Today. Was. Hot. Okay, to be fair, it wasn’t any hotter than usual, but the power was out all day which means the fans weren’t working which means we were all dying.

Little Nico is getting so big! I think I’ve talked about him before, but this pig just roams free on the farm. They took him out of his pen because the other pigs were eating all of the food and he wasn’t getting any. Amber named him after Nico because why not. Anyway, the time out of the pen has been good for him. He’s bulking up.

Everything was fine when we work up at 5AM to go to the farm. Anna, Nick, and Yara all came today! They were rewarded with a fun-filled morning of hoeing around cassava plants. We chopped all of the weeds and also had to do the thing where you gather some weed fragments and dirt around the base of each to protect the plant and keep the moisture in.
I actually don’t hate hoeing anymore. I mean, I’m never going to celebrate when I see John pull the hoes out of the storage room, but I didn’t mind the work this morning. It seems like that’s the case with most of the farm work… First I hate it, then I don’t mind it, and then I find something that I like less. Currently, hoeing is still at the bottom, but it wasn’t so bad today. It does hurt my back though when we do it too many days in a row.

The corn is getting so big! I’ll have to take a picture with me in it so you can have a height reference.

By the time we got back to the house for breakfast, the power was out. This is pretty normal, so no one thought anything of it until it was STILL out hours later. I don’t think I’ve talked about the power outages since the very first time one of them happened… I would say that we lose power 2-3 times per week, on average. There are some weeks where it seems like it goes out every day. Usually though, it’s back on within an hour or so. This, by the way, is one of those things that I’m just totally used to now. At home, the power goes out and people freak out. Here, the power goes out, I go to my room to get my flashlight, and we all go on doing whatever we were doing before.
Anyway, today the power was out in the whole town for the ENTIRE day. We were all laying around trying to make do with paper fans and ice cream. The word on the street was that it got shut off because they were doing some work, so I was hoping that meant it would be back on once it got dark. No such luck. It came on for about 10 seconds at 6PM, just long enough for everyone to celebrate, before going back out again until 8PM. I’m just happy that it was on before bedtime because sleeping here without a fan = the sweatiest night of your life.

Check out those rows of little eggplants!

I basically forced Nick to come to the farm with me, so I have another farm friend! Yara also decided to rejoin the group which got us to four people going to the farm this morning. Talk about a farm party! It was a good day for Nick to start because we were clearing weeds out of the beds, and that’s definitely one of the more relaxing farm tasks. I also had more “realize how much I’ve learned” moments when I had almost no trouble identifying weeds vs. eggplants and had to check the work of the others (after John showed us what to do, he turned to me and said, “make sure your friends don’t kill all of the eggplants.” No pressure or anything…). I remember my first week when we were hoeing and couldn’t even tell the difference between weeds and fully grown eggplants. Now I can even identify them when they’re only a few inches tall! How exciting! I’m sure these eggplant spotting skills will serve me well for the rest of my life…

After breakfast, Avy and I went to Baptist to teach P2 because their teacher was at the doctor. In Math, they were learning about addition of single digit numbers. We tried to do an activity where we split the kids into groups and used rocks as counters, but it was a total disaster. Imagine any movie where kids have a substitute teacher and totally try to take advantage of that fact, and you’ll have something close to our classroom today. Even with the two of us, it was impossible to keep the kids in their seats and paying attention.

Poop hole “before” picture. You can see that there’s a lot of dirt that still needs to be moved to conceal the wall.

To give you an example, since we obviously don’t cane the kids to discipline them (which is still the method used by many of the teachers here, though we have found some who don’t approve of it), we need to have another method of punishment when they misbehave. After a warning or two, Avy has the kid stand at the front of the room facing the wall for about a minute (or longer if they don’t stand still). At one point, we had two kids standing about 3’ apart, and one was smacking the other on the head with an eraser while that kid tried to do what he was supposed to be doing and not move. I took the eraser and moved them farther apart, putting the hitter in front of the board. Next thing I knew, I looked back and the kid was wiping the math homework off of the board with his face. Seriously?? I’m not proud to admit it, but after that, I started losing patience and motivation and basically shut down. Major props to Avy who battled through it and kept teaching.

