Sunday, August 1, 2010
This morning, Will woke up exceptionally sick, vomiting and feverish. We diagnosed it as the infamous FRS (Fried Rice Syndrome), i.e. fancy food poisoning, probably from his Geotess’ dinner the night before (it was a bit of an obruni move to order fried rice though, to be fair…). The rest of us headed to church with Kate and Baba Akologo. Kate was dressed in what looked like a pink princess dress-up gown that was fluffy, frivolous, and quite becoming, at least compared to her usual shredded hemline brown-checkered dress/uniform. When we arrived at the half-completed Avork Model High School, we sat down in a small, open, cinder block classroom and waited.
The service begins loosely at 8:30am, but people don’t necessarily arrive until 9:30 or 10, so there’s a lot of singing/dancing/collective praying to bide the time until then. Soon the classroom’s plastic chairs were full of about 30 people. Two verses from Luke, Chapter 10, were read (about Jesus visiting the home of Mary Magdalene and her sister), and then the young preacher got up and began a call and response-style sermon that lasted almost an hour and a half. It was quite hot, and his preaching was incredibly physical, so the pastor seemed quite exhausted when he finished. We sung lots of hymns, with the accompaniment of a drum set and an electronic keyboard that were installed in the corner of the room. All of the hymns had multiple verses and included various complex clapping patterns, but the entire congregation, including our kids, seemed to know them all by heart. Towards the end of the service, the head pastor made an announcement, saying that the church was hoping to raise 300 Ghana cedis with which to purchase an electric guitar. This attitude was tremendously alarming to Annabel, who rightly noted that such an immense sum could be used to send a half-dozen children to school for a term, and that if people here spent nearly as much money on education as they pour into their churches, the society might be a bit better off. In that same vein, the church also bought Alvaro sodas for the entire congregation (we feared perhaps due to our obruni presence) that were distributed after the service. Although it was a nice treat for the kids, the frivolity of such spending, probably costing nearly 50 Ghana cedis, was really frustrating to us.
When we eventually returned home, we ate lunch and headed into the teachers’ lounge for the Annual PTA meeting that was to occur at 3pm. It was a good thing I brought Gone With the Wind, because few parents showed up before 4pm, the meeting went for two and a half hours after that, and was conducted almost exclusively in Twi. The five of us volunteers sat in the back observing, and a woman near us periodically explained why she, like some of the other mothers, was yelling at many of the men present. “They don’t pay their school fees, but they keep sending their kids here,” she said. (Mr. Kabutey always dislikes sending kids away for financial reasons, even though the school is practically underwater and cannot possibly afford to subsidize any more kids). The yells and accusations persisted for a while, but it was all in Twi (because many of the parents do not speak English) so we were pretty much oblivious to the nuances of the argument. Eventually, I stood up and gave a brief speech (as Mr. Kabutey had requested of me earlier) concerning the singular value of education and how even in America, parents struggle to pay their fees. Moral of the story, education is a priceless investment in your child’s future, so don’t give up on it, or them.