One thing that continually surprises me about teaching missionary kids in Ghana is how often I plan to teach my students about one topic but instead end up teaching about America. Again. Our subject will be, for example, life in medieval times, and the text will say something like, “Most people did not eat meat everyday,” or, “People washed all of their clothing by hand.” Then I’ll realize that this is often true of us in Ghana—and it’s certainly true of our neighbors— so instead of teaching about medieval Europe, I’ll end up teaching about the present-day United States and how people eat meat everyday and wash their clothes in a machine. Or the activity will be to sort pictures of items into groups, but instead we’ll talk about what each picture is. “Well, that’s a vacuum cleaner; we use them to clean carpet. Do you know anyone who has carpet?” Or, “That’s a lemon . . . No, they aren’t always small, round, and green. In America, lemons are large and yellow and . . . lemon shaped.”
I remember one sorting exercise in which Micah put all the animal cards—hen, bat, cow, rat—into the “food” category, right next to “ham” and “jam.” I did not correct him on that one; I’m pretty sure our neighbors eat all of these—with the possible exception of jam. Some things, however, are either too difficult to explain, such as the taste of graham crackers, or too wonderful to miss, such as the genius of vending machines. Last year, I kept a list of American experiences for the kids to look for when they went on furlough. When I called the other week, Valerie reported that they are still on the lookout for a good vending machine, but that graham crackers and elevators were a big hit. She said the kids are also really enjoying escalators and the novelty of garbage trucks, and that they were fascinated helping their grandpa pull weeds by hand (which is different from the Ghanaian method of hacking weeds to death with a hoe or machete).
The wonders of America are not lost on me either. I, too, have been on furlough, traveling to visit many of you to touch base personally and share more about our work in Ghana. I’m loving homes with carpeting, chocolate in every store, and churches that conduct services in English. I am missing the kids, and I am jealous of all the schooling they’re doing without me, but I’ve been combating that little downside by also visiting American historical sites and racking up my own cultural experiences in hopes of having good notes to compare with theirs when we meet up again in Ghana.
Christina Riddle has served for several years as a Volunteer Missionary Kid Tutor with multiple families in Ghana. She recently became a Career Missionary, and will return to Ghana early next year to serve the David and Valerie Federwitz children.