I’m not talking about the weather, although we are reaching the time of year when the rains come again. (We had a doozy of a rainstorm yesterday afternoon, complete with rivers running down the streets, heavy enough that I kept looking around for someone collecting animals in pairs.) I’m referring to the shower of gifts and goodwill that I’m getting now that I’m here for only a bit longer.
|Gift presentation by Science Coordinator|
Last week and this week I’ve been making my final visits to the schools. When I was getting ready to leave from one of the schools, we (William*, the new S2S Coordinator, and I) stopped in to see the headmaster. He then asked us to return to the computer lab, where he brought in the staff from the sub-metro education office. The Science Coordinator then presented me with a gift for all my hard work. I opened it to find another Ghanaian outfit, this time made from African print instead of Kente. I was stunned that a single school would buy me such a nice gift. They must have gotten the measurements from the same woman who did the Kente outfit, because this one also fits. I was also given a baby—to hold for the picture, not to take home with me to the US. This may be the first picture I have of me holding a Ghanaian kid even though I’ve held a few of them, since I’ve spent much more time taking pictures of their happy faces than I have holding them.
Last week, one of the teachers invited me over to her house for dinner and she chose last night. Yesterday she was giving me directions but then asked if I would like for her to pick me up, to which I replied, “If it’s not too much trouble, that would be wonderful.” I had heard of the part of town called Patasi Estate where she lives but I wasn’t sure how exactly I would tell the cab driver to get me there.
|Ghanaian kid (not a gift)|
She and a cousin came to pick me up at the house in the family car and we drove to their house. Anytime someone invites me for food, I am always a little apprehensive, but the dinner she cooked turned out to be the Western-friendly Ghanaian meal: fish, Ghanaian salad, rice and sauce. We ate with her siblings but not her parents. Her mother was off to a church event and her father, who showed up halfway through dinner, only eats fufu and not rice. She told me that much of the time Africans do not sit down to eat at a dinner table as a family—something that they have in common with many American families these days. Supposedly it was the first time that her eight-year-old sister had sat at the table to eat with the family, which seems odd but somehow believable. Before the kids had gotten served, they apparently were talking about whether the food was for them or only for the obruni (the only word I caught).
Her father brought me a pencil holder cut out in the shape of Ghana as a gift. I find it fascinating that Ghanaians have been giving me some of the gifts that I would only expect the tourists to buy: this pencil holder, a “Greetings from Ghana” sign, a Ghana sash. Maybe it’s not considered touristy when it’s a local that gives it to you. I was surprised and touched that he would bring a token to the random dinner guest that his daughter invited over.
It took her little sister some time to warm up to me, but by the time we left, she had grabbed my hand and we were the best of friends. (Side note for Becky: Best friends on one. Best friends!) Five of us piled into the car for the drive home: father, teacher, younger brother and younger sister and me. I asked her if she knew how to drive and she said, “No, it’s very hard to learn here.” No kidding! [Random story: One time Akmed asked me if I would want to borrow his car and drive myself if there was a day he was sick and I told him that there was no way. There are so many local rules of the road that I wouldn’t know to follow. That conversation was quickly followed by a perfect example: someone making a left across traffic from a side road onto a main road while the person on the main road also made a left to a different side road. I’m pretty sure I would wreck the car in less than five minutes.]
Early on in this project, I felt that working with so many schools meant that I wouldn’t get to know anyone very well and I wouldn’t be a part of anyone’s life here. While I don’t think I got involved as deeply with people as I would have if I had worked with fewer schools, I’ve ended up getting thanked by so many people because they all seem to feel like I’ve made a difference to them and are taking the opportunity to show it. Good thing that I packed quite a bit of consumable things on my way over, because I’ll need all that space in my luggage for the gifts I keep receiving.
*Name still changed to protect his privacy