Monday, January 28, 2013

Our introduction to Ghana

Salut! (Good morning in Buli!)

The team leaders arrived in Tamale on January 4th 2013 after a rather adventurous 15 hour bus journey from Accra (the roads were often non-existant; the bus broke down 3 times; we endured a crazily long wait in a bus depot/petrol station/midnight market).  We three had a couple of days to acclimatise to Tamale and Ghana, get to know the International Service Ghana office staff, and feel settled before the volunteers arrived – we even learned a few phrases of Dagbani….which turned out to be quite pointless for me because they speak Buli in the Builsa district!  The few days we had before the volunteers arrived were spent drinking a lot of Star (beer), and trying a variety of Ghanaian dishes, many of which were delicious.  We, of course, also planned the induction week and began the initial planning process for our projects.  It was a very relaxing, yet productive 3 days, and when the volunteers arrived early on the Tuesday (8th January) morning, I felt ready to lead them in what I think is a really exciting project!

Induction week was a lot of fun, but more importantly set all three Ghana teams on the road to success.  We began the induction process with a few games I learned whilst working at summer camps, and some that Zoe (Tamale team leader)  had up her sleeve too.  The games really helped break the ice, and help the national volunteers feel part of the team.  More importantly, the games gave me the opportunity to take photos of everybody….I somehow managed to capture some interesting poses and facial expressions…..
Will decide he would audition to be an Abercrombie model instead of playing the game
Festus and Abigail showing us how to dance Sandema style
Not to be outdone by Poppy, Will, and Jenna....the Chicken Dipper is a legitimate dance move......

During induction week we were also lucky enough to visit a local Pito brewery and sample some of this local beer…

Fermented and non-fermented Pito.....tastes a little bit like bile.....
Jenna tasting Pito

After visiting the brewery we then visited a local Diviner, who mixes tenets of religion (mainly Islam) and spirituality to guide, advise, and prescribe his clients.  Many of the group had consultations with the diviner, who remarkably was able to tell them things about themselves and their lives, which perhaps were not obvious facts.  There were some things which any Tom, Dick, or Harry probably could have inferred, such  as  “you have finished school”, “you are well educated”, “you enjoy travelling”.  Most of this information came from our tour guide, Lawrence’s description of the group, and the fact that we were a group of Brits in Ghana.  I had a private consultation with him, and whilst I would like to believe what he says will happen (I will be getting promoted soon, my work is very important and to be taken seriously, and that I will be paid handsomely) I am still a little sceptical.  I also wasn't impressed that he told the tour guide he should take me as his wife……hmm.

Apart from playing games, and going on cultural trips, induction week was also very informative and helped each team prepare for the coming three months.  We had sessions on Health, presented by a UNICEF worker, visits from VSO volunteers working in Tamale, we met with our project partners to do some initial planning and learn more about the objectives of the projects, we had discussions about social media, blogging, and communication, as well as discussions about team work, project management, monitoring and evaluation.

By the end of induction week, everyone appeared to feel comfortable in Ghana and prepared to move onto their project locations.  For my team, we were moving to Sandema, in the Upper East region of Ghana.  It was a two hour drive to Bolgatanga, where we said our final goodbyes to the TradeAid team, and then another 1hr15 drive onto Sandema.  Sandema is slightly more rural than Tamale and Bolgatanga, and the atmosphere in the bus, and facial expressions changed from smiling and excited to slightly more anxious as buildings, cars, tarmacked roads, and city life developed into miles and miles of dusty red roads and fields, spotted with the odd village.  Sandema, however, has proved to be quite a quaint, Ghanaian town and we are constantly been greeted by the locals waving at us as we walk or drive past, shaking our hands, teaching us Buli, or hearing the children shout “Smiley, Smiley” (their name for White people).

Induction week was enormous fun, and an absolute pleasure to share a week in Tamale with 15 wonderful volunteers and the IS Ghana team.  But now it is time to get down to work and see what life in Sandema is like……

- Tracy

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