Ghana 2012-2013
My name is Alysa Michelle Meisterling. In September 2012, I will be traveling to Ghana, Africa for five months, where I will be teaching a range of subjects for kids ages 6-12. This is the first chapter of my beautiful adventure. Read More About Alysa →

Weeks 5 and 6

Malaria. Western countries hear this term and they flip. We put people with Malaria ┬áin isolation for an indefinite amount of time until they can figure out what could possibly be wrong with you... It’s a tropical disease. It has to be deadly...right?
Not. Ghanaians claim I got Malaria last week. Yes, that’s right, me. Guess what? I’m still alive. The funny thing is there’s no way of proving I have it anymore because it’s already gotten out of my system. Rather than being taken to the hospital and tested, last Wednesday afternoon (October 17th), the Headmaster assisted me to his car, drove on a long (and miserable) bumpy road and we ended up at a house. A Ghanaian man with his shirt half unbuttoned took me into his home, sat me down on his couch and asked me to describe what I had been feeling. Sore throat. Dizziness. Nausea. Lightheaded. Extreme Fatigue. Body aches. Sounded good enough to him so he kindly wrote something down on a small scratch piece of paper and was asked to take it to the pharmacy to receive my anti-Malaria medication. So that’s it? No test, nothing? There has to be a mistake... I notified Henry, our program director, and he simply told me that Ghanaians see it enough to recognize it and that they will take very good care of me. The Headmaster paid for my medication, and I was taken back to school and crawled back in bed. That’s all I wanted to do...sleep. Needless to say, I am feeling much better. I’m still alive, and regardless of whether or not it was in fact Malaria, all is well that ends well. The entire school knew about my illness within hours. Word travels fast out here. They all wished me a quick recovery and were so delighted to see me teaching again.

Yes, Malaria is a tropical disease. Yes, it is something to take seriously. But for all of you Westerners (my mother included) who are worried that I will be haunted by this disease my entire life...relax a little. It’s just like any other disease. Yes, it stays in my system but so does chicken pox once you’ve had it. It can’t come back to haunt me every year or anything crazy like that. I have to be bitten by one of the Anopheles mosquitoes to catch it again. In very very rare cases does it turn into something terminal. Rest assured, Ghanaians claim I got it and I’m still truckin’, ladies and gentlemen!

I’ve had many other interesting experiences over the past two weeks. I woke up at 2am one night to feel something tickling me...not one of those tickles you feel and think ‘you’re making stuff up, go back to sleep.’ Like seriously, tickling. First on my leg, then the side of my arm, then my neck... What in the world. I turned on the flashlight on my phone to find a huge cockroach crawling up my bed net... I’ve never jumped out of a bed that fast in my life. I literally flew myself off the top bunk bed and woke Chrissy up instantly. We’re in the dark, and I’m panicking. Chrissy is half awake and I’m trying to point and explain the thing that has now made its way up to the top of my bed net. I am forever grateful that one of the gentlemen who work around the school was up, by the grace of God, and I opened my door and asked him, as calmly as possibly to remove the creature who has found a home in my bed! It’s 2:20am and he’s just laughing. I think that’s all he does now any time he sees me, especially since I seem to be the one always finding mysterious spiders and creatures in our room or near my presence. I can deal with a lot of the changes in Ghana, but no matter how much all of the Ghanaians laugh at me, I will never, Never be okay with any of their bugs. Yuck.

Almost a full 6 weeks in, I’m getting much more used to things just not being perfect. Francis and Erika are the two young ladies who wash our laundry, and I have begun to give up on guessing when we will get it back. Between the rain and the lack of any dryers, I know not to expect laundry back any time shortly after I give it to them. Also, more and more of my things are getting stained. Little pink stains are now noticeable on my underwear, which I wash myself, and even some of my shirts and dresses. It’s not a big thing. It’s what happens when you hand wash. But aiyy! I just wasn’t expecting that one.

As far as the showers go, I take mine in the evening. I’ve been extremely lucky that the pipes have not ran out of water just before I go to bathe. Poor Chrissy takes most of her showers in the morning and has been let down countless times when no water comes out of the shower or faucet. Knock on wood because showering daily is imperative in my mind. Because of this and countless other things, I’ve come to accept that I am third world high maintenance. I used to think I was so laid back about most things. And back home, I certainly am. But I’m not too sure about here...

I believe I’ve mentioned before that the Headmistress is the one who makes our meals everyday. The sweet African lady takes the time to work hard in the canteen for us, to prepare our daily meals...and we barely eat it. Either because we just can’t eat the large portions they give us or simply because we’re so sick of rice these days, that just the sight of it makes our stomachs ache. We’ve gotten some different things. Yam, Banku, sometimes fried egg. And those have all been fairly good, but we just can’t eat all of it and now we have learned that we have been hurting her feelings! The poor lady! We sat down with her and explained our smaller-portion-diet and the need for foods other than rice! She was so sweet about it, and it made me feel so incredibly bad for not voicing this sooner.

