Monday, 18 January 2016

Good morning-o! (Ghanaians like to put an 'o' at the end of greetings).

Liz and I have been back in Abenta for a week now. This is our second three months (we leave on 6th April) and things have changed: we're in the heart of the dry season, the grass has turned yellow and there has been no rain for about 6 weeks. The rainy season doesn't fully get going until April, although rains may come sporadically from mid-February onwards. So, we've run out of water in our polytank. We do have another polytank by the school where we are collecting water from but we are having to ration it. So this means half-buckets for showers and reusing water for washing up. Now I appreciate rain. I will never complain about it again in the UK! As for drinking water, this is always in plentiful supply because sachet water purified and distributed in abundance from Tema (I think?) which is the main industrial city in Ghana, West of Accra. One sachet costs either 10 peswes or 20 peswes (about 1-3 pence) and you will see it on sale anywhere in a town or by the roadside.

The harmattan is still here. The harmattan are trade winds blown south from the Sahara desert which make the air dusty and dry. There is no humidity in the air and the visibility is poor as the harmattan looks like a heavy fog. This makes the temperature hotter during the day but cooler at nights. In the past week, we've had two tornadoes pass through the village. They've been tiny but still a very impressive sight - probably standing at 15 meters in height. Nature is fascinating. I should have paid more attention in Mr Berry's Geography lessons, but then again oxbo lakes weren't my thing back then. The harmattan will disappear with the first rains of this year, the rains couldn't come soon enough!

In the last week Liz and I delivered our first teacher training course in Phonics and Assessment for Learning (teacher jargon!). It was a two day course delivered to Village By Village's original home, Gboloo Kofi. Teachers in government run schools don't get the input they deserve. There's not much funding for state-run education, hence low-pay, lack of resources and low teacher morale. Teacher training opportunities do come about, but sporadically. So, in the last three months we put together a two-day training programme on phonics (and some other stuff), using the resources and ideas put together by Phonics Ghana www.phonicsghana.net. We are now rolling out the course, with the expertise of Miracule Gavor, who heads up Novan Education, in various schools over the next three months. Our first training session went well and with a few tweaks will be good to go next month when we take it to a town called Atimpoku, which is towards the Volta Region.

This weekend the Village By Village team and the two new volunteers - Aoife and Brandon - took a trip to Shai Hills in Greater Accra, which is a nature reserve on the outskirts of the capital city. It felt like being on safari and the landscape was more reminiscent of the savannahs of Eastern and Southern Africa.

Here are some photos:

My most inspired Christmas present made it all the way to Ghana. This stuff has transformed breakfast. Thanks Tom, Jodi, Franz and Beatrix.

A morning walk up one of the hills surrounding Abenta. From left: Emmanuel, Brandon, Aoife, Aikins and you know the rest.
The view from the top. 

 Teachers of the world unite! Our first phonics training course. Miracule, from Novan education is 4th from the left. 
 Liz being welcomed into Shai Hills by the alpha female. No other baboons are allowed to take food from us when she's around. A few minutes later the alpha male showed up and she had to hang back out of respect to him (the baboon that is, not Liz).
 Village By Village day trip to Shai Hills. From left: Liz, me, Kwabena (Aikins' borther), Kobby, Aikins, Bra John, Emmanuel, Brandon, Aiofe
Ostriches, which are going to be bred at Shai Hills. They were massive.
 Antelope, there were about 500 of these bad boys.
Ema climbing up an old sacred rock for the Shai tribe.
 The aforementioned alpha female with her baby.
 The daddy. Don't mess.
 Kobby (multilinguist and general great guy) and Liz doing their Cobra impression
 Brandon on top of the world
 panoramic view. Not bad for a compact camera.
 Liz has never been prouder of me in my Cambridge United shirt.
Rocks where women from the Shai tribe would have slept back in the day. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Transition from going back to the UK and coming back to Ghana

Afihyiapa (Happy New Year)

Throughout all the amazingness of the last month it has also been a strange one for me, mainly because of the two big transitions. It has made me aware that I am resistant to and anxious about change. I was quite anxious coming to Ghana in the first place but this seemed natural as I had never been before and I would be completely out of my comfort zone. The next two transitions surprised me a lot.

