Wednesday, June 19, 2013

See you Mampong! K and S are on the move!!
Private trotro to dinner
Awesome foursome! 
Nii, me, Philo
Rachel, me, Georgia
Biggest ever plate of food. There is rice and black eyed beans under there 
Stephen and I. It's been a selfies kind of week

The end of a chapter

WARNING! Emotional, soppy, long post below! 

I'm writing this as I am on a bus from Cape Coast to Accra. This is the 2nd part of my journey to day as we left our home on Twifu Mampong for the last time this morning. 

The last few days and the weekend didn't include much excitement. The weekend was very relaxed with a couple of the other volunteers visiting. My best friend, Georgia came so we could spend our last weekend together and a volunteer who Kirsten knows from back home and is on the program came. They are going travelling to Europe together after here. It was so nice to show them around the village and the kids loved having them. I spent pretty much the whole weekend with Nii. Started to hit me that it was only a matter of days left that I would see him. I find it so amazing and I'm so lucky that I have had 2 of the best relationships in my life with 4 year olds and in the last year. I thought saying goodbye to Joseph at the special school in December was one of the hardest things but Nii is just as special and these 2 boys have honestly individually changed my life. They just don't know it because they're only 4. 

The only other thing to report was a massive 6 foot snake that was killed by a house near ours. It was about 4 inches thick and thank goodness I didn't see it alive but they did point it out to me dead. Lovely. Pretty pleased this occurred in my last week here! 

So, now lets get emotional. Yesterday was our last day teaching and I just appreciated how amazing the kids are. They've put me through my paces that's for sure and on some days it would have been a hell of a lot easier to ask that I not teach and help with the kitchen and everything or help with the younger kids but I didn't and that's meant I've had the most amazing experiences and relationships with these kids. We had a normal day teaching pretty much and I spent my day videoing and taking pictures. There will be so many up here next week when I'm home and settled. The class I like to call my class as I worked really hard on their maths with them and getting them prepared I hope for their exams in a couple of months. They have to pass these exams to be allowed into high school. Most kids in this class, if they don't pass will never go to school again. They are a naughty class but with some strict Siwan it meant we got somewhere I think and I really got to know the kids, especially the really naught ones who eventually were just cheeky but really wanted to do well for me. Was a very proud teacher this week seeing them all study for my tests and apologise when they didn't think thus done well. Pleased I put the time in to them because I think it paid off and it will really help them in August. It's really crazy to think I've spent the last year pretty much teaching and with kids and it's all over! I really do love teaching an spending time with kids so it is sad to think it won't be happening for a while but noone said it's the end... 

We decided that we would like to do something for the family to show how grateful we are to them for all they've done for us. So, since some of the children have never been to a restaurant for dinner we took them all for a meal! Getting 10 people of which 6 are children and 8 are Ghanaians, trust me, this was not easy!! They said we would go straight after school so we got changed and were ready by 3:45. We left at 6:30! Turns out for an extra 5 cedis ($2.50 ish) we could hire an entire trotro from this guy that lives next to us and he would wait and bring us home. Ghanaian limo! The kids were sooo excited. We could have driven round and they would've been happy. Not quite what we did. We went to our local town, Twifu Praso and went to the only restaurant there which is a part of the Shell petrol station. The choice was fried rice, plain rice or banku. I just wanted a piece of chicken so I went for fried rice as did K and every child with the parents having one plain rice and a banku. Funniest order I've ever given, '8 fried rice, one banku, one plain rice thank you'. The kids were all so well behaved sitting down but they were so tired. Food comes...with a knife and fork!!!! This may not seem exciting to all of you but I honestly can think of 3 times I've used a knife and fork in this country and well the kids have never used them. Seen them but never used them. I was almost in hysterics seeing little Nii trying get rice from his plate to his mouth using the wrong end of a knife and a fork. He was adorable. Everyone scoffed their food it's safe to say while me and Kirsten as per every meal were almost throwing up we were so full. They wonder why we've put on weight with portions like that. I let the kids attack my food too because they were enjoying it so much and they need it more than feeding my fat. When dinner was over and everyone was smiling and there was quite the mess all over the table we went home in our private trotro and returned to give all our family their presents. We had asked them all what they needed since most don't have school bags or whatever. It came to 2 smart shirts for the eldest boy and our host father, a headscarf and necklace for our host mother, 3 school bags for the middle kids, sandals for second to youngest and a ball for Nii. I've never seen anyone so happy that he had a ball all to himself!! I then proceeded to crash on my bed when I should have been packing. Oops. 

Due to my lack of packing last night I got up early and finished off and realised if packed or given all my clothes to the children and basically had nothing to wear so had to extract some clothing from my bag which was challenging since it contains a drum. The drum is the size of my bag so the only things in my bag are stuffed around it or in it. Shows I'm not bringing home much. When we finally finished packing it was off to school we go. So we handed out sweets and things Kirsten had brought with her like pencils and we bought pens and everything. Then we had our send off ceremony. It consisted of them presenting gifts from the staff management, staff, school, host family and PTA. Then one of the teachers we are close with as Kirsten shares classes with her stood up and thanked us and sai how hard we had worked and that she now thought of us both as her sisters which was a huge honour and felt very lucky to have friends across the world. We then stood and i thanked them all for their welcome, their hospitality and to the kids we teach for accepting us as their teachers as we learnt with them. We told them how they don't realise how caring they all are and how much they've taught us as well. Then Kirsten wished them all good luck and told them that they could do anything they please with hard work and that we are sad to leave as we will not see them continue to grow but how much we will miss them. Then came the goodbyes. All the children sang a beautiful thank you song and when it was over all our classes jumped on us holding our hands 'God bless you Madam' 'Safe journey' 'We will miss you' 'Please don't leave'. After the mob died down and they were sent to their classes we had a moment saying goodbye to the teachers we are good friends with and I went to jump around with my BS6 class one last time and tell them to keep working hard and they make me super proud. Then came the tough part. We walked to each class where one of our family's kids is to give them a card and say goodbye. 
Freda - we got a big hug
Nii - I burst into tears as he came running up and wrapped his arms around my legs. In that second I had no idea how I could leave. Seriously. 
Afia - we got a great hug and she smiled and we got her cheeky grin 
SK - got a moody shrug. Had our difficulties with him. He either loves us and won't let go or hates us. Unfortunately today was a hate today but wouldn't be the same if he was normal with us! 
Philo - she snuggled up and said shell miss us and that got me all teary 
Stephen - the boy who has a heart of gold. He turned to me and said 'Zill (because that's my DJ nickname from DJ Siwanzill) I'm going to miss you and I will cry. Don't forget me.' Obviously I cried again.
And there ended the goodbyes of the kids. We went with our host mother home and met our host father who helped us with our bags up to the road, ma just put them on her head. Standard. We got a trotro and our host mother gave us a big hug. She is one hell of a character but she's looked after us, fed us and cared for us every second. She will forever remain a special woman to me. 

Now I'm on my way to the capital, Accra, where I began the journey in my Africa trousers, fat and very dirty. Different to when I came in jeans, relatively thin and sparkly clean. I don't remember what that feels like. 

What sums up my time here? Sand. Dirt. RICE! Children. Lack of sleep. Bugs. Sweat. Hard work. Friends. Frustration. RICE! School. Travelling. Georgia. Beauty. Welcoming people. Nii. Kirsten. 

