Working_in_Ghana_with_ MOFA

Saturday, July 29, 2006


It is not fun being sick. It isn’t fun in Canada and it is really not fun while being in Ghana. Temperatures rising, speedy returns to the loo, buckets of water getting heavier and heavier (to flush) as you become weaker and weaker, body aching…DO I HAVE MALARIA??? Do I take my malaria drugs???

After speaking to Russ from National Office, who is now travelling through Ghana, I felt at ease with my illness: it happens to everyone and I am lucky that it is only my first time. Let me just say that CIPRO is the MIRACLE drug. I am so happy that I did not rush into taking my Malaria medication; otherwise I am sure I would still be paying for it. After 3 days of being bed ridden I felt like a new person. I now feel rejuvenated by being healthy again and well rested: I was lucky to only miss one day of work, phew.

This past weeks was very productive: the workshop 3 is well planned and nearly ready for execution. There are a few snags, however life would be boring if it wasn’t for the bumps on the road. As I have learnt through my life, and especially through this placement: things just seem to work themselves out and everything seems to fit into place in the end.

I was extremely excited this week when MIS understood how to use an if statement in excel. He also knew how to change my program to make it even more user friendly; proving to me that he does understand the program and the if statement function. He has even suggested ways to use his new abilities: ranking the farmer repayments of their cashew loans using an if statement. It is great to see little impacts as you go along.

The DFSN (District Food Security Network) task force team has yet to have their first meeting before the 2nd DFSN meeting. It is getting tight for time, but is definitely still doable. Sister Samata (market woman who is the organizer) has made time to meet with Sister Allison and I once. It was a very good meeting, however the task force is needed to make the agenda for next meeting. It is getting very close to the meeting day and letters still have not gone out to remind the members of the next meeting. It’s a little worrisome, so I hope all works out well.

It is Friday: market day, and it is raining. I am happy for the rain because the crops are seriously parched. I love the weekends: time to relax and recoup. Tomorrow I head out to WA to send out my blogs and apply for work study and read all my emails from those whom I cherish: looking forward to it.

July 19th

No matter how much you try not to start the countdown, it is inevitable. My weekly and daily pills are dwindling, my hygiene supplies are running low, I have nearly run out of reading materials and have a daily/weekly schedule planned for my last 4 weeks at work here in Bole. Time seems to be ticking at a higher frequency here in Ghana it seems. The days are going as fast as the night passes.

This past weekend was delightful, invigorating and indispensable. It was fantastic to have some comfort food: I fully took advantage of the pizza served in the beautiful restaurants in Tamale. I got to eat ice cream for breakfast and also ate the first chocolate bar I have had in the past 6 months…mmmm it was great! As a large group of MoFA volunteers we rented a TroTro to Kentempo Falls; a beautiful set of waterfalls tucked in a beautiful nook south of Tamale, near Kentempo (town). I didn’t think that I would go into the water, but am I ever glad that I did. The water was so invigorating; it was such a release from my daily routine (and from the 12 hour workshops with EWB). I will never forget this trip and among other great experiences I have had in Ghana, this will definitely be one of the highlights.

Every time I meet with the MoFA volunteers I learn so much. I feel re-energized and excited about the last four weeks of work. I have formed some priorities based on the impact I want to try to accomplish with my placement:
1. Try to change AEAs attitude from Technical Advisors to Development Workers: if the AEAs consider “Dorothy” as their boss, they may create better outcomes with their farmers.
2. With the last workshop I will try to make use of the information from the first two workshops
3. I will work close with 3 AEAs: understanding their job, thought processes, what they need help with, how they can use the information topics of the first two workshops and to use what was learnt in the first two workshops so that they can lead the group in the last workshop (practical field visit, activity action plans, data collection and discussion). One AEA has been working with MoFA for a while now, meanwhile the other 2 AEAs will be working together on a second field visit activity because one of these AEAs is brand new to MoFA…we will all be learning from each other.
4. Approach Data collection Guidelines.
5. MIS using algorithms and excel functions.
6. Creating a sustainable DFSN.
7. Find my “Dorothy” …I have way to many to choose from (New DAO, Sister Jane, Sister Samata: Market woman, or Bro. Mohammed: AEA).
I have 4 weeks to squeeze all of this in. I realize that I have spread out my risk on achieving IMPACT, however, I do feel that I will be focused and hard working enough to reach my priority objectives.

Being back in Bole makes me fully appreciative of the Ghanaian food. It has become far more palatable as I have become more used to the flavours, consistency and utensils (fingers). I am getting used to the fact that when you buy food in the market you should hide it till you are by yourself, unless you feel like sharing with the whole lot of people who invite themselves to your food as you are walking and eating. I am used to the garbage thrown about everywhere; I really try hard to serve as an example (holding on to my trash till I see a garbage can, so that it can be incinerated). Disrespecting the environment is not much of a concern here, not yet anyhow, but really, how concerned are Canadians, right?

Before I left for Tamale, lying in bed early, I decided to read a book that was given to me by a past Junior Fellow: Sarah Lewis. It is a beautiful book with photos of Canadian Landscapes and nature. Each picture was paired up with some thoughtful words from some remarkable Canadians. I couldn’t help but be emotional as I looked at the photos of HOME. I truly do feel at one with nature and especially when it comes to the experiences I have had in Canada while strapping on my snowboard on the peak of a mountain in the rockies, breaking the glass like water with a canoe in lake of the woods, taking a fairy ride to Vancouver Island, lying on the silky sand beaches of lake Winnipeg or being mesmerized by the colours of the trees of Mont Royal, in autumn, silhouetting McGill’s downtown campus. I thought of how much you really miss a place when you aren’t there. It made me think about my placement in Ghana; I really must take advantage of every breath I take here in this beautiful, bountiful, country that engulfs so many treasures and possibilities. Whether it be taking time to look at the lush landscape or taking more time to share with a stranger during the many greetings experienced in a day or to fully enjoy the unique cuisine of which I would never be able to reproduce back home. There are countless ways of taking in Ghana, and I must not take them for granted while I am here.

