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.