Monday, April 13, 2015

“This webpage is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.”

The purpose of this site is to chronicle my travels and experiences while in Ghana as part of the IREX program.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I realize it has been ages since I posted.  Olivia is now seven months old and cute as a button, and new teachers are prepare for their TGC program.  However, that does not mean that Ghana is far from my heart.  I still treasure reading others' posts on Facebook, and communicating with my host teacher, Christian, on What's App on a regular basis.  Ghana will always be in my heart.

I am thankful that the dreaded Ebola outbreak did not hit Ghana as it did other countries in West Africa.  I had a Peace Corps volunteer from Guinea who was forced to leave because of Ebola speak in my classroom, and it was evident that her heart was still with the people of Guinea.  I know how she feels.

I've been able to use some of my experiences in some professional development sessions I've been a part of or will be in the near future.  I just presented at the Michigan Council for the Social Studies annual conference last weekend for Michigan Geographic Alliance on the topic of Latitude and the Slave Trade in West Africa.  Over thirty people attended my session and I was excited to share pictures and accounts from Cape Coast Castle.  I'm preparing to present a workshop for local Lutheran educators at our school in January on Global Education resources for use in classrooms of various disciplines, and am considering a proposal for the NCGE in Washington next summer.

Often, I find references to my Ghana experience popping up in my classroom as we look at headlines of current events and our upcoming unit on globalization.  Telling my students about my girls at Archbishop Porter across the ocean brings our two worlds together.

I wish I had more time and resources to develop some long term connections with Ghana, but for now the relationships with continue to be fortified by prayer.  May God continue to bless my friends (now family) in Takoradi, Ghana and all with whom I traveled.  I love you all.

Some of my favorite pictures.  The People, the places, the food, the memories.  Couldn't help but include Olivia's seven month picture as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Farewell Followed by an Awesome Hello

Saying goodbye to Ghana was hard to do, but look what God had waiting for me the next day.  Olivia Grace was kind enough to wait until Monday, March 31 at 5:49 am to make her entrance into the world (I don't know how excited Tiffany was with the wait, however).  Of course, she's beautiful and ever so precious.  She has her Daddy's eyes.
Look below at what I came home to.  I won't lie and say I miss the 95 degree humid heat of Ghana; however, it was a bit of a shock to see snow as we flew into Flint on Sunday evening.  Then, only two weeks later, we awoke to two inches of snow yesterday (April 15).  Welcome to Michigan.!!!! It was great to have a week to catch up on all the work my students did while I was gone since I came back to Spring Break.  However, I was also excited to catch up with my "kids" and share Ghana with everyone as well.  The first day back to school (April 7) was great.   I wore my Archbishop Porter skirt and spent all day sharing with my students.  Can't wait to do more once I have had time to process the experience and organize everything.   Ghana was all I expected and so much more.

The hardest part of leaving was saying farewell to so many new friends.  Below are Christian, my host teacher, Bentum (another teacher at Porter), and Linda, my fellow teacher and traveler from California.  I would have loved to stay longer and really get a chance to work with the students more personally and to talk with and learn from them.  There was so much we didn't get a chance to do (and I'm not talking about seeing Ghana).  It's the people I'll miss most.  The girls and everyone else made us feel so welcome; I just wanted to be a real part of their school and their lives for a longer time.  Yes, we were all tired and ready to return to home, family, and school (and I couldn't wait to see what Josh and Tiff would have as a welcome home); but now, three weeks later, there is a hole that only Ghana can fill.  Many people have asked about my experience and I find it difficult to put into words.  Again, it all comes down to the people who welcomed me into their lives and world--that's hard to share with anyone who hasn't experienced it. 
I need to find/make time to keep the connections that were established and make sure this experience is more than simply the two weeks spent in Ghana.  I know God had a reason for my going and has a plan for what comes next.  Jeremiah 29:11 seems a fitting way to end this post.
God says to me (and to all of you)  "I know the plans I have for you.  ...Plans to prosper you ...and give you hope and a future." I don't know what that plan is, but then again, a year ago at this time, I didn't know that Ghana was part of His plan for me.  I need to trust His plan for me and for my new Ghana "family" as well.  I hope and pray that all who read this can also place their trust in our God who has definitely proven Himself trustworthy.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.  While this may be all from Ghana, there's always Olivia to chronicle.  Who knows what God's awesome plans hold.


Friday, March 28, 2014


Cape Coast Castle was built over 300 years ago by the British, but the fort had also been in the hands of the Swedes, the Danes, and the Dutch.  The fort/castle was used for trading in gold, ivory, and especially slaves.  Ghana, at one time, was known as the Gold Coast and historically dealt with the threat of pirates.

Cape Coast Castle, Cape Coast Ghana

Prepared for attack

Freedom and Justice

The tour of the fort was difficult as we walked the route of the slaves from the auction block, to the hot crowded dungeons where over 1000 men were held at a time in deplorable conditions to the "Door of No Return", the tunnel exit to the ships where conditions for the transatlantic journey were even worse.  It's difficult to comprehend man's inhumanity to man solely for the purpose of economic gain.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Lutheran Connection, Ghana 2014

Yes, Missy, I was able to make a Lutheran connection even in Ghana.  It's nice to feel at home even across the Atlantic. The pastor of St John's Lutheran Church in Takoradi, Ghana has taken up his position as a third career.  He currently also teaches at a private secondary school in the area.  Pastor Joseph Bart-Plange's wife is the only trained deaconess in Ghana having completed her training at Concordia Seminary (where my step mom worked) in Fort Wayne, Indiana (where I grew up).

