Week of Successful Tutoring, Visa Issues, and Preparing for an Exciting Weekend

Monday of this past week marked the two-week mark from when I turned in my passport. They told me that would be maximum time I would have to wait to receive my passport. I call the immigration office on the Tech campus and he tells me that they don’t have my passport because it’s Monday and they haven’t had time to get my passport. Apparently they take a longer weekend than most people. Again, I’m not blaming this guy, but it is frustrating to have to play along with these broken systems in Ghana. I think this guy is an honest person, but he just knows the system well and doesn’t do anything to change the situation. I have two options to receive my passport. I can either wait until they get it on Thursday or I can go to the main office in Kumasi. I choose to leave the same day and go to the office in Kumasi. First, I call the office to make sure that it’s actually ready. I call and try to give the person the number on the receipt in my hand. He tells me that there is no way they can check on the progress of my passport and the only way is to travel down there in person. I can already see where this is going, but I travel to Kumasi anyway. I’m more worried about this actually going through and simply just having my passport back.

  1.  I get to the office in Kumasi at 12:00 and the man in the office scrambles around before telling me that my passport is not ready. He says that I can either come back tomorrow or wait until 15:00. I have no other errands to run, but I decide to come back and tell him so. I head down the street to a chop bar that Spencer showed me. I get Fufu with groundnut soup and a fresh piece of salmon. It was an excellent lunch and I had a nice seat in a breezy spot in the shade. After relaxing for a few hours I head back to the office around 13:30. The office is closed because they go to lunch from 12:00 to 14:00. I sit down next to another white man waiting for the office to open. I don’t know why, but whenever I see another white person I’m hesitant to meet them because I want to avoid creating a group of people here just to make myself feel comfortable. I’m here to be immersed in another culture and meet the people, so my first instinct is to go all out and not waste any time with people just to make myself to feel comfortable. Of course this is silly in this situation because having a conversation with this man doesn’t mean that I’m trying to escape from the culture. I find out that he’s Dutch and visiting only for a short while. After a little bit of talking, I head into the office to remind them I’m there and waiting for the passport. The man comes out and calls me into the office at around 14:45. Hey, that’s much earlier than I expected and it sounds like they actually have it so I’m happy. I sign some papers saying that I’ve received the passport and leave to catch a Tro Tro home.

 When I get home I look at my passport and realize that they only gave me a 20 day extension. They were supposed to give me a month extension for the 40 Cedis. Since they took two weeks to get it back to me I only have a few weeks left to get it renewed again. I would think that they would make it a little easier to stay if I’m a volunteer trying to help their country. All they see is the color of my skin and the mounds of money that indicates. Well, there’s nothing I can do now but plan how I’m going to extend the visa in a better way. Another option to extend my visa is to cross the border and that’s apparently totally free, not counting the transportation to the border of course. This weekend is something called Fire Festival in the north, so Spencer and I agree that I should head up to Burkina Faso from there. I’m a little disappointed at the difficulty of extending this visa, but I’m glad that it’s lead me to explore some more.

 Tuesday, I meet with a potential new tutor for the Wonoo program. He has previous teaching experience and no current school or job to get in the way of the program. He seems like a perfect candidate, so I invite him to show up today. The program went splendidly and all the tutors were performing very well. Since the progress test scores weren’t as high as I want, I told them to stick with the basics. Ben is the only tutor still here from the beginning and he’s really coming out of his shell and settling in to the rhythms of teaching very well. I moved one of the class clowns out his group and I think that helped very well. I asked them if class clown is a used term in Ghana and all three of the tutors told me that they had never heard it before. They said they just call the person the funniest one in the class. Joseph is still very timid, but I can see great progress each time he teaches. The new tutor, Patrick, is clearly a natural teacher. One of the students was not confident answering seven multiplied by two, even though he knew the answer. Patrick stopped the lesson and reinforced that the student needs to be more confident when he knows the answer and there’s no problem with being wrong. Tuesday was a very impressive day for the Wonoo program.

 Wednesday for the Wonoo program was very similar. I gave them a short quiz to administer at the end of the lesson to see if the students grasped the foundational topics. They were improving, but I want to stick with these topics until they are very solid. These skills are everything that the students need to build upon to be able to learn more complex topics. All three of the tutors did very well and continue to improve their teaching skills every session. Wednesday night I head to Kentinkrono to meet Spencer. We need to leave for Kumasi early in the morning to get my visa for Burkina Faso.

 On Thursday, Spencer and I get to the Burkina Faso consulate around 11:00 and go through all the motions to get my visa to enter the country. We decide to get a multiple entry visa that will last for three months. That way when my visa runs out I can travel there again and get it renewed. The visa is 98 Cedis, so with transportation I’m not sure that it’s cheaper than paying the 40 Cedis at the immigration office, but it’s certainly more fun to travel and explore so I’m sticking with this option. They tell me to come back at 13:00 to pick up my Visa. I’m just surprised that I will get it back today and not sometime in the distant and hazy future. The man clearly only wanted to speak French, or didn’t speak English, so I’m glad Spencer was there to get all the details. We figured that he was just having fun speaking his language with Spencer. I came back early around 11. The man was very nice and came by to greet me a few times. He called me into his office around 12:30. He had a translator in there and we settled the deal ending with him handing me my passport and new visa stamp.

 On Friday, Spencer traveled to Antoa to observe the program. In Antoa I’ve been having some attendance issues with some of the tutors, so I got the names of a past tutor and past student for Adam. The tutor showed up to the program so I could test him, but two of the tutors didn’t show up, so I had him take one of their places. Just like Wonoo, the whole program went very successfully and ended with Tio Spencer and me leaving to get a beer at the bar. We had some great conversations and after a beer we were able to ask questions that before were a little hesitant. Of course the questions were about languages and differences in our races. The bar lady, who I know well came over and was saying that our people call them “monkey monkey.” I thought this was very interesting because I’ve run into this discussion with another young woman who I know through Andrews, the man with the shop at the end of town. She would get me to say silly things in Twi and when Andrews told her to stop she said that she it was fine because my people called her people “monkey monkey.” I that young woman that I would never make fun of someone’s race in such an ignorant and immature way. I told her that they are wicked white people who believe that, just like there are wicked black people who perpetuate the corruption in her country. None of that worked and she didn’t change her opinion at all. I didn’t try to convince the young lady at the bar and instead I used this opportunity to discuss it with Tio. Even with all of the generosity I’ve received and the open arm acceptance of American’s in Ghana, there is still clearly racial tension that runs deeper than I’m aware. Since I’m on the side of privilege in this situation, it’s hard for me to be compassionate for a group of people that I can’t relate to on that level. However, I want to understand more of the issue and discover what I can do to maybe help the situation. As for now, it’s just something interesting to note and something to learn more about.

 Tomorrow, Spencer and I will be waking up early to attend Momma Fausty’s funeral. We will deliver Adam’s message and make our donations to the family. After that we will head to Kumasi to continue the SAT program and then leave Sunday for the Northern region of Ghana. There we will spend a few days and experience the Fire Festival. Then, next week I will head to the border and figure out my visa issues.

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