Amber shucking corn for the last time 🙁

We had a really cool day!! Amber, Nico, and I took a food donation to the orphanage, and it was awesome to get to see the payoff from our work.

Our trip to the farm this morning was bittersweet because it was Amber’s last day, but we were getting the food together for the donation. We spent part of the time shucking more corn and the other part picking some eggplants. After everything was assembled, we had to take it out to the street which is easier said than done when you’re coming from a farm that’s probably a 25 minute walk from the street.

Me and Amber with Joe (the photographer clearly struggled with the frame a little)

Nico took one sack of corn in the wheelbarrow, John carried the sack of eggplants on his head, Anthony (another one of the local farmers that works with us) carried another sack of corn on his head, and they made a mini sack of corn for me. Amber offered moral support and carried the eggplant bag for part of the walk. I was carrying my sack in my arms until Anthony shook his head and told me to put it on my head. Learning how to carry things on my head is on my to do list, so I felt like I had to try. I think I did okay! It was a little uncomfortable because corn cobs were digging into my skull, but that’s just because I didn’t have anything to use as a cushion. People usually coil up towels or other fabric pieces and put them between their heads and whatever they’re carrying. By the end, I could even walk a little distance without using my hands. Woo! I’m not going to be carrying water on my head anytime soon, but it’s a start! (I was feeling inspired and actually tried carrying some water with no hands this afternoon… It did not go well.)

We left the sacks by the side of the road for a couple hours while we ate breakfast and got ready to go to the orphanage and just trusted that no one would touch them. Apparently, having someone steal your food from the side of the busiest road in the village is not something you need to worry about. Sure enough, we caught a tro by our house, and when we drove down the street to where we left the stuff, it was all still there.

The tro dropped us off in Asikuma, the town where the orphanage is, and we still had probably a 15 minute walk to get there. Joe called one of the guys who works there, he came on his motorcycle and rounded up three other guys with motorcycles, and they all took one bag of food in front of them and one of us behind. My first motorcycle ride! Let’s just pretend that we all had helmets on.

School with no walls = cool until there’s rain or wind or you’re trying to get a bunch of kids to focus. Great for air circulation though!
One of the classrooms. They have whiteboards!!

We thought it was funny that it seemed like as the kids got older, they had less and less walls. This is the oldest class… So no walls.
You can see the very beginnings of the new school in the grass on the left side of the picture. They were just starting when we were there, so mostly they had people making the blocks that they’re going to use to build the walls.

After handing over the food, we checked out the primary school that’s right next door. It’s really cool! The school just started this year, so they’re using a temporary structure while the permanent one is under construction. They said that as long as they have a steady stream of funding, the project will take two years total. This is the only school in the area, so all the kids who go there now either didn’t go to school before or had to travel to the next town to get there (probably getting there by walking, and the towns aren’t that close together). It was fun to see another school, and it felt like there was such a good energy there. Obviously we were only there for a few minutes, but the teachers seemed passionate and the kids were engaged. Whoa.

We worked on the hole (to store the pig poop and convert it into fertilizer for the farm) a little more in the afternoon, and Isabel came along again to help. It’s so nice to have extra hands!! Oh yeah, as you can see, Isabel didn’t leave today. Apparently now she’s going on Monday. At least we can put off another goodbye for a few more days! We didn’t make as much progress on the hole as we had hoped, but isn’t that what always happens? We should have known.

This is Amber’s last night, so we’re having a bonfire (of course) to celebrate. How did 6 weeks go by so quickly?? Ah! That reminds me! Originally, I was planning on doing agriculture for 6 weeks and construction for 6 weeks during my time here, but I’ve changed my mind. I would have to switch to Gold to do construction, and as you know, they have a lot of lizards and snakes there. But actually, I’ve decided to stay here because I really like the village, and I love being able to work on the farm and teach and help out with whatever projects the other volunteers have going on. I feel like I have some momentum here, and it seems stupid to interrupt that and move just because of a decision I made before I really understood what I was getting myself into. So yeah… In conclusion, I’m not moving, and time to get ready for Amber’s bonfire party!

