Monday, 21 March 2016

Two and a half weeks left... where has the time gone?

We're now approaching the end of our time in Ghana (where has the time gone?!). We have two and a half weeks left before it's all over. We'll be leaving with very heavy hearts (not literally, that would require urgent medical attention) and we're already thinking about coming back to visit Abenta within a few years to be reunited with our friends in this brilliant community.

The last two weeks have been quite different for Liz and I as we're the only obronis on the base. It's been less busy than the previous 2 months and it's meant that we have been able to spend more time with Aikens, Emmanuel as well as catch up with other friends we've not seen in a while.

Last weekend we went to Accra (probably for the last time before we leave) to visit Kwabena, Joyce and family. It was great to catch up with them and indulge a bit in home comforts.  On the Saturday night Liz and I went to an Indian restaurant for a brilliant (although expensive) curry. We joined Kwabena, Joyce and Lydia for church on Sunday morning, this is our second time at their church and the music was incredible. After the service we met a retired Ghanaian couple who spend half their time in the UK and Ghana. We asked where in the UK they lived and they said 'Leytonstone'. It turns out we used to live about 1 mile away from them! Small world.

Best church music ever at a Pentacostal church in Accra.

The view of the 'plains of Accra' on our way back to Abenta. We've not had this view for ages because it was completely obscured by the harmattan from November to February

Joyce, me, Scott and Lydia (Lydia is a relative of Kwabena and Joyce)

Curry time in central Accra. 

We also met a Londoner called Scott who is living with Kwabena and Joyce and working with a Ghanaian publishing company. Having found a mutual love of football (not hard to do!) we snuck off to a local bar on Sunday to watch Spurs vs Villa. Harry Kane looked ok, would probably get in the Cambridge team.

Using money given to us by Tom Pickering (thank you!) we have been able buy paint so that we can decorate the school building in Abenta with educational prompts (letters, numbers, pictures, words etc). A lot of the kids here lack any educational material to help them outside the classroom so this will hopefully make a small difference in boosting their numeracy and literacy. Laud (aka King Yobo), the school's ICT teacher, provided the artwork and both Laud and Liz painted it. It's still ongoing and hopefully most will be done before we leave.

 King Yobo. Musician, artists and teacher. A man of many skills. 

Caption anyone? Liz wont thank me for posting this! She'd only started work 5 minutes earlier. haha (joke). In fairness it was incredibly hot.

We finally caught up with Solomon this weekend, the friend we made last October. This time we invited him to Abenta to cook him a rather improvised Thai chicken meal (ingredients from Accra). It was great to catch up and talk through a wide range of social and political topics (what do you expect when you put a social studies and sociology teacher together). It was great introducing him to Aikens and Emmanuel too. 

The following day Emmanuel, Aikens, Liz and I finally did the long walk to the ridge at Tutu that we can see from our base. We left at 6:30am and completed it in a respectable 2:45 minutes. I don't think I've sweated as much as that walk.

At the start of our walk. Energetic and eager.

Liz and I beginning to feel the heat.

Look what we found along the way! Even insects look stylish in Ghana.

The view climbing the ridge. You might be able to make out Aikens in his white T-shirt.

Tutu! We made it. Liz and I were completely shattered. Ema and Aikens barely broke into a sweat.

Other random photos:

Abenta girls vs Gboloo Kofi girls. Final score 3-4. Abenta's come a long way with its girls' football team.

A few of the kids playing in the sand with the Abenta hills in the background. Adwoa (on the right) is one of our favourites.

An afternoon visit to see the IVHQ volunteers in Tin Kong, a town between Adawso and Koforidua. We randomly met Rachel (far left) in Lake Bosomtwi a couple of months ago and have stayed in touch since.

This is one of those random things that makes Abenta so special. It was about 9pm, music was blaring out from a nearby house so the kids decided to start dancing by the one street light in that part of the village. I was just walking back to the hut and this is what I saw!

So I contacted the local authorities and complained of anti-social behaviour and they've all got ASBOs now. 

We had a jumble sale of either clothes donated to the charity or clothes left behind by previous volunteers on Saturday. Angela, Patience and Bernice organised it with the help of Liz. The clothes sold for between 20 to 50 pesawes (4 to 10 pence).

Jumble sale in action. 

Thank you for reading! I hope our blogs have helped you see what a fantastic country Ghana is and how friendly and welcoming its people are. 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Northen Ghana trip

Happy Independence Day Ghana!!!!!

Since the last blog we have handed over books to Abenta and Gboloo-Kofi, said goodbye to Brendan and travelled up north.

The books were received well in both Abenta and Gboloo-Kofi. They have responded well to everything we have taught and supplied so far so we are confident they will be used. Thankfully the day after we gave them out we saw Gyampoh (vbv worker and teacher at Abenta) leading the way and using them with his class :) We also gave out some resources as rewards to Abenta for their hard work with phonics. The improvement with the reading tests was amazing.

