I got up pretty early today to meditate and get ready for the big day. It isn’t helping that my stomach is feeling a bit off. According to the stories I’ve heard, I’m setting a record with my lack of liquid poop so far. Spencer told me that he hasn’t had a solid poop in the last two years that he has spent in Ghana. I have always known my digestion was good, but this might be the day that it is put to the test. After a few hours of trying to let it pass, it was only getting worse. Yesterday I had local meals for lunch and dinner. Lunch I had something new, that my colleagues call blood and snot and it literally looked like that. I really hope you’re not reading my stories as you eat. The doughy part was more malleable than the Fu Fuo and the soup was a bit thicker. For dinner I had rice balls with a similar soup. I’m not totally sure, but I think it is the soup that causes the stomach problems. I’m sure the big glob of starch doesn’t help much either. Anyway, I finally went to the bathroom to see if that would help. To my surprise, my record is still intact.
Regina, Spencer, and I went over some logistics for our SAT program. We are helping students prepare for SATs and the college application process. We realize this will probably be more suited for the more financially secure population, but we are hoping it will help our program become more sustainable. Right now, we are mainly running off donations. We want to use the SAT center to give us another strong pillar in our foundation and help us to expand our organization. That program is run by Regina. Spencer will split the time at the office and I might be scheduled to help out one day a week.
Next on the list today is to move into my new place in Antoa. Remember that is the small town where Adam stayed for two years. Let me give you a quick background to understand how all of this is related. Adam just completed his two years of Peace Corps service. For one of his side projects, he worked with Exponential Education. His main job with the Peace Corps was being a teacher. With Exponential Education he helped us establish our tutoring program in Antoa. Starting next week, I will be continuing the tutoring program in Antoa and a nearby town called Wonoo. I will be living in Antoa in the compound and actually the same room that Adam used.
Spencer fetched a taxi to take me, him, and my luggage directly to the place in Antoa. About ten minutes outside of Antoa, we called Daniel, the land owner, to meet us and give us the keys. After arriving in Antoa, the taxi driver demanded that we pay him 35 Cedis. That was outrageous considering you can travel on a VIP bus all the way to Accra for that amount. We reluctantly paid the amount and parked my luggage next to the gate.
We called Daniel and he said that he is seeing a patient and couldn’t meet us right then. He works at the clinic in town. Spencer went to look for him and couldn’t find him. We waited for him to arrive for about 45 minutes. This is a good opportunity to get used to “Ghanaian time,” which means whenever is most convenient. I guess he had a good excuse anyway. One of his colleagues eventually came and let us in. The door to my room hadn’t been fixed from the last time we visited with Adam. We took the furniture and moved it into the room with the whole door. It was a small room, but both that and the room with the partial door were mine to use. We dropped the stuff off and locked up the whole compound.
Now, we went to travel to the JHS schools in the area that I would be working with. We need their permission before anything can happen. Today is also the first day of school, so it is a good time to meet the teachers before they get too busy. The first JHS was a private school. Half the kids were outside of the building playing futbol. Apparently not much work is done on the first day. My colleagues say that this is pretty normal for the first one or two weeks depending on how together the staff are. We walked over to the headmaster’s office and explained our project to her. She said she would be happy to have us, but the teachers will need to give us permission. We walked into the office and all the teachers were lounging around watching futbol on tv. Yeah, they really like futbol in this country. I thought at least the first week there wouldn’t be teaching because they would be going over class rules and possibly a preliminary examination. It seemed like they just didn’t want to put the effort in to teach. The headmaster started talking and basically only got the attention of 3 of the 10 teachers in the room. Some more of them glanced over a few times during the discussion. We need to get permission specifically from the Match and English masters, but they decided not to show up on the first day. I’m surprised the kids were there at all with this lack of motivation from their leaders. We set a time to come back on Thursday to let them think about it and speak to the missing masters. That whole experience was very disheartening. I suppose that’s why I’m here though.
Next, we went to the public JHS down the road. We know a few of the teachers at this school very well because this is where Adam taught a class for two years. At this school there were no kids outside playing and running around. We met Tio, one of the teachers and Adam’s close friend, checking students in at the front of the school. He pointed us to the headmaster. This man was very happy that we were continuing some of the work that Adam was doing. While we were there I also met Genevive, who was the Twi teacher at that school. I asked if she would be willing to teach me and she said she would he happy to start tomorrow. We scheduled a time to come back on Thursday so that we could solidify plans to start the program next week. We needed to get the days of the week that worked best so that way we could go and talk to the SHS students and plan for them to meet at the JHS. My colleagues have found in the past that it works best when we have the program right after school at the JHS. This allows the headmaster to help us round up the students, the parents won’t have time to give them house chores, and the schooling will be fresh in their heads.
Next, we traveled to a small town called Wonoo. This place was about as large as Antoa, but was more “in the bush”. That means it looks like someone walked in the middle of a forest with a machete and cut out a square field for the town. This was even more organized than the last two schools. We walked up and the headmaster had the kids lined up out front. He was giving them some sort of speech. Spencer and I walked up to the front of the crowd and Spencer said “Hello,” and they all responded in unison. Then we went into the conference room and spoke with the headmaster and teachers. They were very excited to have our program at their school. Spencer later told me this was his town that he served his two years in Peace Corps. He told me the biggest problem here was finding SHS tutors. The town was too small to have an SHS of it’s own. That means the kids travel to the neighboring towns for school. That will make it difficult to have a program right after school if the SHS students have to travel for 30 minutes to an hour to get back to Wonoo. Spencer and I took a Tro Tro and split off when we went back to Kentinkrono and I back to Antoa. This was really the first time I have been completely on my own this whole trip. I got back and headed to my room to let things sink in.
On my way back I had a group of kids run up to me screaming “Adams!” After they hugged me they realized I looked different fro Adams and were too confused to really know what was going on. I told them in Twi that my name is Aquessi Matew. Aquessi means I am Sunday born and since they don’t understand the th in Matthew, I have to pronounce it matew. I greeted some elders on my way back to my room. I got back and lied down to let some of the day sink in. I think this was really the first time I can feel my culture shock in it’s fullest. I feel as though I’m empty or something similar that I can’t really explain. That lead to me questioning why I am here again and I tried to calm myself down and think positively. It is a much different feeling being on the ground rather than over in the US planning to be here. I think all this is pretty normal for people going through culture shock. I feel a sense of hopelessness that isn’t true to the actual situation. I will need to counter this by traveling around the village and making it feel more like home.
Daniel and his house helpers made us spaghetti for dinner. He said that he wanted to ease me into the local food. He said in time he will help me to appreciate the local food. He asked me what I was doing here and what I hope to accomplish. I explained the program and he asked a lot of good questions. He warned me that there are many people out there who want to take advantage of me and organizations like the Expo. I said I want to find some side project to work on while here in the town. He told me that Adam worked on a Malaria project that wasn’t really sustainable. He said the town needs help with sanitation, water, and access information through computers. We talked about different projects like a well in the center of town, a public bathroom, and a computer center. Then he said something that I had heard before, but this time it sparked new ideas. He told me that everyone all over Ghana knows of Antoa. He said no matter if they’ve been here or seen pictures, they know Antoa. He said there is a large presence here because of the tourism to see the river. Tourism from Ghanaians mostly. But, for some reason that hasn’t helped the town grow. I think if I can create a sustainable and repeatable project here, it will have a great chance to at least be heard about all over Ghana. Maybe it will even get enough traction to have an affect all over Ghana. I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity for my first international development project. I immediately started to feel relieved from the culture shock. I have a lot to sleep on tonight.