasion, and we had ourselves a party! Even Agnes (the cook) stayed to watch… I’m pretty sure she thinks we’re all insane. Everyone was fabulous, and Lily, Nick, and I tied for first in the voting. The prize? Fan Ice, of course! I know, high stakes (a Fan Ice is 1 cedi, about 25 cents).

Part 2 was a bonfire and s’mores. A major shout out goes to Nick and Bright, one of our neighbors, for hunting down firewood in the dark because I asked them so late. Thank goodness for good friends. Since I took so long to find someone to get wood, everything was wet from the 30 second rainstorm earlier, and Nick and Lily fought a heroic battle getting the fire to light. Once it got going, everything was perfect. We ate s’mores until everyone felt sick (which is the only reason to stop eating s’mores) and then danced around the fire until it burned out.

Finally, part 3, stargazing. The sky here is dark and perfect for seeing billions of stars, and luckily, the clouds from the rainstorm earlier cleared out. We all grabbed blankets, thoroughly coated ourselves in bug spray, headed over to the soccer field, and flopped down in a circle with our heads in the middle. It used to be the great sorrow of my life that as many times as I’ve been stargazing, I’ve NEVER seen a shooting star. I somehow always manage to blink at the exact right (or exact wrong, I guess) second. But tonight… history was made!! I saw three, yes, THREE! shooting stars.

When you’re looking up at the night sky, it’s also a great time for thinking. Being there was like coming full circle. My second week here, we went stargazing to say goodbye to Maria. Laying there with those people who had gone from strangers to friends in just two weeks, I felt like all was right with the world… the ultimate feeling of contentment. And then, ten weeks later with all new people except for Avy, I had that same feeling. For now, instead of being sad that my time here is coming to an end, I’m just happy that I even got the chance to experience it. Even better, I got to experience it with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. How can I be sad about that? Well don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll easily find a way once reality starts sinking in because right now I’m on a combination sugar/dance/stargazing high, and that’s enough to make even the harshest reality a little less severe.


Amber shucking corn for the last time 🙁

We had a really cool day!! Amber, Nico, and I took a food donation to the orphanage, and it was awesome to get to see the payoff from our work.

Our trip to the farm this morning was bittersweet because it was Amber’s last day, but we were getting the food together for the donation. We spent part of the time shucking more corn and the other part picking some eggplants. After everything was assembled, we had to take it out to the street which is easier said than done when you’re coming from a farm that’s probably a 25 minute walk from the street.

Me and Amber with Joe (the photographer clearly struggled with the frame a little)

Nico took one sack of corn in the wheelbarrow, John carried the sack of eggplants on his head, Anthony (another one of the local farmers that works with us) carried another sack of corn on his head, and they made a mini sack of corn for me. Amber offered moral support and carried the eggplant bag for part of the walk. I was carrying my sack in my arms until Anthony shook his head and told me to put it on my head. Learning how to carry things on my head is on my to do list, so I felt like I had to try. I think I did okay! It was a little uncomfortable because corn cobs were digging into my skull, but that’s just because I didn’t have anything to use as a cushion. People usually coil up towels or other fabric pieces and put them between their heads and whatever they’re carrying. By the end, I could even walk a little distance without using my hands. Woo! I’m not going to be carrying water on my head anytime soon, but it’s a start! (I was feeling inspired and actually tried carrying some water with no hands this afternoon… It did not go well.)

We left the sacks by the side of the road for a couple hours while we ate breakfast and got ready to go to the orphanage and just trusted that no one would touch them. Apparently, having someone steal your food from the side of the busiest road in the village is not something you need to worry about. Sure enough, we caught a tro by our house, and when we drove down the street to where we left the stuff, it was all still there.

The tro dropped us off in Asikuma, the town where the orphanage is, and we still had probably a 15 minute walk to get there. Joe called one of the guys who works there, he came on his motorcycle and rounded up three other guys with motorcycles, and they all took one bag of food in front of them and one of us behind. My first motorcycle ride! Let’s just pretend that we all had helmets on.

School with no walls = cool until there’s rain or wind or you’re trying to get a bunch of kids to focus. Great for air circulation though!
One of the classrooms. They have whiteboards!!

