Sabrina in Ghana May-Aug 2006

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Canada's Impact on Ghana

Last week I officially changed work placements from MAPRONET to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Regional office. Although it was sad to leave all the people that I had built a relationship with at MAPRONET, the funding was still not coming through and work was limited. So, with the help of the EWB West Africa Director, I switched to my new job for the remaining six weeks of my placement. It was very difficult going from a small NGO with a staff of four people, to a government office with tens of people to get to know. However, the warm welcome at MOFA, made it easy.

EWB has built a really strong relationship with MOFA over the last couple of years and we have found that we are able to have a strong impact here in both the Regional office and in the field. Over the past year, there has been a long term EWB volunteer working at the Regional office (who just left last Sunday). Robin has done an excellent job of creating a strong relationship of trust with the staff at MOFA. She has taught them many things, such as the use of Microsoft Access for data storage, Results Based Management (RBM) and how to organize effective meetings. She has also done a lot of work with the Junior Fellows in the various districts around the Northern Region. Providing them with the tools needed to run effective and standardized workshops.

I only mention her work, because she was leaving upon my arrival here and I was lucky enough to be present for her good-bye celebration. All of the “higher ups” of the MOFA government office took us out for a traditional meal of Guinea Fowl (like a Ghanaian Chicken). At the dinner many speeches were given with regards to the hard work and success that our EWB long term volunteer has implemented. She was praised for her kindness and humility as well as for the positive changes she made around the office. Giving the people here the tools to make their work more efficient, all while keeping Dorothy (The name given by EWB for the typical rural farmer or hardworking Ghanaian that is struggling to survive) in mind. I was beaming when I heard from the director of MOFA how EWB’s approach was so important to the organization and well respected throughout Ghana. For example, the fact that we are so concerned with integration, living with a host family and eating the local food as a way to keep ourselves in touch with Dorothy. I couldn’t help but feel really proud of the organization I chose to come here with, and was so happy that our efforts to show Ghanaians that we are not in some way superior to them had actually been noticed. I had not only heard this from the director of MOFA, but also from other organizations here in Tamale as well as in my own community. I was shocked to learn that people could not believe I would make the effort eat to Ghanaian food with my family or fetch my own water. I hate to say that this is probably because there are so many organizations that send volunteers to Ghana, and do not emphasize the importance of integration. They refuse to learn the language, how to cook and eat local dishes and make little effort to really understand what Ghanaians feel they need. An unfortunate revelation about the realities of development work.

Apart from learning from the director at how impressed he is with EWB’s work, he also mentioned how much Canada has done for Ghana. He talked about how Canada has had a great impact on many of the projects here concerning water, sanitation and agriculture. Again, I was beaming with excitement and pride that Canadians in the past had also done effective work here, leaving a positive impression on Ghanaians at all levels. I hope that any Canadians travelling to Ghana in the future will uphold their positive and integration conscious attitude, so as to maintain the reputation of Canada as a true friend to Ghana.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Questions from you!

I recently got a great idea from an EWB colleague that I ask all of the amazing people that read my blog (that’s you!) if you have any questions either for me or any questions that I could ask a Ghanaian on behalf of you. For example, if you have a question for my family, friends, co-workers, EWB colleagues or random person working on the street, I would be more than happy to ask and report the response back. The questions could be about development or just general livelihood questions. The floor is open! I have recently fixed my blog to accept comments, so feel free to post! Thank you for your questions!
*Picture: Cooking breakfast with my little sister Maame

Monday, July 10, 2006


There have been many requests for a picture of me carrying water. I would like to apologize for the poor quality of the pictures below as it was the first time that my brother has used a camera in his life. I think he has done a great job and I hope as he improves I will be able to send you more! Enjoy!

