Mari's Adventures

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rain, Rain and More Rain

I've safely arrived back in Accra yesterday night after a long 13 hour bus ride from Tamale. It has not stopped raining since I arrived yesterday in Accra, so my visit to Makola market will have to be postponed until the sky clears. It is the start of the rainy season here in Ghana. I thought I was going to be able to escape the rains in Vancouver, but I was wrong...

The past week has been an incredible trip through Ghana. After Atebubu, the four of us left for Tamale in the northern region. We crossed part of Lake Volta, which I believe is the largest man-made lake in the world. The water level is low right now, so there are many temporary fishing settlements on the exposed surfaces of the lake. The ferry got stuck in the mud several times and at one point I thought we were not going to make it out, but the rusty old ferry pulled through and we made it to the other side safely.

From the other side of Lake Volta, we took a tro-tro to a town called Salaga, where we switched tro-tros again and headed to Tamale. The ride to Tamale from Salaga felt like we were sitting on a massage chair for four hours. The roads were extremely bumpy and dusty to say the least. We had to keep our window open because we were baking inside the tro-tro, but the dust kept coming in. By the time we reached Tamale, we were covered in dust from head to toe and we all could have passed as a black person.

Tamale is NGO central. Many NGOs have offices in Tamale, which are all clustered in one area behind a walled and gated compound. As a result of the concentration of NGOs, there are also many obrunis. There are several people from the Engineers Without Borders programme located in Tamale, so we all got together to have a drink. The Crest, which is where we hung out was an obruni spot. There were so many of them that it felt like I never left Vancouver.

The next day we went to visit the New Energy office, which is one of the partner organizations that KITE works with and the organization Troy will be working with. Their whole office is powered by solar energy, so they are really an environmentally friendly organization. One of the directors at the New Energy office coordinated for Jess and I to stay at a village, so we packed our things and headed there the next day.

The village that we stayed in was called Challam. It has a population of about 300 people who are predominantly Muslim. They are one of the communities waiting to have a multi-functional platform (MFP) installed. A group of about 14 women have applied for the MFP and they have built the building to house the platform, but they are still searching for a source of funding to pay for the MFP. It was quite awkward for Jess and I to stay there because they kept asking for funding from New Energy, which they don't do. New Energy provides training and the instillation of the MFP, so the applicants are to find their own source of finances to cover the share of the platform not subsidised by KITE and the UNDP. The women's group has not been successful in securing funding, so they kept asking us over and over for New Energy to give them the money.

Nonetheless, the stay at the village was wonderful. There is no electricity and no toilets, so we had to go out in the bush. We woke up at 5am to go out to the field with the women to collect shea nut, which they process to make shea nut oil for cooking. Some women in other parts of Ghana have agreements with the Body Shop to produce shea butter for body lotion and cream. We also helped the men with their farm. We planted okra seeds in the field and helped to make mounds in the field where they will plant yams. They only let us make one mound each, which was unfortunate, but we were much lower than the rest of the men. We played with the children as there are plenty of them. We taught them how to do the chicken dance, so now everyone in the village is dancing it.

The women in the village do not stop cooking. They would feed us 5 times a day and the portions are huge. In the morning, they will feed us coco, which is a maize and millet porridge by the pot and about an hour later, they would feed us boiled yams. Ghanaian food is quite greasy and they use plenty of oil for everything. The thought of losing weight during my stay in Ghana might not be so realistic anymore.

The woman we were staying with was really friendly and wanted to just feed us all the time. They would always try to feed us first and then they would eat, so we tried to eat all together if possible. Communication proved to be quite a challenge as the village speaks Dagbani, which neither Jess nor I speak a word of. The women would make us repeat what they were saying and then laugh hysterically.

We also fetched water form the CIDA funded bore hole and tried to carry it on our heads. The locals were on the ground laughing hysterically as we were getting a shower from the bucket as we walked. By the time we got to the house, our buckets were half empty.

We only stayed in the village for two nights, so it felt very much like village tourism. We were not there long enough to really experience and understand rural life in Ghana. I really hope that I can go back to Challam again, this time for at least a week. By then I will have mastered my Dagbani.


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