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Published: April 18th 2008
At the insistence of several avid readers of the blog, I have concluded that I am long over due for my next entry, so here it is! Since I last wrote, I have had the privilege of having my lovely Mum come to visit me! She arrived just before Easter weekend to kick off her 8 day visit to Ghana. The reunion at the airport was sight to behold with both of us waving frantically at each other over the crowd and then meeting in a crashing hug, of course with a few happy-Mummy tears! We decided to stay at a guest house not too far from where I live in order to make sure that Mum was comfortable (in keeping with the needed “creature comforts”!). We spent the first night chatting until the wee hours of the morning - apparently no jet lag for her! The next few days we spent going in and around Accra, showing her where I work, live, go to the market, and getting to meet some of the key people in my life here. It was hit and miss for meeting people the first day, but we had many experiences none the less, the first
being riding the tro tro! And did she ever do it like a pro! I think she found it enjoyable and completely understood the economic and time value of taking it - as she noticed right away, the traffic and driving in Accra is insane - I wasn’t lying! So we took the tro tro to my office and got to meet my boss, and then I took her out for lunch at a little coffee shop near work. From there we went up to Madina for Mum’s first market experience - it was a little crazy to say the least! I had forgotten that Wednesday’s were market days, which means that the place is about three times as crowded with buyers and sellers alike! She held her own though, even if there were a few kids following her and trying to latch onto her! We made it to my seamstresses place unscathed and got a bird’s eye view of the market while trying on our new African print skirts 😊 After the market (and going to the open market butcher with big cows legs on the table to buy meat - oh yeah, she toughed it out!) we went
home to meet Divine, Marie, and my girls for some dinner. We missed Marie, but Mum hit it off with Divine and fell in love with Milli, but who wouldn’t?! She gave out some little gifts that she brought and Milli was completely enthralled by her Canada book 😊
The next day we went into downtown Accra, starting with a stop at Oxford Street in Osu for some coffee and a glance at “obruni town”. From there we went to the Art Market, a gigantic open market right downtown that sells every possible type of art, craft, jewelry, fabric, carvings and pretty much any art that you could possibly imagine! It served as a good one stop shop for souvenirs and we found lots of beautiful things (some for ourselves as well of course!). We then went to buy our bus tickets for our upcoming trip to Cape Coast and ended up getting stuck in the infamous Accra traffic on our way back to the guest house. That night we took it easy and went out for dinner in Madina and called it an early night. The following day was our last in Accra, and we ended up leaving
Bird's Eye View of Madina
Yes those are all people below!
the city! We took the tro tro to a town called Aburi, about an hour from Accra and in the hills to see the botanical garden there. It was a nice day trip, as already Mum was getting tired of the traffic, crowds, and pollution that choke the city, and she got to see some of the hillier, greener landscape that predominate in the hills. Unfortunately the garden wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but we walked around for a while and then had lunch. That night we went back to my place and helped Divine make his infamous beef stew and akple - Mum enjoyed (she was expecting so spicy she would be sweat profusely - Divine told her he went easy on her :P), and although she was having some trouble eating with her hands, she still ate and enjoyed!
From there we made our way to Elmina, a small historic town on the west coast of Accra, right near the bigger city of Cape Coast. We had booked ourselves into a pretty snazzy hotel/resort and got to spend the next couple of days relaxing pool and ocean side, eating yummy food, reading LOTS, and playing oware.
We both realized once we got there that we hadn’t exactly come prepared as neither of us brought enough books, no games, and not enough aloe vera to ward off our SERIOUS burns! I’m sure it’s no surprising to any one that after lying in the direct sun for approximately 8 minutes I couldn’t lie in a bathing suit the next day, but the sun even knocked my dark Mummy down a notch or two! We still managed to play in the waves every day though! We also took a day trip into Elmina to see the town and visit the historic St. George’s Castle. It is the first European building to have been constructed in Sub-Saharan Africa by the Portuguese in the 1400s. It traded many hands over the course of the next several centuries becoming one of the biggest salve trade forts during the years of Dutch and British rule. It was a very moving experience, the history that is embedded in that building is astounding and a heart wrenching experience as you feel as if the power of the people that were held there still lives on. We didn’t take any pictures inside the building as it
felt inappropriate to deface such powerful history with touristy shots, but I did take the opportunity to snap some picture of surrounding Elmina from the top of the castle. Elmina itself is a beautiful quaint town that subsists mainly on salt production and fishing. As the pictures show, there is a harbor that dominates the middle of town that is never lacking for a large crowd, except on Tuesday’s which is the one day of the week when no one fishes - it is considered somewhat of holy day ancestrally and I was told it is illegal to fish on that day! We got to drive around the town a bit more with our driver and saw some other amazing views from the few hills that dot the town.
After our day trip into Elmina, we decided that we had had enough of the beach resort and decided to head back to Accra a day early, which turned out to be a wonderful decision! We got back by mid afternoon and invited Marie to join us for dinner that night. It worked out well as the two of them had only met briefly before we went to Elmina and
To the left is Marie's shop... to the right is where I fetch my water and under the big tree near the back of the picture is my gate :)
the three of us spent a very enjoyable evening chatting and laughing! The next day we went back to my office and this time were able to meet the whole crew - Kofi, Diana, and Enos - so I was glad she got the meet them as they are probably the people I see the most! Then we went back to Botwe to pick up Mum’s bags and had lunch with Marie and Milli, who were both very sad to hear that Mummy was leaving! One of the funniest comments that we kept getting, especially from people who knew me was “Auntie Courtney, why is your Mummy dark and you are light?”. It just didn’t make sense that my mum had black hair and dark skin and I was a white as a ghost! We laughed a lot at that, as clearly the blue-eyed-white-skinned genes over power in our family!
