Posts Tagged With: children

10 Life Lessons I Learned from Kids’ Shows

As I struggle through my first few years of adulthood and what I have dubbed my “quarter-life crisis,” I have come to realize how many valuable life lessons can be found in television shows and movies that were written specifically for the pint-sized people in this world 🙂  I hope to shed a little light on some lessons that are taught to children but are beneficial for adults, too.

1. Knowledge comes one step at a time

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This is an interesting, sort of hidden lesson from every episode of Sesame Street. The beloved series began airing back in 1969 and has affected generations of children over the years. I don’t think I watched very much TV as a child (I certainly have many memories of playing with my family and being outside), but I do remember watching Sesame Street before afternoon kindergarten, and I assume I watched it when I was younger than that. Sesame Street takes an interesting approach to teaching by focusing on just one letter and one number per day. Short, sweet, and simple. Children don’t just see the letter and number once and then move on; instead, they are exposed to the number and letter repeatedly, adding associated words, counting games (don’t forget Count von Count cheerfully and dramatically saying, “One! Ah ha ha! Two! Ah ha ha!”), and songs. The next episode does the same thing, but this time with a different “Letter of the Day” and “Number of the Day.” As an adult (and maybe as a child, too), I have the tendency to pick something I want to learn, and then I want to be good at it immediately – not because I think the new skill is simple, but because I don’t have the patience and perseverance to take it one step at a time. Think how much more I could accomplish in my life if I set short, attainable goals that ultimately lead to a life of fulfilled ambitions and successful pursuits!

2. Seize the day

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There’s a song in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that is quite possibly the happiest little song I know. It’s called, “This is Just the Day,” and it goes like this:

If you’ve got an hour,
Now’s the time to share it.
If you’ve got a flower,
Wear it.
This is just the day.


If you’ve got a plan,
Now’s the time to try it.
If you’ve got an airplane,
Fly it.
This is just the day.


It’s the day for seeing all there is to see.
It’s the day for being just you, just me.


If you’ve got a smile,
Now’s the time to show it.
If you’ve got a horn,
Then blow it.
It’s the minute to begin it.
This is just the day.

To top it off, it has this jazzy little background track. Check it out here.

3. Love people who are different

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The PBS show Arthur has always been one of my favorites. The beloved and calm aardvark, Arthur, is surrounded by a myriad of interesting characters. His friends include a science genius (the “Brain”), a tomboy who doesn’t mind getting dirty (Francine), a class clown (Buster), a dramatic and spoiled rich girl (Muffy), a bully who has been held back a grade (Binky), a poetry buff (Fern), a world traveler who is into martial arts (Sue Ellen), a shy boy who talks more through his ventriloquist dummy than through his own mouth (George), and a yoga-loving, fortune-telling eccentric (Prunella). Similar scenarios can be found in shows like Recess, Phineas and Ferb, Garfield & Friends, Dragontales, and My Little Pony. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are extremes of four very different personalities. I think writers try to create unique characters so that every child can relate to at least one of them. But the underlying message is clear: you can be different from your friends and still have great adventures together. After all, wouldn’t life be boring if everyone were exactly the same?

4. Make room for everybody

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Do you remember The Muppet Movie? Released in 1979, the film starts with Kermit alone in a swamp, singing his classic Rainbow Connection. Then his journey begins, and he meets all of our favorite muppets as he travels to Hollywood to make a name for himself. His first new friend is Fozzie Bear, and the two of them borrow Fozzie’s uncle’s Studebaker (while his uncle is hibernating) to get to Hollywood. As the story continues, they pick up more and more new friends, and eventually end up trading in the Studebaker for a station wagon so that they can fit everybody. I love the lesson this teaches, as the characters create room for their new friends, rather than telling the newcomers that there simply isn’t enough space for them. One of my favorite parts of the movie is the song entitled Movin’ Right Along. You can watch it here, if you’d like. During the song, Kermit and Fozzie drive past Big Bird, who is walking down the street. They ask if he wants to join them (somewhat concerned that he is simply too big to fit in the Studebaker), and he tells them he’s not going to Hollywood because he’s trying to make a name for himself in public television. Despite his size, they still offered him a ride!

