day in the life

Sometimes life in Ghana can be so mundane it physically hurts. Sometimes I drag my weary body to bed, locking the door tight behind me. Either way, this is an emotionally and physically exhausting and truly 24/7 job. Here are two actual days of my life.

Day 1
8:00 am: I wake up, successfully getting 10 hours of sleep.

9:30 am: I have just finished eating banana-walnut pancakes. Life is good. I finally put clothes on, grab some paper and write letters home.

10:30 am: I head to the clinic, which I could practically spit on from my window. Note: this is one of two times I will be leaving my room for the day. The nurses annoy me, but I force myself to stay for half an hour.

11:00 am: Lunch time! Right?

12:00 pm: Nap time!

2:00 pm: I have reached 12 hours of sleep for the day. That’s half the day my friends. It’s still too hot to leave my house, guess I’ll watch Slumdog again.

4:00 pm: Musah is outside my house trying to get my attention. Musah, I’m working! “Madame, you never work, you just eat and sleep all day.” What? What makes you say that? Oh, Moose, Can you bring me water? And buy me bread and oil and weed my garden? Thanks! Maybe that will prevent him from disturbing my afternoon routine. The nerve. I start making a pure-carb dinner.

5:30 pm: I have eaten dinner and am now washing dishes outside. Aze is drying them for me. I bring out a book and read until the first call of prayer.

6:00 pm: I take a long walk to the dam with Aze and Musah. Aze and I are talking to bugs in Dagbani, which distracts me long enough not to notice that Musah has ran on ahead to tie weeds together in hopes of me tripping and breaking my nose. Nice try Musah. You are the worst small boy in the world.

6:30 pm: I take a hot bucket bath and climb into bed.

7:00 pm: I watch another movie until I fall asleep.

Day 2
5:30 am: Family calls from home. Her heart is broken in four even pieces. “I think it’s time for you to come home now…” she sniffles. I know, I’m coming home soon.

6:00 am: Obey calls. “That NGO is coming to the school at 9. Can you be there?” Yea I’ll be there. Our school is in such pitiful condition it has gotten national attention. A film crew had come earlier this month to film children having lessons under trees because there aren’t enough classrooms and the electric poles that lie at the marketplace that the district has been promising to connect to the school for years now. No lights, no books, torn uniforms and a handful of teachers that sit around selling ice cream and gossiping instead of teaching.

7:00 am: Me and Aze eat our breakfast and I start my laundry (that boy doesn’t leave my side). This is the only gap of time that I will have all week to do it. I try to get him to read a book, but he just puts it down, grabs a bar of soap and scrubs away.

8:30 am: I find the form 2 English book and scan for a teachable lesson. I am teaching form 3, but we don’t have those books. Then I cut up large pieces of white paper for my form 1 health class.

9:00 am: I make my way to the school, I know this NGO is not going to be there when they say they will so I take my time. I mosey over to my form 3’s. Take your break now, because English is at 10. DO NOT BE LATE FOR MY CLASS! TEN O’CLOCK PEOPLE! We have gone through 3 headmasters at the JSS this term and didn’t even have a timetable until week 7. They have been playing more volleyball that learning. For the first week, they came 30 minutes late for every one of my classes and I almost lost my mind. So above auxiliaries and conjunctions, I’m trying to teach them to be on time.

9:55 am: The NGO shows up. Nice to meet you, I have heard so much about you. I have to go teach now… Oh, Ghana time.

10:03 am: My students are running into class, beads of sweat are running down their faces. Except Manna, he is walking across the football field. Are you kidding me Manna? Why aren’t you running, you have two seconds to get to class! I give them a minute to catch their breath and we take another dive into report writing. They don’t seem to get it the first time around. I make them rewrite the 5-sentence assignment over and over again until their fingers shake. Yes, I am the English Nazi of your nightmares. And you spelled afternoon wrong. Aze is sitting in the corner reading a Peace Corps handbook he found in my trash. Extra reading classes are at 1:00, you all should be there! I say before heading to the adorable new form 1’s.

11:10 am: I quiz form 1 about proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils. They are rock stars. We talk about vitamins and minerals, and I hand out the sheets of paper with a fruit or vegetable written on each and colored pencils. They pull out their rulers and protractors, they take this assignment very seriously. Extra reading classes are at 1:00, you all should be there! I wave goodbye to the headmaster and head home.

12:00 pm: I have 30 minutes to eat lunch before turning around and walking back to the school. I down a banana-pineapple smoothie and swallow and handful of groundnuts. I flip all my clothes over on the line and head back to the school.

12:50 pm: The JSS teachers are wrapping up their classes and run home before I can ask them to help with literacy classes. Three primary classes are coming our way, and all three forms of JSS students pile into one classroom. I have 80 students at all different reading levels to manage. By myself. And they are all falling asleep. I hand my top three JSS students a pile of books and they split the primary students among themselves. I hand out 8 books among 40 JSS students and I ask Latif to start reading the children’s books out loud. After every paragraph I ask them the simplest question I can conjure. Who is the boy’s name in this paragraph? Where does the maiden live? Not one of them can answer. Although the book is probably at a first grade level, these teenagers don’t comprehend any of it.

2:00 pm: Musah helps me put all the books away and walks home with me. I call Obey on the way. Can you just call me when the SAYA meeting starts? I know its not going to start on time, and I don’t want to be sitting at the school for hours. “No problem.” I stop at the clinic and complain to the nurses about how dreadful the reading level is for my students. “They are competing with the top students from Accra, Tamale and Kumasi for senior high school, they don’t have a chance,” Sister Bima reminds me. The reality of it kills me. I have a meeting in 30 minutes, I’m going to lie down.

2:30 pm: I crash on my bed with my flip flops still on. For once, I am grateful for Ghanaian time, I wonder how long I will be able to sleep.

4:15 pm: My phone rings “Ok, we’re all here!” I walk over to the school again.

4:30 pm: Only half the executives are there. For an hour they argue about all the problems with our baby association, and the president Razak says, “Patron, what do you advise?” And everyone looks at me as if I hold all of life’s answers in my head. I take the opportunity to talk about the Men as Partners workshop that will be later that month. I need to have commitment statements from all of you by next week. They nod, and we all begin to fight again.

5:30 pm: I walk home daydreaming about the dinner I’m about to eat. “Mariam! Mariam!” Aze has discovered me. He grabs the bag off my shoulder and we walk home together. By the time I start boiling yams, the first call to prayer starts.

6:30 pm: I’m washing the day’s dishes in the dark while waiting for water to boil for my bucket bath. I finally have time to take my clothes off the line. After I bath, I throw on a t-shirt, grab Middlesex and jump into bed. Thank God the day is over.

8:00 pm: I hear a light tap on my door. You have go to be kidding me. It is three of my students. One of them told me she is afraid she has an STD and I have been encouraging her to go to the clinic since. She finally found the courage, but wanted me there for support. I throw on some clothes, grab a flashlight and we make our way to the clinic. I’m proud of you honey. You are very brave. As her best friends and I wait in the waiting room, I tell them what good friends they are. “Thank you Madame.”

9:00 pm: I am passed out. WW III couldn’t wake me up.


dustykaster said…
You do seem to be sleeping a lot. Did Kristen Chiapponne dump you too?

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