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Week 3   (published in Ghana)

September 22, 2017 by   Comments(2)

Friday: Ending the week with a bang (haha puns), the topic of the day is sex! The topic is ridicuously broad, so we just chat about what they know, what they want to know, etc. I'm surprised to hear everyone learned about sex from their friends or porn rather than school or their parents. Cynthia explains to me that it is not talked about often, so young people end up doing it secretly with no information. That's not a good combination, so I start making a list of the important topics I want to cover. The rest of the day they have Right To Play, which is basically like recess. The boys, girls, and kids all play together which is fun for them but also fun for us to watch. The boys are learning basketball, the kids are hula hooping, and the girls are playing a game. All is well...but then Kevin Hart appears. Our uncomfortable interactions today include asking to see my tattoos as an excuse to hold my hand, asking me out multiple times even though I said no because I will be working under him later, brushing a stray hair behind my ear, and telling me I should get a black man because they are stonger, and he wants to be that black man. Before I snap and say anything that would scar the ears of nearby children, Cynthia saves me, and I spend the rest of the time playing with the kids from the shelter. Six of them do my hair, and one of them tells me how she wants my skin, eyes, mouth, everything. It breaks my heart because she is so beautiful, but she literally utters the words "My skin is dirty, your skin is nice". DAMMIT WHITE PEOPLE. Even today, in a country of mostly black people, we have somehow weasled in the message to little kids heads' that black is bad. How is this foolishness reaching so far? And what can we do to stop it immediately? My thoughts are interrupted ...

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Week 3
Week 3

Week 2   (published in Ghana)

September 22, 2017 by   Comments(0)

Friday: Apparently in Ghana instead of casual Fridays, they do African Fridays, which is when you wear your most vibrant and traditional African printed clothing. I did not get this memo, nor do I own any African clothing. Thankfully the girls promised to sew me something if I buy the fabric so I can fit in a bit better. Today the girls showed me the posters they made with PHD student Melissa the afternoon before. They were photos of things they liked, taken from magazines, and each one described the artist to a T. Deb's was all clothing since she wants to own her own dresshop, Eliz's was all formal wear since she likes fancy clothing, Dorc's was clothing plus photos of the president and military (future politician in our midst?), and Jam's was photos of everything they make at the center such as floral arrangements and hairstyling. They were very proud of what they had made, and did a great job presenting it to the instructors and I. Afterwards, I got a chance to flip through a Ghanaian magazine that consisted of local events. These included three funerals, a wedding, a music awards show, and a coronation of one of the kings (there is one for each of the tribes in Ghana). Highlight of the day was looking through a western magazine and Jam asking me with complete sincerity, "why do white people love dogs so much?". Excellent question. I have no idea.

Saturday: Kasper and James invite me to a football bar to watch a match. I am quickly reminded that football means soccer, and bar means shack with three tvs and 50 plastic chairs that you pay two cedis to enter. I quickly notice I am the only female in the entire establishment, so you could say I'm in my element. Aside from watching the match itself and admiring the football players, I love going here to watch the ...

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Week 2
Week 2

Progress   (published in Ghana)

September 22, 2017 by   Comments(0)

Of course the day after I'm being a grump, everything takes a turn for the better. I had planned to have a brainstorming session with the girls in which we could develop discussion topics, but the instructors told me since most of the girls didn't attend much school they really had no idea where even to begin. Instead, I just had them ask me whatever questions they wanted, and it actually helped us get to know each other a lot better. They asked me what juvenile centers were like in America, and were surprised to learn that they were much higher security. They also asked what people in America thought of people in juvy, and I in turn asked them the same. They said people thought they were in jail and therefore didn't want to associate with them. Since community is so important here, I was worried this would affect their sense of self. Therefore I was delighted to hear, when asking what they thought of themselves, that each one knew she was a good person. They next asked how young girls in America made good choices, as well as whether it was true that everyone is independent once they turn 18. We found that our cultures were similar in that sense, because everyone does something different. People either go to school, support themselves, live with their parents, or get married. When I asked them what they wanted to be doing when they were 18, they all had very specific answers. One wanted to a dress shop to support herself, one wanted to marry and have a family, and two hoped to continue their education. From talking with them, it's clear they are all very sweet and competent girls who, like all of us, made some poor choices. But they have  goals and aspirations to work towards, which counts for a lot. After our impromptu q and a session, three of the girls worked ...

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me having a grumpy adjustment period!   (published in Ghana)

September 22, 2017 by   Comments(0)

I wake up and rush to leave the house at 8:10 so I can make the long walk to the social welfare building. I've mastered the art of waving off taxis and not getting hit by cars when crossing the street, so I'm basically a local at this point (just kidding). I get there to find three of the girls in the sewing room, but no Jane or Rosemary. I would love to talk to them instead of just sitting awkwardly, but am lacking a translator. Jane eventually comes in and says we're going to have a counseling session. Apparently one of the girls hasn't been doing her chores which is causing problems. What's odd is she's very sweet but just straight up refuses to do them. I ask Jane to ask her why she refuses when she knows the consequence will be worse, but the translation comes off as rhetorical scolding rather than asking a genuine question. Jane also tends to talk the vast majority of the time, and in turn the girls are fairly quiet. I'm aware that my social work education is very Eurocentric and does not take Ghanaian culture into consideration at all, so I'm a little stuck as to what to do. By the end though the girl promises to do better so the matter is resolved for now. But then Rosemary starts talking to me about how their bad behavior stresses her out and that they never change, and while it's in English, I feel uncomfortable discussing them like they aren't there. I shift the topic to ways she could practice self-care to avoid burnout, which is common in jobs like hers. The rest of the morning I really have nothing to do. Jane is on her phone, Rosemary is sewing with the girls, and I'm sitting there trying to observe. I feel pretty useless and kind of discouraged. Then at lunch, Jane tells me a woman doing her field work with the girls is interviewing them after their ...

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me having a grumpy adjustment period!
me having a grumpy adjustment period!

Topping off the dig   (published in Peru)

September 19, 2017 by   Comments(0)

A highlight of any trip to Peru is a visit to Machu Picchu, and mine was just done.   The picture tells most of the story, the wonderful architecture of the site is overwhelming, as is the scenery of the high Andes.  Fortunately, it was clear enough for pictures although the clouds hung on the mountaintops all around.

I had good fortune, as a llama wandered through the interior of the elaborate stone walls that remain here.

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Topping off the dig
Topping off the dig

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