The water situation at my house is very confusing for me. For some reason my family always knows where to go and get water, and as usual I am lost on how the ‘schedule” works. However, I still manage to tag along. It seems there are several places we can get it depending on the day of the week and the hour of the day. Sometimes, we get it from the running tap 2km away, but usually we wake up before 5:00am to get it from the near-by well. In some cases we might have to get it from the dam that is a few km away, but this water is filled with clay and requires boiling or the addition of alum to get rid of the clay. I have seen some people get their water from a road that floods when it rains heavily (we don’t get it from there because it is not good, however it is free). Just the other day it rained so hard that all the roads flooded in my area, crops were destroyed and roofs were ripped off houses. The area where people fetch water from the road was flooded and somehow a small boy of 10 years managed to fall into the 10ft deep puddle. He drowned. This is an example of how water is one of the biggest problems in Ghana, the safety; sanitation and access are all lacking especially in the north. I believe that water is a human right and if anything deserves attention here it is access to water and water sanitation.

Meet the fam...

I promised in my last blog that I would introduce you to the members of my family here in Tamale. The last couple weeks staying here have been life changing and also where I have learned the most about the daily struggles of a poor Ghanaian family. Below are the names and a brief description of each person here.

Mr Awudu: My father and the head of the household. I usually don’t speak that much with him as he does not know English and I do not know Dagbani. I mostly see him eat, smoke and pray; however he the one that tends to the maize field while I am away at work everyday and he also has a job at the Tamale Airport.

Mariama: My mother, she is adamant about me learning both Dagbani and Frafra. She also does not speak English, but is full of energy and questions for me.

Hawa: I will start with her in the line of children, because I view her to be the hardest working in the household and also the person that will have the most impact on me here. She is my oldest sister at age 17. She is currently in junior secondary (like grade 7-8). I wake up every morning to fetch water with her at 4:30am and then as I go back to sleep (work does not start till 8:30am); she will bath and begin her 1.5 hour walk to school. She tells me that she likes to get to school as early as possible, because if she is late, she will be cained by the head master. When she gets home from school she cleans the compound and spends all night cooking dinner for the entire household. On weekends, she will work weekends washing clothes for other people to raise money for secondary school (high school). She is a role model in my eyes and the hardest working 17 year old I have ever met.

Baba: The fourth oldest of the family, but the oldest of the siblings that stay at the house, he is 23 and attends teachers college with a focus on teaching mathematics. He has exams right now, so I only really see him when he is not studying.

Fatawu: The fifth oldest at 21 and also in Junior Secondary (grade 7-8). His school is much closer, but he also had a bike to get to school, which makes the mornings a lot easier. However he still gets up at 5:00am to pray with the rest of his family at the local mosque. He is very philosophical and loves to challenge and debate with me! He definitely asks me the most question and usually the hard ones!

Rebecca: When Rebecca was just a little girl, her mother died and then her father shortly after, she now lives with her aunt (my mother) in the compound. She is also 17 and has a one and a half year old little girl named Tiyumba, the most precious and curious little girl I have ever met. Rebecca’s husband lives in another region of the country where he works and sends money for Tiyumba. For now Rebecca cannot afford to go to school, so she spends her days selling food at other schools, so that when Tiyumba is old enough she will be able to return to finish junior secondary (grade 7-8).

Malik: The sixth oldest at 15, and attends junior secondary (grade 7-8). He says he likes science and wants to become a nurse. I know very little about Malik as he is a little shy.

Maame: the youngest of my mothers’ children in the compound, Maame is a lively 10 year old that attends the elementary school just behind the house. Her laugh is to die for and she is constantly acting silly and amusing the rest of us.

Jamila: The youngest either than the little baby in the compound at 7 years old, Jamila is the first daughters’ (or second born) child. Therefore she is the grandchild of my mother. She also attends secondary school and usually get stuck doing the dishes for the family.
The two oldest sons (not sure of the names) are away in the army and the oldest daughter is in Bolga taking care of her sick husband while her daughter Jamila stays with us in Tamale. Altogether my mother had 12 children 4 of which died as some point leaving only 8. So that is the whole compound, they have been a hospitable and helpful family so far and I look forward to spending the next couple of months with them.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bugs for Breaky!