We thought it was funny that it seemed like as the kids got older, they had less and less walls. This is the oldest class… So no walls.
You can see the very beginnings of the new school in the grass on the left side of the picture. They were just starting when we were there, so mostly they had people making the blocks that they’re going to use to build the walls.

After handing over the food, we checked out the primary school that’s right next door. It’s really cool! The school just started this year, so they’re using a temporary structure while the permanent one is under construction. They said that as long as they have a steady stream of funding, the project will take two years total. This is the only school in the area, so all the kids who go there now either didn’t go to school before or had to travel to the next town to get there (probably getting there by walking, and the towns aren’t that close together). It was fun to see another school, and it felt like there was such a good energy there. Obviously we were only there for a few minutes, but the teachers seemed passionate and the kids were engaged. Whoa.

We worked on the hole (to store the pig poop and convert it into fertilizer for the farm) a little more in the afternoon, and Isabel came along again to help. It’s so nice to have extra hands!! Oh yeah, as you can see, Isabel didn’t leave today. Apparently now she’s going on Monday. At least we can put off another goodbye for a few more days! We didn’t make as much progress on the hole as we had hoped, but isn’t that what always happens? We should have known.

This is Amber’s last night, so we’re having a bonfire (of course) to celebrate. How did 6 weeks go by so quickly?? Ah! That reminds me! Originally, I was planning on doing agriculture for 6 weeks and construction for 6 weeks during my time here, but I’ve changed my mind. I would have to switch to Gold to do construction, and as you know, they have a lot of lizards and snakes there. But actually, I’ve decided to stay here because I really like the village, and I love being able to work on the farm and teach and help out with whatever projects the other volunteers have going on. I feel like I have some momentum here, and it seems stupid to interrupt that and move just because of a decision I made before I really understood what I was getting myself into. So yeah… In conclusion, I’m not moving, and time to get ready for Amber’s bonfire party!

I had a chance to redeem myself at the farm today. We had to finish sowing the rest of the field, so I promised myself that I would be more careful and went for it. Today it felt like I was born with a machete in my hand, and I made it through the morning without any major injuries.

Hole progress shot!

Nico and I stayed after again to keep working on the poop hole (a place for them to convert pig poop into fertilizer for the farm). It must seem like this is taking forever, but you have to understand our circumstances. First, the dirt is more like clay, so it’s heavier and stickier than regular dirt. Second, the tools we have aren’t exactly ideal. We consistently have two shovels. One is sharp and somewhat effective at cutting through the soil, but it has a broken handle which is only about 1’-6” long. The other is completely worthless for cutting through soil. It has to be really loose and soft in order to get anything onto the shovel. We also have a pickaxe, so usually we use that first to dig up the ground and then go through afterwards with the shovels. It’s slow work. One time, we also had an unbroken, effective shovel, but apparently someone borrowed that one and hasn’t given it back yet. I honestly think that with good shovels, we would finish this hole in half the time that it’s taken us. But alas, we don’t have good shovels, and so here we are, making progress at a slow crawl.

Once we couldn’t take any more digging, Nico and I headed back to the house, ate breakfast, and headed back out, this time to EP. During our meeting on Tuesday, the principal brought up the fact that only two of their computers (out of either 8 or 10, I’m not sure) were working by the end of the year and asked if anyone could help fix them. Nico and I volunteered even though neither of us would claim to have advanced computer fixing knowledge, but we figured that we probably know more than most people in Frankadua. Either way, it was worth seeing what we could do to help.

The lab with Nico hard at work

When we got into the “computer lab”, it was pretty clear why none of the computers were working. I don’t think that a single one of them had the computer connected to a monitor, and half of the computers and monitors weren’t plugged in. The other half were plugged into power strips that didn’t work. We managed to get three working right away, just from correcting the plug situation. We opened up another computer and basically played spot the differences with one of the computers that worked. Each time we saw something that was different, we stole a part from another computer or tweaked whatever needed tweaking until it matched. Neither of us had any clue what we were doing, but we got another computer to start working! Now we have four that turn on, and all of them have some software bugs that need to be worked out. I’m feeling pretty good about what we’ve done so far though, and I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get them running smoothly.

