Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Full Circle

There is a Ghanaian proverb I was told yesterday, that every family has a third child, a Mensa. The teachers at Merton where I teach and the kids attend school, see that my shadow boy with the tears is no longer with me and they all ask, “What happened?”, “Where is your other boy?”. Or they see him with me when I pick up the other kids at the end of the day and they ask, “Why isn’t he here anymore?” How to explain: “He couldn’t cope. There were too many kids here and he felt overwhelmed. It was too loud.” I don’t think any of them really understand my attempts to explain, except the vice principal to a certain extent with the proverb he shared. The Mensa can fall into any order within the family unit and this child is always the one who has problems, or causes problems. If I understand his explanation correctly, I believe this child is considered a special child, at least this is how I am going to interpret it, because I know that for all his issues, Riley, our Mensa is a special little boy.

I believe we have nearly come full circle now since my last blog entry and my special boy is finally smiling again. He is back at Scholars International, the school that was always meant to be temporary, but the one which the kids’ are most attracted to. It is small and there is no pressure. Riley will not learn anything here, but he is happy again and that is all I ask for. I spoke with the director of the school, Siham, and she has kindly agreed to let Riley return as a special status student. He is allowed all freedom to come and go from the class and hang out with the 3 older kids at the school. Mainly he is doing art and cursive writing. There is no pressure on him for anything else and it is more like a confidence building child care. He is managing to be there without Lilianna, Josephine and Dezmond thank goodness, which we were not sure he would be able to do. Of course our other 3 kids are jealous of Riley being there, but they have been terrific in their understanding of the difficult situation we were in. Ultimately, they have to trust us too when we say that Merton is a better school for them. They will learn more there in spite of it’s Ghanaian educational imperfections.

Ultimately, it is because of what is lacking in the educational system here in Ghana, that we have decided to come home at the end of Terry’s 6 month contract. The kids are not enjoying school much at all so between now and June 30th, we are all putting our heads down and getting through it. I have to say though that there will be good memories for the kids even from their school days here. Josephine in particular is thriving: she’s doing better in Math then she ever did in Canada, building her confidence with it. She is also our little social butterfly having been to two birthday parties already. The following is a list of other good school memories that will always stay with us:

  • 7:45 AM assembly, singing the Ghana National Anthem, singing the Name Song, the Higher Higher song, the Wandering Song, saying prayers and marching to class.
  • Every Thursday being able to spend .50 pesewa at the school canteen as a special treat.
    Walking to school in the morning with Mom and Dad through the Asylum Down neighborhood, where everyone recognizes us
  • Walking home after school stopping to buy fruit from our fruit lady and popcorn from our popcorn lady on the canal. Also, buying either crepe, popcorn, muffins or peanuts for an after school snack and drinking from cold water sachets
  • Going for a swim at the Alisa pool once or twice a week after school.
  • Having drama class once a week with “Mom”
  • Birthday celebrations in Lilianna’s class in particular, every other day.
  • Big rains during the school day, which are few and far between
  • Hot school uniforms and colorful light PE uniforms

The plan is for all the kids to join Riley at Scholars for 1.5 weeks at the end of June. This is when I hope to be able to finish writing my play finally as my teaching at Merton has taken away any time for writing. Besides the Shakespeare work I am doing with eight level 10 students, I have taken on an ambitious project with over 500 primary students. Each class (2 per grade) is involved in a dramatic presentation of a story called The Talking Eggs, which I have adapted for the school. I have the music teacher putting music to lyrics I have written and the art teacher creating animal masks for the level 3’s. I have no idea whether I can make it work to keep this many kids focused at one time for the presentation, but I am plugging away at it under the assumption it will work and the plan is to present the play in their assembly hall on June 23rd. I call this blog “Full Circle”, but I don’t know if we will actually make it full circle until we get to the end of June and have all survived. Here’s hoping.

The following is a list of more people/places we have come to rely on and appreciate:

  • Emmanuel, the taxi driver we book to take us to Krokrobite beach. His English is limited and we have had the odd communication breakdown, but he always has a little giggle when I speak to him, he is one of the best drivers we have encountered (very important for our car sick kids), and he is a sweet young man who nearly always makes himself available when we need him.
  • Our popcorn lady and fruit lady on the canal.
  • The kids’ surrogate VSO uncles and aunties, Mike, Aidan, Katherine and Emily.
  • Jim and Sessi, the kids’ best buds who live downstairs
  • Madonna, a friend we met through Anna
  • Cynthia, our neighbor who continues to take care of all our sewing and tailoring needs for very little money
  • Rukia who cleans our house and does laundry once a week
  • Rukia’s baby, Rashid who the kids’ play with and “mother” daily
  • Big Milly’s and Krokrobite beach
  • The Alisa hotel pool
  • The soccer pitch and playground at the Swiss German International school
  • The breeze
  • Our balcony

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