That last one, where we may be entirely different people and come from different places, here I relied on Kirsten entirely as she did me. I have lived with her every second for 5 months almost and I wouldn't change it for anything. I would choose Kirsten everytime, wouldn't change our partnership for anything as we've formed a friendship that I know will last forever. From roomies to sisters to pen pals. It's been one hell of a road K but we made it. We reached the end and we did it together. 

There are way too many words to describe my time here but it's safe to say the people I've met along the way have changed my life not just the place. And now I've done the gap year it changed my life thing I do have to say, there is no place like home. The people who I am going to see in the next 3 days are where home is and it's time to go back now. 

Will be on next week with how my travels are and how it feels to be home. 

See you on the other side!


Siwan Emily 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

Nii and Siwan, bestest friends 

1 week till home!

Yet another week has been and gone and now I have only 1 week to go!!!! Been here now for 141 days and have just 8 till I'm home! Not sure how I feel about leaving, it's mixed feelings but to be honest I can't wait to be home and see everyone! 

So, back to business. This week. Basically, was a very usual week with a few surprises as always in this country. 

Monday after a horrible day of caning for BS6 on Friday included a class test set by me. One of the only classes I don't share with Sam is BS6 Maths which is what my class test was for. The test went fine and their marks are so improved, not good in the least but remarkably improved so is as really pleased with them. I returned their tests the same day and made sure each child had theirs so that I knew no caning was going on. The BS6 classroom is at the far end of school to where I sit. So, straight after I hand them out and walk back to where I sit, one of the BS6 kids comes up to me and said 'Sir is collecting the papers to cane us.' So, off I march up to the classroom to find him cane in hand with my tests. To cut it short, we got in quite an argument which ended with me snatching the papers and saying 'They're my BS6 Maths class and therefore I get to punish or reward them as I please'. He then said 'Welcome to Ghana'. I am not an angry person but it's safe to say it took every ounce of me to force myself to walk away from that situation without pushing it further. Bearing in mind I've been here for 5 months, taught almost all of his classes and everyday he has said something insulting or ignored me entirely I think walking away then was one of the most difficult but probably best decisions I've made. So, there ends the rant. 

Trip to the hospital. Nothing serious just developed an odd rash that was driving me to insanity with the itching. So, finally decided to go. Was surprisingly uneventful, just some sitting and waiting and then came the prescription for my skin infection which has been causing me to be run down and ill. My prescription is 20 pills a day!!!! Plus my malaria pill so I am taking 21 pills a day! Before taking them it seemed a bit much so I text my friend here that I met in the first week who told me not to worry, they're ALL antibiotics and antifungals and that I should take them all and I'll be fine. I am drugged up to my eyeballs! But seems to be working so it's all good. 

Another trip to the hospital. This time was with Nii. Nii is the smallest boy in our family, he's 4 and it's safe to say, we are quite attached. Any time he's been ill I've carried him home and we fall asleep after school sometimes together on my bed and we share food everyday. So for a while he's been ill on and off and had horrific skin kind of like bites but a rash and they've looked really bad so finally Ma asked me to take him to the hospital. Mami Siwan came out in full force. The queue in the hospital was huge for some reason so we had to wait 4 hours to be seen which just meant so much bonding time with Nii. He held on to me the entire day or snuggled up on my knee. Then I took him in to the consultation room and were informed it was scabies which is an itch mite that lives in the skin and you get them living in unhygienic living conditions. So this meant he was to have medication and 3 injections. 3 injections was not covered by the insurance so I paid not very much and in we go for the injections. I hate injections but was rather unfazed in my position of parenting. They then asked me to lean Nii over my knees so they could inject his bum. And he was petrified. He screamed and kicked and cried and because he was so tense they couldn't get the needle in. They smacked him and I was completely helpless. They then got a male nurse to hold him which I thought I'd be really pleased about but then he looked at me and grabbed my hand and screamed my name, I mean screamed. It was horrific. It is safe to say I love Nii and hated seeing him so distressed but I knew it was for his own good. They never got the needle in and Ma had to take him so eventually he got the injection. But I put him on my back and squeezed onto me and held on so tight in the taxi and all the way back to school. Then, we have been inseparable since. I think leaving on Wednesday is going to feel like leaving Joseph back at the special school. I'm going to hate it but I love that we've had this and he's the best. Want to bring him home with me. 

I'm going to love you and leave me. Next one will probably be my last from the country!! Wow!! 

Siwan Emily 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ama Benewa win!! And racism...

I'll start with the not so cheery. As we come to our final few weeks we are starting to get tired and the excitement and acceptance of everything is wearing off and we're really starting to feel affected by the things that get thrown at us. When I say we I'm talking Kirsten and I. Mainly when I say this I'm talking racism. And I'm not going to say much other than give you the examples: 

Your skin is horrible, like pig. (Followed by a pig snort. Pig snorting is regular at us) 
Your cheeks are fat like apples. 
Your eyes are like cats, they are not good. 

This is just from the children and teachers at school who have had white volunteers for 7 years, 4 a year so that's 28 white girls and they're still like this. We question them and ask why do they say this to which they reply 'Because we don't like, it is not nice'. We just look at each other and say 'oh Africa' or 'oh life'. But it's safe to say everyday is getting a bit wearing now. 

The other thing is our school today performed in a culture competition against other schools with a dance performance and a drama performance! All I can say without posting the videos is it was really hot and WE WON!! AMBIS ARE THE WINNERSSSSSSSS!!! Was so proud because they've worked so hard and performed so well even if it was a little stressful with me typing the script with 4 minutes to go and then having to run to the competition to give it to the judges. That is all I have to say now. No more for a few days. 

Love you all, 

Siwan Emily 
Trying to remember calculus to teach one of the teachers. 
How I punish children - kneel on the floor and put your hands in the air. 
Culture dancing kids 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Celebration x 2

So, for those that know me you know what the first of the two celebrations is - my 19th birthday! The second was our host's mother's funeral, her name is Rebecca Ama Benewa. So to make it easier I'll go day by day and explain everything that went on! 

Happy Birthday me! Last teenage year then I've got to be a big girl! Woke up to the best birthday messages. One from the fam jam, a perfect birthday card with reminder of home as it was a Philly ecard which made me smile a lot and got me all excited for my second birthday in not too long when i'm home and Nay, well what can I say...a perfect message reminding me how old I was and that I was getting sensible and serious in my life and all the amazing stuff I have to come. So, I'm done being gross and nostalgic (can you tell, I'm beginning to get excited to see everyone again - you do get a little emotional when you're away for 5 months!). Then off to school, but before this could happen, Kirsten, the best roommate anyone could ask for quickly swung out a drum hiding in our humble room for my birthday which all my friends had contributed to buy me as I have wanted from the moment we arrived to take one home! Sooo cool! Will post a picture. So then off we went to school as normal and it was fun. Kirsten took some fun pictures of us at school and then we had worship which is always a lot of signing, clapping, dancing and drumming. Then, when it is your birthday here you have to buy things for people as well as people buying you things which meant I had to buy a lot of sweets for all my 3 classes and handing them out became such a riot as other classes were trying to get one I just threw them in the air and let them fight for them. Was so funny to watch. After school, we went home and people had started to arrive for the funeral so there were lots of people milling around our house so we got changed and spent the evening cooking and relaxing with all the ladies preparing food. I think this is one of the nicest parts of culture here even if it is a little sexist. Then just before bed we went to pick up our Sunday dresses for the funeral and when we returned I was greeted with the best birthday tradition. You have to be soaked in water. So, when we returned the children attacked me with about 5 buckets of water (which bearing in mind we have to walk 10 mins to get was a big deal) so I was drenched from head to toe!! 

