Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Watch
I bought an analogue sports kind of watch before I came to Ghana that I hoped would say, “Please don’t rob the person wearing me.” but would also work throughout the year. I think I succeeded. I have seen about 4 normal looking Ghanaian men with the EXACT same watch, weird! After writing this, I feel like deleting it, sorry.

Tornado
Probably the weirdest thing to ever happen to me happened about a month ago. It started off with a really good night. I organized a bar hop scavenger hunt with some friends, which ended up being just hanging out at one bar then discovering a smaller one and just taking advantage of the cheap gin and lime concoctions. Becky (my friend from university) was with me and sleeping over at my place. She wanted to go to yoga in the morning, so she went back to my place at a reasonable time. Me and some others stayed out a little longer, which resulted in me being VERY tired when I got home. I was asleep when Becky left my room for yoga, and when I woke up, I saw that a tornado had gone through my room. My suntan lotion and shampoo were squirted out into my shower, random things were everywhere, including most of the contents of Becky’s bag, mostly her make-up which were all open. My first thought was, “What did I do to make Becky SOOO angry? Did she go crazy?”. I mean I would never think of Becky as the kind of person, it felt like somebody MUST have come into my room, but that would have been IMPOSSIBLE. I mean I was there the entire time, and her bag was RIGHT beside the bed. For sure I would have woken up if somebody else came into my room, right? WRONG! When Becky got back we concluded that neither of us created the tornado. Then I remembered that soon after I woke up a little boy I had taught to knock on my door if he wanted to talk to me had knocked on my door to say hi. Yup, sure enough, this 4 year told me about how he watched 2 other kids play with my things, which really meant they weren’t there and he had a really good time. I guess he thought it was okay cause I was there the whole time and the door was unlocked. Judging the amount of stuff everywhere, he must have been in my room for like 10 minutes and I didn’t wake up! So note to all future burglars coming to my place, don’t worry, I won’t wake up, take your time.

“Work” Trip
So as part of a new project, we have to go in pairs to three different communities to talk to the officers and staff of the district’s Department of Labour and Department of Social to get them on board for the project . Before going to my assigned community, I tagged along with another pair so we could later sleep over in a nearby town to soak in some small town goodness. We stayed with a friend’s place who works at the department of labour we had met with and lives in a flat with his pastor, but for the weekend we were there, the pastor wasn’t there but his 19 yr old sister, so it was cool. We got there Friday evening and went to the Friday church service at 7.30. Not knowing that there were different types of church services, I was surprised when I found out the Friday service is for praying. Just praying. It was neat to see the kind of things that were chosen to pray about, I’ll have to go to church in Canada to see what kind of stuff they pray about. So for one hour, the 5 of us at the church (it was a big building) including the Friday stand-in pastor stood praying about the introduced topics. I was also taught a new spin to praying. I’m assuming that for the most part, people back home pray in their heads, not here. Every prayer required everybody to make up their own prayer and pray out loud all at the same time until the pastor decided sufficient time had passed. It was cool.

The next day, we went to a gold mine! Our host has a brother who does some management there, so we got to listen to a good run down of the whole situation. Basically, there’s a big hole in the ground where people dig out dirt and bring it to a group of men to find the rocks with the diamonds in them. These groups of 4 men are clustered around ponds of water. 2 of the men have shovels and are digging around in the dirt (I think trying to get rid of the sand and find the big rocks with diamonds?) and the other 2 men are continuously throwing buckets of water onto the men. The water is meant to go onto the dirt to help the men with shovels separate it, but I think the men with buckets are just being nice and cooling down the men with shovels. I’m not exactly sure of the steps after this, but one of them entails selling the diamonds for like 800 bucks. Guess how much each of these men working from around 6.30 until they are finished their pile of dirt (which usually ends up being around 3.30) make, guess. ya, sometimes around 4 cedis a day, which is maybe $3.25 Canadian. These men were all soooo fit. Rock hard abs, zero body fat, and solid man boobs, but fit man boobs. Some of the men were 20, but some of them were also like 40 or 50… it was crazy. I never thought about it while I was there, but I didn’t see any mean grizzly men with guns while we were there, not really sure what the security is like, but it’s definitely no blood diamond.