When we hit lunchtime, both of us were mentally and emotionally drained. We put some exercises on the board and told the kids we weren’t coming back after lunch because they were behaving so poorly. There was only one thing that could even begin to make us feel better, and that was Fan Ice (ice cream!), so we picked some up on the way home and tried to forget how much we felt like failures.

“After” picture for the day. I pushed the front wall out and added dirt in the front and finished the dirt hill and gutter on the side.

I didn’t feel too bad about not going back to school because I headed to the farm in the afternoon to do more work on the poop hole (aka the pig poop to farm fertilizer converter). After finishing the roof last week, I figured it would be a good idea to ride out that momentum and try to just finish it for good. The only thing left to do is basically the landscaping around the hole. I need to fill in dirt behind all of the walls, slope it away from the hole for rain drainage, and put in a gutter. Also, one of the walls started collapsing, so the most unpleasant task of the day was to get into the hole to add a new support for the wall. That was made infinitely more unpleasant by the fact that there’s already poop in the hole, and of course it was directly in front of the wall I needed to get to. If you had told me even one day ago that I would find myself calf-deep in pig poop, I would have laughed in your face. I’m not laughing anymore. It was disgusting. I probably set a breath-holding world record because I don’t remember inhaling a single time while I was in there.

Grossness aside, it was a very productive work session. I finished 1 ½ sides of the hole which means I have 2 ½ left, plus I’ll never have to get back into the actual poop again. If that’s not something to be celebrated, I don’t know what is!

The cassava sticks we planted (the little angled sticks coming out of the ground)

This was a great day! I feel like the last week has been so productive, and today was no exception! James, Yara, and Anna were travelling for the weekend, so it was just me at the farm this morning. I was nervous about managing to wake up and motivate myself to go without any company, but it actually wasn’t that bad. AND I got to do something new at the farm! We planted cassava sticks. You start out with a pile of sticks that are about 4’ long, dig a hole, shove the stick in, push the dirt back around it, and chop it with your machete to be 8-12” long. I haven’t gotten to use a machete to actually cut things in a while, but don’t worry, my skills are still exceptional. After John showed me how to do it, he and Anthony watched me try once to make sure I had it right. No pressure. My machete instincts took over, and I chopped that cassava stick like a Ghanaian. Yes, you should be impressed. I ended up planting most of the little field by myself, so I must have convinced them that I knew what I was doing.

Before they started work today, there were no walls at all. This was at the beginning of the day when I arrived and they had been working for an hour or so.

I was the most excited about the next part of my morning… I got to help with the construction at the clinic! I’ve been telling Joe for weeks that I want to help, and a couple days ago he finally asked me if I wanted to go and work. We headed over after breakfast, and after I jokingly gave him a hard time for saying hi to a guy on a motorbike without asking for a lift, he called one of his uncles to take us there. Yes, it’s less than a 15 minute walk, but it was hot and as Joe pointed out, princesses don’t walk. I guess that nickname is going to stick, but if it comes with motorbike benefits, I’ll keep any complaints to myself.

Elisha and me carrying mortar to one of the masons.

We got to the clinic, Joe shoveled some mortar for maybe a minute, and he vanished. I didn’t know where to go or what to do, so I just stood out of the way and watched how they did things until the guy mixing the mortar, Elisha, called my name. He knew my name! I was excited about that, and when he said, “do you want to help…”, I’m pretty sure my whole face lit up, and I ran over without even waiting to hear what he wanted. I started out by just helping him carry the mortar to the masons who needed it. They were starting to put the walls up, and honestly, I didn’t mind standing around just watching for a while because it was cool to see how they did things. Anyway, I gradually started getting more responsibilities. I got to mix mortar with Elisha, shovel sand, clean the site, measure things, make sure walls were straight, wind up the strings (that they use to line up the blocks), carry blocks, fetch things, etc. You know, all of the high-level tasks. I was just happy to be there. I felt like I was part of the team when Senyo, one of the masons who is really good, made me his designated tape measure holder. After that, he started trusting me to break blocks for him! When there was a gap that needed a block smaller than a full one, he measured, told me the size he needed, and I broke it to that size.

