Monday, August 21, 2006

A small taste of Ghana

Hello! First off, if you would like to receive an email whenever I put up a new post, please let me know by sending me an email. This will save you from having to check back all the time. Also, I have fixed the blog so you don’t need an account to post a comment! Feel free to say hey anytime.

It has been a while since my last post, and for very good reason. I have been super busy here in Ghana! Well first, I got quite sick with malaria, which was an incredibly eye-opening experience. It was unfortunate that it happened so early in my placement, but I must say, I can now relate to some of the challenges of life in sub-saharan Africa. I’ll spare you the details, but basically it is pretty scary to get malaria for the first time, especially when you are not sure of your surroundings and don’t have your ‘mum’ to take care of you!!! Not that I’m a momma’s boy, but man it would have been nice to get that ol’ fashioned sick treatment that I got back in high school (many, many years ago). The reality of life here in Ghana is that malaria is common, especially in the rainy season where the conditions are ripe for mosquito lovin’ and breedin’. Almost every day I meet a friend or colleague who caught malaria. Thanks to prophylactic drugs like doxycycline, we westerners are spared its crippling blow. It’s still possible to get sick, but it is less severe and typically not life threatening. Furthermore, we can afford the 47,000 cedis (~ $6 Can) it costs to get the highly effective artenisinin treatment if we do get sick. A few of those precious pills and you’re feeling better in a day or two. Unfortunately however malaria can hit Ghanaians pretty hard. The cost of artenisinin treatment is prohibitive for all but the well off here, and many people will stick with chloroquine treatment which costs about $0.20 Can. The problem is that due to drug resistance, chloroquine is typically not effective in West Africa any longer. So I have seen close co-workers of mine suffer through relapses malaria while taking questionable treatment.

I have recently been busy moving into my new place. Thanks to the help of my colleague Robin and her ‘brother’ Rafik, I found a great room living with Rafik’s family. Needless to say, I have had to make some adjustments in the way I live. Long gone are the days where I could throw my dirty clothes into a machine, press a button, and they are clean. Laundry is a workout! But I kind of enjoy it, at least for now. We are fortunate to have a faucet here in our yard with water that runs one or two days a week, so we can collect enough water in drums and buckets for food, bathing, and washing. We are doing well in that respect. No toilet here, but there is a latrine in the compound house behind us. However, by Ghanaian standards we’re living pretty large. We’ve got a nice plot of maize (corn) right next to the house, and mango, guava and orange trees that will provide us some serious nutrition in the fall. Mmmmmmm.

Work is great too. I share an office with the hardest working man in Ghana: Mr. Sheref. His energy, focus, and passion for development have been incredibly motivating. It gets pretty crazy around the office most days, with papers flying, people entering to greet us every three minutes, and occasional power outages. Add some humid African air, subtract one air conditioner (it died three weeks ago), and you get one heck of an atmosphere. I have discovered some amazing treats here that help with the focus in the office. One – Nescafe! (its terrible, but packed with caffeine), two – cookies from all over the world, three – fresh bananas delivered every day. So good.

But there is more to work than the treats, the madness, and the dehydration. I am beginning to pick up where Robin left off, and I have begun to plan my year here. I will spend this week solidifying an ‘action plan’ which will likely begin with learning everything I can about ‘participatory rural assessments’, adult education, agricultural extension, and projects/activities carried out at MoFA. The idea is to move to a smaller town in a district of the Northern Region, and to carry out an assessment of MoFA activities, strengths/weaknesses, and room for improvement. Most important however is my plan to live and work with farmers in the districts to see how MoFA attempts to help them in their activities. This hopefully will lead to an understanding of the shortcomings of MoFA’s approach, and ideas for strengthening MoFA’s ability to serve rural farmers by understanding their needs and wants. If all goes well I will fine tune our approach and create a program that short term Junior Fellow volunteers can carry out in the 18 districts of the Northern Region next summer.

