Day 2 – December 30th, 2012
Day 2 in Ghana! Waking up after sleeping our first night here was AMAZING. The usually hot, humid Ghanaian weather was put on hold, and I woke up to a fresh, cool breeze. Even better, I discovered that the mosquito net is probably the greatest invention known to man. I slept like a baby, feeling secure and protected from mosquitoes and nightcrawlers. Take that, you freaking spiders.
Our wonderful chef Fausti spoiled us with a breakfast of champions: veggie omelets and toast. Afterwards, because it’s Sunday, we loaded up into “The Hulk” (the ridiculously old yet amazingly tough Land Rover with party bus seating in the back seat) and headed to church! We ended up crashing a service of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. It was awesome. Service was held outside on a piece of concrete floor with a roof along the side of a hill. Not only was the weather beautiful, but we also got to experience Ghanaian hospitality firsthand. It’s not just a saying either; Ghanaian hospitality is an actual, legitimate thing. As soon as we awkwardly shuffled into the benches and took our seats, the priest immediately stopped what he was saying to welcome us and reminded us, “You are welcome here. Everyone is welcome here.” For the next hour, we had a dandy time singing (well not really, because everyone was singing in Fante… it was more like mumbling and clapping our hands and swaying). They accommodated to our ignorance by alternating in English and Fante while delivering the sermon, despite the fact that the regulars at church would have to stay in service for twice as long. Then at the end of it all, we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves individually to the whole congregation. It was so great. I can’t get over how friendly Ghanaians are…you just don’t see that in America at all.
When we got back from church, we met up with Dr. William Turner, one of Isaac’s good friends. What a boss. At the age of 70, after finishing his career practicing medicine in England, Dr. Turner decided to return to Ghana to help establish a health clinic and medical school at the University of Development Studies in Tamale (10 hours north of Kobina Ansa). Isaac gave Dr. Turner and his family a tour of Sankofa to show them the new construction projects, then we sat down with him and picked his brain about the primary health issues in Ghana, things that we need to consider as we plan the establishment of our school which could potentially tend to the health and sanitation of the children as well as educate them. Dr. Turner had one bottom line, and came back to this topic regardless of the questions we asked him: malaria is the major killer in Ghana, and yet it is largely ignored. Worthy of note: over 17,000 Ghanaian children (under 5 years old) die of malaria per year. Adults get it 2-3 times annually. His solution? Completely alter the cultural perception and attitude towards malaria. He also noted that it is important for clinics to have laboratories to test for malaria. An immediately applicable way to implement this into the schools is easy: school uniforms with trousers (pants) instead of nickers (shorts), and socks. According to Dr. Turner’s research, the vast majority of mosquito bites occur on the ankle, which can be avoided with proper attire. Sure, the kids might sweat a little more than they would wearing shorts, but in Dr. Turner’s words, “what would you rather have? One slap or two slaps?” (Honestly, I didn’t get this at first, so don’t worry if you don’t either). Health education and hygiene can also be a focal point of the classes being taught.
After another exceptional meal of fish stew and yams (you rock, Fausti), Isaac gave us a quick lesson in West African drumming. I don’t think we lived up to the skill of the drummers that he usually jams out with, but he taught us a pretty cool beat. We each had our own drum and we made beautiful (somewhat) music together. Hopefully he’ll teach us a bit more, then we can go on tour together. For now, we’ll stick with getting this school up and running.
We met with Faustina, an assemblywoman and current director of the school in Akoanso. For a good hour, we had the opportunity to essentially grill her with questions about the educational needs of the children in the village. She currently runs a school of 100 children in ONE classroom. No more complaining about final exams and “unfair” professors. Bottom line: there’s clearly a need for a bigger, more efficient school that can meet the needs of the children. The issue comes down to money: it costs a great deal to pay teachers and maintain the school, yet Faustina hopes to keep down tuition costs to make it affordable for a majority of families. Tomorrow, we’re planning to visit the school and check it out for ourselves. Can’t wait to meet the kids! This is a side note, but we talked about this yesterday, and the children here have this innocence and curiosity that makes us all melt due to an overload of cuteness AND reminds us that most kids these days have lost that for the most part, with their obsession with dating and Grand Theft Auto.
We finished off our day with an impromptu trip to a nearby beach. Aside from the fact that we found a dead dog in the sand, it was nice. We had the typical long walk on the beach, initially cringing and eventually sighing at the feel of wet sand in between our toes. We learned that we’re all terrible at gauging water level… high tide eventually overtook us all.
On the way back, we stopped at a nearby gas station to buy Ghanaian chocolate. Instead, we walked out with Salt and Vinegar and BBQ Pringles. Amurrica.
We just finished a delectable dinner of pasta with tomato sauce (we love you, Fausti) and now we’re sitting in the common area, lazily flat on our butts in the comfy couches talking about THE MOST random things. I’m typing this like 3 feet away on Isaac’s computer, and I’m hearing something about creepy taxi drivers. How did we get here?
WOW this is long. Kudos to you if you got this far. Anyway, I’m gonna get back to the weird conversation I left. Talk to you soon! Love and peace be with y’all 😀
(Agoo?!, Amee! : Fante and Twi call and response to get attention and gather a group/ team around. Person who wants everyone’s attention says “agoo” and people respond with “amee” to show that he/she has their attention.)