We had a full house today at the farm! Yara managed to drag herself out of bed, plus we had Ricardo with us for the first time. Guess what kind of day it was… machete day!! John dropped us off in an area with some pretty short weeds and said that he and Anthony would be working in an area with taller weeds because they’re harder to cut down. Nick and I just looked at him and he said, “do you want to come work with us?” Nick nodded, I chimed in, “me too!” (and John looked at me with doubt in his eyes, but whatever because he still let me come), and he led the two of us plus Ricardo to the tall weeds. They weren’t as tall as that one day last week that I said was the best machete day ever, but I’m not going to complain. Still a good morning! The only issue with tall weeds is that by the end, I have scratches all over my arms and weed pieces in my hair which makes it harder to look presentable for school… but hey, that’s what headbands are for, right?

Piggie update! Five are left, and they all look healthy.

My school day was behind the scenes anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal if I looked a little disheveled. I went back and worked on the computer with the newfound battery, and now everything is working so well!!! The power of google is incredible. The new battery fixed one problem, plus I disabled/resolved all of the other things that used to pop up every time the computer booted up. It used to take probably 5 minutes to get started, and you had to make selections and log in and do a bunch of other stuff. I wanted to make it as simple as possible for someone who wanted to use the computer, so I got rid of all of that. Now, you can know nothing about computers and start it up in about 1 minute with no prompts and no problems. Hooray!

Our desk-fixing workshop

Everlasting also brought his laptop in because he’s having some issues, and apparently the work I did on the school computer convinced him that I’m acceptably proficient at fixing computers. On Monday when I was looking at the school computer and saying what I thought was wrong with it, he asked me if I was trained in computer hardware. I said no and kind of laughed, and he looked at me like he didn’t trust for a second that I was going to fix it (to be fair, I couldn’t have promised anything because I also didn’t trust for a second that I was going to be able to fix it). Looks like I did okay because now he’s trusting me with his own property! Lucky for me, his issues were simple (one involved just switching his Y and Z keys which were swapped for some reason… I looked like a genius when I just popped them off and switched them). Phew! I have a reputation to keep up now, so failure isn’t an option!
Anna and Yara, hard at work. Not shown: the 1 million nails we bent (shhh that’s not important)

This was a fix-it kind of day, and after school we went back to Baptist and continued our desk repair work. Anna, Yara, Avy, and I worked for a couple hours and managed to fix a good number of desks. I was proud of myself for a few desks especially that were unusable or wobbling like crazy, and I got them into good working order! Most of them just needed extra nails to make stronger connections between the different pieces of wood, but a few were missing supports or other pieces that we needed to scavenge from broken desks. In all, I’d say we got through close to 20 desks today. That sounds good and all, but it also means that there’s still a lot more work to do considering there are seven classrooms with desks, each one has 10-15, and literally every desk has something that needs to be done to make it fully functional. But each desk we work on makes a difference! One step at a time.

​The morning started off with hoeing again, and this time was even worse than yesterday. With the eggplants, all we had to do was kill the weeds. Today, we were working around the corn, and we had to kill the weeds and move them/some dirt around the base of each corn stalk to help keep the moisture in and protect the plants. There are so many plants because they’re only about a foot apart, and the progress was incredibly slow. At least Clarina and Anna were there with me because it would have been a million times worse by myself. All I can say is, no one is going to complain about sowing again after this.

The whole school in one classroom for worship. I’m still not sure that you can see from this picture how crazy packed the room is.

School was a little different today because it was the parent teacher meeting (during school hours, of course). Avy and I helped in P3 for part of the morning because their teacher was at the meeting (along with all of the other teachers as well, but we can’t teach 8 classes), and I eventually went to sit in at the meeting. Even though every meeting I’ve been to here has been exhausting, I think it’s important for us to have at least one person representing the group at them. Then it’s more like we’re trying to be a part of the community rather than just existing alongside it.

