Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ruthin Inner Wheel helps tackle poverty among Women in Lawra Ghana

Through a generous donation of £900 Ruthin Inner Wheel is helping us to assist women in Tuori (our local village) to reduce the extent of their poverty by enabling villagers to generate more income. We are working to help groups of small traders to improve their businesses, hence their incomes, hence reduce poverty, through setting up a Credit Union. The CU will be administered by village representatives, they will consider applications for re-payable loans from women’s groups in the village; they cannot borrow again until they have repaid; the village reps vote to allocate the money to their priority projects. The fund is a revolving fund and stays intact as it is loaned and repaid. We have the help of a couple of brilliant Ghanaians who have done this in similar communities where the CUs are still thriving and the quality of life in those villages is gradually improving. It's the type of development that really could do with more financial support as it can make a real difference in very local communities.

Progress to date.
We met with the village Chief and Elders to share ideas and discuss village needs. The men were not too keen on our working solely with the women of the village; the women reassured them that a happier woman would benefit everybody! Agreement was granted to arrange a separate meeting with the women only.

We, Jenny, Nigel, Denisia (a villager who speaks very good English and is a volunteer at the Orphanage in Lawra) and Eric (a Credit Union expert from the local Ministry of Agriculture) met with the women on Monday December 8th, out in the open at 4.00pm. To our great surprise, almost 60 women participated; it also took a long time getting going as every arrival generated a welcome dance. Eventually, Jenny, with the help of her picture drawing skills, led a session to elicit the main activity groups the women were involved in which included: Pottery and Basket-making, Tomato growing and selling, Pito (local beer) brewing and selling, Kosi (local cakes), Shea Butter, Grain processing and general petty trading

6 different groups then gathered separately to elect three representatives to take part in a further meeting which will get down to the ‘nitty gritty’ of discussing the things which they most need, to enable them to improve their group’s activity.

It was sundown by now so we all gathered together again to reflect on what had been agreed; we breathed a huge sigh of relief as this was a very ‘high risk’ meeting which turned out well. We meet again in January, by which time the different groups will have discussed and agreed their priorities. We are so grateful to Denisia and Eric, without whom we would have been sunk, and to the women for their participation, warm welcome and brilliant humour. We could not take photographs at this stage as it could have upset the delicate dynamics of the meeting – maybe next time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Coal Pot Queen: Camping in Gbele Game Reserve

This weekend we decided to test out our camping skills and to explore some of the practical issues which might arise when we begin our overland journey to Capetown in just over 4 months time. It was great fun camping, but freezing cold! However we are now quite re-assured that we can rely on our new tent and our ‘coal-pot’ (charcoal cooker) for any essential camping stops on our journey.

We took a trip to Gbele Game Reserve, about 120km East S.E. of Lawra along a very rough dirt road. Our home for the weekend was a new tent that our friends, Dave and Jan, brought out earlier in July

We were able to pitch in a good shady spot 6km into the reserve.

The Gbele Reserve is bisected by the river Kulpawn which is really good for bird watching; our camp site, which also hosts 3 luxury tents, was just a few hundred metres from the river. We were the sole occupants of the site; it was wonderfully peaceful with amazingly clear, starlit skies. When we signed the Reserve’s visitor’s book we observed that only three other visitors had signed in since we last visited 15 months ago. The reserve has huge potential and very friendly and helpful guides; but insufficient training prevents the guides from being able to identify even the commonest of birds (which is what tourists are keen to know) and a consequent lack of confidence prevents the guides from voluntarily imparting the vast amount of local knowledge that they have about the plants, trees, their various uses etc. So much potential, for both overseas and Ghanaian tourists!
After the night time cold at Gbele, when we got back to Lawra it was 35 deg Celsius (95 F) inside our house at 7.00pm!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nothing Succeeds like Success - Given the Chance....

Chris's home, Chris and brother, Jenny, Chris's father.
A particular success story is that our support for Chrysanthus, our neighbour's nephew from Dondomoteng (see photos above) is proving to be very worthwhile; his school exam results were very good and we are now supporting him with some extra studies, some accommodation and a bicycle to get around on in Wa - we sense a long-term investment coming on here! He is a very capable and decent young man, from a very poor family, he is the first one to even go to Secondary School. What we would like to do is to try and find some sponsorship so that he can progress to University, either here or in the UK - We are sure that he would acquit himself well and any sponsor could be sure of making a sound investment.

