Reunion of Global Scholars

 

 

 

During the week all of us volunteers stay very busy with school, the clinic, and other projects within the community. So on the weekends we enjoy going out and exploring other parts of Ghana. In our village we had met two medical students from England who were visiting the monkey sanctuary. They were volunteers in another village a few hours away and were on an excursion. We all decided that together we would travel the next weekend to the tallest waterfall and the highest mountain in West Africa. It was Saturday morning and only the 4 Global Scholars decided to go on this trip. We travelled to the waterfall and had to wait for Dan and George, the medical volunteers, to arrive so we could begin the 45 minute walk to the falls. It just so happened that when we decided to head into the forest Cole, Taylor, Ellen, and their guides were leaving. It was the craziest thing running into people who not only go to the same University as you but were also apart of Global Scholars in the middle of a forest in Africa. We talked for a little and decided that we would hike the mountain the next day together.

We spent the night at “Water Heightsbotel” and in the morning made our next trip to the mountain with 6 of us all crammed into a taxi. We met up with the other Global Scholars at the entrance and began our climb up Mount Afadjato; little did we know what we had all just signed up for. It started out at a slight incline with a clear path but out of nowhere comes a steep rock and mud path which was still damp from last night’s rain. Hoping that maybe it would smooth out again we all gave our best effort in the beginning which I think slowed a few of us down by the time we reached the first motivational sign that told us  “Don’t give up, quitters never win” and that we were only a quarter of the way to the summit. It was obvious we weren’t as prepared as we should have been because only the few of us didn’t think to bring any water on this hike. Dehydrated, nearly fainting, and covered in sweat we made it to the top. The view was worth every struggle it took to get there.

The climb down was probably more dangerous than anything. I really think there should have been a warning sign that said “climb at your own risk” because we were all slipping and falling. Tatiana was the first to fall and after that it just went downhill. Hannah slipped, fell and hit her head on a rock. (Pretty sure she had a slight concussion for a few minutes, she’s fine now).  Kelly fell multiple times and still has the battle scars to prove it. And Tatiana was covered in dirt and bruised. We made sure to document these falls though and never let it slow us down. It was a great weekend spent with our new English friends and the other Global Scholars.

 

 

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Josephine’s House

In the beginning of my time here in Tafi Atome I lived in Wilson’s house with the other volunteers. Wilson is an older blind man who lives in one of the nicest homes right off of the main road in the village. He was very welcoming and always made sure we were comfortable in his home. He taught me many things and told many stories about the African culture. However, after 5 weeks of living at Wilson’s the students from the International School of Paris (which there were 27 of them) were coming for their 4th year and they always live with Wilson. So the volunteers from FSU had to move out and we were going to live at “Josephine’s House”. I only ever knew Josephine as the tough girl who on my 1st week forced me to play soccer with her and some other girls. She came off as very stern and it seemed like the other girls were intimidated by her. So that made me a little nervous on what to expect.
I now realize that after 2 weeks of living in her home with her and her family that I was completely wrong. Josephine has become like the little sister I never had and I absolutely adore her. She says the funniest things and is extremely helpful. We all joke around with her and something that she always responds to us is “you are lying” and “what” in this deeply accented voice. Another thing I’ve noticed is that she is a very hard working. She is up in the mornings around 5 am sweeping or helping her mother with things before she goes to school. After school she is fetching water at the river or walking a mile to her family’s farm to get firewood or other materials. Then at night she is cooking with her brother. It is very eye opening to see a 13 year old girl working so hard.
One thing I will never forget is the day I had gone to the river to wash clothes. It was my first time washing at the river because at Wilson’s we were able to do it in his back courtyard. It was a much longer process than I expected and I was struggling carrying the large metal bucket and my clothes on my head. I came back to the house already running late for lunch and told Josephine that I would be back soon to finish my laundry. I think she could tell I had been struggling because she laughed at me and nodded her head. I was coming back from lunch while she was leaving and she walked passed me then yelled back “Fifi is my best friend” and then she goes “you will see something at the house for you when you get back”. Knowing how she is I had no idea what to expect but when I walked up I saw all of my clothes rung out and hanging on the lines. She had finished my laundry even though I’m sure she had many other chores she needed to do. A few days later I was talking to Hannah about what Josephine had done because she had been with her and Hannah told methat she tried to tell Josephine that she didn’t need to do that because we don’t want her to do our work and that Josephine insisted and said “Fifi is my friend and that’s what we do”. I will definitely miss her when I leave.

