Wonoo Tutoring and More Generosity

Last night I was woken up at a ridiculous hour because some animal was screaming next to my window. It sounded like the whimper of a dog, but slightly different. I couldn’t really tell. I’m not even kidding, I think it was whimpering for two hours straight. I almost went outside a few times, but came to my senses when I realized that it’s the middle of the night and not knowing if the animal was dangerous. It seriously sounded like someone was torturing the animal. It makes me sick to think about how some people can be so malicious to another living being. It’s one thing to kill the animal for food, but it’s a whole other thing when the animal is screaming for hours. Well, as you can tell I had a pleasant start to this morning.

 I had a lot planned on Monday, but none of the administration I talked to seemed to know it was a holiday. Now I need to cram everything in before I head off to Wonoo today. It worries me when things get pushed back a day like this because of how difficult it is to get things done around here. The big thing to do is make sure the Wonoo program goes well today. I need to find 20 notebooks, 20 pens, 20 biscuits, and 20 waters for the 17 students and 3 tutors. I decide to leave the house at 9:30 to make sure I can find all of the materials. I know there are shops, in each town, along my walk to Wonoo. On my walk I also need to stop at the Academic Head Master’s office to make sure everything with selecting the students is going smoothly.

 As I leave the house Daniel tells me that I will not find the package of 20 notebooks and I will have to buy them individually. That means they will be more expensive and probably hard to find since school has already started. As I’m leaving I stop by the ladies in front of my compound and ask where I will find notebooks and pens. The biscuits and waters will be much easier to get, so I’ll wait until Wonoo. They tell me to ask the shop across the street. This is normally the woman I get water from because she gives it to me for 30 peswas less than anywhere else. And the water doesn’t taste like smoke. I noticed that the water I got tasted really weird this past weekend, so I asked Spencer about it when I saw him. He told me that some of the brands of water taste very bad and some companies actually run their water through smoke because some Ghanaians like the taste. Maybe it’s better if you smoke cigarettes, but if you don’t it tastes awful. Anyway, I ask her if she has notebooks. She says something I don’t understand in Twi and holds up the 20 pack of notebooks. Not only that but they have pictures of famous football players on them and most don’t have multiplication tables on them. The only way this could have been easier is if I woke up with them on my bed. I also get the pens from her and realize that I probably over reacted a little bit. Relieved I walk down the road.

 I greet my ladies at the shops on the outskirts of town. They are also so excited to see me, I have to make that a stop every time. Our conversations are mostly me telling them where I came from or where I’m going in Twi and then maybe they teach me a word or two in Twi. It’s pretty basic, but they really get a kick out of it and frankly so do I. There is a young man about my age in the midst of the women that I like to stop and chat with also. I leave down the road feeling like there is a pretty good day ahead of me. I stop by the Academic Master’s office and I give him the list of the SHS students that I want to come for the initial testing. He tells me to come back on Thursday right before they get out at 15:00. Since I can’t meet on Wednesday because of the Wonoo program, Thursday will have to do. Even though it makes me a little nervous with the JHS test on Friday. I’ve learned to plan far ahead and leave many options because most of them will probably fail. That’s the way the education system goes in this part of Ghana.

 Now I’m on my way to Wonoo and it’s still only 10:00. I am going to make it with plenty of time to spare. I decide to take that time and walk the whole way. The first town away from Antoa I buy the biscuits, just incase Wonoo won’t have all 20. Oh and biscuits are basically just like little wafer cookie things. It’s some British thing, I don’t know. The woman is very nice and actually tells me that I had overpaid as I was walking away. I would have never figured that out. I will make sure to buy more from her in the future.

 I meet my usual people on the way to Wonoo and get a lot of practice in with my Twi. I’d have to say though I am hitting a wall with the Twi. It was really easy to learn the first part with the greetings and a few other things. Now that I’ve done that the only way to continue is to ask people to speak slowly and pick out parts of their sentences. Then I have to take what they say and practice it with the next people I pass by. Spencer was telling me that I will soon feel much better, but there will also be more walls to come. Good thing these people are so willing to spend the time with me to teach me their language. As long as I have the patience to have them explain everything, I will be fluent in no time. That’s my ultimate goal. I want to be able to express myself, my aspirations, and speak any local slang I can pick up.

