Having been at the school for a couple of weeks now, I think it's about time to share my experiences - it is after all the reason that I'm actually here. A typical day goes something like this:
05.40: Wake up (60% awake and upwards will do). Shuffle, eyes-closed, into shower. Cold shower/buckets of water to complete the waking up stage.
06.10: Minibus leaves house to drop off boarders at school.
06.25: Minibus starts picking up day pupils from surrounding area. Cue incident and general excitement (see previous post).
08.20: Breakfast at school: after being awake for the best part of three hours, this generates more excitement than you might think.
08.30: School starts (and the hysterical small children screaming and running around stop) Teaching/Marking/Planning/Reading
12.30: Lunch. Huge portions of yams/stew/rice/plantain/banku/kenkey etc
15.00: Home time - and a wander along the dirt tracks waving, greeting and often shaking hands (the really cool Ghanaian handshake where you both click against each other's third finger) with everyone and anyone.
School is great fun. Not only have I gained the prestigious title of "Sir Nick", but some of the students actually salute me. Needless to say that this is an idea that I'll be bringing back to the UK with me and will subsequently be trying to implement. It feels like it's a real novelty for the students to have an obroni ('white person/foreigner') around them at school - but this plays into your hands when trying to teach a group of thirty restless teenagers during the final period on a Friday. I could have taken a lesson on Methodology in Political Theory and they still would have hung onto every word.
I've taken a number of English classes and Social Studies classes so far and it's been interesting to compare my time working as a teaching assistant in France with my time here in Ghana. During an English comprehension exercise, we were looking at a text on the subject of AIDS. A student put their hand up and, in the class of thirty, explained that they were HIV-positive and asked what could be done to prevent the transmission of the virus to others. So apart from the fact that I'm working in a school, Ghana and France can't really be compared. It's a different world, but it's one that I'm relishing the opportunity to get to know.
Early on, during a standard venture out into the playground, a swarm of small children (after working in secondary schools, you forget just how small some children can be) pounced on me from out of nowhere and before I knew it I had been smothered by dozens of them. It took a good five minutes of shaking hands, high-fiving and the occasional pat on my head before I escaped and tasted sweet freedom once again. I returned to the main school building with the high-pitched calls of 'obruniiiiiiiii' trailing in my wake.
On Saturday morning I was up at 05.00 (no, that's not a typo) to go running and play football with the boarders. In what can only be described as miraculous, there are 21 boarders who, along with me, like to play football . And so, after a warm-up of jogging in rhythm down dirt tracks whilst blaring out African songs for motivation (far better than our standard British warm-up of "twice around the football pitch…"), we started the game. I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy a good old 11-a-side match. Moments of world-class skill, some Sunday League defending and plenty of goals. And the inevitable last quarter of the game (or third in my case) where no-one can muster anything faster than a gentle walk across the pitch. What could be a better way to start the weekend?
As if that weren't enough we finished the day by getting a group of teachers together to go and watch the Champions League Final (sorry pedants, but they don't use an apostrophe) at the nearby hotel. Ghana is a country made up of Chelsea supporters - due to their Ghanaian player Michael Essien and the fact that it's the only decent Premier League team with a healthy number of African players - so this match was a big deal. We piled into the bar and the whistle blew for kick-off. Our audience was on the verge of tears when Chelsea were 1-0 down with just eight minutes to go. And then, with only two minutes left on the clock, Drogba (an Ivorian, but Ghanaians don't seem to mind if he scores) equalised. Eruption. Jubilation. Hugging, high-fiving, dozens of handshakes for everyone, shouting and cheering. Which gives you some idea of the reaction when Chelsea eventually won on penalties. I honestly thought my die-hard Chelsea-supporting friends were going to jump fully-clothed into the pool in celebration. The hotel managers, in their shirts, ties and badges, rushed out from wherever they'd been 'working' that evening and started jumping up and down, fist-pumping and hugging us as though we were brothers who had been separated at birth and who were now finally reunited. Anthems rang in our ears for the remainder of the night. Ghana is a country where football really matters. That suits me just fine...
Ghanaian Vehicle Moment of the Week: Being a passenger in a taxi so low that we were constantly bottoming-out whilst driving irresponsibly close to a tanker carrying a gigantic black cylinder bearing the words: "Atomic Energy Commission"