Oh this was a fun day! Well, interesting. We were awoken at 6ish and told to get dressed and go. Dressed in black looking reasonably smart I hope. We were guided up to the family house where Ama Benewa lived and one of the sons lives. There was a tent outside and a choir singing. We sat down and then were swiftly told to go into the house to pay our respects. We walked in and were I would say the right word is confronted by Ama Benewa literally. There she was lying in a big white bed adorned in white clothing with flashing lights around her. Just want to point out two things here: 1. She has been dead for 5 months so how they preserve I have no idea 2. Not only have I never seen a body before, I have never been told to greet one at a Ghanaian funeral so it's safe to we were a little lost. So we said a prayer and left awkwardly. Awkward is the only way to describe us here at least once a day but what can you do? All part of the experience and I can now say as a 19 year old I have seen a dead body. From there we sat and listened to singing and some preaching outside. Then the children from the school choir arrived of which 4 are our family kids, Freda, Philo, SK and little Afia so the grandchildren of Ama Benewa. We then, as teachers took them in to see her where they were to sing for 15 minutes. So many of the children were crying and the kids from our family were screaming and were literally dragged out at the end. After being so close to these kids now for 4 and a half months I just wanted to take the pain away. It was horrific. The children went home and we stayed to watch the rest which included the coffin being bought out and there being some blessing of it and some crying and some bizarre preaching. 

After this we went to the cemetery following a taxi with the coffin sticking out the back. And it was put in the grave that had been built already.  All cemented into the perfect rectangle ready for the coffin. Then they put some premade cement blocks over it and started to cement it up. This was relatively quick and non emotional after the morning so all seemed to end abruptly. Walked home with Derrick and went to see how the kids were getting on at the school. As we were walking there we were greeted by the kids coming in the opposite direction. They were all ready for their performance so we headed up to the square where all the funeral celebrations were happening, about 200 people sat watching. The kids all went into the town building thing kind of like a town hall but used for nothing except storing the funeral tents. They got all dressed in their traditional outfits and jewellery and paint and came out ready for their 'culture dance'. Will post a picture of how amazing they looked an when I'm home in a couple of weeks I'll post a video. They were amazing and I was so proud. The drumming and dancing that they performed was amazing! Can't describe it as there is no comparison to something in our culture. Only way would be a shuffling dancing walk with some funny movements of the arms but that is completely wrong because its really hard and they were really amazing and it's a really cool dance. 

After they performed we went home and ate lunch with the teachers on our porch of banku and okro soup which was delicious. Then the rest of the evening was nice and relaxed which was good since we were shattered. 

We woke up like the latest we ever have here which for me was about 7:30!! Wow! Unfortunately though, that came with a sore throat. We got told to dress in our Ghanaian outfits for church around 9 so of course we did but obviously everyone else was on Ghana time so didn't leave till like 10:30. We went up to the square for the church service. There isn't much to say about a church service other than there is a lot of shouting and preaching and singing and money giving. Sat next to Derrick and Kirsten which was not my best move as it meant I got the giggles and then couldn't really stop. Derrick is the first person we've met here our age who kind of gets it simply because he watches about 5 western movies a day and has been away from the village to boarding school. Kind of nice to finally have someone who has our back. And there ends Sunday, we did nothing except lie down all day and eat one meal which was the downfall of the day but it didn't include cabbage which are the first vegetables we've had in maybe 3 weeks so was quite happy with that. 

Weekend done. Got more to say so will do another one about our last 2 days. Sorry for the length and probably the boring ness but either write it all or don't write much. Till the next! 

Siwan Emily 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Not long to go!

So it's official, I have been in this country for 4 months 1 week and 1 day. It's a really long time!! Can't believe it's gone so fast yet also feels like I've been here ages!! 

The last week hasn't had too much excitement. Had a long weekend for African Union Day so we went to a beautiful beach - Busua to celebrate my birthday with Tom, Michael, Georgia, Chloe, Kirsten and me. Was really good and included rather a lot of alcohol consumed and swimming in the sea for about 10 hours in total over the whole weekend. Couldn't have asked for more for a birthday in Ghana to be fair. 

This weekend we are at home as it is our host's mother's funeral. She is the lady who died the day we arrived. This weekend is her official burial and funeral which lasts 3 days starting tomorrow (best way to celebrate in Ghana so quite pleased that's what we'll be doing for my birthday!!). Will post lots of pics and things so you can see how amazing funerals are here when they're in full flow and the outfit we've had to have made for the funeral. Is actually going to be quite beautiful but can't be sure whether I think it is for real or just because it is here. You can all let me know! 

Off to go and get some watermelon before it runs out. 

Be back on this weekend 

Siwan Emily 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Me and Kirsten laughing very immaturely at a spelling mistake 
Stephen being a bucket head. We got a bit bored fetching water
One of the ducks had ducklings!! 
Sleeping at lunch. She had just puked to be fair. There's no such thing as staying home because you're ill. 
Kirsten eats an orange, Afia has a sofa
Casual sleep at lunch...on a desk

Revelations and interviews

This week has had quite a lot of excitement. Monday began with the norm and then I was asked to take part in the interviews as we are hiring two new teachers (2 got fired for not teaching when they promised to during the vacation). So, myself and 3 other teachers sat in the interviews. They were...interesting to say the least. Saw 8 teachers. I will just summarise by giving you some examples of things that were said: 

"What will you do if you fall in love with a student or would like relations of some romantic nature?" (Our students only go up to about 16!) 

"What did you take at high school?"
"What would you like to teach?" 
"How do you say 'hello' in French?"
"Ok, right. Give an example of how you would teach something like since you know catering, fried rice"
"Cook the rice, fry the rice" 
"When did you complete high school" 

"Why do you want to be a teacher?" 
"I think caning is good"

"If Madam Siwan here would like to begin a relationship with you, what would you do?" (SORRY WHATTTTT???? How is that a question for a job interview) 

"Why are you here?"
"I would like vacancy teacher announcement job to learn English" (teach...?)

Most of the interview was based around their romantic lives and their inability to teach anything. Not one person had any education after high school and they were all under 21. Most had finished high school this week! Was in shock!

So, we hired the best of the bunch. One of which is Derek maybe spelt Derrick I'm not sure. He, leads me to the revelation of the week. The eldest sibling in our family, Sylvester who is 15 we found out is actually an orphan and was adopted into the family when he was 4 as his parents died. We always thought he was one of theirs. Derek/Derrick is his brother! He was adopted by our host father's older brother and has just completed senior high school. The family just keeps growing! 

Off to Busua this weekend, a beautiful beach to celebrate my birthday..Yayyy!! I'm almost old! And we've got Monday off so a fab long weekend. 

Laters gaters, 

Siwan Emily x

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Our matrix funeral outfit we were given!! 
Funeral that I danced at
Butra beach

Not long left!

Last 2 weeks have been a relatively relaxing fortnight. Had a weekend at home where we attended another funeral which was great fun as just did lots of dancing and in fact danced in front of the whole funeral (like 300 people) just Kirsten, our host mam, 2 pro dancers and me...awkward but so much fun!

