Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let the Teaching Begin

6/22 Post

Liz Hopkins and Davey West

We began the morning with Ghanaian pancakes in the dining room. They are more like crepes and my favorite breakfast of the trip by far, although my heart goes out to the chicken sausage and jollof rice at the Sunlodge. It was fitting to have such a familiar and comfortable breakfast on the first day that most were returning to what is most familiar: teaching. For some it was not quite as familiar. I realized this as I fully took over a classroom for only the second time in my life. Last night was filled with preparations as everyone rifled through their suitcases for the many supplies that we have been carting around West Africa.

The lesson for today is never become too attached to your plans. Be prepared not only for what you plan to teach, but for all the "unexpected"s that will greet you in the classroom. Some even come before the classroom. Some come on the tro tro ride when you realize the materials you stayed up late to prep are still sitting on your desk. (With Liz's help this was quickly mended and my first lesson was a success). For those with younger students the two words that come to mind are language barrier. Although students are instructed in English at a young age, Fante remains their first language with which they most easily identify. From students to professors we were equally humbled by the incredible joy evident in students' faces for the simplest of gifts. A brand new pencil for one of these children is enough for an all day smile, although most offer these without need of an exchange.

One more leg of the pentathalon has begun. Today we had our first experience of one on one conversation with our cooperating teachers. Not all were as cooperative as we would have liked, but sharing the ups and downs of your life with strangers is not an everyday activity. Strangers is a word that does not fit on this trip however. There is no real place for it. I have met no strangers, nor have I been greeted as a stranger. Everyone is a friend of a friend, and that is good enough to warrant the utmost respect and hospitality according to the locals.

A select few had the chance to visit the Kotokuraba marketplace this afternoon following a lunch on the patio of the Fairhill. Koto is an african word for crab, which is the symbol of Cape Coast. Those who visited the market got up close and personal with some of these symbolic crabs being sold live. They said it was a very different, pungent experience. It was a great opportunity for some of us to see where Ghanaians shop for their daily needs without the trappings of tourist stereotypes. It is not a usual hot spot for foreigners to visit, so they felt more like one of the Ghanaians than an outsider. It also demonstrated another of the many places in Ghana that our own Dr. Clerico has made significant impact. "Prof!" many shouted as he lead the small group of TLG members through the tight alleys of the market. If it is not about what you know but who you know, I'm sure Dr. Clerico could be the President of Ghana by now if he so chose.

Another round of Fante lessons with Mr. Baidoo left us crammed full of phrases and words that we hope to effectively use in the near future. Two of my personal favorites from today (spelled phonetically for lack of a Fante alphabet) are: mowaw sekan and mennyee cedi which mean I have a knife and I have no money respectively. We wrapped up another long hot African day with Ghanaian fried chicken and rice and gravy prepared by the amazing chefs employed at the Fairhill. After seconds and thirds we spent some time speaking about important points and realizations from our travel journals about our first seven days in Africa. It's hard to believe it has been a week since we waved goodbye to loved ones in America, and it is just as hard to believe we have experienced such a great magnitude of things in only seven days.

When we visited the Ghana Cultural Arts center and were continually beckoned into the stalls I happened to notice the name of a music shop which read: "God's timing is the best music." The dynamic of the 2011 TLG group attests to this everyday. That God brought these sixteen people together here at this time for what has been such a seamless experience thus far is beyond any plan that man could create.

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