Goodbye, Ghana

​Well here we are. No more ignoring it. No more convincing myself it’s a lie. I’m at the airport, and there’s nothing left to tell myself besides the truth. After months and months of being emotionally drained by people leaving, it’s my turn to be the leaver rather than the left. I’ll be honest, I think it’s easier to be in my position. For me, tomorrow is a new adventure in a new place. For the friends I left behind, tomorrow is another day in the same place that’s just missing something… assuming they’re going to miss me, that is. For the sake of my ego, we’ll go with yes.

This morning already feels a million miles away. I woke up at 8AM and started packing my bags. You know, you’d think I would have learned this by now, but everything always takes longer than you expect. Duh. I thought it would take maybe two hours for me to pack. How hard could it be, right? I’ve been organizing and sorting out my things for almost a week now. Two hours, max.

Four hours later, I was finally zipping up my backpack. Time flies. I finished just in time for lunch (fried rice and fried chicken, one of my favorites!), and we all ate together and watched our performances from last night (they were just as good the second time). You might have noticed that there were a few things I didn’t cross of my Ghana bucket list yet… here’s a reminder:

  • Walk across the Atimpoku bridge
  • Go canoeing on the Volta River
  • Take a picture with a goat
  • Catch a chicken
  • Carry water on my head with no hands
  • Finish the poop hole
  • Climb the mountain by the clinic
  • Stargaze in the soccer field
  • Watch the fireflies
  • Watch the sunset one last time
  • Go to the Akosombo Dam
  • Eat s’mores
  • Ride a motor bike home from Juapong 
  • Have another lip sync battle

Hooray! I did it!

Ahhh! I don’t think it likes me…

Okay he’s definitely trying to escape.

Shhh little buddy, I’m a friend!

Ooookay no he’s finished with me. Bye, little friend!

After cancelling the canoeing, I still had to take a picture with a goat, catch a chicken, and carry water on my head with no hands. I was surprised by how determined everyone was to help me finish my list. When I asked if anyone wanted to come help me to catch a chicken, we ended up with a whole crew (Avy, Lily, Nick, and Yara). None of us knew what we were doing, but luckily I had nicked some corn from the farm on Friday in anticipation of the chicken-catching. The original plan was to put a pile of corn on the ground and box a chicken in while it was eating, but do you know how hard it is to box in a chicken?? Just trust me when I say it’s nearly impossible.
We spent at least 20 minutes scaring the crap out of most of the chickens around our house. I had one near-catch, until I touched the chicken and freaked out because I wasn’t expecting to even get close. After that, none of that group of chickens wanted anything to do with me. Even the corn didn’t tempt them.

We decided that a change of scenery (and a change of chickens) was in order, so we walked around a bit and ended up next to the school, thinking that maybe we could use the walls to cut off an escape route. Ha yeah right… chickens are smart. They knew what we were up to. Finally though, I perfected my chicken catching technique. I dropped some corn near my feet and stayed bent over with my hands near the ground, and when one came close, I pounced! I got it!!! A small, terrified chicken, but a chicken nonetheless. It never stopped screaming while I had it, and as soon as we got sufficient photo (and video) evidence, I set it free. Does anyone know the memory span of a chicken? I’m a little worried about the permanent emotional damage I might have caused. I don’t think those chickens will ever trust a human again. On second thought, if that’s the case I probably did them a favor because the next humans who try to catch them will probably want more than just a picture.

The elusive goats

We were on a high after the chicken success and figured it was a good time to try to catch a goat. Unfortunately, the woman who usually catches goats for pictures for us was at church, so after about 10 minutes of chasing a couple of baby goats around, we felt bad and left them alone.

Pro balancer. Pretend that’s totally not sweat and is just water I spilled on myself.

The last thing on my list was carrying water on my head with no hands. I wasn’t feeling great about this one to begin with, and after countless attempts in a high-pressure, time-crunched situation, my best walk was about 6 steps. You know what? I’m okay with that. Balancing water is really difficult, and even though I can’t walk across town with a water bucket on my head, I can easily stand in one place with it, and I’m decent at moving with static loads. Give me a stack of books, and I’ll knock your socks off. That’s good enough for me! Plus, as Avy pointed out, usually people use one hand when they’re carrying water, so I’m basically a local.

