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

Monday, February 11, 2013

The full combination
Wearing kirsten's hat

Headphones are out



Welcome to the room

Pics on the wall from kids

My bed

Now it really begins

So after the week at Henry's (my country manager here) doing all our training. Yesterday, we finally arrived at Twifu Mampong. Welcome to our house!! It took us about 5 hours to get here we drove 4 hours on the bus with all the others and were dropped off at Cape Coast, the capital of central region. This is where we met my host and boss mr Nkrumah. Sadly, it turns out his mother had died that morning.

So, we finally arrived at our house and realised we really are in a town in the jungle. Surrounding where we are is just jungle. The room and house is exactly what I expected and considering we were told our toilet is a pit, I think it's significantly better!! It looks like a toilet but just has no flush. We have another room to our house which is a shower room ie. a room with a slightly slanted floor with a pipe for the water to run out.

I spent the afternoon chilling with the children. My host family have 5 kids I think but it's hard to be sure as there are so many kids all the time. We played football but quickly switched to frisbee as they realised how bad i was (Nay you needed to be here to save me on that one) and then I helped my host mam to cook fufu. I was only placed in responsibility for fanning the fire which was cooking the soup and grinding tomatoes.

Then we spent the evening in our room with hundreds of kids coming and going and generally playing with everything we own. I'll post some of our selfies and pictures that they loved taking.

Today was the first day at school. We were taken to school by the youngest 2 kids of the family. Was a cute little walk to school through the village to the edge of the town. The school is literally overlooking the jungle and is a long wooden but separated by wooden walls. The first thing we got to experience was breakfast cooked at the school. Rice and spicy sauce is a little weird first thing in the morning. Then the most difficult part of the day - the caning. We were warned but watching kids being lined up then whipped because they hadn't brought a hanky or washed their hands was a little tough.

Then we were thrown into being observed teaching and understanding how they teach. There is a lot of reciting and more caning although we don't have to partake.

I will blog a bit more about the school as the week and weeks go on. All the teachers also went to pay our respects to my hosts family at his mothers house at lunchtime which was amazing. All the family are sat around the edge whilst you go around and greet them all and then sit with them for a while and they all say some words. Another amazing experience.

I will leave you with my thoughts for the next 5 months. There will not be a moments peace (right now there are 7 children climbing on me wearing my sunglasses and my headphones), I'm going to love every second and I think time is going to fly.

Will be back on in a few days

Love you all,

Siwan Emily

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monkey on my arm (had to take a picture of my camera)


So, hello again!

I do apologise for the few days off. Life is wild over here! Since I last spoke, I left the comfort of Hotel Hansonic in Dansoman! Not going to lie, leaving there was so sad! Saying goodbye to all my friends from the weeks and not knowing when I'd be back was quite sad. But I got a beautiful bracelet in the Ghanaian colours from Mahmed. He said his family wanted me to have it to wish me luck.

I am now in Adenta which is north of Accra in a mahoosive house. I arrived on Saturday after meeting the first group of arrivals at the airport. Little did I know there was a small British group as well as the larger Canadian group that I knew were coming. So Saturday night and Sunday was spent in a fantastic little group of us 5 Brits, 3 Canadians and me who is known as the mud blood since I live in America, signed up for this is Canada but I'm truly British! We did a lot of relaxing but made a solid 2 trips to the bar on Sunday as we waited for the other volunteers to arrive. We were waiting a very long time as that was at 11pm! The new arrivals of like 24 people was a little overwhelming as they were all so excitable and buzzing from just getting off the plane. So we're all in dorms. There are 8 in my room but ours is the coldest because we have the most powerful fan so there is absolutely no privacy in this room as people come and go as they please! The last 2 days have consisted of culture classes is the only way I can describe them. Learning about all the dos and don'ts and what to expect and how to do certain things. Today is where the fun learning starts as we're doing the teaching course.

The teaching course goes till Friday. Then, Saturday is our day off before going to placements on Sunday!!!! I can't wait! Ama Benewa school, here I come!

Till next time I send you all my love and bid you farewell,

Siwan Emily