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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Welcome 2012

Hi All

Sincere apologies for the length of time it has taken to post an update; it's been a crazy couple of months. I cannot believe it will be March this week - where has the time gone?? :-)

Lots to update you on; will try not to waffle too much! In no particular order:

(For the record, I have absolutely no idea what's happened with the alignment of the pictures on here, so I apologise - I've given up trying to fix it. It took 4 days to upload them - I now don't care how they appear!!)

Electricity
We had a drama during January whereby our electricity meter stopped working, even though we had just topped up for the month. After a falling out with the electricity company and complaints to VSO, our lovely electrician turned up the next day (I should state our electrician does not work for the electricity company). NB: it's pretty interesting trying to get ready for a night out in darkness while trying to put on make up with only the light of a head torch to support you! Anyway, our lovely electrician picked up responsibility for dealing with the electricity company (I gave up on that when it became clear they had no intention of helping out the 'obruni'). A week and a half later, it was all sorted.... I should point out that during this time we had no electricity at work either....!!! I'm just thankful the water went off at a separate time! Can handle one or other being off, but not both together!! :-D

Scottish Dancing
We discovered there's a Caledonian Society here in Ghana which runs Scottish Dancing classes once a week. So a crowd of us (mixed nationalities) decide to head along one week. After an hour and a half long drama with a taxi (don't ask) we all finally arrive. What a laugh. For those of us who have actually done Scottish dancing in the past, we were shocked to realise we only knew one dance!! No clue what the other ones were but so funny trying to do them - our African friends were looking to us for guidance, and we were just as clueless! ("chase your partner" anyone??) So when our Ghanaian friends started entertaining themselves in the quiet moments by inventing Scottish Azonto (more on Azonto later) we couldn't control ourselves, especially because the instructors had no sense of humour... Successful night out! Not sure if we'll be welcome back mind.... :-D










African Cup of Nations
Football is huge in Ghana. The main favourite teams appear to be Chelsea, Man U and Arsenal (sorry to anyone I've offended by missing out their team!). So there was no escaping the African Cup of Nations which saw many African teams competing. Ghana was one of the favourites to win, so the atmosphere was filled with excitement and tension. We watched most of the games, but the most memorable one has to be the football night we organised in Adabraka. I had agreed to attempt to make chapatis by myself for the first time for myself and 2 housemates. Somehow this turned into catering for 8 people who came over to watch the game!! The two Scottish girls took over the kitchen, under the supervision of our East African cook. Around 3 hours later, food was almost ready, just in time for the game starting. 10 minutes in, and there's an adabraka wide power cut! The shouts of 'NOOOOO' from inside and outside were hilarious. So one of the volunteers has power in her laptop and quickly hooks up to a website doing live text reporting from the game. She starts reading this out while one of the guys starts acting out what she's saying. Only 5 minutes later we realise she's reading the wrong game!!! Being part of the resourceful breed that is volunteers, she then decides to skype an ex-volunteer living in Holland, who puts her laptop/webcam up to the TV to let us watch the game! Chapatis and football in darkness whilst watching TV via Holland makes for a completely random evening!!

(Picture wise we have: Scottish girls taking over the kitchen; a creative use of an empty wine bottle; the wine coming out; head torch time; football via skype; and ice cream to finish it all off (although nto quite sure why it's in cups!))

 



Random
I managed to break my one and only pair of prescription sunglasses. Gutted!! It's almost impossible to step outside here during the day without sunglasses on. Not quite sure how they broke, the leg pretty much just fell off - I'm blaming the Deet even though I can't quite figure out how...! The leg couldn't be repaired (I thought I was being so clever with my little tube of glue, kirby grip plus a clothes peg, but it wasn't to be) so I had my first encounter with a Ghanaian optician. After trying to sell me the most expensive pair of frames in the shop, we came to a good compromise with a solid frame that would be worth around £20 at home plus the lenses from my original glasses, cut to size free of charge. Result! Very impressed with the service, but a reminder that I need to take better care of my glasses since stupidly I only brought one pair of each (sunglasses and regular). Oh how I miss contact lenses....

Dancing seems to have featured quite a bit during January. A few of us went along to a traditional African Dance class one Sunday. Despite the long journey, it was really good fun! The moves are so difficult to keep up with though - our bodies don't move in quite the same way as Africans - we are way too tense/stiff!! The class was really good right up until the teacher had us singing while we danced...ARG! Something different and we hope to go back again some time soon.

I also had an informal lesson in Azonto, the main Ghanaian dance trend. Near impossible for us obrunis to do, but fascinating to watch! Check out these videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-vUsU5auA4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTUIlOudlHI

Oh, and last week I managed to get a marriage proposal from a policeman! I have plenty of attention but it's been a while since I had a marriage proposal. As I didn't have my phone with me and told him I didn't know my number, he gave me his and asked me to 'flash' (one-ring) him so that he got my number. I was a bit cheeky.... I got a mate of mine to flash him from his phone so that he could get rid of any unwanted attention. Within a matter of minutes he received 3 missed calls. He then forgot to save the number, so that when the policeman phoned the next day he answered! Just told him it was a wrong number.... just as well, don't want to get in trouble with the law!

