Left, right! Ring, ring! Left, right! Ring, ring!
At 5 AM my alarm sounds, announcing I should wake up, dress in my light blue YAP Ghana polo shirt and black pants, and supervise/help the children eat their breakfast. Today is March 6th, a big day, and one we have looked forward to for many weeks: Ghana’s 57th Independence Day! All the students and staff of YAP Ghana were invited to march in the Madina Independence Day Parade with schools from the surrounding area.
Left, right! Honk, honk! Left, right! Honk, honk!
Promptly at 6:30AM, the hired tro-tro parks in front of the YAP Ghana compound gate. Of course we are running late, and the children are still finishing breakfast while the staff rush around with last-minute preparations. By 6:50 AM we are packed tightly in the tro-tro and leave with the school minivan following behind us. The children look sharp in their purple YAP Ghana polo shirts, and buzz with excitement because today is the day they’ve practiced for everyday during the past 7 weeks.
Left, right! Clank, clonk! Left, right! Clank, clonk!
The children stumble out of the tro-tro, pushing each other to get out first, then bumping into the person ahead of them who just stepped out. The larger boys recognize the rectangular, red clay school yard that we will march around, but still look around with big bug eyes in amazement with the younger students at the other schools dressed in their colorful uniforms, standing in formation and the marching band warming up close by us. The kids bumble about, bumping into each other while the teachers and staff put them in two “straight” lines. Once in our lines and in place with the other schools, parade officials continuously jostle our group to the left to make room for more schools, thwarting any attempts to keep the lines in tact.
Left, right! Whoosh, whoosh! Left, right! Whoosh, whoosh!
The wind suddenly begins to pick up while the announcer introduces the prominent community figures attending the parade. Dark clouds ominously and swiftly encroach into the sky above the schoolyard, while thunder rumbles in the distance, promising a torrential downpour. The temperature rapidly decreases, making the children cold-something I have yet to feel in Ghana. The teachers from YAP speak with the teachers from the other special needs school about moving the children before the rain soaks us all.
Left, right! Plop, plop! Left, right! Plop, plop!
We stay put until we feel a drizzle, then run to safety under a covered walkway outside a nearby classroom. The clay schoolyard turns to mud, while the streets turn into streams, yet the other schools wait patiently in the pouring rain for the parade to start.
Left, right! Left, right! Left, right! Left, right!
Determined to not let the rain wash away all their hard work, Auntie Yei lines the children up single file, and we begin our marching chant of “Left, right! Left, right!” Soon, “Left, right!” changes to our marching song, “We are marrrr-ching, we are marrr-ching, we are marching to our classes!” All the YAP students laugh and squeal with delight as they march up and down the slim, concrete walkway that is half the size of our school’s porch where we practiced every morning.
Left, right! Vroom, vroom! Left, right! Vroom, vroom!
Mr. Lawson, head of YAP Ghana, drives over from the other side of the school yard with the minivan in order to take us back to our designated classroom where we will wait out the rain. After making several trips, all staff members and students rest in the classroom.
Left, right! Squish, squish! Left, right! Squish, squish!
Fifteen minutes later, officials notify us that the YAP students should march along with the other schools, as the rain slacks off a bit. Putting one foot in front of the other, the YAP Ghana students and staff march through the sticky, thick mud under dark skies which drizzle rain. Theresa and I proudly carry the YAP Ghana banner and lead the jubilant students around the schoolyard to the upbeat sounds of the marching band.
Left, right! Crunch, crunch! Left, right! Crunch, crunch!
Tired from marching, we retire to the classroom for more celebration and snack time! We munch on biscuits (cookies) and drink soda, a treat for all their good work today. An hour later, we smoosh ourselves back into the tro-tro and minivan and head back to YAP Ghana.
Left, right! Snooooore! Left, right! Snooooore!
Once we arrive back at the YAP compound, staff members clean up the students and wash their muddy shoes in the water rushing off the roof. We all change into dry clothes and snuggle into our beds for a well deserved nap.