Week 1: Family and Food aka Teranga

Here is a quick look into two key elements of my life in Dakar: my family and food. Other highlight – likely to be included in future blog posts – include seeing Beyonce’s main dancers live, touring all of Dakar for a class, taking 6 classes all in French, and getting an internship at le Comite Senegalaise des Droits de l’Homme (The Senegalese Committee for Human Rights).

To say I’m happy would be a massive understatement.

1. My Host Family

My host family is ridiculously nice. I have a host father who is extremely regal and dignified, but who will also take the time to talk with me about Ebola, the culture of Senegal, traditional medicines, and basically anything. I have at least three host sisters all of whom are extremely kind and welcoming. They are really more like my moms here, and while that can be strange at times for someone who has not lived at home for over two years and who has definitely had some difficulty with maternal figures, it has really been awesome so far. I also have at least three (four?) host brothers. One currently works for Nestle and is completing his masters and the others who are – like my host sisters – a lot more like host dads or uncles. I also have two little host brothers/nephews and four little host sisters/nieces. They are so adorable and hilarious. The youngest are two four-year-old twins named Khadija and Sally. They are insanely adorable and consistently wear matching dresses. This past weekend, the two older girls spent about an hour taking selfies on my computer. Sound familiar?

Given the way we both take photos, I'm actually surprised we aren't directly related....

Given the way we both take photos, I’m actually surprised we aren’t directly related….

One part of the family currently lives in Quebec and will be returning soon. It is cool to be able to talk with them about Canada and Senegal comparatively. I think it is also a representation of a certain group of people who live in Dakar. The Senegalese who make up the wealthier middle class are very educated and often go abroad to study and live. They also often marry people from other countries or cultures within Senegal, which has made many families here very diverse and tolerant. It is really fantastic.

The most notable aspect of my family, however, is really just how welcoming and kind they are. This past weekend, I broke my key trying to get back into the house silently at 3am. I ended up having to call two members of my family to let me in. I repeatedly stated how sorry I was, but they were not even angry. They continued to treat me warmly that evening and the next day, asking me how my night was and really never mentioning the incident. Even when one of my house brothers/dads was trying to get the key out of the door, he refused to let me help him and just kept repeating how it was really no problem. Another demonstration of immense kindness took me by surprise today surrounding mealtime, but I will talk about that with the food part of this blog (am I type A enough for you?). Easy to say, this family is very representative of the Senegalese value Teranga: hospitality, family, love.

2. Food

I love two things about the food here: 1) the food itself and 2) the community around the food. First of all, the food is amazing. So far, we have had lamb with curry and peas, lamb with peanut curry sauce and rice, Thiéboudienne (the national dish of fish with curried rice), chicken with curry and rice, balls of fish with fries and eaten with baguette, and steamed millet in really sweet yogurt sauce. Everything has been so good, and everything (except the millet) has been eaten all together out of one shared plate. The only exception is breakfast, which consists of a baguette with some peanut butter, nutella, or chocolate spread with instant coffee. This brings me to the community part of food here. Like I said, everything is eaten out of one big bowl, and so everyone always eats together. This has shown me the immense community and kindness here. Usually, the family eats lunch at around 3 or 3:30 and dinner around 9:30. Because my school schedule means I have to eat lunch earlier, I asked if I could eat something small earlier on. I expected to do so after the conversation; however, when I was called down to eat lunch I found my entire family gathered around a giant bowl of food as normal. They were all eating lunch two hours before normal because one person, someone who hadn’t even lived with them for a week, had to leave early. I have straight up never experienced something like that before.

My last week in Dakar has been crazy busy. I have realized that my French is worse than I thought and that there are lots of bizarre experiences that come with living with a new family and in a new environment. It has been hard in many ways, but it has been amazing so many others. I wouldn’t change anything about this experience.

