Session at Wonoo, Cultural Lessons, and More Generosity

This morning is started again to the pleasant sound of dying animals. If there’s any positive to be taken from this situation, at least they are killing them much faster now. They only scream for 30 seconds to a minute, instead of the hour yesterday morning. Maybe they took some time to sharpen their killing utensil before starting. Funny, now I’m praying for the announcer to be the only one that sounds like a dying animal in the morning. I much prefer his awful singing to the actual sound of a dying animal. Maybe I could record both and mix them together on one tape. I bet that would be a hit back in the US. I hop you don’t take my humor the wrong way, but that’s the only antidote I have. There’s no way I’m going to do anything about stopping it. If you can’t understand why, then you should read my story about why Antoa is so famous.

 This morning Fadella is still not feeling well enough to cook, so I venture out to buy some koko. I buy the koko and ask for the scrumptious bread. Apparently it’s not called bread because she gave me a loaf of bread instead of the special pastry thing that goes with the koko. Well I went back and ate the koko and part of the loaf anyway. I saved some of the loaf for a snack before the tutoring. On my way out of town I greet my ladies in their booths. I greet that nice young man and he teaches me some more Twi. Then as I meet the last group of women I feel a bit bad. This is the group that has that one child in primary that I tried to teach that one night. Remember the next day I had to tell her that I didn’t know how to teach her daughter. Even with that, I still make sure to greet them every time I pass. The older woman calls me over to her. I always think this is funny because I’m already standing 2 feet away from them. Apparently they want me really close. She asks if I like bananas. I absolutely love bananas, but don’t eat them often because I always felt bad getting them from Chile back in the US. I don’t want to buy something that goes bad so quickly and yet comes from another continent. That goes against pretty much every thing I was taught in my major. The amount of energy that goes into that one banana from Chile should make it much more expensive than a dollar for a bundle. Anyway, I gladly accept the bananas and I feel much better because I can see them hanging off the tree behind her store. This will be a great addition to the bread as a snack. It’ll be filling and nutritious.

 I start my usual walk, but see a Tro Tro at the edge of Antoa. I ask them if they’re going to Wonoo and the mate says no. Then a lady in the back repeats what he said. I turn around and just laugh, thinking she’s trying to bust my chops. Right when I look at her I realize why. Her and the rest of the ladies in the back are wearing matching uniforms. This must be a company that bought one of these Tro Tro vans for just their company. Anyway I left earlier enough to walk, so it’s no big deal to me. As I get to the Junction town I hear two Tro Tros coming up behind me. I turn to flag them down, but they point to the school right in front of me. This was another one of those company Tro Tros anyway. I recognize the second one as the vehicle from the edge of Antoa. They pull up next to me and ask if I’m still going to Wonoo. Before I can answer I lock eyes with the woman who told me they aren’t going to Wonoo before and she tells me to get in. I get in and the bus is full of young women, all about my age, dressed in Indomie uniforms. I think that is some kind of hot breakfast drink. They start to ask me what I’m in Ghana for and all the typical questions. They ask the usual questions of me taking them to the states and if I’m married. Then the one behind me tells me to turn around and look at her. After I turn around they all tell me that I have a nice nose. Okay, that’s just weird. I’ve never gotten this complement before yesterday and now I get it two days in a row. Apparently this culture is very self-conscious about their noses. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of my nose when there aren’t buggers hanging from it. The loud one that yelled to me is now getting out. Half way to the next town they tell me that they are taking me specially to Wonoo. I tell them the next town is fine and I tell them all farewell as I get out. I’m a town short, but even this is helpful.

 I talked with some people on the corner of the street and they were very happy to see me. I always pass and wave, but I haven’t come up to them to have a conversation. They are loving that I’m using Twi to speak with them. One of the woman asks me to buy her bread and I say “wo sika,” as I hold my right hand out. They burst out laughing and I think I just made instant friends. The woman in the middle looks like she is in her early thirties and is stunningly beautiful. She has a graceful smile that I found hard to look away from. She is holding a baby and I think sitting next to her husband. She, especially, seems like she is just grateful for my presence there. I could tell that she was a mother because of that same nurturing look that I’ve seen from a few other women. I felt like she knew my situation and had a lot of compassion for me and what I’m about, even though none of that came up in our discussion. Then, I make sure to walk by the lady that cleaned my sandals and I greet her with a big smile. Then before I know it I’m in Wonoo. I only need to get a few waters this time, so they’re much easier to carry. Helda spots me as I’m buying the water and walks with me for a bit. She tells me that her phone is broken and to make sure I say goodbye to her on my way out. I get to the school an hour early and enjoy my bananas and bread. It’s such a good combo I feel like I could eat this three time a day, all week. Then I actually get some time to read. I don’t like to bring my kindle out in public so I brought “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. I’m only a few chapters in, but it seems very interesting so far. So far he’s talked about a war strategy that captures the enemy without blood shed.

