Hello everyone! As I write this, I have just 8 full days left here in Ghana ... the time really FLEW by! For the remainder of last week, Beth and I worked at the school at Challenging Heights, continuing to type exam questions and be in the classrooms. This weekend was very laid-back, because we had nothing planned. Eric, Kaleigh and I went to the market Saturday morning to look for fabric and search for food for dinner. I succeeded in finding fabric, and ordered my dress from a seamstress later that day. :) Anyway, we were planning on making French toast for Emmanuel and his wife, so we bought butter bread, Blueband (a brand of margarine), eggs, and tea creamer (best substitute for milk). Although we didn't have cinnamon or syrup, it came out really well! We got many compliments for our "cooking"! Shopping for the ingredients makes you really appreciate the supermarkets we have back at home. Everything you need, you can get in one stop at Meijer. Here, however, it's not that easy - you usually have to go to numerous shops to get what you need. I found that out yesterday when I bought my own cell phone. You have to buy the actual phone, then go somewhere else to get a SIM card, then you have to go somewhere ELSE to have your card registered. And then there's always the chance that the person registering your card will copy down the number wrong, so you can't use the phone until the next day, when you give them the correct number. I feel like I had a true Ghanaian experience yesterday! (My whole afternoon was spent walking around Winneba). It was so kind of Emmanuel to help me - I offered many times to pay him for his troubles, but he kept refusing! He (and his wife) have been wonderful hosts to us here. They have cooked for us several times, and Emmanuel takes us to the school every day (for a fee, but he's still giving us his time!) I've really been enjoying my stay here in Winneba; it's a lovely town to spend the rest of the trip in.
This morning James Annan (from Challenging Heights) took us around Winneba and explained some of the many programs that Challenging Heights administers. I was amazed at how involved they are in the community, from helping send children to school, to women's organizations, to skills training, and everything in between it seems (in addition to helping children who have been rescued from slavery!) There will be many different opportunities for the students who come on next year's trip. Unfortunately, our time restraints make it very difficult to get involved in anything else before we leave, but we gathered a lot of information that should help plan for next year's trip. We only have tomorrow, Thursday, and Monday to work in the school now! On Monday, we have to plan a program for the students. We're still a bit unclear on what exactly that should entail, but we're thinking something more academic for the older students, and something more akin to a "field day" for the younger students. Hopefully when we put all our heads together we can think of something really cool! (I feel like the students would enjoy almost anything we put together).
Working in the school has really helped me appreciate the educational system we have back home. I almost didn't notice it at first, but the students here don't have textbooks to work from - they have to copy whatever the teacher puts down on the blackboard. Most kids use pencils - pens are very rare - and they sharpen the pencils with razor blades. Caning is not uncommon either. It is culturally accepted, but James said that at Challenging Heights, it's not allowed. That doesn't stop the teachers from threatening to cane the students (my teacher says that frequently), and we saw the headmaster cane some students this morning. I felt terrible for them - it would be humiliating anyway to be hit in such a way, but in front of visitors, too ... it was sickening. Teachers here don't show the same love and affection that is common for teachers back home, and it can be a rude awakening. I think that's why the students LOVE it when I write a smiley face on their papers if they did a good job - they will get the biggest smile on their faces and say "Thank you, madam!" It's a small thing, but it makes them feel so good. James mentioned that to us on our first day - the kids really just need love, since they oftentimes don't get it from home or from the teachers. I think just us being there makes a difference.
Friday we leave for Cape Coast! I'm excited to see yet another part of this beautiful country (and do all the touristy things like go on the canopy walkway and tour the slave castles). Tuesday we're going to take it easy, clean, and pack before we leave for Accra on Wednesday. It's so hard to believe that our trip is almost over! I'm beyond ready to see everybody back home though - it's been too long! I miss you all, but I will see you next week! Take care!