Here we are getting ready to check out of the hotel and at the end of our journey, what more can be said. We’ve had a blast, learnt a lot about life, people, friendship and of course Africa. My friend Leslie told me; Africa, it doesn’t matter how much you pour in it never seems enough, and she is right., Although I feel there is so much more I could do to make a significant difference we hope to have made a small difference for a few.
Thanks to everybody who donated materials in support of the school, I know they have brought much happiness to all the children who benefited from them. Thanks also to everyone who followed my blog, your comments certainly kept me going. Today I particularly want to thank two very special people, young girls who have taken this trip in the way it was meant. They adapted themselves to this strange and unfamiliar environment and embraced the people around them even though at times it’s been tough. There have been few complaints and never a plea to give up. Belle and Emma, I thank you for being the perfect traveling companions, you have made me so very proud. I hope one day you will look upon this short journey with hope, love and positivity and with a clearer understanding for the culture and struggles of others.
Hit the wall yesterday and spent most of it in bed. Don’t know if I let my guard down but upset tummy and a kind of flu knocked me out. This trip has taken all my physical, mental and emotional strength and I hadn’t realized how exhausted I was. Much better today and it’s our final day so last minute shopping and a tan top up.
On a separate note just wanted to share some pictures of the locals who, when out selling anything from pies to flip flops they carry their mobile shops on their heads. It’s been fascinating to watch how much and how varied the wares have been which have included shoe polish, car parts, toilets and sewing machines.
Belle is 9 today and relaxing at the hotel makes us feel like lottery winners. Clean white towels and a six foot bed, large G&Ts and chocolate cake. Breakfast has been a sumptuous buffet in which the girls couldn’t decide where to start, fresh omelets, pancakes, croissant, more food then we have seen in weeks. No more cheap cornflakes or chunks of bread and water. Emma has indigestion and I have a coffee rush. The pool beckons and at last Matt’s luggage arrives. It’s a beautiful day.
Today school has a different feel about it, it’s our last day and Matt is here. The teachers have dressed in beautiful dresses and African jackets. The upstairs class room has been decorated with balloons and ribbons and the trusty PA system has been wired up. There’s a man in the corner playing the keyboard, the whole place has a distinct ceremonious feeling. We wonder who’s getting married.
When I see Prince he explains that there is to be a programme for my departure as a thank you for the work we have all done at the school. He has arranged traditional costume to be supplied for all 4 of us, Matt gets to wear a shirt that looks like a piece of Emma’s art work, handy as British Airways managed to leave his luggage in London, and the girls and I get pretty dresses, flip-flops, beads, hairbands – the works. We feel very special. The farewell ceremony goes on for a good 3 hours. Speech after speech about the state of education within the school, thank you certificates are awarded and I am invited to say a few words. After they take me off and wrap 2 more layers of fabric around me, add a hairnet and headdress, I’m glad I can see in a mirror as I feel like a John Lewis curtain display. They tell me I now look like and African Queen and as I am led back into the ceremony people clap and cheer.
The day is rounded off with food (salad, salad cream, tinned peas and baked beans all mixed together, rice and tinned corn beef casserole)and some blue bubbly stuff. The gratitude is overwhelming and I’m humbled by it. Belle and Emma are delighted to have a new dress and as for Matt, he doesn’t really know what’s going on. We say our goodbyes but agree to return on Monday when we hope Matt will have his luggage and the much demanded library books will have arrived.
I notice when I eventually get home and look in the mirror I have in fact been wearing the dress they gave me back to front.
Power cuts are more frequent now and the weather is hotting up. Just when you think you are getting comfortable with the place something weird happens.
The school is arranging a “programme” for the children and local community to get together on Friday, our last day there. It’s kind of a farewell affair but with a PR drive thrown in to take advantage of the situation. Prince has decided to invite the community Chief (bigwig from up the road, has lots of influence over the community and can decide if a school stays open or closed), the invitation was to be made in person and that six of us were to pay a visit to his house.
When we arrived at what appeared to be a war torn council estate we were led up a dark staircase to a door. On entering a completely different scene greeted us, his home was cool and comfortable with clean marble tiles, white washed walls and plenty of space. We sat in a circle as much bowing and handshaking went on and most of the teaching staff looked to the floor out of respect. At the end of the confab (in Ga the local dialect) it looked as though the Chief had accepted his invitation and Prince was wholly satisfied. There was a worrying moment when they discussed Matt’s arrival, his accommodation and transport as the Chief wanted him to stay at his house. I wriggled out of the offer hopefully without causing offence. Big Chief Matt is to stay in big air conditioned hotel by the beach.
Our last week at Holy Star Academy and I’m feeling a sense of calm. I am comfortable with my classes and know the capabilities of most of the children I teach. I understand what the teachers expect and have a good feel for how “different” I can be without confusing everyone with what the white woman is doing. Also Matt will be here in 3 days and it will be a relief to have him.
The girls are drained so as a treat we do lunch. The cafe was supposed to be a popular sandwich bar where you can get pancakes and waffles but nothing ever quite lives up to expectation in Ghana. Mmm the half raw waffles and melted ice-cream were not great but a step on from bread or burnt rice whilst the aircon and flushing toilet worked in their favor.
Nicola leaves tomorrow which is a shame as she has been a lovely companion and put up well with two kids in tow anywhere we go. I will miss her as she leaves me with our hostess Eva to battle with alone.
Writing my speech for the fare well do on Friday feels good too although unaccustomed as I am to public speaking !! I cant think what to say.
Power was down again for a good 4 hours this eve and sitting in the dark with no fan is hot and tiresome.
The lights come on just as its time for bed.
And so off to see how the other half live as we go and visit the lovely Irish family that we met in Cape Coast. They are under contract for Guinness and have lived in Ghana for 3 years.
Their driver came to collect us and drove to their home in the north of the city. As a security guard opened the large gates and we were led into the house where a house keeper showed us into the sizeable light and airy lounge. The aircon was sweet and so too was the freshly ground coffee I was handed. The girls were taken off into an adjoining room to join the school teacher for a morning of arts and crafts whilst I was shown around.
The house is a good size and the gardens are well kept with exotic flowers, bamboo plants, mango and banana trees. You will be unsurprised here it’s clear that the life of an ex-pat with a decent company contract are well looked after and live a completely privileged life compared to the majority of locals.
Later in the afternoon we were taken to another friend’s home to enjoy a sumptuous BBQ with the very best fish and steak washed down with Pimms and strawberries (where on earth they got strawberries from!!) Talk was of good furniture stores and charity functions organized by the various companies. The children played in the pool and didn’t want to leave but all too soon our time was up. A fond farewell saw us on our way back to the dusty, sweaty place we call home. I hope we have a repeat invitation soon.
It took a while to even contemplate that edible food would come out of the school canteen. A wooden table top balanced on concrete slabs. The cooker an open fire where enormous pots of rice are boiled to death and served with spicy sauce and what should be chicken but looks like a section of mouse. We take sandwiches!
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