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First day of school was very...interesting. Cejocep International school is located in the next town called “Kakumdo.” So after going to the bathroom 4 times already this morning, I grab a taxi and head to work for 35 peswas (about 25 cents). I am dropped off at a dirt road and must walk the rest of the way to the school building which is through a very very poor area (more poor than the average here!). Immediately the smell of sewage and garbage is extremely overwhelming! My supervisor and I have to walk down a small dirt path covered in stinky garbage and cross rocks with grey water on them. I find it very sad that this is the ONLY passage for the children to take to school. I hear many little voices and clapping coming out of the cinderblock building ahead and start to get excited and very nervous.
No electricity. No running water (pee on rocks and drink out of shared cups from a tub). No walls on the second floor (nailed up wood planks). No doors or windows because everything is open. No paint. Birds and lizards come into the rooms sometimes but the children do not pay them any mind. It poured down rain my first day so I was thankful that we at least had a roof over our heads; however, rain does come in since some walls are only built halfway up. Teachers use chalkboards that look to be made out of paper!? Not every room has an eraser so we have to share a bean bag that gets passed around.
I meet the headmaster of the school and he takes me around to meet all the teachers and classes. The first class was the nursery... AS soon as you walk in the door (they actually do have one on the nursery so the kids don’t run away) the tiny children come running up with their hands and arms out and open wanting to touch you SO badly! They grab onto my knees and legs, hands, purse, arm, whatever they can just to touch and attack with hugs! There must have been at least 35-40 little ones in there with two teachers, needless to say I barely got out the door in one piece. Walking into the other rooms were better. They do grades as Stages/Levels in Ghana so I meet the teachers in Stages 1-5. I of course wanted to teach the oldest children in stages 4 and 5 as soon as I saw their faces.
When a teacher or adult comes into the room with something to say, all the students in the class stand up and say a scripted verse that interacts with the adult. The students say “Madam” and “Sir”...but they say it like “madAWm” and “seh.” They rise when they are answering a question and say “please” before they speak. The teachers have a system of positive reinforcement where after a student says a correct answer the teacher says “clap for her!” then the kids all clap in a specific rhythm :) As punishment the teachers use reed sticks...if one is being used at the moment they will just use their hand and whack the kid. I wouldn’t mind this so much if the children seemed to be really misbehaving...but I have yet to see a kid do something that deserved a beating. From the violence that the children see from the adults, they do as well. Whenever a student does something another does not like, that child will hit or slap another child...even if they are friends! Over the past few days I have seen hand slaps (hard ones! The winding up kind) to the head and back and repeated whippings with the stick to arms, legs, butt, shoulders...pretty much whatever.
The children here do a lot of singing and dancing in class. They start off with songs on Tuesdays and the ones I knew were: the chicken dance, Hokey Pokey, and Head shoulders knees and toes. When it is time for the actual material classes to begin, I teach some science and English lessons. I got out my Post-it notes today and ALL the kids in the class went nuts and wanted one! It really puts things into perspective of how something so normal and small can mean the world to someone out here. I plan on handing out my suitcase of supplies and goodies next week since this Friday is holiday (Republic Day). Wednesday mornings the school has worship where they sing to drums and dance. It was awesome to experience because they get so into it!!! As I leave through the trash I usually see at least one kid using the “rubbish” heap as a toilet. The past few days I have walked 30 mins home instead of a taxi. I walk with a boy named Paul who lives in the same town as me. I gave him a gift today of two packets of gum :) He was very happy. We do not talk much since he is pretty hard to understand but we enjoy each others company and we look out for one another. Even though I had blistered feet today from P.E. with the kids, Paul is worth the walk.
Much more to tell and show but this is the main gist of my placement!
Medase (thank you),
Ehfua Winters (my Ghana name)
As per usual, I’m a couple weeks behind, but whatever. Down to business.
