In country training

25 09 2007

I’ve more or less finished my “In Country Training” (ICT) here in Accra and will be heading to Tamale in the Northern Region of Ghana.  Oddly the Northern Region isn’t actually the most northerly region in Ghana, with two regions to the north.

The ICT was held in a very pleasant hotel in Accra which had a pool and internet as well as the conference facilities.  Most of the newly arrived volunteers were lucky enough to stay in the hotel, but a few of us (about 8 or 9) were exiled to another hotel a short bus ride away.

After nearly 10 days in Accra I’m feeling fairly happy that I’ll be able to cope in Ghana.  The local Ghanaians are unbelievably open, friendly and helpful – apparently it’s normal to greet all of your colleagues individually as they arrive at the start of each day (told us during the “Culture of Ghana” lesson, when we were also told not to whistle in the bath).  To demonstrate the friendliness of the locals we were set a task of buying a selection of items locally, some of which we didn’t know what they were.  The locals were fantastic, personally escorting us to hidden away shops and helping us with the money.

Before our medical session (when the doctor described graphically the behaviour of local parasites and the importance of ironing everything) representatives of each country in the group were asked to demonstrate a local dance.  For some reason I was nominated to talk a bunch of Brits to strip the willow, which worked quite well although with the usual confusion of right and left and who is supposed to be moving and who staying still.

Another session required us to make our own way to the VSO office across town where we were having an open air cookery lesson.  Sadly the exiles plans to catch Tro-Tro (local bus) were thwarted by poor timing and the fact that we ended up being escorted across a busy junction to the correct bus stop by a local who took pity on us after we failed to get a bus going our way.  The cookery was fun.  Lots of oil was used and we deep fried plantain as well as making various stews and rice dishes.  With 30 volunteers milling around half a dozen basic burners all trying to see what was happening and trying to make a contribution it was a miracle that no-one was burnt and amazing that we didn’t all have food poisoning the next day.

Saturday afternoon we discovered the joys of the ex-pats’ shop (Koala) in downtown Accra which stocks everything a wealthy westerner could possibly miss.  Sadly all at prices totally out of the reach of impoverished volunteers. I also had my first Tro-Tro experience.  Suffice to say that I’m not convinced that the designer of the minibus intended the floor and the wheel arch to move in different directions when turning.  I’m not convinced it would have passed an MOT.

Sunday was free and I spent it on the beach being anti-social and trying to ignore most of the other volunteers who had also decided the beach was a good idea.  I like almost all of the other volunteers and probably will desperately miss them in a few days, but sometimes this week has felt somewhat claustrophobic, with a bit of a manic holiday camp feel.

The other big part of ICT was local language lessons.  I was supposed to learn Dagbonli, but anyone who knows me won’t be too surprised to learn that I’ll struggle to remember much.  I understand that most people speak reasonable English in Tamale so I should be alright.

This is a bit early for wider observations on Ghana, but at the moment the exotic fauna I’ve seen has largely consisted of various lizards and huge snails.  The poverty is clear, but less obvious than it was in India – despite Ghana being a lot poorer.  In Accra at least the rules of the road appear to be obeyed (again unlike chaotic individualistic India).  Most of the main roads in Accra seem to be paved, with hard packed red clay on the side and groups of hawkers balancing wares on their heads moving between the cars when they stop.  The roadsides are lined with small stalls, often with religious names and inscriptions hand painted, selling food, handicrafts or clothes.  The geography of the town seems fairly flat, without many buildings more than 3 stories tall, all detached giving a low sprawling impression, with shanties and shacks scattered around.  At the moment there is a fair amount of greenery, but I’m not sure if that is seasonal.




2 responses

26 09 2007
Dr N

Hey Tim – glad to see you’re having fun.

Question for you: what’s the demographic make-up of the other VSO volunteers? Bible-bashers, loners, white middle-classers?

Good luck in Tamale!!

13 07 2009
The last post « Tim in Tamale

[…] out what it’s like to be a VSO volunteer in Northern Ghana, then jump back to an early post (like this one) and work your way forward (at the bottom of each post you’re offered links to the posts […]

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