Time to Start School Again

Vacation is over and school is starting again. My vacation was full of visiting people around town and improving my Twi. Right from the start I continued to walk with Bush to his work in the mornings and he started making me write down the Twi he soon started to teach me. Bush and his family became my new Twi teachers. I continued with sharing the meals and my time with the people around town. My mom came a few days after Christmas and spent about a week here in Ghana. We walked around Antoa the first day, traveled to paradise at the beach, and ended with a visit to the Janneys in Accra. After she left, I met one of the new Exponential Education employees, Stephanie, in Accra. Her middle name is Grace and that’s what we’ve been using, so I’ll call her that not to confuse myself. Grace, Spencer, and I traveled to the border to visit Lome, the capital of Togo. I needed to renew my visa and Spencer and Grace were in for the adventure. We spent a few days there and really indulged with the great French food. After that we headed back to Accra and I stayed with the Janneys for one last night before I caught my flight back to Kumasi.

 I think today is especially a good day to start with my blog again. I’ve hit some important landmarks today and I’ve also had a few new experiences. Today, I woke up early and didn’t get a pineapple to save my appetite for my big breakfast. Andrews taught me how to take one of the local foods, called Kenkay, and mash it with my fingers and make a porrage-like soupy meal. I unwrapped the Kenkay from the plantain leaf, which was very moist on the inside. I’m sure if that’s a good sign, but I did the smell test and it passed, I think. I started ‘mashing’ or kneading the dough like food. Then I added water to start to break it down to the mushy finish. As I mashed I added a powdered coffee mix, that’s actually pretty good, and some sugar. The Kenkay is naturally very sour, or it was naturally very spoiled, so I had to westernize it a little to make it edible. After I added almost a full water sachet or about 500 ml of water, the food was finished. To top it all off, I add some groundnuts or peanuts, as we call them in the U.S. All of the ingredients were 1 Cedi and 40 Peswas and I could only manage to eat half. Pretty good deal if you ask me. I put the left overs in the fridge and franticly bath and run to get to Bush’s on time.

 I get to Bush’s house and greet his Grandma, followed by the rest of his family. I showed him the flash cards I made for the Twi he has taught me over break. All of it has been useful because everyday I am using many of the words an really making some great progress with my Twi. Instead of just being able to stay to the same script, I’m now able to be a bit creative and have a little more in-depth conversation. I’m also able to pick up on much more of the conversations I hear. I can only hear a few more words, but generally it’s enough to pick up on the context and understand what people are saying. When I was gone with my mom in Accra, Bush was driven to work by his taxi driver friend. He is still continuing to come so at about 7:45 we get in the taxi and head down the hill to get to his work.

 I’m still full from breakfast, but I buy what my new friends call an egg roll. No it’s nothing like the Chinese dish. It’s a hardboiled egg that is wrapped in dough and fried. It’s quite amazing and I could, and have, eat them every day. Even when I’m not in the mood for the egg roll I visit my new friends who make this treat. They are an old couple, in their late seventies. Their minds are as sharp as a whip and they love to teach me about Ghana and Nigeria when they were young. I can’t get enough of their stories and lessons, so this has now become a regular stop after I drop Bush off. The man is from Antoa and the Woman is from the Central region of Ghana. They both moved to Nigeria and lived there for 35 years to teach. Now they’ve ‘retired’ and are living in Antoa. The wife still makes these treats to support them financially. Every time I use some Twi they are ecstatic and give me endless compliments. Some of the big things they’ve taught me over the break is that when they were children, people in the Ashanti region, especially, used to only eat Fufu. They would literally eat it for every meal of the day. Then they talked about the introduction of the foreign ingredients and the modernization of their tastes. They told me that everyone, even the most uneducated people, in Nigeria can speak English, or pigeon English. They said that even little children will know enough to have a conversation with me. They also taught me that the default name for a white man is Akwesi Broni. I’ve always wondered why and they told me it was because Ghanaians used to worship God on Saturday and then when the white man came to Ghana they introduced worshiping God on Sunday. Akwesi is also the name for a male born on Sunday, hence my name being Akwesi Matthew. I buy my food and greet people on the way out of town toward Krobo and Wonoo.

