It's amazing that, being in Africa and preparing myself for a completely alternate reality from which I'm used to, I still struggle with what to write about on this blog! Talking to my dad about it the other day, he reminded me that most people won't ever experience home-stay and that I should write about that ... how simple! I know I briefly mentioned it the last time I wrote, but I figured I would take his suggestion and run with it ... as such, this blog will expand on the experience that is "Home Stay."
The most important thing you should know is the name given to me by my family: Em-Sewah. This effectively means that I have become a part of the family ... in fact, the entire town calls me by that name, so everywhere I go, I hear: "Sistah Sewah! Wo hen to sen?" ("How are you?")
I like to think my experience is slightly unique, having gotten seriously ill within the first twelve hours of being in the house. My poor family must have thought I'd picked up an allergy to Ghana! My temperature soared upwards of 102 degrees and I slept for two days straight, I am certain they thought I was dying. In fact, my father - Foster - came to visit me in the Sick Bay to make sure I was still kicking. Luckily, that was the day I felt well enough to come home to, and have been living in since, a community that constantly asks me if my head and stomach are well everyday. And I do mean the entire community - barely a week into my home-stay and I'm already finding ways to manipulate the water-cooler gossip!
In all honesty, I love my family. They are incredibly welcoming and understanding of my busy schedule, every day is prompted with, "You are going to school today, yes?" and food is a subject much discussed. I've learned to carve out extra time when I'm in-transit anywhere because, invariably, every person I pass will stop me for a brief conversation in what little Twi I know. I've still not gotten used to the idea of being interesting enough to invite constant attention, but we're almost like mini-celebrities. The children yell, "O'broni! O'broni!" ("Stranger! Stranger!") and wave whenever they are within yelling or waving distance.
My mother and sister must think I'm strange with my 'mild' food requests and my nose constantly shoved into a book (Quick request: SEND ME BOOKS!!). But I am constantly told that I am such a "niiiiiiice girl" and such a "goooooood girl" for studying and staying in after it's dark. I'm sure none of you have ANY idea about what she's talking about ...
I'm quite certain I am doing a number of things wrong, but they are so polite here that I'm never corrected. I know I don't have to, but I tip-toe around the metaphorical edges of my family because I still consider myself a guest and am quite uncertain of how to exist in a home-stay without over-stepping some boundaries - both personal and cultural.
For now, our 10 watt smiles are universal - even when I can't speak Twi. I believe we are all quite happy, though I am making assumptions on the part of my family, of course. There is certainly no bad ju-ju and, if there is one thing I've learned about Ghana, it's that the country is full of good ju-ju.
I am sure they worry about whether or not I shower enough (it is so hot here, the custom is to bathe twice or more in a day). If anyone was curious, I do, in fact, shower enough ... and a bucket bath under the stars really is the only way to take a shower. I have yet to master the bucket bath, but I am determined that - at the close of two years - I will be skilled in the art of 'not-finding-dirt-in-random-places-ten-minutes-after-bathing.'
Physically, we live on a small compound and I have a room large enough to spin circles in (trust me, I've already experimented). There are two dogs, two puppies, and two cats (the majority of which love the O'broni who feeds them and is constantly showering them with belly scratches), plus a number of goats and chickens running around. My father is a farmer with a small bar on-property for off-season and my mother is a cook for the children at a local school. I have inherited two sisters and one brother, my nieces and nephews are known to me as "my children" (to which I replied, "Wow! That was easy!" only to receive blank stares in return - we have to work on the sarcasm thing).
My family tries to accommodate my wants - there is a pile of fruit up to my elbow chillin' in my room right now - and love to teach me things. I was told last Sunday that I would learn how to fetch water from the borehole, carrying it on my head - don't worry, I've been given the small beach bucket - but it has been rescheduled due to our feildtrip to Boti Falls. When hand-washing a pile of laundry last week, Mama Sewah watched intently out of the corner of her eye to make sure I was scrubbing hard enough. I know this because every time I caught her eye, she would mime "scrub hard," stare at my hands, and nod her head in silent approval when I obeyed. I am sure that, with any sign of wrist weakness, she would have barreled me off of the bench and finished the pile herself ... fortunately, I was able to side-step any embarrassment and finished all of my laundry without any help.
My younger brother loves to play frisbee and has taught all of his friends the sport. I think I may leave my frisbee with him as a present, since it is in his constant care anyway (anyone willing to send me a bunch of cheap frisbees? it's a great ice breaker with the kids!) I'm still teaching myself how to 'own' in hackie-sack ... it is a process.
I feel badly that my days are so full, that I am so tired at the end of them, and must spend so much time studying. Fifa has been my saving grace, as we all came together for every Ghana (and USA) game ... I am rooting for the Black Stars tonight!! They love to watch my reactions to the game and copy my expressions whenever they can, we all laugh with each other over our small eccentricities. I am enjoying being an O'broni because it is certainly a humbling experience, to be surrounded by such an amazing and welcoming culture.
As for now, Mama Sewah is waiting for the day I "eat ALL" and I keep telling her, "Yes, mama. It is like football ... I must practice first."