Well, anything but Ebola, but that’s for another time…

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A Final Thought: All I Can Really Do is Say Thank You

Writing a final blog post is always hard. In many ways, I don’t feel like this blog was able to do justice to the amazing place that is Challenging Heights and CH Hovde House. My blog has been filled with entertaining stories of my personal struggles with teaching and my new experiences here. It’s important to remember, however, that these blog posts and blogs in general are censored versions of our everyday lives. I am an open person, but I am not going to give out all my private thoughts and feelings for the world.

But here is the honest truth about working at the shelter. I loved it and it was also incredibly hard to work there in a way I have never experienced. Leaving the kids in Ghana has also been one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

Whatever you think about volunteering, voluntourism, working abroad, working abroad as a white person, politics, and all those things, I ask you to put those aside for the next minute or so as you read this. I grapple with questions of volunteering all the time, but this is not the time for me to go into that. I only ask that you take my experience for what it is and try not to judge me too harshly or apply preconceived notions of what you think my experience was like.

Because the fact is that these kids became my family this summer and leaving them, knowing that I would likely never see them again, hurt. In so many ways I felt like I was abandoning them – not because I think I could add something greater to their lives but because I wish I could go with every one of them to their families to make sure they stay in school, are treated well, and are always given reasons to smile.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I don’t think that this blog has even remotely captured the experiences I have had here. The strength of the kids and the staff is incomparable. The experience of working with a five year old girl knowing that she had spent two years working on the Volta Lakes. Seeing her laugh and smile while knowing what she has been through made me fundamentally question how others and I see the world. It has made me question my perception of myself, the way I act, and my role as simply a human being.

Now comes the egocentric bit. Coming out of this internship, I am more confident and the strongest I have ever been. I know that I will never forget the kids and staff at the shelter. I know that they have fundamentally changed who I am today.

All I can say, in the end, all I can really do, is say thank you.

Let’s Get Messy! (a few weeks ago)

I really loved the most recent activity I did with the kids. I had it planned early on in my internship but waited to do it a) because I thought the kids needed to actually trust me and feel relaxed around me to do it and b) I didn’t think we had the supplies possible to do it until the past week or so. I don’t remember exactly when I thought of doing it, but it was sparked by seeing how precise and disciplined the kids – for the most part – are in all that they do. I wanted them to not see my group as an assignment but just as a place to have fun and try new things. Building up to this activity, I kept expressing how important it was to just have fun, love what you made, and let loose.

The activity this week was to be messy. Yep. Basically taking us all back to preschool when we cared nothing about how realistic our drawings were, how straight our lines had to be, or how dirty our hands became. I decided to basically take finger painting to the next level and include liquid glue, glitter, all types of paint, and even felt fabric.

I finally did it, and it was awesome.

All the kids got really into it, although a few stayed quite straight and narrow, making precise squares and clear drawings. One thing that was really cool was that the kids that I had seen have the least confidence in class had the most confidence here. These are the kids that can’t really remember numbers, draw straight lines, or color in the lines. These kids shone in this activity, making some of the most creative paintings. It was a good reminder how important it is to have all kinds of outlets for kids to express themselves and show their abilities. It gives them real confidence in themselves and what they are capable of.

While I originally expected the youngest children to have the most fun, I actually think the kids in the oldest group were the ones who got most into the activity. These are the kids that help out the most around the house and arguably have the least time for “fun,” so it was really important to me that they could just cut loose and have a really fun time. I also ran the group with the older kids on my own. Since they definitely saw me as less of an authority figure than the other staff, they cut lose a bit more. It was challenging but a ton of fun to work with them. I played music for all the groups, and since I have really no iTunes collection and zero Ghanaian music on my laptop, all the kids got to listen to this awesome mix my boyfriend sent me my his friend in Dubai (is this right???). All the kids LOVED it, specifically one older boy who kept repeating, “Madame, this song is very good.”

I really appreciated how much the kids humored me in this activity. It was absolutely completely different from anything they are used to doing or any “assignment” they have been given in the past. I made them get up and “shake it out” to relax, I danced around like a goof and many of them joined me, and I made them not use the precise tools they ask for in every activity. I loved how much they dove into it head on.

Below are a few of my favorite pieces.