Breaking one of the blocks. Refer to the dreaded ax hammer in my hand.

They kept asking me if the work was hard or if I was tired, and I kept saying no because I wanted to prove myself. They asked if the sun was too hot and told me I could go in the shade, but I shook that off too. I was doing fine until my hands started to fail. I had gloves with me but obviously didn’t use them because no one else uses gloves, and I don’t want to look soft. I know, stupid. Extra stupid when the tool they use to break the blocks is a mini-ax with a handle that’s like a piece of rebar (imagine a metal cylinder with a thick metal wire wound around it… aka not smooth at all). I got to the point where I couldn’t even break a block because of my blisters. Senyo figured out my issue, felt my palm, shook his head, and said, “too soft,” before showing me his hand for comparison’s sake. I have a lot of work to do.

Shoveling sand to mix more mortar.

When it was time for me to go home for lunch, I said goodbye to everyone and headed out with Joe. I actually think that they looked sad to see me go! They were all saying, “wait, you’re leaving??” That made me feel better because I was a little worried that they were just tolerating me because they felt like they had to, even though I told them that I was happy to help if I could but would happily stay out of the way if I would just be a bother. I told Joe to follow up and see if they’d be okay with me coming back because I really enjoyed myself.

For the way home, Joe asked if I wanted to take another motorbike. I said, “oh no, we can just walk,” and he looked at me, shook his head, and said, “no, it’s too hot.” Well like I said before, I’m not going to argue with a free ride. He had trouble getting in touch with anyone, said we just had to walk, and we got about 50 feet down the road before someone stopped to pick us up. That’s the princess life, I guess.

This is what it looked like when I left. They were pretty close to finished for the day by the time I left, but they did add a bit more afterwards.

The rest of the day was quiet. I was exhausted after working for 5 hours in the sun during the morning, so I mostly just hung out and enjoyed some time in our mostly empty house. Clarina left around 3PM, and I stood with her by the street until she got a tro tro straight to the airport. I really am an emotional mess now when it comes to people leaving. I almost started crying AGAIN. I can’t even think about the fact that someday soon it’s going to be my turn.
Anyway, for now, I’m going to ignore that unwelcome truth and instead focus on enjoying my weekend with the house basically to myself. It’s so nice to have some quiet and time to sit and relax without a million things going on around me. At least until tomorrow when new volunteers come, AND NICK IS COMING!


Anna carrying some branches

Our farm numbers were back down today; only Anna and I went. We were rewarded with a morning of carrying massive palm branches from a nearby farm to ours. The pig house roof is made from palm branches, and it broke in a couple places. We cut new branches (by “we cut” I mean John and Anthony cut and Anna and I carried) to replace the ones that were crumbling. I was just happy to have something new to do, and it was a fun challenge to carry the branches without toppling over or running into anything. Plus, the actual labor wasn’t very hard which was a nice change from hoeing.

Measuring the boys

After breakfast, I took a trip to Baptist to see some of the kids getting measured for new uniforms. Avy is using some of her donated money to replace the uniforms of some kids whose are in bad condition and whose families aren’t able to afford new ones. I don’t know that the kids understood what was going on, but I can’t wait to see their reactions when they get their new uniforms!

Working hard

I didn’t spend the whole morning at the school as usual because Joe and James were taking cement to the clinic and asked me to come along and help. Turned out that they really didn’t need help because you only need two people to pull/push a cart with five cement bags on it. Joe told me to get on the cart too, and I thought he was kidding until he stopped walking and insisted. Well okay, I’m not going to refuse a ride if it’s repeatedly offered. I got on, and he and James took me the whole way there. I don’t think the people in town had seen anything like it before because they were all laughing and taking pictures. Joe started calling me Princess Lara, and I’m a little worried that it’s going to stick.

We dropped the bags off, and I feel like I made up for my ride there because I pulled the cart most of the way back to the market and insisted that James ride for part because he was whining about being tired from the malaria (but then refused to take it easy, so what can you do?).

