Sunday in Accra

Ghanaians have a strong faith which they live every day, with approximately 60% of the population of Christian faith and 40% or so of muslim faith.  Here are some common sites you see around Accra,

God is good

and in Twi, a similar message (I think) ūüôā

Almost all taxis and tro tros have such messages on their reat window.  And many company names reflect faith,

And the same message in Twi, I think….

A final message for this post,

I hope you enjoy these images.  God Bless everyone on this beautiful Kwasiada (Sunday)!

Maureen

p.s. yes, it is now Monday however the internet also was resting yesterday! ūüôā

A Drumming Welcome

Since arriving in Accra I was awaiting an opportunity to visit the National Arts Center, meet up with a friend of a friend, and pick up some good souveniers for my men back home.  Today was the perfect day. 

Hailing a taxi in Accra is easy.  Stand by the road.  They all toot to Obruni to see if you want a ride.  If you want to pick up a dedicated taxi, point to the ground, they will come over to talk to you.  If you do not want a taxi, just shake your head no.  On any given day when you might be walking along the road this means that you will undoubtedly do lots of head shaking! 

“Me ko Arts Center.”¬† It is the first time I spoke Twi¬†and the person actually knew what I said and did not laugh at me….of course it is easy…Me ko Arts Center….and my grammar was off, I should have said, we not I…alas, I digress…he understood, or perhaps he just understood “arts center” , either way, we were good to go!

We negotiated a fare and off we went.  It was nice to drive through some of the different neighborhoods of Accra since for the most part I have travelled the same roads every day.  There are rich and poor parts of Accra, or so it seems.  The public schools and the private schools are significantly different Рit appears the private schools are perhaps doing some strategic messaging with the schools they are building, not sure.

As we approached the center, we passed the Embassy for the Czech Republic which made me think of our internation student who today is arriving home after spending 10 months with us in Canada.  All of her family and friends are having a party for her and I am sure they will have great fun!  If you have never hosted an international student in your home, perhaps consider it.  It can be a great experience and an opportunity to learn about another culture.

The Arts Center reminds me of a straw market you might find in the Carribean.¬† Local handicrafts, such as Kente cloth, woodwork, etc,¬†as well as the standard souvenier items.¬† Inside the center it is shaded which is a nice break from the sun.¬†¬† My friend Stephen helped me find some gifts for my family…it was like having my own personal shopper…medasse Stephen! ūüôā

Stephen and I in his shop

After purchasing some items, our friend took us to see some drums – not to purchase, just to see.¬† This meant travelling back outside and the sun was almost blinding after being inside for a bit.¬† Again, it was hot…surprise, surprise.¬†¬†

Stephen’s friend Will¬†welcomed us to his shop where completed drums may be purchased.¬† As we had walked to the shop a¬†whole throng of men were following us and¬†at first I did not know why, until they all sat¬†down and offered us a drumming welcome…here is a bit of the welcome….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ND_o-AE5Pg

The drums are truly¬†exquisite!¬† They are all made right there…I mean¬†literally, right there.¬†¬†Men were working in the surrounding shops – cutting the standard base from a chunk of wood, planing the wood by hand, painting the base, carving the base (either before or after painting), sanding a carved base by hand, stringing the band for the skin and handle, cutting the skins, scraping the fur off of the dried skins by hand, custom carving¬†for the finish, varnishing, everything….everything done by hand with¬†manual tools or the tools God provided upon birth.¬† It was truly a sight to see and one that every visitor to Accra should explore.¬† This group of guys were so very friendly, even though I told them I was not buying a drum they were happy to show me around and take pictures and invited me to take some lessons.¬†

 

If you travel to the Arts Center ask to¬†take pictures, and¬†be sure to show everyone how handsome they are in the pictures…they like to see them!

Today I feel like Mickey Mouse

Children stare up at me wide eyed.¬†¬† I smile and wave at them.¬†¬†Their eyes sparkle as joy sweeps across¬†their¬†faces and they burst into a huge smile and wave enthusiastically.¬† Some call out to me… Obruni!

A pair of boys, sitting in the dirt under the stall where you can buy street food, play.  They spot during my walk at lunch and start waving and calling to me so that I see them.  I stop, crouch down with a hand on one knee, wave and give them big smiles.  As I walk past their cart, they lose sight of me behind the table cloth hanging down the front of the stall and I believe they think I am gone since the waving and giggling stops.  Moments later, as my legs appear on the other side of the cloth they start calling to me again, laughing and waving.  I turn, crouch down again and wave to them,  They are so happy, two little boys playing in the dirt. 

