Published: November 18th 2008November 18th 2008
Oops. So I have just realized that it ihas been 75 days since I last wrote in my blog! I have had e-mail correspondence with some of you...sorry to the rest!!! There is obviously alot to fill you in on, but I will give a summary of what I have been upto (if I can remember it all!!!) The days seem to pass by so quickly as I leave the house (I have moved from Dansoman, living with the family to Labadi, which I now share a house with other expats) between 7:30 and 8:00 AM and get home after work around 6:30 if I do not go out for dinner, or to other activities around the city. Work has become much more exciting as I have several projects to work on, not to mention I have attended conferences and field trips. As I am writing this, the power has gone out, so the chances of me losing my blog so far are pretty high. :( And we are back in action...the power has been going out consistently throughout the country, but I have heard this is unusual because of the election coming up, they usually try to keep the citizens
Speaking of elections....GO OBAMA!!! I went to an election party hosted by an African American...they know how to do parties right here. It was a completely catered event, with beverages provided! I did not stay until the end of the party as that was around 6 AM, so I found out that Obama won the next morning as I closed the gate to my house and walked about 5 steps, when I heard my neighbours chanting "Obama, ooooObama!" while dancing...I joined in the festivities for a few minutes and then continued on my way to work. That day the tro-tro I got in said "Still Clinton." All of the tro's have sayings on the back of them, such as "Still Blessed," or "God Loves You." Anyways I thought it was especially fitting for the day. As I walked to work for the next week (and even today) people have continually yelled "Obama" at me because they think I am American. I always smile and it gives them great joy. The elections are coming up on Sunday, December 7. I am told that we should leave our house that weekend because there might be a bit of chaos in
the area we live in. Luckily Fiona and I have become friends with three guys from South Africa that put telecommunication towers up and the company they work for has put them up in a 7 bedroom house (so a bunch of us now have a weekend home) with air conditioning and running water! Running water is extremely exciting...it can even be heated if you wish...you see, I haven't had running water (sometimes no water at all) in two and a half months. The city releases water to our part of the city on Sunday's, but two Sunday's it did not get released, so we eventually had to buy water. Several times I have had "sachet" showers, which are these drinking water packets that are a bit smaller than a small ziploc bag, but you tear off a corner with your teeth, and suprisingly you get a decent pressure flowing from it to wash out your shampoo and conditioner. We also scraped our tank with for the dirty water to shave our legs and flush the toilet with. Tricia and I contrapted a great little system to do this with by tying a skipping rope (donated to me by the
This is right beside the Cape Coast Castle
previous renter) to a bucket, then using a broom to collect the water. I should mention that this took place after I spent the day on a private island in a lagoon near a town called "Ada" The house had an infinity pool, white sand, a speed boat, a mosaic tiled staircase...it was nicer than many homes in Canada. The house on this island was 3 stories as well, with cooks (I had the best pizza ever that day!!!)
I have been on several weekend trips now to towns such as Cape Coast (again), Elmina, Anomabo, Keta, Prampram, and Ada. Cape Coast and Elmina have the castles which the slave trade was housed. Anomabo is a town 30 minutes before Cape Coast, where there is a beach resort. It was completely relaxing and alot of fun. I traveled to Cape Coast, Elmina and Anomabo with a girl named Andrea who is from the US that I worked with for 6 weeks. We were able to watch the first presidential debate in the lobby of the resort, which thrilled us to no end (despite the debate starting at 2 AM here).
I traveled to Keta with a British guy
Making foufou...a local dish
This is how foufou (a local dish) is made by pounding cassava and plantain together. I had discussed this practice in my first or second blog.
named Paul and two Ghanaians named Desmond, Foufou, and Foufou's girlfriend Daniella who is from Gabon and schooling in Ghana. Desmond is actually from Keta, which is a town that was built on a sandbar and used to be a major port for Ghana, however sandbars are extremely dynamic environments and change over time (naturally), so now homes have been abandoned in the middle of the lagoon due to flooding. Paul, Desmond, and Frank (from Keta also, but now lives in Buffalo) have started an organization that has supports a 3rd Division football (soccer) team called the 'Keta Sandlanders' for boys aged 16 to 20ish. They have provided them with a house, pay (which is very rare), food, uniforms, etc. The house is not elaborate by any means as they sleep on thin foam mattresses on the floor, and their pay is decent by Ghana standards. The organization provides them with a chance to continue playing soccer, while providing a community activity, and raises funds for the community itself as it is a town with minimal infrastructure, for instance there is one orthodox practitioner for every 22,000 people. For more information on the organization, please visit this website: www.ketasandlanders.com
It was a great weekend, despite the electricity being out fore more than a day (there was a blackout in the entire country), and just our luck, the battery in the car died during the black out...this made for some very interesting times involving a guy that calls himself "Red Dog" biking through town to get a new battery and bringing it back to us. Needless to say, words can't describe the situation, but it was a typical day in Ghana. The weekend got more interesting on Sunday, after the football match between Keta and Togo when we had planned to head out right after (at about 5:30...we didn't end up leaving Keta until 4 AM) as there were a few minor hiccups, such as 6 of the Togo players getting arrested at the Ghana-Togo border. You see, the border closes at 10 PM and they didn't get through by then (I am assuming because the line was long or they got sidetracked on their way back because the border is only 30 minutes away). A common practice is for people to drive on the beach to get back into Togo or Ghana. The Togolese players were caught, so Frank
I walked along the beach with Andrea. This little girl asked me to take a photo.
had to get them released by immigration. Anyways I returned to Accra by 6:30 AM, just in time to take a nap and head to work. It sounds like a chaotic weekend, which it totally was...but it was a ton of fun. All of these random situations are what make the experience.