Last Friday we had a huge rainfall that came down in the early afternoon and did not stop until the evening (an unusual occurrence in Ghana). With the rains came a whole bunch of new and exciting creatures, including hundreds of swarming four winged fireflies (or something similar). I came home to see that the small children in my family had spent the evening catching these bugs and putting them in water. Thinking nothing of it I went to sleep, only to wake up to those very same bugs for breakfast! It turns out that when you fry em’ up in some shea butter they taste delicious and sweet!
*Picture: Fryin' up the bugs Friday morning

Canada Day Camping Trip!

As many of you will know, this weekend was Canada Day weekend and since so many of us are missing home here in Ghana, we decided to celebrate! So nine of us EWBers got together this weekend for a trip out to the bush to have a good ol’ Canadian style camp-out. We all hopped into a tro tro and traveled about 30km to a suburb of a small town. After meeting with the Chief of the small village and presenting him with some kola nuts (a kind of nut here that is loaded with caffeine), we were granted permission to camp out for the night near the local school house. We brought with us a bunch of hotdogs, a couple guitars and a Frisbee. It was a great night to be camping out as the rains did not come and we slept under the stars after an exhausting night of songs and campfire stories. It was really nice to compare stories and bounce ideas off of fellow EWBers for the night a perfect way to bring the first half of our trip to an end and begin the next half!

While we were camping out the whole village heard news of our presence and came to watch us in our festivities. It was interesting to actually have an audience while we did what seemed normal in our culture. The children stayed and stared for the entire day until they retired to bed around 10:00pm, a long day of fascinating activities for them, no doubt!
*Picture 1: Kyle is teaching these young girls how to play frisbee! something they have never seen before.
*Picture 2: Marca, Dan, Sarah and Ben surrounded by the children from the village. They spent most of the night just watching us in fascination!
*Picture 3: Even the women of the village came to join the festivities for some time. Here they watch and listen to Luke and Ben play the guitar.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My New Family!

A lot has been happening in the last week or so. After returning from Bolga and curing my malaria, I moved houses to a new family and Ian (my partner at MAPRONET) was moved to a whole new region (Wa) and project. My new family is the best part of all these changes, they have taught me so much already and are offering me an experience that I will never forget.

Firstly, the architecture of this region is usually several rooms in a row, each with access to the outside and each with its own patio at the entrance. My new home is a 3 bedroom building; there is no access between rooms without going outside. The area for sitting, cooking and cleaning is outside in the open right in front of the house. The entire property is closed off by a six foot straw wall and outside of that is my family’s small maize field boarded off again by a stick and straw fence. You can see in the picture that there is even some maize inside the walls of the house, a great utilization of space!
There are two small rooms at one end of the compound to bath in (yay! bucket showers!) and the washroom is about a 4 minute bike ride away, unless you are me and you get lost almost every time. The public washrooms are maintained by the chief of the area and are not as bad as one might think, except at night when there are cockroaches everywhere the size of lemons!

My family are Frafra people from the Bolga region, so I am lucky to be learning two languages from my mother (Dagbani, Tamale and Frafra, Bolga district). They are also teaching me how to cook typical Ghanaian food on a wood/charcoal stove. On just my third day I followed my sisters to fetch water from the tap, which was a 2km walk away (the close-by tap does not always run). These two girls fetch water everyday for the whole family! So I thought I had better learn how to help out and at least fetch what I use. I returned on our 2km walk with a 40L bucket of water on my head, yup that’s right, on my head! It was incredibly hard, but also incredibly satisfying as people in the neighborhood cheered me on. I have never appreciated a bucket of water so much in my life!

So far it has been great for me to come home to a full family, ready to ask questions about Canada and eager to show me how to be a better Ghanaian. I will soon write a detailed blog about my family, so that you can meet them all individually!
*Picture 1: The view out from my favorite spot to purch myself in the evenings and watch the sun go down.
*Picture 2: The living, cooking and cleaning area of the compound. You can see the clothes line, small charcoal stove and the little stone hen house just in front of the maize that grows inside the compound.

