Friday, 15 March 2019

Change



I am going to miss this school.
Walking down the corridors and remembering a time gone by...17 years ago.
My four year old daughter with tiny pompoms in her hair, yellow t shirt under flowered overall shorts. Her little hand gripping mine tightly; wondering about this new school.
The pretty classrooms lined up in a long U, with rounded, terra cotta coloured roofs. The large well-laid, green basketball court in front of the classrooms, separated from a sandy playground by a line of low trees.

I remember taking her to the little petting zoo tucked in the corner of the bend between grades 2 and 3,  to see the tortoise, the rabbit and the guinea pig, just to settle her anxieties.
In no time she got to love the school. (How could she not?) Even more, when it became my school too.

 One summer, the petting zoo gave way to a new classroom...my own. I remember my first day as a teacher. I was confident, nervous, excited and worried. All at once.
My first class of students. I remember every one of them. The little girl who cried everyday until she learned to speak English. The little boy who had a habit of chewing a piece of his notebook the minute my back was turned. The one who brought little lizards into the classroom after recess;  the one who looked like she'd burst into tears whenever it was time for number work...

I remember the wonderful community of teachers...so many of them have come and gone, and every group has been special. There have been numerous changes over the years; too many to count, but we are on the verge of experiencing the biggest yet. The quaint classrooms with their rounded terracotta colored roofs will soon give way to a massive state of the art high-rise school block. It is an exciting change for all, but today, I feel sad. Bereft.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Anja


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Anja is from Kosovo. She just joined the class a month ago in the second semester of the year. She speaks no English, but appears to have some learning difficulties too.

Initially, the girls in the class took her under their wing, but all that has changed. They discover Anja is different. She looks, speaks and acts differently. Plus she let on that she was older than most of them...two years older. The fifth graders do not know how to embrace all that uniqueness. For sometime Anja did not realize they had lost interest in hanging out with her, so she followed them everywhere. It became obvious even to her at some point, yet that didn't stop her from seeking their friendship...though not quite so enthusiastically.

Through it all, Anja carried herself admirably. She always had a smile on her face, and got on with the business of school without complaint...or so it appeared. At the next parent meeting her mother informed the teacher sadly that her daughter was not happy in school. She thought the other girls didn't like her because she was so much older. The teachers are amazed. Anja announces her age at the least opportunity, with her ubiquitous smile. The very next day in a small group activity, the subject of age comes up as the students discuss a story character, and sure enough Anja pipes up. "I am 12 years old!"
This time the teacher looks more closely, and she sees it.  Face smiling yet fearful. Eyes beseeching acceptance. Trepidation masked by a stoic sense of self. "I am 12 years old!"

Anja was more than she appeared. She could barely speak English, but she spoke for us all...and in point of fact, she spoke better than most.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Brief



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Achy feet.
Sore calves.
Stiff back.
Grainy eyes.
Migraine.
Jumbled thoughts - yet I must slice.
Even if its a sliver of a slice.
Perdóname (I'm learning Spanish), this is going to be brief.
It's been a tough day.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

At the Market





The Baatsona market on Saturday morning offers a complete assault on the senses.
The marketplace in Ghana is one of the last vestiges of traditional and cultural practices that resist any movement into modernity. It never ceases to amaze me. From the randomly, haphazardly organized stalls, to the communal existence apparent in the human interactions, it is as though time froze here, and a visitor from the 1940s would have no problem fitting right in.

The vast array of red tomatoes, white garden eggs, green okra, blackened smoked fish, orange peppers and silver salted fishes are enough to leave you crosseyed. I head for my favourite crab lady first. She has large orange-hued moon crabs and delicious flat blue ones of all sizes. She 'mistakenly' gives me double what I ask for, and tries to convince me to buy it all. I sweetly refuse, and she sweetly acquiesces, prattling non-stop about her delicious crabs.

