​I’m really liking this whole school thing… and the not waking up at 5AM thing. I promise though, if someone comes this weekend who is willing to come to the farm with me, I’ll start going back. I still have to put the finishing touches on the poop hole, but it’s hard to find the motivation when I know that it’s just going to be me.

Song time at the beginning of class. The kids get super excited about this, so Avy likes to do it at the very beginning of class to encourage the kids to show up on time.

I went back to school with Avy today. I’m starting to feel like myself again, but my stomach is still a little out of wack. It was such a good day because the kids were well-behaved! It’s amazing how one day, the class is so bad and you leave feeling discouraged and exhausted, and the next day, the class is so good and you leave feeling elated and still exhausted. It usually seems like a good day is immediately followed by a bad day, so right when you’re feeling like maybe you have things under control, you get an aggressive reality check.
Today’s English lesson was about greetings: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening. We talked about what times you say each of them and then had the kids practice for about an hour. All of the things we’re teaching seem like they should take about 5 seconds to explain, but that’s never the case. It’s hard to tell how much of that is the language barrier, how much is the kids being behind, and how much is just because they’re kids and I’m not used to their learning speed. I don’t think they really know how to tell time either, so that doesn’t help when you’re trying to use times to explain something. It seemed like they were kind of understanding it by the end. I guess we’ll see on their homeworks tomorrow!

Baptist is part of a government program that provides lunch to the kids each day. It’s currently the only school in town that provides lunch, and because of that, the enrollment is higher than at the other public primary schools. There are women who cook for the whole school, and when it’s lunch time, one woman delivers bowls to the classroom and two deliver the food. It’s pretty cool, and it’s good to know that the kids are all eating at least one meal each day.

Math was more of the same number talk we’ve been doing for the last few days. If you’re wondering how many times you can teach the same thing, and have a bunch of the kids still be completely lost, the answer is at least five. It seems like they’re almost unlearning the things they already know because they try to make things harder than they are. For example, they definitely know how to say two digit numbers, but now they’re getting confused and they’ll say something like “two thousand, four hundred” for 24.  Noooo!! It’s one thing when they struggle with the new concepts… it’s another when they regress because of the new concepts.

Avy and I had a mouse adventure today. When we were sitting around doing work after dinner, a mouse ran across the room into a kitchen. We managed to trap it under this bucket, but our plan didn’t go much past that. Honestly, I didn’t think there was any chance we would actually trap it. Anyway, we didn’t want Agnes to move the bucket in the morning without being ready for it, so we left a sign. I’m almost positive that the mouse is going to suffocate tonight though… I feel bad about it, but what are we supposed to do???

One of Avy’s big classroom management strategies is to keep a running score of the class vs. the teacher. When the kids are behaving and following the rules, they get a point. When someone breaks the rules or the class is misbehaving, the teacher gets a point. You pick an end point for the competition, and if the class wins, they get a reward. Today was the end of this round of the competition and the class won, so their reward was that we came back after lunch and did drawing time with colored pencils. It was good that we didn’t try to do anything that required a lot of concentration because the kids took their medications during lunch, and all of them came back feeling sick and dizzy. We spent about an hour trying to get them to draw things from their imaginations before heading home, totally exhausted.
The ultimate bummer of the day is that the couch is gone. I think Joe wanted it out, so Agnes said something about it removing it this morning. I am so upset. How am I supposed to get comfortable in a bunch of plastic chairs?!?! RIP couch. The ultimate awesomeness of the day was a hot bucket shower. I was dreading showering because the water is always freezing, so I heated some up in our tea kettle and combined it with some cold water in the bucket. I can’t even describe how incredible it was to take a warm shower. Life changing!!! What have I been doing for the last two months??? A warm shower is the answer to every problem.

(I know it’s Tuesday but let’s just pretend because Machete Tuesday isn’t catchy.)

WOOO!!! I survived my first day!! Both mentally AND physically (which are both things I was slightly concerned about). This morning was brutal though. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for at least a week now, and the 5AM wake up call was not exactly what I needed. We had to be ready to go to the farm by 5:30, so I pulled my stuff together, attempted to wash my face using a bucket, and inhaled a granola bar before Joe and John, two of the Ghanaians that run the farm, came by to pick us up.

The walk to the farm! This is what 5:45AM looks like

Some brief background info on the farm – it was started when they realized that one of the nearby orphanages never got fresh food. Now, half of the food is donated directly to the orphanage, and the other half is sold to buy seeds and fertilizer and other things required to keep the farm running.

The walk there was nice and gave us some time to wake up. It’s probably 15 minutes from the volunteer house, and part of it involves walking through water about 8” deep. I was happy to have rain boots (aka gum boots) to keep my feet dry. I had no idea what we were going to be doing, so when we got there and they handed each of us a machete, I was pretty pumped. We got to help clear one of the old corn fields to get it ready for a new planting by chopping the dead corn stalks at the base with the machetes. Believe me when I say that there’s nothing more satisfying than whacking a stalk and seeing it fall without even putting up a fight. Yay manual labor!

I wish I had gotten a before picture, but this is the field after we wreaked havoc

I felt quite accomplished by the time we finished clearing the field, but I didn’t even think about what the work would do to my hands. Talk about blisters! It’s okay… a couple days of sucking it up, and I’ll have the calluses I need to support my natural machete skills.

Once we finished at the farm, we headed back to the house for breakfast and to do last minute preparation for class. My teacher partner, Nicolas, and I were basically winging it for the first day just to get a reference of where the kids are skill-wise. We have P3 and P4 levels, and I think the kids are about 9-12 years old, maybe a bit younger. In English class, we had each of them introduce their partner to the group. For the rest of the time, we picked different letters of the alphabet and each kid wrote a word on the board that started with that letter.

I felt much more at ease in Math class. I put up some addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division questions and we gave the kids time to work on their own before coming back together to go over them. The biggest struggle was times tables, so we’re going to try to help them memorize those by the time school starts.

Just to give you an idea of the landscape here, this is a view of one of the houses/yards near where we live

We had the rest of the day after that to prepare for school tomorrow and relax. I went for a [slow and painful] run with one of the other girls and made some plans for classes. I’m feeling really excited and encouraged by the kids and our experience today. They’re all so well behaved and eager to learn! It makes me happy to teach them.

I also survived my first bucket shower experience. It really wasn’t as big of a deal as I expected. I can totally do this for three months, no problem. I feel like I’m living so sustainably now. There’s no running water for anything, and I only used about 2-3 gallons for my shower.

Anyway, it’s very late (almost 11PM) and I have another very early morning tomorrow. Hopefully it’s not another machete day! My hands need a change of pace.