Nick, Lily, Yara, me, Avy, Anna

I’m going to miss these people.

At this point, it was 3PM, and the plan was to leave at 2. Ha. Haha. Hahaha. So much for plans! It wasn’t a big deal though because I had a lot of buffer time scheduled in, so I didn’t actually HAVE to leave until probably 4:00 at latest. I took a quick, final bucket shower, stuffed my last few things into my bag, and assembled the crew on the porch for my goodbye picture. After that, we walked out to the street and caught me a tro to the mall. I got a prime seat in the front row for my last ride, and off we went, away from my 3-month home for the last time.
I met Evans at the mall for dinner before my 11PM flight, and as we said goodbye and he loaded me into a cab, I couldn’t let myself think about it as anything more than the same kind of goodbye we always say. A “bye for now, but obviously see you soon”. Thinking about it in realistic terms would have left me awkwardly crying in a cab, and I’m not into that.

So now here I am, at the airport, and honestly, I’m doing okay. I think part of that is because this was the perfect weekend. I did everything I needed to do. I spent it with all my friends. What more could I ask for? The other thing that’s probably keeping me sane is the fact that I still have some excitement ahead. I’m off to London for the next week! I’m going to see Sosane and James and my friend from high school, Maddy. I have another city to explore! For now, I have something to distract me from the reality that this phase of my adventure is over. We’ll see how I’m feeling a week from now…

Lara’s Last Weekend of Fun

​Welcome to Day 2 of Lara’s Last Weekend of Fun! This was an incredibly ambitious day… see the amended schedule below (after the postponement of last night’s lip sync battle and some other things that I didn’t get to).

SATURDAY

  • Hike the mountain that we hiked before (by the farm)
  • Hike the mountain by the clinic
  • Lunch
  • Go canoeing on the Volta
  • Lip sync battle
  • Bonfire and eat s’mores
  • Dance party
  • Stargaze

And: carry water on my head, catch a chicken, picture with a baby goat

View from the top (once we finally made it)

We left around 9 to begin our trek to farm mountain. Avy, Anna, Yara, Amy, Nick, and I went, and the only two of us who had been there before were me and Avy. I knew that I didn’t remember the way perfectly, but I had some confidence in my sense of direction and didn’t recall getting there as being too complicated. The only thing I was nervous about was finding the path to get up the mountain, since we failed to find that the first time. I did have a picture of a landmark tree to help me find the way again though, so I thought we could manage.
The way to the base of the mountain was mostly uneventful. We made one wrong turn, but I quickly realized the mistake and turned us around. There were other parts that I was maybe 70% sure about… For those, I just acted like all was well and kept marching forward with feigned confidence until I eventually saw something I recognized and was closer to 90% sure again (realistically, there was never any chance of 100% certainty). Eventually though, we made it! The next issue was just finding the footpath to the top…

Nick, Anna, Amy, Avy, Yara, and me

A word of advice: when choosing a landmark to help you find your way in the future, pick something that will look the same at that future date as it does in the present. Yes, I know this sounds like common sense. Yes, I did know this when I picked my landmark the first time. No, I didn’t do a very good job of following my own advice. I picked a tree that was about 5’ tall and looked dead. When we went the first time, there were empty fields around it, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Fast forward two months anddd…

Me and Nick!

Corn grows quite quickly, did you know that? It gets pretty tall too. Like 7 or 8 feet within a couple months. Another fun plant fact for you: there are some trees here that can look like they’re completely dead but then they start sprouting new growth! How cool! Do you see what I’m getting at? Yes, I picked a “dead” tree in an “empty” field 2 months ago, and today it was a somewhat living and green covered tree with a field of 8’ corn stalks surrounding it. This might shock you, but we somehow managed to miss my fabulous landmark and walk right by.

Me and Avy, falling off of a rock

Twenty minutes of wandering later, Nick shouted out that he thought he might have found the path, and sure enough, he had. I located my worthless landmark tree on the way up and realized the problem. Oh well! Won’t make that mistake again! From there, the way was easy. In 15 minutes, we were at the top, looking over Frankadua and the surrounding towns.

