Gemma has been my housemate since October and this week saw the end of her placement and departure from Nadowli. She has been a TSO (Teacher Support Officer) and has found as many frustrations as I, with a few rewards in schools along the way. Her greatest personal success is having lost 5 stone in weight in 11 months!! What an achievement.
I have mentioned before about weight and how it is seen as an advantage to be heavy and generally over-weight in Ghana. "Reducing" is something to worry about and can be linked to diseases like HIV/AIDS. Gemma has endured her fair share of comments that would be unthinkable at home. Two come to mind. Whilst sitting in the hospital waiting room recently, she was asked by a nurse, "How can you be sick when you are so fat?" In a conversation with a senior officer last week, they were talking about parents. Gemma asked if her mother was still alive. The reply came, "Oh yes, she is alive. She is short and fat like you." ( ....and you should see the size of the officer!!)
These are considered matters of fact. There is little attention to tact and there are plenty of other things that can cause offence. Indeed, what can be offensive here we may not even be aware of. That's culture difference for you.
Gemma’s final day at the office brought with it gifts to take home and a vote of thanks from the District Director. She is pictured here with the director and the gifts of heavily beaded placemats and a handbag. Also a letter rack painstakingly woven with straw by a disabled student at the local vocational college.
They may not be everybody’s taste but it cannot be denied that a great deal of work and skill has gone into their production and design. The house feels rather quiet and empty now and I shall be rattling around in it on my own until February. It seems VSO are not sending new volunteers here. They are focussing their efforts and personnel on areas north and east of here where there are charity funds from Cadburys, Barclays and Comic Relief to name but 3.