Las Quatro Harwoods

The learning curve


I try to instill in my students all the time that they should want to be Learners.  School should be interesting and a challenge and they can make it that way with just a little effort.  I’ve also talked to them a lot about the importance of having to struggle from time to time.  That’s part of learning too.  The reward feels so much bigger when you’ve had to work for it.

Friday night, we board a plane headed back for the States.  Our first visit home that we promised our families when we made the decision to move abroad.  I’m not going to lie.  I’m looking forward to some American comforts.  Real coffee, good beer, street signs and a sense of order on the roadways may be a few of my most anticipated.  I think the trip back has made me think a lot lately about our decision to live this lifestyle.  In fact, Robyn and I had a long conversation about  it on our date night this weekend (IndieFuse2013 more on that later) and we’re happy with it so far.

It’s a struggle sometimes.  Just the sheer difference of it all.  We’ve moved to a country where some of the only similarities are the language and driving mostly on the same side of the road.  Shoot.  Who am I kidding.  Just the constant sweating is a struggle for me sometimes.  Well, not the sweating part, I excel at that, but the dealing with the sweating part.  Everyday I feel like we are learning something new.  Some days it’s just a new Twi word from Mary, the traffic lady on the corner at school, or realizing that the reason they are shoveling out the roadside gutters is to use the dirt for planting.  Sometimes it’s realizing that taxi drivers telling you they don’t have any smalls is just a way to make you pay a little more.

Every now and then it’s a little scary and you can feel really isolated in this city of almost three million people.  We’ve had some intense experiences and made some decisions that turned out not to be so great, but that’s part of it.  We won’t tell all of those stories just yet.  But we’ve had some really cool experiences already and it’s so fun to hear Maddox and Josie talk about the things they’ve done here that couldn’t have happened anywhere else.

So, I decided this time to give you a little glimpse into the people who make the typical day a little more atypical, and beautiful.  Because, like I said, I tell my students it just takes a little extra effort to make life more interesting.

Everyday when I walk to get the car after school, I walk past a little food and drink stand.  They have fruits, candy, cold drinks, dried fish, all kinds of random stuff.  I’ve bought a couple of things from them, (there seem to be five or six people that man the stand) but I bonded with the older lady one afternoon when I stopped to listen to the Black Stars World Cup Qualifier with her for a minute.  I told her I was American and she laughed and we discussed the history between our sides a bit.  Then last week we were drawn in the same opening group of the World Cup.  The next day I walked by I informed her we were no longer friends until after the match.  She cackled and agreed we couldn’t be friends, but we went on to discuss the difficulties of our group anyway.  I told her I would bring her a US jersey to wear when I returned.  I still don’t know her name. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll ask.

Noelene works in the same shop.  She’s young and always dancing and smiling as she works.  She waves every day and sometimes I’ll show her a new white boy dance move or two as I go by.  We’ve only spoken a few times, but she’s always friendly and seems happy to see me.

Mary is the traffic lady, I don’t think she’s actually police, who works at the corner of the school.  We see her every afternoon and now, most mornings.  Robyn stopped to talk to her at some point and learned her name.  She greets us with a big smile every time now.  She and Robyn exchange a few pleasantries in Twi and we all laugh a bit.  When Maddox missed a day of school a week or so ago, she asked, “Where is the small boy?”  She was concerned when she heard he was sick and welcomed him back the next day.

Stephen is the main guard at our apartment complex.  He’s there almost everyday.  We actually called him David for the first month.  We miss understood him because of his accent and he just never corrected us.  He loves Maddox and Josie.  He’s always watching with a big grin when Maddox is out kicking the ball in our tiny yard.  But the biggest smiles are for Josie.  He often calls her name, “Josephine!” (in a thick Ghanaian accent) when he sees her and she has finally started smiling and even waving back to him.  For a long time she would just tell us that she was “shy with Stephen”.


Joseph is the guard in the car park.  He’s always armed with a giant smile and quick with a salute. We’ve laughed together a few times when I’ve walked down to get the car only to remember it was parked somewhere else for whatever reason.  He too asks about Maddox when he’s not with us.  We’ve talked football, politics, cars and all sorts of things in the afternoons and mornings.  I often find myself lingering just a little bit in the mornings to talk with him.  He’s got a happiness about him that some mornings is more effective than a cup of coffee to get me going.  

Simon is the guy I just met Sunday.  He wandered into the church field across the street from the school where we have our Sunday football kick around or ultimate frisbee game.  We only had a couple of people show up and Maddox was just kicking with somebody as I got a drink.  He asked if he could join us next time and we exchanged numbers so I could let him know when we played again after the break.  We stood and talked about the World Cup, he commented on Maddox’s skills and then went on his way.  Before he left he said, ” I hope that we will become friends”.  This morning he texted me to wish me a good day.

These are just a few of the many people we have met over the course of the last several months.  I’m sure Robyn could add a few more and there are countless others that have been one time interactions in stores, on trips or just around the school.  It is mostly a culture of acceptance and most people here have been friendly and interested in getting to know us.  Its not all rosey by any means, and we are probably more exhausted from the change than we have time to admit.  But we are happy with our choice and excited to see what adventures and new friends await us.

Maddox got an unsolicited sit on a horse at the beach.  He wasn’t really thrilled about it.

Last session of soccer saturday with his coaches.

Stage debut in The Jolly Postman
Josie waiting at the doctor’s office.  She looks miserable doesn’t she?  

After a different doctor’s visit a guard got them fresh mangoes from the tree outside.
Tina’s whole family came to have dinner with us on Farmer’s Day

All the kids had fun with the art supplies.
Maddox has a blast with Edmund playing football.

Robyn, Tina and her sister, Kakra. 
Josie and her swimming buddy Hudson.
This entry was published on December 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm and is filed under family, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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