Posted by: devonhamilton | November 2, 2010

Last days in Takoradi

On Friday, we wrapped up our Takoradi workshops. In the morning, Steph, Lisa and I ran a workshop on fundraising, and in the afternoon Jenna and Kelly covered event planning. It feels so strange to be done the workshop portion of our time in Takoradi!

Our final report is due tomorrow, November 3rd. The plan after that is to leave for Accra on the 4th, and we are actually going to be staying there overnight, which is exciting! The first Thursday of every month there is a get-together at the Canadian Embassy, so we are looking forward to attending. It sounds like we’ll be able to watch a movie and network with other Canadian expats working in Ghana. I haven’t met any other Canadians so far! I didn’t think I would be in Accra again until the end of December (we will be there for a few days at the end of project) so it will be nice to be back there now that we have adjusted to life in Ghana. On the morning of the 5th we will leave for Koforidua, where we will have a couple of days of orientation before beginning workshops with peer mentors on Monday, November 8th.

Some things I have learned while in Takoradi:

–          Always clarify and define what your workshop is about. We ran an entire workshop on Millennium Development Goals and at the end had students asking about the meaning of “Millennium” – we also experienced this (again) when we ran our high risk/medium risk/low risk activity (“what is risk??”)

–          Always ask a restaurant what they have before you look at the menu. Many times they are out of things on the menu and instead of telling you this they will bring you whatever they have

–          Aside from prices at restaurants, every price is pretty much negotiable

–          At restaurants, food is not brought out at the same time and sometimes not even close to the same time. Sometimes  a couple of us are done eating completely before the others have even received their food

–          If you ask students if they understand something you have said, they will always say yes. It works better to ask them to re-explain what you just said to see if they were listening/absorbed it

–          Learning the local language is very important. I have had fun learning random Fante vocabulary and local people are thrilled when you try to use it (and if they ask you “how are you” in Fante and you reply “I’m fine” in Fante they are overjoyed)

–          There is a shortage of small bills and change; everyone has 10s but no one has change for it which can make shopping difficult (especially when trying to negotiate a lower price)

–          The thing I take the most for granted in Canada is running water, and being able to drink and brush my teeth from the tap (as a side note to that – when the running water is out, which is often, the thing I miss the most is not showers or flushing the toilet, but washing my hands)

–          Miscommunication is common: we were unaware that we committed to teaching English; we have “stood people up” when we didn’t know we had plans; Steph and I waited for 1.5 hours for food because by “two burgers” they thought we meant we weren’t hungry

–          The best way to handle any uncomfortable situation is to laugh

–          The dance floor is dominated by men who openly dance with each other, with just a handful of females

On Friday we picked up our clothes from our tailor, Sammy, and we are all thrilled with how our outfits turned out! For four yards of fabric and a custom-made shirt and top, I only spent 16 cedis – which is less than $16 CAD (maybe around $12 CAD). I hope we can find a tailor in Koforidua because I would like to have more clothing made if possible. All the outfits are so different, and we are all happy with our fabric and design choices!

On Saturday we were invited to a wedding that was set to begin at noon. Anyone can attend weddings but it still felt to us like we were crashing it. We of course wore our custom-made outfits. Our connection to the wedding was the maid of honour, Mensima. Mensima is the vice-president of the Rotaract, and we have been running workshops for them on Sunday evenings. Fred told us to arrive at least an hour later than the stated start time, since there was no possible way this wedding would start at noon – they would of course be running on “Ghanaian time.” I don’t know if we were just too excited to wait or what, but we ended up leaving our hotel around noon and heading to the wedding, which was about ten minutes away. Not surprisingly, we waited for two and a half hours before the wedding started… that’s right, it started at 2:30pm. We weren’t the first people there, but when we arrived around noon they were still setting up the church for the ceremony. It seems that no matter how many anecdotes you hear about “African time”, you need to experience these things for yourself in order to actually take them seriously!

The wedding itself was lovely, with a fairly long ceremony, probably an hour and a half. A few hymns were sung and much of it was similar to a North American wedding, but with a lot more dancing inside the church. Many of the guests were wearing traditional clothes and kente cloth, so I made sure to take a lot of pictures and tried not to look too creepy while doing so. After the wedding refreshments were provided, which included drinks as well as some snacks. The official wedding photography was wrapped up quickly, probably in less than 20 minutes, in comparison to Canada where an entire afternoon can be spent on wedding pictures! When they called up friends of the bride to have their picture taken with her, we were waved to come join, so it is nice to know that I am in someone’s official wedding pictures.

We have been having bad luck with viruses lately (and technology in general as a few of the girls have been having major camera issues). I have officially abandoned my USB key after it became riddled with 30 viruses, and I actually ended up getting a virus on the memory card of my camera, which I didn’t even know was possible. I have thrown those things to the bottom of my knapsack and am using a different memory card that I packed, so hopefully this will be the end of my problems. Right now it looks like everything is safely quarantined… but I wish I was more of a tech person. Keep your fingers crossed for me, I would be upset if I lost the ability to upload pictures to this blog!

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween, and for everyone who inquired: no, we do not celebrate Halloween in Ghana – but we did wish each other a Happy Halloween over breakfast. As far as I know the only Ghanaian holiday I will be here for is Farmer’s Day, which falls on the first Friday in December.

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