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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

"You're a Catcher"

Quote of the week has to have been 'You're a Catcher'. Let me explain.... on a recent trip to the market I saw a small child staring at me, looking a bit scared. I didn't think much of it because quite often kids don't know what to make of white people, many having never seen a white person before. So all was fine, until the mother pointed and me and said to the child that I'm a catcher. I asked what she meant; she said 'you're a catcher'. I asked what she meant by 'catcher', only to be told that I'm like the police and will take the children away. At this point, the kid starts screaming hysterically, to the laughter of random women nearby! I was horrified and tried to calm him down, but clearly just made things worse as he thought I was going to take him away!! Interesting to note that parents teach their children either to fear the white person, or to ask them for money... food for thought.

Moving on, a small work update - I actually have some to do! I have been asked to give a presentation to the Delegates Assembly in December on Organisational Development. The Delegates Assembly is the highest decision making authority within my organisation, and their meeting will last 3 days I think (still to be confirmed). Now that I have some work to do, I'm actually finding it quite difficult to re-engage my brain! Knowing me, I will leave it until the last minute and then panic - but quite often, that's how I do my best work! ;-) I'm waiting to find out details, but hopefully I'll be travelling across Ghana to various work events in December - quite excited at the thought as it will let me see some of the country, but also give me an opportunity to meet staff/members across Ghana. I will, however, have to buy a rucksack because muppet here forgot to pack one - and there's no way I can carry a suitcase on a tro! :-)

Staying on the subject of work, the drama of the washroom continues. I can't actually remember if I mentioned this, but my organisation doesn't have a washroom. They have been building one since I arrived (which I was told would be finished 2 weeks after my arrival). At this point in time, it's still a concrete shell although I do believe tiles are starting to go up. What I'm curious to know is a) when it will be finished; and b) what on earth the boss is going to do when he returns from London shortly because his office is a dumping ground of dust, concrete and stuff! We also appear to go from extremes in terms of building work - we go from nobody working for days at a time, to hordes of people traipsing through the office (which is tiny!) with ladders that don't fit through the door. Quite entertaining really...

I've also discovered this week that there must be something sweet ingrained in my desk, because the ants are all over it at the moment. Cleaning the desk didn't help... any thoughts on this one? :-)

From a VSO perspective, I have taken on the position of deputy volunteer representative for Greater Accra, working with Samina who is our new volunteer rep. This roles involves acting as the key link between Programme Office and volunteers, attending meetings and helping new volunteers to settle in as well as (hopefully) having a big role to play in February's ICT (In Country Training aka Induction). I've already had the opportunity to put my knowledge and experience to the test by helping a new volunteer to settle in at the weekend. It was good fun, and helped me to realise just how much I have learned about the city and culture already. What was also very nice is that, because she is here on a short term contract and is working directly with the Programme Office, she has been put in a nice apartment with air conditioning, laundry service etc - and was kind enough to give me the use of her spare bedroom for a while, to enjoy the air con. It was a little taste of heaven!! :-)

This weekend also saw a few of us attending the opening ceremony of the African Nations Amputee Soccer contest. This is quite a big event and was opened by the Vice President of Ghana and other important folks in the world of sport/football. As I'm not a very big fan of football, I wasn't particularly excited about the trip but felt it was important to attend, especially due to the work I'm doing. But I have to say, I absolutely loved it! The atmosphere in the grounds was amazing! The people are so happy, they dance/sing/play music in the stands, they entertain everybody else - as well as somehow watching the game. It was seriously the best atmosphere I have ever come across at a football game - and it could convert me to African football!!

This week's electricity/water supply hasn't been great. We're putting it down to the mass digging that is going on across the city at the moment. We asked somebody who is digging up the pavements outside our flat what is happening - we thought they were going to say something like they're installing new drainage systems (i.e. underground drains), but no - they are installing MTN phone lines...everywhere!! I would love to know who sets the priorities around here...