It was very strange saying goodbye to Brendan as he has been constant the whole time here. We have seen many people come and go but this was different. We had a meal at his house, first ones - honoured :) Lots of reminiscing, deep talking and laughs (sums up our times together).

Quinn's humble abode

Our northern trip has been amazing, we are so glad we braved the huge amounts of travelling to do it. Our journey started with staying at a monastery half way between Techiman and Tanoboase.

We stayed in separate rooms - being a monastery, they don't have double rooms

There we met George, Christy and Jerica - with them we shared the awkwardness of silence at dinner time whilst someone read out a mixture of scripture and catholic literature. It was an experience though. George and Christy are married and live in Ghana, they met here. Jerica is Christy's friend visiting from Canada. We joined our new friends the next day to see Tano Sacred Grove, Ghana Permaculture Insitute ( and the monkey sanctuary. They had their own vehicle so this helped us out a lot.

Christy and Jerica

Tano Sacred Grove. This is after I took a nasty tumble down a rock :( The whole place had been caught in a fire so there were fallen trees and thorns everywhere.

House made out of tyres. Recycling old material and supposedly cooler as the tyres breath.

Me feeding a mona monkey. Such a lush experience. These creatures are so intelligent.

Martin feeding the monkey. They are so friendly as they are seen as sacred in this part of Ghana so can't be killed and must be buried like a human

George and Martin, two different ways of climbing a tree :) This tree is 100% hollow on the inside as it grew up the old tree and suffocated it. Nice!

They dropped us at our next destination - Operation Hand in Hand, where we were staying. An incredible bunch of people, residents and workers alike. The people who stuck in my mind are Edina, a worker who took us on a tour and showed such love to the children (she had moved from Wa just to work here), Elizabeth, a 7 year old who arrived in Sept and has such great personality (she does not let her lack of speech stop her from communicating), Miriam, a gorgeous 4 year old with down syndrome who was abandoned at the gate two years ago, James, a little boy with cerebal palsy who loves cuddles and playing on the see saw, Kwame Evans, a young man with cerebal palsy who is a fantastic artist, Ineke, the amazing lady who founded all this in 1992, Bob, Ineke's husband who has such a fantastic personality and breaks into song mid sentence (what my dad will be like at 85) and finally, Bridget, who is 28 years old, has cerebal palsy and is an excellent weaver - I have bought a book of hers that she dictated to Ineke, she inspires me with her spirit.

Elizabeth and Martin on the swing

Lodz getting involved with some footy

M'Afia showing Martin that the little figurine is him

James and Elizabeth :)

Kwame Evans, the amazing artist, standing in front of just some of his art

Bob Maram (Dad in 20 years :) )

Next stop - Kintampo. We had a lovely time at the falls. We went early enough and on a sunday that we were the only tourists. Very tranquil.

We had a bit of a wait but finally made it in Tamale. We were both grateful to arrive as the tro tro was jam packed. The place we were staying had lovely staff that went above and beyond. We went on a lovely tour around a near by village where we watched (and sometimes had a go at) local skills such as cotton spinning, pot making and shea butter production. Body shop buys from this remote village, I couldn't believe it - I hope they pay a fair price. Our guide Abu was a legend and afterwards we met Walisu, who started it all.

Traditional huts in the north, the palace is designed in the same way which was a nice touch. The round huts are for the women in the family (mother and wife) and the square huts are for the men. Smaller round ones for animals. Sons get huts built for them when they are a certain age but daughters don't as they are intended to marry and with therefore move out. it seems just as communal as Abenta but more focus on just family.

Our cotton spinning teacher laughing at my horrendous effort :) I blamed it on being left handed, but it wasnt that a tall!!!!!

The expert at work, Martin's looked sort of similar :s

We had tasty fufu that afternoon and I bought my 4th book by my favourite author at the mo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah :) We walked around Tamale and rode in a tuktuk (they call them John Mahama's). We have been having quite different food on the whole - hummous, falafel, pizza, indian :)

The Grand mosque with the busy traffic

'Tuktuk' - best way of travelling around in a hot country, other than air con of course :)

Off up to Bolgatanga. Bad first impression for me at the station but the rest of it has been great. We had some lovely food at the two main restaurants.

Don't get to see many pigs in and around Abenta

1000s of school children marching for independence day :)

Comme Ci Comme Ca - the main restaurant we ate at. This is one of the many out door spaces to eat.

 We intended on going on a tour with 'Tanga Tours' - this would've included Bongo, Sirigu, Paga (sacred crocodiles), Navrongo (Catholic) and Lake Tono. Instead we decided to get severe food poisoning :( So much so that we were convinced it was malaria. This knocked us out for 48 hours (slept most of it and barely ate). We still weren't 100% but were so eager to get back home, Abenta. We went for an air con bus from Bolga to Kumasi but accidently stayed on and therefore did 15hours of travelling in one. This was with a bad tummy :( At least we are home though.

So glad to be back :) Always nice to arrive to the smiles of Margaret, Akua and Abena :)