A Day’s Work
Now that I’ve been settled in for a couple weeks, I ought to tell you all what exactly it is I do here. I haven’t gone on any adventurous weekend trips yet – hopefully I will be off to Kumasi this coming – but this is how I pass the majority of my time here. A typical day is rather regimented, as regimented as Africa can allow itself to be, I suppose…
The littlest ones, the babies and toddlers, are bathed early in the morning – around 5:30am, and we all help the younger ones brush their teeth, get dressed, and sometimes finish up their homework – as kids procrastinate everywhere in the world, really. Followed by breakfast time, when we serve usually a peanut and soya mix or a Milo mix with bread to all the kids. Now they often get a small piece of fruit at breakfast as well.
We return to the house for our own breakfast, after which we work on various projects in the morning before lunch. Some volunteers teach a couple classes a week. I will hopefully be starting my French classes with the older grades this week. In the mornings, we all help out around the school with whatever needs to be done. This week we have spent the majority of our days building a set of ten wooden desks with just straight up, old school hammers and nails – Sussex County Habitat for Humanity taught me well, indeed, those desks look beautiful! Then we’ve painted them excellent bright yellow and purple colors, too.
Serving lunch at the school is always a more interesting affair. There are about 45 kids who live full-time at the school, but perhaps 80+ more that are just day students, all under the age of fourteen. That makes for a busy lunch hour, serving them individually and handwashing the limited number of dishes and spoons available to serve that many children. We manage, though, with many hands around to help. We’ve also taken to staying a little longer after lunch is served and dishes are done to play a few games with the kids until their recess is over. I certainly enjoy that, as I get to spend time with Patricia, Evans, and Emmanuel, a few of the kids that have been able to return home to their families full-time, but still attend the school.
After our own lunch, the day becomes rather relaxed. We get a couple hours to enjoy time to ourselves before school closes. Some of us nap – especially the girls that have been bravely doing the morning shift more often than myself so far (malaria pills have induced insomnia and really trippy dreams this year, unfortunately..) Most of us just relax, read and journal, go to the Internet Cafe, or make a Nutella or chocolate run to the ShopRite that’s about 45 minutes away. I have already finished four books, filled half a journal, and been able to actually keep up with my devotional. A very rare thing for me, to be able to do all these things.. The kids have also taken to writing letters back and forth to volunteers, so I spend some time doing that each afternoon.
School closes around 3pm, and then it’s all fun and games after that, between serving dinner, doing chores, homework, and church on Wednesday and Friday evenings. These are the funnest hours of the day. We really get to do whatever activities we’d like – reading, coloring and crafts, playing various games, playing football. I’ve also been taught many of their “School-yard” type games that involve a lot of rhymes, clapping, and hopping around. We take care of them when they inevitably get scraped up, or of their infected bugbites and other minor maladies and such. Last year, about six of the kids fell ill with Malaria, and a massive chest infection of some sort ran through the school that I acutally caught myself. So some time is spent taking care of those feeling under the weather as well. Late evenings are great as well. The littlest ones that demand the most attention begin to fall asleep and I get the chance to hang out with the older kids – from ages about eight to thirteen. Those times are nice – they feel much less like child-care work and much more like mentoring and relationship building. It allows them time alone to be kids, especially important because the eldest children bear a lot of the burden of taking care of the younger ones.
This year one fantastic thing we do in the evenings (more-so of my own instigation, than any of theirs) is Twi lessons! I was surprised at how much I remembered coming back, so I am so set on learning more. The kids think it’s hilarious, and the adults at the school and around town find it even more entertaining, naturally. It’s simply great all around. I am able to hold several conversations in Twi now, and can follow bits of the kids’ conversation as well. To anyone that knows my complete lack of talent in picking up languages very easily, that’s impressive.
Evenings back at the house are always fun as well. To give you an idea… when I moved in this year, we had a small handful of people from across the US, two Australians – one with Vietnamese heritage, the other Indian, a girl who grew up in London and is traveling and volunteering for her gap year – having just come from Asia, and one person from Scotland as well. Since then, we’ve had Mamma Diane, a wonderful woman who’s been back three times now from England, a girl from neighboring Nigeria, and a Ghanaian-Australian as well. It’s rather multi-cultural here, but we all have this service in common, a unique thing, so I enjoy getting to know them all.
Various little adventures crop up every day – trips to the market, running random and often ridiculous errands with the older boys, and simply observing fifty children grow up in one space together produces invaluable memories. It’s all such fun, these little adventures, but a post for another time. This was for a gist of my day-to-day, so you all can hopefully get a better sense of what I do regularly here, more than anything else..