5. Sometimes the best part of an adventure is arriving home again

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Here’s a classic from Sesame Street. Read the lyrics to Ernie’s I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon:

Well, I’d like to visit the moon
On a rocket ship high in the air
Yes, I’d like to visit the moon
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I might like it for one afternoon
I don’t want to live on the moon

I’d like to travel under the sea
I could meet all the fish everywhere
Yes, I’d travel under the sea
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
I might stay for a day there if I had my wish
But there’s not much to do when your friends are all fish
And an oyster and clam aren’t real family
So I don’t want to live in the sea

I’d like to visit the jungle, hear the lions roar
Go back in time and meet a dinosaur
There’s so many strange places I’d like to be
But none of them permanently

So if I should visit the moon
Well, I’ll dance on a moonbeam and then
I will make a wish on a star
And I’ll wish I was home once again

Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I may go I’ll be coming home soon
‘Cause I don’t want to live on the moon
No, I don’t want to live on the moon

Through all my adventures and travels, I have thought of this song many times. I think it’s important to have a home base to return to – a place where you belong at the end of the day.

If you’d like to listen to the song, you can do so here.

6. The first step to ending your fear is to increase your understanding

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My example comes from Monsters, Inc., which tells the story of monsters who gain their city’s energy (electricity, if you will) by scaring children and collecting their screams (an ingenious storyline, by the way), but who are actually terrified of the children they scare each night. When Mike and Sulley end up with a small human girl (“Boo”) in their care, they are more afraid of her than she is of them. In fact, Boo seems to think Sulley is a big, fuzzy teddy bear. As the tale progresses, they learn that there isn’t anything dangerous about her, after all. As their understanding of human children increases, their fear subsides.

Humans–and monsters, apparently–are afraid of the unknown. Thus, the secret first step to being brave: increase your understanding.

7. You are always connected to those you love the most

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This is another one of my favorites. In the 1986 animated movie An American Tail, a family of mice takes a long journey from Russia to America to escape cats. On the trip, the son, Fievel, is separated from the rest of the family. In a heartwarming moment, while looking at the stars, Fievel sings the song Somewhere Out There and is joined by his sister Tanya, who is singing the duet from far away while also gazing at the night sky. These are the beautiful lyrics that have always stuck with me:

Somewhere out there,
Beneath the pale moonlight,
Someone’s thinking of me 
And loving me tonight.

Somewhere out there,
Someone’s saying a prayer
That we’ll find one another 
In that big somewhere out there.

And even though I know how very far apart we are,
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star,
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby,
It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky!

Somewhere out there,
If love can see us through,
Then we’ll be together 
Somewhere out there,
Out where dreams
Come true

You can watch the whole touching scene here. So the next time you feel far away from those you love, remember that you are sleeping underneath the same big sky. And chances are, they’re thinking about you, too.

8. The best understanding comes when you change your perspective

01b81751-b6ae-4a56-af70-9457002c2029Do you remember The Magic School Bus? Ms. Frizzle takes her small class on many adventures, as her magic school bus changes into a submarine, an insect, a spaceship, an airplane, and more to accommodate their rides through the ocean, space, and even the human body. The bus changes shapes and sizes so that the kids learn about the human body by being in it. They learn about space by flying through it and landing on planets. They learn about plants by traveling through the stem of a flower. And the children learn quickly because Ms. Frizzle understands something most of us don’t: changing your perspective is the best way to understand. It’s an important lesson that applies to real-life situations – even after we’ve graduated from elementary school science class.

Also worth mentioning: In each episode of The Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle tells her class, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” It’s a great little piece of advice for how we ought to live our lives.

9. Use your imagination
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Children’s television, movies, and books are phenomenal at teaching this lesson (As an avid reader, I actually find myself reading youth fiction 90% of the time because of the imaginative plots). As adults, we transition from “imagination” to things like “creativity” and “innovation” – traits that are invaluable to employers and clients alike. And yet, how often do we hear adults talk about using their imagination? How quick we are to forget the important lessons of our childhood play. Watch Sesame Street’s It’s A Circle. I especially love the “argument” Bert and Ernie have at the end of the song. The whole world could use a little lesson on loving people despite having different views, don’t you think?

10. Don’t hide your talents

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Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb is only a few years old (began in 2007), but it is creative and witty, and I have enjoyed watching it as an adult. The two main characters, Phineas and Ferb, are young boys who are step-brothers. They are geniuses who want to make the most of each day of summer vacation by creating an outrageous adventure for themselves and their friends. Each day, they do something impossible for two kids their age: build a roller coaster through the city, create a beach in their backyard, travel to Mars, etch their sister Candace’s face into Mount Rushmore, etc. Candace is always trying to get them “busted” by their parents, but at the end of each episode, something equally outrageous happens, and the whole contraption they’ve built throughout the day disappears just before their parents see it. Candace is convinced that her brothers purposely hide their evidence–but being good, honest boys, they aren’t trying to hide anything. In fact, a repeated line in the show (by various strangers) says, “Aren’t you kids a little young to be _____?” (fill in the blank with whatever impressive feat they’re accomplishing). Phineas always replies, “Why, yes. Yes, we are.” and continues working on his project. He and Ferb are unashamed of their talents. They are open, honest, creative, friendly, extremely intelligent, and humble to boot! They are great role models for kids and teach the all-too-valuable lesson of excelling in whatever you do without hiding those talents.