Continuing on my way,¬†I meet a colleague who is out to buy some bananas for her lunch. I turn¬†and walk with her, which of course means passing by the two little boys again,¬†and this time I beat them to the greeting as I¬†lean down and¬†wave and smile at them.¬† And then they see me.¬† They are so very happy and wave enthusiastically still calling my name.¬† My friend says,¬†” You know they are there.”¬†¬†“Yes, I have passed by here already¬†and they greeted me.”¬† We¬†laugh together.¬†

After work, I start on my way to catching the Tro Tro, and as I pass by a parked¬†and most likely¬†broken down vehicle on our lane, two children call to me….Obruni!¬† I smile and wave and they return the smile and wave and wave and wave.¬† I am well past them and they call to me again and I turn and wave.¬† As I near the end of the road and start to turn, I hear the shouts again as the little boys call out to me for the final time knowing that I will soon be out of their site and so we exchange our final greeting of the day.

After a tiring Tro Tro ride back to the hotel, I turn¬†onto the side street towards the hotel entrance, and wave at the children in the corner stall.¬†¬†These children greet my friends and I every time we¬†return and they are¬†there and so we always greet them.¬† Today I pause as I wave and the oldest girl¬†skips towards me.¬† Not to be out done, the littlest one, still waddling in diapers and unable to speak English (as far as I can tell) runs over at full speed, which of course is waddling full speed.¬† The mother in me checks both ways for traffic and we all know that there is little traffic on this side street so everyone is safe.¬† I smile at¬†the older girl¬†and¬†ask how she is today.¬† She is good.¬† “What is your name.”¬† “My name is Giften.”¬† “Nice to meet you Giften, my name is Maureen.”¬† She smiles¬†at me as I say hello to the little one, who is too young to talk to me but none-the-less intrigued with my presence.¬† We all smile at each other for a moment until the little one scurries back to the market stall and¬†Giften turns to continue her¬†skipping along a dirt path that cuts through the rubble.¬†And so I bid her a good day before continuing on my way.

Today, the children made my day.  I wonder if this is how Mickey Mouse feels.

Lessons in Literacy

Pamoja Ghana, or Ghana REFLECT Practitioners Network, focuses on literacy and works with the most disadvantaged populations who are often in rural areas.  Over this weekend, I have been reading about the practice of REFLECT and must say that I find it eye opening to consider the concepts presented in the REFLECT material and some of the assumptions, beliefs and cultural norms that I associate with literacy. 

What does literacy mean to you?  Consider your definition.  When you think of literacy, do you think of reading and writing skills, perhaps even numeracy skills, or the broader concept of effective communication skills for everyday matters?  Is reading and writing more valued than other forms of literacy in your culture?

How do power relationships play a role in literacy?  Where power positions exist (and they do) how are all voices heard effectively and equally, particularly the voices of the disadvantaged, or those for whom the written word in documents/signs/etc. is in a language that is not their mother tongue?

Think about¬†the concept of power as it relates to literacy.¬† What do you associate with power that is also associated with literacy?¬†¬†Consider two different¬†tool sets : pencil and paper or pen and portfolio….which one would you associate with a more powerful position?¬† The follow-up question of course is, why do we make that association?

How is¬†literacy different than schooling?¬† How do adult learners who are exploring literacy feel about being being associated with “going back to school”¬†as compared to ‘learning new skills’ and how do we empower adult learners to avoid the stigmas of illiteracy and give themselves their own power as they explore literacy?

My reading so far….and there is more to read….is enlightening for me and¬†allows me to begin to question some of the assumptions, beliefs, and norms of the culture from which I come.¬†

I find it all very interesting.

Here and there: the same and different

Things can be the same even though they are different. 

Children love to play. 

Hopscotch; drawn with a stick, drawn with chalk. 

Punch buggy purple.  

Everyone gets frustrated with traffic.

Crazy cabbies.

Little boys love to watch the big trucks doing road construction.

Everyone wants to make a living and provide for their family.

Cell phones….everywhere!

Soccer/football.

Laundry hanging out to dry.

Second hand clothes:¬† Dead man’ clothes, Frenchies

Hockey:  field, ice.

Funerals:  community celebration of a great life lived. 

Traditions. 

Children ask a lot of questions.

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 Рlike anything else Рdenial 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 Рnot 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