No water, lots of work

8 10 2007

I’ve spent my first week working and started typing this up on Sunday morning with the distant sounds of what I assume is a local church.  It actually sounded more like mystic chanting to a slow drum beat and was slightly unsettling.

My house is a little better prepared now, and I’ve discovered a mini supermarket within walking distance that sells a slightly larger range of goods, including orange juice, corned beef, Heinz baked beans and instant noodles.  Nothing fresh though.  I can also get eggs in another shop so my diet of biscuits and bananas or eating in restaurants should become a bit more sensible and somewhat cheaper.  Fruit and veg is still going to be a bit more of a problem, and increasingly so as the dry season approaches.  Living so far out of Tamale means that the stalls don’t seem to stock much beyond bananas and sometimes oranges.  A diet of largely rice and meat has meant that the Imodium I brought with me has really not been what I’ve needed.

I am also sitting in a house that hasn’t had running water since I got back from town Saturday afternoon, so I’ve had to “bucket bath” using water stored in large buckets for just this sort of contingency.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that water is a problem here and I’ve had a couple of brief periods without water, but this has been the longest.  I’m a little suspicious as they seem to coincide with when the landlord and his workmen have been doing building work outside.  Most of the building work is to separate my water supply from the external standpipe that constitutes my neighbour’s sole source of water as well constructing a large “poly-tank” water tank that will act as a reserve water supply for me when the mains supply is cut off.  The water situation here is fairly serious.  My fellow VSO flora says that they get water in her property on Tuesdays.  Just Tuesdays.  Now, Sunday evening, after 24 hours without water I’m starting to get a little concerned and am setting my priorities for the water I’ve got stored in buckets.  At the moment they are: washing myself then washing dishes and then washing clothes with any spare “dirty” water to be used to flush my toilet.  I’ll have to buy water for drinking and cooking once the last of purified water reserve has gone.

I was reminded of how lucky I am this weekend when some of my VSO friends stayed with me (hello Marco, Vicky & Helen).  They are teaching in the town of Salaga, about a 2 – 3 hours spine numbing bus ride from Tamale, with a population of about 2,000.  They have to collect all their water from wells and Vicky and Helen share a house with hundreds of nocturnally screeching bats.  They were delighted to be able to shower (which miraculously chose to work for them) and to have a good nights sleep on the floor of one of my many spare bedrooms.  It was really great to see them as they are fantastic people.   I also was shown pictures of another volunteer’s home – a mud hut in the middle of the countryside.  These were shown me Sunday afternoon by the side of Tamale’s swimming pool, which is within walking distance of my house.  Bizarrely the swimming pool is run by Ghana’s electricity company – the Volta River Authority.

Work has been interesting.  ISODEC is a Ghanaian NGO (non-governmental organisation) that focuses on what it calls “rights based advocacy”.  It uses a combination of think-tank style campaigning with actual service delivery to demonstrate the effectiveness of its suggestions.  I will be helping them with IT generally, but specifically by providing training to their staff and by building databases to help them in 2 areas initially; health and education.  The health database will be used to by ISODEC to support the work they do with partner NGOs in the area of reproductive health rights and the education database will support their work with a USAID project to support girls into school in some of the poorest district of Ghana, where girl child attendance is lowest.  At the moment my biggest temptation is to dive straight in and start developing stuff (which is what I’ve done), but in the long run this may be counter-productive.  I really ought to see more of how the ISODEC people work and what they actually want, and what will be sustainable before I start delivering complex databases that won’t be supportable once I’ve left and don’t really model what is wanted.  I suspect my most useful contribution will be training and providing examples and resources.  That said it is extremely tempting to deliver something quickly to impress.

The staff at ISODEC are all lovely and friendly.  Some of them are having a bit of a problem with my accent, and I’ll admit that sometimes I struggle with theirs.  I’m also struggling with a few names and my memory for faces is as poor as ever.  I’m trying to remember basic greetings and other niceties in the local language, but this produces more hilarity than awed respect.

In other news, I’ve so far failed to purchase a bicycle or open a bank account.  Since I’ve also got through most of the allowance VSO gave me during ICT I probably need to make the bank account a priority so that I can get my allowance for October, November and December – roughly £120 per month.  I suspect that I will be topping that up from time to time with money from home, but don’t want to live to far outside my allowance.  I have also finished the only novel I brought out with me – “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which was given to me by my friend Sarah before I left.  I really enjoyed it.  I’ve ordered the latest Terry Pratchett on Amazon and am hoping it will arrive.  Next Saturday I need to go into Tamale to but fresh fruit and veg and to locate some form of bookshop.  Fortunately I do have some poetry with me to sustain me. 

Overall I’m happy. Some evenings I sit outside the bar opposite my house with a beer and contemplate the stars, enjoying the simplicity of my new existence.

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One response

9 10 2007
Dr N

Intrigued to see if Amazon can ship faster to Ghana than they can ship to Tooting at the moment (Mail strike)!! :-)

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