We hung out and wandered around for a bit until everyone was ready to continue our journey to clinic mountain. That mountain (disclaimer: I keep calling these “mountains”, but they’re barely more than hills. This is my story though, so I can say whatever I want) isn’t as off-the-grid as the other one. There’s a hotel and restaurant on top and a car path to get you there. Walking up took probably less than 10 minutes, but the views on the way were nice enough to make me happy we did it. At this point, everyone was out of drinking water and ready to collapse, so we chilled on top for a couple minutes and then headed home.

Walking up clinic mountain

Lunch was ready soon after we got back, and the next thing on the schedule was supposed to be canoeing on the Volta. I decided to cut it because I had some things to organize, everyone was exhausted, and I was more concerned about people being rested enough to participate in all the nighttime activities. I’m okay with not doing it though. There were two original reasons why I was into the idea: 1. I wanted to canoe in Ghana and 2. I wanted to see the views on the river. I put it on my list before we canoed on Lake Bosomtwe and got cool views from the walk over the bridge and the dam, so now, I don’t feel like it’s something I HAVE to cross off.

Instead, I spent the afternoon pulling myself together and saying some goodbyes. Everlasting and I met up one last time, and it was surreal. We met in the market, exchanged gifts/letters, said goodbye, shook hands, and that was that. I started crying again on the walk home… how am I supposed to wrap my head around the fact that most of these goodbyes are goodbye forever? I’ll tell you how – by pretending that they’re not. Like maybe someday I’ll come back to Ghana and Frankadua and see these people again. I know it’s unlikely, so I take the 1% possibility and count that as definite. Otherwise I think I would lose my mind.
**to be continued**

A Day of “Lasts”

​Warning! This post is long, but there’s a lot to cover! I’m going to split today into two parts because otherwise there’s too much.

Today marked the beginning of Lara’s Last Weekend of Fun. It’s tradition (unofficial) that when someone is leaving, they get to make the plans for their last weekend. Often, it’s a trip they didn’t get to take yet and want to fit in before going home, but Kumasi was that for me. For my last weekend, I just wanted to stay in town, hang out with everyone, and finish my Ghana Bucket List.

Here’s my list:

  • Walk across the Atimpoku bridge (did this last weekend!)
  • Go canoeing on the Volta River
  • Take a picture with a goat
  • Catch a chicken
  • Carry water on my head with no hands
  • Finish the poop hole (I know, I know… but I had to mention it because it’s on my list)
  • Climb the mountain by the clinic
  • Stargaze in the soccer field
  • Watch the fireflies (yay for that awesome night with the million fireflies!)
  • Watch the sunset one last time (did this on a run yesterday)
  • Go to the Akosombo Dam
  • Eat s’mores
  • Ride a motor bike home from Juapong (did this last week!)
  • Have another lip sync battle

And here’s the weekend schedule:

FRIDAY

  • Last day at the farm
  • Last day of school
  • Go to the Akosombo Dam
  • Lip sync battle

And: picture with a goat, catch a chicken

SATURDAY

  • Hike the mountain that we hiked before (by the farm)
  • Hike the mountain by the clinic
  • Lunch
  • Go canoeing on the Volta
  • Bonfire and eat s’mores
  • Stargaze

And: carry water on my head

SUNDAY

  • Pack
  • Don’t cry
  • Picture with everyone on the porch

Action packed weekend! BUT if everything goes according to plan, I’ll do everything on my bucket list before I leave. I know better than to think that’s realistic, but it’s worth a try, right?

The beginnings of a beautiful pig house

The farm this morning was bittersweet. Will I miss waking up at 5AM? Probably not. Will I miss feeling accomplished at breakfast, having that extra time to spend with everyone each morning, and chopping things with a machete like that’s totally a normal part of life? Yeah, I think I will. Yara made the effort to come today because of the occasion, and it was nice to have one more day with just Nick, Anna, Yara, and me (Ricardo wasn’t there because they already left for Cape Coast). We started digging the foundations for the pig house expansion. I’m a little bummed that I won’t get to work on that, but at least I got to do some construction work on the clinic. When it was time to go, I said goodbye to the guys, the piggies, and the corn, and I kicked a chicken (not really, but I wanted to). And that was the end.