A Sad Day for Ghana

For those of you that watched the Ghana vs. Brazil football match yesterday, you will know the outcome. Ghana lost 3-0 in a troubling and discouraging game. The energy sank in the Tamale community as the game went on. However, on a positive note, Ghana played a great game using skill and strategy against one of the hardest teams in the world. I think if we were to really look at who deserves an honorable mention in these world cup games, it would undoubtedly go to Ghana. Thank you all for your support.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Black Stars to the Next Round!!!

Ghana beat out the USA today 2-1 in a beautiful afternoon match. The energy here could not be more uplifting! Everyone has taken to the streets wrapped in red, yellow and green! To top it all off Ghana finished the round robin games in the most difficult group (Italy, Czech and USA). The pride and patriotism is contagious here, as i walk around in my GHANA world cup shirt and people invitingly ask if i am a Ghanaian?!!! i excitedly reply; unfortunately no, but i support them!

Ghana will play Brazil on Tuesday, a tough game no doubt as Brazil is the best team in the world! However, they can't be the best forever!


*Picture 1 & 2: People celebrating on the streets in downtown Tamale after the GHA-USA match! Everyone was singing, dancing and marching to the beat of drums, amazing!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I couldn't be a Ghanaian without a little Malaria

On Friday I got safely back to Tamale. I had enjoyed Bolga so much, but I also really liked the feeling of home I got when I arrived back here in Tamale, the familiar streets and old friends! Unfortunately the reason for my rushed return was due to having caught malaria. Yes that’s right, I some how managed to catch malaria, despite the anti-malarials, and bug spray I have been frequently using. Malaria is nothing like I had expected. Firstly, the symptoms completely change depending on the person, so pretty much any feeling of weakness, headache, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, cold shivers and sweats could be a sign of malaria (or combination of the above). For me, I had the most horrible back and chest pains that restricted my breathing as if I had broken every single one of my ribs and my entire torso had recently been used as a punching bag. Along with this I was experiencing terrible headaches and fever. It was impossible to sleep because the pain was so bad, but on top of this I could only lie down as I could only stand for minutes before losing all strength and collapsing back down.

I only describe this feeling in detail to you, because it is important to understand what the people here regularly go through. It is not uncommon for a Ghanaian to get malaria 5 or 6 times during the rainy season depending on the area and the protection available (such as mosquito coils and bed nets). It is incredibly painful and can be fatal if not treated immediately, which is not always possible due to financial factors. When you have malaria, it means that you are unable to do any physical activity including attending work, fetching water, tending to children, going to market, cooking food, farming and any other daily survival activities. For three days I was not able to even walk 100m to the road to catch a taxi to the hospital. Now lets say a farmer, who depends on his maize crop and the rain for his (and his family’s) entire livelihood for the year, gets malaria and is unable to attend to his crop for 3 days. His entire family would be in jeopardy for the upcoming year. It is amazing to me that people are able to experience this sickness so frequently and still be able to get work done. Despite malaria there are still many other diseases and illnesses that the elements with throw at the inhabitant of this region. I cannot help but be thankful that in Canada (and most of the western world) we are easily able to cure simple illnesses and some diseases with our easy access to the proper drugs and vaccinations.

Regardless of my malaria and aching body, I traveled the small distance by taxi to the nearest bar (an easy 7 minute bike ride usually), to watch the Ghana vs. Czech Republic world cup football game. It was well worth it! As Ghana performed a beautiful game, winning 2-0 in the end! Although I could not join in the celebrations, it was satisfying enough to watch the excitement of the people in my community! Go Blackstars!

I wish everyone good health!
*Picture: The people cheering as Ghana performs its second goal of the game beautifully!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Do you support the Black Stars??

As some of you may know it is currently World Cup time! And Ghana for the first time ever is participating! This is very exciting for Ghana and you can feel the energy here amongst the people. They call them self the 'Black Stars' as Ghana has a black star in the centre of its red, yellow and green striped flag. They played their first round robin game with Italy on Monday and unfortunately lost 2-0. however they played a very good game and they seem to have a promising future. I hope for the sake of the spirit of the people here that they win at least another game.

