Normal 0 false false false EN-CA X-NONE X-NONE
I’m here! I can’t believe it! The last 24 hours I’ve zipppped from Toronto to Amsterdam to Accra! Let me tell you, the second I entered Accra Kotoaka Airport, I knew I arrived in the happiest place in Western Africa! J
Once I got off the plane, which took forever because we had to wait around for the business class members to unboard, I was hit by the heat and the sight of Ghanaians all around. I made my way over to baggage claim to pick up my massive suitcases ( why did I pack all those clothes!) With much struggle since I’m weak as hell, I scrapped by to customs which… didn’t even really happen. There was no security check, no scanners, no metal detectors. I was sent right away to the exit where I met Nyame!
Travel Tip # 1 – In order to retrieve your luggage in a efficient manner from the cascade circling around on the conveynor belts, it is wise to put some sort of bright ribbon or in my case – old duppatas, around your luggage to help differeinate it from the masses of black, grey and blue suitcases. Thanks Dad!
Nyame greeted me eagerly and said hello quite loud. With his projects aboard sign in had, I knew he was the right guy! Nyame, who has been working with Projects Abroad for over 11 years, is the official “greeter of Ghana”! If you are volunteer, you will meet him! Before I had a word in edgewise, Nyame spoke of the kindness and opportunities of Ghana, his job at Projects Abroad and by the end of conversation he had even named me Afiya! J
Culture Point # 1: In Ghana, a person can go by their Christian name or their day name which is unique upon the day of the week they are born and their gender. Since I was born on a Friday ( I think..) my name is now Afiya!
Tired and hungry – Nyame got us a cab and I was taken to Veronicaès house, my generous host! After meeting with Veronica and her daugher Jennifer ( brillant woman by the way) I went to my room and got some much needed rest. I quickly unpacked my things and settled in my new place. I will post some pictures soon of where I'm living. It's a guest house separate from the main house. I have the essentials: a bathroom, a bed, a cupboard, a fridge and a general living room!
What else can I say? Ghana has some CRAZY drivers. If you thought the pot holes along Birchmount or any of the other Toronto streets were bad, Ghana is in a whole another league. Plus, you have to contend with all the random dogs, cats, roosters, rats and goats, yes.. goats on the road in the residential parts of Ghana. The main roads are pretty decent!
How to travel around:
So you have a few options here in Accra:
Walking, Tro Tro, Taxi, and Car
First of all, I must mention, I haven't been to many places in the world but Accra has some pretty incredible areas. There are golf resorts, and high class swimming pools and condos and the like. At the same, sometimes right beside each other, you encounter beggars on the streets and raggedy looking houses that look like they won't survive the next day. Like any other metropolitian city, Accra has that contradictory characteristic of having the rich and the poor living right beside each other. The juxtaposition is so freaky to me!
What else can I say - I will have the blog from my Sunday and monday adventures soon.
Sunday: I have a mini - induction. It's Sunday and not much work happens on these days. In fact as my host sister Jennifer was explaining to me, Ghanians don't really check their emails on the weekend, or plan meetings. It's mainly a day of rest and church. Since I was doing nothing really - I took the chance to attend a church service. Pretty cool indeed. I visited some parts of Accra, got access to internet at teh local internet cafe, went on a tro tro - WILL EXPLAIN THE WHOLE CONCEPT soon! :)
Quite a busy day actually: Church, Fynn the regional coordinator took me around Accra, and then went out with some volunteers to a local area to play pool...
Monday: So today I really got a proper induction to the whole Projects Abroad experience. Richard and Sam ( who I will introduce later) acquainted Deana and I to the Accra. Got us settled with cheap phones and internet, and took us out to an authentic Ghanian lunch complete with Red-Red ( so yum), Banko, Jollop Rice and more! Going out tonight to a good bye dinner for some other volunteers at a local chinese place
DID I MENTION HOW DIVERSE THIS PLACE ISé
so i didnèt know this but there is a huge expat community ( english, aussie, danish, etc) in Accra and Ghana on the whole but also a large population of naturalized Lebanese, Indians and Chinese who have Ghanian passports and were born here and speak the language and everything. HOW COOLé yeah.. i think soo! :)
Well, unbelievably, my time in Ghana is almost up. When I first arrived, 8 weeks seemed like such a long time but now that I'm getting ready to leave I can't believe how quickly it's flown by. I've found many things here frustrating, but I think that's only to be expected when you're living and working in a developing country - it was never going to be the same as home. But I've tried to approach everything here with an open mind and a positive attitude which has meant that I can look back on my time in Ghana and feel that it's been a truly rewarding experience.
