Full moon over the campus

Power Outages and Earthquakes

This was quite the eventful week! Work-wise, it wasn’t much different than last week. I spent more time hunched over my computer and slightly less time pulling my hair out. At least that’s an improvement, right? I guess I should work on the hunching part next so that I don’t get stuck like that.

Anyway, the building plans are slowly, slowly coming along. I have a bunch of questions that need to be answered before I can put together a complete first draft, but at least there’s something on the page now! A tiny bit of progress is still progress.

Full moon over the campus

Moonlit night. Fair warning I forgot to take pictures this week (and there wasn’t much to take pictures of), so whatever your expectations are, lower them (and look forward to the many pictures that will be in my next Patagonia post).

The eventfulness of the week was more related to environmental factors. On Wednesday morning, I woke up early and noticed a weird glow coming from our living room… aliens! Kidding, it was our emergency light which meant the power was out. That was around 5:30AM. We’re not positive about when it went out, but Paul said he woke up around 2 because his fan stopped working (it’s still very hot here).

A pot filled eggs for breakfasts

Irrelevant picture of the week: My weekly egg boil, prepping breakfasts for the week because 1. I’m lazy and 2. we have to be out of the kitchen by 8AM, and I’m usually entering the kitchen at 7:50 which means no time for actual cooking.

We think it was actually a planned outage, but what good is a plan if no one tells people about it? I guess someone knew, but that someone wasn’t anyone connected to us. I would have charged my electronics and printed things out the day before to make it possible to keep moving on my work. But nope, it seemed like everyone’s laptops and phones were on the brink of death. Obviously, the wifi also wasn’t working. All of the essential ingredients for a productive day.

On top of that, no electricity meant that the water pumps weren’t working… so there was also no running water. The morning was a mess of running around and trying to minimize the impact of the outage. Debbie went and got bags of ice to put into the fridges and freezers to keep them cool. Paul and I scooped water out of the storage cisterns and distributed them around the campus so people could bucket flush their toilets.

At home, if the power goes out in an office or a school with no generator, the rest of the day is a wash. You’d almost definitely be sent home. In this case, the programs were still happening which meant that we needed to be ready for the kids at the end of the school day. There were still lunches to cook and classes to teach. It’s not like power outages are necessarily THAT big of a deal on a small scale, but at an institutional level where you’re trying to avoid interruptions to operations, there’s a little more work involved.

I really lucked out with the whole thing. After we made sure everyone had the water they needed, Debbie invited me to join her on an errand run to Lima since it wasn’t likely to be a very productive day in the office. Yes please! We went on quite the shopping adventure. I got to tag along while she went to wood suppliers to get quotes and put in a wood order. We went to the hardware store and got tons of paint and other supplies for the mission team that’s coming next week (more about that later). I got to check out what electrical products are available here which will be helpful for finishing up my drawings. We went to KFC for lunch, and I celebrated having a break from beans (we usually have some variation of beans and rice for lunch on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday are special meals and are generally more interesting). The day was exhausting, but I was happy for the change of scenery and the chance to experience something new!

The van filled with wood and other supplies for the upcoming week

The inside of the van at the end of our shopping day

The other big event of the week was an earthquake! That’s not as dramatic as it might seem because earthquakes are common here, but this one was a little bigger than just a tremor. I was in the bathroom washing my face, thought it was a truck driving by at first (because the streets in our neighborhood aren’t paved which means you feel EVERY truck), and after a few seconds was like, “NOPE THAT’S NO TRUCK,” and ran out of the building. I met Debbie, Julie, and Irma (the head psychologist) outside, and they said this one was stronger and lasted much longer than most. Julie looked it up afterward, and there was a 4.9 magnitude quake about 20 minutes south of us. Cool! (I can say that because we’re all okay.) There was a little shake last week too, but this is exciting because it’s the first earthquake that I felt and actually recognized for what it was.

That’s about it for the significant events of the week. Next week (starting today) is going to be insane because there’s a mission team coming from the States. During team weeks, everyone is running around constantly. My daily schedule will be pretty nonstop from 7AM – 8PM. Prayer requests for a good week for the mission team, endurance for me and the rest of the crew, and for safety! (Hopefully I’ll remember to take more pictures than I did this week…)

Test Day, Take 1

*This post is from Monday, but thanks to a power cut, I was wifi-less yesterday.*

Today was definitely a T.I.I. kind of day. I’m still not feeling great, so I decided to go to school just for the morning because the kids were supposed to be taking the English test. I figured I should be there since it is, after all, my test. The test procedure at this school (not sure how they do it at other schools here, so I can’t only speak for this one) is not what I’m used to. For the entire week, the kids have a test or two per day (depending on the grade they’re in and the number of subjects they have). The test takes place in a “0 period” that happens right after assembly, and after that, the normal class schedule follows with 35-minute periods instead of 40-minute.