We walked back to the house, I ate my last pancake, and I got ready for my last day of school.  I’ve concluded that my coping mechanism is avoidance (only in dealing with things like this though) because I’ve been doing an incredible job of pretending that none of this is real, just like when I was coming here and managed to convince myself that I wasn’t, even up to the point where I was at the airport about to get on the plane to Ghana.

The P2 kids yesterday after they made their drawings

Me losing it

Everlasting, me, and Avy with P2 after I kind of pulled it together

Honestly, I didn’t want to go to school because I knew it would just make me sad, but I forced myself because I knew it would be worse if I didn’t. I went to Everlasting’s class, helped him grade homework, and just laid low in the back of the classroom until it was time for us to go home for lunch. Nick and Avy came in to pick me up, and before we left, Everlasting asked if I wanted to say anything to the kids. I said no because I knew that I would cry immediately, but I did want a picture with the kids. He made me come up to the front of the room, told the kids that it was my last day, and turned to me and said that they had something for me and I should just accept it.

One of the girls stood up and gave me a stack of drawings they had made for me, all with notes saying “thank you” and “safe journey” and “ayko” (good work). It was hopeless… I was barely holding back my tears before, and as soon as she stood up, I lost it. Then, before I had a chance to pull myself back together, one of the boys stood up and gave me another stack from the boys in the class. I was a complete mess. I still am… just thinking about it is making me cry again. After I choked out a “thank you” and kind of stopped crying, all the kids came up and we took a picture (they say “say kenkey!” here instead of “say cheese”. It’s one of their classic foods made from ground corn) while I was crying and smiling and, of course, sweating. It’s a pretty gross combination, so I’m sure those pictures turned out beautifully.

P3 yesterday with their drawings

Me, Avy, and P3

Everlasting making everyone laugh

Emotionally, I couldn’t stay any longer, so I said goodbye to the kids and Avy asked if I wanted to pop in to say goodbye to P3. I said sure, but just for a second. As soon as I got inside the classroom, all the girls came up and handed me drawings they made, and I was a crying disaster all over again. We group hugged and then the boys came up and the whole drawings/crying/group hug cycle repeated. As annoyed as I’ve gotten at all those kids throughout my time here, it doesn’t matter anymore. This is what I’m going to remember. One girl in particular, Mavis, kept saying, “Miss Lara, don’t go. I’m going to miss you.” What am I supposed to do in response to that besides just cry more? I tried not to get too close to any of the kids because it can’t be good for them to keep getting attached to volunteers and having them leave over and over again, but there’s only so much you can do.

Me, Avy, and the teachers. The ones I always talk about are standing around me: Mavis on the far left, Mike waving in the back, and Everlasting on my other side

At this point, I just wanted to go home. That wasn’t the end though. Mike, the headmaster, made us all go into his office, and he called all the teachers in as well. We sat down, he told everyone that it was my last day, and he thanked me and said that I’ll be missed. Mavis got up and presented me with a certificate they made to say thank you, anddd cue tears again. You may be thinking that it’s physically impossible for one person to cry so much in the span of about 20 minutes. I probably would think that as well if it didn’t just happen to me, but believe me, I wouldn’t make this up. I should probably drink some rehydration salts because it can’t be healthy for me to be losing so much water. We took a group picture, I cried and shook everyone’s hands, and Avy and Nick escorted me, the snotty, sweaty, crying mess, home.

*to be continued*

See Ya, James

​I guess Ghana decided that it needed to give me a parting gift because I felt HORRIBLE all day yesterday. I woke up at 5AM and my stomach felt like a washing machine. I was hoping that as the day went on and things got out of my system I would start to feel better, but no such luck. I had such big plans for the day, and instead I spent 80% of the day laying in my bed and the other 20% running to the bathroom. Wonderful. I think it was just something I ate though because I didn’t have a fever or anything, and by the time I woke up this morning, my stomach felt mostly okay again. Avy was totally not helpful and kept saying, “hmm maybe you have malaria. That’s kind of what it felt like. Ooo or you could have worms!” Yeah, or I could just have an upset stomach. Thanks for the encouragement, Avy.