In general life is pretty good here
, about 90 degrees inside our Teachers' Resource Centre, in Lawra (where we work) today, just a little different from the October snow in the UK. We have beeen working hard here but we have also made sure that we have travelled and explored Ghana and surrounding countries.
We are now entering a season called the Harmattan - it is very hot and windy during the day - coming from the Sahara desert - but quite cool at night, we even have to put a blanket on sometimes!
We have a few months (5) remaining in Lawra and we are beginning to wonder how we will cope with the luxury and prosperity of the UK.

Our way of life here is very different
: at about 4.00 a.m. the call to prayer at our local mosque is the first thing to disturb our sleep, followed soon after by the many cockerels (they do not seem to be able to crow at the same time here!), then we hear the first villagers and school children pumping water at the borehole, then it's the school's wake up alarm (a piece of wood banging on a big metal bar), then it's the Guinea fowl, turkeys, goats, and cows that parade by and graze around the house sniffing, snorting and scrapping; then it's our neighbour's motorbike (about 6.00) as he goes off to the village shop, then it's Jenny showering pouring luke warm water over herself with a cup from our bucket of bore hole water - such luxury! Breakfast at 7.00 - work at 08.00; and we are supposed to be retired!
Amongst the things we will not miss will be the snakes (four around the house to date), scorpions, the myriad of flies in the evenings (inside - May to October) and the long dark nights - 6.00pm - 6.00-am every day throughout the year; but UK is a long time away yet as we intend to finish here on March 31st 2009 and then travel south, arriving back in the UK, probably at the beginning of September; more of that another time.

Jenny is having a very domesticated week this week; she works really hard at the TRC but she still made a date and walnut cake, a chocolate cake and some hummous this week - fantastic, a real treat. My contributions, over time, have been home made mango chutney, lime pickle and orange and lime marmalade. Enough for now, if we start talking about the food that we do and do not have we will be here all night.
Jenny and her VSO colleague, Ruth, are facing a bit of a quandry at present with the Kindergartens (KG) project they are involved with; the KG staff have not been paid for 10 months and have just embarked on strike action (wouldn't you? , they are paid only £6 per month!) - unfortunately this is just the time when vital training and investment is being put into action - a real dilemma. Onwards and upwards!

Monday, October 27, 2008

New baby delivered – and all is well!

Quite unexpectedly, and after an 1800 km return dash to Accra with our TRC colleague, Rais, we are back in Lawra and all is well. We thought that our reproductive capabilities had come to an end but remarkably they have been restored (the wonders of modern science). Thanks to sponsorship from Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin, from our friends Dave and Jan, and some precious funds from the Teachers’ Resource Centre (TRC), birth was given to a new (re-conditioned) photocopier to replace the TRC’s, which packed up completely a few days ago. The photocopier is an essential facility (the only one) for the whole of the District’s 150+ schools and also generates precious income to fund essential purchases, such as stationery, toner, books etc.

In Accra, we also procured the means to enable the TRC to connect to the Internet and paid for 12 months subscription (our own money – for now) in advance. The Internet facility is very slow and will allow only limited use via one computer, but it is better than none! CD based Teach-Yourself curriculum resources from the UK and Encarta (encyclopaedia) would be some useful acquisitions to help overcome the Internet’s limited capability.

Teaching and Learning materials (TLM’s) are in such limited supply here, so in the short time remaining to us we are endeavouring to equip the TRC with the means to enable Teachers to search the Internet, find suitable teaching and learning materials, download them and then print and reproduce them ‘professionally’.

We need to acquire funding for more computers (a good reconditioned one can be purchased here for about £250) to enable us to: teach ICT skills to the District’s Teachers and to give students an experience of computers, which they cannot get in school. ICT is a compulsory part of the schools’ curriculum but there is neither electricity nor computers – thus the TRC has a critical role to play in ensuring acquisition of ICT skills for all.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cunning, cameras, cops and consensus!