Okay perfect. I had my plan to go for assembly and 0 period, and before I left, I was going to give the class 10 kids a writing assignment to do in-class during period 1. Since nothing gets printed out or photocopied here, everything is handwritten. For the test, I hand-wrote the questions on sheets of paper and handed them in to the woman who is in charge of keeping the test papers. Then, when it’s time for the test, she takes the appropriate test paper and gives it to the class teacher (basically the homeroom teacher) who goes to the classroom to write the questions on the board and administer the test. The kids all copy the questions from the board and then answer them. If that whole thing sounds complicated, then you have the right idea. I can’t even explain to you how much easier life would be with a photocopier!

So this morning, the English test papers had been handed out to the class teachers, and they were about to leave the staff room when… oh, wait. Monday is MATH, not English. Of course it is. It’s not like people have been telling me for almost 2 weeks that the English test was on Monday. “Oh, yes. It says it right there. English is Tuesday.” Great.

I stuck around until the end of 0 period, and the class 10 kids were still working on their math tests. It didn’t look like they were going to finish anytime soon, so I left. A productive day, right? I actually have managed to be pretty productive considering the circumstances. My big goal for the day was to get a loose framework for my lesson plans for the next three weeks, and I kind of have one. Halfway through my planning, the power went out which means that the wifi went out, so “loose” is really the key word here.

Now I’m writing this blog post that will probably have to be posted tomorrow considering the power situation. It’s been out for over an hour now… usually they aren’t that long. It’s a good thing that I’m a power cut pro at this point. The lights go off, and I roll my eyes and grab my flashlight, completely unfazed. What a spoiled life I live in the States! There, the power goes out from a storm and I think it’s incredibly inconvenient. Here, the power goes out for at least a few minutes every day (a few minutes to a few hours) and I think it’s no big deal. Sometimes it’s good to get a reality check to help me realize just how lucky I am! I’ve been getting a lot of those over the last few months. I’ll share that ever-growing list another time.

Power Outage

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.

Back to Village Life

​We stuck around in Accra for an extra day because Avy and I both had things that we needed to get done, and we needed wifi do to them. The internet situation in Frankadua is, as you might imagine, somewhat of a nightmare. I have data on my phone, but it’s the slowest speed at best and completely not working at worst. The cell network was down all last week, and I guess the cell phone company’s first priority isn’t fixing coverage issues in the middle-of-nowhere Ghana.

Some of the side of the road chaos on the way out of Accra.

Avy has an interview next week for Teach for America that she wanted to prepare for, and I had a million emails to respond to and some blog work to do. I was happy to be able to respond to emails from a computer rather than having to type them out on my phone or, what I do when I have long ones to send, type them in word on my computer, transfer them to my phone, copy them into emails, and send from there.
We left the hotel around 3:30, took a cab to the Tudu tro station, and got a tro from there to Frankadua. I got to sit in the front seat, but it was actually kind of terrible because I was sitting in the front middle on a high seat that left my head about 2 inches from the ceiling and a head rest digging into the middle of my back (what kind of tiny person did they think was going to be sitting on that seat when they designed the tro?). Our driver was a bit of a maniac and was getting angry that there was so much traffic. He kept attempting to cut around the traffic and took some “shortcuts” that I’m convinced actually slowed us down. On one, we almost got stuck in some mud just to try to get around like 10 cars.

So many people and so much stuff everywhere.

Think about the things that people do on the highway at home when you’re in traffic that really make drivers angry… and now multiply those things by about 1000. There are basically no rules when it comes to driving here. At one point, we were on a one lane exit ramp, and people had formed two lanes of traffic. Another time, we drove next to the road in the equivalent of a strip mall parking lot so that we didn’t have to sit in the slow-moving line of cars next to us. Driving on the shoulder of a road to get around traffic is so normal that the shoulder is basically just another lane with its own traffic.
Anyway, we eventually made it home about 4 ½ hours later. We had really good timing because the other volunteers told us that the power had been out for an entire day and was just turned back on. Apparently there was some issue at the pole near our house, and all of the light bulbs exploded in our house and the houses around us. People’s TVs got fried, and anyone who had something plugged in had their transformers totally destroyed. Eek. That just reinforces my idea that the electrical situation in this country is absolutely terrifying. But now all is well, and I’m glad I missed it!