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When Scorpions Attack: July 20, 2014

The evening was all going well. Katie and I were finished working for the night and had just finished watching half of Harry Potter. The night was calm and the only critters to be seen were a couple of lizards in the bathroom and a mouse dashing around the periphery of the bedroom. We had even commented the day before that there weren’t really any mosquitos.

And then I saw it. Less than half a foot from the leg of my chair (where I had been sitting in BARE FEET for the last hour) was a large black scorpion. I turned around on my bed and shone my light in its direction. It lay there so inconspicuously and motionlessly that I was sure that my imagination was running away with me.

Then, even in the dim room, I made out the claws and scaly body. It was big. It was larger than the full size of my hand (fingers included), when counting the tail. Its body was thick and it claws made its front end at least an inch and a half wide. Its claws, since we are discussing them, were arguably the biggest part of its body with the kind of pinchers you really only see in Indiana Jones movies. It was dark and from the other side of the room, Katie could not really make it out. She was convinced it was some sort of wrapper. I was convinced otherwise.

I threw a shoe at it. It didn’t move. Katie insisted it was a wrapper. From my side of the room, I could see better. It was definitely not a wrapper. I threw another shoe, it moved enough for Katie to finally see the shape of a full-blown scorpion.

Apparently this scorpion is actually "small" for Ghana...

Apparently this scorpion is actually “small” for Ghana…

We were both freaking out at this point. Paralyzed in our beds, we really had no idea what to do. Finally, we agreed that we needed to kill it. We figured scorpions were probably common in Ghana, and we didn’t want to be the sissy volunteers from America that couldn’t kill it on our own. I grabbed my Birkenstock and, well, I think this video can best show what happens next.

Obviously, my attempt at killing the scorpion failed. I still wonder what the house mothers sometimes think of us/what we do in our room, because we were screaming pretty loud and no one really questioned what was happening or came to see what was going on. Anyways, it hissed at me (okay I didn’t actually hear it hiss, but I imagine it did) and raised its tail stinger (this it actually did). It retreated into the corner behind my desk. We couldn’t reach it, but we also couldn’t leave it there either.

It was time to call in for support. I carefully moved towards the front door to go get one of the house mothers. One problem: we generally do not leave our room at night because a swarm of wasps accumulate around the light outside. Feeling trapped by the wasps on one side of the room and the scorpion on the other, I skittered around the scorpion corner and went out back to knock on the house mothers’ door.

Luckily, Comfort answered, and after a couple minutes of back and forth as to what was actually going on, she instructed me to go down and get the security guard from downstairs. Apparently this is not actually a run-of-the-mill critter intrusion. He responded very promptly with a large broom in tow.

The battle ensued. Six or seven large strikes later with the broom – Katie, the house mothers, and I all looking on – the scorpion was dead.

Now, apparently, it was time to burn the body.

Yes, you read that right. Burn. The. Body. Apparently, if you just let a dead scorpion hang around in a house or outside, the smell will attract all manner of critters: reptiles and insects alike.

The security guard and one of the house mothers took care of that, while the rest of us continued to discuss the story for a little while longer. Like I said, this was apparently not a usual occurrence, only happening about once a year. They told me that a volunteer found a scorpion just outside our room last year as well. This was not helping sooth my wild thoughts that there was a scorpion nest in our room somewhere.

I returned to my room to embark on what I was sure was to be a sleepless night. As I sat down at Katie’s desk (mine was still too close to the incident to be comfortable), a mouse ran across my path. I almost jumped out of my skin.

Yep, sleeping was not going to be a thing.

Teaching: Triumphs and Turmoil

As I set off on my journey to Ghana, I had an idea of what I thought I would be doing. I figured I would run an art class, which I am. I figured I would help tutor the kids, which I am. I figured I would help in a classroom. That one was a tad inaccurate.

As it happens, the first class – the kids with the lowest level of education – is packed. “Packed” of course is relative to the actual size of the shelter and the typical class size here. There are only about 25 kids in the class, but they are all at completely different levels. Eunice – the teacher – essentially had to teach three different courses at once.