 

Do you have any to add? What life lessons have you learned from shows written for children? Let’s not forget books, games, and personal experiences with children, as well! We have so much to learn from the smallest, most innocent members of the human race.

Categories: Learn Something New | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Ghana to Remember

Two weeks ago today, I said a tearful goodbye and left my beautiful Ghana behind. Now that my big adventure has come to a close, I want to make a list (more for me than for you, to be honest) of things I never want to forget about Ghana. After spending three months in Africa, there are about as many things that I dislike about Ghana as that I like. However, I want to remember some of the negative, too, as it all adds up to an incredible and irreplaceable ride. I don’t think I could ever go anywhere so different and so far from home without walking away with about 1,000 new impressions and experiences, and I want to capture some of those on…er, “paper,” I guess…before the memories fade away.

Things I want to remember about my Ghana experience, in no particular order:

  • Goats, chickens, roosters, sheep, lizards, and dogs wandering through the streets and through our front yard. Baby goats are SO darling. We also saw a toad once and a big, 6-inch black scorpion on another occasion. Rats and mice frequently showed up in Potter’s Village. The coolest lizards had orange heads and tails. The goats started to really grow on me, too; wouldn’t mind having one of them someday 🙂

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  • The red dirt that looks just like southern Utah
  • Trotros – a sort of minibus or large van run by a driver and a “mate” who takes money and directs stops. Unlike taxi cabs, the trotros have set, consistent prices no matter which one you catch, and honest mates who give the correct change. However, if there’s enough room for three people on a bench, they’ll fit four or five on it. The highest number of people I ever counted in one trotro was 29 (I think that particular trotro had 21 seats).
  • The way the trotro mates call the names of the places they’re going out the window, slurring everything together (“AccraAccraAccra” or “MadinaMadinaMadinaMadina” or “MadinaOldRoad” which sounds more like “MadinaDohDoh”)
  • Bargaining, constantly, every time we bought anything. The prices aren’t marked, forcing us to speak to the salesman/woman anytime we were interested in buying something. Inevitably, they would start with an “obruni price” that is much higher than reasonable, and we’d have to initially give an almost-offensive low price in order to reach a reasonable middle ground.
  • Fresh mangoes, pineapples, papaya (“pawpaw”), oranges, bananas, and plantains. The mangoes especially are to die for. Plantain trees were grown in the yard next door to the volunteer house, and mango trees were in our front yard.
  • The sound of the children singing. I am convinced there is no sound more beautiful on the earth.
  • Standing on my front porch, looking at the stars (when it wasn’t hazy) while brushing my teeth
  • Preachers on the trotros, in the markets, and along the streets. Occasionally a Ghanaian would get on the trotro, stand up, say a prayer, and then spend the next 30-60 minutes giving a very loud sermon – sometimes in English, and sometimes in a local dialect like Twi. Though the northern regions of Ghana have many Muslims, the sermons in my area were always Christian; I have wondered if the Muslims preach like this anyway. In the markets, they would have megaphones or speakers and walk around preaching. Then there are vans with megaphones affixed to the roof that drive up and down the streets preaching – or at least I assume they’re preaching. I never heard a van megaphone speaking in English. We also had a group of worshipers in the field behind our house at nighttime. They do a ritualistic chanting that we thought was in tongues until I finally walked close enough to make out English words. It was seriously one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard.
  • How loud Ghanaians are. We (the volunteers) determined that Ghanaians are trapped in a vicious cycle: they all talk really loud and attend really loud church services, parties, and funerals (which are sometimes all the same thing, it seems), and then they’re all going deaf, so everything has to be even louder. Competing with the noise level of the kids in the morning to tell them they had 10 minutes to leave for school was a bit of a nightmare with my quiet-ish voice. I really learned to project that tiny American voice of mine. We had one night when a funeral down the street (probably a 10-minute walk away) had festival-sized speakers playing music all night long, and we could hear the bass line the whole night from our bedroom. Our “lovely” neighbors talked so loud that it usually sounded like they were standing in our room.
  • The sunrise in the morning, which is so sudden that it seems like someone turned a light bulb on:
Sunrise in Dodowa

