Be still my kid loving, developing country loving heart… today was magical and it’s not even 2:00 pm yet. We finally started out vision screening in a very remote school, about 30 minutes from our house, most of it traveled on a rough dirt road. Given that I am th only one in the group that has done the vision screening before (in Greece), I had warned our small group that corralling the kids and the chaos would be a major factor in the vision screening. Boy was I wrong. These kids were so well-behaved and respectful that I had to eat my warning words to the others.
As with any first day of something new, there were glitches, such as forgetting the scale 10 minutes into the drive (we are also doing height and weight on the kids) and trying to find the room to set up the program (3 meters is necessary from the chair where the child sits to the computer screen. Once that was taken care of, it was smooth sailing. Of course it didn’t hurt that Makafui (program director), Mary and Nancy (both locals who work for Cross Cultural Solutions) were along to help explain to the program to the kids. The younger ones speak little to no English but are learning it in school. It will be easier when we get to the older kids and won’t have to rely on the local’s Awe language skills!
I’ve never seen such obedient, polite and respectful kids. They waited their turn in line for the height and weight then the testing and afterwards, not a one of them left without an unprompted thank you to us. It was so impressive. Even more impressive was how the children were dressed, the majority in a variety of school uniforms. The uniforms were clean and even ironed. I suppose this surprised me more than anything after seeing the housing situation on our drive in.
Their school was built by an American NGO (non-governmental organization) called Pencils of Promise. It’s so nice to see the fruition of efforts from other countries in brick and mortar form, providing so much for so many. This is a very poor area and most of these children are illiterate, so all the more important that they are given an educational opportunity that their parents likely didn’t have, for one reason or another.
We had only screened 15 kids when the computer died and although we had the power cord, the school had no electricity, which promptly ended our work today. Hopefully Makafui will be able to find a battery back up for us to use tomorrow.
I can’t say enough how much I love this work. The kids were so sweet and genuinely happy to see us. I think most of the school gathered around the van as we were leaving to give us their goodbyes with waves and peace signs.
Once back at the house and over lunch talk about cockroaches, scorpions and other creepy things came into play, at which time I happened to mention that although definitely creepy, neither one would scare me near as much as a mouse. I glanced over to Nancy, a local, whose eyes got great big than quickly interjected:
”Please don’t respond. I don’t want to know if there’s a rodent problem here.”
She kept quiet, but her grin gave her away. I shouldn’t have even brought it up.
And on a completely different note, Ghanaians have a very unique handshake. As the hands are pulling away from each other, the middle fingers on both make contact and snap. If you’re really good, you can get a double snap out of your handshake. When our Awe language instructor, Francis was here the other evening, he shook Robert’s hand (one of the volunteers) and gave it the snap finish. So of course I extended my hand to him and his response was:
”No, I can’t do that handshake with you because it’s disrespectful to shake like that with an elder and then he proceeded to shake my hand in the uninspiring, non-cool, non-Ghanaian way.
To this I have to add that when speaking to an “elder” (geez, I guess I have to claim that title), many phrases are proceeded with “please.” So, “please, I’m sorry or please how are you, or please what’s your name, is how that goes down. The next day I told Makafui that I thought the “elders” (still in quotes, I’m obviously fighting this), were getting shorted and that a lot of “pleases” and no cool handshakes hardly seemed right. He shook his head and assured me that I could totally do a snap hand shake with him and that the world was different today and the “elder pleases” are being dropped. Well, thank goodness! I’m going to shake hands with everyone I see now.
The heat has backed off somewhat today, which feels wonderful. I’m guessing mid to high 80’s with pretty high humidity. Night’s are still difficult though and waking up wet with sweat has become my norm. A cold shower helps tremendously (there really isn’t hot water to speak of, but I’m not missing it at this point), although the water comes out just a tiny bit stronger than a drippy faucet. It’s better than nothing though, so I’ll happily take it. There’s a lovely tub in our shared bath, but I’m afraid with the water pressure given what it is, it would take multiple days to fill, so a drip shower it is.
And finally, the women here are absolutely stunning, to the point that I have to nudge myself not to stare. They have impeccable posture because they carry so much on their heads starting at a very young age, and from what I’ve noticed, mostly wear dresses, often long, or skirts, always with bright colors and prints. I’m feeling a bit nun-ish and boring in my navys and blacks, which looked totally out of place when I hung them on the line after doing laundry this afternoon.
And finally, again (sorry, but I just keep thinking of more), the middle school, post sports, boy odor is becoming more and more of a legit thing. The other femal in the house, with much hesitation, brought it up yesterday, wondering why she smelled like a teenage boy who has just come off the field. Confirmation. As well as safely in numbers….
Mia do go (goodbye)