I've had two leaving parties so far - one with the NGO that I've been working with, FODACH, and one at school.
The one at FODACH was on Thursday night and included a drumming and dance performance by the school children that are trained by FODACH, followed by dinner and drinks for around 50 people, then speeches and the presentation of gifts of African clothes and paintings to me and another volunteer in appreciation of the work that we'd done with the group.
At school yesterday, the older children and the staff gathered to hear the choir sing (which was absolutely beautiful and really moving) and watch a display by the school cadets. The teachers and children gave speeches, I was presented with a certificate thanking me for the work I'd done and then in true African style we all ended with an uplifting song, sung at the tops of our voices.
At both parties I was truly touched by the effort that had been put in to the organisation but mosly by the kind words that were spoken about me and the work I've done with St Joseph's and FODACH. I feel that I've got so much out of my time here and it's so rewarding to know that they also feel that they've benefitted from what I've been trying to do.
So I leave here with very mixed emotions - excited about my holiday in Tanzania and seeing Shirish again after 2 months apart but very sad to say goodbye to Ghana, St Joseph's, FODACH, my host family, the wonderful friends I've made here and all the people who've welcomed me, helped me and shown me such great friendship.
So, as I'm preparing to leave, I've been thinking about all the things that I've loved about Ghana, and some of the things I haven't loved quite so much!
Things I've loved
- the people. I can honestly say that Ghanaians are the most welcoming, friendly, helpful, hospitable and kind people I've ever met. I've made so many good friends here in just 2 months but have also experienced many acts of kindness by complete strangers and have never had so many people say hello or stop me in the street for a chat
- the sense of community. Ghanaians are close to their families and neighbours and will always look out for them and help them. I really think this is something that we could all try and do a little more of
- the children at St Joseph's. They were adorable and I completely fell in love with them. What more can I say?
- the way people greet each other when they get in to a taxi, it's so polite
- the way people always offer to share their food with you by saying 'you are invited'. Whenever I used to walk in to a classroom as the children were eating, all 25 would look up and say "Madame, you are invited"
- the fruit. Oranges picked from the trees in the garden or perfectly ripe mangoes (which only cost 10p each) and pineapples (40p) bought in the market or from a stall by the road. Boring old apples from the supermarket just won't taste quite so good anymore!
- the Ghanaians love of music (which has to be played as loud as possible) and dancing - it's completely infectious
- the way you can make a child smile or jump up and down with excitment just because they've been waved at or talked to by an 'obruni'
- the beautiful scenery
- the way people, mainly women, carry anything and everything on their heads and still look so amazingly graceful
- how cheap everything is
- the slower pace. Although I've been working here the pace of life in Ghana is always slow so I do also feel that I've had a good break from the break neck speed of London life
Things I haven't loved so much
- being asked for money by random strangers and sometimes by people I know, just because I'm white
- people trying to rip me off by charging inflated prices, just because I'm white
- the way that children are caned in school, not just for bad behaviour but also for poor academic performance. The caning can be brutal and hearing a small child screaming and sobbing as they're being thrashed is heartbreaking
- the heat and humidity. I'm tired of constantly being sweaty!
- the dust, which covers you and your clothes as soon as you walk anywhere - it's impossible to keep clean
- the laziness of a lot of Ghanaians. There are exceptions, but as a general rule, Ghanaians will come up with any excuse not to go to work ('it's raining' being a favourite at the moment) and will then try and do as little as possible when they're there. I'm amazed by the number of employees I've seen asleep in shops, banks, the school ...
- the slower pace. Sometimes it's just too slow and there's no sense of urgency when something needs to get done. At times I've wanted to scream 'HURRY UP'
But generally, I've loved my time here and am so glad I did it.
Hopefully see you all soon when I'm back home
It's been just over a week since I got to Ghana and I'm finally starting to feel comfortable here. I am starting to get into a routine: waking up around 6 (this is actually late for Ghana as the sun rises around 5:30), eating porridge for breakfast, hailing a taxi in Kotokraba market amid throngs of locals trying to sell me just about anything, arriving at the hospital and working until around 2, catching another taxi back to my house, running errands/napping/playing guitar or reading until dinner is ready, eating dinner, hanging out for the rest of the evening (either walking around Cape Coast, meeting friends at a local bar, or just hanging out in my room) and then getting to sleep around 9 or 10.
