Saturday, March 24, 2012

Another Ghanaian adventure at Boti Falls

Today was time to enjoy my last weekend in Ghana and I thought it was a good time to visit Boti Falls which is a few hours from Accra by tro tro. Luckily, I had a friend to help to navigate the unfamiliar transport system.

Riding in a Tro Tro
It was really nice to see more of Ghana than just the capital city and going up to the hills behind Accra brought some welcome relief to from the intense heat. After four hours and the usual drama of travelling in Ghana we finally got there. 
We paid our money and off we went on what we thought was a leisurely walk but how wrong we were!! 
The walk soon turned in to a serious jungle climb over these rocks and up some steep slopes. Being not in to sport or serious physical exertion of any kind, I was not impressed - especially before lunch. but luckily, something possessed me to buy a Snickers Bar before I left town so all was well and a hypo meltdown was avoided.

While we enjoyed our Snickers we were able to see an amazing rock that was perched on another as well as the awesome view from our horrendous climb.

No far from this rock was we got to see a rather unusual tree - one trunk but with three heads so to speak.

As I was climbing down, I was dreaming that if I had a few million dollars I would turn the place into some massive Eco Tourism and sustainability education venue where kids could learn to appreciate the natural environment and the importance to taking care of it. As a tourism attraction it is very under developed but I guess that tourism is not one of one of Ghana's priorities right now.  

Boti Falls

After a long climb down we finally got to the falls, which was amazing!!! Unfortunately it wasn't the rainy season so there was not much water but it was still very beautiful. While we were there, a group of excitable children became so fascinated by the two Obruni (white people) that they just gathered round to watch them swim, which would have put me right off but it didn't seem to bother them.

Visiting Boti Falls was well worth effort and would recommend it to anyone. Apparently you can stay the night as well as visit some other water falls near by but don't let the distance from Accra stop you from going as the experience is well worth it. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Obruni's impressions of Ghana

Oburni is the term that Ghanaians use for white females and it is something that us white girls get quite used to hearing. I have been here for almost four weeks and have observed many things about the country where I have been volunteering. 

Firstly, their commitment to education is impressive. Obviously, like so many in developing countries, Ghanaians see it as a way to achieve social mobility and a tool to escape poverty. I just hope that the standard of education is good enough to ensure that they are able to use it to provide for themselves and their families as well as the wider community. I also hope that the government is able to facilitate economic growth so that there will be a demand for all those new graduates.   

Secondly, I noticed a collective sense of lethargy in Ghana. You cannot walk far without seeing a person sleeping on the pavement/bench or slouched over a table with their head in their hands. Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's the malnutrition. It seems in conflict with their drive to become better educated and to move out of poverty.  

A couple of evenings ago at the Ikando House (where I am staying) my room mate and I were both chatting about the state of things in Accra and we both had noticed a simmering tension that seemed to be blubbering under the surface. Despite Ghana's obvious commitment to Christianity and Islam, people seem to get angry and tempers seem to blow over really quickly. I don't know, but such displays of anger seems to be in contraction with the Christianity that I grew up with. One idea that we had that all it would take would be a suicide bomb to cause ciaos but I'm thinking more of a struggle as a result of water, food and employment insecurities, but we shall see.....          

Also, mobile technology is so far more advanced from Australia and in many ways it is to make up from the lower levels of computer ownership. In Ghana you can send credit to one another, access your bank account, etc etc and all from a non-blackberry/iphone type of phone.
Finally, so many Ghanaians that I've spoken to have relatives overseas in America, Europe as well as Australia and so many of them are so desperate to join them. I don't blame them really as life here is tough and being exposed to media that makes the west look very appealing. But in reality, adjusting to a culture that is so different and establishing yourself in a new culture makes moving to the developed world not that easy and not all that it is cracked up to be.      

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A noisy finish to a slow working week

It was a noisy Friday night last night when two local Nima churches decided to broadcast their services via load speaker while the local mosques' were calling followers to their Friday night prayers.  It was a cacophony of styles and values but this didn't stop the members of the Ikando house from adding Reggae to the musical landscape and enjoying a beer while watching the sunset.

This week continued to be frustratingly slow due to my boss being away on Thursday/Friday so I was at a loose end. But I did eat a bit of local food and do a spot of shopping as well as make progress with my "holiday reading".


I did become a typing queen on Tuesday and helped Management to type pages and pages of text and on Wednesday I help to register people for their mandatory First Aid Course as part of the drivers' education.   

Yesterday was spent providing hand washing services for a wedding reception. It was nice to see a local wedding which wasn' t too wildly different to the ones in Australia. Lots of food was eaten by the guests and the kids seem to have a great time.

Today, eating and reading are on the cards which are a great way to spend a gray and overcast Sunday.   

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ghanaian weekend adventures

This weekend was thankfully very busy and quite intense  - how I like them really.

Saturday was spent at the Red Cross National Youth Day at a Botanical Garden outside of Accra.Getting there, in true Ghanaian  style, took  ages with lots of waiting in a long line for Tro Tros in a dusty paddock.When we finally got there we found hundreds of kids running around enjoying the outdoors and taking part in Red Cross activities. My job was to help handing out the juice which was totally fun.  

Although, one big difference between Ghana and Australia is that here they have no problems in leaving litter. Partly because there are hardly any bins but... I don't know. My bag becomes full of my own rubbish that I just can't bring myself to let drop.   

Getting back involved taking a shared taxi with four strangers to an unknown location. The driver thought it would be funny to drive at about 100 KPH into on coming traffic, but we made it out alive.

With the blessing of my Boss, I got to go to Cape Coast for two days. Cape Coast is famous for its connection with the slave trade. It was a strange experience walking through the "door of no return" and also the church directly above the male slave cell - seriously, how could they?   

