A Bad Week for Some Tutors and More Lessons

I know I’ve been far behind on my blog these past few weeks and it is going to be very hard to catch up if I give the kind of detail I have been giving. I also don’t think I can remember that kind of detail from so long ago. I’m struggling to remember everyone’s name and location, let alone what I did last week. I seriously have to map out in my head where and who I have met in the areas I go to every week. If I have met someone and don’t seek them out to greet them the next time I pass, they will get angry. I get a little break because I’m an Obroni, but if you pass someone without greeting them in this culture, then next time you need something they won’t be very receptive. I want to keep a good reputation in my usual areas and knowing people in Ghana makes a huge difference when trying to get anything done. Anyway, basically that all means that I am going to give a quick overview of the events from the past two weeks. I also try to cover all the memorable stories from my trips around town. Once I’m caught up, I will start to give more detail of each day again for this coming week.

 Okay back to the week after Hideout, or two weeks ago. I went through the normal rhythms of my week with the Wonoo program. The biggest problem with that program was that one of the tutors didn’t show up either day. He was also late one day the week before. Out of four sessions, he’s only showed up on time once. The other two tutors were early all four sessions. I paid them each 20 Cedis, or 5 Cedis a session and thanked them for being so consistent. I called the other tutor Wednesday night to ask where he has been. He said that he has had issues with work and transportation back to Wonoo. Before he let me speak, he asked when he could come collect his pay. I told him that transportation was not an excuse and he should have been there and called me when he was going to be late. I told him that he is only making 7 Cedis, 5 Cedis for showing up on time and 2 Cedis for showing up late. He lost control and started yelling at me and saying that I have been cheating him. I explained to him over and over again that this policy was set in the beginning of the program and then he finally hangs up on me. Immediately I start to make calls and plan to test other tutors to replace this one.

 On Thursday I call the tutor back and he is much more calm about the situation. I tell him the policy again and he asks when he can come collect his pay. Then I head over to the Antoa SHS Academic Headmaster to ask for him to collect the tutors that I’ve selected for the program. He tells me to come back at 3 to speak with them. I return slightly before three and get ready to give them a presentation on the program. I write all of the main points on the board of an empty classroom. As I’m waiting for the tutors to come, the students who were in this class come back and sit down in their seats. I wasn’t really sure what to do at this point, it looks like they are ready for me to teach them. I tell them I’m here to meet some form 3 SHS and then continue to chat with them about their classes and school. I see some students pull out their phones and look from the board to their phone like they were writing down my notes. Right then I realize that my number is on the board. Quickly, I go over and erase my number before any more of them can write it down. Classes end and the students swarm me to ask me random questions. I tell them they have to leave because the SHS students are coming into the classroom. All five of the tutors show up. I tell them all the main points about the program and make sure to repeat the late policy a few extra times then I did for the Wonoo program. It was a very strange meeting because I would ask them something as a group and they would just sit there and stare at me. There is a very strange superiority thing going on between the Master and students at Ghanaian schools. I don’t think the students are encouraged to speak up in the class. Instead they all speak in unison. So, I point at each student and repeat the question. Still, I barely get answers out of them. By the end a few of them begin to speak up for the group and I have to ask the ones not speaking to make sure they agree with the decision. I get all my points across and leave the room feeling a bit defeated.

 I get home and there is no water at the house. The clinic man and nurse I live with used up all the water over the weekend and didn’t get anymore. I’ve never fetched water before, so I don’t know how or where to get more. Well it looks like I’m sleeping dirty tonight. I also still don’t know the whole situation with the town brining food for me and the nurse cooking for me. All I do know is that there’s no food in the house and certainly nothing being cooked for me. I take this opportunity to venture out into town to get some food. It’s nighttime so I stick close to the populated areas. I run into a few men who were just hammered drunk and I try not to speak to them for long. They just keep repeating the same thing over and over again. I leave them and join a group of women around a fire. It looks like they’re cooking rice. Oh good, I ask for some food. She asks if I like eggs, pepper, and rice. I say yes I like all three and she just does everything for me. They are all very nice and insist I sit down and chat while the food is being cooked. I get them to squeal a bit with the Twi that I know. She hands me the sack of food and asks for one Cedi. Wow, that’s pretty good considering fried rice anywhere else is 3 to 5 Cedis. I tell them I will see them again soon and leave to eat the food at home. Great, I don’t even have water to wash my hands first. I eat the food with my hand, like most other meals and then try to get some work done on my computer. The pepper was very hot, so I start to sweat, but luckily I have a fan in my room. Then, the power goes out and now I’m stuck in my room with no light, fan, or water to bathe. I have drinking water, which is always available, but I’m not going to waste that to bathe. Feeling a bit defeated from the day I just lay down on the bed and fall into a deep, sweaty sleep.

