That Voice

Yesterday I bumped into a number of people, passing by a gentleman, he recognized me immediately, I didn’t, but that voice.

He just said, “Hello Juliette.”

As soon as I looked his way, I knew exactly who he was, although I did not remember his name.

It had been over forty years, our elementary school days since I set eyes on this young man, not so young man now, with a bit of weight on. His face looked the same, youthful, I guess. Since our elementary school days, we had never met. I was walking past him but he did well to recognize the not so young lady.

Maybe we have aged gracefully, holding onto our youthful features that makes us recognizable. Or is it the voice? The sound that betrays us? I have grown to realize that voices are unique and it does not matter how old we are,  more often than not, our voices are recognizable.

It was great reuniting , although briefly, with an old friend and I must say I was glad he called me, especially by name . I felt guilty I could not mention his. As it was a quick encounter I moved on swiftly to ponder. If I had more time I would have asked him kindly to remind me of his first name as that would have definitely triggered off his surname.

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Colors Represented

When I assisted a weekly Art therapy class , many years ago, I learned about the connection between colors and emotions. On numerous occasions, the students chosen to attend the sessions chose to use dark colors to express negativity, pain or worry. They got to share the meaning of their particular art work with the group at the end of each session.

In Ghana however, black is the color worn for mourning. For most funerals black is the color worn to mourn dear ones. Our traditional funeral attire for women is a black top and long skirt with a silk scarf to match. I guess here, it symbolizes pain, loss, sadness, emptiness and dread. Men can wear a wrapped black cloth or a long black shirt (boubou) with matching trousers. Some mourners settle on red and black and ask all sympathizers to wear those colors. I guess the red is easier to connect with death as it may represent blood, blood shed or pain, whilst black and white is worn mostly on the Sunday after the funeral to thank God and celebrate the life of the deceased.

The dark colors were rife during the Art therapy class. From the chat with students, you knew why their work had those particular colors and images, that day. What they represented to them and why they had selected those rather than the other options available.

This topic came to mind whilst selecting my attire for my uncle’s funeral today: I will be clad in all black, hair covered and all. In my Akan culture, this is taken very seriously, funerals are big events, seeing off dear ones has become one of the most significant social events, especially in the rural areas. Sometimes we question how funerals gained so much attention within the cultural framework but we still give this space our due, especially if you are Akan.

So for my elderly uncle F, I am off to pay my last respects, early this morning, clad in all black. In the afternoon however, I will attend the social gathering with a red cover cloth on top of the long black skirt, clearly differentiating close family members from friends.

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Dora’s Search

The choir piped merrily around the organist. It all looked wrong in the small charismatic church, meeting in a room that could hardly hold fifty adults. In this room, they were packed like sardines, full, some stood and others sat to shouts of “Hallelujah!” and “Amen” throughout the praises.

Dora appeared late, lost, looking for a different room within the building where there was supposed to be a seminar for nurses. The mix of adults looked professional, well dressed and as the organ and organist were covered by the crowd (congregation), she thought this could be it. There was standing room only, so she squeezed and a got a little space by the wall. Behind her were two men also seeking some standing room. Dora was confused as on the stage was one man clad in a grey suit with a hidden priest’s collar featured under his chin. She felt stuck as there was no moving space.

“I have come to the wrong place again,” she thought.

Before her arrival, she had gone to two rooms along the hall, where there was nobody. She got on this strange lift that had three or four doors, this was rare, she had never seen anything like that. What was happening to her? Where could she be?  What about the seminar?

Unfortunately, Dora was not given a room number so she had to search this four story building, which seemed practically empty, with no one walking along the corridors. What drew her to this room must have been the sound of people congregated for one reason or another but not the reason she was there for.

Now Dora had to get out. How? The door was blocked with worshippers, enthusiastic worshippers, who responded heartily to the priest. That is when the priest called for Salome to share her testimony. Salome climbed the stage slowly, head bowed, she spoke with a little lisp, the microphone did not help, the lisping sound turned into loud tweets. At some point during her delivery, Salome stopped, wept a little and broke out in song, a nice melody spat out. That is when the organist flipped.

