"Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

-President John F. Kennedy

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Baby Twins, Seizures, and Stashed-Away-Brand-New-Laptops

I wrapped up the week of a few days teaching actual lessons. I essentially be teaching three 70-minute math classes a day. My “teaching ICT without computers” is being put on hold for the first term. More explained on that later in the post. After next week being my actual full week of teaching, I’ll be able to give some insights and stories on how that is going. For now, I have an event and a story to explain.

I found out that my fellow teacher, Jacob, who I’ve mentioned before, had twins this week! Us teachers (We teachers? I never know the rule on which to use) were all invited and attended the naming ceremony. The naming ceremony takes place on the eighth day the babies are alive, and the event was held at Jacob’s home. He lives in a nearby village much like mine. I went with the teachers and we showed up at his home which was a typical compound setting of mud huts/thatched roofs along with a couple small rooms with the tin roofing. The compounds are enclosed circularly by the clay construction. I guess it is best explained by a picture, which can be found on Facebook; I don’t think I posted one here. Anyway, Jacob is Muslim and therefore everybody there was Muslim. When I arrived with the other teachers, I made my way around to greet all the elders. They were all seated outside in a circle, and I had to go around and squat all the way down, shake their hand, and attempt my best Mampruli greetings. You must always squat to greet elders here in the north, Muslim or not, it’s just a cultural thing. The actual ceremony had already taken place apparently, so we were invited to go in and see the babies. You remove your shoes/sandals as you enter the thatched-roof hut, and once again squat or sit because the elder aunties were inside with the babies. You say “Ni ti zugu sungu” which means congratulations, and some other small Mampruli greetings. This tiny room was scorching hot with no fans, had foam pads on the ground as mattresses where the babies lay, flies buzzed all around, I just couldn’t believe this was how they started out! Of course Ghanaians don’t mind the heat, they experience it fully right away. The boy had just been circumcised earlier that day and was crying, but the girl was peacefully asleep. They had the marks around their belly buttons – they look like rays from the sun, the sun being the belly button. They are apparently medicinal in purpose but may also be tribal, I will get the full reason from Jacob later. We were only there a short time but it was a cool little experience.

A sad story:

I was walking from town back home and was feeling good. Good enough to choose the dirt path that led by the loud, playing children as opposed to the other path that goes directly home. I figured I’d walk by and let them stare at me/yell “Mr. Jacob how are you!” As I approached, I saw a boy laying face down in the dirt, twitching. The other kids were playing and nobody was around him. I first wondered if it was a boy just being a goof since nobody was doing anything about it. Then I realized, as I got closer, that he was actually having a seizure. Great. I started yelling to the kids who began to look and asked if they knew who this was and if it has happened before. They all said they didn’t know who he was. How could nobody know who he is? Then they all started flocking over. Once they see me attending to something, they all come running.

So there I am, kneeling next to a seizing boy, with 50 little kids circled around. Nobody was doing anything, and of course they were looking to the white person to do something about this. I got him sat up somewhat so his face wasn’t in the dirt, and he was slowing down with the seizure, but still wasn’t responding. Not knowing what to do, I ran and got some water and a rag. When I got back he was puking on himself and still not really responding. I got the water in his mouth so he could attempt to rinse out the vomit still in his mouth. His eyes weren’t focusing at all. The wet rag was on his head to get the dirt off and my thought was to help cool him down or something. I was asking this whole time who his mother was or sisters and if somebody could get them, but nobody really knew. Then I found out that someone was going to get his sisters. There were no adults around, it was on the school grounds where all the kids play, and none of the kids seemed concerned enough to get an adult. That just isn’t how it works here, they deal with their own problems I suppose and don’t want to run to an adult to help.

The boy was 90% out of it sitting/lying there as we waited for his sisters to come. When they arrived I tried asking if this happens frequently but they didn’t understand or something, and picked him up by his arms. He couldn’t stand well and was wobbling, but they made him walk and hardly helped him. I should’ve just carried him back to his house, but I didn’t. Honestly, I was overwhelmed and felt helpless as the white person that they all looked toward for help. It was just so sad to not see a helping response as you would in America, and the fact that any child who fell over and was unresponsive would get immediate attention by everyone around in America. It is saddening also that this probably happens other times to him and he never gets help, and that I felt quite helpless at the time. There really isn’t a 9-1-1, and even if I did plan to call emergency services, I don’t think it is my place to have a kid taken away like that. Needless to say, the rest of my afternoon and evening was spent shell-shocked and trying to bounce back, as well as figure out what can be done about this in the future.

I realized that this encapsulates life here. I suppose no matter where you live and what you do, your day consists of ups and downs, but living here causes those ups to be higher and downs to be lower. I had just gone to an exciting, cultural event seeing the baby twins, and then on to a seizing boy face down in the dirt with nobody taking action.

About the brand new unused laptops:

I think I may have mentioned before, but my JHS was given 20ish small laptops by the Ghanaian government educations services at some point in the last couple years. I don’t know how we qualified, or why the computers were given to us, because we don’t have electricity at the school, let alone a secure place to store them. Therefore, the computers are being stored in headmaster’s home and not being used, that is, except for the ones he gave to the teachers to use. The computers are loaded with Microsoft office, Encarta encyclopedia, Encarta for kids, and some other things like that. It kills me to see these not being used, but it is a slow process trying to get a secure room and electricity to that room in the school. I am thinking I may try to run workshops with max ten students in my home on the weekend, that way the computers will be put to use. I’ll see what comes of this. I just feel that every day that goes by with perfect laptops stowed away is a total waste, so even if I can’t get a legit computer lab, I can still have the kids getting a chance to use a computer for the first time.

The young girls who live/work next door are coming around more and more, usually asking me for food. I try to have a bit of fun with them because I know they work all day long and it’s not easy living for them. Today I had them take a picture of me with my water bucket on my head. The whole touchscreen-iphone thing was quite tricky for them to figure out. They then wanted me to take their picture. They absolutely loved getting their picture taken. They never, ever get to see a picture of themselves I imagine.

One last thing. I feel weird advertising about this, but I figure if you are reading the blog, maybe you will also want to follow me on twitter. I’ve really only used Twitter here to get my news and keep up on certain people/issues/companies/random things, but I think I’ll become a bit more engaged and actively tweet about things happening here. It’s just a different way for you to see what’s happening in a village in Sub-Saharan Africa. In light of my slight name change here in northern Ghana, my twitter handle is @AustinYakubu13. Feel free.

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