Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ghana Trip, Day 5

My earplugs stayed in last night, so I actually got more sleep than I expected. Melatonin also helped, but it meant I managed to stay asleep through all of my awesome malaria-medication dreams. Leah and I were lost in the jungle outside our hotel, and we couldn’t manage to get back home. It was rather realistic and detailed, and I remembered it enough to share it in the morning.

Like yesterday, we ate our breakfast and trekked back up to DemoDeaf. We entered out classroom at the end of the row, and were met by M-, the teacher. A very well educated woman, she told us that the class was basically the equivalent of a remedial kindergarten. These students were either behind in a cognitive fashion, or didn’t start attending school until recently (either because their parents were just reminded that they are required to send their children to school or the child became deaf in childhood following an illness or an accident). So, these kids were in the second term of their school, and just barely learning their A B C s, their names and their colors.

So, we started with their names and their ABCs, working with Curry, Aaron, Leah and Rachel. The cognitive and sign-skill levels in the class was quite varied, which made the class a hard one to work in. The kids were very excited to cover the basic information, but we found out that many of them were just doodling or copying the pictures up on the board.

Others were just so excited to see us that they kept peering in the windows.

We did have two absolutely wonderful experiences today, though. The first was with Pablo and a boy named K-. He had very rudimentary signing skills, and could neither read nor write. As we were explaining the concept of “Numbers” and then showing numbers 1-5, we wrote the concepts up on the board. Pablo helped him copy the shapes of the letters and numbers into his writing book, but it was clear he wasn’t understanding us at all.

Finally, Pablo dragged him to the board, where he copied out the word “numbers” and then signed NUMBERS. Later in the day, we were told this was his first written word, something that really struck Pablo, and stayed with him all day.

My experience was when, right at the end of the day, I brought out my photo album to show off the pictures of my kids, my Deaf and signing friends and my classmates. The kids were overjoyed to see pictures of so many obruni’s signing, especially the young ones.

They also really enjoyed the pictures of the Silent Dragonflies Deaf dragonboating team, because they’re not really able to play sports with anyone but each other, as the hearing schools don’t want the children to interact with one another.

About 10 minutes into the picture show, we were finally asked… “So wait a minute, you’re hearing? Do all white people sign?” They couldn’t understand that we were able to sign despite being hearing. I showed them the picture of my ASL interpreting class, and they were stunned. “You mean, all those hearing people are learning to sign, just so they can interpret for people who are Deaf like us?” It just blew them away.

They even wanted to take a picture with the picture of our class, so I could take it back and share it with the Interpreting Program:

School over, we hopped in the tro-tro and headed to the big outdoor market with just a list of the things the kids needed and a handful of Cedi. We were supposed to negotiate and bargain with the merchants in order to get the best deal, and then the kids Signs of Hope International is supporting would have all of their supplies.

What an experience. Jen and I were set up with Pablo and sent out. Some vendors wouldn’t budge because we were white, some seemed willing to bargain until they learned the supplies were for a Deaf school, and yet others were content to laugh at/harass/catcall the white women. People yelled all sorts of things at Jen and I to get our attention (some flattering, some not). The teenagers got ogled as well in the market, and when Leah didn’t respond to the wolf whistles, and the young men got irritated, we explained that she was Deaf and hadn’t heard their oh-so-gracious “compliments.” Immediately, they stopped hitting on her, and instead turned their attention on poor Ellie.

Eventually we got our shopping done, Pablo finished his illicit videoing, and we headed back to the tro-tro. Unlike the uncannily perky Jen, I’m not a fan of the rides as they seem both death-defying (I trust E-, our driver, but not the other drivers on the road) and I hate being in a passenger position in a vehicle. None the less, we had a great time, laughing and joking amongst the 9 of us, who seem to have become fast friends in a very short span of time. On this particular ride, however, we were eventually flagged down by a man in blue camo with a HUGE gun. (You see him at the end of the video below).

He stopped us, climbed into the front seat of the tro-tro with D- and E-, and we rode along together in some uncomfortable silence for a good few miles. Eventually, we came to a police blocade, where we were stopped by other soldiers. Our tro-tro mate hopped out, and waved us through. D-, E- and Curry all teased us, saying “Welcome to Ghana,” but it really is a reminder of how different my country’s police system is than that of most other places.

When we finally arrived home, we ate, and were ready to totally fall asleep. However, there was a general consensus that we needed to get all of our fabric bought so we could order dresses the next day, so we all followed Joyce (the beautiful woman who runs the hotel where we stay) up the road, in the dark to where her friend’s fabric shop is. She had MARVELOUS cloth, and we all bought yards of it, and then we trekked all the way back home. Ronai, Ellie and Jen got measured for their dresses at the hotel by a friend of the shopkeeper, but Rachel and I are heading to Joyce’s dressmaker tomorrow so that we can get copies of Joyce’s dress. :)


  1. Ok, I almost cried watching the boy copy 'numbers'! I was amazed that he wrote it so well just by sight...meaning his hand almost knew the correct "flow" (until he got to the b). I have a lefty and his flow seems backwards sometimes. ;) And I see Pablo DID get a shot of the guy with the huge gun...scary! lol

  2. Yep, got a picture of nice man with big gun. The whole experience was just one of breathtaking awe, both uplifting and heart-rending.