Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our Trip Home................

As we arrived in Amsterdam this morning at 5 am (4 am Ghanaian time), we were greeted with the bad news of our cancelled flight to Atlanta due to bad weather!  We have been rerouted through Detroit to Birmingham.  Our flight number to Detroit is DL 0249, leaving Detroit around 8 pm and arriving in Birmingham around 10 pm.

We can't wait to see you all!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Until We Meet Again

Saying good bye to children today was difficult at Bakpa Avedo.  A true Ghanian gathering involved speeches by officials and drumming and dancing by children dressed in traditional Ghanian garb.  During their dancing many of the BSC students were invited to to participate.  The dancees looked fairly simple but were more diffficult than they looked.  Many of us simply looked like confused chickens trying to fly.  We were all good sports and laughed along, though we truely looked ridiculous.  Each class presented a song or  presentation to the audience of teachers, students, friends and parents.  It was special to see how much the children learned and how much our BSC students had grown.  Their pride in the children of Bakpa Avedo was visable to all who attended.  As our buses left the school, children lined the street to wave us good bye.  It was an emotional day for each of us.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Accra for a bit of shopping on our way to Cape Coast.  We stay at Cosa, a beach resort as we spend some important time reflecting and assimilating our experiences during the last two weeks.

Out of respect for that time, we will not be updating the blog while at Cape Coast, but will return again with updates next week. Instead, we ask your thoughts, wishes, and prayers as we in turn look at all we have done here and all we have gained, and decide how we can grow from this magical experience in Africa.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Time Flies

Today was our last full day at Bakpa Avedo.  We have spent the afternoon packing and repacking the supplies that we will leave at the school tomorrow.  Tomorrow we will all go to our last day of school decked out in our new Ghanean outfits.  The pictures below are from our day today.

Emma reading to her second graders.

Ann Walker and Ayesha sing with their first graders

Kristin and Graham with Tori, one of our hosts

Jennifer with her fifth graders

Cynthia teaches conversational English

Lindsay, Christie, and Susn work on parts to
our theme song, "Draw the Circle" with
the seventh graders and their teachers, Corti, Katie, Queenie, and Taylor

Julie and Nikki sing with the kindergarten children after our
lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, banannas,
 rock bun, and oranges.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Beginning of The End

Greetings!  Today has been an incredibly sucessful teaching day, albiet a hot one.  You know it is hot when the native Africans suggest that we stay in the shade!  BSC teachers began to warn their children that we would be leaving Wednesday as each class prepares for short presentations at the good bye ceremony.  We are hoping for the traditional dancing and drumming from the community as we say good bye.  The English the Bakpa Avedo children have learned during the last two weeks, particularly in the upper grades is impressive.  Each of the older classes begin their days with conversations about everyday events, which has given us the opportunity to get to know the students while they practice their English.  The younger classes have made progress as well, working on adjectives and adverbs, body parts and functions, and simple math. 
Jessica reads with her fifth graders.

The theme song, which all students have learned through music, is "Draw the Circle".  The harmony that the older children sing is beautiful.  Extracurricular activities have included singing many new songs in music, acting out English words and playing "Zip, Zap, Zop" in theater,and making self portraits and mosaics in art. 

It is a joy to stand and watch the school as BSC students make connections with these children.  Each of us has been blessed to be a part of such a beautiful partnership, Bakpa Avedo and Birmingham Southern College.

Mary Kate and the sixth graders work on a project.
Corti works with her students underneath the tree.

This weekend was indeed a bit of a respite from work.  Though Saturday's trip was long, the Wli falls were magnificent.  After a walk through the jungle where we saw bananas trees, mango trees, and cocoa pods, a dip in the pool at the base of the waterfall was exactly what we needed.  The water was refreshing and peaceful.  Finding restrooms on the road in Ghana is a new phenomenon to Americans, so having Charles, the bus driver and Tori, our guide was indespensible.  After our 12 hour day, the Shekena Glory Hotel was a welcomed sight.

The team at Wli Falls

Sunday was our day to sleep in and rest.  Getting up at 6 am every morning and staying up late to plan makes for tired travelers.  After a late breakfast and some needed planning for the three days of teaching this week, we struck out to find a new resort,  Aqua Safari, located about 45 minutes away.  The resort is nestled on the shore of an estuary of the Volta River.  As we arrived, John and Tori announced that we would not be allowed to swim in the river  because there was reported to be a flesh-eating bacteria in the water that damages the liver!  Wait, what? So, we enjoyed relaxing, listening to music, talking, playing cards, and WATCHING the water.  I am here to report that NO ONE got in the water!   The chef featured grilled kababs and french fries for our dining pleasure.  It was a fantastic day.