Rachel's embarrassing moment of the week has to have been the drunken attempt at gate climbing. Our landlord locks the gate to the compound at 10pm every night. If you are going to be late, you text him to let him know and he'll leave the gate open. One night last week I text to say I'd be late, however he didn't get my message. I arrived back at 11pm to find the gate locked up - and panicked! There was nobody else in our apartments that night and I knew the landlord would be asleep. So I decided to attempt the gate climb (as recommended by one of my neighbours). Thankfully Ronald wasn't around because his bedroom window gives the perfect picture-taking position. I managed to straddle the top of this gate, looked down and freaked out as I realised I was too drunk for this (I should point out that I'd only had a couple of beers, but you all know I'm a lightweight and the heat just adds to that). So I bottled it and went back to the start (to the amusement of the 'Adabraka boys' who sit in the street every night chatting - loudly). Anyway, amongst all this drama, the guard dog had been barking and woke up the landlord, who kindly came out and opened the gate for me - and wasn't angry!!! I felt so bad - but then I had sent him a message, so am not completely at fault!! :-)

I've been doing my bit for the Ghanaian culture this week. I've watched a Ghanaian movie - which was actually really good - very funny, although not sure if it was supposed to be. And I was sent a Ghanaian joke which just made me laugh - it really sums things up, and I love that Ghanaians can laugh at themselves. I've included a copy of it at the end of this posting.

My final point, the highlight of the week, is that I visited a Girl Guide Unit today. Most of you probably know that I used to run my own Unit in the UK. I was curious to find out how African Guiding compared, and after a few emails with senior people here, they agreed to take me. Interestingly, Guiding takes place in school hours as opposed to outwith, because it can be very difficult to encourage children to come along otherwise. I absolutely loved it. The energy amongst the group was fantastic, they were so smart in their uniforms, so happy, so polite and just lovely. The older girls came and introduced themselves to me and welcomed me. The Unit then sang me a few songs, some of which I knew and could sing along with. One just made me laugh - for anybody reading this who's in Guiding, think of the song 'A Pizza Hut' and change the words to 'A fat girl guide, a fat girl guide, a skinny little brownie and a fat girl guide'. I was in hysterics - we'd be done by the PC brigade if we even thought of that back home! I was then asked to do something with the group - as they were into singing, I taught them a song with actions - starts off slow and gets faster and faster. They found it hilarious because I caught them off guard, but they joined in and managed to do it pretty well. I had to write down the words before I left so they can practice. We're trying to arrange a visit to another Unit on Friday, fingers crossed. I have also been invited to a tree-planting ceremony on Saturday to celebrate their centenary - I'm undecided if I'll go along yet, but it's nice to be asked. I've been buzzing all day since my visit and am starting to hope that there is some way I could become involved in Guiding during my time in Ghana - to be considered.
I'll leave you with the Ghanaian joke and a selection of pictures - enjoy!

Rachel x

Ghanaian joke:

A man dies and goes to hell. Once there, he finds that there is a different hell for each country and he can choose which one he prefers. He asks what happens in the German hell and is told: "First you are put in an electric chair for an hour, then they lay you on a bed of nails for an hour, then the German devil whips you for the rest of the day".

Not fancying that, he asks about the American, Chinese, British and French hells and finds out that they all offer the same treatment. He then notices a long line of people waiting to get into the Ghanaian hell and asks what happens in there.

He is told "First you are put in an electric chair for an hour, then they lay you on a bed of nails for an hour, then the Ghanaian devil whips you for the rest of the day".
"But that's the same as all the others" he says. "Why are so many people waiting to get in?"

"Because there is never any electricity, so the electric chair doesn't work. The nails were paid for but never delivered, so the bed is comfortable. And on top of it all, the Ghanaian devil used to be a civil servant, so he just comes in signs his time sheet, then goes back out on private business for the rest of the day"

Cultural event at Amputee Soccer ceremony. The wee guy on the drum was amazing!

The competing teams. If I remember rightly we had Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, Sierra Leone, Angola and Ghana. Ghana lost 2-1 in the first game with Sierra Leone, but that didn't change the happy mood!

Proof that I attended a soccer game!

Apparently this guy in the white shirt is famous. According to the guy sitting next to us, he's famous but the guy didn't know his name..... Turns out the Ghana Video Music awards were happening in Accra that night so he was probably in town for that.

Our first Christmas decoration, courtesy of Ronald. It lights up and everything!! :-D

My first visit to a Girl Guide unit in Africa!

There were actions to go with the song about the 'fat girl guide'... :-)

My attempt at teaching a song/actions...

The group was huge! Should have asked how many kids belonged to the Unit actually.

I love this pic! This is the part where things sped up in the song, and the girls found it hilarious.

Forgot about this one. Was in the office one day when a group from the Freemasons came in, with an offering of high visibility vests for the organisation. They had almost run over a person in a wheelchair at night because they didn't see him, and so decided to do something positive to help. I was asked to receive the offering 'on behalf of my people'!!! :-D

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