Frank Ide, my travel companion, and I had several opportunities to venture into the local community and experience how regular people live in the northern Ghanaian town of Tamale while we conducted a training event in November. We both enjoyed these jaunts into the local culture. Frank took his camera and “snaped” people. He often showed them their picture on the camera’s screen. They always squealed with delight. We talked with people as we walked through their neighborhoods.
One afternoon as we passed a group of uniformed teenage students who had just finished their school day a particularly extroverted girl, Gloria, started a conversation with us. She spoke very good English, so I questioned her about her teacher. She told me his name. After we left the students, Frank and I went into the school grounds and found the teacher. I told him how impressed I was with his students’ English and asked him how he became such an effective teacher. (Actually, Gloria’s accent was better than the teacher’s.) He said that he has a passion for English and teaching. He reads English books and continually works to improve himself as a teacher. While we were talking, his superior walked up. I also expressed to him my pleasure in meeting the students and how delighted I was with the quality of their spoken English. Both the teacher and the administrator were glowing at the compliment. They humbly responded that they appreciated the encouragement and they continue to strive to do better.
Their response illustrated the reality that even though cultural differences are real and not to be overlooked, people are more alike than they are different. These men were genuinely encouraged that we took the time to applaud them. Probably, like in most jobs, they receive little positive feedback. Our appreciation of their work lifted their spirits.
Another incident from that day lifted Frank and my spirits. We had an interaction with a group of people who assigned local names to us. Frank was appropriately given a name that means “to bring together.” I was given the name, Wumpine, which means “God’s gift or blessing.” May that be so!