Sunday, July 08, 2007

Interesting people and places.
A fortunate consequence of my extended stay in Accra was an invitation to a party at the British High Commission; it was a really enjoyable evening and for a couple of hours I was able to share a dinner table and conversation with the British High Commissioner (BHC) and a couple of distinguished Ghanaians. The BHC was a really affable chap and we struck something of an accord as his parents came from Salford, my birth place, and he is also an avid Man Utd supporter. We talked about VSO and its role in Ghana + world affairs etc - as you do!
One of our co-diners was the West African representative on the Bill Gates Foundation's HIV/AIDS initiative for Africa. She (Juliette) is also developing a horticultural/environmental landscaping business and is desperately short of trained staff to enable expansion; I thought that the Welsh College of Horticulture + WDA/DEIN (Nick W + Julie M) might be able to help set up suitable training programmes, which do not exist here: any possibilities out there?
Interesting times, people and places

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A crisis of conscience - but only briefly!

I guess we are VSOs with a difference:
We have worked for 40 years and now retired with skills to share but we are still adventurous and want to travel. Owning a vehicle might raise a few eyebrows amongst VSO and 'development' purists, but as far as we are concerned it will only help us perform the jobs we are here to do better if our life outside work is enjoyable; work life balance applies here as well!
Two on a 125cc motorbike is not feasible for the distances, heat and terrain involved out here, so 4 wheels it is and we will subsidise ourselves from our pension. We will still be using our pushbikes to get us around and about the village and to the office and back. So only a very brief crisis of conscience!

Taxing times in Accra - with a potential dividend!

This is probably not a good time to write this:
I have been in Accra for a week now trying to secure the purchase of a vehicle. The extreme difficulties of travel by tro tro and bus in and out of Lawra district (from Lawra to Accra: 3 buses, 800km and a total of 24 hours travelling, including overnight) led us to decide that if we ever want to get any friends or relatives out here to visit us, a vehicle is a must. So here I am hoping to pick up a Mitsubishi Pajero this afternoon, which I have purchased from an extremely helpful member of the staff of the German Embassy. Regrettably events have conspired against me as my transaction required me to be in Accra at a time when Ghana was introducing a new currency; all foreign currency transactions were effectively suspended for four days during the changeover. A good thing for Ghana, it all went very smoothly, I just happened to pitch up at the wrong time!
Thus I have been kicking my heels whilst the necessary transactions run their course; thus time for a little reflection I suppose.

Ghana is really good and people are exceptionally respectful of each other and of visitors; we (UK) can learn a lot from the generally hospitable disposition held by all of the Ghanaians we have met thus far; both rural and city-based. Life in the city echoes many of the facets of city life in the UK, lots of traffic and extremes of health and wealth, though the infrastructure, sanitation and under resourced services are markedly different. Similar issues of inadequate access to services in rural areas obtain, but these are accentuated many fold, especially with the lack of access to potable water, intermittent electricity supplies for the few that have electricity, and extremely poor roads, transport systems and poorly funded health and education services.

For us, in general, so far so good; the acquisition of a cooker with an oven, at last, should now expand our culinary capacity and a vehicle will enable us to explore Ghana as well as Burkina Faso and Mali in the near future. We will also be able to get to the Internet Cafe more easily and maintain better communications with the outside world.

That's it for now, time to go and get my number plate changed from (CD) Corps Diplomatique to the regular Ghanaian plate; with a bit of luck the next time we write up our blog will be by virtue of having been able to drive the 100km to the Internet Cafe instead of spending all day travelling by tro tro!