Today was day 3 of the vision screenings. We get more and more efficient with each day and I’m getting more and more comfortable with my Spanish, as I muddle through directions to the kids, who speak little to no English. When they understand me, and follow my directions, I’m always a bit surprised, as if I finally found the key that fits in the lock. No doubt that I sound like a 4 year old to them with my Spanish, but whatever I can get, I’ll take it. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that if I’m ever going to become proficient at another language, I’ve got to be willing to toss the pride out the window and go for it. Children are far more honest in their responses to me that the adults are.
This is the first place I’ve volunteered where English is not taught in the schools, or at least not in this school. It may be different in higher grades, but not in the lower ones. Trying to understand the kids when they give me their name, then trying to find it on my roster, is the harder part of the screenings for me. Today, every other boy seemed to be either Sebastian or Cristian and they all have 3 names, which they say so quickly that it sounds like one name. When I finally think I’ve found their name, and will repeat it back to them in my own pronunciation, my words are often met with a giggle or a quick glance over to a friend. When I add “cerca?” (close?), I usually get a smile and a “si, cerca.” So much communication happens without any words…. especially with children.
I had some concerns the past two days as the boys, aren’t faring nearly as well on the screenings as the girls have, with about 1/3 of the boys failing. I’m reallly curious about this and will likely get an answer in the next few days when we accompany those who failed the screenings to the eye doctor either Thursday or Friday. I’ve got to wonder if they are confused with the testing or if they really do have vision problems. Basically, the students are to match what they see on the computer with letters on a card, while seated the appropriate distance away from the computer screen. They put on glasses that have one dark lens that they can’t see out of and the other with no lenses, to test one eye at a time. If they miss one or more out of the four letters, the next screen shows larger letters. The computer then gives a “pass” or a “fail” and those who fail will be the ones that will see an eye doctor.
Today there was a lot of down time with the kids who seemed to be “at recess” most of the morning. Lynette and Michelle got them going in copy cat type games with signing and mimicking superceeding all language barriers with a focus on the language we all know – laughter, which they do very well. We later learned that the kids were on an “extended recess” because their teachers had left the school. To do an errand? To go grab a snack or a coffee? No one seemed to know. They seemed to think that since we were there, we would tend to the kids, who fortunately were very well behaved in their absence. They did return a bit later.
There are only a handful of teachers at the school due to a teacher strike that is going on all over the country. It started in September and there’s not end in sight. The strike is over the high taxes the teachers pay when the businesses in the country pay no taxes at all. Unfortunately, it will be the kids who will bear the brunt of the strike as they will all fall behind in their education this year. It also means that there are many children whose teachers are on strike who are not coming to school and consequently won’t be able to be a part of the vision screenings. In listening to the principal explain all of this to us this morning, I came to realize that whether Ghana, or the refugee camps in Greece or Costa Rica, or even the United States, we all share the common thread of concern for our children and their well-being and our frustration that more is not being done. It’s universal, regardless of where you reside.
It’s pretty hot in our room at night and I’m struggling with sleep. The roosters are a good alarm clock and I’ve been waking up before 6 and will go out and walk before the heat sets in but the restless nights make for low energy days, which also means I’m headed to bed early.
Yesterday we went to a pottery studio set in a beautiful outdoor setting in a nearby town. The process of using a manual wheel made from old motorcycle parts was fascinating and the end product, which we will pick up after it is fired in the kiln, wasn’t too bad. Today, we’re going to spend some time on a dairy farm and will learn how to make cheese. CCS continues to excel in sharing the culture of other countries through the activities that come after the volunteering. Every day is truly an adventure.
Oh, and if I didn’t mention it yet, we’ve figured out the shower, which is a thin trickle of cold water. It gets the job done, but I can’t imagine washing my hair in the drips of cold water, so it doesn’t look like I will. Hygiene standards are slipping.