Twi Lessons, Headmasters, and American Man

This morning started at 04:30 again with the man making announcements over the town load speaker. I just want to go back to sleep until 05:00! 30 more minutes is all I’m asking. Luckily he isn’t going between talking and angrily ranting this morning, so I am able to start to drown out his voice. Just as I am drifting back into the dream ether, he starts singing through the speakers. It sounds more like he is killing a goat. I better be careful what I wish for because I’m sure that’s not far away. This time it was just his lack of ability to hit note or even hold the mishit note. This is my second morning in Antoa and I’m already over this morning routine. I suppose it could be a lot worse. I’m sure it will just take some getting used to.

            On the schedule today is more Twi lessons with Genevive, speaking with the JHS Headmasters, and getting a list of tutors from the SHS Assistant Headmaser. Oh and to hang out with the locals again. There is a group of women that have a stand right around the corner from my room and they seem very nice. I will go sit with them today and find out more about them.

            I leave my place for Twi lessons around the same time at about 09:30. I figured I will meet with Genivive and then work my way backward through the town and speak to the Headmasters, ending with the SHS school on the edge of town. The public school seemed more together than the private school, even though it was a governmental school and those families with lower incomes sent their kids there. The twi lesson took the alphabet sounds I learned yesterday and applied that to two letter sounds. Often time, those two letter group were also words. They were mostly the verbs and adjectives that would appear in many basic conversations around town. I’m still not sure the different pronunciations between the two e’s and o’s. I’ll go through the e’s and say e and then eh for the next one. She looks at me and says what they should sound like. We would repeat that dance a few times before either I got them right, or she just gave up on me and told me to move on. I still couldn’t hear the difference. She will literally go through the two e sounds, one right after another. I ask her to repeat it a few times and then unconvincingly say “ooh so they go eh and eh” and she will say yes. After the lessons I asked to speak to the Headmaster for our meeting. They told me that he was gone for a meeting and I should come back tomorrow. I guess our appointment was more loosely set than I thought. Okay no problem, one day shouldn’t affect the program.

            I walked down the road, but on the opposite side this time. I normally walk on the side with older people, many of which I have met. I always wave to the people on the other side, but I haven’t spoken much to them. The first group of people looked very young. Maybe just out of SHS. Although they could still be in SHS because school doesn’t start until next week. I waved and when I got to the second group of people the first group was calling to me. I walked up the hill and greeted them. The person that appeared to be their spokesman stood up. He was really the only one that talked the whole time. He got up on a ledge so that he was a few feet taller than me. He was speaking Twi and doing it very fast. I laughed and looked at his friends like he was a bit crazy. Then he started asking me a few things in English, but went back into Twi after about the third word. I have to say it was pretty intimidating. Not only did I not understand what he was saying, but I was standing on a hill with a cement sewage ditch behind me. I was trying to get out of my head how badly this could end. I just relaxed and let the situation happen and tried not to show any signs of fear. After all, most the town likes me being there and his friends seemed like they did as well. After I kept walking I thought how silly it was to have any background thoughts of fear. I will make it back to this group tomorrow or next week to show them I’m not afraid and I am there to be their friends. I’d have to say this experience doing a nice job at thickening my skin.

            A few hundred feet I ran into another group of young males, but this time they were a bit older. Either my age or late twenties. They were also very verbally aggressive. I think they are trying to test the Obroni to see if they can scare me off. Well it’s not going to work. I held my own and tried to be the least threatening that I could. I ended up having the whole group laughing, probably more at me, by the time I kept walking. Then I met another young man who was fixing his motorcycle. There was a lot of smoke coming out so I walked a few feet around him so I wouldn’t shorten my life too much by breathing in whatever was spewing out of the motor. He stopped was he was doing and came over to introduce himself. He asked me if I want to be his friend. I said yes of course and he insisted we exchange numbers. It’s always a little suspicious to me when someone wants so badly to be my friend before we even had a conversation. I continued down the road to the private JHS called CB Mensa.

            The Headmaster wasn’t here. There seems to be a pattern in this town. I suppose that’s why I’m here though. I met with another staff person and they said I should speak with the rest of the teachers. This was the same group that couldn’t seem to stop watching the futbol game last time Spencer and I were here. This time they were all outside at a picnic table and much more ready to listen, or speak as I would soon find. I told them the program I want to set up and they said they were skeptical of the program and they didn’t like the idea of students teaching students. They said they would give me Form 1 students and only give me half the time I requested per week. I wanted Form 3 students, who were getting ready to take their high school entrance exams. They said I could start next Monday. I set up an appointment with them on Friday to see if I could come back and give them some other things to think about before we set out plans.

            I walked to the edge of town to speak to the SHS Headmaster and he wasn’t there. I walked across the street to meet a man Adam referred to as Daniel or American Man. Apparently he is a Ghanaian who has lived in the US for 30 years. As I am talking to the guard, American Man pulls into his driveway. This place is like a Beverly Hills mansion compared to any houses in a three-town radius. It is on a huge plot of land, probably 5 acres if I had to use my farming expertise. We went upstairs in his house and I asked for his life story and what he did in the US for so long. Apparently when he was 17, he left to attend University in England. Then about 10 years later, after he had been managing a hospital in Europe somewhere, he was asked to move to the US. Meanwhile, as he’s explaining this, his wife brings me something to drink. And by something to drink, I mean she brings me a silver platter with one of every drink ever created by mankind. I was a bit overwhelmed and avoided the beer because I had a long walk home and I didn’t want to give a wrong first impression. I went for the juice of course. He even made fun of me a little bit for not picking the beer. Then he told me that he raised his two daughters in the US and lived all over before he ended up in Florida. He came back to Ghana to take care of his mom and bought this plot of land. I asked him if he would ever move back to the US and he went into another story. I am loving every second of this. He said that he only makes $10,000 a year with his pension and is able to live so lavishly here in Ghana. Back in the US, his life would be a far different story. Now his wife came out again, this time with a whole buffet. No, but she did give me a full plate of food. There was rice, this amazing beef that was almost akin to beef jerky, but better, and a bunch of avocado. I’m still listening to the story, but also wolfing down this amazing food. So much for culture shock! We had a great time together and he showed me off at his gate, where we set a time on Monday for us to meet. He is going to introduce me to the SHS Headmaster across the street.

            I go back home for some Twi lessons from Daniel. The clinic Daniel that I live with, different from American man. Then we sat down to our typical dinner where we eat great food and deep conversation. We talked a long time about the people at CB Mensa and I came to a conclusion that I should play hardball next meeting I have with them. If we work with this school that means that we will have to break up the two Antoa JHS’s into two half programs. Which means that we will be serving the same amount of kids for twice the amount of tutoring time. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, but combined with the CB Mensa Staff’s lack of motivation for our program it could be a big waste of time. Also, CB Mensa is a private school, so the middle class families send their children there. The other public school is where the less financially stable families send their children. I’m not going to write them off right away though. Next meeting I will present them with the numbers of Headmasters that we have previously worked with. Then, I will say that they either give us the full time and the Form 3 students, or we won’t be working with them. Well, I have a week to sleep on the decision and time over the weekend to discuss it with Spencer. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but Spencer is the Ghana Country Director for Exponential Education. He is taking over the position from Amber. He is my direct boss and Helen Gradstein is his boss. I’m sure there are more official terms for that, but that’s the gist of the situation. Well I’m sure how to creatively close this one out, so I’ll say y3b3 hyia bio (remember the 3 is supposed to be reversed and represents a letter in the Twi language we don’t have in English and the hy is pronounced like a sh sound). It means we shall meet again.

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