Thursday, August 9, 2012

Today we got back from our field trip to Cape Coast. We got to go to two Slave Castles, the Kakum Rainforest and a small village for some community service. We also got to stay at Coconut Grove, a very fancy place that was right on the ocean! I felt like I was a rich woman staying there, it was fun staying at a ritzy place like that.
The first stop that we made was at the Cape Coast Slave Castle. I personally didn’t know what to expect. But it ended up being a very powerful experience. Our tour guide gave us a lot of information regarding the castle and the time, who owned it, and what exactly went on there. The little that I learned about slavery in school, I heard all about the Middle Passage, but nothing about how the Africans were held in the slave castles before they were able to be placed onto a boat. The castle was big and beautifully constructed; it was interesting to imagine having that kind of structure back in the 1400s. We learned about how it was used as a trading post for the Triangular Trading system between the U.S., Europe and Africa and how in exchange for goods-Africans were traded. They were captured and brought to the slave castles. Their ankles, necks and wrists were shackled and immediately upon arrival they were branded with the initials of the company that had traded them. The conditions they faced were horrible. There were up to 200 men in a small room in the dungeon that our group of 20 barely fit comfortably in. They had to eat, drink, puke and go to the bathroom all in the same place. The floor was made of bricks but you could not see them because it was covered with all of those things. Many men died in the Slave castle and even more died during the Middle Passage. Many people have questioned why the Africans were kept in such poor conditions-wouldn’t all the deaths equal a loss of equity within the trading system? The answer is that it didn’t really matter because when the slaves got to America they were auctioned off at a very high price and it made up for the money loss in the trade. To go with that, the men were very strong when they were captured so they treated them that way so they would become very week and suppressed and would not be able to fight back. Our tour guide explained to us that the women had it even worse. Not only did they eat, sleep, drink, puke, urinate, and defecate in the crowded area they were forced to stay in, but they also had their monthly period there and were not able to wash up. So many, many women died.
It was a very sad place to be, but as we discussed more about the story of the African-it became clear to us that this story is not one of sadness-but of triumph. What other people were captured from their beautiful homeland, placed in shackles and sent to a slave castle for months where many of them died, survived the 6-8 weeks of the Middle Passage surrounded by death, germs and sorrow, auctioned off like animals and separated from their families, survived 400 years of slavery, rapes, beatings, deaths, suppression, humiliation, Black Codes, Jim Crow, segregation, lynchings, debt peonage, convict leasing, and racism? And through all that we were able to succeed, stand tall and conquer. To think that it was our ancestors who did all of this makes me even more proud. African Americans should be very proud of who we are and what we come from; we really are some of the most triumphant people in this world.

We had to walk across 7 of these!!
The Kakum Rainforest was amazing! We had to walk over seven big swinging bridges and it was very scary, especially for me because I am afraid of heights! It was good for our group because we really got to encourage each other and help each other out in hard times. It was a challenging but fun opportunity. I know that I was hanging on for dear life to the ropes, because the drop down to the ground was faaaaar away and I kept imagining what you always always see in movies whenever there is a swinging bridge-for a wooden plank to break and you to fall through-but luckily that never happened and we all made it across just fine to the end of the adventure.

The children welcoming us to their school:)
The last thing that we did was travel to a small village near Cape Coast to read to the children at their local school. In order to get into the many villages around here you have to go to the Village’s Chief and Elders to meet them and let them know of your intentions for your visit. I was kind of scared because I didn’t know what to expect, but it was very nice. We got to go to the palace and shake hands with the Chief and all the elders. They were so sweet and very happy that we were there to help the children of their community. One of the elder’s names was Rose, and when I told her that was my middle name, she fell in love with me and even gave me her address so I could mail her a letter. It was very nice. After we met with them, they walked us to the school and we got to meet some children and read to them. We also got to have a tour of the school, which was very small but very nice compared to many of the other schools that I have seen so far over here. This school even had a small library, and all the children said they loved to read. Before we left the Chief told us to make sure we spread the word about “the Chief who loved to read and help out his community”. They gave us drinks and a bag of coconuts as a gift for coming to their village. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Some of the girls from my class:) And Jamil.
Nelson and Emmanuel (one of my favorite boys) He is in 2nd grade but
is much younger than everyone else because he skipped a grade or two.
He's so tiny and adorable!
One of my favorite students, Jamil. This boy is a Trip!!! You gotta love him.

More pictures to come soon!! The internet is not so reliable here lol. Working with the kids has been amazing! Tomorrow is our last day sadly, but it has been a very rewarding experience. 

For the last two days here, we have been doing community service with the Cheerful Hearts Foundation. We had to split up into three groups after our orientation last week. The groups were the Child Labor group, the Public Health group and the Teaching group. Although all of the options sounded amazing to me, I really wanted to teach so that is what I ended up choosing. I have taught Class 2 (2nd grade) English for two days and 3rd grade African American studies, which is a class that one of my peers and I came up with the whole curriculum for. It has been a significantly rewarding experience, being able to teach these kids. They are so wonderful and so adorable. The minute we walk into their school they are overjoyed! They wave and wave and wave and smile, they are so happy to see us and have visitors. And they are SO eager to be in pictures and then be able to see them. It is such a big kick for them! The main class that I teach which is the 2nd grade English class, has a great group of kids. School is out for all the kids this Friday so of course, they are all a little rowdy, just like anyone else would be on their last days of school before break. But when we aren’t playing games and I am teaching, I found that they are very very smart. Just as smart as any 2nd grader in America, and they live a far less privileged life. The biggest differences in my experiences between elementary kids here, and elementary school kids in the U.S. is that the kids have to wear uniforms daily, in most cases girls have to have very short hair just to be able to attend school, and of course, classroom conditions and technology throughout the school is not as advanced as in America. Another big difference I definitely noticed was that kids really hit each other in class, some of my kids were getting into fights! It was interesting, but at the same time-hitting is really a part of the culture here. For example, even the teacher has a small “whip”…I guess you could call it at her desk in order to discipline the kids. However both of the teachers I have worked with said they rarely use it. It sort of seems like its just for scare like the Trunchbull’s riding crop in the movie Matilda.
Since school is almost over, I got to see a little bit about the grading system in the school that we are volunteering at. First off, there is a difference in the classes the children take here compared to the U.S. Here the children take eight classes: English, a class in their Native language, French, Mathematics, Religion and Morality, Science, and Information and data technology, and social studies. It’s crazy to think that these elementary school kids know three languages while I am an upperclassman at the University of Washington and I really only know one!              
Another difference is just how important education is over here. In Africa, kids are so happy if they are able to go to school because many, many are not able to. Either they don’t have enough money for their school fees, they have to help their families with work, or they live in a fishing village, there are many reasons why a child might not go to school. If you asked any child out on the streets, they would tell you that they wanted more than anything, to go to school. The value of education is huge. And that is a great thing about the Cheerful Hearts Organization. It helps fund children to go to school and get healthcare for families who aren’t able to afford it. So most of the kids I am working with are from extremely low income families. It is amazing to me how that doesn’t affect them though. In America, anyone who doesn’t think of themselves as rich complain and bellyache about how poor they are. And they do it A LOT. But here in Africa, some of the poorest people in the world live, and they are so happy. That part really gets to me. I keep hearing Ghanaians say that the poor people are the ones in hospitals who can’t talk or walk or eat by themselves. As long as you have life, you are rich with it and will be fine.

I am very happy to have this opportunity to work with the Cheerful Hearts Organization. It has been great working with the teachers and the students. Tomorrow is their last official day of school and then we will be helping out with Field day on Friday.