 I get to Wonoo and as I’m looking for the waters I find Helda. Actually she finds me. Not that it’s really hard to spot the only white man. I tell her that I am headed to the program and that I want to get some koko for lunch. That is the local porridge drink that usually comes with bread. It just sounds like a good meal to eat on my walk home. She tells me that the vendor doesn’t come out until the afternoon time and that she will buy it for me. I insist that I will come out and find the man to buy it. She doesn’t hear any of it and asks if I want bread and sugar with it. I thank her and tell her that I will be out at around 3:15. I take a few steps down the road and remember that I need to get the waters. That would have been bad to forget. I walk back and approach a shop. One of the tutors is in there and tells me he will help me find a water vendor. We go back to the other side of town and I buy a pack of 30 waters. The non-smokey kind, of course. Then as I am walking back Helda yells out my name. She must have put a gps on my or something. The first time in the middle of the street is explainable, but now I’m in the midst of the shops. Anyway I tell her that I am bringing the waters for the students. She gestures for me to give her the sack of waters. They must be about 40 pounds and they have an awkward shape. Before I can tell her no, she grabs the waters and hoists it on her head. She walks me pretty much the whole was to the JHS with the waters. Wow this woman is way too nice. I take the waters and prepare to take them the rest of the way. They are pretty heavy so I put them up on my shoulder. Some of the students run down and yell at me for carrying such a heavy thing. Without asking, they take them from me and take them to the room. There are students running around everywhere in the field. Not one of them is in class. Ooh, it must be lunchtime. I check my watch and sure enough it’s 11:30. Oh great, that means I’m here three hours early! I did not prepare for this with a book or anything to do.

 

I ask the students when their lunch ends and they tell me their not on lunch break. Ooh… So why are all the students frolicking around like school is canceled? Actually, cause it pretty much is canceled. Apparently the teachers are having a meeting at another school. I suppose I should have expected something like this. Well my first amazement was that the students were still at school. This just confuses me. If the teachers didn’t show up at my junior high school, I would have been long gone. I get in the classroom to set down the stuff and students immediately swarm me. They are much different when the teachers aren’t here. Not only do they have 100 times more energy, but they are also much more aggressive. Coming here from my nice peaceful walk was a transition I didn’t prepare for. I tried to sit at the desk at the front so I have them in a half circle all in front of me. Each one that would come up and ask me something would move their head and body like people do, back in the states, when they are getting ready to fight. They put their chin out and make their eyes really wide as they throw their hands like their dissing my mother. Instead, they are asking me about what I had for breakfast. Then when one would run out of energy another would jump in right in front of my face. I am totally taken back at this point I’m not sure what to do, but just laugh. I go outside to call Spencer about the Antoa situation and mostly to recollect myself for a second.  I enter back in the classroom much more ready to handle the energy. They continue the barrage of aggressive questioning. Now, I’m much more able to fire back. Even after an hour it gets to be a bit much. Not all of them are crazy and aggressive though. I start to focus on the ones that are still around, but not as loud as those few who look like they are always in an insult fight with everyone. They start to ask me questions about what I studied and they ask me if I can teach them some science. Again, I can’t believe that they actually want to learn when the teachers aren’t here. One of them brings over a science book and I start to tell them everything I know about the subjects that come up. I see the tutors approaching outside and that means it’s close to 14:00. That two hours actually went very quickly.

 The rest of the school left, instead of staying for their extra classes. That means that we are able to split each of the three tutoring groups up into different classrooms. That way they can all have their own chalkboard and there will be less chance for distraction. As they are tutoring I walk around and sit in the back of each group for about 10 minutes. I write down one good and one thing each tutor can improve. Since there were no students to ring the bell at the end of extra classes, we ended up staying there for a half an hour longer. It started pouring rain at the end of the session, so I couldn’t have a meeting with the tutors. The roof is metal and very loud when rain hits it. One thing I noticed when it was getting overcast was that the classrooms got very dark. Sitting in the back I could barely see the board. The dark room was also helping to put me and probably others to sleep. I’m going to look into this issue and ask the Masters and Spencer about their thoughts. Maybe this can be one of my side projects. It sounds small in scale, but I think it will make a big difference with their attention on less sunny days.