Cunning, cameras, cops and consensus

This last few days and adjacent weekend has generated an unwanted but none the less interesting experience of Ghana’s (Lawra’s) local justice system in action. A former student of the local High School decided to pay us a visit and sadly, in our absence, tricked our ‘house help ‘to gain access for himself and remove a door key and our digital cameras. The theft was soon discovered, culprit apprehended and cameras retrieved through swift action by us and the Lawra ‘CID’.
Admission of guilt was eventually secured and the process of administering justice commenced. First port of call was the family ‘home’; I, CID inspector, mother, father, sisters, and uncle trying to agree on the appropriate action for the felony committed. Apart from returning the cameras, prime concerns were: the dishonour brought upon the family and the shame and embarrassment brought upon the local Lawra community. It was decided that the student would begin by spending the night in the local police cell in Lawra.

Further, very informal, discussions then took place, involving Jenny and I, parents of the student, local police officers and opinion leaders, as to the next steps, which were: that the boy/ family should pay for the renewal of our door lock (which was replaced within hours); we would withdraw our official complaint, and the student would be severely admonished and bailed subject to future good conduct.

The local Lawra community’s prime concern was for the dishonour that the boy had brought upon his family and the bad impression of Lawra that this rare and unusual incident might give to non Ghanaians. We made it clear that we had, so far, experienced an enjoyable and productive 18 months of living and working in Lawra; we have been made most welcome by everybody and the friendship, hospitality and honesty of the residents of Lawra District is second to none; that will be the opinion that we shall continue to give to our family, friends and colleagues.

There is no moral in this tale, all communities have similar ‘bad pennies’ (this one was an outsider from Wa) and Ruthin on a Saturday night certainly does make Lawra seem like paradise by comparison.
The ‘crime’ was dealt with by police and peers in the local community; whoever had an interest , or words of wisdom, came in and out of the police station at their leisure to give their view, whether they knew the boy or not.

The punishment was collectively agreed upon and customised to the student’s and family’s circumstances; it wasn’t driven by a fixed penalty for a particular crime, nor were the police driven by ‘targets’, nor were thousands of pounds spent on expensive lawyers.
An unfortunate incident – satisfactorily dealt with; so which is the sophisticated society?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shock Horror! - We have just over 6 months remaining; so much to do…

Yes - we will be finished here in Ghana by the end of March 2009; how time flies when you are enjoying yourself.

The new school term is here; Jenny and Ruth (our VSO colleague) are working with Lawra Education Service to develop ‘model Kindergartens’ , based on the successful Brutu Kindergarten pilot , in each of the 10 Lawra Districts, funded by generous donations from both the UK and predominantly (via Ruth) Galway in Ireland. The ‘model KG’s’ will be on a lesser scale to Brutu, involving provision of educational play equipment and ‘cluster training’ for KG staff in the effective use of the equipment. J & R will also be working hard to sustain the ‘Phonics for Reading’ project.

I will continue to support the Education Management Information Service with mundane matters such as processing: examination results and entries for 2009, the annual Schools’ Census data, and generally improving the District Education Office Staff’s ICT skills, amongst other things.

Our VSO colleague Helen has returned to UK and will be getting married to Suf in November – brilliant!

We now have limited e mail access at home (small files - no photos!); but it’s great to communicate!
We have a super collection of ‘different’ music (soul, blues, folk, electronic etc!) thanks to Ruth’s brother;
We are experiencing incessant power cuts and frequent thunderstorms (only partially related);
Everywhere is as green as can be and the crops are flourishing;
We are in the ‘constant bombardment by flies in the house’ season – they disappear next month;
I have read more books and watched more Shakespeare (DVD) in our time here, than in the last ‘x’ years;
It’s the home made season: Mango chutney, Orange & Lime marmalade and Lime pickle so far;
Don’t miss telly one iota – hmm – maybe Premiership Football, Rugby, Tennis and….;
The Guardian Weekly has started to arrive again – thanks to Dave and Jan;
We even play scrabble by candle light, especially when the power is off!
We continue to miss our walking, singing, sport and especially the Graig Gang;
We still get on remarkably well with each other!