That night was Mum’s departure, and all in all, I think it was a great trip! It was so nice to see her and for her to be able to see my life here. Also, it was an amazing experience for her to get to come to Africa! Who
Mum with the work crew !
L to R - Kofi, Enos, Mum, Diana
would have thought Anne Strutt would make it here?! And I will vouch for her - she was a trouper and did way better then any of us (even she!) gave her credit for! As I know many of you who will read this know my Mum, I asked her to write a few comments about what she thought….
“I found it VERY HOT ... one is always hot, sweaty and sticky but at least you never have to worry about hair and makeup. Accra is a big, bustling city, tons of very aggressive traffic, very dusty, dirty and noisy. There is so much traffic that you could do all your shopping from your car window ... there are always street vendors going car to car selling everything from food, drink, hankies, belts, etc. but not in an aggressive manner. Although one sees poverty it is not necessarily prevalent. Courtney's neighbourhood struck me as "middle class". You just have to remember that their living standards are much different than ours. The guest house that we stayed while in Accra was very nice -- somewhat comparable to an older motel in Canada. The trotro (public transportation system) was a true
Ghanaian experience but extremely effective. The Ghanaian people are very friendly and helpful and always interested to know about you. The food, obviously, is very different -- spicy. I tried a few dishes but it's an acquired taste. But even Western-style food didn't taste the same. And I couldn't get used to eating with my hands! All in all though, I found it a very interesting experience… I was intrigued by the cultural differences in terms of homes, shopping experiences, modes of travel and I found it interesting that, in very general terms, the city life at least, is somewhat the same as ours.”
So all in all it was a great trip and provided me with my always needed break from work and the city! Since Mum has left lots has happened to me as well! On the work front, it has been getting very busy. We have officially began the Global Action Week on Education celebrations, which is a week long global campaign that targets particular issues facing education sponsored by the Global Campaign on Education. This year’s theme is “Quality Education to End Exclusion” and GNECC is the lead agency responsible for coordinating and implementing Ghana’s
national advocacy celebrations. There are a number of activities lined up including a press conference (I made it on Ghanaian national TV!!!), a national durbar, media activities, posting billboards, and regional activities. My boss is currently on a leave of absence and Kofi has replaced him as coordinator and I am feeling much more useful as well as free to do new things that I wanted to do at work! While I still write an inordinate amount of reports (I am a writing MACHINE), I also got to run another training for DEFATs in the Central Region as well as tag along with one of the DEFAT members while he did some tracking in a rural town called Kwaman in the Central Region. It was a lot of fun to actually get to go into a school and do interviews with people. I was a complete novelty to the children there, ten times more so then in Accra! Everywhere I went I was followed around by a group of 3 0 or 40 children all staring and waving, smiling shyly. It was very cute! All hell broke loose though when I “snapped” their picture through a window in one of
the classrooms. When I turned the camera around to show them the picture they went CRAZY! Shouting and waving hands and asking for more! It was too cute, I got some great pictures of tracking and of the children for GNECC. I think the next task that I will embark on here is to create a web site for GNECC. Not that I know how, but I found some free online programs that guide you through it, so I am ready for the challenge!
I have also finally cemented a thesis topic! That is the biggest weight off my shoulders. I will be looking at the effectiveness and challenges of advocacy in African national education coalitions using GNECC as a case study. The research question I am posing is “How do African national education coalitions, stemming from the Dakar Framework for Action, operate as compared to the intended ideals of international agendas, and what challenges does this create for the achievement of advocacy goals?” It’s kind of sad that it took me this long to come up with that considering I am working in the context every day, but I am happy with it and I have access to
all the data I need and more. My goal is to interview various stakeholders in GNECC from the Executive Council and Secretariat staff to Regional Coordinators and local members. As I work at the national level, I have access to all these people and most are familiar with me from having worked here for the last 6 months. I have been told by Kofi and the Chair that I can tag along in the month of May while they do monitoring of each of the regions in order to be able to collect my regional and local interviews. I am very excited to start and to finally stop worrying about thesis!
On the “life” front all is well! I finally began volunteering with the Osu Children’s Library Fund (that I said I was going to do after Christmas… oppps…). It’s been great so far though, I go every Saturday morning and do reading and writing activities with the children, reading one on one and also getting to read at group story time. They always get a pretty big turn out and the center is a really wonderful place for children to be able to come - So many books!
Ten times better then Accra!
I have also met some new friends in Accra who are more my age, so it’s been nice to have people to go out with, especially my new female friend Marie Nkiru! She is great, really friendly and smart and we have lots in common! We usually hang out on the weekends and I enjoy her company! On a not so happy front, my neighbors, the Lawson-Boady’s have moved and taken their sweet children with them! It’s so weird not to hear the kids buzzing around the yard, Papa yelling and calling “Co-tey!”. I took them all out for ice cream on Sunday as a little good bye, but me and Josephine (their mother) are keeping in touch and hopefully will get to plan a few little get together’s before I leave! I do so love those kids 😊
I think that is pretty much it for me. Ghana is as wonderful as ever, I can hardly believe how fast my time is running out, only three and a half months to go! As Mel said in a recent conversation, I’ve been waiting for this for so long and now it’s almost done - seems so anti-climactic! I still
have so much I want to do, so many places in Ghana I want to see, and tons of work to do though, so I’m nowhere near saying my good byes yet! Hope all is well wherever you are and thanks for reading!
Lots of love,
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