On the weekend of June 18th-19th, a group of us travelled to the Western Region of Ghana to visit the village of Nzulezo. The main attraction of this village is that it is built entirely on stilts out into a lake. It consists of one main “road”, or, “slightly wider series of wooden planks”, and a bunch of little side walkways. The walkways lead to various small houses, three classrooms, a church, a couple shops, a couple guest houses, and an outhouse. The story of the village is that the original inhabitants were refugees from some other countries, and to avoid their enemies chasing them, they built out into the water. When their enemies did arrive, they thought that the reeds were land, and subsequently drowned and died, allowing the settlers to stay there. But just as cool as the village is the hour-long canoe ride to and from the dock. The first stretch is along a canal constructed to allow access to the village during the dry season. The boat then passes through a huge swamp-jungle, with over-hanging trees and vines. The jungle then opens up onto the lake, providing you with a breathtaking view of some of the most fantastic scenery around.
That was Saturday morning. In the afternoon, we backtracked to the town of Busua, which is basically a bunch of Siamese beach resorts. We picked one called Alaska (umm… what?). We spent the rest of the night relaxing on the beach. Not exciting, but still awesome. The next day, that was the real adventure. About one and a half klicks off the beach at Busua, there is a small island. Four of us decided to swim out to it. About a third of the way out me and one other guy decided to turn back. To justify, I was sick and he got stung by a jelly. Back on the beach, we lost sight of the other two, until someone with binoculars saw them arrived on the island. During the swim back, we had realized that coming was much harder that going, due to the back-current of the waves, so we decided to rent a kayak and paddle out to the island and bring the other two back. We arrived on the island to find the other two with their feet full of sea urchin needles, pretty much unable to walk (due to pain and mild numbness, not paralysis). So we put the boat back in the water, with my friend who still remained uninjured. I pulled the other two out, one by one, which proved to be a difficult task, as the waves were hell-bent on being assholes. Not to mention that during this rescue attempt, I myself got stung by numerous sea urchins, and my feet were slowly going numb. After several attempts at getting everyone in the boat, we found a stable position, with three in the boat and one holding on and kicking behind. This was then quite possibly the slowest I have ever moves, because as I mentioned the waves were jerks and kept pulling us back. Eventually, a guy from one of the resorts came out on a jetski, and took two guys back. The other two of us made much better time afterwards with the lighter load. To top off the adventure, when we got to the point where the waves were breaking, we paddled hard and surfed the kayak into shore. I went home soon after.
As a segue into my usual “hospital section,” the only reason I went on Monday was to meet the medical coordinator for my organization, to see what he thought I should do about the bits of marine life in my feet. He ultimately advised me against checking in to the hospital, and gave me a surgical blade to dig the needles out with. Fun day. But the next day, I returned to the hospital, in the delivery suite, which has got to be the most hit-and-miss department in the hospital. The first day, I busied myself with moving women to the surgical suite to receive caesarean sections that I wouldn’t be able to observe, and running blood samples to the lab. Of the five women in labour, not one delivered her child. While I was there. The next day, I found the suite almost empty, all the babies having been born the previous day, after I left. That day wasn’t any better. The next day, I returned to the suite, and there was one woman in labour. Around lunch time, I asked the nurse how she was progressing, and she said slowly, so I went for lunch. Can you guess what happened? The second I returned, I saw them lifting the baby from the delivery table to be cleaned and examined. I literally missed it by one second. But I still count it as a win, because I got to see the whole head to toe examination of the child, and had it I all explained, and because I got to see them repair the woman’s tear.
I had to say goodbye to a few more friends, which, again, was sad. And honest to God, at this moment I really cannot think of any good cultural insights. This is something that will be easier to convey when I return and post all of my pictures.
Anywho, that’s all for now.
Peace, love, happiness, and minimal blood loss during birth,
black bag bedbugs black bag bedbugs black bag bedbugs. - si det fort mange ganger, saa kommer du til Ghana.
Hva du ikke kan faa i en svart pose er ikke noe du trenger. Det florerer av svarte poser her. Uansett hvor jeg handler, saa faar jeg det i en svart pos. mat, klaer, smykker, drikke.. uuuansett! De er faktisk ganske pratiske ogsaa. Ghanesere bruker de paa hodet naar det regner, for aa slippe aa bli vaate i haaret. Kledelig :)
Jeg drikker vann fra poser. Det er plass til 0,5 liter i en pose. Jeg har sett disse posene bli brukt til lommeboker, laget om til vesker og ogsaa til aa plante i.. Mest ser jeg det som soeppel i rennesteinen.
