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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The End of the Beginning

So, the new team has arrived, or “new team is in”, as you would say in Ghanaian English. After a gruelling two-sides-of-a-triangle flight from London via Istanbul, we touched down in Accra on the 8th of January and flew North to Tamale in a preposterously tiny, propeller-driven, aircraft. Despite some pretty horrific turbulence, a bout of air-sickness afflicting Rob Cooper, and a very bumpy landing, we came to a halt on the runway in just about one piece.

After a few days in Tamale, acclimatising to the heat, planning our project, and attempting to grasp the fundamentals of the Buli language, the “Sandem Mandem” (as we came to be known) once again hit the road and completed the long drive into the wild, wild North and arrived at our new home for the next quarter of a year: Sandema.

We have been here for just over a week now, and are settling in nicely. Already, we have identified our favourite eating spots and made friends with plenty of the local people, which has not exactly been hard, since everybody is so incredibly welcoming and interested in our project. On Monday we were formally received by the Paramount Chief and his Elders at the Palace, which was a great honour and a great way to signify the “end of the beginning” of our assimilation into the community.

Very quickly, we made the decision to prioritise our efforts with regards to the New Era soap production business which, due to recent cost inflation, is currently operating at a loss. Therefore, we have immediately thrown our efforts into sourcing cheaper raw materials, securing funding with which to reinvest and revive the business, and researching the possibility of exporting the soap internationally in order to improve profit margins and provide the employees with a more stable and secure livelihood.

However, it’s not all been hard work; we’ve also managed to find time for a bit of fun. At the weekend we hosted the team from Bolgatanga and had a lovely evening with them on Friday night at Konifah Guesthouse before exploring Sandema market, having a bonfire, and treating them to Liam’s fantastic culinary ability and Oliver Ashmore’s legendary hosting skills on Saturday.

Oliver Buxton even proved himself to be quite the socialite and, having met DJ Active of Radio Builsa, secured a spot on the station where he was able to chat about his hopes and ambitions for the LIFE project and play a few tunes. Early feedback suggests Shaggy’s Mr. Boombastic went down very well with the local community, although Oliver’s requests to be known as “Mr. Lover Lover” have met with a more luke-warm reception.

It’s been a great first week in Sandema for the “Sandem Mandem”, and we’re already sad that we only have ten more to look forward to.

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