My time in Bolgatanga is not yet over, but it is such an amazing city I am not quite ready to leave. I have spent my days working in only the next village over in Zuarungu with the Single Mothers Association. I have been lucky enough to be present during the week where the organization is re-evaluating its goals for the future and how they are going to obtain them. I hope to take a similar meeting and agenda back to MAPRONET to facilitate a similar discussion among my co-workers there. I have definitely learned more in the last couple days about the struggles of women in Ghana, then I ever thought I could. Its seems exhausting the levels of barriers that women face, whether it be in their homes, with their communities, by the Ghanaian government or with the stigmas that are still held from traditions. However, it has been such an inspiration to meet the women that created Single Mothers and persevere through all this to provide education, skills and empowerment to the people of their district.

Apart from work I have spent my evening wandering Bolga, meeting new people and relaxing with a book. The other day I was lucky enough to meet Stanely, who works with the Ghanaian water treatment plant. Over a Fanta, he explained to me the process in which the water is cleaned in the cities and some of the struggles that the whole system faces. He explains that a Dutch/ South African company has just last week taken over everything in order to restructure the water treatment system and improve it by putting in better facilities and piping. I asked him if he thought this intervention is good, he replied “yes!” with a surprised look. Perhaps hastily I always question interventions of any kind from outside companies and organizations. He offered to bring me out to the dam, but I could not make it that afternoon. Perhaps another time.

Till next time!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bolgatanga Single Mother Association

I arrived safely in Bolga on Wednesday afternoon and was delighted by the energy of this small city. Unlike Tamale it is actually possible to walk everywhere here and the markets are amazing! On Thursday i headed about 6km out of the city to a small community call Zuarungu, where the Single Mothers Association is located. I spoke briefly with Madam Stella, who founded the organization a few years ago, when she noticed the immense poverty and struggles that single women in her community faced. She is a lively, inspiring and ambitious woman, who never seems to rest despite her age and frequent illness.

After speaking with Madam Stella i spent the rest of the afternoon at the Single Mothers Rice processing centre. It’s a beautiful building in Zuarungu that has been rehabilitated with support from Oxfam. The members of the association are divided into groups of ten where they rotate weekly for the use of the facilities. They purchase their rice from local farmers and will each spend a week parboiling the rice (with the husks still on) and drying the rice and husks (by laying them out in the sun and frequently turning them so that they do not burn). At the end of the week the rice and husks will be milled using an electrical machine that separates the rice from the husks. At the end the women must hand pick out any rocks or rotten rice grains that may be present in the batch. This is what i have spent the last two days doing while sitting and chatting with the women, i learned many things. The problems here that Ghanaian products face, is its ability to compete on the market with foreign products. Like for example, the US rice that is sold and most frequently purchased here, is polished, bleached and free of stones or rotten rice. So in order for the Ghanaian rice to compete, they must hand pick out the stones and rotten rice, then properly package it with very expensive bags and labels. To pick one bag of rice (approx. 40kg) it takes the women 15 days! This is exceptionally time consuming and a very tedious job for these women. When i spoke with them they mentioned that their lives would improve if they had access to a machine that could do the picking for them. After only two days of rice picking i could completely understand the impact of this "rate-limiting-step".

The organization was created in support of single mothers specifically. In this region there are some traditions that are sometimes still carried out, that affect the rights of women and young girls. Some of these traditions include, but are not limited to:
1) Sister-in-Bed; When there is a relationship between two people of the same clan, they cannot get married and any children are illegitimate.
2) Funeral Rights; girls, sometimes as young as ten, are forced by their family to choose a husband. Encouraging rape and teen pregnancy.
3) Preference for Sons; if a family does not bear a son, the oldest daughter will be forced to bear children with a man of her fathers choice. The children will be considered that of the grandfathers and often men will not marry a woman that has already had children.
4) Barren women will hire others to carry children for them, and again the non-barren women will find it is difficult to find a husband after having had children.

