Friday, November 16, 2007

Cycling in the Clwydian hills will improve the lot of children at Brutu Kindergarten!

Some great news this week is that one of our friends at home , Dave Bullock, and his students at Frodsham High School has raised several hundred pounds to assist with our efforts to support the Kindergarten Schools in Lawra District. We are absolutely delighted and we shall certainly put it to good use – for toys, books, class-room improvements etc. Thanks for the sweat and toil on your bike around the hills of North Wales to raise this sum Dave; thanks go to you and all your friends who had their arms twisted to support you!! We will keep you posted, via the Blog, on the use of the funds - our next step will be to meet with the PTA and Rev Sr Justina, (who is the Assistant Director in charge of school supervision and who has a keen interest in this particular school) and work out their immediate priorities. They will be overjoyed.

Our VSO work with Lawra’s Education Service continues to evolve, with us both engaging in a range of sometimes quite unpredictable spheres of work; it is never boring! We keep the Teachers’ Resource Centre ticking over financially by doing photocopying, laminating and document binding with a constant stream of teachers wanting study leave forms, applying for study leave, going away and then not coming back to the Upper West - a constant ‘brain drain’. The Ghana Education Service, in the name of technological advancement has decreed that all 44 Junior High Schools should enter their examination students ‘ data online by December. The fact that none of the 44 schools in the Lawra District have electricity, computers or the Internet and only one teacher has his own computer wasn’t taken into consideration. So, over the next two weeks the TRC is helping the JHS Year 3 teachers to enter their pupils’ exam details onto a special database installed onto the four available computers at the TRC as well as going out to schools (with our own cameras) to take digital pictures of the students because schools don’t have cameras!!

Exploring at week-end helps to compensate for the limited scope for mid-week leisure activities. We have no hills, tennis courts, swimming pools, Operatic Society or the like, no TV, nowhere to go out for a meal, no cinema etc.. but there is an abundance of local bars if you want to drink yourself into a stupor at the end of the working day. We have decided that weekends are definitely to be used and enjoyed and so we are off to Burkina Faso again, this time to Bobo Dioulasso , to explore. We believe it is much greener and fertile than around the capital of Ouagadougu and that there are hills, waterfalls and escarpments to the South heading towards Banfora and Sindou. We get by reasonably well with Nigel’s French.

On the home front, the garden beats us and Harmattan season is upon us!I have completely given up with the garden. We will now have no rain until March at the earliest and I can’t be bothered to lug water to a garden where everything gets eaten by crickets, grasshoppers and caterpillars. Also I feel guilty using water which has to be brought to our house on the head of a woman who has 7 children of her own and works incredibly hard just to make ends meet. The weather is getting hotter during the day and colder at night, from now until December; this last week it has been around 35 – 40 deg day and down to about 15 -18 deg night time.

What a country of contrasts this is.

Bye all

Update from Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali

Burkina Faso and Mali trip in October/November.
We have just had a great holiday with friends Berwyn and Julia who flew (from Nigeria) to Accra and then Kumasi. We spent a couple of nights here in Lawra and then headed for a couple of nights in Ouaga to try and sort out visas for both Burkina Faso and Mali. No visa forms available at Immigration in Ouaga, for B.F. so sort them out on your return from Mali, and get your Mali visa at the border! No problems. We crossed the Mali border with no problem but had strict instructions not to go further that the Bandiagara Escarpment – Dogon Country and definitely not to go as far as Mopti on the River Niger. We spent one very uncomfortable night in Bankass in a very run down ‘hotel’ with Nigel being violently sick. Fortunately he was better by morning. We acquired a very knowledgeable National Guide who spent the next three days guiding us round the escarpment villages, up to Mopti on the River Niger and then to Djenne, We took a short boat trip up the river at Mopti to an island fishing village – in all its working glory, if we’d had the time we could have carried on down-river for two days to Timbuktu – maybe next time! A fascinating visit marred only slightly by being besieged by small (and large) children all with their hands out asking for a ‘petite cadeau’ or an offer to have their picture taken for money. Thankfully our guide handled it well distributing the small change we had with us to very eager hands.
We visited Djenne home of the largest mud mosque in West Africa. Fascinating history, lovely buildings but pretty unpleasant environment (dirt and rubbish) although our accommodation was excellent. We then spent the last two nights in Ouaga prior to B & J flying home from Ouaga. It is worth going to Ouaga (5 hours away) just for the food and the Marina supermarket!
Bye for now.