Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Work at Last

Ok for those of you wondering if I am in Ghana to have fun or do some work here goes.

If you have read any earlier blogs you will know that I am out here to advice a network of NGO's - Coalition Of Volunteering Organisations Ghana (COVOG) on their Organisational Development.

I have been working closely with the Executive Committee on a number of areas of the organisation/network's development and have been planning and preparing for a two day conference, where I am to facilitate the consultation with the members.
So not that much! Ahh where are all my VAC mates when I need them. No to be fair they have been really helpful; I couldn't have done my work out in Ghana without the constant help from my friends and collegues in Cardiff.

The conference took place on the 25th and 26th March and we had a good turn out. They loved my wacky, creative consultation methods and even put up with me walking around bare foot as I was meant to be resting my foot.
I would say the two days were successful and I feel COVOG got a lot out of it. The report is available for anyone who wants a copy - well maybe not anyone, you have to be nice to me.
I also got interviewed by the media, both TV and newspaper and hopefully will be sent copies. So when I get back to Cardiff maybe my head will not fit through the door.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Bolgatanga Experience

Finally made it to Bolgatanga, met up with Katherine and Laura for a drink on Commercial Street, in the Street View Spot. And what a view we have right over the open ditch. Which unfortunately did not see before I fell in. Yes that's right walked straight into an open ditch.

To be fair it was dark and I was on the phone. But these Ghanaian men are so strong one just got hold of my arm and lifted me right out.

Anyway we had to buy sachet water to wash of the gunge and what a sight I was. At that point we didn't realise the extent of the injuries.

At the hotel we had to sneak me into Katherine's room, luckily she had hot water and we managed to get some salt and do a hot salty water soak.

The foot just wouldn't stop bleeding the next day I had to go to hospital. To cut a long story short cause it took me all day in Hospital. To be told possibly broken toe, torn tendons and bruised ribs.
I thought I better leave Bolgatanga before I cause any more trouble and got the night bus back to Accra. I had to sit at the front and have my foot elevated all the way.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Crazy Journey Into the Unknown North

Well I just decided I needed to get out of Accra for a few days, a long weekend was in order, Katherine was in Bolgatanga for two and a half weeks and it would be good to travel while she was up there.

So got to the bus station on Thursday evening (20 minutes before they close) to see if I could get a bus to Bolgatanga - no buses direct to Bolgatanga the next day, but could get an overnight bus to Tamale - I'll take it I said to the nice lady behind the counter, who informed me that the bus will reach Tamale at about 3am and I can sleep at the Bus Station until the Tro Tro station opens at 6am, and I can get a Tro to continue my journey. A bit scary but also a crazy adventure.

Well did half a day at work got to the Bus Station at 2pm, as instructed to check in for a 3pm departure, the bus ended up not leaving till after 4.30pm. Oh well I suppose less of a wait in Tamale, before continuing my journey

The journey itself was OK, only in that it took me 21 hours to reach my first destination - Langbensi a little village that welcomed me with a red carpet (notice the red dusty road) every item of clothing turned a beautiful rust colour - now I know why people just don't wear white

Stayed with another volunteer Sam in his five lovely round huts - his room, the chicken house, the guest room, bathroom and kitchen all surrounding a middle court yard. Ahh this is the life, I could stay here forever, only the temperature is 44-45 degrees during the day and cools down to around 38 during the night you can actually feel the heat burning on your skin even in the shade.

We got invited by a local family to dinner and there I learnt to pound Foufou - Foufou tastes wonderful especially with groundnut soup, but traditionally takes hours of laborious work to prepare. The plantain or yam and cassava is boiled first. Then you pound and pound and pound (these Ghanaian women are strong!), until the mix is soft enough to swallow without first needing to chew it. Apparantly I was just carressing the foufou with my attempt to pound it. I even found it difficult lift the pestle back out again.

The next day we went to the Nakpanduri escarpment in Gambaga, they told me I would be able to swim in the river at the bottom, decided not to once arrived, but still had a wonderful time and the picnic we had was the best; Goats Cheese and Tomato sandwiches - the Ghanaians can laugh as much as they want about goats milk, but they're the ones missing out.

In sweet little Langbensi I managed to find a shoe shop and it beats Jimmy Choos any day. These little numbers are handmade from recycled car tyres and yes they are all the rage in the red dusty streets of Langbensi. They had just my size and I was even able to have to them slightly altered as I waited, beat that for customer service.

While in Langbensi to go with the red dusty roads the only vegetable available were lovely red tomatoes and red onions. But there was enough of them even for me

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Independance Weekend

6th of March marks Ghana's Independance day, meaning that it is a long weekend and Monday a Bank holiday. In true British Style we decided to head to the coast for some fun.

