Monday, 14 December 2015

It's Christmas!! How do I know? Because in the internet cafe I'm writing this blog, jingle bells is playing. I'm not sure if Ghana has ever seen a one horse open sleigh, let alone anything dashing in the snow, but they don't care. (Western/commercial) Christmas is just as loved here as it is in the UK. Tinsel and Christmas trees are everywhere. Christmas dinner will be fufu and soup, and I have to admit I'm now becoming quite a fan of it.

Our first three months in Ghana has come to an end! It's flown by. It was very hard to say bye to our Ghanaian 'family', especially Patrick, Joel and Scott, as we'll be back here in January without them. It's good that we'll be returning to lots of familiar faces in January though. We've been having breakfast, lunch and dinner with these guys every day for three months. It's been a blast.

Last Sunday we headed down to Gboloo Kofi (where VbyV was first based) for the first ever girl's football match between Abenta and Gboloo. The football team in Gboloo has been running for several years, but the girls' team in Abenta is only a two months old, with Scott coaching them. Emmanuel will take over now that Scott's gone back to Australia. The girls don't get to play much sport in the village so Scott's done a great job at getting them prepared. The game was played in good spirits and the final score was a respectable Gboloo 2 - 1 Abenta. A special mention needs to go to one of the linesmen, who got all his decisions right and kept a close eye on any foul play. That person was none other than me. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other linesman, Patrick, who provoked the ire of the entire community for raising the offside flag before Gboloo scored. When the ball hit the back of the net, the whole village, it seemed, descended onto the pitch to celebrate with the girls. Abenta girls did well to hold it together. But then when it became clear that the offside flag had been raised the community turned on Patrick. Accusations of cheating, corruption even (we are from Abenta after all) and even the referee, Joel, was told by Ernestina (Aikins wife) that he was a bad referee in light of the decision. Ghanaians are passionate about the beautiful game. So much so, when Liz and I entered a taxi today, I noticed a big Arsenal sticker on the drivers window. He asked if I was an Arsenal fan. I said no. He said, "Oh, but if you were I would have taken you for free". I considered lying and pretending I hadn't heard him, but I couldn't do that to my family, who are ardent Spurs fans (well, apart from Stephen who's kept the faith the mighty (and resurgent) U's).

So, it's time to go back the UK for Christmas. We're very excited to catch up with family and friends but can't deny it's tinged with sadness as our Ghanaian 'family' wont be quite the same when we get back on the 9th January. The last three months have been a great experience and I'm sure the next three will also be so. Over and out until then.

But first, here's some photos:

 The girls' on the way to the match. The spent the whole journey singing at the top of their voices.

They may have lost but they went down fighting.

 Despite the unfortunate timing of this photo, I can assure you that Kobby (aka Rastaman) and Laud (aka King Yobo) were singing too and found the whole experience very enjoyable. Photos do lie. Kobby is the charity's driver and Yobo is the ICT teacher at the primary school.
 A visit to Kobby's house to meet the family. from left to right: Liz (with Kobby and Beatrice's daughter, Vanessa), Kobby, Beatrice, Joel, Emmanuel, Patrick, Aikins.

Us saying goodbye to our host family, Ayesi and Margaret with their two children Akua and Abena.
Us dressed up for a posh meal out in Accra at a restaurant called Coco Lounge. We misjudged the dress code. Accratonians (if that's the word) prefer to wear western clothes. We stuck out like a bit of an Obroni sore thumb.

We've spent the weekend with friends of Village By Village, Kwabena and Joyce, who live in Accra. Kwabena and I have in common that we've both lived in Kilburn, London. They are a great couple who have always been very welcoming to us when we've stayed at theirs in Accra. Yesterday, we had the pleasure of sharing a typical Ghanaian Sunday with them, going to church in the morning followed by a Sunday lunch of fufu and palm nut soup (last photo). Very tasty! In the evening, we visited friends of theirs who were celebrating their daughters 19th birthday. They have family in London, some in Russell Square and others in Enfield and Joyce visits them every so often.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Not long until we are home for Christmas - mixed feelings.

Maaha (Good morning)

The last week has been very eventful. As you probably have noticed from our blog so has every other week of this trip - I am loving being so busy yet so relaxed at the same time.

Last week Friday we experienced our first funeral (due to lots of mentions in previous posts on funerals you probably thought we had been to one before but we hadn't). The music from about 7pm to 10:30pm was very slow and soulful, not what we were expecting at all from the stories we had been told. Lodz and I were way too tired so we went to bed, gutted to miss out though. At about midnight there was a knock on our hut door which scared the crap out of me (we had been warned to be extra cautious with security due to many people attending the funeral not from the village). It was Aikins coming to get us from the funeral as the 'others' said we wouldn't want to miss out. I didn't know who he was talking about and Martin was in such a deep sleep he was semi unconscious so I passed. At 1:30am we are woken up by our fello volunteer Patrick, who was a little drunk, shouting 'Come on Amigos, can you feel this?' He was spraying water at us. We heard the music, it was very lively so we both were intrigued and got up. The atmosphere was awesome. My fello married friends, Akua and Maabena, were there dancing away so I joined in. It took a while to ignore the attention (outsiders to the village not used to having obronis [white people] around) but I soon got into it, as did the others, and was looked after by my friends from any unwanted attention. It was a great night. Finally had to call it a night after 4am. Good times.

