Welcome to my blog! I am so excited to have this back up and running so I can keep all of you up to date on my experiences in Ghana. I will be embarking on a 3 month internship in Accra with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) developing anti-child trafficking initiatives in schools around the city.

I hope you enjoy the blog! I will do my best to post regularly!

28 November, 2010

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!
I trust that everyone had a wonderful feast and are still sporting pants with elastic waste bands! Despite no one here knowing what a turkey is, I would rate our holiday as an all-around success. Not wanting to dwell on the fact that I wasn't going to be home doing all of my normal Turkey Day things, I chose to head to school and teach the kids about one of the biggest days of the year in the US. They enjoyed seeing pictures of turkeys, parades, feasts, family, and of course the Pilgrims and Native Americans. I explained the settling of the "New World" by Europeans and then the genocide that ensued (don't worry, I totally brightened the mood by teaching them how to draw turkeys by tracing their hands!).
The girls were hard at work when I returned and already wearing their fun turkey hats! I donned my own and we prepared food until it was time to eat. Our menu was as follows: garlic mashed potatoes, string beans,
carrots, stuffing with apples, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed pumpkin, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and pumpkin pudding pie! Everything was fantastic and we, in accordance with Thanksgiving bylaw #1, completely stuffed ourselves!
After our delicious meal, I took some time to take stock of everything that had happened since
Thanksgiving 2009. I had a wonderful Christmas with family, a fun-filled New Years celebration with the best friends you could ever ask for, a romantic Valentines Day, another shared birthday, successfully completed college, welcomed Julie back from South Africa, saw one of my best friends get married, and made lifetime of memories here in India. It's funny though, looking back the past year...it's not the biggest things that stand out the most. Walking around campus with Katherine for the last time before graduation, giving Emmy a bath, helping Andy and Karen with their hellish move, taking Lily for walks with Mom, having brunch with my grandparents, spending time with amazing people at Camp Sunshine, and going for hikes with Dad...It's the little things, the things we can so easily gloss over when we look back over a year, that I am most thankful for.
As the not so well known American playwright Thornton Wilder quipped, "We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." So I vow to be more conscious of the small wonders around me and to therein, live. Happy holidays!

21 November, 2010

Children’s Day: A phenomenal idea about 10 years too late

Hello and sorry, once again, for not writing for some time. We are in the middle of prepping our students for exams, correcting final projects, and counting down until our 40-day trip around India.

On November 13th we celebrated Children’s Day here in India. It takes the concept of Teacher’s Day and turns it on its head (as India has a knack for doing). When I first heard about this holiday, I wondered, “Where was this when I was in school?!” I would have loved to see my teachers making absolute fools out of themselves purely for my enjoyment…but alas, on my first Children’s Day I was on the giving end of the hilarity.

So for the weeks leading up to the big day, each night our house was filled with the sounds of High School Musical, as we appropriately chose the film’s final song, “We’re All in this Together” as our dance number. The girls all caught on pretty quickly with the moves, but I, having never learned a choreographed dance before, had a bit of trouble keeping up at first. In the end (in my humble opinion) we had it down pat! In addition to this the girls, with the help of the Holy Cross hostellers, learned a traditional Kokborok dance and Aja because of her lighter colored hair was volunteered to lip sync to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” song from the 2010 World Cup. During the latter number, some of the male teachers from Blessed Andre and I donned soccer jerseys and kicked a ball around the stage as the music blared.

When Children’s Day arrived we dressed in our house uniforms (the same ones that the students wear on Saturdays) and hopped on the bus to Blessed Andre School. The Shakira song was first and was extremely well received. When the kids saw Aja come running out with a microphone, they went crazy! She should get a lot of credit for that dance because she had almost no time to prepare for it and the music kept cutting in and out. Next came our big HSM song, which went really well and the students got a big kick out of. Finally, the girls wrapped up our performances with their tribal dance. They did so well! I never could have balanced the plates while dance like they did and they looked great in the traditional dress.

As soon as they left the stage, we frantically collected our belongings and got into a car that was waiting to take us to Holy Cross School where we had to do it all again! I think the dances went just as well the second time and Children’s Day 2010 was a great success! Now I know what you're thinking..."Ben, when will you perform again?!" and "Where can we behold the sheer mastery that was your performance?!" To answer your first question, I have decided, after much deliberation and internal anguish, to hang up my dancing shoes. When you have a performance that you just can't top, you have to leave on a high note. (A certain quarterback should have taken this advice). As for your second, completely understandable, question, a video of the dance can be found on YouTube @ http://www​.youtube.c​om/watch?v​=U2AeA5AV8​OQ.

Another notable development is the completion of my 8th graders’ letters to my brother Andy’s 5th grade class in the U.S. When I first gave them the assignment to write a letter to a student in the United States, I wasn’t entirely sure how they would take it, but I am ecstatic with their efforts and enthusiasm! They are currently putting the finishing touches on their final draft and we hope to get them in the mail by the middle of next week. Many of them have asked question after question about the families, pets, and favorite things of their American counterparts. Some of them even included brief lessons in their mother tongue, Kokborok. It was great to see their creative juices flowing in a system that does not generally reward originality. My personal favorite was one letter that said, “I know that it is very cool in the United States now, but here, Sir Ben is still sweating very much.” You have got to love the brutal honesty and candor of my kids! In the end, no matter what they write, this is a valuable opportunity for them. Sure, they will be getting to practice their writing skills and English grammar, but in all honesty, they could do that copying out of a math textbook. They are getting to expand their horizons by contacting kids, like them, on the other side of the world and in doing so; foster a sense of cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

So now, I bid you adieu. I will be sure to update the blog at least once more before we leave for our big trip.