Noe annet jeg har oppdaget i Ghana er at alle jentene har perlekjede rundt livet. Alle smaa barn som flakser rundt med litt mindre klaer har det. Og min verts-mor fortalte at voksne ogsaa bruker det. Det er for at kvinnen skal faa en fin fasong. Skaffa meg et kjede i dag, saa naa er det bare aa vente i spenning :)
Bedbugs ja. Det har bosatt seg noen fler i sengene vaare. Hun jeg deler rom med er nesten spist opp. Men disse ghanesiske dyra er tydeligvis ikke saa glad i norskt blod, saa jeg er ikke saa hardt rammet.
Ellers gaar kvelden med paa aa roemme fra myggen. De stikker, og det kloer og jeg kan faa malaria. Jeg kloer litt, men jeg har et slikt flott myggmiddel som myggen hater. Ei jeg bor sammen med har fatt malaria, men etter aa ha vaert paa et legesenter i 5 timer fikk hun noen piller som skal funke supert, saa ingen fare :)
Et legsenter i Ghana er jo intressat. Her synger man salmer i felleskap naar man venter paa a komme inn til legen, mens fugler og firfisler flakser rundt bena paa en..
Faa ting overrasker meg ved Ghana naa, men jeg blir stadig mer fasinert.
Shallabais fra Ghana. -AM-
***I am fixing a few mistakes and since this was so rushed I will try to add a bit more.
So I have not been to the internet cafe yet and concerned about the quality of their internet (im using a friends laptop) so please excuse if I do not write a frequently. (cafe works fine and only costs about 50 cents)
I am staying in the small town called "Abura." All the children yell "Abroni! Abroni!" which means white person. The kids love to wave at us and give hugs. Everyone here carries large items on their heads in big baskets! Fish, fruit, crabs, water (that we drink out of bags by the way!) candy, etc. Today in town we learned a lot of things: how to call a taxi, how to exchange our money into theirs (cedis) and how to walk on the streets without getting run over by a taxi. There are no sidewalks and the road has huge potholes and sewer holes on the sides...not to mention the hundreds of people at the market selling and buying. I have been a good girl trying all the different foods. I had fish with a nut bean soup yesterday and ate about 10 bones because they just use the whole fish! I try to stop asking what is in the food and just eat it.
I danced at a Muslim wedding party today! They loved me thanks to my Zumba moves ;) One of our native guides, Tawi, says that everyone keeps staring at my ears. The people here seem to really like my tragus ear piercings! One lady at the wedding dance asked me to do her ears! haha
After a long hot day you think a freezing cold shower would be refreshing...no its not. I shower under a little flow of water that I crouch under and there is NO water temperature change...only cold and colder. Not sure how I am going to shave my legs but I worry about that later ;) yikes!
Cape Coast is beautiful in some places and very...not beautiful in others. I am learning a few words like AKWABA- you are welcome. They say that a lot. Not like we use it though. They use it to say please come in you are welcome here.
Well I miss all of you and have definitely have had a life changing experience already. Hope to write again soon and I have much much more to write at a later time. I am meeting lots of people from all over the world and have so much to tell in so little time :) Medassi! (Thank you)
Only a few changes...I will be more descriptive later as I go to more places :)
De er saa hoflige her i Ghana, saa hyggelige og generose.
Jeg maa ta taxi for aa komme meg rundt her, over alt er det taxier og det koster mellom 2 - 4 kroner for aa komme seg rundt. Det er jo ikke saa mye. Av og til har jeg ventet leeenge paa taxi, ofte sammen med fler Ghanesere. Da stopper plutselig privatbiler, og vi faar sitte paa gratis om de skal samme vei.
Taxiene her er gamle gamle biler. Faar man en bil hvor speedometeret funker, saa er man heldig.
Folk her hilser ALLTID. Paa skolen sier man ALLTID 'Good morning' til ALLE man moter. Saa akkuratt den frasen kan jeg naa paa ASL ( American sign language).