So when Katie – the other intern – and I came along, it served as a perfect opportunity to split the class up. So, as it goes, Katie and I ended up with our own class. We were given seven students between the ages of five and probably twelve to teach a basic math and English class. There are three girls and four boys and all are from the lowest level of Eunice’s class.

Now even within that small class, there are widely different skills levels. While one older boy can do simple math easily and can write quite well, another boy cannot even recognize numbers, and there are very different levels in between those two extremes. Katie and I have handled this by even further splitting the class between ourselves, with Katie taking the two youngest kids, in the hopes that we will be able to be most effective.

Over the past week, I have been trying to find the best way to manage the class and teach them in the best possible way that I know how. However, there are several barriers I am experiencing here that I would have not experienced in any tutoring, coaching, or teaching situation in the States or Canada.

The Language Barrier:

This is arguably the biggest challenge, as it often means I misunderstand a situation or am misunderstood myself. I often find that I can tell something is happening in the class, but cannot pinpoint what because I do not know what the kids are saying.

Although I have gained some basic language skills, I have developed a hybrid of Fante and Twi, so I believe my attempts sometimes make me even more confusing. That being said, I use a lot of movement, repletion, and drawing to illustrate what I am trying to explain. While it has been difficult, and I can definitely say I would be more effective as a native speaker, the kids have improved over the last few weeks.

Physical Violence:

When I have taught or coached in the States or Canada, physical violence has been an issue, but not to the same extent as with the kids here, especially the boys. While it is not allowed at the shelter or Challenging Heights School, corporal punishment is normal in Ghana. This cultural norm plus the physical violence all these children experienced on the lake means that the kids often hit each other when they are mad or when they believe that child has done something wrong.

Recently, in one of the more extreme cases, one of the older boys kicked another much small boy very hard on the upper leg. Knowing that there was nothing I could do myself given that I do not speak the language really at all and have much less authority in the house still comparatively to the house mothers and teachers, I decided to drag the boy to one of the house mothers.

When I grabbed his arm and told him in Fante to come with me, the boy laughed, smiled, and shook his head. It was very clear that he thought it was funny that I was angry and still thought that kicking the other boy was completely normal. I should say, at this point, that this boy was also only rescued a month ago. When he laughed at getting in trouble over quite harshly kicking another child, it made me feel quite sad. I know that to them it is nothing compared to what they went through on the lake.

Regardless, I dragged him to one of the house mothers, who quickly reprimanded him and deducted points from his behavior score. Afterwards, the boy was quite mad at me, and I saw him glare at me from the upstairs balcony.

The kids are all very good kids, and the violence to many of them has just become normal and even something fun. It is a “regular” way to punish someone. I have even had kids hit each other for not listening to me. It is very hard to explain why they cannot do so.

Kids With Zero Experience in a Classroom:

While most of the kids in my class have been at the shelter for at least one month, that also generally means they have only had one month of being in school at all. For one small boy in my class, he has only been at the shelter since I arrived, which means he has no classroom experience. Often half the battle is just trying to get the children to sit still.

Another challenge with this is that I want the kids to have the most positive first experience with education as possible, so that they will be motivated to keep learning when they leave the shelter. The combination of the language barrier and violence in class often makes my interactions with then stern or short, which makes it hard to convey fun and amusement at times. I compensate by trying to smile a lot and make my explanations entertaining and active. I end up jumping around a lot and using a lot of different expressions.

Overall, I really enjoy teaching the class and it is a very different challenge from anything I have experienced so far. It also makes me feel better knowing that the shelter does not currently have the capacity to teach this specific group of kids. I am not taking a job away from someone else. Also, while the language barrier complicates things, I do have the background to teach a class of this size and level. I don’t feel like I am taking them away from a better education or simply being entertained as a foreign volunteer. Even if these kids only learn basic math with me, I know they would not be learning that in the class, which is currently doing division.

I really hope that by the end of my time here the kids can return to the regular class with a good foundation in basic math and reading. I know that it will be a meaningful experience for me no matter what, but at the end of the day that is at the bottom of the list of things that matter when it comes to teaching these kids.

