Whew! I have been here one week and one day, and already I am exhausted! I had a rather tumultuous start to my trip, but every day things are getting better and better.
To start, when I landed in Ghana after traveling for 20ish hours, there was no one from my organization at the airport to pick me up. I was in Accra, alone, with a ton of luggage and looking very vulnberable indeed. I got approached by several different men all trying to scam me into one thing or another, to pay them for calling the hotel, moving my bags, trying to get me to take a taxi. I felt so ridiculous, like I had a giant sign on my forehead:
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME
Needless to say, it was quite scary. However, and Australian girl and her Ghanaian boyfriend eventually came to my rescue after watching me flounder around the airport lobby, totally overwhelmed. The assisted me into a taxi, who took me to the hotel I was instructed to go to if no one showed up. The desk clerk helped me call my program coordinators, and I got a hold of them. It ended up just being a mix-up, they somehow got the impression that I had changed my arrival date to match with Micah's, which is in February. Woops.
The next morning, Mr. Pius from CATO arrived and picked me up. He helped my buy water and a phone, and took me out to the orphanage. Ah, the orphanage. Here is where it gets interesting. It is a good orphanage, however I learned later that the founder and head of the orphanage did not know I was coming that day, and was not there to meet me. I was taken to my room which is right smack in the middle of the grounds, next to the office. I was under the impression that I would be living off-site, however that is not the case. It is nice in a way, because I am around and can easily help, however it also is not so good given that I am always around 128 yelling children. That day I rested, and then the night came.....
It was dark. It was hot. And there were animals EVERYWHERE. Rats clattering and fighting on the tin roof all night long. A mouse nesting in the foam mattress under me. A GIANT cockroach who managed to get into my mosquito net and scuttle across my pillow. And the kids were up until 1.00 AM yelling and playing. Needless to say, I did not sleep. Instead I had a total breakdown and called Mican bawling my eyes out saying Forget it, I'm coming home. Keep in mind that I had slept maybe 3 or 4 hours in the last 48 hours.
The next morning, things were a little better. I realized that the reason I completely fell to pieces was partly due to lack of sleep, and partly due to some faulty preconceptions I had subconscioulsy concocted about this journey.
When Jim (my brother) and I were little, one of our favorite games was "Poor Kids", where whenever it rained, we would go into the backyard in our bare feet with and umbrella as our house and plot our survival tactics, which were basically sneaking into the house 'stealing' food. It was really fun. However, I think somehow I got this idea that I would go and "play poor" for three months, and that it also would be really fun. Ahem. Wrong. Very wrong. It's not a game. And it's not fun at all. It's dirty, and chaotic, and exhausting. Just washing dishes takes no less then 30-40 minutes of hauling water,pouring, scrubbing, and rinsing in the hot hot hot sun.
However, now I am doing much better. I figured out how to arrange my mosquito net so bugs won't get in, and when I met Naomi, the founder and "mother" of the orphanage, she made me feel so welcome and immediately cleaned and arranged my room; instantly I did not feel so alone and overwhelmed.
The third day, I began teaching. It went something like this:
Cynthia (orphanage staff): "Ok, let's go the classroom, and you can watch the teacher to learn how we teach here and look at the lesson plans"
Me: "Alright, great!"
*walk over the sections of concrete separated by bamboo lashed together and roofed by a tin slabs*
Cynthia: "Here is the class, we are giving them to you. Oh, the teacher is not here. She was not here yesterday."
Me: "Um, ok."
Cynthia: "This is your class now, teach them something."
Me: " Hello, my name is Madame Susan, I am your new teacher." (inside thoughts are frantically racing) "Give me your book."
I took one of their English workbooks, and upon glancing through it saw that almost everything was wrong, and furthermore their former teacher had marked the wrongness correct. Ai! So I spent the day correcting it on the chalkboard and having them explain to me how their day goes.
After pestering various people, I finally got a lesson book and a scheme of learning and am able to write lesson plans.
In essence, teaching is incredibly difficult for a number of reasons. First, I requested 6 and 7 year olds. My class ranges from 8-12 years of age, very hard ages to teach. Also, there is a shortage of everyhting because the kids lose the few materials that they have. Furthermore, the textbooks themselves are full of errors and typos, explaining why many children are very far behind. The kids are on all different levels, some can't even really read, write, or speak English, and some are reading and understanding very well.
On Sunday I ventured out into the town, Kasua, where the orphanage is. I attempted to find an internet cafe and use it. To make a long story short, I finally found it on my second trip into the town with other volunteers from Germany after a failed first trip based off vague directions. It was closed. In between the trips, I made a friend though, a young man named Abubake Sadique. Say that four times fast:) He is 27 and owns the gas station across the street from the orphanage. In Ghana, people will just sit and chat with strangers for tens of minutes to an hour. This is what we did, and now we are friends. I went and visited him and his gas station last evening, it is so nice to have someone to talk to outside the orphanage. He's very relaxed and intelligent, so he makes a great person to converse with.
Overall, this first week has been full of enlightenment, tears, loneliness, new friends, adorable children, an inspiring woman (Naomi), and just learning how to get along; something that is much harder than I anticipated. I am very eager for Micah to come, he will be visiting for 4 weeks in February. We are planning to travel for 1 week while here is here, and it will be very nice to have a vacation. I am working very hard, I wake up at 6.00 every day and am exhausted by 9.00 PM.
It will be a long three months, but I believe the endurance I will gain, the things I will learn, the people I will meet, and the strength I will have to find will all be worth it.
Thanks everyone for your support, I am doing my best to make every penny and every prayer count!