As you can see, women rights and gender issues are ever present here and are limiting for the progress of a family. Illegitimate children and single mothers are forgotten and shamed. Organizations like Single Mothers empowers these women to learn new skills such as proper rice milling, market access, basic book keeping and micro finance as well as some courses in basket weaving providing a second income generating activity. For the time being there are many associations throughout Ghana, such as the one I am working for (MAPRONET) that carry out gender workshops in communities and work to change forced relationships and other gender inequalities. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to meet Madam Stella and the women of Single Mothers Association.

Until next time!

*Picture 1: Here the women are spreading the rice and husks out on the patio to dry after parboiling. They have to frequently move and flip the husks around so as not to burn the rice. In the background you can see the beautiful facility that Oxfam donated.
*Picture 2: The woman in this picture is milling the rice with the rice milling machine. This is the quickest part of the whole process as it is done by machine.
*Picture 3: This is some of the rice i picked. At the top left you can see the rice as it comes out of the mill, to the left is the rice free of stones and rotten pieces and at the bottom is the rice and stones that has been picked.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mole National Park

This past weekend was a little different. Six of us EWBers, decided to take a little tourist trip to explore some of the country. A couple hours outside of Tamale is Mole National Park, the largest national park in West Africa! So on Saturday morning we woke up (or actually did not sleep at all) at 3:30am and headed to the bus station to get the 5:00am bus to Mole. The bus usually only sells tickets the day of departure, however we arrived at the bus station and found that all the tickets for the bus had been sold. We waited there until 6:00am and watched the bus load up, hoping that we could get one of the aisle seats or stand (these tickets are not reserved, just space fillers). The bus filled up and there seemed to be no chance of us getting on the bus. The bus driver approached us to let us know that we should take the afternoon bus because "it is much more comfortable" and "all the white people take the afternoon bus". Well, there was no way we were not going to travel like Ghanaians, so we headed over to the tro tro station to catch a ride there. Before I go on, I think I need to explain a tro tro:

1x Tro Tro = 1x 8 person van + 25x people + 2x bicycles + 3x goats + 2x chickens + 6x 40kg bags of yams + 5x 10L jugs of oil + 5x 10L empty jugs + whatever anyone is bringing to or from market + km after km of unpaved (clay) roads going at a steady 100 km/hr

A tro tro is the most common way to travel through Ghana. It has the highest chance of breaking down or just falling apart, but they never leave anyone behind and it is cheap.

So we managed to arrive safely in this tro tro, just in time to relax, have some lunch and spend the afternoon checking for elephants at the nearby watering hole. At 3:30pm we took a safari tour, which is essentially an armed guard walking you through the park for two hours. It was during this walk that we saw; Baboons, Warthogs, Antelope, Water Bucks, Monkeys and all kinds of amazing birds! Altogether a very successful tourist weekend for the group and a great way for us to all catch up on our experiences over the last month.

A quick update on what has been going on at work. We still do not have funding, however I am going out to the field tomorrow, to Bolga (Upper East Region). I will be staying with the Single Mothers rice growers group for ten days, watching and learning how they have successfully formed a women’s group to manage their rice production. I am really excited to meet a producer group, to better understand their daily lives and see how rice production works as well as its success in local markets. I hope to get back to you all soon with more information on this women’s group.
Hope everyone is healthy and happy!
*Picture 1: Some Baboons walking through one of the villages in Mole National Park!
*Picture 2: The view of the watering hole from our watering hole at the hotel.
*Picture 3: Warthogs!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Salaminga! Salaminga!

Sorry for the delayed blog postings. The last week has been very busy with moving in to my new family’s house and getting settled all together. Many of you have asked me about my family, unfortunately I get the feeling that many westerners have stayed with my family in the past and it appears to be more difficult than I thought to find my way into the daily workings of the family. I get the feeling that those who have stayed before me at this house have wanted their independence and avoided integration. However, I love a challenge and am finding many ways to interact with local people to get a feel for their individual daily struggles. In Tamale I will stop and talk to a small business owner, student or artisan and find out their feelings on the presence of the western world in their country.