 As the tutors and I walk away from the session, one of them tells me that no one sells koko in the afternoon. It is only an early morning routine. Oh good, I hope Helda didn’t go to any trouble to get me anything else. As I get to the middle of town it starts to rain again. I see Helda and walk over to greet her. She hands me a big bag of koko, two large satchels of sugar, and a bag of special bread that goes with the koko. Wow, I can’t believe she found the koko. I take out a cedi to give her and she refuses to accept my money. I don’t know if she just knew a secret koko vendor, or if she made it herself. I still can’t get over how nice some Ghanaians are. It’s by far my favorite part of this culture. Not because I get free things, but because it just makes my trip more enjoyable when I meet those people who have beaming smiles every time they see me. Okay, the free things are pretty nice too. I think now, more than ever before, I have a taste of what it’s like to have the power of a woman. Don’t deny it! All women can find at least one man in a bar to buy them a drink. Whether she is interested in him or not, they can and probably have used that to their advantage. It’s certainly much less common to have a woman buy a man a drink at a bar or to buy dinner. The list goes on… I meet Helda’s sister as we take cover from the rain in her shop. They are speaking rapid fire Twi and I’m struggling to keep up. I do hear effe and broni. That means beautiful and they were talking about me. One of the woman tells me to turn to her and she uses those two words again, as if she is confirming. Then Helda tells me that her and her friends think I have a beautiful nose. I nearly choke as I try to hold in my laughter. I hold my composure and tell them thank you. That has to be a compliment for the record books. I’ve never heard that said to anyone else, let alone me. Hey, maybe that is important in this culture. I quickly leave to walk home before they start examining my toes. Now those are just scary.

 As I walk the roads through the bush in between towns, the ground is still very wet form the rain. I don’t know what I’m paying attention to, but suddenly I realize I’ve walked into a big puddle of mud. It’s the kind of mud that suctions to your feet like quick sand. Wait, do they have quick sand in Ghana? Uh oh. I get out of there as fast as possible, but my feet up to my ankles are covered in mud. Ugh, great! Okay, there’s nothing I can do about it now so I might as well enjoy the foot skin cleanse as I make the trek home. Right before I enter the next town I meet two younger men and they laugh at me for the mud on my feet. I couldn’t help but join them and laugh at myself. It looked pretty funny with my white skin actually. Then as we enter the next town they yell to a woman and she says “bra bra!” That means come. I come over to her and she fetches a bucket of water. Before I can lean down to start cleaning she is scooping the water on my legs and washing the mud off. This time I couldn’t hold my composure and I burst out laughing. She takes off my sandal and starts thoroughly cleaning it. I take the other one to at least do half of the work. She finishes the sandal and I’m still picking my nose. She just takes the other out of my hand and cleans that. Then she points at my feet and starts to scoop water as I get in between my toes. See, I told you they are scary. I get my sandals back on and my feet now are cleaner than they’ve been since I left the US. I think my skin was looking a bit darker from the permanent dust layer because now my legs to equally as funny as before, but for the opposite reason. From my shin down you can see my actual color and there’s no doubt I’m a white boy. I thank her many times and begin to leave. Okay, I have got to bring her something on my way to her house. Next time I’m going to buy her something from the store. Maybe some treats for her children. I continue to walk and get to the next section that goes through he bush. About half way through an empty Tro Tro pulls up next to me and the driver asks me where I’m going. I tell him Anota and he gestures for me to get in. I gladly run to the passenger seat and hop in. There is also a man in the middle of us. We don’t talk much other than me thanking them for the ride. The man in the middle gets out of the van, leaving just the driver and me. We don’t say much for the first few minutes and then he asks me for my name. I look over at him to answer and see that he has a huge smile. After I answer he says “You are a nice man, aren’t you.” I’m not sure how to answer that so I pretend it’s a rhetorical question. We chat about a few things and he repeats the nice man thing a few more times before we get to Antoa. Finally I said that he seemed like a very nice man for giving me a ride and being so genuine. I get out of the car and head inside.

 I get home and can still hear some animals behind my compound screaming. This time they scream really loud for about 3 seconds and then stop completely. There must be some kind of slaughtering operation. That still doesn’t explain why one was suffering for an hour this morning. That is some disturbing stuff. There’s no doubt my skin will be a little thicker when I get home. Daniel and I finish the night eating yams and contumeray stew. Another great day.

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