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Archive for November, 2009

Highlights of a school day in Upper East Region, Ghana Up late, 6:30 A.M. By now all elementary students are ambling to school. I too traverse the hill upon which we live, carrying my trombone and school bag. I drop by the seamstress who has my pants to be repaired. The thread is bare in one spot. I wear them to school. As I enter the school grounds, I greet one boy, Ferdinand, an atypical name for here. He is limping, and I ask why. He injured his foot while playing football (soccer). The wound is covered with what appears to be mud. He tell me that is a concoction an old lady in the village prepared to help healing. It is excrement from a certain worm, combined with the crushed leaves of a certain local tree, and mud. People are who do not have health cards tend to try the old herbal, medicine approach. Teaching English to the Vocational Education students goes well. We are reading Ancestral Sacrifice, a required reading for the final federal examination. We get to the chapter where a traditional girl gets her ‘first blood’, the beginning of womanhood. She goes through various rituals as is the custom of the era and culture, probably 1950’s. This includes eating an egg whole. If done successfully her womb will be left ready for reproduction, and ready for husband considerations. Here in Kongo, I have heard the terminology, “she carries the seed’ which means she is able to give birth. In this same class I alot some time to teach a counter melody I composed for Stephen Foster’s “Oh Susannah”. It is in Nab’t. Hey! I only get to teach choir once a week, so one learns to do what you can to make things happen. The class has fun learning it, even if though some are not in choir. Those in choir will demonstrate what they have learned to the other choir members this afternoon. I moto to Dasabligo on a borrowed moto to teach Form 1 and Form 2 Junior High with Atarah Martin. I push the creative envelope in this scenario. Demonstrating how one can take one melody known by many and put new words to that melody, the class successfully composes a piece taking the same title as Gado’s current hit, “Kongo Tongo Bongo”. The melody used is “Are you Sleeping?”. After initial silence, and additional prompting they grab onto the idea and we now have another song to sing! I am genuinely impressed. As school day ends Martin gets his traditional This evening the Ghana version of a high school dance takes place. There is:  musical chairs ( you would never see USA kids doing this in high school!)  singing contest  dancing contest  eating contest  HIV/AIDS drama presentation  a vignette from the play “The Gods are not to Blame”( they actually listened!!)  more dancing. Yeah, not too similar to our high school dance. It lacked sexual posturing, male bravado, teenage ‘attitude’. These fifteen to 21 year olds had chaotic fun, using a very buzzy rented P.A. System and dancing on the concrete floor of one classroom and out on the covered walkway. Most were very good dancers! The foot-wounded Ferdinand does well in spite of it all. He has a girlfriend to impress. – David Stone Highlights of a school day in Upper East Region, Ghana Up late, 6:30 A.M. By now all elementary students are ambling to school. I too traverse the hill upon which we live, carrying my trombone and school bag. I drop by the seamstress who has my pants to be repaired. The thread is bare in one spot. I wear them to school. As I enter the school grounds, I greet one boy, Ferdinand, an atypical name for here. He is limping, and I ask why. He injured his foot while playing football (soccer). The wound is covered with what appears to be mud. He tell me that is a concoction an old lady in the village prepared to help healing. It is excrement from a certain worm, combined with the crushed leaves of a certain local tree, and mud. People are who do not have health cards tend to try the old herbal, medicine approach. Teaching English to the Vocational Education students goes well. We are reading Ancestral Sacrifice, a required reading for the final federal examination. We get to the chapter where a traditional girl gets her ‘first blood’, the beginning of womanhood. She goes through various rituals as is the custom of the era and culture, probably 1950’s. This includes eating an egg whole. If done successfully her womb will be left ready for reproduction, and ready for husband considerations. Here in Kongo, I have heard the terminology, “she carries the seed’ which means she is able to give birth. In this same class I alot some time to teach a counter melody I composed for Stephen Foster’s “Oh Susannah”. It is in Nab’t. Hey! I only get to teach choir once a week, so one learns to do what you can to make things happen. The class has fun learning it, even if though some are not in choir. Those in choir will demonstrate what they have learned to the other choir members this afternoon. I moto to Dasabligo on a borrowed moto to teach Form 1 and Form 2 Junior High with Atarah Martin. I push the creative envelope in this scenario. Demonstrating how one can take one melody known by many and put new words to that melody, the class successfully composes a piece taking the same title as Gado’s current hit, “Kongo Tongo Bongo”. The melody used is “Are you Sleeping?”. After initial silence, and additional prompting they grab onto the idea and we now have another song to sing! I am genuinely impressed. As school day ends Martin gets his traditional This evening the Ghana version of a high school dance takes place. There is:  musical chairs ( you would never see USA kids doing this in high school!)  singing contest  dancing contest  eating contest  HIV/AIDS drama presentation  a vignette from the play “The Gods are not to Blame”( they actually listened!!)  more dancing. Yeah, not too similar to our high school dance. It lacked sexual posturing, male bravado, teenage ‘attitude’. These fifteen to 21 year olds had chaotic fun, using a very buzzy rented P.A. System and dancing on the concrete floor of one classroom and out on the covered walkway. Most were very good dancers! The foot-wounded Ferdinand does well in spite of it all. He has a girlfriend to impress. – David Stone

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Buying Dried Herring in the Bolga Market

Buying Dried Herring in the Bolga Market

In addition to a cold shower…..

 

There are small things that one grows to appreciate in equatorial Africa  –  the happy coincidence of shade and a breeze at 2:00 in the afternoon, three meals a day under clear, blue skies on the your patio, cooling off as you splash dirty clothes in the wash-bucket, the price of tomatoes (20 cents for 2 dozen), the omnipresent, distant thunk-thunk-thunk of mortar and pestle as yam and cassava are pounded into fufu for dinner, the strength and willowy grace of women walking from well to home with a full basin of water settled atop the head, perpetually contented babies sleeping while tied on mother’s back, the absorption of three toddlers playing together with a a single spoon and bowl.

 

Thanks to a good harvest this fall, families have enough food to keep the hunger pangs at bay for a while.  The result is a sense of contentment in the knowledge that this should not be a particularly difficult dry season, but a year where most families will have enough food for two meals per day in the hottest and dryest months of April-July.  Market days are bustling with women in the market selling surplus beans and grains to raise money for children’s school fees/uniforms. In  this area of subsistence farming, many children must wait to start school until some of the harvest is sold. In addition, if at all possible, money is often set aside for the purchase of Ghanaian health insurance cards. Health insurance for one year costs $20/family; a challenge when average annual income is $400/year.

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