“Salaminga” as shown in the title of this blog entry means “white person” in Dagbani (the local language). Usually when I walk through the city that is what people are yelling to me, the children usually say “hello” over and over again to see how many responses they can get from me as I walk by. My feelings about being called a “white person” everywhere I go is as you may expect. Growing up in the most multicultural city in the world I rarely stood out or felt alienated because of my skin colour and it has given me a whole new perspective. The issue with standing out here as a white person is that many people want to talk to you or hang out with just because they want to be seen with a white person or want a white person to buy from their store (I must note that this is not always the case, but most of the time), essentially reverse racism.

There is a definite feeling of “white privilege” here that makes me very uncomfortable and I struggle to understand where it comes from, colonial times, missionaries, today’s development workers, etc. I have talked to many people about their feelings on the presence of westerners and they seem to be very happy with it, although often I will here of lost traditions and manipulations from the past. I feel sad that not only has western influence been heightened here in the past few decades, but it is not critically viewed by Ghanaians where it needs to be.

I hope that more organizations will soon realize the importance of putting an emphasis on integration. Where ever you go in the world, one should always be respectful of the culture and soak up all that can be learned from it. Without this you are having half the experience and only getting half of the story.


*Picture: This is a picture of my beautiful ride to work in the mornings. i really enjoy taking my bike to work as it means i can say hi to my neighbours and community as i pass by.

NGO City

I have finally found a family! Being settled has finally allowed me to reflect on all that has been going on inthe last couple weeks. I love Tamale, it is a small city (i have heard anywhere between 300'000 to 1,000,000 people). The people here are so lovely and the children so friendly. As i get more comfortable exploring the city i meet more and more amazing characters. I have learned more history and stories about Ghana in the last couple weeks than i ever remember hearing about Canada, as people are so eager to share and educate you on thier past. The city experience is a little different than what most people are experiencing in the field. There are many westerners in this city and often Tamale is referred to as the NGO capital of Ghana. Meaning NGO's are a business here. Some of the highest payed jobs are in the development sector. Some might say it is wonderful that so many people from around the world want to help Ghana rise up from poverty, however the reality is that its is completely unsustainable for the biggest business in Ghana to be development. What will happen when the NGO's leave? what will happen when there is another country in Africa that becomes the new focus of the western world? Fortunately i have met many younge students and business men that are ambitious and have a solid sense of what they want for Ghana in the near future. I can only hope that funding will find its way to these Ghanaian organizations instead of the much more well known western NGO's.

One of these Ghanaian organizations is the place i work. The Market AcccessPromotion Network (MAPRONET). Briefly, MAPRONET works on lobbying the governemnt for fair trade and a truely free market, they focus on training farmers to produce and package products so that they may compete on the regional , national and even international markets and most importantly are creating a way for producers to have access to market information so that they can make informed decisions on prices when selling thier produce to markets. Unfortunately work has been fairly slow this last couple weeks due to a lack of funding. There is a possibility that funding will not be renewed by OXFAM and then everyone will lose thier jobs and the project will be lost. This is a perfect example of dependency on western NGO's that should be slowly eliminated over time to ensure sustainability.

Okay, so everything else is going well. Healthy and happy and truely settled here. surprisingly Tamnale already feels like home after the short 3 weeks that have gone by.
I miss you all!

*Picture: The long line of NGO signs on one road in ehat i call "NGO city", the area of Tamale where alot of NGO's have set up. It is common to signs similar to this all over Tamale.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rains Down in Ghana

