Thursday, April 14, 2011

To everything, turn, turn, turn…

Ghana may not have the four seasons as we conventionally consider it in the West, but there are still some noticeable seasonal changes.  In the past few week, the evenings have been very cool, cool enough that it would be possible to sleep comfortably without air conditioning if weren’t for the concrete roof on this house that traps heat in like an oven.  The mornings dawn grey and cloudy, much like what I expect of London weather.  (No wonder the British colonized this country.)  But then about mid-morning, the dense cloud-cover starts to break apart and the temperature rises, with the hot sun overhead baking the landscape.  We’re also moving into the rainy season, which means that we get torrential downpours once or twice a week when the heat has built the clouds up enough that they can’t hold their water any more.  [One oddity about this change of seasons: two weeks ago there was an infestation of black moths/butterflies, coating the ceilings and walls of any building with open windows, from the house to the schools.  A few days later, they were just as suddenly gone, with only a few stragglers who seemed to have missed the memo that their time was over.] 

Speaking of seasons, the concept of our four seasons is somewhat lost on the average Ghanaian.  Earlier this academic term, I asked one of the teachers about the break between the second and third terms, which I called “spring break”. 
“We don’t have spring here,” she said.
“What do you call the break between second and third terms?”
“Easter break.”

[Sidebar discussion: I wonder what happens in the years that Easter is much earlier, like late March.  Does the break between second and third terms get moved up in the year, making the second term shorter than the standard fourteen weeks?  Or is the break still called Easter break even though it doesn’t happen at the same time as Easter?  I still haven’t found a school calendar for one of those years.] 

As we continued talking, we discussed that the previous break was Christmas break, not winter break.  They also don’t have “summer vacation” for the same reasons.  Students still change grades in September, as they do back home, but the break during August and early September is called the “end of term break” or the “long vac” (short for vacation, of course).  This break is only six weeks long, since they don’t have the anachronistic reason of summer farmwork to require that students be out of school for three months.

This lack of seasons came up again in early February when discussing the introductory email from one of the NYC teacher partners.  (This discussion is also a great example of the assumptions we sometimes make.)  The Ghanaian teacher first wanted to know what “NYNY” meant, referring to the US teacher indicating that she was a teacher as a school in “NY, NY”.  That question gave me the opportunity to bring up the concept of American states and make a reasonable comparison to the ten regions in Ghana.  It was followed by a question about “summer”, since the teacher said she spent two summers teaching in Uganda.  The Ghanaian teacher told me that “We don’t have summer”, so I replied that she probably meant the months of June, July and August.  His response?  “That’s our rainy season.  We only have rainy and dry.”

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