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The International Writers Magazine: As the Days Pass...

Stories From A Backpack
• Drew Meerveld
A fine morning to you friend. I hope all is most well. It sounds as if the snow has begun and, along with it, not so far off thoughts of Christmas and carols, sledding and snow angels. Here a midday day heat permeates ones being so as to make the notion of white flakes and all the rest hardly imaginable. Be sure to send some pictures when you get a chance.

Kumasi Market

Having arrived in the bright lights of Kumasi (at 1.5 million it is Ghana’s second largest city) to renew my visa, I have been treated to “high speed” internet connections and all the other luxuries one would enjoy in a third world city of this size.

My arrival here marked a temporary departure from village life and the exciting opportunity to touch base with you. To herald my week long hiatus we slaughtered a goat on my last day in Old Jejeti. I must admit his demise provided some relief from the incessant whining as he was tied up outside my door for 2 days prior. If this tale has you feeling slightly squeamish, I assure you that his end was brief and the necessary ritualistic ceremonies were carried out. I will avoid further details as this is probably not the right forum for such things. Between you and I, the meal was less than delicious as my 6 am breakfast featured intestine.

Goats aside, Village life goes well. It is not without its challenges but quite rewarding none the less. I am currently teaching English in two schools while coaching boys/ girls volleyball for our upcoming interschool sports day. Both are quite enjoyable with the former very rewarding. In English we are working on vowels and sounding out words. The concept of vowels has been much more effectively conveyed as ‘magic letters’. These magic letters make “excited” sounds when a vowel friend is close by and “bored” sounds when they aren’t accompanied by their magic letter buddies. The progress has been phenomenal.

If you ever want an appreciation for the ridiculousness of the English language take a moment to teach it. Sounding out words is an invaluable tool that can be mastered with just a few simple rules, right? The example of the letter ‘i’ seems simple enough: “i” sounds like “i” when there is a vowel close by like in kite … or “e” like in loneliness. Equipped with this knowledge should give you the confidence to explain why “night” (or for truly adventurous connoisseurs of the language –“knight”) produces a long “i” sound despite having no vowel compatriots while the plethora of vowels in “repetition” is unable to yield the same affect. All this of course should not be confused with the “eye” which coincidentally has no “i’s” in it.

Perhaps a moment to reflect on questions of a more serious variety which are very real in this place. Is a community’s resources better spent ensuring 10 orphans get 5 years of education or 1 top achiever gets a high school education (the costs are about equal)? What are the odds that the 16 year old single mother who has never been farther than the next town has a baby that will work outside this one? How many ways can you think of that these 2 questions are interrelated? What is a healthy level of guilt to feel about these facts? Does this level decrease if I tell you that the town, despite limited resources, is a baby producing machine (where breast feeding, child rearing and presumably conceiving occupy all the inhabitants time in an otherwise unproductive day). Or if I tell you that teachers showing up 2 hours late to a class demonstrates a work ethic far above town average? Does the level of guilt increase when you acknowledge that the choices you have made to work hard throughout your own life probably have more to do with the culture in which you were raised and the parents you had then any personal intestinal fortitude?

Never fun to challenge ones self to examine these questions. At the very least it will be good food for thought and discussion when you and I have the opportunity to sit down next. Smile and keep as well as you possibly can. We will talk again before you know it.

Remember, I am pulling for ya; we’re all in this together.
© Drew Meerveld March 2012

Read all the letters Drew wrote from Ghana here :

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