Sunrise in Dodowa

  • The “bathing line” in the mornings at Potter’s Village. This was anywhere from 3-12 of the smallest children, naked, and of course standing perfectly still and well-behaved as they waited for their turn 😉 Yeah, right. Bunch of little hooligans dancing around and beating each other while entirely nude. The chaos and nakedness seriously made me laugh every morning, no matter how stressful the day.
  • Flushing toilets using buckets, and putting our used toilet paper in a trash can instead of in the toilet. This caused the most culture shock for me when I returned to the U.S.
  • Burning trash along the roadside. There is litter everywhere, including in the rancid, sewage-filled gutters (I was convinced at one point that the smell of those gutters would probably seep into my clothing if I stood near one long enough. I also decided that if I ever fell into one of the gutters, I’d be on the next plane home.). Occasional signs tell you to “Keep Ghana Clean” with photos of putting litter in trash cans, but public trash cans are almost impossible to find. The locals do, however, burn their trash in big heaps. And I exhaled every time I walked past one. On a similar note, Ghanaians have no shame urinating in public. It’s very common to see “Do not urinate here” painted on the outsides of buildings and on fences.
  • The handshake with a snap at the end. As you slide your hands out of the handshake, both people snap using their middle finger and thumb on top of one another (so you’re snapping with your middle finger and thumb on either side of the other person’s middle finger, and vice versa). It’s awesome and took me a long time to make any noise. Even now, I think most of the successful handshakes made a snapping noise because of the Ghanaian I shook hands with, not because I perfected the trick.
  • The languages. When I came to Ghana, I was under the (mistaken) impression that Ghanaians know English. Though English is the official language of Ghana, only about 30% of the country speaks it. I lived relatively close to the capital, so most did know English in my area, but it’s still rarely their first choice. Most of the Ghanaians I asked said that they speak somewhere between 3 and 7 languages. Dodowa (the town I lived in) spoke Dangbe, and the children at Potter’s Village spoke Twi (which is a more common and well-known dialect). The languages are beautiful; I didn’t realize how “African” they sounded until I listened to it at home. They tend to drift in and out of English, so even when they were speaking local dialects, I could usually decipher the general topic of the conversation.
  • The attention from the men. At first, I was extremely amused by the forward, direct things the local men said to me right after meeting me – things like, “I love you” and “I will marry you.” The first guy who hit on me actually jumped on the back of my trotro as we pulled away, trying to get me to give my phone number to the mate so that he could pass it on. I was laughing so hard I didn’t even really answer him. After three months of constant attention, though, I was done with it. One time, near the end of my trip, I was alone in a trotro station, and I actually missed my trotro (it pulled away without me) because a random local guy wouldn’t let go of my shoulders. Needless to say, I was pretty ticked. Conclusion? The attention is oddly flattering, but it’s not worth the extra hassle of fighting off guys simply because I’m white.
  • Djembe drums. These are your typical African drums, and they sound SO cool. I witnessed drum performers on several occasions, almost always in touristy areas, and usually in conjunction with dancers, acrobats, and fire-throwers. I bought a small djembe drum and brought it home with me. Carved into it are two Adinkra (West African) symbols: happiness and unity. The head of the drum is goat skin, and there’s even a little goat hair around the edges of the drum head still – a constant reminder that it’s handmade.
  • The chocolate. Ghana exports cocoa, and I really love their local chocolate. I purchased it in several flavors, including lemon and orange. It doesn’t seem to melt despite the high temperatures (they sell it in the outdoor markets), and it has a really interesting consistency. It starts out kind of chalky, and then becomes creamy and smooth as you chew it. It is made using 100% genuine cocoa – no cocoa butter. Unfortunately, upon bringing some of the chocolate home, I have discovered that the desert climate I live in has made the chocolate taste very dry. I did see cocoa trees on several occasions, though the cocoa pods were never their ripe, yellow color.
  • The racism. Believe me, I know how strange this sounds, but I never want to forget it. If we define racism as being treated differently (often negatively) because of the color of one’s skin, then Ghana – my beautiful Ghana – is a racist nation. With 99% of the country being black, we stuck out like sore thumbs, and heads turned everywhere we went. Occasionally it bothered me, such as when a Ghanaian would call out, “obruni!” and then say something in a local dialect that we couldn’t understand, and then all their friends would laugh. We were often mocked or treated as if we were just plain stupid. However, despite the occasional frustrations, most of the time I took it as a learning experience, and I learned lessons that I can’t adequately put into words. I was able to tour Cape Coast Castle, formerly a British slave trade castle, and experience the humbling feeling of being in a place where such cruelty and misunderstanding took place. I saw the dungeons where the slaves were chained, the solitary confinement rooms, the beaches where they were loaded onto ships, and I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t find tears to shed. I had one occasion when all the volunteers were sitting in the back row of the trotro, and I thought of Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus. I finally understood it. I understood her. On multiple occasions, I would find myself thinking, Please just let me walk through the market without being the center of attention. Please let me be unnoticed as I walk down the street so that I can quietly live my life. I was tired of it – tired of the constant attention because of my skin color, tired of speaking to every Ghanaian man I passed, tired of being mocked, tired of being asked for money or food or my watch by people who were clearly doing fine on their own. This is a lesson that will stick with me for the rest of my life: No one should be treated differently because of something (like skin color) that they cannot control. May we all be a little more tolerant, a little more accepting, a little more loving.
  • The hissing. Ghanaians hiss to get each other’s attention. It surprised me at first, especially the first time I walked through a market and heard it constantly as they tried to get my attention. However, I accepted it as part of life and actually caught myself doing it a couple of times. It works! And it’s much better than yelling to get someone’s attention, especially in crowded places.
  • Little hands covered in food, being rubbed on my arms, legs, head, and back as small children climbed on me right after eating their meals. I’ll admit, I never really got used to this. Food hands bothered me every time, no matter how dirty I already was.
  • Washing my clothes by hand with buckets and a drying line. A small load took about 1/2 hour, and doing all my clothes (basically 8 full outfits) took about 3 1/2 hours. I never fully appreciated washing machines before this trip.
Laundry day!

