in 7 days

7 days and I will be in Accra, probably sweating, wearing sunglasses, sunscreen, sunhat, and maybe even bug spray (just in case – I will have been on Malarone (anti-malarial) for two days).  I will have made some new friends, fellow volunteers travelling with me from other parts of Canada.  By all accounts, The Ghanaian people will be friendly and welcoming.   I am excited to make new friends once I arrive! I will definitely be eating some new food, might try eating with my fingers…or I might pack a sppon…and I might even try the local beer – Star.  It is hard to believe it is just a week away.

Thanks to all my friends and colleagues who encouraged me to take this journey and who have helped me in so many ways, small ways and big ways.  Medaase! 🙂

the prep continues…

Maureen

Learn a language

Learn a language?  Sure.  In two weeks, hmmmm, actually, why not! At least enough to be polite and say that you only know a little of the language!

In Ghana, there are over 106 languages, all with multiple dialects…that’s a lot to learn!

At the intercultural training, my new friend Ernest (originally from Ghana) was teaching me a little bit of the two dominant language, it became clear to me that this would take more than the time we had.  I repeated the phrases and I thank Ernest for not laughing at me as I got bits of it horribly wrong.  It was an eye opening experience and I vowed that I would spend more time on to learn Twi.

Enter Youtube.  A quick YouTube search and video choices to learn Twi (pronounced ‘tchwee’) popped forth.  A reason to love YouTube!  Hubby watched the first video with me and he was pleasantly surprised when I had replied with Twi for ‘thank you’ before being told in the video what it was.  That much I had remembered from the training! 🙂

And so, I will work on my Twi a little bit everyday and in two weeks, who knows where I will be…hopefully at least at please, thank you and of course, have a nice day! 🙂

13 days,

Maureen

Culture Shock

At the intercultural training with the other Leave for Change volunteers, we were invited to introduce ourselves and tell a little bit about who we are and what we will be doing….

…Hi, I’m Maureen and I am from Middleton, NS, population 3,600.  I will be volunteering with a partner organization of GNECC, likely Pamoja Ghana, and will be working in Accra , Ghana, population 3 million….as light laughter rippled quickly through the room, folks were certainly thinking the same thing….culture shock.

I live in a quiet part of the Annapolis Valley, in a house, on about an acre of land, with trees lining my property.  It is very, very quiet when I go to sleep at night, and even as I write this post I hear every noise, which is just the white noise of our appliances.  Accra is a large, cosmopolitan city and I expect it will be crowded, noisy and trees may be less plentiful than we enjoy here.

In Canada, I will leave behind my vegetable garden and will miss the fresh peas this season.  In Accra, I will have new things to try, like plantains.  Not sure if I will be eating fresh peas, and if not, that is OK, I will enjoy some new things.

And, then there is the weather…Accra runs at about 90 degrees farenheit with 85% humidity this time of year, and it cools down to a whopping 75 at night.  Let’s just say, that’s not quite we are used to here in Canada…even if we don’t live in igloos!

With culture shock – like anything else – denial is likely the first step.  So, as I prepare for my travels I keep thinking about how different it will be and visualize how I will successfully navigate this new city and the new culture.  I visualize making friends and sharing meals with them.  The honeymoon phase of this adventure will no doubt be exciting, I will need some strategies to deal with culture shock when it hits, and it will, the only question is when, will I see it coming, and how long will it stick around.

When we immerse ourselves into another culture, whether near or far, we need time to adjust to our surroundings.  Having strategies already in mind will help navigate the culture shock and remind us that different is not good or bad…it’s just different.

Enjoy the day, whereever your travels take you,

Maureen

p.s. Here is a quick link to a post on the topic from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

http://www.voyage.gc.ca/abroad_a-letranger/culture-shock_choc-culturel-eng.asp

The Cultural Divide: Time to Relax

Life is short…relax…take your time.

Go, go, go…time is money.

Which of the two statements is the one you hear more often where you live?  Which is the one you, your family, your firends, and your colleagues lives by?

Time.  What we think about time and how we use our time is a product….or perhaps one might say, a symptom…of our culture.

In North America, time is money.  Simple, yes.  Appropriate – not so sure.