“We are the singers in the room.”

“How can she stand up there and sing.”

The choristers joined in.

“How can we allow this at this church.”

There were many voices blurting out at the same time. The whole ‘church’ was in chaos. People moved about, the priest could not control the anger of the small group that seeped into the congregation. That was the time for Dora to flee. She squeezed, flattened her body against the wall moved sideways till she got to the door, knelt a little and writhed through the two large men at the door.

“Thank God,” Dora breathed, when she got out.

“What a mess!”

“Are they not supposed to be orderly?”

Dora gave up and thought, she had wasted the morning, searching. Next time she would have to get better directions.

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An Addition to The Morning Routine

I am informed to add vitamin C to my daily dose of vitamins. I decided to go the natural way and make my own vitamin C rich juice. I had options, to buy oranges and squeeze every morning, which would add to my morning routine or to just buy tablets. I chose the former.

Whilst squeezing my oranges this morning, I had many thoughts. I found it a very soothing but time consuming activity.  Maybe I can find a juicer that can make this less strenuous and messy? Or could I make the juice the night before?

This morning, in a rush, I squeezed about ten oranges, watching the clock, I made two half glasses, one for myself and another for P. Kept them in the freezer to have nice and chilled just before setting off. After rushing through my routine P and I enjoyed an extremely refreshing start and a good boost to our health. The new routine continues, early tomorrow morning.

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Letting Go

Throughout the first semester, I have taken on creating and deciding on the contents of my class’s weekly Newsletter.

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After Spring Break I decided to give my fourth graders the opportunity to create and design the Newsletter. I was surprised by the enthusiasm of the group of ten or so students who volunteered to take this on. As there were many of them we put them in two groups. The first group were to create the first Newsletter and the other the next week’s. They spent their recess working and made sure they collaborated with each other, giving each other roles and getting it developed.

All I had to do was engage our Innovation and IT teacher who set them up with a graphic design tool they could use. They shared it with me and got on with the work, missing a number of recesses to get the job done. Their Newsletter has relevant information, they remembered all the different activities and events and chose the ones they wanted to share with their parents.

This shows maturity. Volunteering and wanting to miss their recess to work on this project was really impressive. On my part, I realized that the students were ready to take this on, although I was skeptical, I let go. I believe there is so much they learned from doing this, team work, writing, editing, choosing appropriate photographs and even the talk around developing it.

As an observer, I was truly impressed with the know how, coordination and reliance on each other. I continue to learn that we have to give students opportunities to learn or fail, then they will be able to apply this to all other situations.

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Two Roles

I had planned the day perfectly and was hoping to achieve my goals set for the day.  P had started complaining about a pain on our drive to school. She seemed better when we got to school but I still took her to see the school nurse. She was sent to class until lunchtime when I was summoned to take her to the hospital.

Leaving school was like looking behind me, whilst running. I knew I had so much to complete but I had to leave. I could not return to school as the day was almost over. I was going to miss a meeting my planning for the next day, editing my reports and marking my students’ writing completed that morning.

My guilt was torn into two. I had to play my two roles perfectly. All the two demanding hundred percent of me. In the car I kept thinking about all the work I had left behind and was hoping for P to be well. She has to get better, I hope it is nothing serious. In the car you could see she was in pain, holding on to her tummy and groaning quietly. What could this be? What could be causing this? I felt her pain, I told her she was going to be fine.

I decided not to think about the work I had left behind and the work I had to complete but focused on getting P better. Being a teacher and a parent puts you in a dilemma at such times, although ultimately you know you have obligations other than work.

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An Interesting Discovery

We had to walk over twigs and mounds of sand down the worn path to get to the area where B was being buried. It was rather solemn. Some of us had quiet tears in our eyes. Why did he have to leave us so early? In our sorrow we sang a couple of hymns, piping faintly but beautifully. Nature must love music, amongst the trees we sang like angels, it sounded rather soothing. After that, the priest shared a few words and prayed.