The parent teacher meeting was no exception; it was long and exhausting. The difference with this one was that it was in Ewe, so I didn’t understand anything. The headmaster sat next to me and translated a little bit, but it was more like people would talk for 10 minutes and he would turn to me and say, “now they’re talking about PTA dues”. Ten minutes later, “they’re still talking about PTA dues”. Ten minutes later, “now they’re telling the parents that they should make sure their kids have all the school supplies they need.” So even with that, I still didn’t really know what was happening.

Our workshop

I stayed for about 2 hours until lunchtime when I was happy to have an excuse to duck out. At that point, they were just electing PTA officials (aka probably nominating people for jobs they didn’t want), so I didn’t feel bad leaving. All in all though, I felt like it was a productive meeting. There were maybe 80 parents there… they told us to expect 30, so I thought that was pretty good! The parents also mostly seemed attentive and engaged (though I don’t know what they were saying so I could be wrong). I left feeling encouraged!

Trying to stabilize the desks and chairs but actually just bending nails.

Avy, Clarina, Anna, Yara, and I went back after school ended to get started on our desk repair project. I think I mentioned this before, but the desks at the school aren’t in very good condition. Many of them are missing pieces and have random nails sticking out, and all of them wobble. We bought some nails last week to see what we could do with those, and if we need to buy some wood in the long run, we’ll do that later.

We had only been working for maybe 20 minutes when some guy randomly came and started helping us. After about an hour, we were out of nails, and Avy went on a quest for more. Our biggest shortage was of hammers, so when she saw a couple of guys carrying shovels, she asked them if they had hammers (because apparently having one tool means that you must have them all). They said yes and that they would bring them to the school. Better yet, they brought their hammers and stayed to help! The one guy was actually a carpenter, so he was awesome and we learned a lot from him.

Some of our unexpected coworkers

The only thing that stopped us was the fact that got dark around 6PM. We weren’t originally planning to stay that long, but when you have 4 local volunteers helping and there’s a lot being accomplished, you don’t stop until you have to. We fixed all of the desks in the P2 room, plus the ones from the rest of the school that were in really bad shape. Some of them are definitely in need of additional wood. We’ll take an inventory of the pieces that are missing or broken and see how much it will cost to replace them. The nails went a long way though, so we’ll call it a successful day! It was nice to do something helpful that wasn’t expensive, and it was even better because we had some people from the community working with us.

Okay so I probably shouldn’t have been taking a selfie, and I clearly know that because my eyes are filled with worry and fear. But I’m still alive so that means it’s fine.

I woke up early this morning and went for a bike ride!!! As much as I hated waking up earlier than I had to, I did NOT want to bike on the road during the day when there are more cars. Since there’s only one paved road in town, my options for non-dirt routes are limited to the busiest street. I figured that at 6AM, it would be light but it wouldn’t be too hot or crowded on the road yet. If I put it off until later in the day, there’s no way I would have mustered up the courage to go. We can pretend that I had a helmet and that there’s a huge shoulder on the road, if that makes you feel any better.

Some of the scenery along the road. Yes *wink*wink* I stopped the bike to take this picture.

The open road!

I decided to bike away from town and towards the orphanage because I think that way is a little less populated. I went for about an hour, did around 11 miles, and made it all the way to Asikuma, the town where the orphanage is. Even though it was early, plenty of people were awake, and I was apparently quite the spectacle, a yevu on a bike. Some guy even took a picture. I would equate it to one time in Philly when I saw Benjamin Franklin on a bicycle. I thought it was funny and ridiculous, and most of the locals seemed to think the same about me.
Avy proving that it’s possible for a girl to know how to use a saw.

Don’t worry, this is way safer than it looks… But anyway, they said they knew what they were doing.