THEN, when we got back to the pastor’s flat, our host’s sister taught us how to make Ampesi (boiled unripe plantain) with stew. It was the BEST thing ever. Other than the one time I made Kraft Dinner, it’s been my first chance to really cook since I’ve been in Ghana because I don’t have a kitchen (or fridge anymore). The stew was tomatoes, onions (I swallowed those quickly), a soup stalk cube, salt, and egg, ya, raw egg (which cooked in the stew)! It was soooo good. The plantain was boiled in salt and pretty much tasted like potatoes. Hopefully there will be more cooking adventures in the future.

Visit from my mom and brother!
So I found out my mom and brother are coming to visit for like 10 days, getting in on December 24th! While I’ve slowly been building my travel agent skills, I’m pretty nervous, but mostly excited. I’ve started to make an agenda for them, and it’s starting to look pretty cool. Not really much to write about this till it actually happens I guess, but fun fact.

Conclusion
Well, that’s about it for now! Just finishing up my research proposal for school. It’s looking at the difference in job satisfaction levels of teachers from private and public teachers and the cause of this difference, focusing on sources of motivation/incentive. The private school kids here mostly get better marks, and public schools have problems with teacher absenteeism, so we will see what turns up! It’s kind of strange, because what I’m reading right now is that teachers at public schools make more than private schools (unless it’s a prestigious/international private school teacher). Still have some more reading to do, so maybe I’m wrong or will be changing my topic. That has been consuming my life/weekends.

Monday, September 20, 2010

stories

Intro
So 2 months into my 12 month stay in Ghana, the hard disk in my computer decides to stop spinning (so I’ve been told). Fortunately I haven’t really needed the computer for work because we’ve been out of the office. I’ve been going around with my boss and 3 regional representatives to 3 different regions. We do 2 districts in each region a week, with 5 communities in each district for a total of 30 communities! It’s all part of the monitoring of a Juvenile Justice project we are running. In each community we are quizzing the kids on the Juvenile Justice Act to see if the training they earlier received was effective. We also collect letters from a locked reporting box, which is for the kids to report problems in their lives or community. For the most part my role was camera lady and observer as I couldn’t participate much because most of the trip was immersed in Twi.

Animals
A couple of weekends ago I spent some time in a city about 3 hours away called Cape Coast. While I was there I got to see a lot of sheep. In Accra, I’m sure there are tones of sheep, I guess I just haven’t found out where they chill. Anyways, my new discovery is that the sound they make is ridiculous. It’s like the sound that requires the least amount of energy, like a belch of sound that starts with a B. I was also told that in Ghana, if you call someone sheepish it’s a big insult, because sheep are so dumb. While the goats here don’t seem that bright either, apparently sheep are extra talented at ignoring cars and getting hit. It’s so strange how in Canada, we say sheepish people are shy. Why would we do that? Don’t all farm animals generally run away from humans? I’m not sure, but from the goats, chickens, turkeys, and sheep that I’ve met, they are equally aware that they are next for dinner. Anyways, sounds of sheep= cool. BUT, the sound of chicks are the most peaceful and relaxing.

Advice
A lesson for all IDSers. My friend recently told me of a time when she was coming down with a fever and suspected malaria. Remembering that Malarone (the pill we take everyday to prevent malaria) is also used to cure malaria and not wanting to sit and wait to see a doctor, she self-prescribed 4 malarone and a multivitamin. Surprisingly, the next day she felt even worse and finally went to see the doctor who told her she had an ear infection and that 4 malaria probably made her feel worse. Anyways… true story, go see a doctor!

