Sunday, June 14, 2009

"12th Annual Peace Corps Art Show" by Chris; 14 Jun 2009

So I made it to and back from the 12th annual Peace Corps Art Show, two students in tow. We all had a wonderful and enriching time. It was held in Cape Coast the city famous for its slave castle and a must stop for any visitor to Ghana. A matter of fact while we were there they were busily painting and cleaning up the castle in anticipation of a visit from President Obama when he comes in July. We were housed and fed at the school for the deaf there called “Cape Deaf”.

To those who contributed to the PCPP, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Without you it would have never happened.

At the openning with Country Director Mike


It was a week of young energy (sometimes too much), new friendships, exploration of new art forms, and for many learning a new language. I was admittedly a bit concerned about how the hearing students would react to the deaf students. But I was profoundly touched by their acceptance of each other from the very beginning. There was no trepidation what so ever. The hearing students took to learning sign with fervor and it became the overriding activity of the week. I guess in retrospect I should not be surprised because we have chosen the visual arts as our vocation of choice and sign is a visual language. Some of the highlights were a cultural performance by the blind & deaf students; blind students playing the drums and the deaf dancing. All of it done so beautifully until it was brought to a stop after it was learned that the chief does not allow drumming and dancing on Wednesdays (no one really knows why). We paid our 50 cedi fine to the chief and moved on. I’m just glad we didn’t have to give him a goat!

Deaf student cultural troop

Both students and PCVs took part in day long screen printing and batik workshops producing many beautiful things suitable for wearing. On the last day we took the students to Elmina Castle (a Dutch castle just up the shore from Cape Coast) and Kakum National Park (the place with the canopy walk). Oh and we had an art show. It was really nice to see what other PCVs and their students are doing and it varied as much as the regions do in Ghana.

Priscilla learning batik

The gang at Elmina Castle

Canopy walk at Kakum

The travel was long but well worth it and I look forward to next year’s event which I have agreed to lead. Again thank you all for your support. You can look forward to hearing from me in a year about the 13th annual PC Art Show…

Monday, June 1, 2009

“Snippets” by Tammi; 31 May 2009

If you are wondering what we have been up to the past couple of months (besides that little garage incident that I mentioned in my last entry) here are some snippets to get you up to speed---

First, we want to extend a big “Thank You” to those who made donations for the two upcoming youth events. Both programs have been fully funded. The kids who have been selected to attend are very excited, and their families very proud. We will post some photos and give a recap of the events once they take place. The part you played in making it all possible is very much appreciated.

At the end of last term, Chris and I spent some evenings down the road working with students at the junior high school on a World Aids Day poster contest.
It was a rewarding experience for both us and the students. The students felt very special being able to participate and some walked quite a distance to and from school after dark in order to take part in this free-will project. It was the first opportunity that many of the students had had to paint!

Peace will soon learn that her submission won a prize!

We went to Egypt!

That stuff is REALLY old! The pyramids were cool, but the artwork in the temples really blew us away. It’s amazing how these things have withstood the test of time.

Egyptians refer to Africa as if it is a different continent and indeed Ghana did seem worlds away. It was "interesting" transitioning back from a luxury floating hotel on the Nile to Peace Corps bungalow in Donkokrom. It was also kind of weird being in Egypt and seeing how advanced the culture was in ancient times, and then returning here to Ghana and realizing how far we have to go. But it felt good to be back home, and a refreshing change from Egypt’s culture of constant baksheesh and relentless hawkers.

John & Nancy sail the the Nile

Between Egypt and Ghana we spent a very pleasant month with Chris’s parents. It was wonderful having visitors but the time flew by very quickly. In the end, we sent John & Nancy home with some memorable moments, food for thought, a big bag of purchases, (and unfortunately giardia)!

Nancy presents a booklette created by her school kids in Iowa

Chris’s “workshop” has become quite the popular hangout for some of the neighborhood boys. Jonas (left below) wants to be a doctor and Stephen (right) is our budding young artist.


Chris and I have been meeting with our school administrators to identify and prioritize needs and to create action plans for meeting those needs. The top priority of the school right now is to mechanize the bore hole. (As it is now, students spend many hours of the day simply fetching water to meet basic needs. This is time that could be better spent in a learning environment).

Fetching water from the bore hole

Earlier this year we submitted a proposal asking for assistance with this (and three additional school projects) from Engineers Without Borders (EWB). We recently received good news that our proposal has passed the initial review stage and has been approved to be posted for adoption by any of the EWB chapters in the U.S. Now we could use your help with an added push. If you know anyone who is associated with this fine organization, please encourage them to consider adopting our project. We would love to see this collaboration come into fruition!

Primary project: Teaching
Primary result: Frustration!

Term II did not end on a high note
  • Students were cheating on their exams
  • Teachers were allegedly being paid by the students not to notice
  • Many students received failing grades anyway (only 35% is required to pass)
Term III did not start on a high note
  • Classes began more than two weeks late due to the fact that so few students and teachers bothered to report
  • Chris and I missed the term’s first staff meeting. (As is typical the meeting was arranged less than 90 minutes before it was to take place with no written, verbal, or any other type of communication inviting us to attend).
  • Nearly 2 weeks after classes actually resumed, the entire timetable was changed, (again WIHTOUT NOTICE). The affect of this change for me was not only a change in my scheme of work, lesson plans, and schedule but nearly 230 of my students have switched. A more significant affect was yet another week of disruption and lack learning.
As one might expect, I have been spending a goodly amount of time stomping around campus, voicing my complaints to anyone who will listen, and even offering solutions. However, our Headmaster has heard little if any of it.

If I had only one word to describe our headmaster – Absent!

Chris and I have been entertaining ourselves with the fantasy of a coup. He would play headmaster and I would take over the office. We would do crazy things like planning, organizing, communicating, delegating, and making people accountable for their actions & responsibilities. Yes, crazy CRAZY thoughts!

It's hard to plan when you don't know what to expect from one day to the next. (It’s Sunday and I don’t even know who my students are or what classes I am expected to teach tomorrow).

I’ve been having dreams that I am working on various projects and as I am trying to carry them out, it all starts falling apart. It’s boring having dreams with literal meaning. Now Chris is having the same type of dreams. I much prefer the Meph induced adventure dreams.


Secondary Projects:
Activities that have the potential of being a positive distraction from our primary frustration

I'm so excited! I just got my women's community organizing project off the ground. Another woman who teaches at DASHS and I are hitting the neighborhood, meeting and getting to know other women, and learning from each of them what is good, bad, or needs improvement in their lives. I’m not sure where this project will take us, but that’s a big part of the fun. We’ll see what bubbles to the surface and go from there. At the very least we’re making new friends and forming new alliances. My biggest highlight so far came during a planning discussion between me and my colleague when she offered “…and I will continue this project even after you return to America”. I wanted to dance around and shout “Hallelujah”! (I have learned that we need to celebrate life’s little successes).

village women

If a coup d'├ętat is unrealistic, why not start a revolution! Chris is doing just that, complete with manifesto, in the form of his Campus Pride project. He had his second meeting yesterday with the Student Representative Council. They are brainstorming ideas on what can be done for and by the students to promote pride in our school. So far they have had some real good ideas with real good potential. And the new student president is exhibiting an incredible level of energy and leadership in mobilizing the “troops”. Hopefully the momentum will continue once the faculty advisors are brought into the picture.