That night, there was a big party at one of the bars in town to celebrate James’s last night. They rented these massive speakers (they were maybe 10’ tall x 6’ wide), and we could hear them playing music all the way from our house which is at least a 10 minute walk away. At one point, some people from the neighboring town came too, and I’m positive that it was because they could hear the music. I guess there’s no way for anyone to call in a noise complaint… if there was a way, it absolutely would have been done. I was just upset because everyone was dancing, and I really couldn’t dance because of my stomach situation. The ultimate sadness. I probably shouldn’t have gone at all, but I wanted to be there for James and hang out with everyone.

Before

After


When my alarm went off this morning for the farm, I felt about 85% better which was enough to get me out of bed. If this was any week besides my last week, I probably would have skipped the farm. That’s irrelevant though because it is my last week, and that meant I had to go. We did more machete work… it seems like that’s the new shucking in that we do it all the time and never seem to get any closer to being finished. Fine with me though because it’s the most fun. The only disappointment was that we did short weeds again today, so it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as Friday.
James told everyone at breakfast that he would still be around when we all got back from school to eat lunch, but I didn’t believe him for a second. Last time he was here, he said that he didn’t tell anyone when he was leaving because he didn’t want to have to say goodbye. If that’s how he felt last time, was there any chance that he wasn’t going to do the exact same thing again? No way. But we all went off to school anyway and figured we’d know soon enough if he was telling the truth.

The little piggies. There are only five remaining now, but these all look healthy so we’re optimistic.

I spent part of the morning helping Everlasting until Avy came into the classroom to get me because the one functional computer stopped working. You’re looking at the official IT support for all of Frankadua (and its probably 15 total computers). I went to the computer lab (if you can even call it that) to see what I could do and realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t a problem that could be solved in a couple minutes. I told the teacher that was trying to use the lab that I needed some time to fix it, and she said, “no problem, I can just teach it in my classroom.” I know I’ve talked about this before, but just imagine trying to teach a computer class without using a computer…
I spent about 2 hours working on the computer until it was in decent shape around lunchtime. Luckily, most of the issues were software related rather than hardware related, and though I don’t know too much about either, I’m way more comfortable trying to solve software problems. When I started working, the computer couldn’t even get past the startup screen. By the time I finished, it was completely functional but with some annoying notifications and things to deal with during startup. I’ll deal with those tomorrow. I also think that I need to replace the battery inside. It’s just one of those little 3V puck batteries, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you where I would buy one of those (besides probably Accra but we don’t have time for that). Hmm… I’ll have to do some research. Anyway, moral of the story is that it’s easy to be IT support in a town where barely anyone has a computer and you have access to google.

When we got back to the house for lunch, shocker, James was gone. He said, “it’s easier this way.” Well yeah, for him it’s much easier. For everyone else who thinks they’re going to have a chance to say goodbye and then doesn’t, it’s really crappy. I would be a lot more upset if I wasn’t going to see him again in 2 weeks. Oh yeah, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this… I planned on going to London for a week after Ghana, and now I’m going to visit James in York for a couple of days too. And Sosane is going to come to London to spend a day with me! So much to look forward to even after I leave!

Swimming Pool Saturday

Looking upstream from the hotel

Since this is James’s last weekend, the activity of the day was up to him. He decided that he wanted to go to the hotel in Atimpoku (the same one we went to for Nico’s birthday, months and months ago) and swim. We all slept in and took our sweet time getting ready to go, so we didn’t leave home until around 11AM and got there a little after 11:30.

Our farewell picture with Luke… Yara, Nick, Luke, me, Lily, and James

The next few hours were spent hanging out by the river, playing Taboo, listening to music, and just spending time together. These are some of my favorite times. The community that we have here is great, and it’s going to be weird when I’m not living with so many people anymore. It’s actually starting to sink in that James is leaving in two days, which in turn is making it start to sink in that I’m leaving in a little more than a week. Like what?

Looking downstream from the bridge

The good news is that I’m feeling at peace about it. If you had asked me three weeks ago, I would have told you that I was freaking out that I only had a month left. I even had a nightmare about it, no joke. In a nutshell, I was home and I didn’t remember how I got there or anything about my last month in Ghana. I was happy to see my family until I realized that the dream wasn’t right, so I was yelling, “this isn’t right! I’m not supposed to be here yet!” Yeah, it was dramatic. Now though, I’m feeling okay. I am still so happy to be here, but I feel content with what I’ve done and not like I have a lot of unfinished business. It’s a good feeling to have because now I can just enjoy my last week and not feel like I have to fit all of this stuff in before I can be ready.

