On Wednesday evening, I arrived in the small village where I will be working for the next 10 months. And let me tell you, my experiences here thus far have been overwhelmingly lovely.
For those of you who may not know me so well, I am NOT a city girl by any means. So, after 5 days spent in the heat, dust, noise, traffic and pollution of Accra, I was more than ready to head out of town. Only one short hour outside of the city, lay the small villages of Fotobi and Obodan. On the way there, the road became narrower, the traffic lessened, the air became cleaner, the noise became almost non-existent. As the drive continued, mountains became apparent in the distance, covered in lush, green, tropical forests. Women walked along the roadside, large baskets of wares on their head, babies strapped to their backs. As the WUSC SUV bumped along the road filled with potholes, I became more and more excited that I was to be working in such a beautiful place.
Finally, we arrived at the destination. Although I had been told that I would be working in Fotobi, the school is actually located in Obodan, an even smaller village, only a 10-minute walk away. Just when I thought things couldn't get any more wonderful, I met the students of the school where I will be working. These girls are even more beautiful than the landscape. Upon my arrival, three of the students voluntarily carried all of my luggage to my room, immediately began sweeping the floor, dusting, fixing the bed, opening the curtains and window. Everything was a whirl of activity, and even though I told them that they certainly did not need to do that, this suggestion was resolutely disregarded. Soon after, I was given (various) tours of the school, and was greeted by all students with a big smile and the simple words “You are welcome.” And welcomed, I certainly felt.
The next day, I awoke quite early and realized I had virtually no idea of what was expected of me. I arose from bed, proceeded to accidentally lock myself in the shower room (luckily someone heard my shouts) and then headed to the school in time for the students' morning assembly at 7am. At the assembly, I introduced myself to the entire school - about 170 young girls. I was then told by one teacher that counseling sessions could be held on Thursday afternoons during the “Life Skills” double period between 1:20 and 2:40. It was Thursday. Although I was completely unprepared at that point to lead a session before 170 girls for an hour and 20 minutes, I returned to my room to conjure some ideas.
Fortunately, the session actually went quite well. Although I was not able to constructively fill the entire duration, it was a good chance to break the ice, and to get the girls thinking about things they would like to discuss over the up-coming year. Indeed, some of the topics that the girls wanted to talk about were quite shocking : appropriate relationships between students and teachers, teen pregnancy and rape. At the same time, other topics, in my opinion, would have seen almost too simplistic for the high-school level : proper female hygiene, for example. So, it was certainly a valuable learning experience for me, and gave me a good idea of the issues that will be brought up during the more one-to-one counseling sessions.
Today, as can be seen by the title of the blog, was washing day. Here, all clothing is washed by hand, and, since a machine generally washes my clothing, the girls were excited to teach me this skill. As they wash, outside from a row of colourful buckets, sun beating down on their skin, they sing. And their voices are lovely. Following the wash, clothes are strung onto one of the many long clothes lines – blowing in the warm breeze of the highlands - or simply laid flat on the grass or hung from tree branches. This is not a chore for them, but a chance to be together, singing and chatting. As for my washing lesson, I ended up getting quite a lot of help with my laundry, but they said I was a hard worker overall. : )
I need to wrap this up for now, as Ghana is playing football today against Australia and everyone is extremely excited. I have come to like watching football/soccer since I've been here and it makes me wish that Canada would step-up their abilities.