First Transition
On the 15th December we flew home and both Martin and I were very sad to leave Ghana, our friends we were leaving behind as well as the ones we wouldn't be seeing when we come back (Patch, Joel and Scott). We fortunately had a weekend in Accra with our friends Kwabena and Joyce (we spoke about this in our last blog) which helped with the transition. We were very much looking forward to seeing our friends and family. This Christmas was a wonderful one, long and full but incredible. We saw so many people and always had our Ghanaian friends in our hearts.

Second transition
A week before we were flying out back to Ghana Martin got really excited and was so eager to come back out. I was sad knowing I wouldn't see family friends in Britain. The day before we flew out it dawned on me that I was leaving soon for 5 months. This is a long time for me. The longest I had been that far away from my family was our first stint in Ghana (3 months). Luckily my awesome sis and her hubby were available to skype and reminded me about how it isn't that long really, that we will be in touch loads and that I loved it so much last time. I needed to hear these things but I knew them already. I knew I would love it when I came back and that I was missing our Ghanaian family loads. I am just not good with change. [Those from Holy Family will remember what a wreck I was when I left in the summer]. Sure enough as soon as we got on the plane I was getting my head in the game and ready to go back. I was prepared for the culture shock arriving in Ghana, very well prepared for the reverse culture shock going back - guess I needed more about the reverse reverse culture shock :-)

So we have returned safely to Abenta :) It is so good to be back with our Ghanaian family. Our plane landed late at about 10 pm and by then we had already met one of the new volunteers who incidentally was sitting in front of us and didn't even know. She is 24, Irish, a nurse and lovely. Good start. Met Brendan (Coach Coach), Andy (Brendan's mate from home), Kwabena, Papa (Kwabena's son) and the other new volunteer Brandon at the airport. Quick pit stop at Kwabena's and then off to Osu to find a bar, after a bit of searching we found Epo and had some drinks, goat kebabs and chicken with rice. This meant the day started off with an English Breakfast at Gatwick (thank you Sue and Mike!) and ended with typical Ghanaian street food. Yum! Late night, but nice to spend time with everyone. The next morning, after a lovely breakfast at Kwabena's we headed off the mall to stock up on goodies. Lodz and I didn't really get much this time round as we know we be fine with what we have in the village, that and too much food over Christmas break :s Then it was on to Abenta :):):):):) The journey felt so long because I was so tired and eager to get there. First person I saw was one the children, Gladys, I had to hold in some emotion - it was so nice to be home. Loads of children then came as did our host Ayisi with his daugther Akua. I went to find Angela's mum, Akua, and she was with most of the ladies I spend time with - lovely surprise to see them all. Getting back into our hut was special, our home :) Lovely chilled night with macaroni cheese and sitting around a camp fire.

We are in the heart of harmattan at the moment so cooler evenings and scorching hot days. I am dealing a lot better with it than I thought I would.

 View from the airport in Barcelona, waiting for our connection flight whilst trying to spot Aoife :)
 Drinks at Epo bar, Osu, Accra
 View of part of Nima, close to Kwabena's
 A bit of renovation in Accra mall, changing our view whilst we eat pizza quite drastically

On our way to Abenta (not sure why the photo is turned)
 Libation with the chief and elders, a tradition to ask for protection whilst we are here. This is a custom for newcomers to Abenta.
 First meal, macaroni and cheese. A lot better than the first meal last three months (Patch, Joel, Keith, Neil and Brendan - you will know what I am talking about)
 King of fires - Brandon - makes a beast!
 Well that escalated quickly!

Me da se (Thank you) for reading

Ye bishia bio (We shall meet again)