Even with this routine, life here is SO different compared to home. Being a developing country, many of the amenities we take for granted are not available here in Ghana (or just not provided). These range from clean water and toilet paper to snacks and sufficient vitamins to sidewalks and closed sewers. One example is working out. I am used to working out 4-5 times a week at home, but here in Ghana it is impossible most days to even go for a run - let alone find a gym - because I am eating so much less protein than I usually do and have a lot less energy. This combined with the hassle that is clean drinking water and the tropical climate have made me realize that exercise for exercise's sake is a very first-world activity.
But even without many of the things I am used to I am having a great time. The food is definitely an aspect of my life here that is drastically different but I am enjoying it nonetheless. As I mentioned before, breakfast consists of porridge and a cup or two of water. I have started packing PB&J’s for lunch (made with fresh-baked bread, groundnut paste and pineapple jelly. AMAZING!), but for a while I was eating either plain bread or some small baked goods from the snack bar at the hospital. For dinner I usually eat one small piece of roasted meat (usually chicken) with a heaping plate of whatever starch was made that day. These range from potatoes (I think) to noodles to rice to French fries, but no matter what it is it is covered in the same oily pepper sauce. Though a bit spicy, it is what gives the food most of its flavour. I have also been trying to eat as much of the local food as I can. So far I have tried red-red - a mixture of beans and black-eyed peas coooked in a hot pepper sauce - with roasted plantain and jollof - a rice dish a lot like fried rice. For snacks I have been trying as much street food as possible, especially the meats and fruits since I am not getting as much protein or vitamins as I would like. Meat skewers covered in a hot pepper powder are popular and one of the better finds, along with fresh mango, pineapple, meat pastries and fan ice (like a chocolate popsicle). There is still a lot to try and I am looking forward to tasting it all! Also, nothing has gotten me sick yet so cross your fingers!
One aspect of life here that I have not gotten used to yet (or at all) is the way I am always stared at. It is a very weird experience growing up in a culture where you are “normal” and then being thrust into another where you stick out wherever you go. Every day as I leave my house I am greeted to the sounds of little kids yelling “Obroni! Obroni! How are you?!” Though only the kids use this greeting (Obroni means white person), everyone stares. I am constantly hassled when I reach the market, no matter how many times I say I’m not buying anything. Even the taxi drivers yell at you as they pass, “Where are you going?” even if their taxis are full. I have heard stories of some drivers forcing the people already in their taxi out for the possibility of them ripping of an Obroni. The fact that all this is because of the color of my skin really throws me off, but there’s not much I can do about it. At least I can get a taxi quickly ;)
I started work at the hospital Monday and have been trying to acclimate myself as quickly as possible. I am currently in the Emergency Department (called Accident and Emergency, or A&E) and have been shadowing the doctors on call there. I have seen some pretty crazy things - a man died from chronic liver disease (a common condition here in Ghana) just today - but many of the patients I have seen have the same ailments I have seen at home, just more progressed. Even so, many of the cases coming in are due to the lack of sanitation here in Ghana and the prevalence of malaria. I have never seen so many jaundiced people in one day! Apart from malaria, most of the cases I have seen have been the result of people waiting way too long to come to the hospital. Though Ghana does have a national health care system, many are too poor to pay the co-pay and therefore do not go to the hospital until whatever ails them becomes life-threatening. And even when they do get to the hospital, many times they only receive the most basic treatment because of the cost. Though I know this occurs even in the US, I have never seen it happen and am appalled. I truly hope that we can figure out a national health care plan that is sufficient enough to enable people to receive the health care they need regardless of their income.
I started my research in the hospital today. I was able to interview two patients waiting in the outpatient department and got a lot of good information from them. I have realized that I will need to expand my interviews to people outside of the hospital as the people in the hospital are those that would more readily use western medicine and have the means to pay for it (for the most part). Some of the other volunteers are staying with a host family that uses herbal medicine so I am looking to interview them and hopefully meet with the practitioner they use. This should help me get a better perspective on the use of herbal medicine here in Ghana. I am not too worried about getting the traditional side of the issue as there are a number of herbal medicine shops right near my house in Kotokraba market. All I need to do is stop by one of these and I’m sure I will find some people to interview. I have also realized that the use of herbal medicine ranges considerably throughout Ghana, depending on the prevalence of western medicine in the region. Because of this I may need to change my thesis so it focuses solely on Cape Coast. I hope Colgate doesn’t have a problem with that!
Well that’s all for now. I will post again with more stories from the hospital as I see more wards and travel more throughout Ghana. I hope all is well at home for everyone and I will see you all soon!