The Dress Making Trilogy
So the fabric you can buy here is BEAUTIFUL. It’s full of colours and the randomest patterns (Brianna heaven). So after buying 10 yards of fabric, I decided to get a dress made (which takes about 2 yards), and that was a process. It began with me telling Tanko (an 18 yr old boy on my compound) that I liked his pants (made of flowery blue lace). He then told me that the guy who made them lives just next door and he would bring me to him. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity, so when he came to my compound to take my measurements and ask me what style I wanted, I asked him to show me some pictures of examples of styles I could pick from. He came back with a SEARS catalogue from the 70s. Yam that’s what he thought would be appropriate for me to pick from. That was the first indication that this dress would cause me some problems. The next day he brought the dress he had made over to see if he should make any adjustments. For some reason, regardless of the measurements he had taken, he decided I would grow large boobs overnight or something and made the chest extra wide. Using a bunch of hand actions, I think I explained to him the changes that I wanted. Over the next couple of days I went into “the field”; being unable to reach me, he decided the best thing to do would be to start a 2nd dress. When I got back and found this out, I reminded hum that we actually had a conversation where he said, “oh, this is 6 yards of fabric, so you want 3 dresses?” and I said, “No thanks, just one.” After unintentionally hurting his feelings a little bit by requesting for the unfinished dress, I finally got it back along with the finished dress. I’ve been told I look like a little African girl in it. Cool? Also have been told that my mistake was expecting boys to make girl clothing. While I like to think that girls and boys can do everything equally well, I think I’ll have to stick with the stereotype on this one.

Life lesson being actively learned
I don’t know about anybody else, but for me, I just kind of learn my life lessons by living life. Never really thinking about it or having to try really hard (to learn life lessons). Well until now I guess. The life lesson I am currently and actively working on is rolling with the punches. Whether it’s things constantly going “missing”, technology/my bike failing me, friends going home 8 months too early, being constantly viewed as a source of money or visa rather than a human being, or even the expected glitches of living in a new and different country, the punches keep coming. It starts to feel like Ghana is saying, “Brianna, you don’t really belong here.” My dad helped me realize that even when the punches keep coming in a situation like this, you have no choice but to roll. I thought that maybe I was doing everything wrong or that I should somehow fix the mishaps that were happening, but really, what did I expect? These things are out of my control (I guess), I just have to move on? On the bright side, I had access to a buffet 5 times over the past week! It was awesome. So many vegetables and cheese! Mmm. Definitely made up for all of the punches

Conclusion
Well tomorrow is a holiday for Ghana, so hopefully going to beach.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Internet access has never been so lovely

