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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Travel Part 1

As part of the needs assessment my organisation has asked me to undertake, I have planned to travel to all 10 regions in Ghana to meet with leaders/members to understand their views of the organisation and the challenges they face. So far I have visited 3 regions:

Region 1 - not much to report other than it was a good meeting and I was invited to join their belated Christmas lunch. Unfortunately I could only stay for 15 minutes as had to travel back to Accra, but it was a kind offer.

Region 2 - long trip the day before to arrive at hotel. We left at 7am the next day to travel to the meeting venue, which I was told was roughly 30 minutes away. After waiting for a colleague at the tro station for an hour, we finally set off on what turned out to be a 2.5 hour journey. This was followed by a 5 hour meeting outdoors, with 99% of the meeting being spoken in Twi with little translation...At the end of the meeting I had to wait on colleagues to eat (I didn't want to risk the food with a long journey back ahead of me) and then flag down a tro. At this point a massive thunderstorm decided to hit, so we took shelter at the local barber store. The tro finally arrived after around 45 minutes and we all piled in. Finally ready to go after what had been a particularly trying day, I just had to give up and laugh when after 30 seconds on the road we went over a speed bump - and the exhaust fell off!!!! This being Ghana, the driver just put it back on and off we went!! The trip was interrupted by a long stop at the tro station to change passengers, and was slowed by the torrential rain. It was actually almost like being back home - lots of green, hilly roads and rain!! We made it back to the hotel around 7pm at which point I was very hungry and went straight to the restuarant i.e. table/chairs in the darkened courtyard. Eating by the light of my mobile phone, I was almost finished when colleagues decided to join me - and continue their conversation in Twi. By the end of the day I was just so desperate to speak to somebody in English!!!! I really need to make more of an effort to learn the language....

Region 3 - after an early start (up at 4.15am, ready to leave at 5.30am) I discovered I had been locked in the compound!!! Normally everybody is up and working/sweeping outside at 4am (it usually wakes me up) - but not the one time I need to be out!! I managed to find somebody to open the gate at 6.10am. Good start to the morning. This turned out to be a good day though, a nice trip with gorgeous scenery. The highlight has to have been when the tro had to stop to let a group of monkeys cross the road!! You can almost forget where you are (bits of Scotland; bits of American influence) until you see something like that! (Volunteer up north told me the other day that she had men with camels walking through her village, which just reminded how how close we are to the desert!) Very good meeting, lovely people, and a relatively trouble free trip back home - what more can I ask for!

I'm due to travel again this weekend, although plans are now up in the air so I don't know where I'm going or when.... However, it's my last one for 2 weeks - heading to the beach next week and I can't wait. Desperately need the break and some sleep!!!

Other work events include:
- frustration at being called into a meeting on my one day off, only to be told they couldn't tell me what time the meeting was or really why they needed me (we need you for your listening and note taking skills). The outcome: I didn't go...

- I've adopted the role of IT trainer. The first conversation went a little like this:
Rachel to Colleague: ..... want to start using the front desk computer for training
Colleague: ah, that computer doesn't work
Rachel: oh, ok, let's go look at it....... um, it's not plugged in.....

So once we established that the computer did actually work, I prepared myself to teach my first Microsoft Word lesson. I asked my colleague to open up internet explorer, to discover that she looked confused at the mouse. I asked her if she had used a computer before. Turns out she hadn't. We had to go right back to the beginning - how to turn it on, how to hold a mouse, how to double click. I found a good online training course for how to use a mouse, which my colleague completed today - 1 week later. She's over the moon and even got a certificate at the end of it.  It was so funny - day 2, she came into the office and announed 'Rachel, your student is here!'. I've seen her confidence grow already in that on day 1, she wouldn't move the mouse until I told her to. Now, she's speeding that mouse all over the desk (she hasn't quite figured out to lift the mouse when she runs out of desk space, but that'll come...) 'How to type' starts tomorrow.

As for other news, Accra has definitely entered the hot season. The humidity is incredible - we are all permanently soaking!! I'm so jealous to hear of the weather back home - what I would give to be sitting out on my decking with a cold beer and a BBQ sizzling away in the background. As it stands, it's often too hot to eat and I can't get enough water!!! I really hope my colleague was joking when she said this is us until around July/August...!

I've been nicknamed 'Director of Communications' recently because of my constant attempts to get people to socialise! Many volunteers, myself included, have gone through a bit of a low patch recently - perhaps due to reaching the 6 month mark and realising the excitement is over and real life kicks in. Whatever it is, I'm making a conscious effort to pull us out of it! We had planned to go to the circus last week until we discovered it involved performing animals. Rhinos, crocodiles..... drew the line at that. Instead a group of us went out for dinner which was really nice. Some of us have also joined an informal dance class which is fantastic - a really good workout without realising you're exercising. Hopefully this will become a weekly event.

No pics to share this time I'm afraid. Hopefully next time!

R x

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