My Life

9 03 2008

I thought I’d have another go at describing an ordinary day, since the two main reasons I blog are to excuse me from having to write individual emails and letters home and to give potential volunteers an idea of what life is like for a serving volunteer. However I’m not sure how to make this account anything other than dull, my days aren’t usually filled with exotic wildlife (unless you consider goats exotic*) or high tension. In fact tension and stress are things I’ve largely left in London. I’m sure they’ll be waiting for me patiently until I get back.Being an unadventurous type who likes routine I tend to wake up around 6am, when the sun pours through my curtainless windows. Six o’clock in the morning is not I time I was aware of in my previous life, but here it is possibly the best time of the day, bright and cool(ish). Getting up early gives me time to cook my porridge, make a cup of coffee and iron a shirt before cycling to work (I do eat the porridge and drink the coffee as well). The shirt and a pair of trousers are carried in a backpack with a bottle of water while I cycle, making the ironing somewhat pointless, and I change when I get to work. Quite why I do this I’m not sure as I’m still sweating buckets for half an hour or more, so the shirt is dripping fairly quickly. I ought to point out that I do wear a pair of shorts and t-shirt while on my bike, not just my underwear.

I share an office with Wahab, who is ISODEC’s programme officer for health in the northern region. He’s a pleasant, quiet chap who is out a lot at workshops or field trips so I spend quite a lot of time alone. Actually, even when he is in we don’t chat much – as I said he’s quiet and we find each others accents a bit of a problem. I ought to greet everyone when I arrive, but I’m usually one of the first and forget to go round later. I spend most of the rest of the working day at my desk. My work should involve either providing solutions to ICT problems and designing and delivering training, however I’ve given Wahab a set of spreadsheets to help him track the LNGOs he works with, I’ve built an Access database for the girl scholarship programme run out of the Bolgatanga office (I’ll be presenting it next week), I’ve set up an automatic backup procedure and I’ve written various training pieces. I’ve even presented a couple of training sessions, but to be honest I’m running out of steam and things to do a bit. I find training hard, but here people are out of the office a lot of the time, and there is quite a range of ICT knowledge. Actually there is a fairly low level of knowledge mostly, and I’m struggling to work out how to pitch things. I keep changing my plan, at the moment I plan on concentrating on individual sessions, starting with typing skills. It is difficult to get across the idea that investing time in the short time could save time in the longer term. Due to the nature of things here people have a tendency to concentrate on immediate issues rather than taking a longer term view (wild generalisation). The education system tends to reward rote learning over understanding or creative thinking. The expectation is to be given a set of steps that can be followed religiously (an apt word here) and that an expert can know everything there is to know about computers. The upshot is that at the moment I’m not really doing a huge amount at work. I will admit that quite a lot of time is spent web surfing, with a compulsive desire to see whether the stats on my blog are moving, or if anyone has attempted to contact me. The lesson in the adage about watched pots has not yet been learnt by me.

I’m allowed to take a break for lunch, which I usually do. I’m a lot more varied with what I do for lunch. My favourite is probably going to a local restaurant with a book and having red-red. Red-red is a dish consisting of deep fried plantain, deep fried chicken and a stodgy bean stew, exactly the type of food I like. Moderately often I skip lunch completely, but otherwise I might have some of the street food (again usually deep fried) or bananas. Occasionally I’ve brought sandwiches in with me. The afternoons are similar to the mornings, with the ceiling fan spinning away above me.

I cycle home (back in my shorts and t-shirt) at 5pm. In the evening I’ll usually have a quiet beer in a local spot. Whether I cook or not is determined by a number of factors, what I had for lunch, how lazy I’m feeling, what I have in the kitchen and whether or not there’s enough electricity to light the fluorescent tube in the kitchen. Any one of these factors can see me eating chicken and rice in a local “chop”. Given that I can eat in a chop for about 2 Ghana Cedi (£1) and it costs me almost that to cook cost isn’t really an issue.

The rest of the evening might be spent with a book, writing or playing the computer at games. Since my DVD drive died a few weeks ago watching films has become impossible. Usually I’ll head to bed around 9pm, the lack of things to do and light combine to drive me to an early bed.

While this may sound relatively dull I have a reasonable amount of contact with the UK and other volunteers via email and text messages. It’s a rare day that I don’t get at least on text or email, and my Mum and sister phone me weekly. If any of my UK friends want to phone me Skype is a relatively cheap option. As well as that Tamale is the largest town in northern Ghana and something of a transport hub, so I get fairly regular (often unwarned) visits from other volunteers either passing through or attending meetings or workshops so I rarely go more than a week without seeing someone I can have a decent conversation with face to face.

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*My days aren’t filled with goats either, but I do see lots of them.

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3 responses

9 03 2008
Ellen Cranton

Thanks for clarifying that you were wearing more than your undies on the bike!!

25 03 2008
Akua

are you enjoying yourself?

31 03 2008
Tim Little

Overall, yes I am enjoying myself

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