This past weekend we went to visit the bestie (Georgia) in Takoradi for one night and then we went to a place called Butra along the coast for the second night. Was just hoping for an alright hotel near the beach (as long as I got to have a running water shower i was very happy!). We got off the trotro and got in a taxi to our hotel, Hideout Lodge. After a 45 min taxi ride down some off road roads we arrived at this very poor village and thought oh dear, our cheap hotel could be a nightmare but we were directed to walk a little and onto the beach then keep walking along the beach and we'd find it. Well as you will see on the picture, the beach was incredible and absolutely no one on it! The view was beautiful and the beach was amazing. So, we trudged along the beach wondering what the hotel was going to be like after that surprise and the hotel is made up of lots of little huts, all different colours and some...are treehouses!! So, we inquire as to the price of a treehouse to which the man says it is 50 cedis (20 quid) and there are 5 of us. Only 4 beds so me and Georgia share..but we're sleeping in a treehouse!! Next to the beach!! So close we can hear the sea so loud we have to shout a little!! 

We spent the evening chilling and listening to one of the guys from the hotel drumming literally for us as there was no one else at the hotel but 2 couples and they were taking romantic strolls down the beach (bitter and jealous, yes I was a little). Then, off to bed and no one felt like sleeping so we were all awake till like 3 in the morning and then after finally going to sleep we were awoken again at 5 by the biggest tropical storm ever!! Seriously!! No exaggeration, the tree was rocking from side to side...with us in it, then the roof started leaking on Kirsten which gave me the giggles and we couldn't hear anything with the rain and the sea being so loud but still managed to get back to sleep! 

Sunday, we went back home and had some well needed rest. 

This week, we do not have much planned and then we are off to Cape Coast this weekend for a volunteer reunion of all the volunteers as we haven't seen each other since the beginning and some have left recently. Numbers are slowly decreasing! 

Back on soon and not long till I'm home now! Very final leg! 


Siwan Emily 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Long time no blog!!


Firstly, I apologise for my long absence on the blog! I hope to explain in this very long post and update you on all that has happened. I only have limited time at this internet cafe and the keyboard is a little odd so I will be rushing and will probably make a ton of spelling mistakes so I apologise in advance!!

First things first, I will explain why I haven't been able to update in a while. About a month ago (when I disappeared and stopped updating) we went to Accra for the weekend to do some touristy stuff and visit Tom and Michael's placement which is in a village in the outskirts of Accra. To cut a long story short, on the journey to their placement we had to take several trotros and some way or another I lost my phone... We called it immediately as I realised and a man had it so I assumed it wasn't stolen from me. He told us to meet him at this roundabout which was about 10 mins away but when we got there he never answered the phone again and since that roundabout is the best and pretty much the only place you can buy iPhones in the whole of Ghana I am pretty sure he realised the benefit of just selling it... If you whatsapp me now, you are likely to get a Vietnamese reply saying he does not speak English but at least I am now aware a Vietnamese guy has my phone! I now have a Nokia with internet so if you want me back on whatsapp add my new number which is +233547796826 and you should be able to get hold of me on there again.

I just got back on Saturday from our vacation! So, I will now proceed to try and tell you all that we did over the 2 and a half weeks. We began the holiday with a visit from other volunteers, Mia and Janice which was fab! They live in Takoradi which is a reasonably big city with loads of expats and started their holiday earlier than us so came to stay for 5 days. It was nice to show them how insanely different our lives are from theirs in the city where they can find most Western food and luxuries close by and we can't. Also they experienced the great bucket shower and a toilet which is essentially a pit. Janice resisted going because she couldn't cope with all the flies that fly out when you lift the lid. We have become quite fond of what we call our faeces flies.

We then went to Otinibi to stay with Tom and Michael until they had finished school and Georgia would join us in order to complete our little 5 travelling group - Tom, Michael, Mia, Georgia and I. Staying at their placemnent was really good. The other rural placement which is quite different from ours as they live in one of three houses which share with like 6 families so lots more people but less crazy as the kids entertain themselves more.

Then Satruday, we left!! First stop, Ho!! Ho is in Volta Region. We decided not to do anythng crazy here as we had a lot planned and there isn't anything crazy interesting so we relaxed together.

Next stop, Hohoe! Also in Volta Region. This is where I went for a day in my first 2 weeks here when I was alone and we went to the waterfalls that I did when I was there, Wli (pronounced 'vlee) Waterfalls but this time we did both the upper and lower falls where before I had just done the lower. Little did we know this meant a very large hike and I mean half hike half mountain climb for 2 hours!! We had walking sticks and we all felt like we from Lord of the Rings. We each elected ourselves characters - I am obviously Sam!! Was a great day even if we couldn't really walk properly for a few days and we all thought we were going to die on the way up from exhaustion or sheer lack of water as we were drenched in our own sweat...yum. We disguised it though by standing under the waterfall when we reached it at the top. Was a lot of fun and it is safe to say until you have sweat that much with people you can not say you have done the deepest level of bonding!!

Next we went to Nkwanta which is not really a tourist destination at all unless you are a twitcher or a hiker which for anyone that knows me I am most definitely not either!! In fact, I detest both but we just decided to stay there as our journey up to Tamale. Staying though was the best part of the trip for me. We arrived and were immediately thrown onto motorbikes with our huge backpacks on and taken to our hotel. It is in this remote part of Volta region and we stayed at this place called the Kyabobo centre which is actually run by this fantastic ENglish lady who is establishing one of the first girls school all on her own literally in the middle of nowhere. She has entirely moved out as her retirement and is doing the most amazing things! We also met an American who was there for 4 and a half months doing his PHD in essentially dying languages (had a better title but I can't remenber). Was very interesting getting to know his work and how he was finding Ghana. The centre where we were staying was in the most beautiful location overlooking the mountains and there were guinea fowl antelopes and all sorts just wondering around the gardens.

Then we had to tear ourselves away from the relaxing and start the strenuous travelling part going from Nkwanta to Tamale which if you look at a map is a long way. So we started the journey off by a relatively broken trotro from Nkwanta to Kpasso with a lot of goat poo. At this point we thought it won't get much worse...WRONG!! Kpasso to Dankoma trotro was worse. There were 4 people on the roof, and bearing in mind trotros are just minivans we were carrying 27 people... Oh and he could only get it started by hotwiring it and it couldn't get past 2nd gear... Dankoma to Bimbilla we were feeling pretty adventurous now but all needed a wee so got on a good looking or as good lookng as we had seen all day bus and off we went asking him to stop on the way so we could have a wee by the side of the road...yes my standards have lowered I spologise Nay and family! On arriving in Bimbilla about 5pm we heard the words 'Last car to Yendi' which was our last stop before Tamale and thought we would stay in Bimbilla and try that the next day but as we were feeling good we all said ok thinking it would be a trotro...oh no!! It was a pickup truck! So with our backpacks we jumped into the back for a 2 hour drive in the back of a pick up. It gradually got dark and we had the time of our lives especially when about 20 minutes in we were joined by like 5 women with all their kids. I travelled the entire way with the most adorable 2 year old in my arms. Was slightly frighteed we would hit a bump and the child would fly out my arms and onto the road but I held on tight and we all survived. Stayed in Yendi where there was no water at the hotel so you can imagine the state and smell of us after all of that and then getting up and just throwing on some clothes with no shower...again standards are low these days!