If you were wondering how John managed to nail the roof in the middle of the poop hole…

I took it easy for a couple hours after lunch because it’s so incredibly hot, and around 3PM, John stopped by to pick me up and walk over to the farm. I decided that I couldn’t keep procrastinating on this poop hole roof, especially since it’s been raining and the hole is just going to keep getting wetter (the hole is to turn the pig poop into fertilizer for the farm). Really, it’s stupid that I’d been putting it off because I didn’t even need to build the roof. John and Anthony built it, and I just had to supervise and make sure they did what we wanted.

Presenting: the most fabulous poop hole roof ever!

We fixed the last two columns in place, added the beams to support the roof, and put on the roofing material. I can now confidently say that this is the most beautiful and intense poop hole in all of Ghana (*disclaimer* this statement is pure speculation. But really, how much competition can there be?). The whole thing took maybe an hour and a half, and after seeing the construction in action, I’m positive that having them do it was the right choice (even if it wasn’t totally intentional). John took about three hammer swings to do what would have taken us ten, and I’m pretty sure that we wouldn’t have been able to manage parts of it. Anyway, it’s finished now, and I’m happy for that. All that’s left is to finish filling in the dirt around the walls… ehh that’s a project for another day!

​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.

It was back to the farm this morning! The only person who came with me today was Anna, and I give her credit for sticking with it. She was rewarded with a fun morning of… hoeing! My old friend, how I’ve missed you. We hoed around some eggplants, and at one point she said, “I wish we were planting corn.” Ha! She now understands my opinion about the four days of sowing last week. It wasn’t actually that horrible because there weren’t too many weeds to cut through, and the field we were working on was small enough to finish in one day.

This is the school at the Pink program orphanage.

We had a fun day ahead after breakfast! Yesterday, some of the other volunteers went to the farm and picked eggplants from the field we planted corn over to be taken to one of the other orphanages supported by our organization (the Pink program). We had a whole crew with us for this trip – Anna, Yara, Clarina, Evans, Joe, Jamie, and me. We took a tro to the town where the orphanage is, Dodowa, and from there, everyone except for Evans and me packed into a taxi with the food for the last part of the trip. He and I walked about 20-25 minutes to get there, which wasn’t too bad except that it was really hot, the sun was out, and there was NO shade.

Front row – Jamie, Clarina, Anna Back row – Yara, me, and the second-in-command at the orphanage

After making the donation, we ate lunch with the two Pink volunteers before heading back to Frankadua. Evans went back to Accra, Joe had already left, and Jamie was transferring to Pink, so our group was down to Anna, Yara, Clarina, and me. We took a tro to Kpong and then had to switch to another one for the rest of the trip. The second tro sat in the station for probably 45 minutes until it filled up, which once upon a time might have bothered me, but now I’m the queen of patience. It didn’t hurt that a bofrot lady AND a fan ice guy came by around the same time, so I double fisted a donut and some ice cream and was perfectly content to wait.

After we got back, we all practiced carrying things on our head! I’m determined to figure it out.

When we finally got back, James said that he went to the clinic again, and he does have malaria. It’s a mild case – they rank it out of 4 pluses with 4 being the worst, and he only had 1 plus. Still though, it’s miserable. He’s taking the anti-malaria meds that you’re supposed to take, but they don’t actually guarantee that you won’t get malaria. If you get it, it’s just usually a milder case than it could have been. Some people don’t take them because they “don’t really work”, but my opinion is that it’s not worth taking the chance, and anything is better than nothing. Hopefully he starts getting better soon because it’s definitely not fun.

The P3 outdoor chalkboard. We’re really excited about the P3 teacher because he was so determined to not let the day go to waste. With this, they were able to have normal class, just with better ventilation.

Okay so I apparently know nothing about the size of our farm because when we got there this morning, guess what John handed us? Machetes. More sowing. I could tell that Anna was a little bummed that we were doing the same thing, but like I said, it’s just because this is her first week. I’d be happy to sow every day until I leave if you told me I’d never have to hoe again.

Mixing the sand and cement for the new floors.