A table piled high with smooth, round shiny red tomatoes catches my eyes. Of course, the vendor caught me looking and wasn't about to let me go. "Oh mummy, please come!", she cried plaintively. (nevermind the fact there was NO way I could be her mother). Nevertheless, I liked the look of her tomatoes enough to comply.
 As I stood there, the insistent cries of a little girl nearby caught my attention, and I wondered why no one else seemed bothered by it. It was the tomato seller's daughter,  being chided severely by a woman at the next table. The mother finally intervened, and I wondered if a quarrel was about to break out between the women, but no, not at all.
 "You must listen to Auntie Esi when she asks you to stop," she said to her daughter.
I recognized it immediately from way back when I was little....the child-rearing style among females. Our mother's friends had every right to tell us off if for some reason she wasn't there to do it herself. We knew it, our mothers expected it, and the whole community valued it. It just isn't much in evidence among most modern parents today.

After a few more purchases my time in the market was done. Just as I turned to leave I remembered I hadn't bought okra. I stopped to get some but realized I had run out of money.
"Don't worry, you can have it," the okra seller said to me. "If you come next time you can pay me."
I couldn't believe it. This lady most certainly made a fraction of what I earned in a month, yet she was willing to give money away to a perfect stranger with no guarantee of ever getting it back. My heart was glad. Old fashioned values are still very much alive...even if only in the marketplace.



Friday, 8 March 2019

What's in a name?


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My nephew's first name is Sir Garnet. A black African boy born to Ghanaian parents living in Ghana, West Africa. Why?

My grandmother's grandfather, Chief Kweku Andoh was one of the few educated elders in Elmina during the 1800s. He was the Chief of Elmina's foremost advisor at the time the British took over the then Gold Coast colony from the Dutch. On the Chief's expulsion from the country by the British, Chief Andoh was appointed regent in his place. He became firm friends with the British, whom he believed were more trustworthy than the Dutch, and became a lieutenant in the army. He developed a  friendship with Sir Garnet Wolseley, British governor in the Gold Coast, and major troubleshooter for the British empire.

 It is to our endless mortification, that my great, great grandfather joined Wolseley in his punitive expedition against the great empire of Ashanti. It was on this expedition that news arrived of his son's birth. Wolseley, grateful for the support of Chief Andoh, requested that his newborn son be named after him. Chief Andoh was happy to comply. Since traditionally names are passed down from father to son, the name 'Sir Garnet' has remained in my family to this day.

Strangely, our present day 'Sir Gee' as we call him, is as militant as they come....starkly different from his significantly more amenable siblings. What's in a name, I say?


Thursday, 7 March 2019

Plodding Along


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Gosh, sometimes it is so hard to find inspiration to write. To be honest, I am totally struggling to keep this going, but I will persevere...(I think.) Somedays I'm on fire, and many others.....nothing. I have attempted two posts which I discarded. This is the third. Maybe I shouldn't be thinking so hard. My initial ideas are always personal...a little too personal and abstract to post here. Like I say to my friends, I very much prefer to write for my eyes only, so this is a real challenge!

I will plod along, however. I'm just thankful that even this is good enough!


Tuesday, 5 March 2019

As Without, So Within



On a whim, I stepped out of my hot kitchen into the balmy night for some air. It isn't something I usually do, and as I wondered why, the response came right on the tail of the thought...mosquitoes.
What a shame. There's so much I've missed.

I stared at my house, taking in the familiar yet strangely alien view enveloped in darkness. The soft glow of indoor lights, shadows playing peekaboo...here one minute, gone the next. In the darkness,  my garden looks larger, older, wiser. I sit there for a while taking in the cricket calls, the whispering leaves and the tiny darting insects flirting with the glowing lamp. I tried to shut my noisy mind down and open my soul up to feel like they do, wondering about the people that dwell within the walls. After a while, we all blend in beautifully. There really is no separateness. As without, so within.

Rejuvenated, I wandered back into my hot kitchen.