I gaar var en god god dag paa skolen. Jeg hadde flere samtaler med de dove laererene. Riktig nok snakket vi ikke om de dypere ting her i livet, men vi hadde lengre samtaler, og det var utroli morsomt aa faa til.
Paa torsdager har de tegnspraak kurs for laererene etterfulgt av et lite mote. I gaar laerte jeg aa si Fadervaar paa asl. I motet etterpaa snakket de ikke engelsk, men fantcy ( tror det skrives saann.) Forsto jo ingen ting, men plutselig snakket en mann engelsk, og jeg satt ved siden av en dov laerer og jeg klarte aa faa formidlet paa tegn hva denne mannen sa paa engelsk i grove trekk. Et stolt oyeblikk for en liten norsk jente midt i Afrika.
Som jeg har skrevet tidligere, saa er ikke klokka her saa viktig. Livet gaar sin gang og man smiler og er glad. Ghanesere staar opp mellom 4 og 7 om morgenen og legger seg naar det blir morkt ( rundt 9 kanskje.. senest). Dyra flyr rundt i gatene. Vi har hunder, katter, geiter, sauer. honer, haner og kuer.. overalt!
Forrige helg reiste vi en gjeng til Busua Beach. En avslappene helg hvor vi sov i et rom helt ned paa stranda. Slappet av, og jeg provde meg som surfre 1 times tid. Kom meg faktisk opp paa benea et par ganger, men svelget til gjengjeld halve havet og ble relativt gul og blaa, men dette maaaaa jeg prove igjen!!
Shappareij fra Ghana -AM-
The song says you’re not supposed to chase them, but after hiking up a small mountain in blazing heat for three hours, you’re on those falls like Tom on Jerry. Or Sylvester on Tweety. Or Garfield on lasagna. Man, cartoons used to be so much better. I’m basically attempting to convey a humorously violent pouncing image.
This past weekend (10th-12th June) a group of twelve volunteers made the eight-hour voyage from Cape Coast to the small town of Wli (pronounced “vlee”), passing through the national capital of Accra and the country’s Eastern and Volta Regions. The Ghanaian landscape only gets more and more impressive. The Eastern Region is essentially an expansive savannah, but with some more hills and trees, a view which is much more beautiful to see than read about, I promise. Entering the Volta Region is kind of like driving into a salad. There are piles of trees and small hills, with lots of colour and little crouton villages, which, however remote, are still plastered with Vodafone ads. Eventually we reached the eastern highlands, which borders on Togo, and consists of long chains of small mountains, the highest of which may or may not rival Mt Benson, for those of you reading this in Nanaimo. We arrived at our hotel and had dinner, then were lucky enough to be entertained by yet another tourist-pleasing drum/dance troupe, which just magically seem to appear where ever obronis (“foreigner” in Fanti, can’t remember if I’ve explained that one before) may congregate. This group, unlike the others, was rather into audience participation, so we all got up and danced with them, which, really and truly, was pretty damn fun.
The next day we woke up early, and walked through the small town of Wli towards the tourist centre, while being accosted by a rather mentally and physically ill woman begging for money, of which we had none to spare. She was eventually chased off by a guy who came out with a stick and swatted her away. It may seem wrong, but he didn’t hit her hard, and there was no other way to shake her off (she even flashed some members of the group). Plus when we looked back, she had picked up her own stick (And thus was born the Anecdote of the Stick Lady, to be retold many times over the next week, and hopefully for years to come).