Next day we hit the road again for the last 7 hours to our destination, we took a bus to Tamale where I thought we were all going to lose our legs as they were tucked underneath us or above us for the entire 2 hours. Then we reached Tamale to wait for 2 hours for our bus to Mole National Park!! We finally arrived at about 8pm at the Savannah Lodge and had a dorm for the 5 of us which was awesome! In the middle of the village of Larabanga in colourful little huts!! And even though it was a bucket shower it was outdoors which was just so nice. THt night we arrived I literally showered under the stars (with a few mosquitoes but that ruins the atmosphere so imagine it without).

The next day we got up nice and early 5am to go and do our walking safari. We travelled to the park in the back of a Jeep...again we thought and still think we are so cool. We arrived and did a 2 hour walk around the park where we saw a lot of babboons, warthogs, antelope and then at the end 10 elephants! We were so close and they were all in the water and then as we stood near them they got out and walked around in front of very cool!! Will have to be shown better when I am able to put pictures up when I get back!

The day after that we took a canoe trip down the river near Larabanga and saw lots of birds and a very cool lizard which I can't say was the exciting but nice relaxing time down the river.

Next morning was an early start as the only bus out was at 4am so we all rolled out of bed and onto the bus for our 5 hour bus ride. Then we got off that bus and onto another trotro to Techiman so another day of 7 hours on the road so by the time we arrived we were all looking forward to a sleep and a shower and a chill.

In Techiman, we were joined by another of the volunteers whose Dad and uncle had come to stay so had come to meet us now they had gone but we were all so tired by this point we just wanted to relax. So, we took one car to the monkey sanctuary but unfortunately it was raining so we only saw monkeys from afar. I felt a bit smug as I already held monkeys at a sanctuary in my first week.

Last stop was Kumasi, the second biggest city in Ghana so it was way too busy for me after being relaxed and having lived in a little village for 3 months so wasn't enamored by the place but loved the market and went to an amazng culture centre where I bought my first waist beads! Love them and the tradition of them! yes, my hippy side is coming out.

Then, came the end of our stay and I travelled back home to Twifu Mampong on Saturday to be greeted by a hug from our host Mam and all the kids jumping on me. Home is good!!

Think I will leave it that as I have probably bored you all and it is irritatingly long but I hope you enjoy a little!! Still on emails so would love to hear that you are all well as I am coming to the end of my stay. Not long to go now!!

Love to all and missing you (you know who),

Siwan Emily 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Was a dictation exam so the question about birds is meant to be about air! Birds? Air? Same difference!

Caning mission.

So I haven't written for a while as the week has just flown by and it has just carried on relatively normal. Well as normal as it gets. Yesterday though was when I had another one of those cheesy epiphany 'this is why I'm here' moments.

It had been a pretty normal day except it was way too hot! In the afternoon, the teacher who is the one I share classes with, Samuel was ready for an afternoon of caning as be returned the midterm science tests back to BS5. Now I will post a picture of an example of one and you will understand somewhere along the line, this education system is an absolute nightmare. From experiencing it I think it's a chain of disastrous events. First, they are learning in their second language which they are never actually taught properly. Secondly, they are scared of learning in case of the cane all the time. They are caned for not understanding so how they expect them to learn I have no idea. Thirdly, the quality of teaching is shocking. There are no qualifications except completing school necessary to become a teacher... And finally, they do not know how to revise because they have never been taught and there are so many distractions with stuff at home like their chores they leave homework very night until 9pm and don't understand that for a test you can just study 2 months of work in one night.

So, anyway, yesterday when returning the tests out of a possible 15 most kids were getting 0 or 1! Pass mark was 10 so for every mark under 10 they got a cane. Not just a bit of a cane, they had to bend over and put their hands on the ground with their bums in the air. It's really sick. The teacher after we had called a meeting about reducing caning on Monday (fuelled by our boss saying he agreed that the caning was not helping the learning and should be reduced) Samuel asked me what I think he should do. This is how the conversation went:
Me: 'I think they need help learning. If they understood what they were being taught they would have retained something. I'll do extra help classes and if they choose to come then they are trying. If not they should be punished but caning isn't going to help them when they quite clearly dont understand'. Now after speaking to my friend who lives here I realise I could have got fired for this but I wasn't going to sit there and watch kids scream literally and cry in pain.
Samuel: 'But don't you think they are not learning and studying at home so they deserve to be caned'
Me: 'They deserve a chance to prove to you that they want to learn and want to understand. Caning is just going to scare them off'
Samuel: 'OK if that's what you think then I will respect it.'

So, this is where it gets sicker. I understood it as he had agreed. He then proceeds to make a child bend over in front of him and swings the cane back right behind his head, the kid is shaking in fear, Samuel turns around to look at me, I stand up to go over and he brings the cane down missing the kid. Sick sick man. I sit down thinking thank god he didn't then he goes to bring the cane back again right behind his head except this time he brings it down with the loudest whip right on his bum. Now the kid is SCREAMING and crying and on the floor. I get up to which Samuel turns around and says they all just get 2... So well done Siwan you saved them from 8 of these each but you can't do anything else. Each child gets 2 and I can't do anything. It makes me feel so helpless and like I want to take all the pain away from the kids when they're crying but if I do anymore than I'm doing I'm going to get fired. I've already more than overstepped the mark especially standing up for the kids and undermining the teacher in front of the class.

But then for the final part, one of the kids can not stop crying. Samuel tells him to be quiet and he can't. So he gets caned right on the back of his head. Excuse me for swearing but holy shit there were tears in my eyes and he was trying to grab the cane. So I got up and moved to protect him and tell Samuel to stop. He had his 2 and took them with no problems. Let him cry, he's in pain.

I can honestly say, I am doing everything in my power to hp these kids but it's so deep rooted in the system and these teachers that there's only so far I can go. You still feel helpless watching it though. I want to take every cane for them because there is really no need especially when the teacher is completely useless.

And so last night I felt a little emotional but pleased that I had done something to make it better.

Over and out,

Siwan Emily

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Me and the boys.

So fast and little Cindy

As the title suggests, this week has gone ridiculously fast! So fast in fact that this morning I told Kirsten a solid 15 times it was Wednesday as I did not believe her it was Thursday! Just been a normal week with a lot of caning from midterm exams. You realise how lazy the teachers are at teaching when you see the answers on exams. Pleased to see the stuff I taught coming out alright. Will post an example of an exam today!

Today however, was another normal day until after school when we went to visit one of the kids from one of my classes who has been ill for 2 weeks. She left school a couple of weeks ago literally after squirming on the floor in pain.

So we went to the house, all her teachers and some of the kids and saw her in one of the wraps they all wear and all I could look at were her shoulders and her little chest. She was the definition of skin and bones. I mean I could literally see her heart racing through her skin. So we all prayed for her which was more like a chant with all the kids praying. Very odd. And then we spoke to her and left.

As we left we asked one of the other teachers what was said about her going to the hospital and whether there was any problems with money or anything. We got told that she had been to the hospital and they had given her some drips and a 'blood drip' so we're not sure whether they meant blood transfusion or what but basically she's meant to be better and back at school on Monday.... That isn't what I saw. Unfortunately I may not be a doctor but I really didn't think based on what I saw she'll make it to next week but I really hope she's going to be ok. It felt like comic relief where the children dies was playing before my eyes. I think if she's not at school on Monday I'd like to go back up and see if she's getting better so I'll keep you all posted but everyone please send good vibes because she's an amazing and beautiful little girl called Cindy.