Laundry day!

  • The teachers still “cane” naughty children in Ghana, and the mamas at the orphanage would occasionally cane the kids there, too. A “cane” is just a thin stick, and it seems to be about the only form of discipline that works on these children. I only personally witnessed mild beatings, thank heavens. I did, however, clean some pretty bad wounds from a beating on one child’s back – something I never thought I’d do in my life. I also saw several swollen little wrists.
  • Fishermen on the beaches. This was really cool, and I was lucky enough to see it in Cape Coast and again at Kokrobite on my last weekend. We got up to watch the sunrise, and we witnessed fishing boats heading out into the ocean, like this:
Fishing boats heading into the ocean near Cape Coast

Fishing boats heading into the ocean near Cape Coast

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Then the next thing we know, there are about 20 men lined up along each rope on the shore, pulling in the fishing nets. I watched for a long time, and never saw the nets reach the shore. I imagine that they only pull in one net per day.

Men pulling in fishing nets

Men pulling in fishing nets

  • “Potato chips,” which we call French fries (I was definitely confused the first time, though I should’ve known better) and “yam chips,” which are fried just like French fries but are made using yams instead. By “yams,” I mean white yams, not sweet potatoes. The texture is a little different than fries made from potatoes, and the taste is sweeter. I actually really liked them.
  • Roads full of potholes. This was especially evident on the 3 1/2 hour trotro ride to the Volta Region on my weekend trip to see the monkey sanctuary and Wli waterfall. Swerving back and forth across the road to avoid potholes sometimes felt like we were living the game of Mario Kart.
  • Driving without lanes, traffic lights, or crossing signals. Of course, by “driving,” I don’t mean I actually drove. I would’ve died in about two minutes flat if I’d been personally driving on those streets. It’s really quite a miracle that I didn’t see more car accidents. I also didn’t realize I’d find myself missing traffic lights and crossing signals.
  • Buying things from the trotro or taxi windows. In each trotro station, and many times as we stopped in trotros along the streets, vendors would come up (with their goods in bowls on their heads, in truly African style) and sell things to us through the windows! This came in quite handy on multiple occasions, especially buying water and other snacks on long weekend trips.
  • Drinking water from sachets. These were probably 4″ x 6″ clear plastic water bags, each containing 500mL of water. We just bit off the corner and drank straight from the sachets. Most volunteers spill at least one bag entirely at some point during their stay.
  • The walk to church, which took me about 25 minutes each way, through the streets of Dodowa. I liked this for two reasons: (1) It gave me some alone time to think, and (2) it made me appreciate the close proximity of church at home. I think church meant even more to me when it required me to put forth some extra effort to attend. I also found myself sort of counting down to Sundays when I would be able to attend again – a little safe haven where nobody called me “obruni.” 🙂
  • Shops with religious names. Though not all shops had religious names, a good portion of them did. Similar sayings can also be seen on the rear windows of trotros and taxis. I made a list of some of them, which is a pretty good representation of the typical names you’d see: Jesus is One Carpentry, Gye Nyame Butcher’s Shop (“Gye Nyame” means “accept God” or “the supremacy of God”), By His Grace Fitting Shop, God With Us Cold Store, The Lord is My Shepherd Cold Store, The Line of Judah Aluminum, JustChrist Special Tilapia Joint, God’s Shelf Aluminum and Razor Wire, No Weapon Formed Against Thee, Anointed Hand Fast Food, God Reigns Aluminum, See What God Has Done, Trinity Oil, Supreme Genesis Investments, God’s Love Ventures, Amen Driving Institute, Super Divine Video and Photo Centre
