Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gye Nyame

Gye Nyame is one of the traditional symbols here meaning "believe in God." All of the symbols, some specific and others not to certain tribes, are beautiful.
Gosh, where to begin. As I said before, it is often gruelling to get on the internet here. First of all because it is so gorgeous outside, second of all because I always think of something else I would rather be doing, and third of all, it is oh soo slow. Patience is a virtue.
I cannot believe it is already March! AND March 16th at that. It is so unreal. Life here is so unbelievably great. I am learning, teaching, and meeting so many new and amazing people.
2 weeks ago I went on one of my biggest adventures yet with the College of Social Work here. We went all over the country from March 3rd-7th. It was incredible. I cannot even remember which days we did what, but I will try and give you a little taste of everything. We went to many rural villages, where we learned about what they ate, how they survived, and what their schooling was like in order to better understand community development. Many of these villages I would not have been able to go into on my own because you must first get permission from the chief of the village and build a relationship before being accepted. The Dr. of social work here has been taking this trip for many years now, and has thus built strong relationships throughout the country within these villages, he is amazing. An amazing person and an inspiring educator.
We first visited a farming village, and as we ventured up north we took note of the gradual change in vegetation from very moist, green tropical foliage to hot, arid brown lands. As we continued on our journey we made many pit stops within different villages. Meeting people, learning how they live and how their community ahs developed. We later went to a famous rock shrine where many people go for sacred prayer, then ventured north to Paga, where there is a pond containing over 200 crocodiles believed to be sacred. So, after summoning the spirits and feeding them chickens, the man who lived there allowed us to sit on them! After that crazy adventure we continued on to a slave camp located a little bit away. Wow. This was one the the most powerful experiences I have ever had, to speak with Ghanain friends about their sentiments regarding slavery and such camps was one of the greatest opportunities ever. To hear how many of the African people sold their own people out in the pursuit of power, money, alchohol, and how Europe, Portugal, America, Brazil and many others sought out these slaves was dishearetening and sickening. Within the rocks at the camp were indents, about 10"x4." These indents were used as bowls for meals for the future slaves, 5 Africans to one indent. There was a punsihment rock there where the master would tie the Arican up, feet roped together and hands behind their back, and then force them to stare at the sun until they were satisfied. It was 94 degrees that day, and I broke into a cold sweat at the foot of that rock. And these people were human? That a person has that capacity within them to be that dark is terrifying. The echoe that we are all human regardless of skin color, background, language, rang more strongly in my ear that day than ever before.
Following that we continued on to Tongo. I could not believe my eyes as were journeyed there, I felt like a character on the cartoon, Wild Thornberries. The place was unlike anything I have ever seen. A place made by God's hand. Incredibly brown and dry, and the rocks, oh my gosh, the rocks there- they were placed everso precisely by a creator beyond me. We drove into the village where the chief resides in a concrete palace with his village that surrounds him below in circular concrete 'houses.' He has 17 wives and apparently 300 children. He is about 65 years old and continues to make children to this day. As a rule of the village, they are not technically supposed to have visitors, but the chief wanted them, so the community must sacrifice more animals to the Gods so that they are satisfied. To thank the Dr., the chief gave him a goat, which was an incredible gesture of gratitude because the village loses an animal to sacrifice. So, the rest of our journey we had a goat on the top of our bus. Picture that.
All the while, I was building an incredible friendship with the young man I sat next to, Sadeeq. He is from the Eastern region, he speaks Twi, Housa, English, a little arabic, and a little english. Everywhere we went he taught me something new, from the food consumed, to the foliage, to the housing to cultural traditions and new words in Twi, all while building an amazing friendship.
We stayed in many different places, from a room with bunks to a convent to a Worker's college- a long room with single beds lining the room, complete with concrete bath houses, where you fetch water and take bucket showers. Gosh an unforgettable, rewarding experience.
Ah! I know this is so long, and all over the place, I hope you can follow along. I am not doing my english major justice in my writing here, but I hope that this helps you to understand a little bit about what I am learning and experiencing!
Last weekend I went east of where my school is in Accra, Ghana, to Ho in the Volta Region for my friend's wedding. I stayed with my friends from the trip, Sadeeq, Susan, Betty, Mary, Love, Rose and a few others at their college.. it was so fun! Then on Sunday morning Sadeeq and I hiked up the mountain behind the school. Incredible. He told me how, back when people didn't have access to toothpaste, they would use the stem of a plantain and charcoal (made from burned wood) to brush their teeth. Gosh, the innovation here is unbelivable. As we were walking up we ran into a young boy, about 13 years old, carrying a long piece of wood on his head. He stopped when he saw us, fearing that we were part of the forestry commission. It is illegal to cut trees, and so we could arrest him if we were. Sadeeq said," oh! bra, bra." Which means, come come. When we got to the top, we could see more than 6 mountains in the distance, one after another, through the moisture hanging, trying to disguise them. What a sight to see. Just another day in Ghana.
Today I just had one class, the classes here are 2 hours long, which is draining. The school is on a british system, which means we only have one exam at the end of the term, and various group projects throughout. Last week in my history class for example, she handed us a packet and we read aloud for two hours straight. Classes are so different here. I am learning far more outside of the classroom than inside, and far more culturally than academically, which transgresses the classroom walls.
Tomorrow morning I will go to the Aburi clinic, where I will help weigh infants and distribute vitamins and various vaccinations.. one of my favorite days of the week :) Then Thursday I have one class, and a group meeting. Then, Friday I will go teach at a Muslim school about 1.5 hours away in a rural village called Amasaman. I teach english there to 6th graders.. It is wonderful.
When I first came here, I wrote in my journal a numbered list of goals while I am here. Little did I know in what way those goals would manifest themselves. Everytime any Ghanaian asks me when I am leaving, I always hesitate to say May 16th. I have so much still to do while I am here. So much still to learn and see. Tehre are so many different volunteer opportunites I ant to pursue, and so many friendships I want to continue to strengthen, and an entire language I need to learn. Ay yi yi.
After being here and seeing different classrooms, I cannot imagine teaching anywhere else. I have always had a desire to teach in inner-city America, where I feel I would be used best. After being here, I feel that I am truly being called to teach here. Who knows what the Lord has in store, what I do know is that I must seek and trsut Him first.
The faith throughout this country is so beautiful. Faith is about tradition and loving people well. Christian and Islam are the two dominant religions, though I have friends who are buddhist as well. The way that they blend together is so interesting and full of love. They say that above all, the core of all religion is love. To love one another well and to carry on the tradition into which you were born. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Ahhhh, thank you for reading all that. Know that I think about you often, lift you up in my prayers, and am so grateful for the blessing of your friendship and support.
A smile from Ghana to you, enveloped and sealed with love.