This time, we went to another field that I didn’t even know existed. How have I been working on the farm for 2 months now without having any clue about how big it actually is? Crazy.

P3 classroom – “Before” shot. The light parts are where the floor still is and the dark parts are all of the holes.

The floor after they tore out the old one.

Starting to put the new floor in.

The finished product!

School today was kind of awesome. They’re redoing the floors in some of the classrooms because they’re in such terrible condition (I think I mentioned this before?), and the work started today on two of them. That obviously means that those classes (P2 and P3) couldn’t use their classrooms, so they moved all of the desks outside and they had class underneath the big trees in the schoolyard. The P3 teacher had a makeshift chalkboard, and Avy and I taught P2 using little whiteboards. One of the things I love about being here is that there’s a much smaller separation between the indoors and the outdoors. At home, we’re so cut off from nature. Here, it feels like the indoors and outdoors are less segregated… each one is like an extension of the other.
Avy doing song time during one of the breaks.

The P2 teacher, Everlasting, was overseeing the construction, so Avy and I took over his class for him. Avy did some reading stuff with them and I taught them about greater than, less than, and equal to in Math class. The difference in where the kids are skill-wise never ceases to amaze me. Some of the kids got it no problem when we gave them exercises, and others totally did not. I spent some extra time with one girl in particular who got all of them wrong. I wrote out all of the numbers from 1-100, and I pointed at them one by one while she said their names. We got to about 49 with no issues and then everything fell apart. No wonder she couldn’t do greater than and less than… she didn’t even know what the numbers were. We practiced that for a little while and then I moved on to the greater than/less than stuff. I can’t say that I think she understood it completely when we finished, but hopefully it was a bit better. The other thing you need to remember is that we have a language barrier, especially with the younger kids, so me explaining anything is a lot of hand motions and acting and pointing. Not ideal.

Me teaching about the greater than/less than fish who likes to eat the bigger number. This is actually still how I think about which way the symbol goes…

After lunch, Avy and I went back with Evans, one of the staff members from VCO (the org we’re here with), and checked out the drainage issue at the school. Evans has some architecture training, so the two of us tried to come up with an inexpensive but acceptable solution. Basically, the school is a U-shape and all of the water pools inside the U because of how the land slopes. There are two drain pipes at the bottom of the U, but they are way too small to handle all of the water. So the schoolyard floods and eventually overflows into the school building and the classrooms. Good, right? I mean, I look at the design of the school and where they decided to put it on the site and just shake my head. Anyone who took one second to think about it would have been able to tell you that there would be a problem. We came up with something, and hopefully they’ll get the funding to do it.

Seriously the best classroom… as long as it doesn’t rain.

We have another project planned for the school, so after we left, Avy, Clarina, and I went to Juapong (about 3 towns away) to buy some nails. Some of the desks at Baptist are in really horrible condition. Some are missing pieces, some are clearly falling apart, and ALL of them wobble. I can’t even imagine trying to learn while also trying to avoid getting stabbed by the nails sticking out of my desk. Anyway, we bought some nails and we’ll see how things go.

​I bet you’ll never guess what we did at the farm this morning… more sowing!! We finished the field that we started yesterday (over all of the bean plants). It was just Yara, Anna, and me today, plus John and Anthony of course. We finished the field with about 20 minutes to spare, so John took us to a random little patch of ground, probably 15’ x 20’, in an area where I thought we didn’t plant anything and told us to plant more corn there. They’re just putting corn everywhere now. You can’t find a patch of land on our entire farm that doesn’t have it.

Yara and Anna seemed disappointed that we did more of the same thing. We’re coming from completely different mindsets because they’re trying to experience as many things as possible right now, and I’m happy to plant corn forever because I know that most of the alternatives aren’t any better. Like we could be hoeing.

At school, I decided to observe another teacher and went to P6 math class to learn about fractions and greater than and less than. I was pleasantly surprised by the teacher… she did a really good job of teaching the concept and checking to make sure everyone understood. When someone answered a question incorrectly, she figured out what was causing their confusion and explained that part again to make sure the entire class was on the same page. I think that summer school warped my perception of normal school because I saw how much our kids didn’t know and kind of assumed that normal school wasn’t very good. There are definitely a lot of things that could be improved, but from what I’ve seen of the teachers at Baptist, I’m impressed. Yes, I’m sure the teachers all have areas where they can get better, but they seem to care and keep thinking about ways to help get the kids up to where they should be.

