Celebrating Mothers

The day started, like any other Sunday. A light breakfast of bagel cream cheese and a few olives, washed down with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. The powdered chocolate from cocoa grown in the rain forests of Ghana. Pure, refined and slightly bitter. It was creamy and had a sweet aroma. I glanced at my phone and noticed I had many messages from all my cherished children and dear friends wishing me a, ‘Happy Mother’s Day’. I felt special. I had to share the feeling with my mothers, so I sent my mother-in-law and a few mentors messages of love and encouragement for this journey of parenting.

I then got ready for church, and remembered there was an event after lunch. I took my two choices of clothing with matching shoes and accessories, just in case one was not right.

After church, I stopped at my sister’s, joined the family for lunch and prepared for the Mother’s Day Garden-Tea Party. Many events in my life create images that stick and this was one of them. A colorful group of ladies, some familiar others not so familiar. We chatted and got acquainted with each other before settling down to a menu of delights. The youthful band surprised us with familiar music that sounded so perfect and mellow. It is only when you actually turned to see the band that you realized the music was live.

Meanwhile the setting was just extraordinary. Tables of two, four six and more had been set. With waiters at our beck and call. Mother’s being pampered. The garden was plush, I have grown to appreciate plants and ‘greenery’ so much. The garden had been cleverly nurtured, with a hut-like thatched roof of green palm branches. There was a mix of realistic looking artificial flowers for the décor, however there were beautifully colored roses as the center pieces on the plushly laid tables.

When we found our table, ‘Peach Tea’, none of the guests were seated. Soon after that, a few ladies joined us. The conversation started. The waiters served the most exotic tasting cold tea and kept refilling our glasses. They delivered the three courses on tiered servers. It seems scanty but definitely a delight to see and taste. It was filling, many choices, sweet and savory.

A remarkable experience. The sheer exuberance of the exquisitely dressed mothers or mothers to be. An escapade I am sure I will look forward to next year. Thanks to the organizers, like my children, this will live with me for a very long time.

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This Holiday

This was a very low-key holiday, with everything so different all over the world. The decision was to stay local and have a restful time. With my calendar (holiday planner) in tow, I attended a course online, read, wrote, travelled and stayed at home for most of the holiday.

Here, I have briefly recorded three parts of my holiday.

Driving out of the city is the most soothing feeling. I love nature, I did not realise this until a few years ago. The green that surrounds us as we drive out, the mountains covered in rain forest trees are images you want to hold forever. I went to a different part of Ghana this holiday. As well as the drive, the beach was beautiful. There is something about the waves and warmth of the ocean that sort of cleanses your whole being. Nature in all its parts is special.

Writing throughout this holiday has been great. I committed to joining my writing group (TeachWrite) many days a week and know I have benefitted intellectually. I have been able to pour my life and events into words and this has been refreshing. All my writing experiences this holiday will greatly benefit my students too.

This holiday led me to an altered diet. It’s interesting how taking an already established model to one’s context makes it a little difficult. For health benefits, I have decided to cut down on carbohydrates. I’ve researched different diet plans and the contents of each meal time. Interestingly, most of the foods are foreign, some of which I have never eaten or seen sold here in my corner of West Africa. I have had to adapt to the local vegetables, mainly organic and lace them with chicken or fresh fish. The benefits of the new diet regime are more than I can share, but it takes time, lots of research, replacing ingredients with local ones and coming up with my own recipes. I’m still at the beginning of it and hopefully writing about it will make me persevere.

A New Adventure

My teaching life begun over twenty years ago, and I continue to learn, adding to my repertoire. I must confess, I have spent some time this holiday, thinking about a new experience that is coming my way or one I am walking into.

To me, this is a worthy challenge and I see many benefits to it. However, it is a new arena for my show, so there is the little bird whispering doubts into my ears. Those doubts I am using as opportunities for me to learn and grow. I am looping with my fourth graders to fifth grade. The day my fourth grades were informed there was a rumbling, exciting sound, I was touched. Many parents sent emails to acknowledge our continued relationship for the next school year.

In the past, a few of my early year students met me in second grade and some of my second graders in fourth grade. I on the other hand agreed to move with my students as a challenge to myself and to live out of my comfort zone.