Seven of us arranged to go to the Volta Regoin (East of Accra) to a place called "Meet Me There" cool name - we thought so.

We stayed in lovely chalets and had a wonderful time swimming in the lagoon and walking along the beach where I spotted VAC. They seem to be everywhere!

The place was idylic and a real change from Accra, there were no tourist and people trying to sell you anything and the staff were fantastic.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Meeting at Three/ Meeting Three

Wehay meeting members of the network, get to go out the office.

Nii my programme manager said he had set up a meeting for me to meet all the network members - seeing as I haven't been able to get a definite answer to how many members there are, and the number varies from 10 -30 depending on the time of day I was a bit excited.

The meeting was arranged at the office of one of the members so that I could have a trip out.

Here in Ghana if you have an official work related meeting you get driven there by your own personal driver in a huge car - maybe VAC could consider a similar scheme?

Now the person whose office we went to was obviously there for the meeting, and it was productive, but without the other network members the amount we could discuss was limited.

I finally left after about an hour, only to meet one of the network members arriving for the meeting now over an hour late. It was decided that he would accompany me back to my office and we would meet there. Went well and once finished I showed him up to Nii's office, where I was told that Mr.... was on his way. It was now 4.50pm and office hours are 8-4pm. Anyway as it is only my second week i figured I better wait. Finally finished at 6pm.

When I was told meeting at three, little had I Known that it would be three separate meetings at three different times. No-one apologised for being late, people are just so laid back.

When someone says "I'm on my way" that could mean I will be with you some time today/ this week. This is going to take some getting used to

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Well I have now been in work for just over a week. I share an office with Katherine, who I met on my first day in Ghana, in fact we were sharing a hotel room during the In Country Training. We both started here on the same day. Katherine is from Canada and we are both here on short term placements and luckily we really get on well.

Our office is small but we like it.

I am here to work with The Coalition Of Volunteering Organisations as their Organisational Development Advisor. Isn't that a fancy title.

They have asked me to advice them on their:

  • Structure
  • Policies and procedures
  • Focus of Organisation
  • Communication Channels

They would also like me to produce a members directory and do some capacity building of individual organisations.

To top it all I have a two day retreat to plan and facilitate at, in three weeks time. So I may be just a little busy for the next few weeks.

Am still loving it here, and am really getting used to the heat, food and people.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Welcome to Ghana

I know I have not been in touch for a few days- had to Internet sorry.

We moved out of our hotel on Saturday and were all shipped of to various regions of Ghana ready for our placements. Some of the new recruits had 15- 18 hour journeys.

The 7 of us staying in Accra still had no idea where our accommodation would be or who we would be sharing with and no-one could tell us. Whenever we would ask we would be told tomorrow you will be told and tomorrow never came. Apparently this is the Ghanaian way if they don't know they will never admit it they just say I'll tell you tomorrow - taxi drivers do it too no-one will admit they don't know - Welcome to Ghana as one of the existing volunteers here said when she was explaining this to us, but not everyone gets the British sarcasm as someone got up at this point and said thank you and genuinely meant it.

Any way got to my apartment finally. The water was off (no running water), the gas cylinders were empty and apparently you have to go and get them filled up, no more AC and to top it all the electricity went out- Welcome to Ghana for real.

So to make up, some of us spent a girlie day on Sunday at a really nice hotel lounging by the pool. Ahh this is the life.

Today first day at work, I traveled in on a Tro Tro, the only way to explain a Tro Tro is that it is a bit like a minibus that drives past and the 'mate' shouts out the window the direction or uses hand signals which I am just about learning. You then get on this Tro Tro and at every stop depending on where you are sat you could end up having to get off to let passengers on and off. It is the cheapest form of traffic and great fun as long as you have sense of humour and don't mind hitting your head- which is what I seem to do every time I get off.

I thought I would have a nice easy day the Ghanaian way, it was all going well I arrived at 8.30, was told to wait in the lobby and met my Line Manager (at 9am), who had just flown back from the Philippines the day before and he said he would see me around 10 -11am. Yes a nice easy day I thought and then I would go for some lunch.

Oh no he met me at 10 on the dot, and has now sent me 8 large documents to read and he wants to meet tomorrow at 1pm for my initial thoughts and ideas. I really have been thrown in at the deep end - I suppose this is Welcome to Ghana.

But not to worry I am still having a great time managing to laugh and hopefully will be making you all laugh. I will try and update more regularly as I now have access to the Internet again, and get some photos on, which is proving difficult for security reasons we have been advised not to publicly display goods such as cameras.