Besides that, James is sick, and I’m pretty confident that he has malaria. He went to the clinic today, but the guy who does the malaria tests was out, so they couldn’t do a real test for him. He thinks he just has some stomach thing, but I don’t believe it. We’ll see tomorrow when he goes back.

Goodbye Summer School

 

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

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

Balloon game!

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

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

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

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

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

Nico retrieving Amber’s boot from the poop

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

Sunset from the farm

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

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

Week 3 Already?!?

​How is this already week 3? Part of me is feeling like I can’t believe 2 weeks have gone by, and the other part is amazed that it’s only been 2 weeks because it seems like I’ve been here forever. Somehow though, waking up for the farm hasn’t gotten any easier. This morning was even worse because my legs are still incredibly sore from Saturday, I woke up with a crick in my neck, and I didn’t get to bed as early as I had hoped last night (typical).

Luckily, the farm wasn’t bad this morning. We sowed another corn field, so it wasn’t as labor intensive as hoeing or as icky as shucking. I actually think sowing is pretty fun. Sometimes though, the ground is so hard that it’s impossible to drive the machete in to make a hole. Then I basically put my entire body weight on it and try to wiggle the dirt loose. Anddd then I feel like a total loser because one of the guys is nearby in the same hard ground, and it doesn’t even slow him down. But all in all, it was a good morning at the farm!

Our corn is growing!! This is one of the plants from last Wednesday’s sowing

The thing I was really worried about today was school. Since Maria left on Friday, someone needed to take over her P2 class. Nico and I basically had an hour long stare down last night trying to decide who had to switch classes because both of us wanted to keep P3/P4 but neither of us wanted to kick the other out. In the end, it seemed like it was somewhat assumed that I would switch, so I sucked it up and said okay.

Besides the fact that the kids are younger in that class, there are also usually way more of them. There were days when Maria had almost 20 kids! I can’t deal with that… She’s one of those people who just has a way with kids, and I’m absolutely not. Anyway, I put together a lesson plan last night and was feeling kind of okay about it until this morning when Avy woke up feeling horrible and asked if I could take the P1 kids as well. AHH!

Nico taking his usual post-farm pre-class nap

I shifted my plans to focus more on just trying to keep the class under control rather than getting through all of the material I had prepared. I started them out with coloring while I attempted (and mostly failed) to learn their names. In English, I read them a story and we talked about the animals in the book. In Math, I had them solve some problems, and we went over them together. Yay! I survived. And it wasn’t really that bad. They behaved well, so that was definitely a big help.

The rest of the day was great! The power went out right after we got back from school, so Fernanda and I sat on the porch and just enjoyed the day. It was so nice outside, and the kids weren’t yelling their heads off so it was actually possible to relax. I think we sat out there for like 5 hours until dinner and then went back out afterwards to play cards.

I was planning to go to sleep early tonight, but of course that isn’t going to happen. It’s just a matter of time until I get sick.

Home Sweet Home

​The trek back to Frankadua was a long one. We left Cape Coast around 10AM and drove back to Accra. Before getting a tro tro back from there, we stopped in the biggest mall in Ghana to check it out and grab lunch. It was very strange being somewhere that felt so normal and familiar after a week of only experiencing new and different things.

The most exciting thing about the mall was the grocery store because we found marshmallows!! We’ve been looking for some and I was starting to think that they didn’t exist in Ghana. Obviously the next step after finding marshmallows was to piece together some s’mores ingredients, and that ended up being a much bigger challenge. First, we couldn’t find plain milk chocolate, so we got Oreo milk chocolate. Second, I think graham crackers actually don’t exist here, so we attempted to identify crackers that could be acceptable replacements. I think we did pretty well, but we’ll see at the bonfire on Thursday!

The rest of the day wasn’t very exciting. We took the world’s hottest tro ride from Accra to Frankadua and then all felt horrible when we got back. Every single one of the six of us is having some sort of health issue at the moment. Infections, colds, stomachaches… Ghana is kicking our butts right now. Hopefully the antibiotics kick in soon because this is horrible.

Maria, Fernanda, Avy, Nico, me, and Amber

We also got to experience our first power outage. Apparently they’re common, but we’ve been lucky I guess. Aside from the fact that the fans stopped working, it was kind of fun. We ate dinner by candlelight, and being together back in the house felt like home.

I still feel pretty awful, so it’s off to bed for me. Fingers crossed for a less miserable tomorrow!