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Published: March 19th 2014
It’s taken me to five days to recover, but here it is; my first observations of this wonderful place.
I arrived in Accra, Ghana after a 27 hour trip from Australia via Dubai with few hitches beyond the usual travel niggles. United Arab Emirates Airlines were great as usual. Kotoka International Airport could not be more different to any I have experienced before – either in Africa or in Western world. For a start, my fingerprints were taken as part of the customs and immigration clearing process. Joseph was professional and most polite about his job, but I still found it an affront to my personal identity. It was a great way however to start my adventure however.
Driving in Johannesburg is scary, but driving in Accra is like progressing from the usual rollercoaster ride to the Tower of Terror II (
) back in Dreamworld, Queensland! Traffic is just this crazy, chaotic, functioning mess, where sharing the road with goats, chickens and dogs is the norm. I also quickly found out that you move for taxis or be prepared to be mowed down, as a one young and pregnant woman was – another affront to my senses and just part of the cacophony of noise, smells and vivid colours that are Kasoa. For my sensibilities, a four-wheel drive is an absolute necessity as there are more pot holes, cracks and mounds than dirt road and yet amazingly I also saw little two door bubble cars tackle the roads without concern, cruising either through the missing pieces of road or launching themselves right over them. This I noticed was only possible if the vehicles were going fast enough. I held onto my seat very tightly!
On the way to the house, that is now my home for a period, we stopped in at the office of the Cheerful Hearts Foundation, where I was delighted to meet one of the interns and one of the staff members. They were writing up the daily report on the visit they had just completed to one of the schools; the visit had been to interview the young children on human rights. One of the research projects (My Rights, My Future)
that the organisation is investigating, is whether local children know and understand their basic human rights. I had not considered this before, but after just a few hours of experiencing the country, I could see the value in ensuring responsible citizenship and providing the processes at an individual level for this to occur. It is highly likely that the insights from this research will result in an education campaign on Human Rights in schools. Kofi Annan (http://kofiannanfoundation.org/
), possibly Ghana’s most esteemed citizen and formerly seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, believes in the principle of the equal worth of every human being, but added the context of personal responsibility – “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there”.
Then onto my new home. When I'm not in the office or out in the community, I will be at home or what the owner likes to call the "Jungle", in Peacetown, Kasoa. There are four interns based here, whom I have now met, all young women like me. I discovered that one of the interns works at the local clinic, helping to deliver babies. She has delivered 50 babies in the last two weeks. The other two interns work at the local school, teaching English and Maths. The last intern is working on the Child Trafficking Project and I will be working with her.
The newest game I have been introduced to by the girls is taking bets on how long the power lasts. The first night I was here, the longest the power lasted was 58minutes. I have since adjusted my estimates, after assuming several hours at least. I am however able to estimate more accurately now, changing my approximations to minutes not hours!
Talking to the girls, I've started to re-learn the value of “debriefing”, essentially a process where a person is able to discuss and reflect on an experience and the meanings it has for them to a neutral third party. It helps them “vent” on their frustrations of their day as they grapple with the significant differences in this unique world. Perhaps they were venting and perhaps they were helping me prepare for my stay here. Each intern however was open to telling me the horrors and frustrations encountered in their daily routines, expressing that at least once through each of their stays - when the bugs, dirt, sweat and cultural differences have felt like too much and they feel too disempowered to create change - they have almost "thrown in the towel" and gone home. I'm sure they are all frustrations I will soon feel, but I know that a good debriefing - an opportunity to reflect, attempt to understand and learn from is always more productive than "throwing in the towel ".
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