I have a little bit of catching up to do. Not last saturday, but the Saturday before was the big Ghana vs USA soccer game! It was sooooo awesome. Becky and Hridi came to Accra to visit, but unfortunately Becky’s body decided it didn’t want anything inside of it, so she couldn’t come with us to watch the game. Me and Hridi went to a bar/club thing where MTN (a phone company) had set up 2 big white screens to project the game onto. There were sooo many people, and of course every other person had those stupid plastic horns that they somehow managed to constantly blow for the entire game. Anyways, after the 90 minutes of normal play time, it was a tie game. After asking the people around us, we were convinced that there was no tie-breaker and decided to walk our friend so she could catch a cab home. As we were leaving, pretty much everyone else at the bar stayed. As we were walking we saw on one TV that the Ghana team was still huddling, the lady we asked told us the team was praying. I didn’t really remember the team praying after the other matches, but we kept walking. As we were walking, the chicken restaurant infront of us erupted into cheers. After rushing into the celebrating air conditioned chicken restaurant, we found out that the game had gone into overtime and the score was now 2-1 for Ghana. The party gods were listening to our prayers. When we finally won the game, I got picked up and put on some random guys shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Me and Hridi went to the main road where there was a huge parade going on. People were holding “OBAMA WE ARE SORRY” signs, blowing more horns, and crowding into cars and trucks. We decided since the trucks weren’t actually moving because of traffic, it would be a good idea to get on the back of one to cheer. We got off pretty quickly, but all the high fives, cheering, blowing a horn, being stopped by ladies who decided to sing, dance, and beat a drum, and being able to see everyone in the streets was pretty cool. Then we found a table that had shots of gin for about 15 cents! So, the night ended up being pretty good.
The next day we went to a beach where you have to boat to this little strip of sand. It was a “cold” day for Ghana, so there weren’t too many people, it was beautiful. Definitely the warmest ocean/lake water I’ve ever been in. Plus Becky got to join us, so it was a lot better.
This past weekend, me, Becky, and Hridi went to a city called Cape Coast. It was Republican Day (or something that sounds like that) on Thursday, so we took Friday off and made it a 4 day trip. The 2 of them came down Wednesday night and we went to the Canadian Embassy for a Canada celebration where they had free beer AND veggie burgers. It couldn’t have been any better. In Cape Coast, we stayed at Oasis Hotel (pronounced oh-ah-sis) then on Friday we went to Cape Coast Castle (pronounced cast-el). It’s one of the 32 forts/castles that were built during the colonial days of Ghana for the purpose of trading slaves. It was depressing, but kind of cool, because they still use parts of it for offices. Oasis hotel was really neat because you stayed in little concrete huts. Ours was divided in 2, so the 3 of us squished onto a double bed, but it was cheap and right on the beach, so definitely worth it. In the mornings we got to watch the fisher men bring their nets out in these big canoe things, then people go into the ocean and swim it back while other people are on land pulling it in as well. It was really cool.
Friday night we went to watch the Ghana vs Uruguay game at a place similar to the Ghana vs US game with MTN setting up screens to watch on. Definitely my saddest night in Ghana. Before coming to Ghana, I’d never watched a soccer game on tv in my whole life, but here, you cant avoid it. Every game is on every TV, and the games with Ghana in the are a big event. Having Ghana in the World Cup for so long had everyone in such a good mood. When we lost on friday night after half an hour of overtime and all the penalty kicks and got kicked out of the tournament, everyone just kind of sat around and we didn’t know what to do. After sulking and kicking the air a couple of times, we eventually went out, but all the soccer games since mostly make me miss the Ghana hype. But I guess we did do pretty well. Top 8 and last African country in the running.
Then on Saturday we went walking on this rope/ladder thing that was above the trees, very cool. We also went to pet crocodiles. The lady showed us this one fat lazy one and told us to touch it then she left. For some reason we all touched this crocodile and smiled for the camera trusting that it wasn’t hungry or for some reason a vegetarian. It was really cool.
Then on Sunday I moved! Finally out of the hotel and into my own place, very close to work and in a residential area, appropriately called Airport Residential Area. I have a room and a bathroom all to myself inside of this compound where at least 20 other people live, all of which wake up by at least 6am and make sure I know about it. It’s good. Everyone is nice and after I got a lock on my door I feel pretty safe (the first night I slept with my bed against the door). The only thing so far is the Egyptian man who hacks up a lung every morning. AND I HAVE A DOG! Well its a dog that just kind of wonders around and people get angry at, but whitey is pretty much mine. There are also 3 chickens, but thats not as exciting because I don’t think they’re going to be living on the compound for very long.
Tomorrow I'm off to Kumasi to visit Hridi!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

life-ing

So I’ve “officially” started work! Child’s Right’s International (the organization I’m working for) actually does some pretty cool stuff. They have these Child Right’s clubs for youth (10-18ish I think) and I don’t quite know what they do yet, but I think they are really neat because the kids decide what they want to focus on.

The project that I’ll eventually be working on involves putting these bird house type boxes (which are closed and locked) in communities that have Child Right’s clubs. From what I know, the boxes are for kids or community members to report the abuse of the rights of children. From the responses we can deduct what kind of stuff to focus on in the community.

I’ve been here for just over a week , and I am trying to start my house hunt. The hotel that I’m staying at is beautiful and has wonderful people, but I’m really eager to get my place so I can unpack, cook, and live closer to work/the rest of Accra. I’ve had a couple of “nibbles”, but no bites, so I haven’t been able to see any rooms yet, but soon!

