Monday, August 28, 2006

More Odds and Ends

So the first full week of school was a whirlwind of re-scheduling and activity. Whew! Lincoln calls their Homeroom period "Primetime" and after 8 days of school Cooper is on his third Primetime class. I think they've settled in now, and he is happy with the result.

His French for Dummies class has been greatly improved by being re-jiggered into a class of 5. There is one other freshman and three sophomores in what is billed as French I/II. The best part is, it is being taught by a terrific woman who will hopefully make up the lost ground from last year's disastrous turn with a strange and terrible teacher.

Since Coop has no interest in learning French (it's a school requirement), it's a joy to see him come home excited because the teacher had plastic food for them to play with and identify in French.

He is happy, so we are happy, and when we met the teacher on back to school night, she was such a refreshing change from last year's nightmare we almost cried with relief. Trading French Class war stories with parents who had kids in his French class last year has become a hobby at LCS- what a wild ride that was!

Here is our own student with his mascot Elliot, ostensibly reading for English class. (If you look REAL close you can see the scar from last year's mystery bite on his left ankle. He is inexplicably proud of it.)

Moving from Odd to End, here's a shot of the only interesting birds we have seen in Ghana. I'm sure there are better birds out in the bush, or maybe nearer the lake, but in our lovely flowering urban garden, these are the the only birds with color that we ever see.

This couple likes to hang out in the bush outside our bedroom window, so I snapped a shot of them one day while they groomed each other.

And that pretty much wraps up the last week or so. Busy times, but not necessarily interesting times as we get settled back into the school routine.

Friday, August 18, 2006

School's In...Drive Carefully!

Well, summer's over in Ghana. At least at our house. Cooper returned to school on the 16th.

Hang out the black banners and speak in subdued voices. No more fun, no more happy carefree days. Just the drudgery of his second year at Lincoln and first year in high school.

I am reminded of his hopeful face when we told him we were moving to Africa and his first question to us was: "Do they have schools there?".
Darn it all, they do. And we keep making him go.

I almost gave his dog away on the first day of school. Elliot alternated between checking Cooper's bedroom and running to wherever I was to report Cooper AWOL.
He whined, he did his best Lassie imitation ("Come with me! Timmy's in trouble!"), he ran to the door, ran to Cooper's bedroom, ran back to me- over and over and over.

I didn't let him outside because there were people coming and going all morning and I didn't want him to be crushed by a vehicle or accidentally end up outside the gate. That was a mistake, because when Cooper did come home, I opened the front door and THERE HE WAS! Elliot practically held up a sign that said "I TOLD YOU HE WAS OUT THERE!!!!"

He improved somewhat on Thursday, and hopefully by next week will have the new routine under his furry belt.

Meanwhile, Mr. Freshman in High School is playing it cool. He has a great group of friends- and with the single exception of a friend who has been unexpectedly required to remain in Israel with his parents, has his old
"international posse" back after a summer of world travel/home trips for most of them.

Except for P.E. and French (where he is woefully un-Francophonic and therefore in a French II class with 18 eighth grade students and three other freshmen) he has 10 or less kids in each of his classes! Whoot! This is an opportunity for some seriously personal attention from his teachers and his Dad and I are jazzed.

He is in accelerated Math and Science (to offset French for Dummies) and he is one of seven students in his English class- and the only boy. He is gonna LEARN stuff this year! I can feel it.

Meanwhile, he and I slog through U.S. History at home. Every school district offers it in different years, and as we've moved around he has missed out on it each time. His last opportunity to get it in the U.S. has past, so I bought textbooks before we came to Africa and he and I are doing it up right. If you ask him who won the War of 1812, he will give the correct but wiseguy answer..."Nobody. Both sides screwed it up." He can cite how they screwed up, and he enjoys having a teacher who swears and shares her personal opinions on historical events.

Hopefully it's honing his critical thinking skills, too. Maybe I should have a subjective essay final on "Why the teacher's opinions are/are not a load of hooey."

Anyway. School's in, drive carefully!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Boob Tube in Africa

I have a request to fill you in on the TV situation here.

I've been thinking about how to describe it, and it's kind of "Flintstones meets the Jetsons". Like much of Ghana, there are some truly modern elements like cars and computers, co-existing with more old fashioned stuff like Tribal Chiefs and pounding yams in giant wooden bowls.

We have a satellite dish nailed to our house. It's pointed, generally, UP- we aren't exactly satellite central here.
That dish pulls in DSTV- a South African outfit who beams programming all over Africa. We contract with a local company called Multi Choice to get access to a decoder box that will allow us to watch what the dish collects.

The first five stations on our TV are mostly movies, although M3 will also show Oprah (six month old shows), Days of Our Lives (I have no idea how old they are but they are not recent) and Bold and the Beautiful (ditto).

We get movies pretty fast- usually just as they come out on DVD or even a little before and they show all the movies uninterrupted.

After that is 8 channels of Sports Net (which includes some ESPN) and it's nice to get Wimbledon and the World Cup Games with no commercials.

Then some series channels that show old American and British shows, E!, Reality Zone, Nat'l Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, History, BBC Food, Cartoon Network, Channel O (an African network that shows British and American sitcoms and soaps), and three MTV channels. Sprinkled in there are some french and other language channels, plus the BBC, CNN, SKY news and EURO news.

Anyway. If you come to my house to watch TV, you will be hard pressed to name your decade. You can get Barnaby Jones, Grey's Anatomy, Butterfield 8, and The Hours all on the same night.

There are almost no commercials, except for upcoming shows, although occasionally we get
hilarious commercials from South Africa.

If you are a fan of Ballykissangel, Home and Away, Keeping Up Appearances, Perfect Strangers, Mad About You, Alf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, or god help us all, Jerry Springer, you can watch them at my house. It's a real mixed bag.

We are currently watching Survivor Guatemala, about 15 days in. We also have Lost (about 5 episodes into the second season), and Desperate Housewives (about 8 episodes into the second season). We got WEEDS and Dead Like Me and Nip/Tuck and Sopranos just started season 5. But we don't have most of the current U.S. or British TV.

Oh, and we have Africa Net. They run movies and soap operas made mostly in Nigeria, and let me tell you, two words they have no concept of in Nigeria are "production values". These are some seriously bad programs- bad acting, bad sound, bad lighting, bad scripts. If you ever made a movie for your parents when you were eight- you could get hired to make Nigerian movies, complete with cap guns.

The Flintstones part comes in when the power goes out. You have to run outside to the generator, crank it up (feed the Pteradactyl), run to the porch and haul on the power switchover handle then run back to the living room while the TV searches for the signal just in time to see... something crucial happen that you don't know why it happened!

Who is that?

Why did they go there?

What's happening????

It's amazing what can happen in the 3 minutes it takes to re-wire the house. ;-)

What, you might ask, do they do with the extra time in an hour that happens because there are no commercials? They run music videos. Most programming (with a few exceptions) ends at 20 after and 10 or 20 'til the hour. A few show previews and a music video or two, and on to the next show.

So what does all this cost us? $75 bucks a month, U.S.

Is it worth it?

Nah. But we are slaves to our need for popular culture and suckers for movies of all kinds. So we fork it over.

When Duke's family is here, one of their favorite things to do is watch cartoons. Looney Tunes speak the universal language. Warner Bros. could probably make world peace break out if we could just find a way to beam them into every building on Earth.