Today included the first of a long string of goodbyes coming in the next week, and I can’t even begin to explain how much I am NOT looking forward to it. Sosane left today, and it’s really bumming me out. Time here simultaneously moves quickly and slowly (and no, that doesn’t average out to it moving at normal speed). It moves slowly because after spending three weeks with someone, it feels like you’ve known them for a lifetime, but it moves quickly because before you know it, your friend is packing his or her bags and getting on a tro to the airport.

A muddy goopy mess

This morning started off with another phone call for Amber, this time at a more acceptable hour. Her phone rang at 5AM with news of another delivery at the clinic, so she sprinted out the door and left Nico and me to go to the farm without her.

The path to the farm was still a total mess. It always has parts where there’s some mud or a puddle to walk through, but now practically the entire path is little puddles and goopy mud. I think it’s going to rain more frequently in the coming weeks, so who knows if the ground will ever dry out and get back to how it used to be.

The chickens, so close you could kick them

Nico and I had another exciting morning of shucking and fighting off the farm chickens. It’s crazy – they just keep getting more and more aggressive and cheeky! Usually, the chickens hover but keep their distance. Today, they did whatever they wanted! It was like we weren’t even there. We throw the shucked ears of corn into a big basket, and there were a couple of times when a chicken literally jumped into the basket to try to eat the good corn! We try to threaten them and scare them away, but they barely even flinch anymore. Little monsters.

One of our plants!!!

Schools were closed today because it’s Founders’ Day, a national holiday. I don’t know that most people here even know what the holiday is for, but it’s celebrating the founding fathers of Ghana. It takes place each year on September 21st, the birthday of Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. One of the kids in the junior high was using the day off to study his science notes, so I sat with him for the morning, read a book, and answered any questions he had as they came up. The more time I spend here, the more amazed I am that the students manage to learn as much as they do. The schools have textbooks, but the kids can’t take them home, so anything they want to study has to be copied from the textbooks into their personal notebooks. Then, since there’s no library or internet, anything that’s confusing just stays confusing because there isn’t any way to get more information about a topic besides having someone teach you. As if learning wasn’t already challenging enough!

Possibly the world’s most awkward picture… Pull it together, back row! (missing: Amber at the clinic and James in Accra)

Anyway, after lunch, Sosane showed up in the common area with her suitcases packed, and I was so confused. Her flight isn’t until tomorrow, but she has some things to do in Accra before she leaves. I guess I knew that she was still deciding between leaving today or tomorrow, but I had convinced myself that she would stay. Surprise, I was wrong.

I know she did it that way on purpose because she didn’t want people to make a big deal about her leaving. I understand, but I’m still kind feeling like “what just happened?” At least I can console myself with the knowledge that I’m going to see her in November. I’m staying in London for a week on my way back home, and she promised that she’ll come hang out!

​This has been a crazy day! I had only been in bed for a couple hours when Amber’s phone started ringing this morning. I was freaking out a little on the inside (as much as you can freak out in a mostly still asleep state) because I thought it was her alarm and couldn’t even begin to think about getting out of bed to go to the farm. I forced an eye open, checked my watch, and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw it was only 1AM. Amber gave a groan and then pulled together an impressive awake voice for a conversation that seemed to consist solely of her saying, “thank you.” I assumed that the call was about a delivery, but she didn’t get up so I didn’t worry about it.

I don’t know if you can tell how hard it’s raining in this picture, but just trust me when I say it was pouring.

Five minutes later, someone started banging on the door to the house. Avy got up to investigate and came back into the room to tell Amber that a taxi was waiting to take her to the hospital. Later on, Amber said that she didn’t remember anything about the phone call (which explains all the “thank you”s). Anyway, she pulled herself together, woke Tolu up to come with her, and got a chauffeured ride to the clinic. She’s kind of a big deal.