We are winding down at Bakpa Avedo school but gearing up for our vacation at Cape Coast.  Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.  You would be proud of your BSC representatives.  Forward Ever!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

An Amazing Week in Every Way!

Today was the last day of our long teaching week.  All five days were filled with frustration, joy, disappointment, excitement and pure exhaustion.  Teaching in the intense heat has been challenging for all of us making the breezes fully appreciated.  Children in Grade 8 studied nonfiction texts, which prompted their teachers to make an incredibly creative portable bookshelf out of water bottle boxes and duct tape. 

Alex and Chandler's portable bookshelf

Bakpa Avedo teachers loved the shelves and discussed making them for their homes.  Grade 7 continued to investigate geography, with a simulated visit to all continents, including individual passports for all.  In the primary grades, students learned about the five senses,
Cynthia's 6th graders enjoyed the "smell" test

involving a taste test and a smell scavenger hunt. Learning English has been an exciting adventure for the Bakpa Avedo children but the kind of sustained attention it takes to listen to an unfamiliar language ALL DAY is stressful and exhausting.  At the end of today, children and teachers alike were tired and ready for a break.
Laura and her relay team

After work, we were able to relax until a traditional dinner of Red Red, which is beans and fried plantains. 

Tomorrow we go to the Wli falls north of Sogakope.  The trip is long, 4 hours each way, but according to our hosts is a natural landmark that should not be missed.   We look forward to an amazing day.

Laura and her third graders spend lots of time singing!

Regan reads Pete the Cat to her first graders.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HUMP Day for us

This morning the twenty minute bus ride to school was surprisingly lively.  Students planned last night and were prepared for an amazing day.  Today marks the halfway point of our days at Bakpa Avedo.  The days have been long, hot and challenging but incredibly rewarding.  The language barrier is more pronounced in the younger classrooms but as we are learning the children’s names and building relationships we find other ways to communicate.    Students divide into groups sharing books, songs and activities with the children.  Each teacher welcomes the art/theater/music trio who go to classes every day for extra-curricular activities.
These kids LOVE acting with Christie.

We use lots of songs with motions in third grade with Abby.

The academics for today ranged from expressing emotions and time travelling from Pangea to modern day North America to blasting off into outer space. The younger students worked on subtraction using Pete The Cat books. 

Flying to North America

Even more effective than these engaging lessons was the level of passion and drive our co-teaching teams have in immersing themselves in Ghanaian culture and the Ewe language. Learning some of the local lingo has made a profound impact on the students at Bapka Avedo. These cultural influences are a two-way street, though. While learning Ghana’s national anthem has become a goal of our group, students in the classroom can now be found joyfully singing along to “Sweet Home Alabama” during break throughout the day.

Emma working with her second graders.

The number of children in the classroom has multiplied since we arrived, with as many as 50 in one classroom with 20 desks.  We are thrilled with the explosion of the population of Bakpa Avedo school, however we did not anticipate the enthusiasm of the students.  Though we believed our classrooms would be exciting, it is difficult to plan for this many students regardless the school.

We will celebrate HUMP day by planning for the rest of the week and looking forward to the weekend.  

Jessica reading to her fifth graders.

Avery working with his fourth graders.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A VERY Needed Weekend!

Hello and Happy Sunday from Ghana!

Today is a great day here in Sogakope.  It remains really, really, really hot!  Our hosts have already had to purchase more cases of water for our consumption.  In Africa, water is something you don't want to skimp on.

Our weekend has been really fantastic.  Going to bed early both Friday and Saturday night was essential to acclimate to Ghana enough to begin our five day work week.  This coming week will be the hardest for our students.  As a result all afternoon today we have spent planning in teams.  Sounds of laughter, conversations, singing, and dancing can be heard throughout the hotel.  Everyone is excitedly preparing for their day tomorrow.