With all this being said, I have come to LOVE Ghana and I know that it will only grow stronger as I reminisce my experience upon being back in Canada! I don’t like having my next few weeks planned out because it has formed a countdown for me. It is difficult because I feel like I can stay here longer now and I don’t want to think that my time will come to a close. So, it is inevitable to count down: I will work hard in these next few weeks and try to imagine my stay here as extended past my departure and enjoy my interactions and surroundings.

Back to work…

Monday, July 10, 2006


One fine morning, around 2 weeks ago, I walked out of the compound on my way to work. The sky was a beautiful misty yellow, I stopped and took a minute to breathe in the air and enjoy the moment. As I turned my head, to get a full panoramic view, there it was…the sun was gazing at me from behind a hazy curtain. I was mesmerized by the fact that I could look directly at it without a flinch of the eye: it was sitting there, waiting to soon entrench us with its vital, potent rays bringing us another new day, bringing us life. MMMmmmm…it feels like finally my eyes are open. I am in Ghana…I am in Ghana, and it is beautiful. Finally, I feel that I have let myself be welcomed…I am not as tough skinned and catch myself doing things that I wouldn’t dare have done upon my first arrival.

For instance, when I dropped my frozen yogurt bag on the ground while trying to pay for my bananas, in Wa (which to my unpleasant surprise, turned out being plantain…hahah), I picked the bag up, wiped it with my sweatie hanky and continued on sucking out the sweet indulgence….

For instance, street meat is now my treat…as long as they don’t give me liver, fat, skin or intestine…I am a very happy camper!

For instance, using a public toilet…well lets just say I would have been utterly disgusted upon first arrival, however, with my new found inner peace, I managed to make the situation seem more mentally tolerable. Squatting over a dingy, foul hole in the ground that was full of everything you don’t want to see (including hundreds of maggots and flies whom were fully enjoying their feast), having absolutely no privacy if someone else were to have entered, is definitely an experience I am glad to have had after realizing my new inner peace. Lesson learned though: when you gotta go, just cop a squat in the bush!

For instance, when I now hear “Kubruni, how are you? I am fine, Thankyou!”, I quickly turn to find the little culprit guilty of yelling this ever irritating conglomeration of words, to say: Mon ke terray GG (My name is GG), Fu ke terray? (What is your name?) Surprisingly, it works well…I have more children yelling my name from afar, rather than cringing at the former.

Sister Allison and I are taking time to entertain ourselves, on the weekends of course. We have made enchiladas together one Friday evening, having some of our Ghanaian friends help in preparation and consumption…digesting later to the pounding of Sister’s drums. We have taken a Saturday afternoon to begin her nursery of a variety of vegetables, herbs and wild flowers…it was so relaxing and enjoyable. Some children came around to help us…it has been the first time that the little ones have not made me want to crawl out of my skin (very harsh, yes I know: exaggerating just a little)…they were actually very enjoyable to have around, and very helpful as well. AHHHH, a new view on children has further made me appreciate my new inner peace.

As for work, these past two weeks have been all about the first two workshops that took place last Wednesday and Thursday. I was exhausted on the Friday, however so relieved with how well they actually turned out being. The AEAs seemed to have learnt a lot; they are also very critical of one another’s work, but sometimes for less important reasons like spelling, grammar… Regardless, I think I hit home with RBM: we will see how well the reports are written in the next month. I do however believe that they should be refreshed with this information on a regular basis…as like the telephone game you play in elementary school: as time goes on the message gets distorted at the end of the line…must make sure the message is passed correctly.

Now my focus in the office will be to plan the last workshop (going to the EWB workshop in Tamale this weekend will be very helpful in that), to aid in preparation of the second DFSN meeting (with the task force team elected at the first meeting), to visit the field with some AEAs (not too much time foreseen for this: not very good) and lastly, to work with MIS in creating algorithms and using new functions in excel to create and reproduce programs that will be helpful in making their time in the office, and on the computer, more efficient.

As for this weekend…I am really looking forward to Tamale (and the fact that I will be getting a ride to and fro with Director in the truck: YAY, no stuffy uncomfortable, smoke filled, stopping every 15 minute, 8 hour TaTa ride), to of course see all of the wonderful JF’s, but to also enjoy a little slice of western cuisine (aka PIZZA at SWAB Fast food)… I am not craving it as much as I did around 3 weeks ago in my “low time”, but let me tell you who will be in shear Nirvana…me me me me me!!!

The weather here is a little cooler these past few days, but we need the rain to come…the farmers’ fields will not be prosperous without some precipitation…soon! Some AEAs have cancelled their farmer trainings because of the lack of rain…not cool! Anyhow, again constraints to food security that is somewhat beyond our control (possible solution: Treadle pumps in areas where there is a water source or shallow water table)!

Time to go back to work…

Tonight I will once again be reminded of where I am on this small, resilient planet; I will stare at the moon, whose face is now cocked tightly to the left as though sleeping on a pillow of dark velvet, to think that maybe someone I love back home may be doing the same thing.

Lots of love to all my family and friends…we will see you all soon.