Love to all and I really hope you're all healthy!

Siwan Emily

Monday, March 11, 2013

Canoe trip. No pics of the stilt village on my phone so I'll post some soon

The lagoon


Well since the Independence Day parade was Wednesday, this left us with the rest of the week off. And how we made the most of it! Each day was a different place so we'll go through in days...

Kirsten and I had promised the kids we would take them swimming as they know two hotels nearby where you can pay to use their swimming pool. So at 8:30am, Kirsten, me, Sylvester, Steven, Philo, SK, Effia and Freda jumped in a tro tro, well piled. We took a huge Tupperware of rice that our ma had made us and off we went to the 'Hans Cottage Hotel'. For us all to go swimming it cost 30cedis which is like $15 so felt very expensive for us but actually really wasn't. And the kids went wild! None of them can swim but I don't think most people can here so the pool provided loads of float things which they wrapped themselves in and were swimming away in their clothes. We did have to wear clothes being with the kids as they would have thought we were disgracing ourselves and them if we were seen in bikinis. They loved going to the deep bit and then realised now scary it was and screaming for me to come and swim them back. There was nothing better than seeing them all completely forget chores and responsibilities and just have fun for a few hours.

Then after eating our rice we put them on a tro tro home and got one in the opposite direction towards Cape Coast. It's about an hour to Cape Coast from us so when landing in Cape got. Taxi to Takoradi tro tro station, then a tro tro to Takoradi (another hour but was beautiful along the coast if you see on a map), then another tro tro to Axim (another hour). Of all that transport, one tro tro burnt it's tyre out so we went flying down the road with out a tyre. Did very well to stop! Another tro tro we were sat on the back row which was tied in as it was hanging out the back. And the last tro tro broke down from over heating but we jumped straight back in after throwing some water over it. But we did arrive in one piece at the Ankobra resort right on the sea! Felt like absolute 5 star. Shared bathroom but a hotel which provided sheets and a towel and was right on the beach. Other volunteers we were meeting had been there since Tuesday so we found them in the sea in the dark. Had a lovely relaxed evening eating what we thought was very expensive food before persuading ourselves it was ok because it equated to just $12.

Georgia organised for the 9 that were there to go in the morning to the stilt village of Ghana called Nzulezu. Was fab! Took us about an hour to get there by car where we arrived at some marshy fields. We got walked about 10 minutes to an even marshier place. Shoes off and a walk through extraordinarily brown water to the big wooden canoes. The canoe ride was one of my favourite things we've done all trip. It was so beautiful! We canoed across the lagoon to get to the village. I asked the driver of our boat what lived in the water. Crocodiles? Yes. Fish? Yes tilapia etc. Piranhas? Yes. Ok! Luckily we didn't fall in or see any! Bets you would have loved it...not! The stilt village was very cool and amazing that they can survive like that. Constantly needing repair and when you see it you really question how it's still standing! Couple of hundred people live there and we visited the school which was actually almost identical to ours with wooden walls and a blackboard in each classroom. Amazing to see though.

Then we returned to the hotel for a splash out meal of a burger and a swim in the sea. Doesn't get much better!

We decided to return to Takoradi where a lot of people are on placements to just have a cheap and relaxed night so had some rice and my favourite drink! Alvaro is a non-alcoholic malt drink with passion fruit! Imagine a more flavoury appletizer. So good! And then I had a few more creature comforts as in Takoradi they can buy Nutella! So got to eat some peanut butter and Nutella. Made me realise being at my placement is so secluded and we have access to so much less than everyone else. Nice to have it occasionally but I really appreciated my placement seeing the others.

A solid lie in, peanut butter and Nutella on bread breakfast thanks to Chloe and then off to the tro tro station. Tak to cape coast and cape to home!! Was so pleased to get home and see 7 gorgeous faces running towards us and taking our bags! This is home!

Lunchtime so will post some pictures and let you know the next exciting thing!

Siwan Emily
Our host mam ready for the parade. As you can see she is amazing!


Morning! It's Independence Day!

Independence Day - 6th March 1957

So it was last week but I haven't had time or have been too tired to write so I apologise for it's lateness and will do another blog post about my weekend next.

But as the title suggests 6th march was Independence Day! Instructions before the day - wear a white top and a black skirt and smart but comfortable shoes. Ok I can manage that. We assumed it was normal time to start so got up and dressed and walked out onto our porch. Awaiting us outside our house and our host family's house which are connected was the entire marching parade from our school! Good morning Siwan! They were all dressed in the smartest uniform which included bright white socks and black shoes for everyone. Bright white doesn't exist when you live somewhere where the ground is made of sand! So that alone was shocking never mind the mass of kids. All the teachers were there all in white top and black skirt or trousers. I have to say we presented quite a tidy school! Then on mass we made our way to the towns 'park'. The sight when we got there was quite something as we appeared all the schools in the area were lined up ready to march and so we lined up with our flag and Ama Benewa International School looked pretty damn good! When all schools had appeared and were ready some man screamed commands and every school stood to attention and then began to march. Our school drummed away for the entire parade and marched beautifully! Then one by one each school peeled off and began the parade through the town. It was great fun as all the town were out shouting and cheering on the kids. But Blimey it was hot. One of the hottest days we've had. Everyone was dripping. I mean dripping. Then we got to this big field where we met other schools and they all lined up once again to wait for the dignitaries. One the dignitaries were there each school marched around and saluted the dignitaries in their own spectacular way. We watched each school until it as our turn. Little did I know that I was being dragged into this! The kids had practices for weeks and expected us to join! So the white girls went with the school and everyone cheered, well laughed but I'm pretending it was cheering! I can't deny I loved it though. In front of hundreds of people i made a complete fool out of myself but the kids loved it so I loved it!

By the time we were done marching we were all almost passing out so we went home and tried to cool under out little fan in our room. Then everyone who had come for breakfast came to our porch once again for some meat pies and Malta Guinness (a non-alcoholic malt drink that they LOVE here)

And so ended our Ghana Independence Day!

Will post some pictures

Siwan Emily

Monday, March 4, 2013

That's Mr Nkrumah on the left! His posh outfit for the graduation

Freda, me, Rachael, Kirsten

Conversation with Rachael


Thought I'd give you a little taster of a weekend at home! Was a pretty fantastic weekend! Can't really be faulted!

So, after our 2pm finish we decided to make our way to the nearest town as Kirsten needed a trip to an Internet cafe and we needed some essentials ie bulk buy biscuits! So, it's about 10 mins and you take a shared taxi which is a great concept. When you see a taxi coming depending on which hand signal you use you can get a shared or stopping taxi. Stopping taxi is like want we know, they will take you directly to wherever you want to go. Sharing taxis are taxis which go along one road up and down so you w when you get in you'll be going along that road as will everyone else who you pick up but they're dirt cheap so it's all good. The nearest town is called Twifu praso. It isn't that big but is packed and you can buy anything there. Including as we found out tomato ketchup...Heinz. So we have a bottle which I am extremely happy about! Also found baked beans (resisted since I am putting on epic amounts of weight anyway) and digestive biscuits (couldn't resist due to our lack of a thing sweet). Also found a sketchy Internet cafe down a very smelly path but all in all a successful trip! Our evening then was dark! We have a power outage at least one day and Friday was no exception! We had 'lights off' as its called here all night so we ended up outside with the kids taking pictures with kirsten's camera as it has an amazing flash. When I return you will all get to see literally the hundreds of pictures of us all doing jumps, acrobatics, piling on top of each other. It was the most fantastic night!