My new laundry setup

The entire afternoon was spent on laundry. I finally think I’ve perfected the technique. Step 1 was an overnight soak of EVERYTHING which helped with the smell issues. Then I had three buckets, one soap and two rinse, so that I can actually get the suds out of everything. Finally, I bought a laundry bar (basically a bar of soap) that smells awesome, and I scrubbed the crap out of everything with it. After I was finished, my clothes actually smelled good! Unlike last time, but we don’t talk about that anymore. I’m a hand washing laundry pro (though all of the kids still laughed at me because it took me so long).

Happy birthday Evans!

Right as I was wrapping up my laundry, the new volunteers arrived! We have two new people, Isabel (US, 10 weeks, teaching) and Tolu (Canada, 1 week, medical). I’m feeling good about them already. They kind of had to just jump right in because we were celebrating Evans’s birthday (he’s on staff with the organization). Sosane found a woman in town who could bake a cake (apparently she has a tin oven in.her house?), and she and Avy shopped for ingredients for a birthday cake for him. It looked funny, but it tasted awesome.

The cake in all of its glory

Somehow, the mini birthday party evolved into a real party because James, Nico, and Amber bought a goat and they were cooking it on the front porch. I guess everyone invited a few people because before we knew it, the entire porch was filled with people, some from the farm, some from the clinic, some just from around town. There, of course, was also a bonfire. I don’t think anyone was planning on having an actual party, but I’m glad it happened because it ended up being a lot of fun. There’s nothing like an impromptu goat party to kick off the weekend!


Our class, pretending for 5 seconds that they’re well behaved

Happy last day of summer school!! Nico and I were excited for school today because we had games planned in every class. In English, we had a spelling bee and played hangman. In Math, we split the class in two and did a math problem competition where each team sent one person up to the board and they had to race to solve a multiplication problem. The elective was the same as yesterday, the balloon game, because the kids liked it so much.

Balloon game!

There must have been something bad in the air today because our class was behaving horribly. We had 9 kids, and some of them had never been to summer school before. That was most of the problem because those kids were misbehaving, and as soon as one kid starts, it’s so hard to control the rest. In hindsight, there was one kid who I should have just sent home, but I was so determined to have a good last day that I couldn’t do it.

One of the kids solving a problem from the review of yesterday’s test

I was also really struggling with patience today, so instead of being able to work through disciplining the kids, I just shut down once I started getting annoyed. I know that’s not good, but it’s the end of the week and I’m thinking that this weekend will be a good time to reset and recover. In normal life, a teacher gets to go home and have some time away from their students. In our case, we come home and we STILL have to deal with the kids. They play outside our house and come on the porch even though they KNOW they aren’t supposed to. So you go to school and have to reprimand the kids who are breaking the rules, and then you get home and have to reprimand more kids who are breaking the rules. There’s no time to reset your patience.

Our afternoon activity consisted of making chalk outlines of the volunteers on our porch. This is what happens when the power goes out and it’s too hot to be inside without fans. It started because, as you can see, Amber is napping outside to avoid the heat and looked pretty unresponsive, so we decided to have some fun with it.

Sometimes you just want to do something without having kids around, but they’re EVERYWHERE. I go for a run and they run with me. I stretch and they stretch with me. I sit on the porch, trying to relax, and they can’t just leave me alone. We go to watch the soccer games and they’re always trying to sit on your lap or braid your hair or ask you questions. This is probably similar to what it’s like to have children, except when that happens, it’s your choice and you’re theoretically somewhat prepared for it. In this case, I don’t have my own children, and I certainly don’t want them right now, so I think that means I should be able to get some peace and quiet every once in a while.

Nico retrieving Amber’s boot from the poop

Okay, so after re-reading what I just wrote, I think I need a vacation. I definitely need some kid-free time to mentally recover because I’m not in the best place right now to be able to help the kids. Mostly I’m in a good place for being annoyed at them.
In other news, I had the chance to get some of my frustration out this afternoon because Nico, Amber, and I went to the farm to get started on the poop pit/fertilizer hole (and Fernanda and Avy came along just for fun). 

Sunset from the farm

There’s nothing like a little manual labor to take your mind off things. We decided to put the hole in the same place where they’re currently putting the pig poop, but that meant that we needed to dig through a layer of poop before getting to dirt. Amber was digging for about 5 seconds before her boots sank completely into the poop. Gross. By the time we left, all of the poop was out of the hole, but we still have a long way to go. At least the dirt doesn’t smell so bad.