Once we had paid for our trip, we started off with our guides on the long hike up. The route starts off up a hill of approximately 50° incline covered in shin deep grass and outcroppings of rocks reminiscent of the B.C. coast. After cresting one hill, we were able to see the falls, two outlying villages, and Togo. We then worked our way slightly down and around a kind of semicircle of mountain towards the falls, with one incredibly dangerous stech of loose dirt and roots that went nearly straight down. Bear in mind that this all happened in humid >30° heat, with direct sun. By the middle of the hike, four of the five guys on the trip were shirtless, and some of the girls were likely wishing that was an option for them. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy to see water, especially since it was cold and falling from the sky in beautiful showers. I’m talking about the falls, not a freak rainstorm. The pool at the bottom got to about wait deep, and the water poured down in torrents, enough to revitalize even the most downtrodden of spirits. Essentially, swimming under a waterfall is a magical experience, surrounded as we were by lush green African forests. We then proceeded with our descent, towards the second set of falls, lower down the mountain. These were even taller and wider, the water actually stinging, and sometimes strong enough to push you off your feet. This time, in addition to the foliage, we were surrounded by a giant rock wall covered in bats and around at least fifty local high-school age students, looking as if they were on a school trip or something. We made our way back to the hotel for another nice relaxing evening. We left early the next morning, and through some stroke of unbelievable luck we were able to keep the same tro-tro from the gate of our hotel right back into Cape Coast. This was a miraculous occurrence, considering that it took us four tros to get to the falls, and that were travelling on a Sunday in a country that is arguably more religious than the southern States. And that was the trip to Wli Falls.
In hospital news, I’ve spent the last week in the Male Medical Ward. Like surgery, you get to see diseases that you wouldn’t see at home. Or if it is a familiar condition, it’s a hell of a lot worse that it would ever be in a Western country. Unlike surgery, there seems to be so much less to do in medicine. The coolest part, to me, seems to be diagnosing, but since all the patients here have been diagnosed, all that’s left is for the doctors to look at them and say “Yeah, keep them on the same medication.” In surgery, each case has its own unique fix and treatment method. In medicine, each case gets prescribed meds, many of which seem to be the same from patient to patient. I’m sure it’s much more interesting at home, but surgery is looking like a mighty friendly specialty. Oh, and the leprosy camp is still fun.
Culturally, this last week hasn’t been super amazing. I haven’t had any more huge revelations or culture shocks, and I feel I’ve fairly well conveyed the majority of the culture. One thing though, seems to be a lack of common sense, or at least a different definition. Prime example; A woman has a baby strapped to her back, and climbs into a taxi. Back home, the mother would release the child and hold it on her lap. In Ghana, the kid stays where it is, and the woman, quite often, leans back. Other similar things happen, but this I found the most striking.
On a personal note, it’s definitely hard saying goodbye to friends that you’ve grown to love over the past month. My roommate, the girl who arrived in Cape with me and one other guy from upstate New York all left the city this week (the Americans returned home, and the Danish girl went to Accra for the next month of her placement). It was amazing getting to know them, and I will miss them.
Anyways, that’s all for now, more later. Hopefully some inspiration will strike and I’ll be able to provide some more cultural insights, because I feel that that topic was lacking in content this time around.
Peace, love, happiness, and safe babies,
Couldn’t decide on which jungle song I preferred for the title.
So, sleeping in the jungle is pretty cool. Especially if you get to do it a good 40 ft off the ground. That’s what a group of eleven volunteers did this past weekend (3rd and 4th June) at Kakum Rainforest National Park. The weekend started off with an hour-long ride in one of those previously mentioned rolling coffins called tro-tros to the park, only to find out, when we got there, that the majority of us wouldn’t have enough money for the weekend. Some borrowing and debating later, we had our plan. We started off by going to the Monkey Forest, a sanctuary/zoo set up by a Dutch couple, about three clicks from the park. We spent some time there, looking at all the animals, all of which were in cages that the guy had built himself. Pictures will follow, once I’m not paying for internet. The guy even offered us a place to sleep for free, in what would someday be a snack bar. I was all for it, but the group voted we go back to the park, based on the Dutch guy’s mention of snakes, and the very obvious leak in one corner of the ceiling. Looking back, that night, it wouldn’t have mattered where we slept, we would’ve been drenched anyways. Anyways, because of the cost of renting the tree platform, a few of us went to a nearby town and bought pasta, tomato paste, oil, eggs, and bananas, to serve as dinner/breakfast. The cooking was an ordeal, but produced some of the best tasting food ever, due in no small part to everyone’s extreme hunger. Then that night, it rained. As in no one in North America is ever allowed to complain about rain again. I was sleeping in a tent, on top of two mattresses, with a sheet, under a well constructed tin and plywood roof. I still got soaked. T.I.A. We woke up early, around 5 am, for our nature walk. We didn’t get to see any animals, as the previous night’s rain sent them into hiding, but we still saw some very cool trees, such as one that had developed thick spikes to prevent elephants from knocking it over, and others with big buttress roots which weren’t so much roots as walls. After the nature walk, we did Kakum’s famous canopy walk, which, at its highest, is 40 m above the forest floor. It consists of a series of platforms build on very tall trees, and bridges, which themselves consist of ropes suspending aluminum ladder-type things with wooden planks over top. They sway a lot. It’s ridiculously fun. And let me say here that absolutely nothing compares to mist rising off the African jungle in the early morning.