For this year in particular, I believe most teachers experienced this too. My students and I, traversed the online, on-campus learning together. We were Zoom buddies and became masked buddies. We lived through the changes together; online schedules and lessons, online parent conferences, online assessments, online morning meetings and more.

Whenever I hear of the upsurge in the Covid numbers my heart skips a beat. I am really hoping we can all be on-campus this school year and learn, enjoying our learning spaces together, masked up; I guess.

I have spent sometime this holiday pondering over my new scope and sequence for the different subject areas and thinking about the individual students (as I know most of them very well). This new year is going to be quite an adventure and I am looking forward to.

The Break

We dipped our feet in the cool water.

The beautiful blues met our eyes, the clean smell of the ocean was well received. The coarseness of the sand, made for firm steps.

Volta Region, Ghana, West Africa

Better bare foot, I thought and quickly took off my rubber sandals. Stamping and moving forward, I found the right spot to lay my mat. The sun had gone down as we waited to visit in the late afternoon.

The vastness of the ocean always enchanting. The beach tough was something else. The sand, a light shade of brown almost golden gave the whole place a rich, glow. This was a quiet beach, a few people strolling up and down. It was also distinctive as it was high up and the ocean was a few feet lower. I thought this was special as some of the beaches I have visited needed a defence to block the water from riding up and damaging property.

We sat, enjoyed the peace, watched the waves move back and forth. This was a needed break, so serene. Hidden from the masses, a good place to reflect and relax.

The teenagers stayed and puddled whilst I rested with my book and soaked in the environment.

That Dream

Do you remember your dreams?

This particular one, was vivid. I remember wearing a ‘fugu‘. There were two other people with me. In the dimly lit room, it felt as if we were on the top floor of an apartment block, high up above the rest. I’m glad I woke up after the dream to write down what I could remember.

It all seemed surreal, as if there was going to be a contest of sorts. A challenge, competition or a performance? Was I to be a contestant?

Whatever contest I dreamt about seemed well established. I remember the scene in the mysterious room very clearly. If I was an artist I would have drawn exactly what I saw. I had good feelings about the situation whatever it was. I really wanted to participate in it, I seemed ready.

I have been thinking about the dream and took it upon myself to look for connections or clues to help me understand it. I asked my friends the symbolism of a ‘fugu’, a hand woven kaftan-like smock from Northern Ghana, I have never worn one before. Their interpretation of what a ‘fugu’ symbolises is; culture, identity, freedom, equality and royalty. I also remember the outfit being won by one of the great warriors of the Asante kingdom. In the dream was I just like her? Dreams can be confusing and interesting. This is one I will ponder about for a while.

Walls and Lawns

Excited about the sights and sounds around me, I embrace the landmarks, scenes, crowds and stories where I live.

Most of the roads in my neighborhood are quite wide and surrounded by beautiful houses. The buildings on either side of the road have stunning walls and lawns. There must have been a trend many years ago, as most of the houses have a mini lawn spanning the length of the land, adorned by two or three tall palm trees. At the edge of the mini lawns, you sometimes find tufts of plants that flower throughout the year. Making the neighborhoods colourful and spectacular.

I remember my mother narrating the story about their (my parents) decision making whilst designing our childhood home. She told us many years ago, how they drove around many of the residential areas in the late 60s to savor the beautiful buildings in the city at the time. I remember her sharing how they made a decision of their choice of building, walls and lawns because of what they noticed. She mentioned how the houses they saw were hidden behind large tropical trees with lush grounds. We were intrigued when she recounted their drive around in the evenings, so they were not noticed. Their evening trips were not so fruitful as they could not see much because of the long drives leading to the homes. What they noted though, was the distinctive walls and lawns which they definitely copied.

Our childhood home, I remember, had a raised lawn outside and a half wall decorated with chipped stones. The top of the wall had an interesting metal arrangement. There was a coiffed hedge by the wall, at the side of the house which was full during the rainy season.

Since my mother’s narration, I have consciously taken an interest in the different walls and lawns in any of the residential areas I visit. I have noticed a wide variety of walls and lawns in the residential areas I have visited mainly in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi. Proud house owners design the most impressive walls and take advantage of the many colourful tropical plants to adorn their surroundings.