Week One at the Challenging Heights Rehabilitation Shelter: My First Art Class

To start off, I wanted to run art classes at the rehabilitation shelter, because I believe that having a creative outlet is very important to recovery from trauma, illness, or any other ailment. It doesn’t matter how could of an artist you are. What matters is that you make something that makes you happy and that you are proud of. It is something that takes you away from bad thoughts and – at least for me – allows you to peacefully look deeper into yourself.

On Wednesday, I got to run my first art class. It was so so awesome. I got to work with two thirds of the shelter on Wednesday: the youngest group – the Black Stars – and the middle group – the Ghana-USA. I worked with the oldest group on Thursday: Senya International. I was a bit apprehensive about working with the oldest kids, as I felt like they will be the least receptive to new, maybe slightly weird activities. I shouldn’t have been too worried. All the kids really had fun and let their own creativity shine.

I loved how excited the kids got during the art class I ran. I got them to make masks out of paper plates, and told them to put their personalities on the plates. While I did one to give an example, I told them that they could do anything they wanted, that there were no rules on what they had to create on the mask.

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While some of the kids did copy parts of my mask, most took off and really put a lot of creativity into the masks. Their faces lit up as they slowly tried more and more things. One kid specifically became super excited about stickers he could put on his mask. Some drew their families, many drew the Ghanaian flag, and a lot just drew pretty undistinguishable objects.

I am concerned about some of the kids’ desire to please me with what they do rather than make things just for themselves. I want to change this in some way and show them that, concerning the outcome of their art, it is not important if I like what that have made or not. It is their opinion on their art that matters most. For now though they are having fun and that is what matters. Hopefully, as time goes on, they will gain confidence in their own abilities and not look to me for approval.

The best part was when the kids got to put on their masks. I don’t think I had seen them that excited until that point. They were all laughing and chattering, and were over all much louder than normal. I could tell they were happy with what they had made. On the weekend, I was even able to give them their masks to play with. While they seemed uncertain of what to do with them at first, most of the kids came up with innovative games, mimes, and dances. I was really happy that I helped them make something that was just theirs that they could play with for as long as they wanted.

For kids that have spent a majority of their lives working for others and getting severely beaten if they made a mistake, it was so great to see them get to be proud and excited over something they did just for themselves.

Introduction to the Challenging Heights Hovde House Rehabilitation Shelter

I have officially spent one full week at the Challenging Heights Hovde House: a rehabilitation shelter for child victims of labor trafficking. It has been so amazing so far, and I cannot believe a week has passed already.

The shelter is located about a fifteen-minute walk away from the edge of a town in Ghana. While that might not seem very far away, the shelter is nestled among deep rainforest. The shelter is essentially invisible to the town and vice versa.

Challenging Heights Hovde House when it had first been built. Photo Credit: Hovde Foundation.

Challenging Heights Hovde House when it had first been built. Photo Credit: Hovde Foundation.

http://hovdefoundation.org/hovde-houses/winneba-ghana/

There are currently around 50 kids staying at the shelter between the ages of 5 and 17. Four languages are spoken predominantly: Fante, Twi, Ephouto, and Ewe; however, most of the teaching is in a miss of English and Twi (or Fante). The mixture of languages has led to many offers of me learning the various languages, specifically Twi and Fante. At this point, I have learned enough random words from different people that I am really not sure which language I am trying to speak when.

Similar to the diversity of languages, the kids all have unique personalities and roles in the shelter. Hannah and Steven, both much older than the rest, take on a huge mentorship role. Promise is younger but similarly takes a leadership role in helping to translate and direct kids. Roland and Esi, both unbearably cute and small but demonstrating shining and rather mischievous personalities once you get to know them.

All these kids have their own roles and personalities in the shelter that set them apart from everyone else. Still, there is one thing that ties these children together and also sets them apart from other kids their age: their trafficking background.