On our way back uphill, moving carefully, looking down to make sure there was a safe spot to step, one foot at a time, Y noticed two tree trunks.

“Look at the trunk of that tree!” she shouted.

“It is different.” I said.

“Oh I remember how you notice trees.” I reminded Y.

A few years ago Y visited us. We lived in a house that had an interesting tree, she was so fascinated by it, so this comment reminded me of her love of trees. Again she took photos of our new discovery and this time I joined in. Nothing was blocking my view. I took a couple of photos.

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We moved on, walking interestingly. Gripping the ground with our sandals at the same time holding on to whoever was ahead of us on that steep slippery path. The roots of some of the trees had extended to the path. That actually helped cause some friction and stops. Parts of the path looked like nature’s stairs. A lady watching us, standing a short distance from the special tree explained;

“This is the African silk cotton tree.”

As we were amazed at it’s size, she announced;

“The biggest tree in Ghana is on the way to Akim-Oda.”

That statement triggered a memory. I replied,

“Oh yes, we visited the tree when we were young. My father took us to see it, as it is on the way to my mother’s hometown.”

That was about forty years ago but I can still remember the experience clearly as it was just captivating.

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The Revealing Ride

Our drive to Larteh revealed attractive views. A very hilly area, we drove along windy roads that exposed many heartwarming sites. We could not stop showing our appreciation for nature.

“The vegetation is really lush.”

“It must rain here often.”

“I could live here.”

G continued to take photos snapping as if she was going to create her own movie of the place. I was actually wondering what she would be doing with so many photos but did not bother asking.

I just watched her, from the back seat. We were on our way to bid farewell to our dear mate. A solemn occasion that revealed this gem of an area most of us had never experienced. The picture taking carried on for a while, G had the best view as she sat next to Y who was driving.

I thought, ‘I can slice about this.’

I took out my phone and tried taking photos from the back seat. Of course there were many items distracting my view, the driver’s mirror, part of the front seat, the shoulders of Y and G, I tried to place myself to record the mesmerizing view but it was proving difficult, especially with my seat belt locking me in place. G continued to snap, clicking away, whilst I was trying to position my phone somewhere, a place that I could not find. It suddenly struck me to ask.

“G. can you send me some of your photos?” I asked.

“Of course I will,” she answered.

Late in the evening I received a number of photos, that were really magnificent. She had captured parts of the ride so well. I was pleased I had a reminder of the enchanting ride. The day was full of many wonderful memories, slices I hope to continue to write about. But for now I had this view that I had tried so hard to capture.

Larteh is an area in the Eastern Region of Ghana, West Africa.

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The Lonely Pot

“I have never noticed this plant before.” I mentioned to my colleagues.

There it stood a lonely potted plant growing interestingly, set against the classroom wall. The ends of It’s branches scattered daintily with bright orange flowers possessing layered petals that don a yellow interior. The flowers looked as if they would fall at the appearance of a heavy wind. This was an interesting plant even though the tired green leaves, drooped under the rays of the sun, the flowers glowed interestingly.

We walked along the pavement, leading from one campus to another continuing straight down beside a set of single story buildings. We took this same route weekly. Trudging down a few stairs which would take us to the compound where the very young students ‘live’.

This week however, it struck me that I had never noticed this particular bush. Could it be because we were always rushing to get to our sacred meeting on time? Or were we always deep in thought when we were passing beside it? We never even noticed it standing there. Could the flowers have just bloomed, calling for admirers?  We were able to shout, ‘Here We Are!’ Like an exquisitely dressed model on the catwalk the plant swayed gently. We stood for a few minutes, the audience at the show and stared. We would have clapped if we were there long enough to admire the prolonged beauty of this lonely plant, it brightened the spot, where it stood.

Like a beautiful ornament it adorned the exterior of this building, the image was endearing, a photograph had to be taken in haste. Taken because maybe next week the delicate orange flowers would have torn off, leaving a boring, lonely green plant in it’s concrete painted pot.

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