The walk home ended up being my favorite part of the day. We were listening to music while digging the hole, so we just left it playing for the walk home and ended up basically dancing our way back. We have to go past a bunch of houses, and when we were almost home, a woman came outside (she was probably about 70 years old) and started dancing with us. The whole thing was so spontaneous and we were all acting like total goons. It was awesome. That energy extended into Fernanda’s goodbye bonfire, and we had a good end to what started out as a poopy day.

​We had a new task at the farm today! It’s always exciting when we get to do something different, and this time it was putting fertilizer around the eggplants. John showed us how they usually do it, by digging a hole about a finger length from the plant and putting some fertilizer in. Nico immediately disapproved. He said that there are two problems with doing it that way. First, if none of the roots are under the hole you dig, all of the fertilizer is just wasted. Second, if some of the roots ARE under the hole, the fertilizer might be too much for them and they’ll burn. So either way, it’s really not the best thing for the plant. Nico told us to dig more of a U-shaped trench around the stem and put the fertilizer in there. He still wasn’t completely happy with that solution, and we decided that we needed to have a farm meeting later to talk about what to do in the future.

Fertilizer loop

School was also exciting because Nico and I were reunited! Isabel and Sosane took over P2 for me, and I got to move back up to P3/P4! I was happy to be back, but at the same time, I was in the groove of teaching P2. It’s hard to adjust between teaching the different levels because you have to re-learn where the kids are skill-wise and adjust your thinking.
I read the kids a story in English class, and we asked them questions about it to work on reading comprehension. The story was taken from one of their textbooks, but honestly, the writing in the books is so bad that I don’t know how the kids are supposed to learn how to write properly. I read it out loud and modified it as I went so that it would make sense. Besides the numerous grammatical issues, some parts were so unclear that I didn’t understand what they were even trying to say. I wish I could just go through the book with a red pen and correct everything.

Our corn is growing! You can see the rows of little corn plants

The afternoon was spent doing laundry. I think that #1 on my list of things I miss from home is a washing machine. The list really isn’t that long, but laundry definitely makes the cut (also, seat belts, clean fingernails, flush toilets, and recycling). It probably took me 2-3 hours, and I can’t confidently say that any of my clothes are any cleaner than they were when I started. Hooray!
We had our farm meeting after dinner, and Nico presented his case against the single hole fertilizer technique. Joe (the guy in charge of the farm and logistics at the volunteer house) and John agreed to let us use Nico’s U technique instead. Nico also wanted to talk about a new way to use the pig poop (he’s an agricultural engineer, so unlike me he knows something about plants). They’re currently gathering it and using it somewhat, but he wants to dig a new hole for it (aka a new poop pit) and said that theyneed to mix in dry and wet leaves to make it a really good natural fertilizer for the farm. Apparently the soil is already good here, so he thinks that between that and the pig poop mixture, they won’t need to buy fertilizer anymore. They agreed to give it a try which is exciting but also means that we now have to dig a 3m x 3m x 1.5m hole. Things to look forward to! We’ll start Thursday afternoon probably.

Tonight we’re going to a birthday bonfire for one of the guys on the soccer team. It seems like every celebration here involves a bonfire… That’s great and all, but I wish that every bonfire also came with s’mores because seriously, how much better would that be? I should start bringing supplies with me so that when everyone else is drinking their beers, I can be chowing down on toasted marshmallows. Yummm.

​It’s starting to look like the days at school are just alternating between good and bad. Today was such a good day! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

This is from yesterday when we were shucking and de-kerneling, so today we just skipped the second step

We started out at the farm, as usual, and today’s activity was shucking corn. The good pieces will be sent to the orphanage, and the bad ones get fed to the chickens. It’s always nice when we have a less labor intensive day, but I have to say that I think shucking might be my least favorite thing we’ve done so far. Ehhh maybe not… I really don’t like hoeing. But it’s a close competition between the two.

With shucking, there’s probably a 50% chance that you’re going to find something unpleasant in your piece of corn. Usually it’s a worm or two and a bunch of icky worm eggs, but I had one where I discovered an entire ant farm inside and proceeded to scream and throw my corn. It was gross. The experience was basically an hour and a half of constantly feeling like there were things crawling on me and sometimes discovering that there actually were.

