Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Travels with my Friends

Both of my visitors this August are now safely home in England and I am so grateful to them both for coming all this way to share great experiences of Ghana and help restore my health. I only wish I could say I was "home" in Nadowli. New instructions from VSO say we must not travel on buses overnight. Unfortunately, due to timings and distance we now have to have at least one overnight stop between Accra and Nadowli. Not a disaster, but costly on our allowances and tomorrow is Eid and there are no buses for 2 days! I shall have had a whole week in Accra enjoying variety of food and good company but wanting to get home. It will resolve, eventually, no doubt.

Ali and I were driven around most of southern Ghana in a week by Francis, a very knowledgeable Ghanaian. The range of scenery was amazing from mountains and waterfalls to palm fringed beaches. Our first stop was in Ho,capital of the Volta Region where we printed with wax in the process of making batik on cotton cloth. When I returned there with Jeny last week, a team were dying the lengths of cloth all beautiful colours and laying them on the grass to dry. Some of the pattern symbols are Adinkra and have meaning. (Similar to the symbol at the top of this blog)

Not far along the road we came across groups of villagers weaving Kente cloth. This is done on looms in long narrow strips with bright coloured threads. The strips are of varying lengths and can be cut up to decorate other cloths and clothes or strips can be sewn together to make a wider piece. I was allowed to try this and although complicated with a number of shuttles I did get the hang of it. Needless to say we bought some.

Quite a creative day, really. When villagers are skilled and specialise in crafts like this, all members of the community work on it. Children were filling spools whilst all ages wove the Kente lengths. The cloths were beautiful and they take a long time to complete despite the workers  putting in so many hours a day.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Road to Recovery

The bus ride overnight from Wa to Accra took 11 hours, a little longer than expected due to the driver and his mate needing to rebuild the gear box at midnight in Kumasi. They made a good job of it with two spanners and a torch. Meanwhile, we watched (or tried not to) the most dreadful Ghanaian sitcoms on the TV. I have known children with a camcorder produce more realistic recordings. However, they probably have similar budgets!

I now have medication that is working to restore my stomach etc to good health, thanks to the doctors of Accra's Trust Hospital. The stuff from Nadowli was just not hitting the spot. My appetite is improving and I am overdosing on salads and yogurt, neither of which I have enjoyed since February. It is amazing what you can get in Accra and especially Koala, the International Supermarket........at a price! They had brocolli this morning at £9 a kilo! I enjoyed looking at it for free as I have nowhere to cook it anyway.

Life here couldn't be more different to the quiet rural life of the Upper West. The roads here in the capital are full of tro tros, large corporate jeeps and taxis. The latter have drivers who are sure you need their services all the time and each hoot as they pass any white pedestrian......just in case you had forgotten you needed them. Until you get used to it it drives you crazy and its tempting to yell back,"If I want a ******* taxi I'll hail one, thank you!". However, they can't be criticised for not working hard. It's a dog eat dog world for them with far more on the roads than are necessary and each trying to get as many Cedis out of every passenger as possible. I am learning the art of negotiation and am probably not too good at it yet. Street sellers are out day and night with heavy bowls of fruit on their heads or armfuls of beads, bags and other things you don't need. White skin means you are rich and will pay a fortune for whatever they are selling. As in places all over the world, "No, thank you" is not final!

Actually, "No" is not a word the Ghanaians use at all. Whatever you ask the answer is "Yes". It takes time to learn that "Yes" usually means "No".  Will it be here this morning? Yes. Is there a fork in my Take Away salad box? Yes. Do you have everything on this menu? Yes. When a Ghanaian says "Yes", you need to think "No" and may be pleasantly surprised.........or not! Most of the time they don't understand and "Yes" is the default reply. They don't like to disappoint.

Well, I'm fancying a small pizza for dinner. Cheese, lettuce and yogurt all in the same day. Simple pleasures, so often taken for granted in my past.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hospital Visit

The Nadowli  House and I welcomed visitors over the weekend. A volunteer from Accra carrying out a project on the improvement of Science teaching in schools and my Dutch friends brought their visitors to see a Ghanaian village. Unfortunately, I was ill most of the time. Some bug that ran away with all of me. (Enough information).
When I phoned the Director to explain my absence from work, she offered her driver to take me to the hospital. It isn't far but a way to walk when you are sapped of everything.

It is as well that photos would have been inappropriate. The first 15 minutes were very efficient and speedy. Blood pressure, temperature and weight recording. (I have lost 12 kilos since Feb....2 a month! I think that will be my limit now) After that I sat waiting to see a doctor for 3 hours.......similar to A&E at home I suppose! The down side was the state of the other patients. This is the only place you can get medical attention and advice up here. Clearly, many had come for malaria medication, adults and children. The children looked lethargic with no sign of anyone running about the waiting area. Most of the adults were elderly. The only space on a bench was beside a younger woman in lots of pain accompanied by numerous members of her family. A filthy, bloodied cloth was wrapped around her foot which held enormous attraction for a cloud of flies. The stench was awful. A second Doctor's opinion was sought once she was taken into the surgery and she appeared to be admitted. I imagine she has lost at least that foot by now. Everywhere at the moment there are villagers of all ages, in flip flops or bare feet, hacking at the ground with sharp bladed tools to turn over the soil on their farms. I expect this is a common injury.

After a further 30 minutes, during which, a small child gave me a handful of popcorn every few minutes and fortunately, then wanted it back. (Imagine feeling the need to eat it, gratefully!) I was dispatched with anti-biotics, painkillers and rehydration salts. They are beginning to take effect, thankfully, so I should be fit and revived to begin my travels on Friday.
I would like to have finished with a cheerful posting before I leave this blog for a month, but that is life in Ghana for you. If I have a few moments near an internet cafe I shall offer a holiday posting or two. Otherwise........watch this space at the beginning of September when I return with traveler's tales from Kumasi. Accra, Volta Region, Cape Coast, Elmina and other exciting destinations. I am planning to exhaust both cameras and find a lot of food, available in the south, that I like rather than "make-do-with". If you are traveling, have good journeys, good health and good fun.