Last week me, Becky (a friend from school), and Julia (another volunteer) went to Makola Market in Accra, and it was pretty neat. There were SO many people doing SO many things, it was intense. It was pretty neat because earlier that day we had a Twi (the language mostly spoken in this area), so we got to practice it. A couple of times, the ladies selling fabric would ask us our names or how we are and we would respond in Twi. You have to be thinking, “but Brianna, how do you tell someone your name in another language?” well, I’m glad you asked. The Twi people get a couple of names when they are first born, depending on the day of the week they were born and how many children there are already in their family, then their dad gets to choose a name for them about a week later. Anyways, I was born on a Wednesday (i think) so my “name” is Akwee-ah (that’s how it sounds). When we told the ladies our Twi names, they were so impressed, they would then call their friends over to listen to our response again. Then we continued to show off our skills by asking them how they were in Twi. They also tried to teach us some more, so it was good. After we all bought some BEUATIFUL fabric (I got 6 yards for about $10!) we decided to tro tro home. A tro tro is like a bus for about 12ish people and they go everywhere in the city, on certain routes. We had to get somebody to take us from the market to the tro tro station because we had no idea where we were and luckily he showed us which line was ours as well. So, we stood in this line for an hour and got a ride home which was a hour and 20 minutes, but, only costed 65 pesawas, which is about 45 cents (or something like that)! Unfortunately, we had no idea how your supposed to request a stop, so when we got close to our hotel, we started asking people. I think they thought we were panicking because they yelled at the drive to stop. This was followed by a bunch of people grumpily getting off the tro tro to let us out. I’m guessing that’s not the way to do it.

And then, this past Saturday, was the Ghana vs Australia “football match”. I went downtown with some friends to watch the game in this big room/bar thing and it was pretty funny because one of the girls I was with was Australian and she was wearing an Australian soccer shirt. She got jokingly yelled at, chanted against, and wasn’t exactly able to sing the national anthem. People were taking pictures. Things got a little tense when Australia scored, but luckily in the end it was a tie, so everybody wins! After the game, we wandered the streets and I bought the tastiest mango from a lady, and she cut it up for me! Then the Australian girl (Prue) or Prue (the Australian girl)... bought a custard apple (google it!) and it was SOO good and weird. Pretty much the best fruit here.

Another cool thing is EVERYONE carries things on their heads. We’re talking jugs of water, tables, and boxes of bread for sale which has this little door thing that they open to grab a piece while it’s on their head!... very cool and definitely a skill I want to work on.

That’s about it for now!

Oh, and Hridi (a friend from school) is supposed to come up this weekend, so that is exciting!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Having a goood time!

After about 30 hours of traveling I did get to Ghana (success). When we got in (at 6.45) it was dark! Apparently it gets dark at like 6, weird. We got a ride to our BEAUtiful hotel in Accra and just as was ready to go to bed, Hridi (a friend from school who has been living in Kumasi [about 4 hours from Accra]) came in the door! It was awesome.
Then on Saturday, we went to the mall (ya, Accra has a mall!) and we bought phones. It ends up my new phone is nicer than my old phone, cause it has radio (which is awesome here) and sudoku (which was helpful last night when I couldnt sleep).. I also have free incoming calls and texts. Hridi was SO helpful even though she had never been in Accra really, just her 3 weeks of Ghananess made our weekend so easy and happy. She also had contacted a cousin of one of her friends at u of t who took us around and about Accra. His name was Eric and he was also super awesome/helpful.
On Sunday Ghana won their football game! And today (monday) we did some orientation stuff with WUSC. One of the women who work here took us to a place for lunch and I got some fufu (youtube/google it) and it had fish in the sauce (i could tell by the bones):( Anywho, I ate up what I could and oh man it was filling. Imagine eating like a bocce ball sized ball of raw pizza dough, ya, that's what they expected me to do.
So in the upcoming week I'll be looking for a place to stay and start work. I will keep you posted.

> news! gmail has free texting!

ps, it is hot... like beads of sweat everywhere ALL of the time. im told i will get used to it :S

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pre-Ghana

video

... and here are some things I forgot to say:


video