In Ghana, time is just time.  Time does not matter, relationships matter.  The concept of late does not really exist…either you have arrived or you are on your way.  Simple, yes.  Appropriate – perhaps moreso.

Looking forward to visiting Ghana…19 days.

Maureen

Maureen’s Leave For Change 2011 Blog

I decided to rename my blog for this adventure and this is the new spot!  The reason I chose to do this is because I feel it is important going forward to have the blog contain the Leave for Change program in the title.  This may encourage others to participate and learn more about the program and so please, take a moment to share this spot with anyone you think may be interested in following my Leave for Change adventure in Accra Ghana.

For those of you just joining us, I have copied all of my earlier posts into the new blog address in case you are interested in following from the beginning.  Unfortunately, to transfer comments, etc, costs money 😦  …perhaps I will add the former comments as post scripts…and so I opted not transfer them officially and will make a donation to Her Challenge, Your Challenge instead.  Why not join me…

Here is my new blog address.  Enjoy!

https://maureenleave4change2011.wordpress.com/

Thanks friends,

Maureen

 

Orientation Training

Sitting in Starbucks on Dundas for the free WiFi so that I can let you all know this weekend I am in TO for orientation training for the Leave for Change.  I am most looking forward to meeting ther volunteers, especially those who may be travelling to Ghana at the same time.  A little disappointed that I have not met anyone yet but it was a nice sunny day so folks are probably out and about, perhaps when I get back to the room I will meet some new friends! 🙂

A big Congrats to the NSCC grads who convocated at Annapolis Valley Campus tonight!  Sorry I could not be there!  Best of luck to all of you, whereever your learning journey leads!

Until tomorrow,

Maureen

Her Challenge, Your Challenge

Her Challenge, Your Challenge

Women in African countries continue the struggle to aspire to equality.  With the reading I am doing to prepare for my adventure, I am learning more and more about the plight of girls in schools and women in general in African society.  How is it that some of us in this world get to live is affluent luxury while others live in such abject poverty.  While those of us born as women in North America have equal access and rights to safety and education, women in Africa struggle to support their families and it appears that even attending school is not safe for African girls.  And yet, in North America we take the safety of our girls in schools for granted.  When we send our girls off to school on the bus we do not worry about sexual assaults in a washroom that all in the school share (and by all I mean boys, girls and school staff) nor do we worry about the teachers picking out a girl to take home, nor do we worry about our daughters being suspended from school because of pregnancy.  We are indeed lucky to live such worry free lives.  Truth be told, no mother on this planet should have such worries, and yet they do.

A research paper I was reading yesterday speaks to how mothers will keep their girls at home to keep them safe.  Perhaps we might do the same in similar circumstances.  Unfortunately, as we know, avoidance of a problem is not an effective solution.   Education is the most powerful weapon in effecting change.  And so, I wanted to share this information with you and introduce you to the Her Challenge, Your Challenge program  underway with Uniterra, WUSC and CECI, for those who would like to help

By making a donation to “Her Challenge, Your Challenge,” you will help to carry out projects that give women access to education and quality health services, and ensure that women are economically self-sufficient and their rights are recognized and respected.
www.herchallengeyourchallenge.ca/about.php?lg=en

As we educate girls and women, we change families and futures.  Help with this cause to help change the world one girl, one family, one community at a time.

God Bless,

Maureen

p.s. I am interested in knowing how many people this post encourages to take up this challenge.  If you do, and you are willing to share, please add a comment to this post indicating your support for Her Challenge, Your Challenge.

From Sarah on June 5, 2011:

Maureen and others-
Your assessment of the plight of women and girls in West Africa is accurate. I volunteer with an NGO in Sierra Leone called cdpeace (www.cdpeace.org). We have launched a program of microbusiness support for women making traditional African textiles. In Canada, Fleming College where I work has senior International Trade and Marketing students working on the business, KOMBRA, for a whole semester each year to move the business and marketing of their products along and create a sustainable income for the women. The money goes back into the business, into the women’s immediate communities and helps support scholarships particularly for girl’s education – the daughters of the women in the business. It’s a win-win. We’re just beginning. Our website will be up this month but take a look at the website of cdpeace to see what other initiatives they are doing in the rural communities of Sierra Leone.