I stopped by Everlasting’s class to experience a little RME (Religious and Moral Education) because I wanted to see what it was like. The kids were learning about religious families and where people from different religions go to worship. It’s pretty interesting that they have a class like RME. They learn a lot about Christianity, Islam, and traditional religions because those are the primary religions in the country. They also learn about building a solid moral foundation – things like helping people, honoring your parents, doing good work, etc. It seems like it’s a class that kids all around the world should have to take!

​Another day of farm friends! Yara and Anna came back for round two, and Sal joined as well. I thought yesterday that we couldn’t possibly have any more fields to sow, but they managed to find one. Well, I thought today we DEFINITELY wouldn’t be doing it again… I was wrong. This time, we went over a bean field that I didn’t even know was part of our farm. I asked about the bean plants, and they said that they bought the wrong bean seeds and these weren’t good to eat. I think they just like growing corn the best, so now there are going to be like seven corn fields. Also, in case you’re wondering, since the sowing/machete/pinky finger incident of a few weeks ago, I’ve been extra careful with my machete and have had no further issues. Hooray for that!

The corn in the very first field we sowed.. I think it’s been like 6 weeks now since this was planted

At school, Avy and I were planning to observe the P3 teacher, but he didn’t show up. He’s been sick for the last few weeks, and Avy has been getting more and more annoyed that he hasn’t been doing his job. She went home because she said that she was losing even more faith in the school system because a teacher who has been completely blowing off his responsibilities hasn’t been replaced. She didn’t want to teach P3 because that would almost be encouraging his behavior, but then she didn’t want to stay at school in another classroom while knowing that P3 had no teacher. I stuck around and stayed in Everlasting’s class again and helped grade exercises while he taught.

The ex-bean field

I stepped out of the class for a minute before the first break, and there was a new guy teaching P3! I was super confused. Everlasting said that they had requested a new teacher to take over, but I didn’t think he would be there already!
Around 9AM while I was grading, a paper came around with a sign up for a teacher meeting starting at 9:45 (the beginning of first break). Apparently I was invited, and I figured why not? I was interested to see how it went. At 9:55, Everlasting said, “we should probably go to the meeting”. Oh right. At 10:05, five minutes were spent deciding who was going to do the opening prayer. At 10:10, the meeting minutes from the last teacher meeting in July were read. We all looked at each other for about 10 minutes while the headmaster asked if anyone wanted to add or change anything before accepting them. Only about two of the current teachers had been at the meeting, and they both said they didn’t remember it. Five more minutes. Okay, accepted.

During introductions, one of the teachers asked who the new guy was (the one I saw teaching P3), and the headmaster gave an explanation that didn’t really clear anything up for me. What I got from it was that they needed a new P3 teacher, and this guy just walked into the classroom and started teaching and the headmaster was happy that the problem was solved. Huh? I’m sure I missed something, but I’m glad that they have a teacher now. Hopefully he’s actually a teacher and not just some random person off the street.

Next they talked about forming a committee to collect the printing fees from students for the exams. That discussion probably took another 20 minutes, and three people who didn’t want the job got nominated and assigned to the committee.

The next topic was actually more interesting. For the exams, the teachers often end up reading the questions to the kids because they can’t read them themselves. The headmaster was saying that he wanted to mix up the students in each classroom to make it harder to cheat, and one of the teachers brought up the reading issue. That launched into a whole discussion about how reading is a big problem at the school, and the final decision was that the non-readers in school will be identified and have to attend additional phonics classes after school. I was excited because I think it’s going to be good for the kids, and it was encouraging to feel like the teachers really care about the students.

I left the meeting at noon to go to lunch, and they still weren’t finished. Oh yeah, and during this whole meeting, the kids were all just running wild and not in class. Teacher meetings apparently always happen during school… because that makes total sense. I don’t know. TIA. I’m choosing to focus on the fact that some really good things happened during the meeting and ignore the fact that no one was teaching during that time. I’m interested to see what happens over the next few weeks with all of this momentum!