  • The brightly-colored clothing. Men and women both wear bright, patterned clothes. The basic clothing is either (1) used, western clothing bought in the markets (basically just what you’d see in thrift stores in the States) or (2) bright, Ghanaian cloth that has been purchased by the yard and then taken to a seamstress for custom-tailored clothing. I absolutely LOVE Ghanaian clothes – and I brought several dresses and skirts home with me.
  • Ghanaians know how to do funerals right. They are Friday – Sunday, 3-day “celebrations of life” – at least if the person passed away in old age. They wear matching dresses and shirts like you would see at a wedding. They also display big, professionally-made posters all over town announcing the funeral. The posters usually have a photo of the person, basic information about him/her, and the age he/she died. It’s quite the tribute. Hearses often have sirens on them so that the funeral processions can clear the road to pass through. At least twice, I saw entire roads blocked off for funeral celebrations right in the middle of the street.
  • Football (soccer). I was lucky enough to be in Ghana during the African Cup of Nations – essentially the “football” playoffs for Africa. Ghana made it to the top four and then lost in penalty kicks to Burkina Faso. It was so exciting to be there during the games. Though I only watched one game, we always knew when one was playing because we could hear, “Gooooooooooal!” being shouted from random buildings all over. The game that I watched was the semi-final against Burkina Faso, and we crammed into a dimly lit bar full of excited Ghanaians to watch it. I don’t know much about soccer, but I know which team I’ll be cheering for from here on out 🙂
  • The feeling of visiting upscale Accra Mall. I was always conflicted between being proud of Ghana for having a place that fancy, and being disgusted with Ghana for having a place that fancy. I always had a hard time convincing myself that I was still in Africa (and the first time it made me very homesick), and then I’d walk back outside and be hit by the wave of heat and humidity and the noise of the streets of Ghana.
  • The movie theatre in Accra Mall, which I only attended once, and which was so much like home that I kept expecting to walk into a familiar parking lot afterward and get into my little red Chevy Cavalier to drive home. The catch: Ghanaians clap in movies when something good happens. And then I would get snapped back to reality and my real location.
  • The feeling of being buried in small children, even on the hottest of days when I felt like I would suffocate under their body heat. It’s quite an amazing experience to walk into Potter’s Village, sit down, and immediately have 5-6 children on my lap and gathered around me. Sometimes we’d read or play little hand games or look at pictures on my camera, but often we’d just sit and talk and laugh and sing. I love those kids, and I miss their hugs every single day.

I could probably keep going, but I feel like I have sufficiently covered most of my trip. If you’re still reading this, you get five gold stars for your perseverance! Thanks for walking down memory lane with me.

Categories: Ghana Volunteer | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Series of Darling Events

This, my friends, is what happens when 5-year-old Irene tries to get 2-year-old Bebe onto her shoulders.

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Meet the Kids, Part 2

I got a lot of positive feedback from my last “Meet the Kids” post, so I’d like to introduce you to a few more of my sweet (and sometimes naughty) Ghanaians 🙂

This is Richard.

Richard

Richard

Richard is 18…I think. He told me he is 15 and then suddenly last week, he said 18. I think 18 is correct. This is unfortunate because Richard is currently being taught English, how to read and write, and basic math. When I arrived, he wasn’t being tutored at all, but thanks to a brilliant volunteer who suggested that the volunteers tutor him, he’s making some progress. I’m working with him about an hour a day on English, and we’re still working on the names and sounds of each letter. It’s very rewarding work, and he is excited to learn. Richard isn’t enrolled in school and can’t be until we get past all the basics with him. He’s a really good kid, and it’s been fun to get to know him. Every day I’m amazed how well we communicate despite the language barrier.

This is Mercy and Isabella (“Abena”).