Stabilizing the back

It’s amazing how much time there is in the day when you get up early! I got back to the house and still had time to do some stretching and a workout before breakfast and church. We went back to Agnes’s church (it’s looking like that’s going to be our church home) and brought all of the new volunteers with us. The setup of the chairs was different AGAIN, which means it’s never been the same twice in all the times I’ve been there. This week was really fun. I can tell that people are starting to remember me, and I’m beginning to feel like they’re accepting me (not that they were ever unwelcoming or anything, but like they’re seeing me as an actual part of the community rather than just a one-time visitor).
Putting in the shelf supports.

The finished product!!

When we got back from church, one of the neighbors was on our porch with two saws! He said that his dad would be mad if he let us use them, but he could cut the wood for us. Fine with me! He ended up letting me use the small saw to cut the pieces to reinforce the back, and we helped a little with the big cuts for the shelves. I was just happy to be able to finish the job. We stabilized the back, measured out the shelf heights, nailed in the shelf supports, and we were finished! Now you can actually see all of the books and games we have, and there’s even some space left over! When Joe came over later, we asked him if he regretted doubting us. He said yes, but who knows. I’m just happy that we didn’t talk ourselves up and then get stuck and have to ask for help.

​Avy and I decided that today we were going to do a project. We have one really horrible bookshelf that is leaning like crazy and looks like it’s on the verge of collapse, plus it could be so much more effective. Avy cleaned it off yesterday, and we wanted to reinforce the structure and add two more shelves. We asked Joe if we could have some tools to do the work, and he told us he would call the carpenter to come do it. We said, “what, do you not trust us?” The answer was a strong no.

Bookshelf “before” picture. I wish we had gotten a picture before we took all of the books off because it was leaning so much more dramatically, but you can still see that it’s totally unstable. And I don’t know who added that top “shelf”, but it’s worthless.

The carpenter came this morning, so we used his tape measure and then kind of brushed him off. We told him that we were going to try to do it ourselves, but if we found ourselves needing help, we would call him. Come on though, how hard can it be to fix a bookshelf?
We went to Juapong to get some wood and other various things we needed and then came back and got to work. The piece of wood we got is definitely not straight, and it’s super rough. We also bought some sandpaper, so we started sanding it down and measuring where we needed to cut before hitting a standstill. We don’t have a saw, and Joe’s is at the farm right now. No way was I walking there to get it! Joe said that the carpenter would let us just borrow his saw, but he came by, said he would bring it, and never came back. I mean, I don’t completely blame him because we weren’t hiring him for the job, but he should have just said no if he didn’t want to.

Our workshop and piece of wood that’s perfectly straight. We sanded it down, so at least it looks and feels a little nicer now.

So much for finishing the job before the new volunteers showed up… We had tools and sawdust strewn all over the porch when they got here. I’m sure it was a great welcome to the house! It’s fine though; we’ll hunt down a saw and finish tomorrow instead. There are six new volunteers – Sal (USA, Teaching, 1 week), Clarina (Hong Kong, Teaching, 2 weeks), Doug (USA, Teaching, 2 weeks), Jamie (USA, Medical, 4 weeks), Yara (Germany, Teaching, 12 weeks), and Anna (Germany, Teaching, 12 weeks). It’s weird that there are new people here who are going to still be here after I leave! AND it’s beyond weird that I’m more than halfway through my time here. It’s freaking me out a little.

Can you spot the chicken? Yes, it’s inside our house. Glad we’re doing a good job of keeping the doors closed…

I’m also just overwhelmed by the idea of having to get to know so many new people without having Amber and Nico here too. It’s easier when you have more people you already know. I know I’ll be fine, but having six new people at once (especially with only three old people) is a lot to process. I just need some time to get to know each of them individually… I’m sure I’ll feel better by the end of this week.
Maybe an hour after they arrived, it started pouring, and Avy and I sprinted outside to take a rain shower. The new volunteers were looking at us like we were a little insane. They’ll learn. Rain showers are seriously the best (well, second best to warm bucket showers, but those are more effort), and they’re always followed by a cup of Milo (hot chocolate) because the rain is freeeeeeezing. Yummm.