Leaving ISODEC

1 06 2009

My actual final day was a bit of an anticlimax, but these things often are. Most of my colleagues were “travelling”, a word that can be used to describe almost any reason for absence from the office. In this case they spent the last two weeks of my time with ISODEC visiting partner local NGOs scattered around northern Ghana. Their absence meant that my last fortnight was, to say the least, slow. But I did get to mark my departure in a few ways, and as a result I feel a bit better about going. I’m proud of the two main things I made happen, although in both cases other people did the actual difficult bits. I’m either getting better at delegation or just lazier.

The penultimate weekend was mildly frenetic. I had my grand leaving party on Saturday – a staggered event (if that’s an appropriate word) starting with the my Ghanaian friends and colleagues arriving bang on time and the non-Ghanaians arriving fashionably late (and me flapping that no one would arrive). I persuaded our spot opposite to lend us most of their chairs as well as a couple of cooks for the afternoon so I was able to meet the Ghanaian expectation of something to eat and a bottle of something (soft mostly) to drink. There were the mandatory speeches and presentation and I was given a beautiful hand stitched white smock with a black felt, floppy hat as well as a signed photo of my colleagues. I was genuinely touched. As the evening progressed the Ghanaians tended to leave (on the whole they aren’t night birds) and more westerners arrived. A surprising and flattering number of my fellow VSOs travelled down from the Upper East Region and at about 10.30 a mixed group of expats arrived to give the party that little boost it needed to last till about 3am. Personally I had a great time, although at points it felt like I was jumping from group to group without doing anyone justice. In true VSO spirit the cleaning up had been done by the time I woke up.

The Monday was a public holiday (African Union day) but I’d cajoled and bullied other departing vols into attending a self organised “leavers’ conference” in Bolga. VSO are supposed to organise a workshop for volunteers before they depart to consider “reverse culture shock” as well as other practical aspects of leaving the volunteer life. For budgetary reasons VSO Ghana decided not to organise one this year so I decided that northern vols would have one of their own. I spent a few weeks emailing and negotiating then dumped the task of actually organising the day onto people I knew would make a far better job of it, which they did. It did mean though that the day after my big party I had to jump onto a trotro to Bolga and then rush down Tuesday morning to be in work for the afternoon.

Despite, or maybe because of, the rushing around I felt a weight had been lifted from me for the rest of the week. One of the VSO programme officers did my leaving interview Friday morning and left me feeling more positive about my achievements and now I’m no longer a volunteer, NGO worker or general well meaning do gooder. For the next 4 weeks I’m a plain honest, tourist bringing plain, honest tourist dollars to Ghana.

The party:
Evening Party

The leavers conference:
Leaver Conf

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2 responses

7 06 2009
ayo

I have enjoyed your blogs from Ghana so much, I guess because you were up in the north and it all sounded so familiar. Now I remember what it felt like to leave, with no leavers conference or preparation for what was to come, just get on a plane, drink, smoke and move on…. I think it took me about 6 months to realise I wasn’t going back and I still feel the culture shock all these years later! I hope you enjoy your travels and good luck with your next move, I look forward to reading all about that too.

12 03 2010
stephen

really i want to part of the group

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