October 22, 2010

the Happy Feminist Journeys to Shelter

Last week, during my midterm break I traveled to the Eastern Region with The Ark and stayed at the women's shelter.  
We traveled a few hours north of Accra.  When we arrived at the shelter and the gate began to open I heard the cheers of children.  My, oh my; how I hadn't expected all these little guys.  The moment I stepped out of the bus the cheering stopped.  This was unexpected to me, but I suppose they're cautious around newcomers.  Luckily, it didn't take long for them to warm up to me.

The first night at the shelter was the most difficult experience I've encountered in my study abroad yet.  After I ate dinner, the kids requested I come out to the classroom and teach them something.  I was at a loss, but didn't want to refuse their gracious invitation.  So, I accepted and when I stepped outside I saw them all scurrying around arranging chairs.  There were about ten of them, and most didn't speak a word of English.  
I sat in the circle of chairs with them and we found one thing that was universally understood.  Laughter.  Even though I didn't have any grand story to tell them or lesson to teach them, they were constantly entertained by my strange mannerisms.  They also had some really cute songs to teach me.  The girl in the picture above holds a special place in my heart, her name is Adua.  That first night, her little sister would not stop crying.  Adua was carrying her, trying to soothe her, all the while with a smile.  I did my best to keep my poker face, since the last thing these children need is pity.  

When I returned to my room that evening, thoroughly exhausted from everything my mind was racing to process.  I collapsed beneath my mosquito net.  I wrote pages, upon pages within in my journal, mostly questioning my purpose in being here.  Who did I think I was, trampsing into this place?  So that I could simply have an experience?  Who did I think I was imagining myself as a person who had trials and trivulations?  In short, it was a deep moment of doubt.  

When I awoke the next morning at dawn, I heard yells.  
"ADUA!".... "ADUA!"  
No rest for the weary. 

I am in love with Aunty Beatrice.  Aunty Beatrice is a beautiful and resilient woman; she runs the shelter.  She has two children of her own, who stay at the shelter with her, and a husband, whom she sees on the weekend.  Every morning when I awoke, Aunty Beatrice had a warm plate of food waiting for me.  The same can be said for every afternoon and evening.  She even taught me how to cook Kontombre ( ( yum, yum, yum. ) ); it will forever be a treasured memory.   Sitting in the kitchen with Evaa, and getting mocked at by one of the little girls for doing such a sloppy job was priceless.  I find that using a knife to cut leaves with only your hands (no cutting board/counter) is not always the simplest task.  I can only imagine how amused they would have been to see the way I would cut my vegetables back at home.

Some of the boys were pro at sneaking into my room.  The photo above was from my last night in the shelter, I am going to miss those little rascals so much.  Also, after I realized laughter can't get lost in translation, I also realized neither can TICKLING!  : )

KWASE - synonymous with CRAZY  ; )


  1. gina, looks like your having all the fun over there! :) whatever happens, dont panic ;P

  2. :)
    Thanks Jas, and you know... I only panic at the disco.