Work
Ok, so it might seem like I don't do any work out here but trust me, I'm swamped at the moment! My boss has returned from his UK placement so I've had to relearn the dynamics in the office. Very interesting to see the difference... Anyway, he is lovely and full of great ideas, ones that he has naturally anyway but also some interesting ones he's come back with from UK (including introducing a health and safety policy!!! - see picture for why I think this is hilarious).


 I've been travelling quite a lot with work recently too. Key highlights:
  • Staff Retreat - this was rescheduled from December and I facilitated the full 2 days. Draining but very positive. We have a very good action plan, staff development plan and a couple of other key documents as a result. I've learned some lessons about how to run a workshop in Ghana, particularly one involving a mix of disabilities, English abilities and capacity. But everybody was smiling and it ended on a high, which made me think the stress was worthwhile. The feedback was funny - they want to see me in more Ghanaian outfits, there was far too much food, and I worked them too hard: they would have preferred a day out to socialise! I had warned them beforehand that we would be going by 'white woman rules' for the workshop - in terms of mobile phone use, we only had 3-4 interruptions during the 2 days (result!). Timekeeping was still an issue in my eyes, but actually the latest we started (consistently mind) was 15 minutes - actually quite a good result. The hotel we stayed in was gorgeous - huge bed, air con, fridge, TV and giant bathroom. The downside however was that I got serious food poisoning which resulted in 2 visits to the Dr and me being unable to eat for a week and a half... I think I managed to put on all the weight I lost in my first weekend of eating!!
  • I was invited to attend the Board meeting in Kumasi to have a discussion about the work I propose to do over the coming months. 4 of us were due to leave the office on the Friday afternoon to travel the 5 hours up to Kumasi. However, due to problems with the car (i.e. it still being in the garage until 8pm) I had to postpone my trip as volunteers are not allowed to travel during the night for safety reasons. So I had to be at the bus station at 6am the next morning. Thankfully a very kind woman took me under her wing and kept me right at the bus station, as there was no apparent logic to the queuing system. We eventually boarded the bus at 7am and arrived in Kumasi at 1.30pm (the Board meeting started at 9am). I arrived at the meeting in time for lunch, before I led a 45 minute discussion on OD. Although a short session it was very helpful and positive. We then stayed overnight in Kumasi (again, big bed, TV, aircon - fab) - I managed to curl up with an African cup game followed by a good chick flick. TV is such a luxury now! The only downside to that room was that I had a rogue mosquito in with me and I couldn't get rid of it, even by spraying all the windows/doors with Deet (and gassing myself in the process). I woke up the next morning covered in bites :-( We travelled back on the Sunday, stopping by the organisation's training centre which was very interesting. The services offered by the centre, and the potential it has for development, were great - I hopefully sense a project coming on!!!
  • I attended another workshop with my organisation recently. I can't go into details (very unimpressed with it though), however I was given an Executive Suite! I saw this as a fabulous birthday present, particularly since I was feeling miserable as I still couldn't eat. This room was amazing - living room, dining room, 2 double beds, dressing area and big bathroom. I actually convinced myself one morning that I was waking up at home - covered in thick blanket in a huge bed with a cold nose! The hotel was the same one we stayed in when we first arrived in country, and the workshop coincided with the arrival of the new volunteers - 5 months to the day since we arrived. I can't believe I'm now an "experienced" volunteer! One of the girls who arrived at the same time as me said of the new ones - "were we ever that excitable and puppy-like?" - that would be a yes!! :-D
Birthday
I celebrated my birthday last weekend (and no Dad, I'm not yet 30, thanks for that!). We held an Adabraka party for both my birthday and Ronald's leaving. Very good night, lots of people turned up, plenty of fabulous music. There was also a fantastic buffet which I couldn't eat - gutted!!! However, I did get an unexpected birthday present - 8 cans of irn bru, 6 regular and 2 fiery. Completely random! Once I could eat again I had a belated birthday breakfast of a fry up and irn bru, awesome!!! (Even bacon is a luxury item here).

(Picture wise we have: Showcasing the creative talents of one of our voluteers; mix of nationalities - Ghanaian, Scottish, Kenyan, America and Ugandan; and "the Bru!"")

   

As hinted, Ronald left us a couple of weeks ago to return home to Kenya. This is the hard part of volunteering, saying goodbye to good friends. The flat is not the same - very quiet and I now have to cook by myself most nights (although next door do help out with that from time to time). Watch this - I'll just get used to living by myself again and somebody new will move in....!

Airport run...(love the dedication to his ex-flatmate!)
What Next?
Work, work and work!!!!

I attended another leaving night on Saturday and will say 'see ya' to another good friend of mine this week. After that, it's work and travel. If I can get the funding I will be travelling to at least 8 out of the 10 regions over the space of a couple of months to meet with members as part of a needs assessment. Looks like I'm not going to get a weekend until some time in May...!!!

I'll try not to leave it so long next time to post an update. In the meantime, have a good one!

Rachel x

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