August 19, 2013. The day that lectures at UCC are supposed to commence. Pshh heck nah. That didn’t happen. Wanna know why? The entire university faculty is on strike. Please just think about that. Can I have class while they are on strike? HECK NOPE! Booyah. Bring on the adventures and spontaneous tro tro rides.
What shall we do on this unexpected break? Well, naturally, the first thing that comes to every college kid’s head when they get off school…go to the beach. So we took a taxi to the town market in Kotokraba. In town, we shopped around to search for a soccer ball, or actually a football, so that we could play on the beach. From there, we walked to a restaurant near the Cape Coast castle, ate some yummy food and enjoyed the scenery of the town. After the delicious meal, we walked down to the beach and checked out some local craft shops. Interesting stuff fo sho. Way overpriced souvenirs but still fun to shop around. When we were done shopping around, we decided to crack out the football and start kicking it around. On our way to a place to play, there were a lot of kids sitting around with the goods that they are supposed to be selling. These goods consisted of water packets, pastry snacks, and other goodies. Let me just tell you…only ONE of these kids was a teenager. All the rest were twelve or younger. Seriously? These kids are so young and they are out on the streets trying to make a living. They all greeted us with great smiles and tried to sell us their goods. One of the boys, Joseph, came up to me with a piece of paper with some information hand written and a place for me to write and sign a few things. The information on the paper explained that he did not have enough money to pay for school supplies, food, uniforms, and all of the necessary school fees. I looked at the boy and then looked back at the paper. I put my stuff down and told him that I am not going to be giving him any money but that I wanted to ask him a few questions. I really wanted to treat the boy with some spare change, but I was resilient because of what I have heard about the scams that kids can sometimes try. So I began to ask him a few questions about his school, his family, and just his overall situation. He seemed to be very truthful and told me that his family did not have enough money for these things, but he could not tell me that the money was going to be used for school business. I told him that I cannot give him any money at the time, but that I will think about it and after a game of football, I may reconsider. So, after politely declining, I invited all of the children to take a break and play football with us. Most of them jumped right in and started making teams. Some of them were too shy and wanted to sit by and watch. That was fine, but it didn’t stop me from bugging them and asking them about themselves.
One girl named Grace decided that she didn’t want to play. I asked her why and she just shook her head. She was carrying a plastic container, on top of her head, with meat pies inside and she had been selling them all day. I looked at the box on her head and then back at her and gave her a pat on the back. She looked so unhappy. After I started asking her about her life and what-not, she pointed to the box on her head and asked if I would buy her one. This girl, twelve years old, asked me if I would buy her a meat pie that she herself has been selling ALL DAY. Oh my goodness, my heart broke. I asked her how many she wanted and she asked if she could have two. I gave her 1 GHC, or cedi, which is approximately 50 US cents, and told her that I wanted to sit with her while she ate it. This way I knew that she would actually eat instead of just take the money. She thanked me and took a seat in the sand to eat her late afternoon lunch.
I will never forget that girl’s face. I still cannot believe that she had to ask me to buy one of her own pastries for her to eat. My heart still breaks just thinking about it.
The children here have already played such a huge part in my experience. They are thrown into grown up situations without any experience or help. Yet most of them are so incredibly happy. Why is it that people think if someone is “less fortunate”, they are automatically unhappy? Why? My view is quickly changing and I really hope that I will never forget this day.