A couple of Sundays ago we went to church...from 8am to 12pm. Four hours. A test of patience to the max. Most of it was fine. There was some music, readings from the Bible and students got a chance to sing a song or read a verse they wanted to share. I even got the privilege to sing a song, with one of the male students, who wrote the song and taught me! Everyone really liked it, and overall the service was great... It was just long. Too long. At one point during worship, two girls just started screaming. Chrissy and I were so confused as we stared at them, scratching themselves, holding their ears, screaming and kicking about. A couple of students forced them on the floor, tied their feet together and just held them there as the rest of the church continued praising God. It was the strangest, and in my mind saddest, thing I had ever seen. I didn’t understand it, and in all honesty, I don’t think I was really supposed to. I sat there and prayed on my own that God would look after them and just continue to work through them as He sees fit.

Classes are going well. I’m still teaching Form 1 English and Chrissy has Form 1 Science. We’re becoming a lot more comfortable with the students, and I believe they are with us. They truly crack us up sometimes. All of the students at Golden Gate are so quick to argue. They can be so so stubborn. They’ll argue over the silliest things and then cheer each other on when they’re in agreeance. Chrissy and I watched a debate on canning take place between the Form 3’s and Form 4’s. It’s very humorous to watch them bicker with each other and try to prove their point with either myself or another teacher.

I’ve also taken on a new job. I’m in charge of dictations every week. Mr. Dadson asked me to come up with ten English words and their synonyms. Every Monday morning I post the words on the board, and all of the students are required to copy and learn the words for Friday’s dictation exam.

I’ve been taught a famous Ghanaian dance called the ‘Azonto.’ It’s one of their hip songs here, and all of the time I am asked if I know it and can show them.

It’s a strange thing, but for some reason my skin heals faster here. I have a tendency to pick at my nails and cuticles. Back home, my fingers will be sore and wrecked for days, but here they heal so quickly and I rarely have any problems with them! Random but it’s such a nice change!

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it on here, but their currency is Ghana cedis and pesewas are their coins. Their currency is almost double in worth of ours. So $50 is worth about 100 Ghana cedis. It’s made it extremely easy to budget my money and buy things for cheap. It’s also extremely fun to bargain, especially since they like to give the white people Obruni prices!

Another thing I’ve noticed is a Ghanaians habit of asking ‘Are you sure?’ It doesn’t matter if I’m asked how I am, where I’m from, what I like, etc... They always have to question it with an ‘Are you sure?’ as if I’m going to say ‘Actually, no I’m not doing well,’ or ‘Actually, I’m from Canada not America...’ It’s too funny. They’re such happy people all the time. When they’re upset, you know. They’re never upset with us, but aiyyyy I would never want them on my bad side!

It’s been raining a lot here. I’m taking it all in while it lasts because without the rain, it’s going to be hell in their humidity. And when it rains rains. It can rain so hard you have to cover your ears and yell at the top of your lungs to get anyone to hear you! It’s a good thing the loud rain doesn’t last too long though... I’ve also noticed mold has formed on some of my things. A pair of shoes and a sports bra have already been thrown away because mold grew on it. I wasn’t too pleased about that!

This past weekend (October 19-21), 18 of the 20 volunteers went to visit Kakum National Park! It was absolutely beautiful. We got to do a canopy walk, and the guide took us on an hour tour through the rainforest. Unfortunately, all we really saw were some interesting looking trees he explained to us. The guide told us monkeys, elephants and many other animals are hard to spot in their rainforest because they like to stay away from humans. It normally takes a lot more than one day to be able to find anything. All of the volunteers and myself are holding out for Christmas break when we’re going to Mole National Park and we’re taking a safari! But this weekend was nice. The first night 16 of us crammed into a 2 bedroom at the Rainforest lodge, because we were lied to about the price. It was an extremely nice place to stay, and we were told it was 10 Ghana cedis per room. We verified this with the guy at the front desk multiple times, on the phone and in person. It wasn’t until the very end of the conversation did the guy say 100 cedis per room and totally threw our plans off. So we convinced the manager to let us into the 2 bedroom, priced at 180 cedis and the guy at the front desk was suspended for two weeks. Woops. The rest of the weekend we spent back at Oasis Beach Resort in Cape Coast, relaxing on the beach and getting to know more of the Cape Coast locals. I definitely think the people in Cape Coast are some of my favorites, but I’m not planning on going there again too soon. Ready for a new place!

I picked up my first personally made African dress yesterday! I love it, and I already have new material in for a skirt! Y’all better hope I don’t get too carried away with it... They’re too beautiful to resist!

I’m starting to get more and more used to the slow pace around here. It’s hard. I can’t tell you how many times I want to tell Ghanaians to “hurry up!” but they never will. It’s pointless trying. You just have to learn to shrug your shoulders, smile and carry on.

With this post coming to an end, it’s good to mention the happiness this place has already brought me. Things aren’t perfect. Far from it. But there is beauty in imperfection and that is what I have found here. America or not, it’s a beautiful place to now call home.

2 thoughts on “Weeks 5 and 6”

  1. So much fun to read. I can totally visualize everything you describe. Very animated!

  2. Hi Aly,

    Wow!!! What an experience you are having! This is a time in your life you will never forget, that’s for sure. I’m sorry you got sick, but like you said, Malaria is an illness that is very common there. I am sure you will be fine. I am looking forward to future blogs. Take care and continue to enjoy the adventure.
    Ann Hosfield

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