Working_in_Ghana_with_ MOFA

Sunday, May 28, 2006

GETTING SETTLED…written May 16th, 2006

I arrived in Bole Thursday, May 11th at around 8pm, from Tamale. The journey consisted of a bumpy red soil road lined with many villages along the way. Brother Moosa knew exactly when to honk his horn coming around the meandering road as not to hit any goats or pigs who were passing by.

I was greeted by my counterpart Brother Gabby and Sister Jane (who I will be living with and who will be teaching me the local language, Ganja). Sister Jane is extremely friendly, as are all the Ghanaians I have met; as well she is a fantastic cook. I currently live with Sister Allison; she has been in Ghana for 8 months now and has moved to Bole 3 weeks ago. She is working for the Peace Core, from the US, aiding in the Shea Butter processing. Sister Allison is an extremely relaxed, cool, Zen woman and I feel very fortunate to have her as a roomie.

My current apartment is in the same compound as Sister Jane, so it is very convenient. Seeing as though there has been a problem with the arrangement of my accommodation, I will be moving in to Sister Jane's other room in the next few days.

Bole is a small town, and the MoFA office is close to my home. The staff at MoFA are welcoming, Brother Gabby and Brother deClercq are extremely self motivated. I have been, and will be, observing much of what is going on in the office, along with asking many questions that pertain to the DADU (District Agricultural Development Unit) Bole: their organization, data files, resources, job descriptions, constraints, expectations and questions that may help them think critically in order to become problem solvers.

On my first day I felt extremely overwhelmed: there were nearly a hundred farmers waiting outside the Office to fill out forms and receive their loans from the Bankers, who have traveled in from Wa (largest city within the proximity of Bole). Brother Gabby and Brother DeClercq were each exceptionally busy, not to mention the rest of the staff who were scurrying around trying to help the farmers get their money as quickly as possible. It was a lot of information to process for the first day of work.

Yesterday I made my first field visit. Unfortunately it was not a day geared towards training, regardless it was an informative meeting of 33 farmers, Brother Mohammed (AEA – Agriculture Extension Agent) and I who all sat collectively under a mango tree. They were discussing when they will be seeding their fields with groundnuts and most importantly, when they will congregate next in order to seed the test plot together.
The farmers seem to be very intrigued with the extension services and I am looking forward to attending and participating in the seeding demonstration with this same group on Friday.

Today I have just returned from another field visit with Sir Charles. We sat under the shade of a large tree. The meeting began with a prayer and followed by Sir Charles’ training. At the end the farmers asked me to introduce myself. As a “white man” they expect me to have money to pay for their needs: to buy them a processing machine for their cashews so that they can receive more money for their hard labour. This is not what I have been sent to do. I described to them my role with MoFA, and how I hope to help the AEA’s learn new techniques to better their extension of information to the farmers. Although I have yet to be trained on how to better their extension, I have some ideas of what can be improved upon when training farmers in the future.

As for the next 5 working days, I am hoping to go out to the fields with at least 2 other AEA’s to see their facilitation skills. I also hope to arrange my notes (of observations and responses to the many questions I have asked) and thoughts to collectively produce a document containing my general views of how the DADU can become more efficient with the resources they have. I hope to sit down with the Director, in these next 5 days, to discuss the areas he believes will need most concentration.

In order to have a successful first placement, I must put the pedal to the metal and do a lot of reading in the next week: I want to be well prepared for our training session in Tamale on the 25th of May. I have made a lot of notes and must organize them into something that is presentable.

As for integrating…my Ganja is coming along. As Sister Jane and I prepare dinner, she teaches me the native language. Sister Jane has also shown me how to hand wash my clothes, I believe that I am doing a sufficient job, however she still corrects me and giggles at my lack of experience. Last Saturday she helped me pick material to make some Ghanaian clothes. Sister Kate, the seamstress, managed to take a day to make a shirt and skirt and one dress. This just goes to show how hard working the Ghanaians really are.

In the mornings I wake up and practice yoga, if I am not going to the field early then I will help make porridge with Sister Jane and sit with her to eat before heading to the MoFA office. Once I am finished work I go back to the compound to watch/help Sister Jane prepare dinner. I have tried Banku and groundnut soup, FuFu and tomato based stew, cow liver, many fried egg sandwiches and rice and stew. The meals are all very tasty.

I am very content here…maybe I am still in the “honey moon” stage, but I feel like I am finally beginning to get used to the culture and what to expect (or not to expect) in Ghana.

I truly appreciate this experience and am hoping that my presence will be beneficial for the MoFA office, and essentially for the farmers.

Here is my cellular phone number (you dial this number from Canada): 011 233 246377078

Oh ya, snail care packages are happily accepted too: Ghislaine Johnson C/o EWB, Box TL1234, Tamale, NR, Ghana, Africa...(Bug spray...KD...TLC...heheheh)

Please call me whenever you want…I am 5 hours ahead of Montreal and 6 hours ahead of Winnipeg!!! I send out love to all of you!

TAM TAM TAMALE written May 27, 2006

Since the last time I have written I have accomplished a lot and am proud to have experienced many new things:

Church: I went to the Methodist Church in Bole last Sunday. Sister Jane does not usually attend church, but when she does she attends this one. When we arrived to the open building encompassed by the concrete floor, neon blue crucifix light in the back, wooden benches, and many open windows where those crossing by could linger and watch from the outside; we interrupted Sunday school, as Kubruni (foreigner) was a distraction within herself just sitting there attentively. The sermon consisted of quotes from the bible, many hymns, songs that were around 20 minutes long where people got up to dance and clap while those in the front played the bongo’s, tapped sticks together, jingled the tambourine, or sang extremely loud into the microphone…it was very entertaining.