Each kid shows it slightly differently, but still the ramifications of the abuse they have suffered are evident. Some kids have physical demonstrations of the abuse: one child has a scar that curves around the top of his forehead and ends in a long line down the bridge of his nose and many have large scars all over their heads where the hair will no longer even grow back.

For many kids it is in their behavior. Many of the boys and even the girls carry themselves with a tough and almost threatening demeanor. Many are quick to react sharply to others, resulting in yelling or physical violence. Fights, especially among the younger boys, are very common. In opposition, many kids are overly quiet and fearful. There was one point where I raised my hand quite slowly and close to myself to give a kid a high five. Before my hand was even halfway up my body, the kid had flinched and moved away. I responded by lowering my hand, trying to display a soothing demeanor and show that I would never hit him.

I understand why the kids react this way, and I appreciate all the backgrounds and personalities they bring to the shelter. Everyday, I am met with a new challenge or amazing experience. Still, interactions that remind me of what these children have been through break my heart many times a day.

The Beginning of Chapter 2

Today I leave the town of Winneba to travel to the Challenging Heights Rehabilitation Shelter to officially start my internship. The shelter was built four years ago and established by the Hovde Foundation. It is the place where the kids come to heal physically and emotionally after being rescued from their traffickers.

Having visited the shelter during orientation, I know that being there will be challenging. For many of the children living there, the marks of their abuse remains on their skin and in their expressions. I will be leading activities that I hope will help them to express some of their feelings and build self confidence through art and other mediums. Still, how far can that go in relieving the memories of immense torture they have experienced? I am entering my role there as a play leader/teaching assistant knowing that there is only so much I can do.

Although I had mixed feelings about the length and content of the orientation, I believe that overall it has prepared me more for the internship than I would have been otherwise. Above all, I think that better knowing and understanding the extensive work Challenging Heights does will help me in caring for the kids. These kids are not broken or irreparably harmed. They are in the middle of their path to a full and happy life.

Still, I know that I will have large difficulty dealing with the knowledge that these kids will be returning to poverty after their stay at the shelter. Will Challenging Heights monitor them, help their families, and pay for 1 year of education? Yes. The fact remains; however, that many of these kids may remain in the cycle of poverty their whole lives. Challenging Heights has even had to intervene once or twice when families have tried to re-traffic their children.

My posts so far have been fun and rather hilarious. I have to say that from this post on, they will be taking on a much more serious tone. While I am sure there will be stories of fun with the kids, a lot of them will deal with much more serious issues such as the evident harm time on the lake caused these kids and the challenges that come along with working in the shelter environment.

I hope that you keep reading. The is an important issue and I welcome any and all questions about my time at the shelter.

***Note: Given the sensitivity of the population and the need for confidentiality, most names in the blogs will be changed and there will be no photos.

Football Foolish

The day after the US and Ghana played in the World Cup, Challenging Heights hosted its own football game. The staff and interns came together to put on a fun, and in my case rather hilarious, show. When we first heard about the match, I think all of us interns underestimated just how intense it would be. For me, I figured it would be a very laid back scrimmage without many rules and with everyone in all manner of attire.

I could not have been more wrong.

When we arrived at the Challenging Heights School, we could hear extremely loud cheering coming from a few of the classrooms. Kids were banging on their desks and were obviously getting worked up. We got to the end of the small football field to a group of picnic benches to put down our stuff, when two of the teachers came bursting out of the school in full football gear complete with bright yellow uniforms. The kids all rushed out behind the teachers to accumulate on the sidelines. As I had learned during the World Cup Match, very few people I have seen get as excited about football as Ghanaians. This was no exception.

The kids rush onto the field behind their favorite teachers!

The kids rush onto the field behind their favorite teachers!

We soon realized that this was not the game we had expected. We all had to put on bright red uniforms, and we watched as the teachers already dressed warmed up with intense football tricks. While the two other interns playing had at least some football experience, mine is limited to P.E. class in elementary school. It was quite intimidating.

Myself, Chris, and Katie in our red uniforms.

Myself, Chris, and Katie in our red uniforms.

