The students wake at 4:30 am to prepare for the day. They wash, dress, and have to prepare their own breakfasts. They use the cooler hours wisely. All of this activity takes some time. Ben and I get to languish in bed and await the ‘coffee milk’ that will be delivered to our room around 7am. We are so spoiled. We have learned to stay inside during the dark hours as that is when the biting bugs come out. All of those long sleeved shirts and pants that we brought with us seem absurd now. We are sleeveless during the hot days and stay inside when the sun sets. It is easier that way. We have the privilege of getting to do what is easy.
At about 5:30 am, we are woken by a loudspeaker. It feels like it is right outside the window, but it is not. The noise is coming from the village. A voice is screeching at us and it is unpleasant. Were we so tired that we missed the call to worship the last two mornings? On and on it goes. It is a long wait for our coffee milk. Ben finds out later that it was the village radio. They announce things and have advertisements, for things such as medicine and the school we are visiting. Aha!
We have been served such quantities of food, three meals a day. We are stuffed and our stomach’s have a settled and full feeling. Our bodies are getting used to things here. We are always seated at a table in the sewing room and our food is presented on a tray with a net over it. We are left alone while we eat. But MCSOT is a very pleasant place to be, and folks are always around visiting. There is laughter, happiness, and camaraderie everywhere. The kitchen, where the catering is taught, is a hub of activity always. (Is this universal?) The staff gathers in there and enjoys their meals. We find ourselves wishing we could eat in the kitchen.
Our newly tailored clothes have been completed! Don’t they look great?
The school plans a celebration and we are the guests of honor. Many of the people from the village wander over, including all of the younger students from the primary school that is across the dirt path. They start with singing. This, of course, also involves clapping. There is a different clapping rhythm here. Four claps fast, four times. One student always chimes in at the end of the 3rd round “last one!”.
Clap clap clap clap, clap clap clap clap, clap clap clap clap, “last one!” clap clap clap clap. I love it! We now join in and participate.
The rhythms start again, and we get a fashion show. The sewing students make all of the school uniforms, all of the checked dresses that the females wear when not in class, and all of the lab coats for practical work. But now we see beautiful dresses and shirts for all occasions.
Eight of the female students perform a cultural dance, Apatampa. This involves costumes, footwork, intricate hand movements, lots of different rhythms. It is fantastic! They force us to join in at the end. The hand movements are hard, the footwork is harder, and we bungle it badly. Every body laughs, and laughs, and laughs at us. We are laughing too.
One student reads the beautiful poem Africa, by David Diop. https://isleofsage.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/analysis-of-africa-by-david-diop/Select this link to read the poem. It is powerful.
Later, we enjoy another walk through the village with the students. This time, many of the guys join us. They have all kinds of questions for Ben. We are getting to know them personally and it is really nice. We take the dirt path in the other direction, towards farms and crops. Steven picks up a cocoa pod and whacks it open. We grab the beans inside and suck on the milky sweet substance. I bite mine and they laugh and shake their heads at me. Don’t bite it, it is bitter. Steven cuts a few palm fronds from a tree and within 10 seconds he has manipulated them into a flat disc. We are going to try to carry firewood on our heads. We put the palm frond ‘rag’ on our heads and learn to balance ONE lone piece of firewood. Ben and I are pretty proud of ourselves, but they laugh, and laugh, and laugh at us.
Clap clap clap clap, clap clap clap clap, clap clap clap clap, “last one!” clap clap clap clap.