Braided Hair: Lets first say that from now on, whenever I see someone with braided or twisted hair I will look at them through a new set of eyes…7 hours of tugging and pulling, having to divvy up small amount of synthetic hair upon a snap from the hairdresser and altering positions as to alleviate discomfort felt in my butt; the things one shall do in the name of beauty. I do have to say that the twists themselves were not so painful; Mom used to put in some tight French braids while growing up, making me somewhat desensitized to the pain.

Sleeping, well, lets just say that I have two positions to choose from: neither being of great comfort…AHHHH but the twists look good if I do say so myself…definitely worth it!

Getting Sick: This just had to happen at some point…Not only does making you sick realize how great it is to not be sick, it also makes you realize that squatting in the dark trying to balance is not so easy.
I must say that I am very precautious when it comes to what I ingest…now I feel that my health is somewhat out of my control…lets hope luck is on my side from now on…

Pito: I met sister Gladus on my first lunch break when sister Allison brought me to the market…she bought us both a Malta. From then on I would visit sister Gladus at her seamstress shop every time I went for lunch in town. One afternoon I asked her if she could help me find some tie and die so that she can sew me some clothes…After having purchased my material (after much debate due to my lack of decisiveness), she asked me to join her for some Pito (homemade millet based alcoholic beverage). I agreed to go, but was reluctant to try some because I had to go back to the office for an interview at 2pm. After the long ride on the back of her bicycle we arrived at our destination. Gladus had some girlfriends meet us there; the hostess handed us a cup and I only asked for my cup to be filled on order to just have a taste. It was somewhat sweet but sour and fizzy…I could see it tasting better after having a couple of cups full…After a couple sips, I seemed to have gotten a bit excited and spilled my bowl all over Sister Esther’s leg…what a clutz!!! Poor girl, she will never want to sit down to enjoy pito with me ever again!!! I went with her to her home so that she could go get changed…it was at her place that I discovered I had not seen my reflection in a week…she laughed at my excitement…

TaTa Ride: Jeff and I took the Ta Ta (Van/Bus) to Tamale from Bole. We arrived at the bus at around 3:30 AM…we were excited to get some sleep having woken up early to get a good seat on the bus. The bus then drove into the middle of the town in order to collect the rest of the passengers. After several long, extremely loud honks induced by the TaTa driver we were off on the paved road to Tamale. I put on my headphone and rested my head, excited for a long sleep. Around half an hour into the ride the TaTa stopped… “What’s happening…is the TaTa broken?…Oh, they are putting in some fuel siphoned from a barrel directly into the tank situated inside the from of the TaTa, Oh, with the motor still running…” GULP! Ok, we were off again…YES, SLEEP…

DOE, 10 minutes later we have come to the dirt road that would bring us ¾ of the way to Tamale…not only did the metal bars make such a tatter on my winder, but the bumps were enough to make you have to pee with a ½ full bladder…oh ya, as for sleep…let’s just say that I closed my eyes…

The TaTa stopped around every 20 minutes…to fuel up, or for the on board mechanic to fix the motor once again followed my 2 minutes of revving the engine proceeded by large puffs of smoke filling up the Tata…By around 11AM we finally hit the last paved stretch to Tamale…The city never looked so good.

The training is going very well. I am looking forward to the next steps I will have to take in the next week, preparing for the rest of the summer with the Director and the MIS, Brother Gabby. The following week will be me living and farming with a village farmer. I am looking forward to it, although I am a little bit nervous having gotten comfortable with my surroundings in the accommodations I have been so lucky to have been placed in. I want to stay with the community for a week, to live, eat, sleep, cleanse and best of all, work with the farmers. I hope to seek out many answers to many questions and will try my best to get to know and live within a group who is truly living in poverty. I hope that this experience will really open up my eyes, make me think with new perspective and in whole, make my placement that much more successful.

The rainy season is beginning…the air is a little cooler…the lightning is like nothing I have ever seen before: it is colorful and condensed…. It seems that the sky is so new to me here: the clouds are different, the rain falls in buckets, the stars are unfamiliar (with exception of the big dipper), the moons slit is placed on its side, and this is one thing that makes home seem so far away.

I am feeling great about my placement…I have lot’s of support and encouragement…exactly what I need…the best part is that my district is amazing: hard working, self motivated, organized and ready to learn and change with me…absolutely wonderful.

I hope to write again soon…I hope you enjoy the pictures!!! Lot’s of love…


At 5:11 PM, Blogger R-C said...

Hey hey Gg !

All your comments are so interesting! I almost feel like I'm over there too ;-) I'm not sure I would do so well surrounded by sisters and brothers doe! but it still looks so fun and motivating. I hope you don't get too sick over there, are our bug spray really effective against the insects in Ghana? Hehe. Keep up the good work and show them what the white girl can do, without millions... I dont see your pics btw.

take care, I'll call you soon!


At 6:28 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Hey miss Ghislaine,

What a lovely post - I have soooo much to say! Can't wait to see pics of you at work all dressed and tressed up. :)

It's cool that you are taking notes and have comments to assemble for the Tamale meeting - it is great to document your thoughts throughout this experience and reflect on them. You will learn so much so fast that its hard to keep track - being able to look back at your notes will be really useful as time goes on.

Can't tell you how happy I am to hear that you are making good friends and enthusiastic about the community you are becoming a part of.

Let us know more about your project recommendations/observations as they come together!

much love,



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