I have been given a Ghanaian name today by Bintu, Hannah, and Francesca, three of the ladies who take care of us at the guesthouse. Atta Mame means “Mother of Twins” and I’m thrilled with my new name. With only a week left in Ghana, I’m eager about returning in 2012, clearly a sign that I am more than fond of the Ghanaians and their genuine warmth and hospitality, their food, landscapes, etc. Time is sadly going by too quickly.
In the past week, I tagged along with Sarah, Kelly, and Mak to a farming village and trekked along the fields with cassava, maize, orange and coconut trees, and charcoal tree, the latter of which is the farmers’ main cash crop. Did you know that a single pineapple grows in the center of a plant that is only knee-high? It was an odd realization that I didn’t know how the fruit grew until last week. With Chloe and Keneya’ I went to the Planned Parenthood office near the guesthouse. In the course of a few hours, I learned a tremendous amount about malaria, syphilis, hepatitis B, and numerous other lab tests and the biochemistry and physiology behind these tests from Patrick, the lab tech and effective teacher who was working in a tiny space with extremely limited resources. I saw the Afro-centric school where Leah and Jordan volunteer that has a sister school in Detroit. The potential for expanding the school is limitless and the teachers make do with the resources they have. At Cape Deaf, our Davidson students dance, sing, and drum twice a week, and left me impressed with their adeptness in learning the dance steps and coordination in drumming and dancing (well, maybe most students to be frank).
Today I went to the Sankofa school with Nicole in Iguafo, a village school that is some distance away from the main road past Elmina Castle. The visit today was the most intense, and the only day that left me physically and mentally exhausted. From the time that Nicole and I arrived to the time we left, dozens of young children swarmed around us. In those five hours, their excitement didn’t abate at seeing two whole obrunis, and I was hugged, jumped on, tickled, poked, caressed, rubbed, squeezed, pulled, tugged, pushed, and licked by children. I don’t know how many times I recited the A,B,Cs, and how many times Nicole and I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “London Bridge.” The school needs walls, flooring, desks, and chairs for beginners. Rebecca, a teacher assigned to the youngest group of toddler age kids, explained that a little girl sitting next to me was crying because she was sick but insisted on coming to school when her mother told her to stay home. Many of the children were sick and lethargic, with a fever, open sores, some with swollen bellies and belly buttons. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet David, described as an angel by Nicole, and the man who founded and oversees the school that doesn’t receive recognition by the government because it lacks concrete structure.
Friends and acquaintances back in the US will inevitably ask me “So, how was Ghana?” and I’m sure that I’ll use some version of “It was great and I love Ghana!” But those contributing to this blog only know that the sights, sounds, smells, and relationships we’ve built can never be adequately described. That’s the report from my side.
Helen Cho a.k.a. Atta Mame
(photo by Kelly)