We now have new passports – we were running out of pages – which meant new photos. Nigel looks about 10 years younger and I look about 10 years older. (That’s because I’m working much harder than he is!!!!)

Bye for now!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

News Bytes from Ghana

July 19th saw the arrival of our friends Dave and Jan from the UK – so we were able to give our VSO work a break for 3 weeks.

The Parent Teachers Association of Brutu Kindergarten arranged a special event to celebrate the completion of the refurbishment of the Kindergarten classrooms, on Tuesday July 22nd 2008. Invited guests included Local Chiefs and Elders, the District Director of Education, VSO's who had been involved in supporting the project, as well as the schoolchildren and staff. Dave and Janet Bullock were the Guests of Honour representing the various donors from the UK; Ruth Heery (VSO and project support worker) represented the donors from Galway in Ireland.
Our VSO colleague Helen has completed her contract and has now returned, with her partner Suf, to work in the UK, she will not be replaced by VSO, and she will be greatly missed.

We had a superb, and eventful, three week holiday with Dave and Jan:
Attended unique Ghanaian ceremonial events;
Experienced unpredictable, frustrating, dubious and expensive Ghanaian and Malian Visa problems;
Enjoyed the delights of Burkina’s cuisine and service (French legacy), outdoor eating and evening jazz in Ouagadougou’s Jardin d’Amitie;
Slept on the roof under the shooting stars in a Malian, Dogon cliff village, awakened by a dawn cacophony of competing cockerels, donkeys, sheep and goats;
Climbed up and tumbled down local cliffs and rocks (used for sacrificial ceremonies – we nearly had our own!), walked 3 km to the car and drove 20 km along incredibly rough tracks and through nigh impassable wadis to get to Mopti hospital –where Malian ‘hospitality’ and Cuban doctors expertly ensured our holiday could continue;
Delighted in the vitality and contrasts of Mopti, its: people, port, the Niger and Bani rivers; boat-life, islands, the tantalising boat journey to Timbuktu - that we didn’t take (hopefully this October/November we will – want to join us?);
Endured the aggravating, over attentive sales-pitch of the jewellery sellers on the ferry across to the ancient city of Djenne with its colossal mud and stick Mosque, and its ‘feet stick in the shit of the streets’ sanitation;Suffered the tedious ‘joined-up potholes road’ via San (Mali) to the Burkina Border;
Enjoyed the hospitality of the nuns at ‘L’Eau Vive’ in Bobo Dioulassou!, the sights and sounds of Old Bobo and in particular the really warm welcome and informative visit afforded to us by our Burkinabe hosts to their magnificent and ancient Mosque;
Really appreciated a few days of rest and recuperation in the peace and tranquillity of Lawra before heading for Cape Coast;
Appreciated the hospitality of VSO friends Dave and Gloria in Cape Coast, giving us a chance to experience a ‘resident’s’ view of the squalor of the living conditions in one of Ghana’s poorest townships, as well as the opportunity to appreciate the fortitude, industry and ingenuity of the dynamic fishing community that resides alongside the former slave fort of Cape Coast Castle.
Reflected on the injustices of Cape Coast Castle’s lamentable past whilst conducted on an illuminating and highly recommendable guided tour of the Castle.
Basked in the luxury of Anomabu Beach Hotel for 3 days whilst also visiting the Kakum National Park (moderately interesting and over hyped - to us), and Hans Cottage Botel to view the crocodiles and relax.
Dropped Dave and Jan off at the Airport in Accra, and that was our excellent break!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We’re really enjoying a week in Accra:

Well it’s blog time again and it’s definitely getting harder to compose after 14 months in Ghana; all that was new, amazing and challenging to our European senses over a year ago is now the norm and just a part of everyday life.
We’re really enjoying a week in Accra!
We are staying with fellow VSO’s and enjoying the novelty of shops, bars, restaurants, running water, constant electricity and the friendship of the wider VSO network in and around Accra. Accra is changing rapidly, lots of new buildings, swanky shops, a huge shopping mall, more cars and generally much cleaner; it makes the north look even more neglected and poor.