EARLY MORNING!! The children woke us at 4:30am to go with their pastor and church group for an early morning run. Early morning is correct. But it was a lot of fun! They had like a cowbell and we all ran in a line of pairs and the whole way they clapped and sang. Felt we looked a little crazy but was so much fun!

Then we returned, had our bucket shower and got ready for a day out with our boss. Mr Nkrumah took us to cape coast for the day as an ex pupil of the school had completely his degree at the University of Cape Coast top of his class so was graduating and being offered a scholarship for his masters. The outfits alone were amazing! Didn't see the graduation but waited outside for them to come out and then we went for pictures..little awkward. We had gone to his graduation, was never told his name, then were included in the family graduation pictures! Even had a solo picture with him, Kirsten and I!

We then went for a lunch and went to a supermarket to buy a bag of treats for Rachael, Mr Nkrumah's eldest daughter who I only just found out about! She is 18 and doesn't live at home as she is at cape coast school for the deaf. So we went to visit her. Mrs Nkrumah goes and visits occasionally but apart from that she doesn't see any of the family until Christmas holiday and summer where she gets about a month at home. We went to this school which is huge and I have to say looks like a prison. I will put some pictures of what it looked like. We went to one of he buildings which had these huge dorms and there were loads of girls walking round. But it was so quiet! So, we met a member of staff who went to get Rachael who arrived and leaped at Freda (her younger sister who was with us) then have her dad an awkward hug and came and said hi to us. She's beautiful as you'll see in the pic and asked us to come and see her room which had so many people in it! I then managed to clumsily sign a bit with her from what I'd learnt at Camphill in my months there before Christmas. She then wanted to talk properly so she got out a notebook and we had an amazing chat which I took a picture of so I'll post it on here. She's an amazing girl and I think has quite a tough life. There were kids I saw there who most definitely had more problems like autism and it's hard to watch that and know there is no help for them. So much could be done but there is no staff and no education on how to help them. But at the same time, I have to think how fantastic that there is actually a school for them and they get to learn to sign. Left very moved especially after talking to Rachael. Will hopefully be seeing her again but I think it may just be in our last week when she comes back for the summer. Really made me miss Camphill as well!

So that was Saturday! Another pretty much life changing day.

Pretty boring, washing was done which hurt my hands as always and washed my underwear on a pile of bricks behind the house! Then the rest of the day was relaxing and falling asleep on a blanket on our porch with one of the girls called grace. Was very uncomfortable but so nice to sleep outside in the warmth!

Right over and out, still got to get my bucket out for a shower and then it's up at 6 tomorrow. Will update on thurs with pictures as it is Independence Day! Big march and parade!

Sweet dreams everyone,

Siwan Emily

Friday, March 1, 2013

Time flies, it's Friday

So, just a short one for you all. Thought if explain the picture I've posted of marching.

Friday, is an interesting day at the Ama Benewa International School! Starts with two classes which basically meant me writing some notes. Then it's worship! Which is amazing. Basically all the kids in the junior school pile into the biggest classroom and sing, dance and drum their little hearts out. I'll hopefully post a video for you all next week. It's the loudest, happiest thing you've ever experienced! Just what I needed to end the week. I spent the entire worship with a little 5 year old who was either trampled by the older kids in the classroom or couldn't see outside the classroom so I scooped him up and we danced and clapped for over an hour! Perfection! Then, as you'll see in the picture the kids then march for the remainder of the day which they love. Some kids drum which is like nothing you w ever experienced and the kids march. I watched and wound the kids up by trying to get them out of line and our of step so just ended in a whole lot of laughing. And then we finish at 2 on Fridays, so all in all a good day!

Kirsten and I are just in the nearest town discovering what we can get here including tomato ketchup...hallelujah!

Aside from that the only real news is that, I'm really starting to feel like the kids are trusting me. Had some amazing moments this week including some kids from the nightmare class misbehaving and me losing it and saying I was upset with them and I had had a game planned if they had finished the work and now they'd talked instead of writing the notes I was upset wih them. This was followed by kids following me out to apologise for being so disrespectful. Then a few came out later and asked to talk to me in secret where they showed me their cuts from caning the day before and would I help them (which they're meant to do at home rather than 'complain at school') but they never want to burden their parents with their punishment as they will assume it's for bad behaviour (these kids had got it for playing football in their school uniform) so I took them off and cleaned them up so I knew they were ok and ever since they have come up for hugs and chats so I really think they're beginning to trust me and means I can really help them I hope. Also the kids at home we're beginning to just be so close. It's so nice to feel part of a family out here which includes great snuggles. Had a great evening yesterday as the power went out all night (happens most days but not usually for that long) we played and talked then I sat down with Afia who is 6 on my lap and we both fell asleep with her lying on my chest. A snuggle well needed since I can't get any from anywhere else!

Right I'm going to be off as Ive been very blog happy this week!

Have a good weekend everyone!

Love you,

Siwan Emily
Marching! This is the school 'yard' view from my classroom. Look how close we are to the jungle!

Just in case you miss me :p

I'm a zebra!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rest in peace Justine

So, I'm sure you didn't all expect another one today but had quite the unexpected day. What began like normal - a maths lesson and an ICT lesson turned into one of the most challenging days of my life.

My host, Mr Nkrumah had told us we'd be busy today and that he'd be at the school which is the first time this has happened since we've been here so weren't whether it was weird or just normal. At 10:45 which is break time we told we were going with a group of teachers and students to a burial service. After asking some questions of whose burial service it quickly became a really difficult day. The girl who died was 7 and was in our KG2 class. Her name was Justine and she died on sunday very quickly of what they believe after the medical exam to have been some kind of poison.

Due to us not being able to leave till late we had missed the actual burial service so returned to the family home with all the funeral party. We say down on chairs set up outside the family house. One of the younger kids sat on my knee (thank god - you'll understand why in a bit). The teachers then all got up and we shook hands with the close family which is the proceedings at a Ghanaian funeral to pay your respects to the family then they get up from their seats and do the same thanking you for coming. Then, mr Nkrumah got up and said some kind words about their daughter and why we were there I think since it was all in twi. Then, it got really painful. The children we had taken had prepared a song to say goodbye to Justine. They all stood up and SK, one of the kids of the family I am staying with began the first line with the others carrying on the verse. This carried on for 6 verses with justine's name in the song singing directly to her. Every verse, more and more children were crying, just tears falling down their cheeks. The mother and father were screaming in pain as they cried and I unashamedly cried the entire way through.

And it was only to get harder. The kids sat down with one on m knee and the teacher of the child did what we would think is so bizarre and was the most difficult thing to sit through. She sat in front of the parents and began to read out the register to which the children there replied 'PRESENT'. 'Justine' 'ABSENT' 'Where is Justine?' ABSENT MADAM'. By this point watching what was a representation in the bluntest form of her no longer being at school and no longer with us was horrific. The mother ran off screaming because she couldn't take it. The child on my knee was squeezing my hand and I was holding on to her and wiping away hers and my tears. Then the teachers farewell ended with her handing all the child's school books to the father. I couldn't imagine anything more painful for him and the grief across his face I will never forget.