When Nico and I woke up at 5AM to go to the farm, Amber and Tolu still weren’t back… I guess the delivery wasn’t as urgent as they thought. The baby came around 6AM. Hooray for a healthy baby boy!

Nico and I headed out alone, and about halfway to the farm, it started POURING. It was the same as when we were hiking to the waterfalls. You could literally hear the rain getting closer and closer, and within a second it went from no rain to buckets of water getting dumped on your head. By the time we got to the farm, we were soaked and I was grumpy. Honestly, I was worried that they were still going to make us work outside, but luckily that wasn’t the case. We all sat inside the equipment storage room and shucked corn.

Part of the path to the farm… There’s always water to wade through at this point in the walk, but it’s usually maybe 4″ deep and now it’s probably around a foot.

The rain stopped before we finished, so Nico and I checked out the poop hole and did some strategizing before heading home. Guess what? We were maybe 1/3 of the way home when it started pouring AGAIN. The path home was totally flooded, and by the time we got back I had water inside my boots from rain running down my legs. Ick. We took rain showers since we were already wet and then attempted to warm up with some hot chocolate.

James, Amber, and Nico fully enjoying the new couch.

At that point, all anyone wanted to do was lay around, so we decided to take an extra mattress out of one of the bedrooms and make a couch. Best idea ever!! We’re going to leave it there until someone says we have to move it… hopefully never. I’m telling you, the couch changes everything because the only other seating we have is plastic chairs, and how comfortable can you really get on one of those?

Amber triumphantly holding Little Nico, our favorite pig. He lives outside of the pig pens because all of the other pigs kept stealing his food. Amber made it her goal to catch him. Not shown: Little Nico’s terrified squeals and the chorus of pigs who started snorting their support

The rain stopped again in the afternoon, so we headed back to the farm to do more poop hole work (our project to make a place for them to combine the pig poop with organic matter to create fertilizer for the farm). We had a pretty solid work crew because Isabel, Avy, and Sosane joined as well. The ground was SO wet, but it actually ended up being easier to dig (Amber mostly dug with a bucket). It was an awesomely productive afternoon! I think we’re going to be able to start building the walls next time. No more digging! Thank goodness because I hit myself in the face with a shovel today, so needless to say, I’ve had enough. I’m okay though. Mostly.

The flooded sludge pit that is our poop hole.


A beautifully perfect piece of corn

What’s the best way to spend a Monday morning? Shucking, that’s how! I’m actually getting to the point where I don’t hate it as much as I used to. Definitely still not my favorite task, but I think I would choose it over hoeing now. I’m immune to the grossness of the worms and worm eggs and just steer clear of anything that looks like it might contain an ant farm. Someone else can deal with that.

A wormy mess

School went so well! Sosane and Isabel were just observing classes today, and they’re going to take P2 over from me tomorrow. It’s always interesting when an outsider comes in and you get the chance to see things through their eyes. Sosane said something about how I did a good job of managing the classroom, and my reaction was, “huh?” But then I started thinking, and while I wouldn’t say I’m GOOD at managing the kids, I’m definitely way better than I used to be. That was a cool realization, and I’m encouraged by it. I can do this, and one day, I might even feel like I know what I’m doing!

The fruits of our labor

In English, I read a story, and we talked about the animals in it. We’ve been talking about animals for the entire last week since I started with P2, and the kids have actually learned something! It’s so cool when I ask them a question that I know they didn’t used to know the answer to, and now they do because we talked about it. Like I taught them about flamingos last week, and now they know what they look like, that they’re birds, and that birds have wings and feathers. I taught them something!

We had a sort of English/Math overlap after story time because we did a dictation (aka spelling test), and it was all numbers. On Friday, we worked on writing numbers in word form and vice versa, but I realized that they didn’t even know how to spell all of the numbers. The plan for today was to work on the spelling first and then do the exact same thing as Friday because they definitely need to keep practicing.