Volunteers at the Asiebu clean-up in Cape Coast
I arrived in Ghana on Wednesday to sweltering heat and humidity. Even with the sun down I was sweating through my clothes on the tarmac! After a little jostling with an immigration officer I was picked up by Projects Abroad and taken to their offices in Accra to sleep for the night. It was a sleepless night, with the thunder and lightning blasting through the open window and my excitement keeping me awake.
The next morning I was up at dawn and in a bus headed for Cape Coast. It was a beautiful ride, but sleep overtook me and I slept most the way. I arrived in Cape Coast and was settled in with my host mother Felicia and her children Eric, Julian and Elie. After five minutes they were climbing all over me and kept me occupied for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon Eric (different Eric) from Projects Abroad and took me and two other new volunteers on and orientation of Cape Coast. We were shown the major landmarks (Cape Coast Castle, Kotokraba Market, Crab Statue) and were taught how to hail taxis and where to catch tro-tros (the major mode of transportation outside of the city). It was fun but exhausting, and thankfully I slept pretty well that night.
Since then I have been hanging around with other volunteers from Projects Abroad, looking through the market and hitting the beach. I will start work at the hospital on Monday and my research soon after. I am very excited and look forward to start!
After an unexpected second night at the Peng's in New York (Thanks again!) I flew off to Amsterdam. It was a pretty-much a sleepless flight, but when I arrived in Amsterdam @ 6am local time I was too excited to be tired. I took the train into Centraal Station, grabbed some breakfast, and walked around as the city awoke around me. Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, with the canals running everywhere and the tilting, multi-colored buildings lining the narrow streets. Following a friends advice (Thanks Julia!) I proceeded to enjoy the best Amsterdam had to offer: French Fries doused in Mayo. I'm not sure if it was the hunger but they tasted AMAZING! After that it was back to the airport and off to Ghana!
I forgot to bring the cable for my camera so you'll all have to wait to see pictures, but I'll be sure to put them up as soon as I get back!
Here’s Part 2 of a combination of the best ones from the Facebook sites “You know you’re in Ghana when …”, “You know you’re in Accra When …”, “You know you’ve been in Ghana too long when …”, and other alumni contributions. Enjoy!
· You know the hand signals for tro-tros.
· If you call Kwasi on the street, 20 guys turn around.
· Whatever you need can be bought from your car window.
· It’s uncommon to only have one cell phone.
· People don’t take traffic lights seriously, and who’s to blame them, because sometimes they don’t work!
· You’ve given up on wearing white clothes.
· Taxi drivers use their horns more than their brakes.
· “People use friendliness as a form of marketing.”
· If you have running water all week, you wonder if something’s wrong with the water company.
· “50 GHc worth of groceries can fit in one bag.”
· “You have a minimum of 5 ‘worst tro-tro ride ever’ stories.”
· You don’t notice the FanIce honking anymore. Except if you’re hungry.
· “You secretly envy Taxi drivers for their driving skills.”
· “2 GHc to cross a bridge is a fair price. 3 GHc (to avoid police inspection) is even better.”
· “If you’re in Accra, work starts at 8 but you have to leave at 5 to beat the traffic.”
· “Do Not Walk” means ‘If You Do, Do It Quickly’
· You can’t see it now, but you will miss the rice when you get back.
· Why wait on the sidewalk when you can wait as close as possible to the cars in order to cross faster?
· “Local news is national news.”
· You are impressed at how long shops are open, but later on you’re disappointed whenever they’re closed.
· Yellow light means speed up. Red light also means speed up because you know there’s 1 second until the other light turns green.
· “You know that your tro-tro will inevitably break down at least once.”
· “You hear the cries of "Yes! Pure water!" which sounds like "icepurewater", and is so welcoming in the heat.”
· “Sleeping at the work place is a common thing”
· “You can open a plastic sachet of pure water with your teeth without spilling a drop”
· Communicating with people on the road only takes one finger.
· It’s perfectly normal to answer a phone call during a meeting.
· You know how to speak pidgin English – just add ‘dey’ every few words, and ‘Charley’ every few sentences.
· You forget what silence sounds like, and the thought of absolute silence kind of scares you.
Not that I am counting or anything....
I wasn't sure if I would blog at first but I think it would be a good way to write down my memories (although I am not sure how I will do this, maybe I will have to ask my mother very nicely if I can use her laptop? haven't worked it out yet)
All I can say is after 6 vaccinations, and 1 left to go THANK GOD I am totally ready to get going and to meet new people and just to experience a different way of life. That's what I am most excited, I feel I need a change and I think this trip will give me a whole new sense of direction and appreciation for the little things.