We do update our Lawra Projects page quite frequently; this tracks the progress of funds, raised by family and friends, which we are applying to a small number of projects in Lawra. If you want to see some really good photographs of our travels in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali, follow the link.

Brutu Kindergarten Project: The refurbishment of the kindergarten block will come to an official conclusion at the school on July 22nd when Dave and Jan Bullock will be ‘guests of honour’ representing all of the funders at a formal ‘thank you ceremony’. (Support and training for the Kindergarten staff will still continue). We are planning on supporting another Kindergarten, beginning with the fantastic £500 raised by the students at Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin.

We are taking a well earned break for the next three weeks; Dave and Jan arrive on July 19th when we will head up north to Lawra again and (subject to the rains) visit Burkina Faso and Mali, finishing up on the coast somewhere in Ghana.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

One Year On

We have now been in Ghana and the Upper West for a year
and are experiencing seasons for a second time. This last week the weather has, very thankfully for us, seen a change in temperature and although no one will definitely say the rains are here, we have had one good rain last week and it is generally overcast with some cool breezes blowing from time to time. Much more pleasant than the last 2/3 months of baking heat and sweaty nights! We are just thankful that we haven’t had as many power cuts as last year, although we are not getting away scot free. Electricity initially gets turned off if there are storms about as a precautionary measure.

On the work front, at the end of April/beginning of May we, (Helen, Ruth and I – all TSOs in the Lawra District) completed 6 workshops for Primary teachers on ‘Phonics’ and this last week, two two-day workshops focusing on pre-reading skills for Kindergarten teachers and attendants. These sessions are always very well attended – mainly because teachers are keen to learn (although they don’t always implement what they are encouraged to do, in the classroom) and partly because the system here is that they are paid a time and travel allowance for each day they attend. In reality this means that the KG teachers – most of whom have not been paid for months and when they do get paid it is about GH cedis 12 (equivalent to about £6.00 a month!!) , get between 1 & 2 GH Cedis just for turning up and participating each day. We can hardly advocate strike action or work to rule, but honestly, in the Upper West, there seems to be no other way for them to make their views and grievances heard. The pupils in Years 1 & 2 of the Senior High Schools (SHS) have not yet returned to their classes after the Easter break because the government have not paid the feeding allowance for them so the schools (boarding) cannot afford too buy food to feed them. They have missed at least 3 weeks so far this term and seem unlikely to return in the very near future. Demonstrations by the pupils and teachers are being planned in Wa next week but no-one holds out hope that it will do any good unless there is press coverage and the Upper West is such a long way from anywhere!!

On a much brighter note, although we missed a fabulous wedding in Rome (John & Judy, don’t forget to send pics!!!) , we did, this weekend, attend the wedding of a colleague in the GES., Methodius and his bride Scholastica. Along with two of our Ghanaian colleagues we were official GES representatives – everyone else was attending the funeral of the previous District Director of Education, and we opted for the wedding!! I wore my best Ghanaian outfit (red, white and blue!) and Nigel wore his smock. It was held in the local village Catholic Church and as the majority of the service was in Dagaabe, we didn’t understand a lot. However, the Parish priest who officiated had spent about 6 years in Canada, was a very nice chap and decided to translate his ‘homile’ into English just for our benefit and subjected the congregation to an extra 15 minutes of sermon on our account. Fortunately no one seemed to mind. It was a very jolly affair with a xylophone and drum band with tambourines and bell shakers accompanying the choir and lots of dancing positively encouraged, in the aisles. In all it lasted about 2 hours and on reflection, we got the better deal as funerals on the whole last for 2 days and you need a constitution of iron to withstand the vast quantities of pito, (the local brew, a bit like warm cider but made from millet seed ) you are plied with. I had my camera and so took a few small video clips, which I will put on a CD for the happy couple to view on someone’s video player. After the church service we were invited back to the bridegroom’s house for a light lunch (this is usually ‘light soup’ ) and drinks. Somehow we ended up being seated on a sort of platform with the bridal party and were rather treated like VIP’s shaking hands with the everyone including all the village Elders. It was a great experience. We arrived back home around 4.00 and promptly slept off the effects of the pito for a couple of hours then spent the evening just lounging around, reading and doing nothing much in particular.