Mercy and Abena

Mercy and Abena

When you ask Abena what her name is, she’ll say “Isabella” the way an Italian would say it. It’s so so cute. Mercy and Abena are two of our 5-year-olds. They keep us on our toes with all their energy, but they also make us laugh all the time. When Mercy sees me from a distance, she opens her eyes really wide and puckers her lips. Of course, I do it back, and then we both laugh. She also says “Eesh!” all the time. Mercy spends a lot of time on my lap. Abena probably would, too, if she could sit still that long. By the way, her given name is Isabella; Abena is a Ghanaian name which is used depending on what day of the week a person is born. My Ghanaian name, as a female born on a Monday, is Ajoa (pronounced “Adjua”).

This is Florence (“Korkor,” pronounced “Coco”).

Coco

Coco

I use her given name and her house name interchangeably, but we’ll call her Coco here. Coco is 10, and I feel like she’s a kindred spirit. She is soft-spoken and gentle, though she definitely still likes to play with the other kids. She has a tendency to let the other kids take her things without standing up for herself. When she needs something, she is hesitant to ask, which makes me want to buy everything she wants (I won’t do that, of course). I have spent a lot of time with her recently because she got malaria, and I was the one in charge of administering her four medications. This morning, she came up to me with a little bouquet of white flowers, which I am now pressing into my journal. It was a perfect surprise first thing in the morning 🙂

This is Mawuli.

Mawuli

Mawuli

This kid should win an award for his smile. He also loves to sew buttons back onto uniforms when they fall off, and he’s pretty darn good at it! Except that one time when he sewed all of them facing inward. Haha. Mawuli is almost 13 but small for his age. He’s easy-going and very funny. He has several siblings who have lived at Potter’s Village, and Richard (above) is his brother. When Richard asked to have his shorts stitched, Mawuli volunteered to do it. Then he thought about it for a second and said, “No, I won’t sew his shorts because he ate my mango!” Hahaha. Laura and I still laugh about that little transaction.

This is Gifty.

Gifty

Gifty

The oldest of three girls named Gifty at Potter’s Village, this Gifty is 13 years old. She slid under our radar for a couple weeks somehow, and then once she learned our names, she started talking to us all the time. And yet she insists on calling Laura “obruni” (“foreigner”). When Laura doesn’t answer, Gifty finally caves and calls her by her name. Sometimes she’ll tell us she has homework and then just stands around talking to us for hours (literally), procrastinating. I suppose she’s training us for when we have our own teenage daughters. Haha

This is Comfort (“Connie”).

Comfort

Comfort

Connie makes herself known to volunteers the moment they enter the orphanage for the first time. Another one of our 5-year-olds, she hangs on legs and sits on laps. But with that beautiful face and sweet disposition, none of us can tell her to get off. In Ghana, it’s offensive to compare children to animals…but if it weren’t, I’d say Connie is a little lizard. Hilarious side note: She has got to have the hairiest legs I have ever seen on a child.

This is Benedict.

Benedict

Benedict

Baby Benny is the youngest at Potter’s Village. He turned 1 on January 1st, and he took his first steps while I have been here. Benny rarely has a diaper on and is often covered in food. But every time I break down my first-world barriers and hold him anyway, I fall in love with him all over again. He is the same age as my niece and nephew back home, which makes me a bit homesick, but I love seeing his big eyes every day.

And a note to the world from my 100 kids, painted on their wall:

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A Lil’ Bit of Music

One of the things I love most about Ghana: they love music! And I love music! It is very common to hear people singing or playing instruments in public, even sitting on trotros or walking down the street. The kids in our orphanage sing all the time, too. Ghanaians also dance frequently, and I love that they’re so openly expressive.

Here are two short video clips that I think you will enjoy. The first is a song I taught to 8-year-old Sophia while we were waiting for her school bus:

Give, Said the Little Stream

The second is 3-year-old Godwyn doing some African drumming:

Godwyn the Drummer

Want to help? Visit here to see what you can do for Potter’s Village.

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The Projects

Hello, friends! As I’m settling down here in Ghana, I have found a couple of big projects to really help the orphanage – or, more specifically, to help these beautiful (and silly) little people:

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To view the projects in detail, please click here. You can also view the page by going to Ghana Volunteer > Ghana Fundraising at the top of my blog.

Remember, any little bit you can donate would be very appreciated. And then spread the word! If many people donate just a little, together we can make a big impact.

I leave you a beautiful thought from my friends here at Potter’s Village:

Painted on the wall at Potter's Village

Painted on the wall at Potter’s Village

Thank you for sharing in this adventure with me.