Anna, me, Yara, and Nick on the bridge

On that topic though, I have a list of all of the stuff I want to fit in before I leave. Yes, I know that sounds like I just contradicted myself, and maybe I did, but just bear with me. The things on my list are mostly activities that I have wanted to do for a while now and never got around to. I’m determined to do all of them in the next week. Today, I crossed my first thing off the list! There’s a bridge that goes across the Volta River in Atimpoku, Adomi Bridge. The views off the two sides are awesome, and I’ve been wanting to walk across for months now. Often, we’re just driving through Atimpoku. Obviously we aren’t going to get off a tro just to walk across the bridge, so today was perfect! Instead of catching a tro on the west side of the river, we walked across and got a cab on the east side. Check that item off the Ghana bucket list!

Adomi Bridge

These plants are so cool! I know they’re not just a Ghana thing, but I’ve never seen them before. When you touch the leaves, they close up for about a minute and then reopen. It’s like you’re a magician! Here’s a before picture, and the next one is after I touched them.

Where did they go?!

The bridge from afar

Clinic Construction

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!

Goodbye Nico

Avy teaching phonics

I skipped the farm again this morning, partly because Nico wasn’t going and partly because my stomach is still a total mess. All I’ve eaten the last two days is plain spaghetti, plain rice, and I had plain toast for breakfast this morning. What could it possibly be complaining about anymore? I’m thinking now that maybe it wasn’t food poisoning..? How long does that last anyway? It’s times like these that I really wish Amber was still here. We were sending her messages all day yesterday with our symptoms and such, trying to get a diagnosis, but it was way better when she was just here to stitch us back together herself.

So that I didn’t feel totally worthless (and so that I could pretend for a little longer that Nico wasn’t leaving), I went to school with Avy this morning. She’s been teaching P3 at Baptist because they still don’t have a teacher. They’re supposed to have about six different subjects, but she’s just doing English and Math during the morning, and the P2 teacher combines them with his class in the afternoon.

Our small, sad family picture.. James, Avy, Nico, and me


In English, they’re just working on phonics. Avy went over the short vowel sounds today. Watching her in action is kind of crazy. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t remember anything about when I was learning how to read. Teaching that to kids is a HUGE job! She’s really good at it though, so I was happy to have a chance to watch and learn (while simultaneously grading their homeworks). I was planning to teach Math, but my stomach wasn’t up to it, so I just observed that as well. It was good to have a day to figure out where the class is and see how she manages the kids. Assuming that I feel better tomorrow, I think I’m going to take over Math. They’re learning about saying numbers in words (for example, 5,698 = five thousand, six hundred and ninety-eight) and I’ve already taught that multiple times, so I think I can handle it.

Me and Nico with his hand washing bucket creation! We all talked about making a bucket with a nozzle for washing hands (they have a larger version of this at the clinic), and he actually made it happen! It’s probably my new favorite thing because one of my biggest complaints about being here for the first few weeks was never feeling like my hands were clean. Now I can!!

After lunch, the moment I’d been actively ignoring for the last couple days finally couldn’t be ignored any longer. Nico left. This might have been the hardest goodbye, partly because Nico and I spent so much time together, but also because aside from Avy, he was the last of our original group. He’s also the last of the people that I came here with, and I think you have a special bond with that group because you’re all figuring out and experiencing things for the first time together. It feels like the end of an era.

The house is so empty now. We’re down to just Avy, James, and me, at least until Saturday when we’re supposedly getting six new volunteers (I say “supposedly” because we can never get a straight answer from anyone about who is coming or what program they’re doing, and anything they do tell us ends up being at least a little wrong). It’ll be interesting to see the house dynamic with so many new people. Fingers crossed that it’s still good! They said we’re getting two new agriculture volunteers, thank goodness, because I’m really not into the idea of going to the farm by myself every morning. Maybe this week I’ll just focus on teaching and get back into the farm groove next week.