Sunday lunch saw us down at the ‘Lover’s Inn‘ spot for a beer and a plate of goat meat. Vegetables are really getting scarce here. We can still get tomatoes and onions in the market as well as pumpkin leaves (leaves are yuk but the stems we use as celery for things like spag bol sauce etc.) locals make soup from okra and pumpkin leaves but we are not partial to “mucilaginous” soups (slimy) so I just use the stems and feed the leaves to the local goats!! So guess what, our next trip will be in a couple of week’s time (early June) to Burkina Faso– to Ouaga to search out some good veg and a bottle or two of wine and do some planning for a trip up the River Niger to Timbuktou in Mali. You can’t stay in West Africa for 2 years and not make the effort to go to the most famous named place in the world!!
Well, enough ramblings from me. An afternoon siesta is beckoning.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lots of Work, Some Play and Plenty Hot Weather!

Photo is on top of Ghana's Highest mountain but we were besieged by insects!
Lots of work, some play and very hot!
Busy with preparation and delivery of Phonics Workshops for Primary Teachers over the last 2 months so not much time to write. Plenty of thought and discussion involved in planning the workshops to include our G.E.S. colleagues in the facilitation of sessions – all very VSO and skill sharing. They would be proud.
After 8 one day workshops we thought we deserved a break and so planned a 10 day trip round the eastern regions of Ghana. Tamale (2 nights and a very bad haircut!) – Yendi – Bimbila – Nkwanta – Hohoe . We stayed in Hohoe for 2 nights and visited the lovely village of Laiti Wote at the foot of Mt Afadjato. Naturally being the highest mountain in Ghana we had to climb up it. Not very high 3,000ft but a great deal of sweat and effort was endured to reach the top. At the top we were plagued by some huge flies so had a quick picture taken amid grimaces and avoiding action (hence very bad photograph!!) Once back down – it only took 2 hrs up and down – we trekked through fairly dense forest (another 45 mins) to reach the Tagbo waterfall almost on the border with Togo. We had a local guide with us who was pretty knowledgeable about the place and the forest so it was very interesting finding edible fruits where the red nuts are coated in a sugary jelly and are used in sweet making, seeing the palm wine juice being collected (bit like rubber tapping) finding cocoa pods and the huge Kapok trees.
This part of Ghana has a much higher rainfall than the Upper West and is so lush and green with lots of flowering trees and shrubs, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. We were most envious.
We motored on down through Ho but decided not to stay and carried on to the coast for a look at Keta ( (1 night) not as impressed as we hoped we would be) and Adafoah (1 night) (where the Volta joins the sea and is lovely )– stayed at the Manet Paradise Hotel which will definitely be getting a second visit from us when our friends Dave and Jan arrive in July. A bit of business in Accra (food shopping ) then we headed back up to the Akosombo Dam and found a gem of a place just on the river bank with chalets overlooking the Volta River and a small pontoon for evening drinks and chilling out, and it was very reasonably priced! (2 nights).

Last overnight stop was to be Kumasi for stocking up on fresh fruit and veg.
En route I managed to persuade Nigel to stop at the Cedi Bead Factory which was really interesting learning about the bead making process and, naturally ,buying just a few beads to send to Pippa!
The journey up to the North never gets any shorter and the roads don’t seem to improve much. Gradually we left the lush green south behind, the trees getting smaller, the grass shorter and the ground dustier. Welcome to the Upper West. No decent rain since November. The Sahara is definitely moving South!

Back to work and as schools have now closed for the holidays it’s particularly quiet, which is a blessing as pressure of work has been pretty heavy over the last 4 months.

This last weekend we took a trip to the Weichau Hippo Community Project near Wa, which was great. We had an evening trip out in a canoe on the river and spotted 8 hippos. Sleeping quarters were (by choice) on a platform 15 ft off the ground under a huge Kapok tree, on mattresses, under nets, under the stars. It was cool, in all senses of the word. Great stars, lovely breeze and a decent night’s sleep. The only drawback was a 15ft climb down a very steep ladder if you needed a wee in the night! Our supper of chicken curry and rice was prepared on a charcoal ‘coal pot’ and washed down with a couple of beers it was a great way to unwind. Another trip to find the hippos in the morning rounded off our short stay in good style. The Project has around 2000 visitors a year and any money made is put back into the community’s 17 villages by way of solar power lighting for houses, boreholes for water and materials for schools. The first decent project for tourists/local development that we have seen in the Upper West .

