Posted by: devonhamilton | December 14, 2010

Goodbye, Ghana!

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Amsterdam and I still can’t believe my Ghanaian adventure is over! November and December really flew by. Our last week in Koforidua was fairly busy, since we had to write our final report and wrap up our project with the mentors. Afterwards, we spent the weekend in Accra.

One thing I made sure to do while we were still in Koforidua was visit the local fire station. I had passed it a few times so I wanted to take some pictures for my dad, who is a Fire Chief in Toronto. Jenna and I approached some of the firefighters and asked if we could take some pictures, and they were kind enough to show us all of their equipment!

Our debrief session with the mentors was informative and I hope that both sides took away some lessons from this experience. The big theme continues to be communication! One suggestion from both us and the mentors was that the mentors be given advance notice of what topics YCI Ambassadors will be covering. This way, the mentors could do some research on the topics in question prior to our arrival. We also felt that we covered too many topics (MDGs, Proposal Writing, Fundraising, Project Management) and that we should have put a larger focus on the MDGs, as that was the theme of the workshops we had the mentors run. We then presented the First Annual “Boafo” Awards. Boafo means “helper” and boafo pa means “good helper”. I came upon this word randomly one day when I was asking Fred to translate some store signs for me, and we came across one called “God is my Helper”. This resulted in me constantly telling people they were “good helpers” (boafo pa). The mentors seemed to really enjoy this (as much as we did, haha) so we decided to give Boafo Awards. We awarded categories such as Most Dedicated Boafo, Most Improved Boafo, Most Knowledgeable Boafo, etc. It was really important to us to acknowledge the work the YMCA Mentors have done because they have been so helpful to us in every way – above and beyond the call of duty. We could always count on a mentor to run a workshop on short notice, or take us to a good tailor in Koforidua. They are a really good group and they made our stay in Koforidua so enjoyable. Thanks, Mentors!

The day after the debrief we took a tro-tro to Accra and stayed for the weekend. Accra seemed very busy after being in Koforidua for so long, but I was able to do a lot of shopping there so I can’t complain! I spent the majority of my money at a store called “Global Mamas”, which sells goods made by local women. I couldn’t resist buying a colourful quilt made from batik fabric there. We also visited the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. This park is dedicated to Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, and contains a mausoleum and a museum.

Monday we completed more debrief before I left for the airport at 6pm. I was so sad to be the first one to leave! I know I will reunite with the girls in Toronto over the next couple of months, but saying goodbye to Fred wasn’t easy – I’m trying to convince him to visit Canada ASAP! I thought we would get some time to hang out at the airport, but apparently all KLM flights were leaving at the same time (they handed out a memo saying this) so all passengers were encouraged to go through security immediately.

I wasn’t thrilled about the overnight flight but it ended up being great – since the flight was not full at all, they let us change our seats after takeoff. This meant that instead of sitting with two other people I had a row to myself, so I took advantage and stretched across three seats and slept. The food was good too, and I enjoyed some red wine; no complaints about KLM!

As soon as I exited the plane I felt the deep chill of winter! The temperature in Amsterdam has been hovering around – 2 (much warmer than Toronto, I hear!) and it was still dark when I was trying to find my way around the city. I had both my credit card and debit card rejected, which worried me since I didn’t convert any cash into Euros beforehand (lesson learned), but once I changed machines they both started working again. I eventually found the train to Centraal Station and didn’t have to wander very far to find my hotel since it is right across the street from the station (best present ever – thanks, Erin!).

After a nap and a hot, hot shower, I was ready to walk around Amsterdam. The city is so beautiful and all decked out for Christmas. So far I have just been kind of wandering, but tomorrow Jenna and Kelly fly in before they take off for Thailand, so we are hoping to meet up and tour the Anne Frank house and Red Light District together.

I am currently putting together my presentation for the next set of volunteers leaving in January, so I will post some final thoughts in the next few days (or weeks) after I have had some time to reflect on this whole experience. I have learned so much and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such an incredible group of people!

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