I really want the kids to at least know the things that are important for life in general, even if they don’t stay in school for much longer or go to college. In math, I think that two of those things are times tables and DEFINITELY knowing how to say numbers. For example, Avy went out to the market recently to check the price on something, and when she asked, the shopkeeper said that it was “two hundred fifty”. She was taken aback because that’s WAY more expensive than the thing should have been. She asked at another shop, and the person said “two hundred” and then showed her a 20. Soo… not two hundred. Twenty. Big difference. When she went back to the first shop and asked to see the bills, the woman showed her a 20 and a 5. Twenty five.

Based on that story, I didn’t feel bad spending another whole class on how to say numbers. It seemed like they were getting the hang of things by the end, so hopefully if any of them ever work in a shop, they can tell the difference between 20 and 200.

Two of my kids with the body part lesson. Yes, I’m an artistic genius.

For the elective, we talked about body parts. That’s another thing we’ve been working on where I’ve been able to see that they’re actually learning. It’s seriously so cool teaching them something new one day and hearing them repeat it back to you the next.

After school, I spent the rest of the day playing outside. James (one of the new volunteers) and I did a workout together and then he and Nico tried to teach me how to play rugby (it did not go well). Really, I want to get better at soccer while I’m here because currently I’m horrible. Maybe I’ll add acquiring some soccer and rugby skills to my list of goals (other goals: learn Ewe and how to carry things on my head).

James is responsible for making both of the sports goals happen, so good luck to him… I’ll keep you updated. So far, the Ewe is going okay, I haven’t carried anything on my head, and I’m not optimistic about rugby or soccer. Plenty of room for improvement!

​Guess what we did at the farm this morning?? My favorite thing… more shucking!! In case you didn’t catch the sarcasm, let me make it very clear. Shucking is the worst. At least today I sat on a brick rather than the ground, so it was a little harder for bugs to climb all over me. With each piece of corn, I felt like I was opening a present that might be great (a critter-free cob) or might be horrifying (BUGS). Just thinking about it is giving me the chills. So. Many. Ants. And little larvae worms. And eggs. And other mystery insects. But on the bright side, food for the orphanage! Obviously not including the ants or worms or eggs.

The morning was made even worse by the fact that I wasn’t feeling great. I think I might have overdone it a little on the s’mores last night… It’s okay though, I’m recovered now. No regrets! Especially when it comes to s’mores.

The laundry setup… Doesn’t the water look fully capable of making things clean? Just kiddinggg

We don’t have summer school on Fridays, so when we got back from the farm and finished breakfast, it was time for my first laundry experience. I put it off as long as possible, but it definitely needed to happen today. The process is what you would expect… you have a pile of dirty clothes, two buckets, and some detergent. One bucket is filled with soapy water and the other is filled with clean. You wash clothes in the soapy bucket and rinse in the clean water bucket until the water is gross, then the clean bucket becomes the soap bucket, and you get new clean water. If it seems like your clothes are definitely not getting clean, then you’re doing it right. I am also fairly certain that I didn’t get all of the soap out of anything. Yayyyy for “clean” clothes! I only have to do this about 5 more times, so I’ll survive (but my clothes may have to be burned after this trip).

Clean laundry hanging out to dry!

Once my laundry was finished and hanging up to dry, Nico, Maria, Fernanda, and I took a group trip to the clinic to visit Amber and check things out. It was cool getting to see what Amber does every day. They also had a scale there, so I weighed myself just to see if I’m eating enough. I’m really hoping that the scale is calibrated WAY differently from the one at home because according to it (after some kg to lb conversions), I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last two weeks. That makes me nervous. It’s okay though! I’ll just have to make some adjustments to my diet moving forward. Better to find out now.