A Special Gift

The gift was a real surprise.

“Open it Ms. Juliette,” V whispered excitedly.

I did not want to guess what it was. As large as an A4 paper, hard to touch, in my mind I knew it was a book but never did I think V would select or suggest a notebook.

Whenever we had a quick write in class, I would get out my notebook and write with my fourth graders. I’m glad I did that, I sometimes read pages of poetry or my episodes to them. I needed my students to realise that I wrote often, if not daily and as a writer I sometimes struggle to begin or find topics to write about.

My course on journalling had a great impact on my teaching, I now have some structure and guidance of what it is about. I am sold into what writing regularly in a note book is and have seen many examples. I now know I am on the right path.

Noticing the interest in my students, and seeing them as writers, I got a few students notebooks and encouraged them to journal as and when they wished. I also made them aware that their notebooks would be personal and they did not need to share them with me. V was gifted one, she adored it, shared some of her writing with me and really cherished her purple flowered notebook. Sometimes she’d hug it and walk quietly beside me with a gratifying smile.

I shared my vulnerability, they also shared theirs. I shared my different genres, they also shared theirs. They added illustrations and sometimes cut pictures related to their topics and wrote reams and reams. There was one occasion when V wrote poems about all the six adults in her grade, using descriptive words, lines and sometimes dialogue, which disclosed exactly who the focus of the piece was.

So, on the last day of school, when the parcel was placed gently on my table and a card pulled directly towards me, I was made to open both the card and the present. This got me quite emotional. Was V expecting that? I remember she came with a friend. They looked directly at my masked face; struggling to read the emotion plastered in my eyes. I was shocked and wide eyed. I tore the wrapping paper off.

Surprised, my open palms cupped my head. I could not shake V’s hands. I was touched by the choice of present. A bound notebook. V knew I would appreciate that, especially because it was covered in an African print and was also unexpected.

A Rush of Rain

Rain Rush

Dashes to us

Beating and banging

Shows it’s anger

Loud thumps of

Pitter Patter

Like music but dissonant

We’ve waited long

You’ve arrived hard

Waving all around

The sturdy building

Forming rivers in minutes

Why the rush?

After the wait

So welcome but wild

Worried about flooding

Praying for a glide

Rather than a stream

You are welcome rain!!!

Is it a climate change or climate rage? We’ve waited many months. Our supposed rainy season expected in April shows its head in June.

“It’s better late that never,” they declare!

For years we have always had rain, tropical rain during the second semester, in April or May. This year we had a couple of drizzles but no rain. I remember many years ago teaching my Pre-kindergarten class when we harvested rain and sang rhymes whilst it was raining, those were memorable times.

Many occasions in my fourth grade class, we experienced moving floods on our playground. Once or twice students were held in their French class because the rain was falling heavily. We have many memories of the effects of heavy rain but this year we have finished the school year with no rain tales to share. There really is a ‘climate change’ raging, if I can put it that way.

After that cacophony caused by the rush of rain a couple of nights ago, we are still waiting for another, many more. We continue to read the signs of tropical rains and not rely on the forecast. I hope I’ll soon have the opportunity to write my rain tales here.

A Reminder

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.” #teacherlife

I chanced upon this quote on Instagram today. It spoke to me. It reminded me of how I should consciously seek out all students, regularly looking for gems in their sharing or work. I made sure I recognized and encouraged students today and this worked like magic.

The students I spoke to, commended and encouraged suddenly sparked and crawled out of their shells, joining the class in discussions, calling me for feedback, asking questions and being active members of the teaching and learning.

Sometimes we need these reminders, even though we may already be using different strategies to involve all students. This quote is essential especially when you have many lively class members who are always energized during lessons.

In the Morn

When all is solemn and quiet

The sky darkens in the morn

They fly and sing as a duet

When all is solemn and quiet

They rise to seek their diet

Where nature is born

When all is solemn and quiet

The sky darkens in the morn

My first triolet. I found an example in the book, A Kick in the Head, an eight-line poem with a rhyme scheme abaaabab, and some repeating lines. In the rainy season, some mornings meet us with dark skies, but still the morning birds sing to lighten the atmosphere. These scenes draw us close to nature.