I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here. Well, I’m right in the middle of the most important part of setting up my programs and there a been a few interesting challenges inside and outside my programs to top everything off. First, I’ll catch up from where I left off. Last Thursday was the spot I believe.
Today, I need to leave the house very early to make it to Kentinkrono by 07:00. I need to get my errands done, so that I can make it back to the Antoa SHS by 14:45 to test my new tutor candidates. I wake up early, even for the village. I decide to get up at 04:00, so that I can get all my work stuff done from the Wonoo program, send off personal stuff, and get showered before I leave. I manage to get everything done and leave by 05:30. I walk out to the main road to look for a car to Bonwire. It’s actually pronounced Bonweray, if you say bon wire then everyone will laugh at you. From my room the mornings always sound very busy starting at 05:30. Now that I’m actually out in the town it doesn’t look as busy as it sounds. I think this is the time most Ghanaian’s do their home chores, before it gets to the hot part of the day or they go to work. As I walk to the road I have to watch the ground carefully because the sun hasn’t fully risen yet and it’s still difficult to make out details. I make it to the road, without falling, and wait for the Tro Tro to come. I must have walked out just before the sun because now that I’m waiting in one place on the smoothly paved road I can see much more than when I was trekking over the uneven sewage dirt. After about 10 minutes of waiting for the car I get fed up and start to walk. As I get to the other side of town the sun and the rest of town have completely risen.
I get about two and a half towns over or about half way to Bonwire before a Tro Tro comes by and picks me up. In Bonwire I picked up the shared taxi to Ejisu and from there I caught a Tro Tro to Kentinkrono. I arrive at the front of Kentinkrono at 07:30, pretty close to my goal. I meet Spencer and Regina and get the plan of action. I’m supposed to go around to a few surrounding SHS schools and pitch to their staff and form three students our SAT program. The Senior High Schools have from 1 through 3 and the form 3’s are about to graduate and go to college. Our program is designed to help those people applying for undergrad or a masters program in the US or Canada. This is a great opportunity for those Ghanaian with money, but the lack of knowledge to make it abroad. This program is mainly designed to bring in money and help Expo become more sustainable than the grant and donation base we have been relying on. This is all part of our master pan to expand and reach more students around Ghana and eventually other parts of Africa. Our main program is still getting the successful SHS students to tutor the struggling JHS students.
Two of the three schools I visited were a success. After I get done with those errands, it is time to head to Kumasi. I need to swing by the DHL and pick up my ATM card. I get off the Tro Tro in Adum and start heading toward the big Vodafone tower. I’m walking parallel to the tower and then I get so close that the buildings block out my sight of the tower. Great, that’s my only point of reference. As I pass by a busy shortcut alleyway, my instinct tells me to take it. I tuck my backpack under my arm like a football and squeeze my way through the congestion of people. I reach the top and I see the tower. I literally couldn’t be any closer to the tower without being under it. I’m starting to understand how Spencer was able to take those side alley paths all through Kumasi.
I notice that my blood sugar is low, so I head to the fried rice place Spencer showed me right next to the tower. The meal was great and probably a little too expensive. Jennifer would be very proud of how I ate my meal. By the end there is literally nothing left on my plate. I ate both of the chicken bones completely. They were actually pretty good too. As I get up to leave I notice the people around me are staring at me. I still don’t know if it was just the normal Obroni interest or if they saw me eat all my chicken bones. Either way I felt accomplished.
I easily found my way to the DHL and got my ATM card. I found my way to the local bank to see if it worked and change my pin number. The pin number worked, but there was no option to change the pin. I guess you can only do that with your bank ATM. After going through all the options a few more times I decided to check my balance. For some reason they had already converted all my money to Cedis. I guess because they don’t dispense dollars and it would be pointless to show that amount. Since two Cedis are equal to a dollar my bank account looked much more healthy then I’ve ever seen it. I don’t need money yet, so I head to Dr. Mensa station to catch a Tro Tro back to Antoa for the meeting with the SHS students.
As I’m looking around for the right Tro Tro a mate walks up to me and tells me that there is a man asking for me. I don’t know why someone would be asking for me, so I tell him that I don’t know anyone here and don’t want to meet them. He is very insistent that I follow him to this person. I agree to follow him as long as we stay out in the open. There is no way I’m following anyone into an unpopulated area. We walk around a few cars and he points to one of the empty Tro Tros. As I approach the Tro Tro someone walks out from behind it and yells “Akwesi Matthew!” I’ve been meeting so many people lately and they all are mixed up, so I don’t recognize this person in the slightest. He must know me from Antoa or my walk to Wonoo. It’s strange to me that I’ve only been here for a month and I have people recognizing me in a big city like Kumasi. After we chat, he points me to the Antoa Tro Tro.
The back of the Tro Tro is completely filled, so I get in the front seat. I’m not sure why the front doesn’t fill up first. It has the most legroom and the best view of the area. Generally two people fit up front with one of them sitting in the seat directly in front of the shifter. That seat is a little awkward because if your legs aren’t shifted to the right then the guy will bump into your legs when he shifts gears. Luckily I got a window seat this time. As we leave the station I am totally captivated by the people-watching gold mine and I have a front row seat. I watch people as we slowly make our way out of the station to the paved road. As I expected many of the people catch me looking and stare right back. I think this is a big of a people watching opportunity for them as it is for me. The first guy I catch glances with is an older gentleman who has a nasty look on his face. His expression doesn’t change as he stares back at me. For some reason I find this quite funny and I can’t help but smile. As if my smile has shocked him into reality, he looks behind him like he is making sure that I’m not smiling at something else. When he turns around and realizes that is not the case, he breaks out a big smile. I’m not sure exactly why, but it makes me feel really good when I get people to smile or laugh. This only perpetuated my smile through the rest of the ride. I made it my mission for the next 40-minute ride to see how many people I could get to smile. I didn’t count the exact number, but I was quite successful except for the few exceptions. This might not have as big of a reward as my overall mission of strengthening the education system, but I like to believe that it really makes a difference in these people’s day. I know it certainly made a difference in mine.
I get off the Tro Tro early and take the back roads to get back to my place to prepare for the SHS meeting. When I get to the school the Academic Headmaster told me that he contacted everyone and told them to meet me in the room next to his office after they get out of school. I asked him to contact 12 students who scored the highest on their Math and English exams at the end of this past term. The time came and only 8 of them showed up. This man has continually under produced with everything I have asked him to do. I’ve learned this from pretty much everything I’ve done in Ghana so far. I need to play a cushion of time or numbers to make sure that I reach my goals. 8 students is a little less than I wanted, but I only need to end up with five, so this will do. Before they came in I wrote all the important points of the program on the board. I talked and went further in depth of what is expected of them and what to expect through out the term. I administer the tests to them and give them an hour to finish. When they are all done I give a summarization of what to expect for the program and ask each of them to meet me tomorrow, on Friday, to test the JHS students. This will also help me gauge which ones are responsible enough to show up and how much effort they put in to keeping the students in line. After all, there will be 70 students there, so it will be difficult to keep them from cheating off of each other.