A day on NABI
It´s still dark outside when the orphanage is waking up and coming to life. The rooster crows, the dog barks and Madame Marry is calling Abaiki. The boys in the room next to mine are talking in TWI and start searching the largest buckets for the everyday morning ritual; fetching water from the well. Yaw Sem comes skipping towards me with two buckets dangling in his hands, they are almost the same size as he is and I feel how a smile is spreading across my lips. He is ready to go and get water and he explains that he has found a bucket for me too. We start walking, or Yaw Sem is more jumping, down to the well along the red sandy road with the buckets flying around his feet. The water looks brown today and it will be hard to get any clear water from the well. But we are lucky because Kwami Gyan is really cunning and manages to get us all a bucket of clear water. Back at the orphanage Angela and Juliana are finishing cleaning the dishes from yesterday’s dinner and Paulina is sweeping the yard with great precision while singing with all her heart. Paulina’s song get mixed with laughter from the backside of the school building where the younger boys are taking their morning shower; which includes buckets of water, some soap and a lot of fooling around. The bell rings and children come running from all across the yard, to form straight lines. Enoch is late running out of the orphanage with a half tucked in shirt, that´s missing more than one button. Right behind him David comes running with only one shoe and the morning assembling is now starting. Without even thinking about it I start singing along in the national anthem of Ghana, Wisdom smiles at me when he hear me sing and I think for myself that it will be a hot day with the sun gassing across my back.
The school day starts, the older boys get to know that they will have to cancel the first lesson because they have to go and get firewood so that Madame Erica will be able to cook lunch for the children. The boys run off to find some clothes that they can use to cover their arms and legs from the sharp branches out in the jungle. A boy that I haven´t met before suddenly stops, he’s bending down and covering his stomach. When I ask him what´s wrong, he tells me that nothing is wrong, everything is okay. But with a face pale as a sheet and shaking hands I know that something has to be wrong, so I ask him to go and lay down on a mattress in the orphanage. His fever is raising, he is shaking, pearls of sweat are running down his forehead and he is convulsive holding his stomach in pain. The first thought that comes to your mind is Malaria, this awful disease that destroys so many peoples’ lives in Ghana, a disease that can tear a country apart. It´s a disease that´s constantly present in the Ghanaian peoples life, it´s such a common disease but still it is able to affect the difference between life and death. We call the boys’ parents, who pick him up and like so many times before I hope that Malaria will not win this fight.
After a very eventful day, as usual, the evening had come to NABI and the dinner is being served. It´s still warm outside and we sit on the ground along the wall outside the orphanage; everybody is very hungry and are holding on to their bowls with rice. Three times I got the request “Madame when you are ready, give me your spoon, okay?” It´s a never ending story of sending spoons back and forth. For some of the children it´s very important to sit and wait until one of the older children or a volunteer is ready with their spoon so that they also can eat their dinner with a spoon. But most of them have no interest at all and some of them don´t have the patience or just prefer eating with their hands instead. Yaw Sem, Kofi Annor and Eric are not very interested in my spoon, but they all stay very close to me as they know that there is a big chance that I will leave some rice for them. I give the bowl to Yaw Sem, he gives me a big smile and then starts sharing the rice very brotherly between them three. This has all become a part of the everyday dinner ritual in the orphanage; everybody is together, it´s a lot of talking but at the same time a very calm feeling, it´s the part of the day when you feel like a real family together. It´s my favorite part of the day.
The sun has just gone down and it´s pitch-black around us, the only thing that gives some light is the single bulb from the only room with electricity. The children are crowding in there to do their homework, some of them more serious than the others. Juliette sits very concentrated with her notebook and is repeating to the others that they have to be quiet. At the same time Poso is running around in-between everybody, playing with a toy car without both wheels and roof, which he thinks is a lot more interesting than all homework in the world. The day had turned to evening and one by one the children disappear into their beds and silence spreads over the orphanage. Poso is now sleeping in my lap, tired after all the playing; I carefully carry him to his mattress on the floor, he is sleeping deeply, so I leave him going down to the older boys. They are sitting on the stairs outside the orphanage speaking with each other. I sit down beside them as so many times before and listen to the rhythm of TWI, looking out over a sleeping orphanage with a blanket of stars watching over it, and then I know. I know that this is a home and that we can all be very thankful and happy to be right here, right now.
A page out of my diary from my time at NABI