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!