Women’s Group and the Clothing

In previous years there was a group of women in the village that had come together and had the idea to start a business. In this the women were going to make clothing and sell them to help them earn a profit. Donations such as cloth and other materials were provided from Compassionate Journeys in hopes that this idea would take off. Unfortunately, with the lack of motivation and organization it never even began. However, during our time here many of us have found a strong passion in wanting to empower the women of Tafi Atome. Especially a certain few of the volunteers who have taken this project and gave it the guidance it was missing. Hannah, from Global Scholars, and another volunteer, Kiki, who is also from Florida State University decided to take the initiative to help them get started. They had many meetings with Queen Mother (the woman chief of the village and also the head of the women’s group) to figure out how to begin. After a few miscommunications they finally all met one morning at 6:30am and began making the cloth. I was able to witness this and it definitely takes a lot more work than it seems. They would take plain white cloth, put wax on it, stamp it to make designs, then dye it. After that long process they would have to let it dry before they took it to the seamstress. Now only a week later they have made so many beautiful dresses, headbands, scarves, purses, crop tops and mini skirts. It is amazing what a little motivation and the determination from the volunteers can do. We all hope to work together to bring these clothing and accessories back to the United States to sell them and give all of the profits back to the women here in Tafi Atome.

Adventure TIme

Adventure Time

                  Spending the first weekends in the village I’m currently living in made me realize how busy of a lifestyle that I’m used to. It is in a very rural area and you have to travel by motorbike, then trotro for over an hour to get somewhere that there is something to do as in activities. I have been here for 4 weeks and I am going on my 5th book which is a personal record. I have enjoyed my down time but I’d have to say I definitely find more exciting being out and exploring different parts of Ghana. Last weekend we took our first excursion, we travelled to Hohoe and then towards the mountains. We stopped at the entrance to this trail and paid our fees and started on our 45 minute walk through the forest. We were heading to Wli Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in West Africa. While walking through there were coco trees, coffee trees, pineapples growing out of ground and every once awhile we’d stumble upon a small part of a flowing river. As we got closer the noise of the water falling got louder and louder with each step. Out of nowhere you enter a clearing and look up to see the mountain side with this massive amount of water coming over the top.  I was in awe. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

                  We spent the day taking pictures, eating plantain chips and swimming in the freezing water. Some of us even decided to venture underneath the falls. The force of the water coming down  was like a ton of bricks falling from above so that was short lived, but definitely worth the experience of fighting the stinging mist that blasted you as you got closer to the falls.  

Ghanaian Food

 

Ghanaian Food

Something that has taken a while to get used to is the change in food that they have here. In the United States everyone is so worried about a ‘balanced diet’ with the proper amount of meat, fruits, veggies, carbs, and dairy at every meal. Being here my meals consist of starch, carbs, and some more starch. I have eaten my fair amount of yams, rice, and cassava dough. A couple of the volunteers are vegetarians here so we rarely get served meat, which may be for them or may be because meat is too expensive and hard to find. I haven’t figured that out yet. I had decided once I got here and saw some meat being cooked with flies swarming all around that I should maybe veer away from eating meat while I’m here. Being partially vegetarian hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be even though I have daily cravings for a ‘Totally Tuna’ sandwich from Jimmy Johns and a Chicken Finger platter from Zaxby’s.   

For breakfast we either have rice water, oatmeal, or sometimes on a good day eggs with bits of tomato and onion. There are always jugs with hot water so that we can make tea or instant coffee.  I’ve learned that tea, creamer, and sugar aren’t too bad all together and I’ve been drinking it every morning. There also is usually a loaf or two of bread and another lucky day is when we have enough peanut butter and jelly so that everyone is able to have some.

When lunch rolls around we are all usually ready to eat after a long, hot morning at school. It varies between rice or yams with this sauce which I think is made with tomato paste and palm oil. We also have rice and beans every now and then. Boiled eggs are served a lot of the days but unfortunately those have never been something my taste buds enjoy.

Dinner Time! It’s always a guessing game as to what we’re having that night as we walk from the home where all us volunteers are living to Vanolia’s which is where we eat our meals. Everyone hopes that it’s their favourite meal. Mine I’ve discovered is steamed rice with tomato sauce that has bits of scrambled egg and cabbage in it. We’ve had the traditional Banku and Fufu which I have no idea what they actually are made of but they weren’t my favourite. Fried yam slices that resemble fries, rice balls, and noodles are other things we have for dinner.

It is definitely different but I am getting used to all of the carbs. Luckily the heat and the amount of walking are balancing out my large intake of all only carbs.

