Life in Ghana and Teaching at Ashesi, by Suzanne



I sincerely apologize for not doing more blog posts. In truth I have been very busy, mostly with work (but, truth be told, also with fun). I am at the end of teaching a 6-week summer school class at Ashesi University College, called Applied Cryptography and Computer Security. So here’s a pretty silly thought coming from me: until I started teaching it, it didn’t occur to me that I had never taught in summer school before! Classes are 3 hours a day, three days a week. Because the classes are sooooo long, I need to do labs every class period. The result is great, however. The labs are tied to that day’s lesson, so the result is an effective combination of theoretical and experiential learning, often hard to accomplish in upper level computer science classes.

I am thoroughly enjoying teaching the class. I am realizing how well suited my skills and interests are for this topic. In addition to the Ph.D. in Computer Science have a Masters in Mathematics, and enjoy teaching math. I regularly teach Discrete Math, Computer Organization and Computer Systems (a mix of Operating Systems and Computer Networks), all topics that come together nicely in Cryptography and Computer Security. I find the topic very timely and important, so it is interesting to teach to the undergraduate students and recent graduates that I have in the class. I only have six students, quite small for an Ashesi summer school class (the typical cut off would be 10), 3 students who will be seniors beginning in August, and three class of 2009 alums whom I have taught before. All are excellent students – above-average for even Ashesi, which is saying something.

[Ashesi hostel. My apartment is the top floor balcony one. Note one of the roosters who likes to start crowing at 4am at the bottom of the photo. That rooster needs to go in someone’s stew!]

[My bedroom and bathroom]

I know people want to know more about my experiences living and working here. I am staying at the Ashesi student hostel, a modern 4-story apartment building; I am staying in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath flat on the top floor (nice breezes, not many mosquitos) that during the school year would house 9-10 students. I took in a roommate Natalie from the University of Michigan, who has stayed in the 3rd bedroom even after Steve and Anna came. As many of you may recall we seem prone to get close to college students during our Ghanaian stays: 2006 was Fulbright daughter Sarah, 2007 was Fulbright daughter Ana, and so 2010 is intern daughter Natalie. Natalie is working with A College for Ama (CoFA) a fantastic non-profit loosely associated with Ashesi University that provides enrichment programs for girls to help encourage them to stay in school (and also encourage their parents to keep sending them to school)

[(Left) Hostel View South, toward Osu. Note the clouds, typical during this time of year, the rainy season. It’s often overcast, sometimes partly cloudy, but it rains at least every few days, sometimes several days in a row, sometimes REALLY hard. (Right) Hostel view West, the other side that our corner apartment faces.]

The hostel is centrally located, a 20-minute walk to Ashesi, a few minutes walk into Osu, the busy social part of Accra. For those of you who know Accra, it’s just off Danquah Circle (and by the way, if you’re looking for housing in Accra in the summer, contact Ashesi and they may have an apartment or room in an apartment for you to rent – there are often vacancies in the summer). There are many water tanks, so water won’t run out, especially in the summer when the residents of the building are few. No hot water, but oh well, it’s hot enough here that the cool water is fine. I was able to get some things out of the faculty house to stock the kitchen, and what we don’t have we either do without, or Natalie bought, or Steve brought when he came, or Suala (the apartment manager) is letting us borrow, or I am borrowing from other friends. So, we have what we need.

I have re-connected with many of my old friends and acquaintances, and have been welcomed back into several of the activities I used to be a part of: the Ashesi Bible study on Monday evenings, and my church home group every other Wednesday evening. Of course the World Cup games are big social events (especially when Ghana was still in the running, although there is still be interest in the games through the final on Sunday). Otherwise, I am often enjoying an invitation for lunch or dinner with a friend. And if none of that is happening, I am working, or Natalie and I will share dinner and chat into the evening, or when our brains are very tired we watch a show on my laptop (we brought Firefly and Arrested Development DVDs that we have been working our way through). When Steve and Anna were in town last week, from Wednesday to Monday morning, the evenings were even busier, fitting in social invitations while Steve was in town (and, several or our friends went back to the States for a 4-6 week summer break this past week). By the way, I’ve been texting with Steve and Anna all day, they are on a bus heading back to Accra from their adventures up North, but the bus keeps breaking down. Steve will post all about it when he gets back to the “good” bandwidth of Accra.

[Girls night]
Other fun things I’ve done have included two short weekend-aways: one a Girls Night with some missionary friends of mine, and the other the bi-annual Ashesi Faculty Staff Retreat. Both were extremely enjoyable and also pretty tiring – not a ton of sleep was had at either, but great bonding occurred at both!

[Ashesi Faculty/Staff Retreat]

Unfortunately, I haven’t set foot on the beach since I’ve been here. I’m hoping to squeeze in a beach afternoon on Monday, before I fly out on Tuesday evening. Tuesday morning we will hopefully be visiting the new Ashesi campus that is being built, North of Accra – the last scheduled trip, during the Ashesi Faculty-Staff retreat, didn’t happen due to hard rains that day. Hopefully there will not be hard rains on either Monday or Tuesday of next week!

So, I am having a very enjoyable stay, working hard but also enjoying the company of my friends, enjoying the food, and enjoying the lower-anxiety Ghanaian lifestyle. It will be good to get back to my family and friends in Texas, but I will definitely miss Ghana when I go.

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