Pastor Bart-Plange

St John's Lutheran Church and School

Martin Luther Preschool.
How cool is that!

It's interesting that after our brief visit, my travelling partner said I had a gleam in my eye.  Although our schedule did not allow us to worship at the church, I appreciated the opportunity to introduce my self.  I would have been disappointed to have come this far and missed saying hello to a fellow Lutheran literally down the street.
I think the "gleam" in my eye came from the excitement of the pastor himself. The congregation has about 120 worshippers on Sunday, not bad for a city with churches everywhere:  Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Assembly and Church of God etc.  They use the "red" hymnal--CPH 1941, but the pastor was excited that he also have the new service book.  They have a choir and definitely like to sing.  
There is a definite LCMS missionary presence around Ghana,especially since dome have been forced to flee Nigeria.
The school is typical of most in Ghana in some ways:  the students wear uniforms and have very poor facilities by our (or even most) standards.  The "neighborhood" is typical as well:  back several buildings and rocky paths off the main road in the midst of houses, goats and chickens.  The pastor even raises rabbits to help with expenses. Some noteworthy differences:  this "basic" school only has 120 students and is a private school, receiving no govt funds.  Ghanaians prefer such private basic schools because they offer a better education. 
The Lutheran Church is active in Ghana.  To learn more follow the link below:

Please pray for the growth of God's church in Takoradi and Pastor Bart-Plange's work as well as for all Lutherans and other Christians in Ghana and all over Africa, especially Nigeria.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ghanian education re-formed

I'm waiting for a clever title for this blog to hit me on tbe head, so I haven't started to discuss  yesterday's experiences actually teaching the girls of Arcgbishop Porter.  Before I begin, I want Non-western Civ to look closely at the pictures below and see if you recognize anything familiar (The rest of you can simply enjoy).

Archbishop Porter girls enjoy a chance to collaborate on an in-class activity.

Non-Western Civ, did you figure it out so I can continue?

My first lesson with the girls was on World Religions.  Because of the nature of Ghanaian education focusing on preparation for the Form 3 (senior year) examinations required for any further education, much of teaching is lecture and recitation.  Also, large class sizes (up to 60 in a class), and cramped space prohibit much interactive or group learning, but I decided to give it a try.  The card sort activity (familiar to my students) allowed the girls to work in groups and talk together while using deductive learning.  In reality they had learned some of this material earlier. They commented that they would enjoy such opportunities but realize the difficulty in the current system.  After the card sort we discussed and compared each of the five major word religions.  There was a Muslim girl in the class who shared some aspects of Islam, as well.  I had a great opportunity to share a common faith with the girls as part of this activity.  What a difference between Ghanaian and American public schools.
So much more learning can go on with such collaboration.  The teachers recognize this as we discussed limitations and challenges with social studies teachers in a mini workshop. It's not that they don't see the value in or have the desire for taking their students into deeper thinking activities, the structure and nature of the national system do not afford the opportunity.
In further lessons, activities, and interactions with the girls I noticed there are a number of similarities with my American girls:  they like cute boys and want r Facebook or email, certain students want to dominate the conversation, they respond well to authority when treated with respect and now know the meaning of QUIESCITE!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taste and See. .......... The Lord is Good

God is indeed good.  Today I wanted to share a few of the sights and tastes of my day in Takoradi.  Words are not sufficient to describe the food we have the opportunity to eat on a daily basis.  Acouple of tnings of note:  Ghanaians are very gracious people and this includes the portions in their meals.  It seems as if I leave almost half of my portions at every meal.  Also, the food is tastier than I expected.  I'd never tried Ghanaian good but expected a lot of spicy pepper.  While that is available, most of or meals have had chicken, fish or even goat.  Contrary to a previous post, goat can be very tender and tasty when prepsred properly ( although I doubt anyone will get me to ever try thst hot pepper soup :(  ).  What Ido miss, however, are desserts ( even just once in a while) so sweet fried plantains have had to suffice.Since I can't really share the tastes of Ghana, the sights will have to suffice.
Ghana is a country blessed by God in many ways: from the beauty of its people, both in heart and in spirit, to the richness of its resources to thenatural beauty of the rainforest and the sea--God is indeed good.  Much needs to be done to help Ghana grow and develop, but that is a topic for another time.  For now:


Mango tree on campus, not ripe for several weeks.

Panorama of Takoradi Harbor, the economic base of much of the area shipping out natural resources including bauxite and cacao.

Takoradi Beach, beautiful Atlantic Ocean, although many Ghanaians don't swim

Many places on Ghana advertize for Christ simply in their names.

I'm actually eating ground nut soup with my fingers at above chop shop.

Ground nut soup has a spicy peanutty broth with goat, tilapia, and fufu--mashed, cooked cassava and plantains.  Despite its appearance it was delicious.