 On Friday I wake up and put everything behind me from the past two days and focus on the Antoa program. I actually feel pretty good about it because I had done everything I could to address the problems and could only wait until my plans unfolded from there. I go around and buy all the snacks for the program. I plan for 60 students to show up, assuming that at least 10 would drop out. With five tutors I buy 60 snacks and divide them up into five groups. I get five bags filled with the biscuits and drop them off at Antoa. Tio tells me that the students will go get the water packs. They come in packs of 30, so I would need two. I’ve carried one back to my house and that was hard enough, no way could I do two at a time. I’m glad Tio suggested to get the students to go. I tell Genevive that I won’t have time for the Twi lessons today. The students come back and I’m all ready for the session to start. The students are out of class at 14:00. At 13:30, the sky starts to pour rain and thunder. Great, this is going to set the program back a bit. The rain stops at about 14:10 and I am hoping the students are hiding under a shop somewhere waiting to come and join the session. After all, they are being paid 5 Cedis per hour, which is very good for most jobs in Ghana. Especially for those who only have a Highs School education. I decide to go in and greet the students and take role to get the ball rolling. After about 15 minutes of entertaining the class and taking attendance, I realize that the tutors aren’t coming. Rain in Ghana usually means everything stops, including school. Well, I don’t want the students to go home without any learning at all. I look at the attendance and see that 40 students from form one to form three have attended. The form is basically the year. Junior High School and High School both have three forms. Okay, there are mostly form 1’s, so I just cover the basics of math problems that I know they missed on their pretests. I figured that I will teach the younger students a new topic and review the basics for the older ones. It’s easy to keep their attention, but it’s hard to get them to contribute again. I decide to call on students at random or if they are talking, to come up and do a problem on the board. I teach them cross-multiplying, negative numbers, and a few problems about arithmetic with variables. After an hour I tell them that next week there will be more tutors and let them go home. Well, that was an interesting week to say the least.

 That night I head to Kentinkrono, so I don’t have to leave in the morning to work at the SAT center. Saturday went well with the SAT center. We only had one customer show up.

 Sunday night I’m walking to the Tro Tro station to pick up the car for Antoa. This is the latest I’ve been in this area before. It’s not exactly the best area, but I don’t feel in danger. I just stay in the populated areas and no one bothers me. The Antoa cars aren’t in their normal spot. I walk back over to the group of cars and greet a short man walking next to me. He must be 5 feet tall and have dreadlocks that are about that same height. He tells me he’s going to work. Apparently he is some kind of radio announcer. This is probably a good time for networking, so I ask for his number. He says not to take my phone out because there are bad men around and he just takes my number. He points me to the Antoa car and I start walking. Half way across the dirt lot I run into another man who confirms the Antoa Tro Tro location. He walks with me there and says he’s going to Bonewire, which is just further in the same direction as Antoa. He says we have to take a car to Abrim first then take a taxi the rest of the way from there. I hop in the Abrim Tro Tro with him and we leave Kumasi. The mate asks for one Cedi for the trip and the man that led me to the Tro Tro insists to put my money away and he pays for us both. I thank him and we don’t talk much for the rest of the ride. We arrive in Abrim and I get out of the Tro Tro. Not really knowing where to go to pick up a Taxi I suggest to him that I’m going to walk in the direction of Antoa and find a Taxi that way. He says to follow him. I do and we walk across the street to a Taxi with someone in it already. Now it’s starting to drizzle. Drizzle in Ghana just means it’s about to pour. There generally isn’t just a drizzle. The man in the car is going somewhere different, so we have to find another car. The taxi driver sees me and tells the man to get out of the taxi. He gets out and leaves across the street. I started to feel bad that they kicked him out for me, but it’s about four seconds from drizzling, so I forget about that pretty quickly. We get in the taxi and four more people join us. As we pull out down the road it begins to pour rain. There are very few streetlights and the road is bad, but the taxi driver seems to know where he’s going. I literally can’t see anything out of his window. He says something to the man in the passenger seat who takes out a handkerchief from his broken window and begins to wipe a viewing hole for the driver. Oh great, I guess he can’t see the road. The potholes in the road are huge so we can’t go very fast, but I literally can’t see anything except for the glimpse of road I catch with each lighting strike. The rain on the roof of the car is deafening. The Taxi driver stalls his car in the middle of the road and at this point there is nothing I can do about the situation. For some reason I find this situation very funny. There’s no use in worrying and leaving the car would be the least safe option. Surrendering to the situation I just start to laugh. I think the guy next to me thought I was crazy. The taxi driver starts his engine back up and a smell of gasoline and fresh rain fill the car. I don’t know why, but I get a feeling of really being alive here. The same one I experienced when in Nema in Accra. I think this ride is a metaphor for my situation with the tutoring. There’s going to be situations like this with the systems in Ghana I’ve immersed myself. There’s really no point in becoming frustrated or worrying about things out of my control. A quote I really like comes to mind here. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.” This has to do with my literal situation in the rain and everything else I’ve experienced in Ghana so far. There are going to be terrible parts of my experience here that I won’t be able to control, but if I can just learn to relax and enjoy the new experiences I will learn about what it’s like to live life to the fullest. That’s probably one of my big underlying goals while I’m here in Ghana. The taxi makes it to Antoa and the man insist to pay for me again. We get out and get under some cover. He asks for my number and I give it to him. At this point I can’t stop smiling, partly because this guy has been so nice and mostly because the taxi driver got us to Antoa without having to walk through the rain. I go home, shower, and fall into my bed fast asleep.

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