The following day all the volunteers and our coordinator Aikins, who was off duty, went on a weekend trip to Lake Volta. We said goodbye to Steve, what a legend, and took several tro tros to get to the Volta hotel. We were not staying there (waaaaaaaaay too expensive) but had lunch and took a shuttle bus to a boating place. We all chose to go kayaking. Aikins and I went together as we hadn't done it before but the others went in there own one. Beautiful views, so peaceful. The quiet must've been too much for Aikins as after a while he put some music on his phone. lol. We then went for a swim in the lake - so refreshing. Off to Peki.
That night we stayed at a vegan rastafarian place called Roots. We had our own little house for us 6 which was very cosy. The food, smoothies and service was excellent. Such lovely people - Bob and Jacqueline with there two children Solomon and Marcus. The next day we decided to take it easy and go straight to our next hotel near Fume and Mountain Gemi, Mountain Paradise Hotel. There we had a lovely talk with the hotel owner Tony about tribes from an Ewe perspective (one of the tribes in our village, Abenta), ate great food with good service and played monopoly. It was Aikins' first time, we all loved teaching it to him.
Most of us slept in tents so woke up to a stunning view. We got up at 5:30am to make the most of the day. Martin, Scott and Aikins went cycling around the mountain whilst Joel, Pat and I went on a hike to several waterfalls. Everyone had a lot of fun. I loved swimming and exploring the encaves. Our guide Wisdom was lovely. After having breakfast, showering and spending an hour sorting out the bill (not an exaggeration) we made our way home. The hotel were offering a shuttle service for a very expensive price so we walked to the main road. An unhelpful tro tro driver said the only way down was motorbike taxis, which we were not up for - we proved him wrong as a lovely catholic in a pick up truck allowed us in to his trailer part for free, so much fun. Then a quick tro tro to Ho (the capital of Volta region). This is when it got slow. We waited for a good hour and a half for a tro tro to Koforidua and then that was a very long journey. We got back around 9pm and then found out a local dog had been locked in the office the whole time. Poor thing. The office was a mess, as you could imagine.
It was an incredible trip. Such great company. What a pleasure to be able to spend such quality time with Aikins as well. One of the main highlights of my trip here so far.

View from the Volta hotel of the dam

Us ready to get in our kayaks

7 people in a taxi, it works...kinda

The house we stayed in at Peki

Tro tro selfie :)

The view we woke up to on the last day

Hiking from the waterfall back to the hotel

Beautiful second waterfall

The boys ready to cycle

On the go

It was not easy - but so worth it

Us on the back of the pick up truck

Scott had the back seat

This week has been focused mainly on the growth of our project. We are working in conjunction with Novan Education ( which has given us opportunities in the next three months to work in many more schools rolling out the Phonics training - all very exciting. We also met with some of the teachers in the next school we are working with, Gboloo Kofi, and were able to carry out the reading tests ready for January. This is all whilst still teaching phonics in Abenta and next week training the teachers so they can take over from us. Busy busy busy but great :)

Lodz doing phonics with the children from the village

Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending more time with our friend Solomon. He made us a gorgeous meal of kontomire [cocoyam leaves] stew with boiled yam, plantain and cassava (my fave). It was so tasty. The stew had salmon in it - yum. He then made us brodata (mashed plantain with onions, chilli peppers and groundnuts) for us to take away. So kind. We have local beer which I surprisingly liked. We always have such a great time. Conversation is flowing - hugely mixed between Ghana and Britain.
We then left and went to the pub in the local town to us, Adawso, for maybe the last time with these volunteers. Intense convos about faith and politics.

Local beer drunk in the traditional way

A yam shaped like a foot

Gorgeous kontomire stew

Pub action

The time before we leave is rushing away from us, we will be gone before we know it :( It is going to be so hard to leave everyone here over christmas but I am really looking forward to seeing friends and family. The hardest thing for me won't be leaving the village, as we are coming back, but leaving our Canadian and Aussie friends who we may never see again (I really hope we do). We have spent such a long time together and feel like a family. I love communal living - we defo need to keep it when we move back to Britain.

Harmattan has obscured our view

Playing buckaroo with a very tired Patrick

The beautiful children of our hosts, Abena and Akua - this is what I woke up to this morning.

Ye bishia bio (We shall meet again)

Liz (& Martin)