The Entire Team on the way to market

Katie drives a hard bargain for Regan
Saturday was a relaxing day and a day for adventure.  We explored the market, choosing bright and beautiful fabric to be made into Ghanaian dresses and shirts for the students.  The students were amazed with all the sights as we walked through the marketplace, from booth to booth.  We could have purchased anything we wanted, except for maybe ice cream.  We saw food, animals, cloth, gadgets, shoes, underwear, and jewelry.  An hour at the market was enough for us!  After we returned to the hotel, we piled on the bus to head to the beach.  The drive was a great way to see more of Ghana.  We drove past lots of people who waved crazily at us.  One thing that everyone noticed is that many of the shops, schools, and churches are named with religious references, like, God's Hand Hair Studio, Not By Might Cold Store, and Holy Father Shoe Store, to name a few. We went to a Beach Resort in Keta, about an hours drive away.  We had a relaxing time walking the beach, collecting shells, watching the boats, and hanging under the thatched roof pavilion. We watched the sun set as we rode home singing and laughing. 

Today we rose early to go to church.  In the beautiful catholic church, we were a part of a beautiful family.  The energy in the sanctuary was palpable, as everyone sang and danced.  We, of course, are interesting to look at for the children, so many mothers had to tell their children to turn around and listen.  It was difficult for the children because we were always waving and smiling at them.  The service, lasting from 9:00 to 11:30 was not for the faint of heart.  They were celebrating baptism today and we were sprinkled with cold water about half way through the service.  The symbolism was meaningful, but the water was a true God-send.

This afternoon, after a lunch of Ghanaian hot-pocket-like sandwiches, bananas, and oranges, the students spent hours planning and working on their lessons for the next few days.  They seem ready practically and emotionally to begin this week.

To close a perfect weekend, we are walking to the Amekor family's home and having a Ghanaian dinner of traditional Ghanaian foods. 

Wish us luck for next week! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Enjoying Our Wonderful Work

Many of the BSC Students watching Morning Assembly
Today was our first full day of teaching in Bakpa Avedo School.  The students were dressed in their gold school uniforms and watching for the buses as we made our grand entrance. The day started with assembly and beautiful singing. Our BSC teaching groups were well prepared for teaching English to the very excited children.   The science of sound and hearing gave the older children the opportunity to learn both academic and conversational English.  Though the topic is a challenging one, students are willing and very capable of teaching concepts like sound waves, frequency, and pitch.   The middle grades focused on the human body, labeling a life-size outline of a body and singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" so many times they will likely dream about heads and toes.  The younger children focused on colors, letters, and numbers, through picture books, songs, and rhymes.
Laura, Merrill, and Avery work with Students

The campus of Bakpa Avedo is incredibly busy with the typical school day.  However, add to that 31 Americans sailing in on buses every morning and the construction workers laying the foundation for the new Kindergarten rooms.  In addition, the new library is taking shape as the walls and foundation are mostly complete.  This is an exciting place to be.
Morning Assembly with the Library in the Background

Because of our extra long journey to Ghana, many of us are still struggling to catch up on sleep.  We are tired but very happy to have enjoyed two days at the school.  We will admit that we are ready for a weekend!  Tomorrow we get to venture into Sogakope to the market and explore a nearby beach and lagoon.

We will write again in the next few days.  In the meantime, know we are enjoying this beautiful country and its people.

Mallory plays a game
Beautiful Masterpiece

Abby and Queenie work with Kindergarten students

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Safely on the ground

At 2:30 local time the team was on the ground and ready to catch a bus to Sogokope.  More to come soon, I am sure.

Wheels Up at 12 PM EST

The team has been in the air for nearly two hours, and I believe that the flight will take 8 or 9 hours.  I think that Amelia said that they expect to land in Accra around 2:15 AM local time on Wednesday.  Traveling mercies!  

Seeing New York City the Hard Way

The flight delays yesterday and slumber party at JFK might not have been so bad; a 7:00 AM departure was dangled as a carrot.  Now, however, it looks like more flight delays could be in store on Tuesday.  The next possibility is 9:00 AM EST.  Hang in there, team!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ghana Explorations 2014

Hello Everyone!

It is now crunch time.  The team spent the day yesterday working on lessons, packing teaching supplies, and enjoying each other.  Today and tomorrow have been for us to pack, do laundry, make that LAST (really the LAST) run to Walmart, and say good-bye to family and friends.

The team meets at the Birmingham Airport at 10 am and leaves at noon.  We are scheduled to fly to Atlanta and through New York on our way to Accra, Ghana.  The weather alone will be a huge adjustment, as the high in Birmingham on departure day is 20 degrees F and in Accra is 85 degrees F! We are in for a treat.

We will update the blog as soon as we can upon arrival Tuesday afternoon.  In the meantime, we would appreciate thoughts and prayers for safe travels.