Alexis and Richard's adventures in Ghana travel blog


It’s hard to believe we’ve already been here a month! We’re really enjoying it and the time seems to be flying by. Instead of giving a weekly update, we thought we’d each give you a glimpse into how last Tuesday (just a random day) went for both of us.

Alexis:

Background: The laptop has completely broken and I am unable to do much work without it as there are no working computers in the office. Nobody uses credit or debit cards in shops here so cash is the only option for paying. Cash points only let people get out a maximum of £150 a day so I will need to go into the bank to get out the money from the credit card.

Mission: To get out some money and buy a laptop

Time expected to take: 2 hours maximum

8:30am : I explain my plan to Anne and she kindly offers to show me where the local branch of Barclays is on her way to the VSO office. I thank her very much and arrange to meet her for lunch at a nice Salad Bar that she has found near the VSO office.

9:00am: Arrive at Barclays. Queue for a while. Am told that the only place I can get money out on a credit card is at Barclays HQ, one hour’s walk away.

9:20am: Anne again offers to walk with me there, despite the fact that she herself is carrying her own laptop and it is getting very hot. The walk takes us through the very busy Makola market which is hectic at the best of times, let alone at rush hour.

10:20am: Arrive hot and sweating at Barclays HQ. Queue for a while. Am told by a bored looking man that I can’t get any money out without a passport. (VSO took our passports from us on our first day so that they could get our visas extended). I offer my driving license. He declines and says only a passport will do. I offer it again at a different angle. He says no and goodbye quite firmly. Despair a little.

10:45am: Anne and I take a taxi to the VSO office where Christy (the VSO person with our passports) tells me she is sending them off today and can’t give it to me. I beg and plead and promise to return it to her that day. She eventually relents and passport in hand I hot foot it back to Barclays HQ.

11:30am: Arrive back at Barclays HQ and triumphantly hand over my passport to the man who didn’t look as grateful as I thought he should be and was told to take a seat. A seat? I thought. Surely I can stand here and wait, how long it is going to take? Around 30 minutes apparently. Joy. I take a seat and wait with the other customers who are also waiting and muttering about how this was meant to be a ‘service’.

12:30pm: An hour later and I finally get the money, for some reason all in notes of 5 cedis. Grab a taxi and take it to the computer shop where yesterday I was told the computer would be ready for me.

12:50pm: Arrive at the computer shop. The computer isn’t in. I am told I need to go to their other shop which is 30 minutes drive away. My face fell and the shop owner quickly offered to have a driver bring it over while I wait. I am very grateful and sit in the small office to wait whilst providing a tasty lunchtime snack for the mosquitoes hovering around.

13:00pm: I call Anne to say I am likely to be late for lunch and that if she wants to go ahead without me that she should. She says she’ll wait and I say I will give her a call when I’m on my way.

13:30pm: The driver arrives with the laptop. He turns it on. It doesn’t work. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. I look in desperation at the shop owner. He says he will send the driver back to get another one if I can wait. I decide that I am not going home today without a laptop so tell him I will wait.

13:40pm: I call Anne again to say I am going to be very late. She says she will still wait for me and if I like I could meet her at the Salad Bar to speed things up. I explain that unfortunately I can’t do this as I have to return my passport to Christy at the VSO office so we will still have to meet there.

14:40pm: Driver arrives with the laptop and by some miracle it is fully functioning. I am overjoyed. I then have to wait 30 further minutes whilst the money is counted out as I am paying 1,150 in notes of 5…

15:10pm: Grab a taxi to the VSO office where I find a very hungry looking Anne. Give my passport back to Christy and go to the Salad Bar for a tasty lunch.

16:30pm: Arrive home, slightly perplexed as to where the entire day has gone.

Richard:

Background: After a fortnight at school I am still not clear of my timetable. I appear to be called into classes on a as and when basis. This makes preparation difficult.

Mission: Survive the day!

Time expected to take: All day

6:30am: After dozing from about 5:45 I got up at 6:30. I turned on my radio and started listening to Network Africa on the World Service during my cold shower. I had breakfast and started my preparation/studying for the day. I always try to have at least one lesson prepared for each class so that if I am dumped in front of a class of expectant children then I have something to say.

7:30am: Leave the house to walk to Aunty Elizabeth’s house. She is my headmistress and her driver is driving her and me to school each day.

9:15am: Arrive at school and go to the staff room to continue my preparation and wait for the call from one of the children.

10:00am: The start of the fourth lesson of the day and one of the JHS3 students arrives at the staff room saying that I should be teaching them now. JHS3 are 14 and 15 year olds and some of them have got the “attitude” of their British counterparts. They do not stand up when I enter the room so I stand at the front in silence until they all do this. Eventually they stand and say “You’re welcome sah”. I say they can sit down and start the lesson. One child (who I will call Einstein for anonymity) continued to talk. I was a bit annoyed about this because he is usually the model pupil and one I think I can rely on to be a good student. I threw some chalk and him but missed and it flew out of the window and hit a goat who was attempting to eat some non-existent grass. It went close enough though to make him stop talking. I then wrote on the board a passage of bad English (Yesterday I buy a coputer etc) and got the class to correct it. I think it went well and they found more mistakes in my grammar than I intended so I learnt something as well! The lesson finished at 10:40 and I retired to the staff room to recover.

10:40am: About two minutes into my recovery period and school break I get a tap on the shoulder and it is one of JHS2 (14 years) asking me about ICT. He wants to create an email address and does not know how. I then proceed to spend ten minutes trying to explain the process of signing up to an email address. There is no internet access in the school so I cannot show him which makes explaining much more complicated. The discussion finally finishes just before 11:00am when break finishes.

11:10am: Someone else from JHS2 comes in and says their teacher has not turned up. I march in, they stand up (“You’re welcome sah”) and we start the lesson. I was not sure what they had done before so I did a quick introduction of me. I told them I was from the UK and asked what the capital city is. One boy’s hand shot up and he answered John Terry. After that we had Rome, New York and then eventually London. After this I started on question tags. It was going well until someone from Primary 6 (10 years old) came in and said I was meant to be taking them for ICT. I told him I could not because I was already teaching and sent him away. He came back 5 minutes later saying that the ICT teacher is in a meeting and has requested that I teach them. After a bit of a panic I set JHS2 some exercises and then open the ICT room. There are only 9 computers so the children have to go in batches. I went into the primary 6 class and told the ones not doing ICT at that time that they were to do silent reading. I checked on JHS3 and then went back to the ICT room. I wanted them to open Paint and draw a circle. This was much harder than I thought and took a lot of explaining. In between I was running back to JHS 3 and Primary 6 to check that they were still working. Halfway through the Primary 6 groups swapped with the silent reading group now doing ICT and the ICT group doing silent reading. At 12:50 the bell went for the 1pm prayer. I retired again to the staff room, head in hands and took some deep breaths after attempting to teach/supervise three classes at once.

13:00 I received a message from the driver saying it was time to go. I jumped into the car and we were off for our bumpy ride home. Halfway home we stopped at a bar that Aunty Elizabeth’s friend has just opened. It is a very nice bar and they asked me advice on some things. They wanted me to design some name badges and signs for them. I said I could try and do this but I am not sure how good it will be. While discussing we had two beers each which were very refreshing but probably not a great idea in the afternoon heat.

16:00 Got home and collapsed on the sofa. I had only taught for about 3 hours but felt exhausted. Roll on Wednesday!



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