Sunday, June 24, 2007

Where to start, where to start.......

So my blog entries so far haven’t exactly been plentiful. Although I’ve planned on writing regularly, internet access, power outages, and sickness, have made it difficult. But I want you all to now I am alive and well and enjoying my time in Ghana! I came to Tamale (the capital of the Northern Region) this weekend for training with Engineers without Borders. I see the city much differently now than when I first arrived in early May. This time it seems so modern and I am overwhelmed by all the things I can find here in the city! Carrots, cucumber, peas, potatoes, pineapples, watermelons, bananas, big beautiful delicious mangoes, chocolate. I may still be drooling over the Cadbury fruit and nut chocolate bar I ate this afternoon (my friend received a package of goodies from Canada and graciously shared).

I have finally been able to upload some photos! I will start updating you on my time so far in Ghana and see how far this internet connection will get me!

Home Life

After one and a half weeks of staying at the district assembly guest house in Walewale, I moved in with a family. My team leader, the director of the district assembly and probably others had reservations about me moving, mainly because they were concerned with my health (not unreasonable) but I insisted in finding a local home and have no regrets.

The father of the household is a highway engineer, so he is quite educated. In Africa you are not only responsible for supporting your immediate family, but also all of your extended family. So it makes it really difficult to get ahead even when you have a good job. He seems really respected within the community.

Home Life

It toke me awhile to figure out how many kids were actually in the family. There are usually extra kids around and the term brother or sister is used very loosely. In addition to the obvious meaning, brother could refer to a relative, a person from the same tribe or area, or a friend. In total they have 8 kids. One is away at University and offered me his room, and another is away at secondary school (often like boarding school). The only girl is 7 years old. Often the girls in African homes are expected to do the household chores, but in this house all of the kids work hard within the house. They cook, clean, fetch water, etc.

Oliver, 2, is the youngest boy in my house. He likes to march around the compound saying Holly, Holly, Holly. Sometimes it turns into Hoddy, Hoddy. He's greatly amused when I try to talk Mampruli and he loves the Frisbee I toke.

People at my house have been cracking groundnuts for the past month! They buy them in bulk (and I mean bulk), share with relatives and use them mainly for groundnut soup. The lady in the picture is hired to do the cracking.

The boys are pounding fu-fu (typically made from boiled yams in the north where cassava is not as easily available). When I first began eating it I was reminded of play-do but it seems notmal now. You eat with your hands and dip into stew or groundnut soup, swallow, don’t chew.

Walewale has a small town water system which means water from boreholes is piped to throughout the town to various standpipes. There is a standpipe about 30 ft from my (theoretical) door step. Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn’t. There is a water vendor in charge of the standpipe who collects payment for the water. A bucket costs 200 cedis ($1 = 8000 cedis). The family uses this water for drinking. There is a well within the compound which provides the bulk of the water used within the household. They use it for cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, and bathing. The well is partially covered by pieces of wood and the rubber bucket sits on the compound floor beside it. Mr. Adams tells me he has it tested and treated regularly and mentioned needing a proper cover. He doesn’t want the children to be falling sick, especially since he is often traveling for work. I have a large plastic bin (garbage bin size)which I fill with water from the borehole. I drink "pure water" which is similar to bottled water in Canada except it comes in a ½ litre plastic bag. There is a latrine (similar to an outhouse) in the compound and 2 urinal/bathing stalls (male and female).


It turns out that I'm actually not invisible like I first assumed. Over the past few weeks I've had a fun run with parasites (worms and others) and a nasty bladder infection. I didn't actually realize how sick you can get with worms………you learn something new everyday. You can't ignore health issues here because things don't just go away on their own. There were 2 especially frustrating things about being sick, health care and peoples perceptions of illnesses. Getting correctly diagnosed is one thing, receiving an appropriate prescription is another. A week and a half after becoming sick, I finally got de-wormed. Biggest of all though is peoples understanding of what germs are and where sicknesses come from. People seem to notice whatever I do in Walewale so most were aware I wasn't well. Everyone was constantly asking how my health was. Even though I would explain what I had and how I could have gotten it (food becoming contaminated by flies, not washing hands with soap before touching food or plate, etc.) they would still comment on the condition of my malaria , the change in weather which made me sick, or new food. So they would blame the sun or fu-fu instead of recognizing bad or inconsistent hygiene practices.


I was a tourist for an evening when some friends toke me to the sacred crocodile ponds in Paga. We fed them chickens so they would let us sit on them:S

Cultural Festival

The schools in and around Walewale have been practicing for a cultural festival so I got to enjoy some drumming and dancing.


My good friend and his family live in Gbmisi and I often visit them. It is the village just after Walewale so I see a bit more of the rural life. A couple quick things about the photos before I close for the night: 1) the kids in the photos have clothes but the place is dusty and hot so they often strip down to their underwear. 2) the older girl with the skipping rope is Evonne. She is in level 6 in school. She walks 1.5 hours to get to school everyday. She gets up even earlier to help fetch water and do other chores.

I haven't gotten to work yet but it will come in my next post (and next time there won't be such a wait!)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Akwaaba! You are Welcome!

Welcome to my site:)
I will be spending my summer in Northern Ghana, Africa with Engineers Without Borders working with the district water and sanitation team in Walewale (in the West Memrusi district). I created this blog so that I could share my experiences with you. I hope I will be able to adequetely describe what it is like to live here and do justice to the Ghanians. I will not have internet in Walewale so I will try to update on weekends when I go into the city.
I have been in Ghana now for 6 days. I am currently in Tamale, where we have been doing some training but I will take the bus early tomorrow morning to Walewale. I'm not sure how to begin to describe it here. I will start with "It's hot!"