Adjoa shares a friend with newcomer Fiona--a tiny, blue, stuffed friend!

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Please, please, don't pick me, Fiona thought.Class, please welcome our new student, Fiona,” said Sister Therese. “She is from Ireland, like some of the Sisters.”

“Welcome, Fiona,” chanted the girls. Fiona twisted her braid and tried to fight the color rising in her face.

Sister Therese led her to a desk. “Fiona, you may sit with Adjoa. She will help you today. Ama, resume reading, please.”

Fiona barely listened to the geography lesson about the Volta River, the largest river in Ghana. She watched insects flying lazily in the bright sunlight that poured through the open windows. She followed a gecko’s movements as the lizard climbed the wall above the teacher. Glancing at the unfamiliar faces around her, Fiona felt her stomach knot with anxiety, as it had done so many times since she’d left Ireland.

After only a week in Africa, Fiona missed her friends and her old home in the rainy seaside town of Bray. Her parents were already busy, excited by the work they had come to do. Every evening, her father told them of the traditional music he was recording. Her mother shared stories of her job as head nurse at a small maternity hospital.

Fiona’s thoughts were interrupted by a gentle nudge. “You’d better pay attention,” whispered Adjoa. “Sister Therese will ask hard questions!”

After reading, the girls filed outside for gym. Fiona followed them through the long grass to the play field, startling lizards from the red earth path.

I’ll never get used to being here, thought Fiona, moving slowly in the thick heat. She rubbed her arm, still sore from inoculation shots. The sound of the girls chatting in Twi, their native language, buzzed in her ear like insects.

“Mondays are fun in gym—Mrs. Ofori always lets us sing and dance!” said Adjoa, hurrying ahead.

When Mrs. Ofori clapped her hands, the girls formed a circle. The teacher sang out a loud chant, and the girls answered, clapping their hands in a lively rhythm. Fiona watched as Mrs. Ofori danced into the center of the circle. Shyly, Fiona also tried to clap, but the rhythm was too complicated. She was sure everyone could hear her heart pounding over the loud clapping.

Dancing over to a student, Mrs. Ofori tapped the girl’s shoulder and took that student’s place as the girl danced into the circle.

Fiona twisted her braid as she fought panic. Please, please, don’t pick me, she thought.

The other girls waved and pointed to themselves, hoping the dancer would choose them.

After a while, Mrs. Ofori asked, “Has anyone not had a turn? Our new student?”

Fiona colored deeply. “No, no, thank you,” she stammered.

Mrs. Ofori smiled kindly and nodded. “Maybe Fiona needs to just watch and learn today.”

During lunch, Fiona enviously watched the other girls laughing and sharing food, and she felt sure that all of the jokes and whispers were about her.

“Fiona,” Adjoa called, “come with me to buy food from the mammies.”

Down by the main road, a group of women sat beside their charcoal fires. Adjoa bought roasted peanuts twisted in a square of paper. Other girls bought corn boiled in the husk or fish in red sauce served on a large folded leaf.

Adjoa gave some peanuts to Fiona, then spoke to the mammy with large green oranges stacked on a cloth. With her machete the woman deftly cut the rind, leaving the thick white inner skin. She sliced off the top and handed the fruit to Fiona. Adjoa showed her how to squeeze it and drink the juice.

“This is so good!” said Fiona. She copied the way Adjoa split open her orange to eat the flesh inside. Both girls giggled at the mess Fiona made.

After lunch, Fiona asked Adjoa about a game the girls were playing. “It is called ampe,” said Adjoa. “I am very good. Let me teach you!”

Adjoa clapped, jumped in the air, and landed with one foot out. Fiona clapped and jumped. Un-sure of where to place her feet, she landed awkwardly.

The other girls came over.

“No, no—like this!” said Ama, smoothly leaping and clapping.

Fiona looked to Adjoa for encouragement, then tried again. The group burst out laughing.

“You look so funny!” said one.

“She can’t do it!” said another.

A bell rang for class and the girls quickly left. Fiona stayed behind. She was angrily wiping away tears when Adjoa found her.

“Don’t cry,” Adjoa said softly.

“I can’t do anything right! I don’t know how to play these games,” sobbed Fiona.

“I will help you learn,” said Adjoa. She reached into her skirt pocket and placed something in Fiona’s hand.

“What is it?” asked Fiona.

Please, please, don't pick me, Fiona thought.“It is my friend that my mother made for me,” said Adjoa.

“Your friend?”

“Yes. I was afraid to come to school on the first day, so my mother made a friend for me to bring along. She can be your friend now,” said Adjoa.

You were scared? But you know everybody, and you know how to do everything so well,” said Fiona.

“Not when I first came,” said Adjoa. “Then I was the new girl.”

Fiona held up the rag doll and smiled. “She looks like a little stuffed sausage.”

Adjoa’s eyes went wide. Then, pretending to be angry, she said, “You think my friend looks like a sausage?!”

“Yes,” said Fiona, giggling. “A blue sausage.”

Adjoa smiled. Fiona was laughing now. “A blue sausage girl!” she squealed.

Adjoa began laughing, too. “A blue sausage girl!” she roared.

Sister Therese clapped briskly. “Girls! Back to class at once.”

Fiona and Adjoa ran quickly to the classroom. Fiona slipped the blue doll into her pocket and whispered to Adjoa, “Will you teach me ampeh tomorrow?”

“Of course,” said Adjoa. “Soon you will be very good at it, too!”