Afehyia Pa!

Day 4- 1st January, 2013

…here it is! 2013. And we couldn’t have chosen a more amazing place to be. Fireworks, a huge bonfire, the sound of crashing waves: it was spectacular. We all stood around and wished one another “Afehyia Pa” and then began the new year; breaking it down on the dance floor. Some Ghanaian people there taught us a bit of the local modern dance (Azonto). It was at this point of the trip that we realized we had become a family. In a span of 4 days, we had grown so close to each other and were having so much fun. I was happy to be starting a new year with amazing new friends.

On our way back from the beach, we encountered our first hitch of the year, and it was only 2:30am! We got pulled over at a Police barrier. At this point, we were not even sure what for; according to our guide Yaw, the police seemed to be looking for some New Year’s “bonus”. After being held up for a while, we were finally let go once our driver had bargained down to a “reasonable” bribe.

We came back, and after what seemed like just a nap, we were up again to begin the day. The main agenda for the New Year was to visit the Akoanso school and see class in session. We were very thankful for the teachers and the children, who were giving up their holiday to help us carry out our research. They had also been giving up most of their holiday to prepare for our arrival, and it goes without saying that the gratitude we felt was mixed with a bit of guilt.

observing class

Our first impression of the school: tiny. The 90-something children that attend the school from Kindergarten to 3rd grade all have class AT THE SAME TIME in one room, partitioned only by sheets of ply-wood into three sections; kindergarten, class 1&2, and class 3. We were dumbfounded. We thought we were prepared for what we would see after our interview with Faustina a couple of days before, but nothing could have prepared us for what we met. Noise for each class flows into the other partitions and is very distracting, the rooms are poorly lit and ventilated, and there was the odd chicken and kitten wandering through.

serious little girl (small)

The most inspiring thing is that despite these conditions, the children apparently perform significantly better than all the other children in neighboring schools and evidently love to learn. Additionally, if the dedication of the teachers was not already clear from the effort that went into the show we received the day before, today definitely showed this.

After observing class for a while, we made some donations of books, stationery and other supplies to the school. We can never forget squeals of delight of the children when Paul pulled out a football (soccer ball). We finally allowed the children to go home and celebrate the well-deserved holiday, but not without a sugar high stimulated by Dum Dums, candy canes and chocolate.

We then interviewed some of the older children and were stunned by some of the things we heard. From their future aspirations to their requests for a better school, we were convinced now more than ever that this is definitely a project we wanted to be involved in. The children need this school. Our interviews with the teachers also gave us more information on the administration and potential development of the school.

Ji Won + Student (small)

Lunch consisted of fried yam chips and fish, and simply put, Fausti had done it again. The meal was nothing less than delicious and by this time we were all certain of “YIRA trip-15” (in addition to Freshman 15). After lunch, we were invited to a New Year’s gathering at the nearby town of Anomabo hosted by the Twafohene (a subchief) of the area. Our day had began with dancing, but there was clearly more. The delightful brass band at the gathering fed us with some catchy tunes which led us all to the centre of the park to break it down. While some may have gotten a bit carried away by the music (no one said it was Paul), we were having a wonderful New Year’s Day so far. But there was more to come.

We need not talk much about what was becoming a norm because I think we may end up running out of suitable adjectives. Dinner was all out scrumptious (or “um nom nom nom”, as we have settled on) -Fried rice and fried chicken.

Dance seemed to carry through as the theme for our New Year. The evening involved a traditional dance workshop with Christopher, a dance instructor from the Ghana National Dance Ensemble, and Mutala, a drummer from a long family line of expert drummers. We were also honored to have the Chief of Kobina Ansa (where we are staying) join us. Before he was ordained as a chief, he was very sought after as a master drummer. For the next 3 hours, we learned a Ghanaian children’s game and two traditional dances; Gota (Ewe) and Bima (Frafra). By the end of the night we were exhausted but also quite adept at local traditional dance, if I say so myself. With the rigor of the dance routines, I say forget about “YIRA trip-15.”

dance workshop (small)

It has been a great start to a new year and we wish you all Afehyia pa!

 New Year’s Greeting:

Person 1: Afehyia Pa!

Person: Afenko betoyen.

Literal Translation:

Person 1: A good meeting of the two years.

Person 2: May the year come back to meet us all again.

This is then usually followed by each person wishing something good for each other. Often said during new years, birthdays and other anniversaries.

*Ewe and Frafra are 2 Ghanaian ethnic groups.

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