Singing Les Champs-Elysées

School was a breeze compared to yesterday. English was no big deal, Math we talked about times tables (again), and we played outside for the elective. Afterwards, all of the kids came back into the room and we played songs on my phone/Nico’s speaker. He’s been teaching them a French song which they all love to sing constantly, so we started with that and then moved on to the Hokey Pokey, “If you’re happy and you know it”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and the Chicken Dance.

Hokey pokey!

By the end, ALL of the kids were in our classroom, and I was melting. It’s actually been hot here over the last couple of days, unlike last week. We’ve been spoiled. It’s fine when the sky is cloudy, but as soon as the sun comes out, it’s a totally different story. Today was sunny, and the classroom was HOT.

Our improvised supplies and my beautiful s’mores sticks

After school, the afternoon flew by. I set out on a quest to find good s’mores sticks and used Nico’s knife to get the ends ready. Then, we were all just sitting around talking when someone discovered a bag of embroidery floss with the teaching supplies. Next thing I knew, we were all making friendship bracelets, Nico included, until about 4 hours later when Maria realized it was time for us to run. Time flies when you’re crafting! I felt like we were a bunch of kids at summer camp.

The best part of the day, hands down, was the bonfire. Unlike last week, this one was mostly just the six of us, with a few other people coming in and out. It was partly sad because it’s Maria’s farewell bonfire, but it was partly super awesome because s’mores.


We made all of the kids go home at 9PM (they’re really supposed to leave by 8) and got out our makeshift s’more supplies. I was a little uncertain about how they would turn out, but they ended up being great! I love s’mores. I ate 4. At least. I think. Maybe 5. Ehhh not important.

Anyway, me + s’mores = best day ever. I’m going to bed happy (and stuffed) (and with a lingering sugar rush) tonight.

If there’s such a thing as a perfect day, today might have been it. One aspect of my time here that I really haven’t talked about yet is the other volunteers. People are here from all over the world, and getting to know them has been a lot of fun. I’m constantly amazed by how well we can relate to one another even when we come from such different places. I also feel like I’ve known them all for much longer than 5 days… Just seeing that number is kind of throwing me off. But when you live and work together, friendships develop much faster than in normal life, and the group dynamic right now is incredibly good.

A few people left this week, but I want to briefly mention the ones who are sticking around so that I can refer to them by name. Two volunteers were already in the house when we got there, Avy (Hong Kong) and Fernanda (Mexico). They both played big roles in getting the summer school going and are awesome with the kids. Amber (Belgium), Maria (Portugal), and Nicolas (France) started at the same time as I did, and they all work at the farm with me in the mornings. Nicolas and I are teaching buddies, and Maria and I have been running together. Amber is helping at the medical clinic.

They’re all absolutely hilarious, and we also work well together which is a huge blessing. People share ideas and help each other, and we can be far more effective in helping the kids because of that.

Anyway, back to business. At the farm this morning, Nicolas showed us how to plant some seeds that he brought from France. We spent a couple hours making “nests” for the seeds- digging a hole and loosening the dirt inside of it to make it easier for the new plants to break through and grow roots. It wasn’t as labor intensive as the other days which was a welcome break.

Our fantastic hokey pokey lesson
Then, school went so well!! We’ve been working on coming up with more fun ways of teaching the kids. We did the hokey pokey to help teach them about nouns, adjectives, and verbs in English class and did some activities with shapes in Math. The kids were so good and I think they had fun and learned a thing or two.

After class, Maria had face paint that she used to give them some war paint, and they absolutely loved it. Seeing them get excited about such “little” things definitely makes you stop and think. Something may seem small to you, but you don’t know how it looks to someone else. In my mind, it was so simple, but for those kids, that was a big thing. It makes me rethink my previous ideas about not being able to make a real difference in such a small time. I think that you have to live as if your every action will have some lasting impact on the people around you, and whether it’s positive or negative is up to you.

Some of the kids showing off their war paint
The rest of the day was spent hanging out, watching the Frankadua soccer team play against a neighboring town, and after dark, having a farewell bonfire for the volunteers who are leaving this weekend. A bunch of the kids and locals came too, and the night was filled with Ghanaian music and dancing and good conversations.


This weekend, we’re headed to Cape Coast to do some touristing. I should go pack before it gets much later! So much for getting to bed early… (it’s almost midnight)