​I have farm friends!! Clarina, Yara, and Anna all agreed to come with me this morning! They haven’t fully committed to making it a regular thing, but I’m hoping. I only need them to commit to two weeks because my college friend, Nick, is coming on the 15th (!!!). and I’m planning to force him to come with me.

The sunrise on the walk to the farm this morning

It’s been a week since I last went to the farm, so I had no idea what we would be doing. I was happy to see that the hoeing we started a couple weeks ago was since finished by someone else. Hoeing is the worst. It turned out that we were sowing more corn. Yay! That’s one of my favorite things to do. I was a little confused about what fields we had left because I thought all of them were full. John walked us over to the biggest eggplant field and said that we were going to plant there. Apparently the eggplants are nearing their end of life, so we’re just planting corn around them and I guess they’ll die when the corn gets big enough to block out the sun. I’m not really sure because some of them still have eggplants on them… I’ll have to talk to Joe and see if he’s planning another donation soon.

One of the pumpkin plants that we planted during my second week here. It’s getting so big!!

Anyway, we sowed the eggplant field, and I stopped by the poop hole on my way out. With all of the rain last week, there’s a little lake inside and some of the walls need to be straightened out a bit. I know I need to just suck it up and finish the job, but it’s no fun alone. Maybe I’ll take this week to get back in the farm groove, and NEXT week I’ll finish the hole. Yes, I know I’m making excuses. It’ll happen though, I promise!
Another one of the plants we planted. I don’t remember what this one is… I think Nico called it courgette and according to google that’s the same as zucchini.

After breakfast, we took the new teaching volunteers around to all of the schools so they can start deciding where they want to work. We started at EP, then went to Baptist, and finally to the junior high. Avy and I headed to Baptist after making the rounds because we wanted to observe Everlasting, and we didn’t have to feel guilty deserting P3 because the new teacher was finally there! It’s actually the old P1 teacher, and the new teacher that the government sent is teaching P1.

The P2 kids working together to form groups of 10 bottle caps

It was cool getting to see another teacher in action. I hadn’t done any observation of a local teacher before today, and I think it’s really important to get an understanding of what the kids are used to. I thought he did a really good job with them. He teaches P2, and there are 32 kids in the class. There aren’t enough desks for everyone, so some of them have three people sharing instead of the two they’re made for. Apparently they spent half of last year requesting new desks from the government, and at the end of the year they got sent ten wooden chairs. Unhelpful. So they still don’t have enough.
Speaking of limited resources, here’s how you teach a class when you don’t have enough textbooks for the kids. Most of the classes don’t have a textbook for each student, and you’re lucky if there are enough for each desk to share.

Even with a big class and limited resources, he’s so good at keeping the class under control. They were learning about the number 100, so he did an activity using sticks and bottle caps that the kids brought in (I told you, they’ll bring in anything you ask for!). After Math class, they had Language and Literacy and were learning about morals. Everlasting told a story in Ewe and then told the same story in English, and the kids talked about the morals of the story he told. I liked getting to see a class taught in Ewe. They were learning some English words, so at the same time, we learned some Ewe words. The Ewe alphabet is the same as the English alphabet but with I think 10 additional letters. After class, he taught Avy and me some of the sounds of the additional letters. One step closer to being fluent! Actually though, that’s never going to happen. Ewe is HARD. It’s more musical than English and you need to pay close attention to your pitch and emphases. I’m going to keep trying though!

The junior high classroom

We checked out a class at the junior high after lunch and learned about vitamins. They have to know all of the alternate names of the vitamins, why your body needs them, and the symptoms of a deficiency. It’s kind of intense… I never even learned most of the stuff they had to memorize. Education is so interesting because different people have different ideas of what is important, and there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. Here, the schools don’t get a choice of what to teach because all of the curriculum is set by the government and standardized across the country. I can see how that has its benefits, but at the same time, it can be kind of limiting and assumes that all schools and kids are at the same level.