I officially love the markets. They are complete chaos, but loads of fun. The big market in central Accra is called "Makola." One day I was there and Tricia, Kelly, and I had to stop three times to dance...when do people just grab you to start dancing in the streets in Canada?! One of the times a woman pulled me into her shop area to dance and the song was for one of the political parties here in Ghana. One of my dance moves however was a hand signal for a different party and she not too pleased (in a funny way). Its interesting how they are getting the young people involved in the elections here through songs and hand actions for their party slogans such as "moving forward," "change," etc.
Makola market is packed with anything and everything, and its a hotspot for the purchase
This little boy also asked if I had a "snapper" (camera). Please note the rubbage on the beach...the beach is not a place of relaxation in developing countries.
of second hand clothes. Its funny because you might be in a small town, or on a random tro-tro and see someone wearing a shirt from the town you are from in North America or Ireland for instance. My friend Lori lived in a very small town in Togo, one time when she travelled to an even smaller town an hour away she saw numerous shirts from the small town she is from in North Carolina--clearly the shipment of clothes came from her area, which is kind of cool. A few weekends ago we were at a beach called Kokrobitey (about 30 minutes from Accra) and a rasta was sitting on a fishing boat wearing a football jersey from the town Fiona's mom is from in Ireland. He didn't know the town, but he knew that it was an Irish jersey. Its funny how globalization works....
We managed to have Halloween festivities here at a restaurant/lounge called Venus. The owner ended up going all out with decorations (borrowed from another bar in the city), made gravestones with styrofoam (we had a decoration party the night before) where we carved watermelons, which are much more tasty than pumpkins by the
way!!! Fiona traveled back to Halifax for a couple weeks (she has been here for one year), so she brought back some Halloween costumes. I dressed up as an angel, Fiona was a pirate, Kelly was a greek goddess, and Tricia was a gypsey. It was a night filled with good times (starting off with walking out of our house, down the street past all of our neighbours who had no clue why were dressed so strange...)
I cannot believe how fast Christmas is approaching...I have decided to take 2 weeks off work as I am planning to travel to the Northern region and around the country during that time. Although I don't have an exact plan in place, it is somewhat impossible to do so with the unreliable transport throughout the country. My friend Kelly lives in Bolgatanga so I will start by visiting her there and then we will travel around the country together. She stayed with me for one week over Halloween and was completely ecstatic that you could buy cheddar cheese here in the city at one of the grocery stores...its funny to learn the things that really please you while living here. I have
become obsessed with grilled cheese sandwiches (Kelly's new infatuation).
Now onto work....we hosted an "Expert Wastewater Meeting" at the beginning of October that 30 people from around the world attended. It was enlightening to get such an indepth understanding of the health issues and benefits associated with wastewater use as a form of irrigation in urban and periurban agriculture. We traveled to so-called "treatment" plants...but out of approximately 58 treatment plants in the country, only 7 are "functioning." Functioning is a broad term in this sense because, for instance one of the sites dumps raw sewage directly into the ocean...it is a devastating site to see as an environmentalist. One treatment plant is equivalent to what you would see in any developed country but it is not functioning because a pump broke and was fixed once or twice...but the capacity was not there to maintain the plant. The treatment plant had been built by an organization which failed to build the capacity within the city structure to be self-sustaining. Today it is completely shut down with just a security guard sitting at the gate. I am currently working on a project that will be implemented next year to start
a social marketing campaign to promote behavioural change toward handwashing and vegetable washing and all round better sanitation in the food network from farm to fork (mainly targeted at the market women who sell the vegetables and the consumers) in order to reduce diarrhoeal diseases. By creating awareness about the importance of hygiene for better health, the use of wastewater irrigation is "safer" because farmers are implementing ways to reduce the pathogens, so if there is pathogen reduction at each level in the network, peri-urban and urban agriculture can be viewed as healthy. The agriculture that is being produced within the city is cheaper to grow due to the lack of pesticides and fertilizers needed and are bigger due to the higher nutrient content in the wastewater.
Well, I think I have managed to cover a fair bit of my life in the last 75 days...be sure to check out the pictures I have posted (FINALLY). Many of them are on Facebook as well. I hope you guys aren't getting the winter blues--I am definitely enjoying the sunshine...but I missed having a fall! It would be good to hear from all of you!
There are more photos below