Last night was a really great night! I found a place that sells pineapples! And whole ones! I have been craving fruit so much in the last week, but have so far only been able to find bananas and mangos that I can eat (we can only eat fruits that can be peeled). We also discovered frozen yogurt, which is excellent, because dairy is also hard to come by. Altogether, I felt extra healthy this morning for the first time this week.
Last night in the middle of the night, Tamale received its first rainfall in over a week. It was long over due! The sky completely opened up and cooled the whole area down. A very nice change from the familiar 40 degree Celsius weather. Today all other EWB people have left to go out to the field, so it is only myself and my partner Ian remaining in the city, a big change from having everyone around. I am really looking forward to the alone time to reflect. I also hope to have a family soon and get settled in what will be my home for the next couple of months. We will be looking at a couple places this week.
I started work yesterday, which is very exciting. Everyone here is very welcoming and friendly. The goals of the organization seem very in line with EWBs and I look forward to building up the relationship between MAPRONET and EWB. More descriptions of the job will be following in the next couple of days.
I wish you all the best!
*Picture: Me at my work (MAPRONET), sporting my first Ghanaian dress with my favorite form of transportation!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I want to be close with you like goats and cocoa-yams

The funny name of my title is actually something that someone said to me that I met on the street. I thought it was very sweet. He wants to tell me everything he knows about Ghanaian culture and maybe even help me to learn Dagbani (the local language). I have been meeting wonderful people that are very interesting to speak to and question me on Canada and what I think my place is here. I hate to admit that I have been delightfully surprised at the number of educated young people I have met here in Tamale. There has been a great emphasis on education in Ghana in the last few years and it shows. It is very exciting for me to talk to Ghanaians about how they feel about politics and international development. There are alot of NGO's in Tamale, so it is not uncommon to find a westerner walking down the street. However after having spoke to a few, many make little effort to integrate and speak with local people. I find this very unfortunate, and have been trying to avoid common westerner hangouts (they are also very expensive).
Today is a day of rest for a little under half the population, so we are taking advantage of the empty internet cafes. This one in particular is blasting "Aqua", "Barbie Girl" on repeat (haha). Most of the music I have heard here has been Bob Marley, Sean Paul, 50 Cent (and other hip hop top 40), as well as several re-mix versions of reggae or soca combined with traditional music (beautiful!) which they call "high life" music.
Yesterday I bought my first piece of material and headed over to a local seamstress to have it made into a beautiful dress. I am very excited to receive the dress, as the clothes I brought are by far not nice enough compared to the clothes that people wear here. It cost me 55 000 cedis for the material (3 yards) and 30 000 cedis to get the dress made (cedis = Ghanaian currency). Altogether the hand tailored dress will cost me $10 CND. I am trying not to convert the money in my head. This will help me to remain within my stipend and learn how to barter with people for the right price. I have been ripped off only a couple of times (oops).
Okay, there is so much to write, but I will end for today.
*Picture: A group of men dancing around a set of drummers in the centre. I found them rehearsing at the Cultural Centre in Tamale for a show later that evening.

Tamale - First couple days

Hello Everyone,

I first want to apaologize for all the confusion with my blog. It was taking so long to figure out what my password is that i just started a new blog. It will be hard to catch you up now on everything that I have experienced in the last 5 days. I can honestly say though that i am in love with Ghana. The people are so friendly all the time, it important for everyone to spend time chatting and being friendly everyday, so it is not uncommon to just hang out on the street with a new friend and discuss so much. I am also really enjoying all the bright colours and to some degree the food (which I am still getting used to). I have learned many words in Dagbani (the local language), but am still struggling to learn more. I am currently living in a cheap hotel while I find a host family to live with. I have only seen one place which was a compound style house with a wonderful family between work and downtown. Tamale is in the midst of a water chrisis, so we have bucket showers and toilets that do not flush. Electicity is also out for at least a portion of every day. It was a little difficult to adjust, but I do not mind any of these adjustments. I am really excited to have a family and learn more about ghanaian life from them.
Will try to be more descriptive my following blog entries!

Happy mothers day to all!

*Picture: This is a picture of my group at the Maacos Hotel on our second day in Tamale. Since there are 23 EWBers in Ghana this summer we split off into smaller groups for training and travel. We are called the "Crazy-eights" group because all eight of us are working at varied organizations throughout the Northern Region. There are only six of us in this picture (left-right: Ben, Bryn, Kyle, Sarah, Marca and Me)