Although I have been warned about spiders the size of dinner plates, I am still looking forward to it and maybe I'll even conquer my fear of spiders once and for all!
Airports suck. Crowded. Smelly. Expensive. Huge. Now add to that a grumpy U.S. customs guy, four very heavy bags, delayed flights, switched gates, and information desks with no employees. Good stuff. Thankfully once you get to your gate, and are able to relax for a few minutes, it all melts away. That's when you can breathe. Plus, you meet cool new friends in airports.
Airplanes are even better. Cramped. Noisy. Dirty. Crying children. And the wing always blocks the view. But that's what that tiny bathroom is for. Breathe. Plus a good seat mate helps. But all the pain-in-the-ass-edness of travelling internationally has it's payoff.
Now. How does one accurately convery one's first impression of a new city, a new country, a new continent?
I don't know. But I do know that after 26 hours of travel, one is tired. And being tired, it take a a lot to make me take notice. And I took notice of this country. So beautiful, and so different. Flying over, the biggest difference is the layout. Most Western cities are meticulously planned out all grid-like (except Nanaimo, but that was built up a mountain and down a shoreline by a drunken mayor. But Frank Ney is irrelevant here) as if designed by an anal autistic child. But the urban sprawl of Accra appears as if it had been layed out by an ADHD kid. It's beautiful. With tons of tropical trees and roads red with dirt, it makes an impressive aerial view. Disembarking the planes is like getting whopped in the face with a pillow that had been soaking in a hot tub. Hot and humid. (I know my faminly on Ontario reading this is thinking "Yeah, so?")
Stands and carts line the streets (bananas and mangoes: score!) and women still carry stuff in baskets on their heads, although the "stuff" consists of water packets and other supplies. The roads are crazy. Pedestrians walking all through the cars, honking at intersections as opposed to sloing, a buttload of Nissans and Toyotas, and not a single GMC or Ford in sight. I love it already. It takes your breath away.
It's amazing to see, and I'm looking forward to going to Cape Coast tomorrow to start work. should be one heck of a summer.
Peace, love, happiness,and freedom speech.
Here's a small combination of the best ones from the Facebook sites “You know you’re in Ghana when …”, “You know you’re in Accra When …”, and “You know you’ve been in Ghana too long when …”. Enjoy!
· You cannot escape marriage proposals.
· “You start to believe your name is Obruni.”
· You don’t notice the ‘O’ at the end of most words.
· You can call pretty much anyone ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’.
· Movies are looong. And often have a second, third or fourth sequel equally as long.
· You eat rice at least 4 days a week.
· “An event starts at 6 and you know it’s okay to get there at 10.”
· Advertisements can be anywhere. And you know yellow is MTN, blue is Tigo, Red is Airtel, green is Glo …
· Almost anything can be ‘dis tin’ (= this thing).
· The whole village gets involved in the debate about a minor accident. Everyone from the surrounding villages have heard about it, and have their own point of view on what should be done.
· “You know what day of the week you were born.”
· Anyone can be ‘Charley’.
· People use the same hiss to get food, transportation, and to call the attention of a pretty woman.
· You’ve been captivated by at least one Spanish telenovela.
· You’ve learned new alternatives to standard cutlery, like your hands, or plastic bags.
· It’s okay to tell your friend to ‘flash’ you.
· You seldom use an alarm, roosters will do the trick.
· Internet is just generally slow. Except Vodafone!
· “You probably know more than two Kofis.”
· You attend church whether you like it or not, and most often it’s so loud you don’t even have to leave your room.
· Honking the horn of a car is normal, in any context.
· “You don’t consider it uncommon to have a taxi drive 120 km/h whilst talking on his mobile phone and overtaking a police jeep.”
· You have never considered going to Lagos because you’ve been convinced the Nigerians are inherently bad people and are at the source of all crime in Ghana.
· Life in the street stops when a match is on. Don’t even think about travelling somewhere …
· “It’s okay that a country has over 1000 kings.”
· “You buy food from the top of people’s heads instead of in a super market.”
· It’s weird to see a truck or taxi without some kind of inscription at the back, or a flag in the front. You start wondering if the driver is trustworthy.
· At any moment, all your electronics can be rendered utterly useless by ‘lights out’, and you know what ‘lights out’ means.
· You know that D.C. stands for Dansoman Community.
· “You think malaria is not much more than a cold.”
· “Your family has grown considerably after picking up so many mothers, fathers, aunites, uncles, brothers and sisters.”
· “You’ve heard the loudest frogs in the world.”
Visit Our Main Sites
Be Our Friend