Distributing, partying and reading

24 06 2008

The other Friday I ended up looking after one of my colleague’s children for an hour or so, while we were distributing scholarship items to the school kids we (ISODEC via AGSP) support. The child must be less than two and I was carrying him around on my shoulders through the crowds, to much amusement, and explained to the various people who stopped me that he wasn’t my child, but belonged to Francisca. It wasn’t until that evening that it occurred to me that since the boy was black and I’m clearly not no-one could have suspected he was related to me. I’ve apparently stopped noticing or thinking about such things.

Carrying MaizeSeeing the scholars that are supported through AGSP via ISODEC receive their donations was quite an experience. We arrived nearly four hours late due to logistical problems to meet hundreds of pupils (mostly girls) with their parents and a scattering of teachers waiting patiently for us. The girls and boys were in their different uniforms while many of the parents were in their best, West African print, outfits making a really colourful crowd. Each scholar received textbooks, stationary, uniform and shoes as well as a large bag of maize for their families in a fairly smooth operation that at times seemed on the verge of chaos, but always managed to avoid it.

Picnic by the damSince it is our Bolga office that runs the AGSP scheme I spent a little over a week there, working and seeing some of the other volunteers who are around. In fact we had a nice picnic by a reservoir the first Sunday. The following Saturday night was a leaving party for some of my VSO colleagues in Navrongo as well as a few other volunteers from another organisation. For some reason the small town of Navrongo ended up with 5 volunteers from the Republic of Ireland, and four were leaving at the same time (plus a Welsh women). The party was in a local “spot” (bar) and was an interesting mix of Ghanaian (people sitting around drinking sensibly listening to formal speeches and presentations), cultural Irish (singing, tin whistle playing and Irish dancing) followed by a more usual modern Irish party (booze, music, dancing, booze etc) followed by an after party at someone’s house with a bit of food and some more booze. Great fun and I’ll miss the Navrongo Irish.

Quite a few of my volunteer friends here will be leaving over the summer, and a couple have left already. This will make things a bit different and I’ll miss some of them but the nature of VSO means that new people will arrive and while you form the closest bond with the people you arrive and train with I’ll make new friendships.

Apparently no-one wants me back in the UK; including my family (and one or two strangers). Actually, to be fair, the response to my repetition of the clash’s poser was overwhelmingly positive that I should remain in Ghana (and a few of you did say that you missed me). The more I think about it staying another year seems like a good idea, not least because I’m quite enjoying myself and don’t have any strong reason for gong back. I’ll make my final decision at the national volunteers’ conference in Accra which is coming up in July. If I do stay it I’ll stop working full time for ISODEC; there’s a possibility of a job with the Ghana Education Service that would entail setting up regional ICT centres in the north of Ghana to support ICT teachers. I do miss family and friends, but generally the people most important to me are only an email or phone call away, and I’ll go back for a visit either in the autumn or for Christmas.

As well as pondering my future I’ve been living my life, adjusting to sharing my house, trying to be effective at work and reading. Keith and Jenny are lovely and I couldn’t wish for better housemates, although I have spent slightly over a week working in Bolga since they’ve moved in. Work is going fairly well, although I haven’t really been able to handover the database yet and I still sometimes doubt its wisdom. One reason for wanting to stay is so that I can continue to support ISODEC Bolga with my AGSP database.

As well as work and socialising I have had time to read. Most notably I’ve finished a couple of books on globalisation and development. The first is called “The Lexus and the olive tree” and was written in 2000, before Enron, 9/11, the dot-com crash and the current “credit crunch”. Written by a journalist infatuated with the idea of globalisation it’s an interesting overview and I agree with his premise that aspects of globalisation are unavoidable and not pre-planned. Throughout the book the author uses the simile of hardware, operating system and software to describe institutions, system of government and businesses respectively which is a little forced and clunky. He is also a bit glib about countries ability to adapt to the challenges.

The “Bottom Billion” by Paul Collier is a much better book. More recent and more qualified (an ex-world bank economist) it is a fascinating and well argued book which explores four traps that seem to condemn the citizens of countries to poverty (conflict, natural resources, land locked countries with no resources and poor governance) as well as exploring some ways of tackling them. No easy solutions or glib answers and no diatribe but rather reasoned backed up by evidence. Well worth reading.

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