The Miklin Hotel is starting to feel like a familiar little home and we’re getting adjusted to loose schedules, shifting plans, and unexpected delays. We had planned to go to church this morning, but it didn’t happen. We thought we were leaving the hotel at 1 p.m. to tour the villages, but we left at 1:45 p.m. We determined that we would be back early enough tonight to walk down the street to the “chop house” for dinner, but we ate dinner in the room. We’re learning not to get too attached to our own promises.
Today, we visited two villages. I am still stunned. Does anyone ever get used to seeing poverty? The second little community we went to was vibrant and lively – and completely impoverished. Groups of women had gathered their wares on benches between houses and were trying to sell everything from plastic shoes to plantains. Cocoa beans were drying on a large slab of plywood in the center of the village and colorful clothes were strung on lines across the front of drab cinderblock homes. Cooking fires were burning in front of most of the homes where dinner was being prepared. In the red dirt not far from our car, a little boy of about two was wearing (with only one arm through a sleeve) an oversized shirt and busily constructing a push car out of a large yellow plastic jug and a flattened cardboard box. He was intent on forming a seat from the cardboard and after he was successful, he began pushing his makeshift car around in the dirt. I snapped several photos until his mother walked up to our group. She glanced at me several times as she talked with Anna. At first, I thought she approached us because she was upset I was taking photos of her little boy, but she was smiling.
“Is it okay with her if I take photos of him?” I asked Anna. “It’s fine. She just wanted to ask if you will take him with you,” Anna replied.
I put down my camera and looked at the boy’s mother. She was nodding and still smiling. Anna shook her head and said something to her in Twi, the local language. The woman pointed at the little boy who was pushing on his car, and continued to talk. Anna was friendly, and waved goodbye to her and the crowd as we walked toward the car.
This was the third time in one day that someone asked us to take their children away because they cannot afford to buy them clothes and food. Two of the children from earlier in the day had been eating the fruit that had dropped on the ground in the selling area. While they scrounged for food, their mother was walking through traffic with an aluminum bowl of watermelon on her head.
“They don’t understand why we can’t just put them in the car and take them with us,” Anna said. “The mothers know that we could feed them and give them what they cannot. They just don’t understand that it doesn’t work that way.”
What way does it work? Children living with mothers who would rather send them with any well-dressed stranger doesn’t seem to work either. I am sorry that none of us seem to have answers for these mothers. It’s easy to judge them as heartless, especially when they smile as they ask you to take the children off their hands. But I cannot possibly know what it is like to walk in their shoes. When people tell me that Chinese parents are heartless because they abandon their baby girls at birth, I also feel powerless to judge. I’ve never walked in those shoes either.
In each of the faces of the children here in Ghana, I see the one child that I can help. So we’re heading back to the school in Ankaase village tomorrow to tutor Samuel, Osei, Beatrice, and Sarah. For the time we are in Ghana, they are our children. And we are blessed to be able to sit across the table from them for three more days.
Goodnight, once again, from Kumasi, Ghana.