 This term I will be running two programs again. I will do the same on at Wonoo and start a new one at Krobo. Conveniently enough the Head Master at Krobo and Antoa switched this term, so I already know him. I hitch a ride to Krobo and greet the Head Master, Mr. Frimpong. He seems very interested and calls in the head teacher and the form three teacher. They all agree that the program will be good and they also agree to make it mandatory for the students to show up. I go into the classroom and greet the students and they decide they would like the classes to be on Monday and Thursday. I reinforce that I will be giving them snacks and water every session an they all clap and cheer. I thank the staff again before I leave for Wonoo.

 I catch a Taxi to Wonoo and find the Head Master as he is leaving school. We walk back to town and chat about doing the program the same as last term. He tells me that he needs to bring it up in the staff meeting and he will get back to me later this week. From there we both wait for a car back to Antoa.

 Back in Antoa I go home and rest for a bit and eat my egg roll. At 16:30 I head out to fetch water. The big tub is completely empty. I take the same small purple bucket and leave with an extra spring in my step. On my second trip I start to try balancing the empty bucket on my head as I walk back to fetch the water. I lose count of my trips as I’m too exited to get back and try to balance the bucket on my next trip. I start to get it for a few steps and figure that I’m just expecting results to fast and I try to just relax and let it rest on my head, instead of trying really hard to balance. About half way to filling the bucket up, I keep the bucket on my head with no hands for maybe a good 50 steps. I get excited and get even more lost in fetching the water. I don’t know the number, but I’ve clearly now passed my record. As the bucket is about 80% full, I am now carrying the bucket on my head for about half of the trip back to get the water. The tub is now 90% full and I carry the bucket all the way back, not counting one small readjustment when a kid got too close to me, to get the water. I can even hear people yelling my name and some thing about white man fetching water as I’m walking back with no hands on the bucket. On my last bucket run I fill the big tub up completely and must have gone somewhere around 8 or 10 times. I’m really not even that tired, so next time I plan to move my way up to the big black tub that I tried my first time trying to fetch water.

 Back at the compound I stay outside to cool off and notice that Fad is getting ready to pound the Fufu. I tell her that I want to try. She tells me that I shouldn’t because it’s too heavy. I insist and tell her that I want to learn. I give it a go and quickly realize why Ghanaians are so strong. Between doing wash, fetching water, and pounding fufu, it’s no wonder these people are in such good shape. Part of the way through I start to get into a rhythm with my breathing, but my sweat is pouring off my head. My fingers feel a bit sore, but I can definitely keep going. She insists that I take a great as she pounds. She hits the side of the bowl and breaks it completely off. After a few pounds I grab it back and she tells me that I need to pound harder and faster. I try to listen, but I’m too worried about crushing her fingers as she continues to ‘drive’ or push the doughy Fufu back into the center to be pounded. Some girl yells through the gate so we stop and Fad calls her in. At this point I’m covered in sweat, but I honestly feel like I could keep going. I always figure that the work out doesn’t start until the sweat and pain come. Fad insists that the girl pound the rest. I don’t argue much because I have a feeling it’s partially because I’m so bad. I really enjoyed pounding the Fufu and I’m thinking of asking someone around town to let me pound their Fufu for them, to learn the skill and because it’s such a good workout.

 I sit down and wait for the food to be served and as my endorphins calm down I can feel a bad blister on the side of my finger. It’s stings pretty bad, but I just ignore the pain. Fad brings out the food and the soup, as usual, is piping hot. I wait as long as I can and then stick my finger in the soup and begin to eat. Immediately when my blister his the hot and spicy soup I can feel a very sharp burning. All within this time of pounding and now eating, the power has come off and on about 3 times. It comes back on and I can see that my finger is bleeding. I guess the hot soup burst the blister. I continue to eat and just fight through the pain and drink through the blood. The Fufu is really great and they made it with light soup again, which they do very well. After I finish the power goes out again and I head back to my room to write this journal entry. I’m sitting here, hand stinging, sweating, partially from the pounding and partially from the spicy soup and there’s no power to spin my fan and cool me down. I can already see an interesting night’s sleep ahead of me. I suppose I’m grateful that I’m in a place in Ghana or Africa for that matter that has electricity at all, even if it’s not very reliable. Good thing we’re in the dry season and the nights get cold, for Ghana at least.

 Tomorrow I will be contacting all of the tutors and getting ready to start my programs again this next coming week.

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