But looking out over the beach that is below this Door of No Return, it was nice seeing people enjoying the beach and local boys having a casual game of football. Which, considering, their passion for football, they took very seriously. It was nice to hear that in 2008, either some the descendants of people that were taken as slaves or their remains were taken back through the door as a symbolic gesture. Breaking the chain so to speak.

The rest of the day want spent walking around and hanging out, although the constant interest by the local men began to get a little annoying. They are often so insistent to "take me as a friend" or to get my number.

This morning began by waiting for the bus what didn't seemed to be coming but suddenly a Tro Tro appeared out of no where with a kid hanging out of the door shouting "Accra, Accra". Awesome, I thought as I managed to score a seat. 

After finally getting home, I enjoyed a coffee and started doing the washing - by hand. 

It is now the half way point of my Ghanaian adventure, I starting to get into a routine such as to doing the laundry by hand and not using the water out of the tap. Finding the right tro tro to work from Nima Markets has long stopped being a challenge!!           

Nima Markets

It is sad to think that there is only two and half weeks left before the long journey home but I am sure it will be an awesome couple of weeks.    

Friday, March 9, 2012

Football fever, mothers' clubs and Ghanaian food

I was privileged to spend my first weekend in Ghana at a Vodafone Corporate Challenge where many Ghanaian companies played against each other while the Red Cross provided the first aid. It was amazing to see their passion for football and their skill even if they were just doing it for for fun. It was a hot as well as dusty two days but it was filled with music and football and a great way to spend the weekend.

The Band

One of the highlights ways finally trying local food. While it wasn't visually very pleasing, it soon became apparent that looks can be deceiving - this carb filled dish with rice, bananas, beans and pepper was amazing and kept me going all day. 

I look forward to trying more of the local food over the next few weeks. 


On Monday I got to attend Mothers’ Club meeting which was a great opportunity to see the grassroots work of the Red Cross in local communities. These Mothers’ Club  empower women to provide First Aid to the communities in which they live. They also play a vital role in Disaster Preparedness as they educate local people on how to prepare for disasters including pandemics. Mothers’ Clubs also provide assistance during times of emergency in that they are the “eyes and ears” on the ground and can provide valuable information on the number of individuals effected by the disaster as well as what assistance is required. While  the meeting was conducted in the local language, it was an experience that I really enjoyed. 

Tuesday was Ghana's Independence day and it was a great opportunity to spend it at the day at the beach. After a bit of drama getting there and having to paying 5 cedes (yes, here you have to pay  - a bit of a shock for an aussie) for access to the beach, I settle down with a local beer and enjoyed some reggae, plus some of the local personalities.   

Wednesday was spent at the office waiting.....

Today, I got to go on an errand with a co-worker which was a good way of seeing more of the Accra. We had to hand deliver a letter which is the way of delivering important documents and it when we got there we realized that it needed some editing and so we had to go back to the office. Later I got to see the central markets in Accra which was intense because of the number of people and new sights and smells.

They really wanted me to take a photo of the head of this beast

Tomorrow, they have told me to "rest" even though I soooo wanted to do some work (I can rest when I am dead, seriously) but what can you do? I'll probably go to National Museum and try and see more of Accra. The Red Cross National Youth Day is on Saturday and I'm off to Cape Coast on Sunday. Awesome!!!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Not so much a fish out of water anymore

It didn't take long to settle in and to find my feet in Ghana, even if it was after the help of Quashie, the volunteer support person.  

This week has all the hall marks of a true volunteer project in a developing world. When I first  arrived at the regional office of the Red Cross, they had no idea of who I was or why I was there and what I thought I was going to be doing went out the window. 

As time went on,  I found that there were no schedules and when I thought things where going to happen, they didn't. Plans often changed with no warning.

In many ways this isn't an unusual experience in the world of volunteering and it is very common when working in developing countries for there to be differences in expectations  and differences of pace. It has been a slow process to try and find something useful to do that is beneficial for everyone. But it is been a little frustrating trying to get anything going, to get answers to question on when will things happen, etc, etc but that's how they do things here. The culture a lot more vague here and things happen in their own good time  but it's a learning process and that's why I am here. Hopefully next week should be better. 

Last Tuesday I spent a really interesting day with one of the Red Cross people. Much of the day was spent  at the car and driver licencing place where the Red Cross runs mandatory First Aid classes as part of their Drivers' Education.

While I was waiting for classes to begin I was told that "the boss wanted to see meet". Oh dear, I thought!!!    

I was ushered into this room where I was met by two middle-aged gentlemen who proceeded to interrogate me on why I wasn't married and seemed really keen on setting me up with a local. I had to explain to them that in no uncertain terms that I didn't want to get married but if I changed my mind I would know where to go.

In the afternoon, I sat in on a health class in a primary school, which involved going over the basic concepts of  healthy living, such as drinking clean water, washing hands before touching food etc. The kids seemed to love learning about how to stay healthy.    

Today, I finally got to do something. I worked with them in setting up a blog so that they could promote their programmes and keep people informed. Since 70% of the Red Cross members are young people, it makes sense that they is something on the web.  It was one of my ideas that seemed to get their attention and maybe because blogs are free and are easy to use and, like their website, it doesn't have to be run out of head office.   

It has been fun taking the "Tro Tros" everywhere. Tro Tros are old minibuses that go around he city and are usually packed with people. I try and get one from Tema Station which is this large area packed with Tro Tros as well as market stalls and finding one to go to Nima (where I am staying) involves going around and finding it as there are no specific location where they pick people up from. 

Anyway, I wonder what the weekend will bring and what exciting things will happen. 
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