Me, Maria, Nico, and Fernanda with the Frankadua sign on our walk home from the clinic

The moment we had all been ignoring came after lunch… Today was Maria’s last day with us, and she had to leave to head to Accra around 1:30. Saying goodbye to her was a real bummer. I know that this is just the first in a long line of goodbyes that I’ll have to deal with during my time here, and I don’t like thinking about that. I also know that with each new group of volunteers, the dynamic in the house is going to change. I don’t really like thinking about that either. What we have going right now is so close to perfect… I just need to make sure that I’m savoring every moment. And of course the new people could make things even better, but the uncertainty is a little nerve wracking.

Our farewell picture with Maria 🙁 (front row: Avy, Maria, Fernanda, back row: me, Nico, Amber)

It already felt different as we walked back to the house. Crazy how big of a difference one person can make. We haven’t had a chance to feel the full weight of Maria’s absence though because right before she left, three volunteers from the Gold program came to spend the weekend with us. With all of the extra people in the house, it’s easy to get distracted by the chaos.

The rest of the day has been mostly uneventful. Fernanda and I went on a quest for wifi, and while we found some, it was painfully slow, and I couldn’t upload any pictures. I think I’ve figured out the situation for uploading pictures on my phone though, so that’s good! It’s a slow process, but I used it for my last few posts and it seems like it’s working.

Anyway, we’re headed to Wli Waterfalls tomorrow and have to get up at 4:45AM (!!!), so I need to get packed and in bed ASAP.

​It’s starting to look like the days at school are just alternating between good and bad. Today was such a good day! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

This is from yesterday when we were shucking and de-kerneling, so today we just skipped the second step

We started out at the farm, as usual, and today’s activity was shucking corn. The good pieces will be sent to the orphanage, and the bad ones get fed to the chickens. It’s always nice when we have a less labor intensive day, but I have to say that I think shucking might be my least favorite thing we’ve done so far. Ehhh maybe not… I really don’t like hoeing. But it’s a close competition between the two.

With shucking, there’s probably a 50% chance that you’re going to find something unpleasant in your piece of corn. Usually it’s a worm or two and a bunch of icky worm eggs, but I had one where I discovered an entire ant farm inside and proceeded to scream and throw my corn. It was gross. The experience was basically an hour and a half of constantly feeling like there were things crawling on me and sometimes discovering that there actually were.

Singing Les Champs-Elysées

School was a breeze compared to yesterday. English was no big deal, Math we talked about times tables (again), and we played outside for the elective. Afterwards, all of the kids came back into the room and we played songs on my phone/Nico’s speaker. He’s been teaching them a French song which they all love to sing constantly, so we started with that and then moved on to the Hokey Pokey, “If you’re happy and you know it”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and the Chicken Dance.

Hokey pokey!

By the end, ALL of the kids were in our classroom, and I was melting. It’s actually been hot here over the last couple of days, unlike last week. We’ve been spoiled. It’s fine when the sky is cloudy, but as soon as the sun comes out, it’s a totally different story. Today was sunny, and the classroom was HOT.

Our improvised supplies and my beautiful s’mores sticks

After school, the afternoon flew by. I set out on a quest to find good s’mores sticks and used Nico’s knife to get the ends ready. Then, we were all just sitting around talking when someone discovered a bag of embroidery floss with the teaching supplies. Next thing I knew, we were all making friendship bracelets, Nico included, until about 4 hours later when Maria realized it was time for us to run. Time flies when you’re crafting! I felt like we were a bunch of kids at summer camp.

The best part of the day, hands down, was the bonfire. Unlike last week, this one was mostly just the six of us, with a few other people coming in and out. It was partly sad because it’s Maria’s farewell bonfire, but it was partly super awesome because s’mores.


We made all of the kids go home at 9PM (they’re really supposed to leave by 8) and got out our makeshift s’more supplies. I was a little uncertain about how they would turn out, but they ended up being great! I love s’mores. I ate 4. At least. I think. Maybe 5. Ehhh not important.

Anyway, me + s’mores = best day ever. I’m going to bed happy (and stuffed) (and with a lingering sugar rush) tonight.