Friday, July 29, 2011
Finally...a post from Ghana
Akwaaba. We’ve heard that word many times since coming to Ghana. It means welcome. The people of Ghana are very welcoming, and so hospitable.
They are a beautiful people! I think the women are striking, and the children…they are the images I will always keep with me.
The women are really remarkable because they are all either wearing a baby on their back or carrying a large load of something on their heads. Or both. What are we doing with all these expensive and bulky strollers in America? Why don’t we just strap a baby on our back and go? We must seem so silly to them! I can hardly believe the loads the women can effortlessly balance on their heads. I saw a woman carrying a huge TV on her head yesterday! But mostly they are carrying what they are selling, or transporting some kind of goods.
I think I’m getting used to the use of the car horn here. Everyone is using theirs, constantly, but it’s really a form of courtesy, actually. It says, “here I come, watch out!” It keeps people in the road from getting hit. It let’s drivers know you need in, or need to turn. Or it may just be telling someone to get out of the way.
We are for sure on Africa Time. Things move at their own pace. When you visit someone, you sit, you tell them your “whole story”, and you stay a while. You enjoy their hospitality, and you say a long goodbye. There’s no “dropping by” or a “quick stop”. Some sound advice people gave me before coming was to slow down, remember TIA. This is Africa. That was good advice. I have thought TIA many, many times.
The people here are educated in English. But only the highly educated are proficient in English. Almost everyone we’ve met speaks Twi, or a dialect of it. The signs are mostly in English, so you would think everyone speaks English, but they do not.
We have felt like freakin’ Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie everywhere we go in the villages! We are rock stars! I am guessing many of these children have never seen white folks. So the children come from far and near to see us. They are so polite, and once I smile at them, they always smile back! What would we do without the magic of the iPhone to entertain the crowds of children? They can’t believe their eyes when they see a picture of themselves! And a video…that blows them away!
Ella. Our Emmanuella. This has been a traumatic week for her, saying goodbye to her family. There are so many ways to describe this girl. Dramatic. She’s a drama mama! Hilarious! Boisterous! Playful. Bossy. I think wherever she goes, she’s running the show. Natural born leader. Smart. She has the potential to do and be something great, by God’s grace! Stubborn. I’m sure that will transfer into determined! She is something else. I just can’t wait for you to meet her. Her laughter fills a room.
As Ella was feeling such deep grief in separating from her birth family, I was grieving with her. I held her close and cried with her. I felt like “What have we done!? We have just come here and wrecked this girl’s life!”
But yesterday, we visited her village and her family’s home. I am thankful for that insight. I needed the peace it gave me. There is no hope for a future for Ella here. For children whose family can’t afford school tuition, the children end up working at a young age. Some children end up in slave labor, like the children working in the fishing trade that Mercy Project is working to save. Slave traders come around to the villages and offer the parents to give their child a job. They say they will take them to work on farms or fishing, and their child will bring back money. This seems like a great opportunity! But they lie. And the parents never see their children again. The children are badly mistreated and overworked. Other children end up begging on the streets. But the lucky children get paying jobs. They are very low paying, but they can be street vendors, or work on a farm. But Ella can’t be a street vendor. She can’t communicate, and you must be able to communicate with hearing people to be a street vendor of any kind. She wouldn’t get a job like the other children. Without school, there is no hope. No trade, no ability to work. I asked our guide Peter where she would end up? His answer to me was graphic. Deaf children here must go to the school for the deaf. But it’s expensive. It’s a residential school, and it is more than her family can do. There are so many children in their home! It’s hard to tell who belongs to who. They all belong to each other it seems. Some children were orphaned when Ella’s aunt died, and so those children now belong to Ella’s Mom. There are children everywhere, and they all need schooling, which costs money. They can’t support them all. I don’t know if they can feed them all. They sleep in a small enclosure the size of my closet. They cook their food on an open fire in the open area you can see in our photos. Their bathroom is a squatting dump on the outskirts of the village. The living conditions are poor like I’ve never seen before. They had Peter, our guide and director of ACEF, African Children Education Fund, take pictures of some of the children, hoping he can find support or hope for these kids also. Those pictures you see on websites, like Compassion or ACEF, I watched them take the photos. It seemed surreal. But I want you to know, there is love and laughter in this home. So much laughter! I find Ghanaian people quick to laugh! There is real family.
They love Ella so much! They were gesturing for her to go, and to go to school. That’s what they want for her. That’s her only hope. Nothing good awaits a deaf adult with no trade school or training of any kind. Nothing good. Even with schooling and a trade, many of them will not get far. No one in Ella’s family can communicate with her. There are no signing classes for parents of deaf children, like we have in America. Many parents in America don’t even take advantage of it, but it’s available. So her discipline has been minimal. But her family loves her, and they want hope for her. They want a future for her.
Birth mothers always amaze me, because they put their own desires to have their children close to them aside for their children’s good. It is the most selfless move any mother can make. Ella’s Mom gave me her baby. She only wanted to know if we would bring her back to Ghana someday. It is our hope to do so.
I would like to write a post soon about the Ashan's Children home orphanage. It was a place I'll not forget, and they are in desperate need of funding to stay open. I am praying God would do something to save the 65 beautiful orphans living there.
Funny things I've learned in Ghana:
-I can hold it when I have to go to the bathroom so much longer than I thought!
-Carrying tissues for personal toilet paper was a brilliant travel tip I received!
-I have learned how many people you can squeeze into a tiny sedan. I had no idea!
-I have gone to the school of traffic and driving in Ghana. Wow! We have spent most of our time here in a car. We haven't necessarily traveled many miles, but it takes many hours. We have had an excellent driver who I have great respect for! It takes some serious driving skills!
-Best sign I've seen so far: "Have fun, but think about AIDS".
-The children just call out to us in Twi "white person!" I think that's funny.
-We went to the zoo in Kumasi and they had a highly venomous python in a tiny cage with chicken wire around it. I didn't get too close.