 

 

The Primary School in Tafi Atome

 

While here in Ghana I have spent mostly everyday teaching in the primary school. The teacher for Class 4 has been out sick so it has been me and another volunteer in charge of the class. This was not an easy task. The first thing I realized was an issue was the language barrier. Many of the children can partially understand what I am saying but I think they have a difficult time with my accent. There have been many times when I ask the students something and they respond “yes” even when it may not be a yes or no type of question. I have been working with them on their English and last week we were attempting to learn past tense verbs. I’ve noticed they have trouble pronouncing their “w’s” and “y’s”. Another thing that I have found difficult is that it will be time to pass out their notebooks for a specific subject and many will end up not having one. I didn’t understand why some had books and others didn’t then the headmaster explained to us that they either used theirs up or didn’t have one. He also told us that meant that the student just wouldn’t do that work today. It’s hard to see some kids be left out like that because I’ve been told by Emmanuel, the grounds coordinator of Compassionate Journeys, that some families struggle to make only 1 CD a week and in the market the notebooks go for 2 CD’s and 50 pesewas. With that said many families also have multiple children so I can imagine it is a lot of money to try and support your family as well as send your children to school. I try to pass out paper to the ones who don’t have any but then the class does as normal children would and act like they don’t have theirs so that they can get paper too so we’ve had to slow down on that. The school here is nothing like what I was used to in the U.S they are disciplined however there is a lack when it comes to being structured. In the class I was in and it may just be because I was new many of the kids would just get up and walk out. I don’t know where they would go but many would just walk around and go into other classrooms. There are texts books for each level and they do a good job at sharing them with one another but an issue I have ran into is the retention of what we teach them. For example, me and another volunteer focused on the forces in science and reviewed them multiple times. They came in the next day and they were either too shy to answer or no one remembered what we had taught them. I hope while I am here I am able to help them understand and retain the information better. We have started after school tutoring classes in the library in which we alternate the grades throughout the week. We hope by spending a little extra time each day that we can make a greater impact that way. With experiencing all of this I have gained a whole new appreciation for teachers. It takes a great amount of patience and time to be able to teach and actually get across to the students and without doing any of this I don’t think I would have ever realized that.

My first week in Tafi Atome

During this week I have seen many parts of the village. I have been to their Catholic Church service, taught in the primary school, and met with the Chiefs of the village. All of the volunteers, there are 8 of us, live together in Wilson’s home. He is a blind older man and is so sweet. We eat at “Vinolia’s Inn Restaurant” she feeds us three meals a day and her food is delicious. We drink water out of plastic bags known here as “pure water”. It is government issued water that is brought to the village on a truck so that they have safe drinking water. We can buy packages of these water baggies in the small market within the village for 2 cd’s which in America is only some change. Bucket showers are something that I have grown to appreciate, it may not be anything like the showers at home but it is really refreshing after a long day in the Ghanaian heat. However, I do miss the running water that is used to flush toilets. I have a new appreciation for the abundance of drinking water and running water that we have in the United States.

The people here seemed very indifferent of us at first but I learned quickly that as soon as I wave or say hello they get the biggest smile and are very friendly. Majority of the people I have come in contact with are very kind and are extremely hardworking. Many of the women and children fetch water from the river ,which is a good distance away from everything, almost 8 times a day. I have absolutely fallen in love with the children. They are all so sweet and polite. I just want to take them all home with me and I only just got here. One of the little girls names is Joyce. One day we were standing together and she goes “I will remember you even after you leave here”. It was one of the sweetest things I have ever been told. I also have a few students that I teach who have helped me settle in this past week that I have grown fond of. 

Compassionate Journeys strives to bring awareness to the children who are trafficked in this area. They are currently in the process of building a home for some of these rescued children. I had the opportunity to help by making and moving bricks that will be used to build the home. It was hard work but knowing what it would be used for made it all worth it.

The Catholic Church service was conducted similarly to many other Church services I have been to. However, it was all conducted in Ewe which is their main language used here. I didn’t quite understand mostly everything they said but you could see the joy the people had as they worshiped and sang. Their church was a building with windows and benches. It was extremely eye opening seeing that you can come together and praise God anywhere.

We also had the opportunity to meet with the Chiefs, elders, and clan leaders of the village. They were very welcoming and said that Tafi Atome was now our first home and Florida would be our second.

The schools here are much less structured than any I’ve been to in the U.S. My first day at school I was put into a Level 4 class with Tatiana. It was our first day and the teacher was out sick so we had to figure out a way to manage around 25 students all on our own. We started by getting to know the students and then tried to figure out their normal schedule. English is known throughout the village, however, their ability to understand it and speak it fluently is not all there. We managed to occupy their time for 4 hours by teaching basic math and English. We may not have achieved much teaching on our first day but it was an experience unlike any other I’ve had. I am starting to get the swing of things now though. It may be difficult but once you help a student with their work and they understand and say “thank you” it makes it all worth it. Many of the students are quite intelligent.

One morning we were told we were going to wake up at 4:30 am (which back where I am from would have been 12:30 at night) to go on a village jog. Of course each of us was hesitant at that idea but afterwards I can easily say it is one of the best experiences of my life. We walked up to a group of children who were so excited to see us. We got into lines and began jogging. The older ones remained in lines and the younger children ran ahead. They never once stopped chanting or singing songs. The happiness that each person had was radiant and was a great start to my day. I asked many of the children “do you like to run?” and they would smile and say “yes”. So we ran while it was still dark till the sun was rising.

Tafi Atome and all of the people within the village have been very welcoming.