And now for something completely different. Back at CRH, I moved into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a couple of days, and then spent today (9th June) in the regular Intensive Care Unit (ICU). As a pre-medical student from overseas, surrounded by scores of local medical and nursing students, it’s difficult to do a lot of hands on work, but I do what I can. The NICU is quite sad, being surrounded by sick premies, especially knowing that in this part of the world the adequate care to allow them to lead healthy lives simply does not exist. But I did get to hold a bottle with a syringe in it while a doctor milked a baby’s vein into the syringe to get taken for a blood test. The ICU wasn’t a whole lot more interesting, containing, as it did, only one patient, resting after part one of a two-part surgery, dealing with liver/ball bladder/bowel problems. I learned how to do an EKG (electrocardiogram) though, which was kinda cool.
An observation on the state of medicine that I forgot to make last week: People are in much worse shape here not necessarily because the medicine isn’t advanced enough or that adequate facilities don’t exist, or that the diseases are some sort of crazy African Death Virus. The problem is that people wait way too long before seeking medical attention (due likely to the lack of funds available to educate people on proper health, but that’s a whole other can of developing country worms). Ghanaians first seek treatment with traditional medicine, which is iffy at best, then they turn to religion and prayer camps before even considering orthodox medicine. Many of them also believe that they can’t afford the medical care, even though the National Health Insurance costs only 12 Gh Cedi a year (less than 10$). But by the time people do seek proper medical treatment, the condition is either beyond treatment, or costs way more money than it would have at the beginning. One woman with a massive ovarian cyst was told by a priest that she was pregnant. For two and a half years.
But as depressing as the hospital can be (which for me is actually close to nil, which tells me I’m in the right field), the leprosy camp is incredibly rewarding. Even though it’s simple work, cleaning wounds, the patients are so incredibly friendly and happy to see us, and so appreciative of the work we do. This is what I envisioned when I thought of volunteering. Hands-on work, helping people who can’t help themselves.
I also found a local beer that I like better than the one I’d been drinking. It comes in a brown bottle, so it is actually allowed to call itself beer.
Peace, love, happiness, and socialized medicine,
Our Hohoe volunteers have done well this month! As part of the numerous activities they undertake with the children at Eugemont Orphanage, the volunteers led the children to an exciting afternoon of painting … creativity at its best!
Volunteers Neillie, Thilde, and Laken initiated the afternoon with the children from the Orphanage. Samuel, Prosper, Luke, Prince, Bless, Angela, Melody and Michael all took part in this and they were so excited! The children were so enthusiastic with the paint that it would often decorate their faces, creating even more excitement! The volunteers were so happy to have unlocked such joy in the kids with these activities.
Hey PA'ers (project-abroaders),
Just wanted to see how this blog worked and get it up and running. I am leaving for Accra, Ghana in 2 weeks and wanted to know what others who are either in Ghana now or are on their way are packing?! I am a last minute packer but I thought that you guys would have some great input!
Let me know!
Also, are you guys bringing something from your country to give to your room-mate? I saw that on another bloggers page and now I want to. Anyone gonna be in Accra doing the HIV/AIDS program in July? We maybe roomies?
Talk to you guys later,
So after weeks of build up and planning the time to leave for Ghana is finally approaching! Leaving Monday to start on a HIV/AIDS project in Accra so spent the day packing and trying not to stress about everything I still need to do! Pretty much packed up the rucksack now with the exception of last minute purchases that I'm hoping to get tomorrow before heading over to uni for a day of fun at the summer ball as a last hurrah!
Anyway, the point of this was mainly to see how it all works and get used to blogging! t - 3 days! Eek
Much love, Becky xxxx
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