Regardless, I had said I was going to play and I wanted to play, so I got dressed and headed onto the gravel (this is a key part to this story) field. I followed Chris – another member of the program doing PhD research – out to warm up. He passed the ball to me, and I specifically remember thinking: “oh yeah, this is easy, I got this!” Ha.

The combination of runners with not much traction on slipper gravel, having very little coordination to begin with, and not having played football in years did not serve me well. With my first kick of the warm-up, and with all the kids, staff, and interns watching, I completely and utterly bailed. My feet slid out from under me and I hit the dirt hard. Laughter burst from the crowd of kids. Something I didn’t actually mind, because I always figure making kids laugh is a good thing. One of the kids actually came out to pull me out by my armpits before I had the chance to collect myself. This brought on more laughs. On in all, I was quite a spectacle.

I was obviously fine, but gravel tends to leave scrapes that look worse than they are. I looked down to see blood seeping quite heavily from a scrape on my knee along with blood starting to dripping from my elbow and hand. Great.

At that point, even though I was very clearly a terrible player and had already eaten dirt on the field, I really had to play. You cannot wipe out like that and not try to redeem yourself. Before we started the game, however, people were quite concerned about my knee, specifically the female students. Like I said, it looked worse than it was.

Even though I kept saying it was fine, the kids kept coming to look at it and try to help me throughout the game. One actually brought me tissue and almost insisted on wiping the blood from my knee. I obviously refused and wiped the blood myself – I don’t think others should have to touch your blood – but it was extremely thoughtful.

When the game began, I showed that I really was the just as shitty of a player as I had shown on the field already. Still, the blood dripping down my leg was actually gaining me a fair amount of credit. If anything, I was the injured girl not sitting on the sidelines. By the end of the game, my style of play had been called everything from “awesome” (that was a lie) to “doing your best” and “interesting.” Most of the staff were very good, and it was quite overwhelming at times. Regardless, I had fun and my team won!

The game ended with what I will call a shoot out because I don’t know the proper term. Everyone missed (the goal was tiny and the field extremely bumpy) except for one player on our team. Everyone left in good spirits, joking and still goofing off.

Another adventure in Ghana had involved me making a fool of myself, but I didn’t mind.

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Challenging Heights teachers, staff, and interns.

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The World Cup in Ghana: USA vs. Ghana

***Note: This was written on the night of the game. My apologies for the delay in posting.

Tonight was the USA vs. Ghana World Cup Game. After meeting up with friends at a local bar, we made our way to a large field where a group had put together a makeshift screen and projector to show the game. We were a motley crew, as you might say, of 3 Ghanaians, 2 Canadians, 2 Americans, and a Brit. When we arrived at the field, there was a large group already gathered around the screen. We settled in on the grass to watch the game.

As the game started, the energy was electric. I personally, coming from a culture where football – soccer – isn’t the “main” sport, have never seen a crowd go so nuts over soccer. When the Ghanaian team came on the screen, the whole crown hollered and cheered. With the singing of the national anthem, the crowd cheered and hooted the anthem as much as they sang it. When the ball hit the field, you really could feel the anticipation.

The USA scored the first goal, which only served to agitate the crowd more. Whenever Ghana even came close to the USA net, the crowd would go insane. A few times I did a double take because I was sure Ghana must have scored proportional to the noise of the crowd.

But then Ghana did score, and the crowd literally went wild. Everyone jumped up, rushed to the screen, and ran around. They all yelled and screamed and threw their hands in the air. Beyond simple joy over the goal, pride for their team, for their country real shone in the movement of every spectator.

When the USA scored the winning goal, the crowd was obviously dejected, and yet they stayed in good spirits. I feel like Ghanaians really do understand the principle of fair play. It was a good game: it was close and both teams played well. No one shouted about bad refs. No one shouted at the US observers. People even stayed with each other to keep watching other TV shows around the big screen.

For Ghanaians, football is more about the team. Football is about the game and the communities it creates. In the end, it mattered who won, but only because it meant whether or not Ghanaians would come together to cheer for their nation. No matter what, Ghanaians love the sport. At the end of the day, that is enough for them.

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