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Catch up with Images of our Experiences and Projects

Tiny amount of time left at the Internet Cafe: Briefly we are fine - follow these links to catch up.

Our latest experiences and travels can be witnessed on our Images of Ghana and Burkina Faso web photo album.

Progress on our various projects which colleagues and friends are sponsoring can be followed on our Update on Lawra Projects web pages

Friday, February 15, 2008

Musings from Lawra- nine months in to our placement: It’s a Paradox!

It’s almost a month since we last had access to the Internet and this is now being sent from Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, where we are enjoying a long weekend in a hotel escaping work, cooking, and the incredibly busy life we lead - above are some photos of a family we are helping to improve their family home: a paradox!
Jan 24th - It’s been a long day so far; I’m currently sitting (I was 3 weeks ago) on our veranda surveying the scene, witnessing the daily paradoxes of life here and reflecting over the last few days. I am just sitting down with a wonderful glass of Faustino 1 red wine; paradox no 1 (henceforth paradox pdx-2, pdx-3 etc!): donated by a visitor from Ireland; at which point our neighbour’s daughter walks past with one container on her head and another in her hand on her way to pump water from the borehole (pdx-2). My glass rests on a wonky ‘chop table’ -the item off which Ghanaians eat their food, held together with nails; neither screws, nor mortice and tenons, cross-halvings or dovetail joints have found their way into the construction vocabulary of Lawra yet. A huge cheer has just gone up from the far side of the campus, which now, in the dry season, is like a barren moonscape; the students are avidly watching the African cup of nations in their ‘entertainment hall’ – I think Ghana just scored; we do not have a TV (pdx-3)

A ‘Dogs Dinner’ has taken on a completely new meaning since we came to Lawra – in fact I have just seen one walk past, or is it really a pet? It’s very difficult to tell here; anything that has legs constitutes a potential meal, as was brought home to us most surprisingly when we visited Bolgatanga in the Upper East of Ghana last week; there we encountered our first genuine ‘Dog Market’ where what one thought were really quite healthy looking pets, that you would see roaming around, were actually cutely contained in well constructed wicker baskets, being nurtured for sale as potential candidates for ‘sweet and sour dog’ or ‘mongrel moussaka’ (pdx-4).
Yes I am still sitting on the veranda, an egret has just popped by to say hello, a few cows have just meandered by and the local Imam is just winding up with his regular call to prayer – it can be a bit of a pain – especially at 04.00 am! I do not quite see why the Muslim religion has to be quite so intrusive into the lives of everyone who lives within a couple of kilometres of a mosque! Lawra District is predominantly Christian, Animist and Muslim in that order, yet it is the few Muslims whose presence is most heard! (pdx-5). It is now dusk and the main reason that I am still sitting here on this glorious barmy evening is that it is the dry season and the mosquitoes have virtually disappeared; there is no chance of doing this from April through to October. We have even stopped taking our Larium (anti-malaria) tablets until the rains begin again in April-a calculated risk but maybe better than going ‘gaga’ from overdosing on tablets!

Jenny is rattling her cage inside and I am reminded that she has been busy beavering away for most of the day sewing with her new fangled sewing machine that Pippa sent out from Ruthin: a fantastic asset Pippa – I can now go all day without even having to communicate with Jenny, she’s so busy sewing. So what have we made today darling? Well, some gizmos in which to keep maps, books, water bottles etc when travelling in the car, a dozen bean-bags (we’ve loads of beans here! – so we might as well put them into bags!) - Even the odd ‘has been’, I think it’s time I packed up. OK time to tackle that spaghetti bolognaise that I cooked earlier.

Bon soir – I can’t see the key-board now, from dusk to blackness in about 10 minutes at 18.00.
Feb 6th – we have now been in Ghana for nine months!It’s hot, hot, hot – Harmattan (wind and dust season) seems to be have come to a sudden end – 100 deg F inside today