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Monday, 24 October 2011

"Random" is definitely the word...

I'm fascinated by the media here at the moment. The reporting style is bordering on hilarious. One example stands out for me:

- It was reported on the radio that a 6 year old boy lost his arm in a washing machine accident. The radio presenter gave the boy's account of the story - along the lines of "I was spun round and round and round, banged my head and my arm fell off." The presenter couldn't stop laughing and had to repeat this statement at least 3 times because he found it so funny!!!! I was in a taxi at the time, and two of us just looked at each other not knowing whether to laugh or not as it was so awful!

Many of the newspaper articles are very direct, which make for interesting reading. There was a really good one last week about 'Ghana Time' where the author was having a real go at Ghanaians for their poor time keeping and the fact that they are wasting their one valuable resource. Also interesting to see that the author didn't include their name.

Anyway, on to my week. In terms of work, I attended a celebration for White Cane Day on 14th October. This involved lots of speeches, donations by various organisations of white canes, and music/dancing from a local blind school. It was a very good event, although I don't appreciate being handed an XXL t-shirt ("because you're big")!!!!!!!! I have also attended a couple of meetings about next year's Presidential elections. The various disability organisations are working together on a proposal to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are included in the planning for both voter registration and the elections themselves, in terms of sign language interpreters, braille voting papers and accessible voting stations.

One of my work colleagues decided to take me with him to the market one day. He was shocked at being expected to pay a higher taxi fare because he had an 'obruni' with him - he ended up not paying it, leaving an unhappy taxi driver. He was also shocked at the amount of attention I received in the market, while I was happy at the reduced attention because I was with a Ghanaian!

One visit we made last week was very hard. 4 of us visited a local school within a psychiatric hospital. The school has been developed, I believe, in partnership with a Dutch couple, who have built a washroom, 2 classrooms and have painted the outside wall and gate. The school has a class for children and one for adult learners. The majority, if not all, of them live within the hospital. Many were abandoned here by their parents who gave false addresses to staff, such is the stigma attached to mental health in Ghana. It was good to see people learning and having fun with music, etc, although very hard to see the conditions - cheap uniforms, 1 staff member to x number of pupils, etc. We were also taken to the children's ward within the hospital (where they live when they're not at school). This was the hardest part. The children - aged 6 to 28 - sleep in mixed rooms which are no more than concrete cells, on rubber mattresses which need to be washed every morning as the majority of children have not been toilet trained. There are usually 4 nurses on at any given time, with around 20 children living there. The saddest part is that these children are the fortunate ones - they are receiving love, attention, care, food and education, as opposed to the children who are abandoned in the bush or, as one volunteer witnessed, kept in a washing basket in the corner of a room (for 13 years). But I can honestly say there are better conditions in a Scottish prison. The grounds of the hospital itself were huge, and very green. But as we wandered through, we saw one large building lying empty - turns out this is for occupational therapy, yet there are no OTs in Ghana. It just goes to show that quite often, the facilities are available, but there are no staff to do it...Definitely an emotional experience.

Last weekend was a tough one. After a hard day at work, being ripped off at the market when buying a mop, making a child cry just by looking at him (white people are scary apparently!), cleaning the drains and the apartment, I discovered there was no water. This was then followed by a freak storm which led to the discovery that our window shutters are filthy. As the rain hit, everything - and I mean everything - got covered in great drops of dirty water! Grr... Anyway, it turned out there was a problem with the water pipe which resulted in the water staying off until Wednesday. I never thought I would be so happy to see a load of dirty water gushing out that tap!! It's not until you don't have water that you realise just how much you rely on it - and how filthy everything gets!! To add to the tough weekend, the internet connection was very very slow, and I ended up losing 1GB in data (not impressed!) Welcome to Ghana, as I keep getting told!

Last Saturday we had a leaving party at one of the volunteer flats - which has a balcony, I'm so jealous! :-) I had to laugh though - halfway through the evening, while people are chatting and others are dancing to Ghanaian music (which I'm really starting to like), on comes a piece of Scottish Country Dancing music followed by the Proclaimers. And I tell you - everybody was sweating more after dancing to this, than anything else the entire night!!! We Scots know how to enjoy ourselves... :-D

On Wednesday we were invited to join the VSO International Chief Executive for dinner. Free feed, not going to say no! It was a very good night and very interesting to hear about the wider context of VSO, and how VSO Ghana fits into it. Most random part of the night, however, has to be Rose, Ronald and I flagging down a taxi, negotiating a price back home, getting in to the taxi - and then getting kicked out of it! All because the driver spotted 2 white volunteers who he thinks he'll get a better fare from. Obviously, 2 white faces are better than 1!!

This weekend was spent at the beach. Kokrobite is a resort roughly an hour outside of Accra. After a bit of drama first thing on Saturday morning (woken up at 4am as a funeral party started outside my window - this went on until 9pm on Sunday night!) and a bit of difficulty meeting friends and finding the right Tro, we made it to the beach where we met the rest of the group (9 of us in total). We stayed in a place called Big Milly's which is a backpacker haven I think. It was nice enough - the rooms big enough and clean enough, it was right on the beach and had a fantastic tree house to sit in and just watch the world go by. The only problem - no sun! In fact, it was cold! We all had goosebumps!! Not complaining though - it was so nice to feel cold again. It's not until you get out of Accra that you realise just how dirty, busy and stifling it is. We had a fantastic dinner at Italian Gardens - giant pizza, and birthday cake for Kathy - followed by Reggae Night at Big Milly's. Not quite my thing, but a good night nonetheless. I also had the best sleep since I came to Ghana!!! When the music finally stopped at 2am, the place was silent. Other than waking a couple of times as I was cold due to the fan, I slept through until 9.30am (who ever expected that I would class that as a lie in!!) The sun was out on Sunday, although not as stifling as we're used to, so a very nice morning was had sitting in the tree house reading my book, while others played in the sea and went shopping for sarongs.

We've learned some lessons from this weekend, in terms of - book your own room as opposed to coordating a big group; and leave at least an hour at the end of your holiday to sort the billing!! :-) We've also agreed to start doing some more day trips to the beach just to get a break, and are also starting to plan Christmas/New Year.

This week looks like it'll be a quiet one (although they all tend to start out like that) with the exception of Thursday, where I've been invited to meet Princess Anne! She's the royal patron of VSO and is in Ghana for a short tour. Most of the local volunteers have been invited to an event with her - should be interesting!

Pics this time:
1) White Cane Day
2) and 3) Proclaimers and Scottish Country Dancing
4) Visit to Psychiatric School
5) Look - it's green!!! (Taken on the journey to Kokrobite)
6) The Group at Italian Gardens
7) This may look like an innocent glass of milk. In actual fact, it's the deadliest pina colada Georgina and I have ever come across. 3 shots of dark rum and coconut milk. Undrinkable!!
8) Kokrobite Beach
9) Big Milly's
10) The view coming back from Kokrobite - stunning, yet one scary bit of road!

R x

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