Every child and adult there was crying and the parents were screaming or couldn't move. Before we left the teachers went aside and we agreed on giving 50 Ghanaian cedis which equates to about $25 or £18. And that was my 2 hours at a Ghanaian burial service. Probably the most difficult 2 hours I've sat through watching. It obviously made me do a lot of thinking just to get all emotional for a second and made me very grateful that everyone in our family is so healthy and safe. Aws, Aled, james and Jon, if you're reading this please give all my cousins a big hug because it made me think of them so much today. Made me hope that noone I love gets ill and I love you all very much.

Thanks mam, dad and Nay for being there today when I was struggling going through it.

Take care everyone and give everyone an extra big hug from me.

Love to all,

Siwan Emily

Monday, February 25, 2013

How we spent our evening when we got home. We had missed them so much and it was only 2 days!

My new earrings.

Cape coast

Kid who fell asleep on me on the tro tro

Kirsten making banku


Welcome to my class!

I'm truly African! There's no denying it now

Cape Coast

So I thought it was about time for an update. It's very hard to remember to do it now its starting to just feel like normal life. Get up at 6:30, get dressed quickly, walk to school, eat a very large, very spicy breakfast, teach a bit, read in breaks, have a little sleep, go home, play with kids, fetch some water, play with kids more, make some snacks for the school the next day, rock out the bucket and mug for a shower which takes forever, then SLEEP!

I'm absolutely loving teaching and I'll give you two highlights of my last week at school. 1. Teaching probability. It's the first and only class so far that I've been given warning I was teaching the day before so I thought up how I could make it a little interesting. Well heads and tails was the first example in their textbook yet their coins don't have a head on so that seemed a little challenging for me never mind the kids. So out came the British coins! They loved it. All getting to flip coins from the uk! Could not understand coins that weren't called pesewas! But it went as well as I could ever hope with then all loving flipping and working out the outcomes.
2. I have found in BS4, class for 9-10 year olds, the youngest I teach there is a beautiful young girl who is disabled. She sits there every lesson and is excused from writing or doing anything, she just has to sit there everyday. I'm not a doctor but I think she has a form of cerebral palsy. So I have taken it upon myself to sit with her when the other kids are out playing games or whatever and give her some massages to her hands which are very painful and disfigured and it calms her uncontrollable moving around. She is so happy as well to be getting some help and attention. I will get a picture of her smile as I honestly think it is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Brought tears to my eyes the first time, she just wants someone to care. Now I sound all sickly and emotional so we will swiftly move on.

Spent the weekend at Cape Coast which is the nearest big city and all 24 of the volunteers on our program went. It was very nice to have some time without kids and seeing somewhere new but I missed the kids so much. It was so nice to get back yesterday! Kirsten and I took the tro tro on Friday and met everyone where everyone had a wild night (I would like to include this didn't include me). Even though I didn't drink I did have an amazing amount of fun as me and Georgia, pretty much the only 2 sober people decided to run into the sea fully clothed in the dark. It was one of the most hilarious and fun few hours ever! Then Saturday, Georgia, Chloe and I walked the market and the fishing village which absolutely wore us out. 5 hours of walking in the baking sun meant tired Siwan. Saturday evening including me having some chips and a fanta and chatting with everyone on the beach. Can't be faulted really! We came back yesterday to the most fantastic welcome from all the kids as they saw us they all ran and jumped and carried our bags. I couldn't believe how much I'd missed them!

So that brings you all up to date! And I'm sorry I'm not emailing back to you all. Whenever I get my phone out with children around they love to just press the screen so replying to long emails is impossible! But I'll answer the question you've all been asking. Am I homesick at all? Yes and no! I do not wish at all that I was home I just wish all of you could be here! Different things happen and I think ooo bets would love this like our spontaneous dance sessions and then the kids ask me to show them a football trick and I think Nay should be here or I throw them up in the air and the older ones want to be thrown but I'm not old enough so I think dad would love it here and then I walk around the beautiful places and see all the people I think of mam and her Kodak moments!

Will keep you posted. Love you all and I do miss every single one of you

Siwan Emily

Monday, February 18, 2013

Madam Siwan

It has now been a week of teaching, well observing, well teaching because basically the teachers can't be bothered. What was meant to be a week of observing literally turned into a week of teaching! Since I want to do maths I have been meant to shadow the guy that teaches maths and science to 10-12 year olds. Well this has basically meant me turning up to lessons and asking where their teacher was and them saying 'you teach you teach' so I ask what class, 'science'. Ok so I take a look at their books 'Convection and Ventilation' - managed to pull it off with a few 10/10s in the test they had today so I can't have done too badly for an on the spot lesson. I also have done so much marking. My red pen and I are best friends. However, made me slightly nervous about the level of teaching here when I was handed the mark scheme for the homework that the teacher had written to discover his calculation of players in football teams was 480 off... Glad I was marking it not him! There may have been a few confused children!!

We attended the one week funeral celebration of my hosts mother on Friday which basically entailed a massive red and black marquee set up in the village with everyone dressed I'm red and black then they had a microphone where they read out all the donations people had given with some songs and dancing in between. Couldn't understand a word but it was all good fun and very hot!

Today was meant to be a very busy and satisfying done but when in Ghana do not expect anything to happen when you expect it! This morning we were meant to organise our timetables...but that didn't happen. Instead I ended up Winton and ICT lesson. I was handed the textbook and no word of a lie had to reach via textbook how to play solitaire on the computer!! Then this afternoon Mr Nkrumah, our host met us in the nearest town to show us the bank and post office but we ended up sitting waiting for Freda's test results at the hospital for 4 hours instead. Still don't know where the bank or post office is!

Now there is no electricity once again and my phone has 3% battery so I will love you all and leave you

Siwan Emily m

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Part of the family

So, just thought I'd write a little short one as I am a little bored!

Yesterday, was just another day at school. Had tons of marking to do but finally got stuck into some maths and science which suited me a lot better than Monday where I was teaching English and religious moral education (for all you that know me you can imagine I did not enjoy that so much!). My day ended in a difficult way with one of the teachers telling me to whip a child in front of the class for not knowing the answer to my question. I flat out refused and said he was more than welcome to do it since I understand it is their culture but I would not. Thank god I avoided that one!

Since my host family are the proprietors of the school, mrs Nkrumah, my host mam is responsible for making the food at the school. So I spent my evening making a version of chocolate milk which is actually better and I definitely will be making when I get back!! Basically you take a bucket, put a whole thing of hot chocolate and coffee creamer in and add water. Boom you have chocolate milk. It was then my job to measure it into little palsy if bags while the kids tied them. Everything is I'm plastic bage here and I think it's genius because rather than need cutlery, you break off a hope in the side with your teeth and drink it out. Kids do this with rice and noodles as their lunch. I think genius.

So you may be wondering why I'm writing this at 10 am and not at school. Well, because mrs Nkrumah has to be at the school all morning for cooking she can not leave and Freda, the eldest girl in the family has been really ill for the last few days. She keeps sleeping everywhere. So today she was really struggling, she has a headache and stomach ache and I have been the honoured one to bring her to the hospital health centre place. So Freda is asleep on the bench and we are waiting in a very long line. There are so many kids here but noone seems dying it seems more of a walk in place. Anyway, I will keep you posted but I very much feel part of the family now to be taking and looking after Freda.

Love to all,

Siwan Emily

P.S. there may have to be a special valentines post tomorrow :) may feel a little sad!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013