 For the tutoring we walked over to the primary school next door, so that way each tutor could have his own classroom again. The session went well and this time I made sure the tutors knew to meet afterward. We met and I read them my suggestions and praises for their good work. It’s really interesting how students in this culture are aggressive with one-on-one interactions, but when they get into a classroom format they just shut down. I asked the tutors if they had any suggestions or anything that they had to share. They all just stared at me and didn’t say anything positive or negative. I rephrased the question a few different ways, but they still said nothing. Then we left and on our walk back into town two of them approached me and said that they think we should have the tutoring at a later time. Okay, I asked if they had suggestions before. I don’t understand the classroom conduct of this country, but it is really frustrating. If they don’t challenge ideas in class they will never be successful in life. I’m talking about the success that gets them a good job that will help them achieve their dreams. These students have that potential to accomplish those, especially because of where they are starting. If they don’t learn to question what’s going on and speak their minds when they have ideas, they’ll never make it up the ladder. Having this complacent attitude might find them a job, but they won’t be the leaders I know they can be. I’m being a bit hypocritical though because I didn’t do that in class until I my fourth year in college. Now that I can see it from the other side I just want to tell them about how important it is and help them jump through that hoop to start their success early. Even when they brought up the issue when we were walking they were shut down quickly. I wasn’t absolute about my answer, but I was passionate about how I felt. I followed up my answer with asking them multiple times if they had any other points and they said no. Okay, this is where I have to help some of these students with the aggressive American Businessman approach. As long as they use it appropriately, I think it will help them to challenge what’s going on a little more. I mean that is really how this system in Ghana is set up. The people with the power and money are using corruption to take advantage of their people. I think these people have a chance at changing things, but it will take every one to rise up and makes changes in their political offices. I’m sure that the people in power have put large obstacles in the way of anything like that happening, but if there are enough people to challenge the system, then change will have to take place. I don’t know if any of this even makes sense or is correct, but it’s hard not to feel passionate about the people in this situation. There are such good people out there who are forced to steal from their brothers and sisters because the government supports that kind of violence. If people aren’t fighting each other then they will turn on the people in power. I wish they had a master’s degree on what keeps corrupt governments in power. I would love to get a job that worked on giving the people some of the power back, from the grassroots. I’ve always thought the key to that is micro finance, but I’m probably far off. Well this is something I will keep in my mind and continue to develop as long as I’m here.

 I split from the group when Helda yells out my name. She calls me over and we chat for a bit. It’s always funny when we talk because she knows about as much English as I do Twi. After we get past basic introductions and asking what we’re doing next, there’s nothing much to say. I don’t mind silence though, I think it’s nice when you can be around someone and don’t have to feel like every second needs to be filled with chatter. Then, she suggests that I see where she lives. Uh oh, I have a bad feeling about this whole Helda situation. I need to learn how to turn someone down in Twi real quick. She takes me over to her house area and introduces me to her mom, brother, and helper children all around. She asks me if I like Kentay. That is the fabric making that they do in those machines I described earlier. That is what makes this area of Ghana so well known. People make a big tourist trip and come here for the fabric and then maybe a trip over to Antoa to visit the river. She leaves and her mom takes the scarf off her head and puts it down next to her for me to sit on. As I sit she tells me that she wants to learn English. I laugh and tell her that I will help her learn. Then Helda comes out with two beautiful strips of Kentay. She insists that I take them. I tell her how interesting the process is to make them and then she tells me that she will have her brother teach me. Okay, it will be fun to try, but I want to see if I can get him to make me a shirt and get a good local’s price.

 On my walk back I make sure to greet the nice people on the corner of the street in the next town. They are sitting in exactly the same spots. They ask me in Twi if they will see me tomorrow. I tell them no and then in English respond I’ll be back next week. They teach me how to say it in Twi and we all laugh as I walk back to Antoa. People like that group really make this whole cultural immersion thing much easier. They were genuinely excited to talk to me and I ate up every second.

 As I walk home I greet friends in each of the towns. As I leave the junction town I greet a woman on the balcony of a huge house. She tells me that she is from Connecticut and that she would come and find me in Antoa. As I start to walk away she asks if I have a wife. After I tell her no, she says that she will find a good Ashanti woman for me. Not knowing what to say, I just laugh and wave as I walk away and say “yebeshia,” meaning we will meet.

 The night ended with the usual musical practice session in the church behind my room. The keyboardist sounds like he brought is 2-year-old daughter to come and bang on the keys. There’s no sort of rhythm to what he’s playing and it certainly doesn’t go with the drums. The drums are decent, but only with one or two basic beats. Then the guy on the keyboard will sing and I can’t help but laugh. It’s hard to believe that what they’re doing isn’t a joke. They’re pretty loud, but I’m able to relax and listen as I laugh myself to sleep.


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