Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Getting started in Tamale

Before I get started, I just want to send a huge THANK YOU to all of you who have helped to make my placement here in Ghana possible. Your financial support has been much appreciated, and your morale support is tremendous! Thank you sooooo much.

Want to hear more about Ghana?? During my first weeks here I have been greeted by hundreds of Ghanaians at many food stands and street corners, in taxis and tro-tros (crazy overloaded mini- buses), and in our hotels. People are excited to see a ‘Saminga’ (white guy), and have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable. I must say, I have never witnessed such hospitality and welcoming as I have here in Ghana! All of Tamale feels like a welcome home; people hanging out on benches always invite me over for friendly conversation, and many have taken time to help this confused looking foreigner to bargain a taxi price or find the best food. Ghanaians are peaceful and warm people, and are often seen helping one another out. Their smiles are wide and genuine. Women freely hand off their children to strangers to help them off of buses, and men will go out of their way to help each other pushing a broken down car or lifting heavy crates onto a truck. It is just amazing.

There are MANY things that this crotchety old westerner found difficult to get used to in my first weeks. First, privacy is hard to come by! When you make a new friend, the first thing they will ask is ‘where do you live?’ You will likely receive a visit when you wake in the morning and when you return from work at night! Second, the food is incredibly good, but hard for your digestive system to get accustomed to at first!! A few ‘unpleasant’ side-effects from the Banku, TZ, Kinkei, and fou-fou have taught me to pace myself and to acclimatize before digging into a full Ghanaian diet. Third, 6am is sleeping in!!! This is perhaps the toughest one for this seasoned student! Busses often leave at 5am to the villages, and so I have been witness to many busy pre-dawn streets lined with women fetching water, women preparing the day’s food for sale, and women sweeping garbage and dirt from the roadways. Hmmmm… is it just me, or do the women here seem to do all of the work?! Fourth, the chaos!!!! You can’t catch a tro-tro ride without some kind of mad pushing and shoving to get into or out of your seat. Add that to filling the tro-tro with at least twice the recommended capacity of people, and you start to feel a little uneasy. Despite all of the necessary adjustments, all of these things have made my first weeks an exciting time.

So I am trying to learn Dagbani, the language of the Dagomba people in the central part of the Northern Region. Many greetings are easy to remember – ‘good morning’ is (in phonetics) ‘da-si-ba’. The response is ‘Naaaaaaaa!’ (meaning good or fine). ‘How is the coolness (of the morning)’ is ‘too-ma-soom’. The response to this is ‘Naaaaaaa!’. Good afternoon is ‘An-tir-eh’. The response is……. ‘Naaaaaaa!’. And so on. There are some greetings that deviate from this pattern, but I haven’t got those down yet, and I’ll leave them out for now. People at work will try to trip me up by throwing in a ‘how is your husband?’ or something. So when I reply Naaaaaa, they’re rolling with laughter! I also have finally received my first Ghanaian name, courtesy of a friendly family in Karaga. It is ‘Wuni Zoya’, meaning ‘God is Great!’. Not bad.

Thanks to the spirited head-butting of an Italian player in the world cup recently, and because apparently bald white men are hard to tell apart, I constantly hear people yelling to me from a distance ‘Zidane!, Zidane!’. I reply with a head butt motion, which is received with roaring laughter every time! I greeted some guys in the market who were calling me Zidane, and they honestly thought I was the real thing. They asked, ‘what are you doing here Zidane!?, why are you in Ghana!?’. Crazy. I should have signed some autographs for fun.

In my first weeks here I have visited many district capitals to see what the EWB Junior Fellows (JFs) have been up to, and to meet with members of MoFA as well as farmers and their families. I have visited Yendi, Damongo, Salaga, and Karaga so far, each with a multi hour tro-tro ride over insanely bumpy roads. Most of my time has been spent with the JFs and MoFA personnel, however I managed a little excursion to a farming village called Zakoli, where I got a small taste of rural life (see below). The JFs have been busy carrying out Adult Education (AE) workshops with Agric Extension Agents (AEAs) and other members of MoFA in their district, so I was able to see how things were working. The AEAs are a primary focus for training since their job is to work directly with farmers to communicate ‘best practices’ for farming that hopefully will lead to better food security. The AE workshops have primarily been focused on promoting a shift towards valuing results in MoFA’s work rather than counting ‘activities’ as accomplishments. In one example, MoFA has traditionally counted success as the number of farmer’s workshops or demonstrations an AEA will carry out in a season, without any measure of what farmers have taken away from these activities. A shift in focus on the actual ‘outcomes’ of these activities will hopefully lead to an appreciation of farmers needs and more effective teaching or guidance. Through activities such as dramas, group brainstorming and discussion, and creating workplans, the participants of the AE workshops are encouraged to explore the connections between their work and the impact it can have on helping farmers escape poverty. From what I have seen, the response has been very promising. I have witnessed many AEAs in intense discussion over how to better serve the farmers by changing their outreach approach. Pretty cool stuff.

So finally, here are a few pictures of myself in the village of Zakoli, just outside of Yendi, which is about 2-3 hours from Tamale. During our trip I had the chance to visit the farm of a man named Alhasson, where I learned much about farming Maize, Shea nuts and groundnuts (peanuts). When we visited the village, Elisa, Robin and I helped a bit with the processing to see what the women’s work was like. I was amazed at the amount of time and energy that went into preparing the nuts once they were harvested! It seems that the men work in the fields, usually with the equipment such as a tractor (if available), and the women basically do everything else! Anyhow, we helped to break open the groundnuts and also to stir the roasting Shea nuts, which will be made into Shea butter. More on that later. Enjoy the pictures!


At 7:38 PM, Blogger Aunt Sandy said...

Hi Christian, Taking a break at work and having one of the younger co-workers helping me to post a comment to your blog.....this is all very foreign to me. Anyway, enjoying this very much and the pictures are wonderful. Sounds like things are going well for you and I am glad for that. My girls have been sharing your stories with my grandchildren (they are horrified regarding the "toilet" conditions...hahaha. Take care of yourself and keep safe. Love, Aunt Sandy

At 6:18 PM, Blogger kevin d said...

Hey Zidane! hahaha! That's great. It's so good to hear from you and know that you are doing well. Keep up the good work bro! Take care. Dupont.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger marie said...

Hey Beaudj!
I'm glad you're finally being recognized for the soccer hooligan that you are, even if it is mistaken identity. The pictures are amazing. I'm curious to hear more about your living conditions... you're with a family, right? 'Glad to hear all is well. If you continue to have a hard time with the food let me know and I'll send you some poutine. cheers, marie.


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