Just a quick description of the photos scattered throughout this post. The first pictures of school kids were taken while exiting the Maacos hotel here in Tamale. I decided to take a quick photo out the front door, and I was attacked by a horde of screaming kids! They demanded many photos in front of the Happy Kids primary school, then literally dragged me to the Mariam International Junior Secondary school behind the hotel for more pictures. A riot ensued, kids got trampled, and one of the teachers and I ended up pulling several crying children from the dust and chaos. I am happy to report that no one was seriously hurt. See if you can spot a pair of shoes from one of the rioting kids who got overturned in the madness. The photos of dancing and drumming were taken at the Dagomba chief’s palace in Yendi during a regular gathering to honour him. It was quite the experience, and I hope to post more photos here soon. Finally, the last few pictures were taken in Salaga where I made many friends while watching some killer football. Cheers!


At 2:11 PM, Blogger Liette said...

How you doin'?
It sounds like you're adapting to your new surroundings. Your photos are fabulous! Stay out of the way of those pesky mosquitoes. ;-)

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Christian , awesome journal so far. Enjoyed the wonderful pictures,I am so glad that the people accept you with open arms, literally...Love you lots and keep up the good work Love Mom

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Rob Kearney said...

Your blog gives us a great idea of what life is like in Ghana and the issues you facing you the local people. I particularly enjoyed the picutres which are very evocative and technically wonderful

Keep it up.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Rick said...

Hey Christian, so glad you're having a great time so far (except for the Malaria thing)! Keep up the good work. You're an amazing guy!! Please put me on your mailing list for the next update. I hope to learn from your experiences. Talk to you soon. Rick.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Chichin, I am so proud of your strength and determination. You are quite an inspiration to others. Keep up the great work. We love you and miss you much!
Love Kelly

At 5:07 AM, Anonymous Karishma said...

Hey Christian!

I can't believe you’re actually in Ghana! How things have changed since convocation. Apart from the malaria, you seem to be adapting quite well. (I’m not so sure how well I would have faired with the latrines). I really wish I could be there with you but since I can’t I’m glad I’m getting the chance to experience life in Ghana through your eyes. I wish you all the success in your endeavours overseas. Please add me to your mailing list. As your mom said, you truly are an inspiration to all of us.

At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Sue Fields said...

I am very proud of what you are giving back to the world. I keep checking to see your photos and they are so intriging to think you are there on the other side of the world to us. Best wishes and eat well!! Love Sue Fields (Hi from Ryan and Mary Ellen).

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Sue Fields said...

Hi Christian May 27, 2007.
I'm back again. I sent your email address/blog to a friend. Jodie and you have so many inspirations alike and I knew she would love to see how you are out there and ask lots of questions. She will be going with Doctors Without Borders in October 07 and just got back from Australia. She will give you all the details. She is the daughter of my best friend and we have known them for 35 years as Jodie and Suzy are Ryan and Steph's ages. She presently is in the Guelph area. Her parent's email address for now is, in case you can connect. She'll send you lots of background info on her. She's a gem!!!! Look for a message from Jodie Pipes.
Best Wishes, Sue Fields

At 4:56 AM, Blogger jamis said...

hey christian am so proud of you and all the brotherhood love that you have given to as during your stay in Tamale Ghana, i can't believe that i am united states now,haha thay is funy, i think life is difeferent in this world wherever God place you.i just want you to keep it up and thank you for all your suport to my country Ghana Tamale love from your brother Aziz and greetings from Kentucky

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At 5:22 AM, Blogger Sneakyteaky said...

Hello. I relish in what you do...I wish I could do it.

I have just sponsored a 10-yr. old girl through Christian Children’s Fund. Her name is Warama Mumumi and she lives in your village (Ghana). Don’t tell her please as it is just of this late that I am mailing this package to sponsor her today, Sunday.

Can you tell me of the official language? I do believe it is English and do you think that I could slip the family twenty bucks Canadian just to start, without the Fund finding out? What is the currency, and where can I send it in secret?

They sent me a picture of her, She looks so pretty although I think she should grow her hair…Maybe it’s easier to manage…I donno. The story of the family is sad to me.

If you know the family then Mum’s the word. I just want to send something extra for her parents as I have already committed to sponsor Mumuni with great Christian love.

I wish I could do more.
Teresa of ontario Canada.

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