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Meet the Kids

I want to introduce you to a few of the kids I’ve met in Ghana. This is just a tiny sampling since we have something like 90 children in our care here. Nonetheless, they are beautiful and worth sharing…and I’m feeling a bit guilty for not posting about them more 🙂

This is Pakwesi (sounds like “Pakosi”).

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Pakwesi is about 4 years old (I’m guessing with most of their ages, since we don’t even know birthdays for many of them). Pakwesi has a beautiful big smile, and I discovered very quickly that his love language is physical touch – just like me! He has nearly tipped me over many times by hugging my legs. He doesn’t speak much English, but I had the priceless opportunity to walk him to his very first day of school and hold him on my lap – with all his nervous excitement – as we waited for the headmistress. (Note: the little guy in the background is Doe. I will get to him.)

This is Edith (pronounced more like Edit).

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Edith is a twin. I don’t have a photo of her sister Judith (yet), but I don’t think they’re identical. I haven’t spoken with Edith much because  with all her pent-up energy after school, she spends most of her time swinging – literally – on another volunteer, Laura.

This is Kennedy.

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When he came out in his “jacket” (aka winter coat, as you can see) on a slightly chilly morning on which I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, I just had to laugh. Kennedy is about 5. He’s the type of kid who causes trouble without meaning to, and it’s impossible to not fall in love with him instantly. Very cute little guy with a sweet temperament.

This is Irene.

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A 5 year old little terror might be the simplest way to describe Irene. Haha. She is everywhere at once – getting into things, climbing on things, breaking shoes and ripping dresses, and beating the other children. One day, she told a volunteer out of the blue, “If you look at me, I will beat you.” To be fair, I need to also say that we LOVE this little monster. She has tons of energy and makes us laugh every day.

This is Gifty.

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Though she’s smiling with her balloon, Gifty is often a bit sulky. I think she just needs a little extra love. Always wanting to hug me or lean on my shoulder or hold my hand, Gifty has become a bit of an accessory to my wardrobe 🙂 She taught me a poem that goes like this:

Ant, ant, ant
Look at yourself
It’s like a one broom
No, no, no
It’s God who created me like that.

Don’t bother with the terrible grammar; when I tried to correct it, she was frustrated because I was saying it wrong. Haha. She was also very excited when I still remembered the whole poem several days later. Ten points for me!

This is Martha, Doe, and Gifty (same Gifty as above, though we actually have three girls with that name).

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Martha is also a twin, though she looks more like her older sister Angela than her twin, Mary (in my opinion). Still, it took several days to get the three of them straight. Martha is another accessory to my wardrobe. She has proved useful as I learn the kids’ names because I ask her all the time. She also seems to be always injured (including a nasty infected blister on the bottom of her foot that she used as an excuse – before it was infected – to get out of school for a week). Overall, I have a special place in my heart for Martha.

Doe is smiling in this picture, which is a very rare thing. He and his younger brother were abandoned and were brought to the orphanage in June. They both have sad faces and tears much of the time, but in the 4 short weeks I’ve been here, they have made amazing strides. Doe no longer fights getting ready for school, interacts with the kids more, laughs more, and I can’t remember the last time I witnessed a tantrum. It is really amazing to watch. Though he doesn’t know English or Twi, he is communicating more and more each day. Like Martha, I have a special connection with Doe. I think I may be among the first adults to speak gently with him despite the frustration of having him not respond at all. The first morning he willingly walked to school with me will always stand out as a major triumph of my time here.

Two more, and I will do them together, as they seem to be a miniature dynamic duo. Presenting the 3-year-olds, Godwyn and Beauty.

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Godwyn reminds me a ton of my nephew Rader. A solid little build and award-winning smile, this kid manages to be a fan favorite among basically all the volunteers who pass through. He is gentle and pleasant (at least, gentle by a 3-year-old’s standards), and I would gladly put him in my pocket and take him home with me. He likes to tease me, too, which always makes me laugh.

Beauty is pouty every morning until she eats breakfast, and then she becomes very happy and a bit of a show-off. It’s hilarious. She and Godwyn both speak excellent English as well as Twi, but I swear sometimes they speak to each other in a language that’s all their own. They play together, watch out for each other, wait at the bus stop together, tease each other, and laugh at each other. I love it. And them.

There you have it! For now. I realized I have no photos of our amazingly helpful teenagers, and I have many more stories to tell. Till next time 🙂

Categories: Ghana Volunteer | Tags: , , | 9 Comments