Monday, 16 May 2011

Bumbling Tourists upgrade?

Mike & Evin arrive tomorrow. Can't wait to see Evin in this heat ...b'Jeezuz...


Lucy's review of Cape Coast's Fetu Afahye Festival is available online in the Herald Magazine 14th May edition. Unfortunately you have to register but you can take a free trial for 3 days and then cancel.

It's a brilliant read. Almost makes me wish I could go... Eh? Oh! Hang on...

Signs of God

God plays a huge part in Ghanaian society. Just one of the many things that Britons have donated to the country.
Most Christians attend church several times every week. On Sundays the streets empty and shops shut up as mornings are devoted entirely to three and four hour services. Churches and mosques are usually the focal point of even the smallest village. Often you’ll come across a small settlement of only mud huts that has a grand sparkly religious building placed in the centre.
Interestingly, mosque-goers dispense their worship moderately and quietly.
The big thing in church-going right now is to be Evangelistic or Charismatic. The latter being, as far as I can gather, more evangelistic than the evangelists. I was told that in the 80s, many Ghanaian’s broke away from the evangelistic Pentecostal Church because it wasn’t fundamentalist enough (nb one Pentecostal Church round the corner from us wakes us up at night and in the morning with their all night services), and people wanted speaking in tongues to be compulsory in their churches. So they started up the Charismatic branches.
I dedicate the following pictoral offering to this aspect of Ghana (zoom in for details)…

So what on earth has Andy been doing apart from clogging up hospitals?

Well, I was brought out here by VSO to work on the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership (CCP) with two main roles:
1. Train VSO’s own project manager to plan and deliver the project and improve the management systems
2. Train the staff in the district partners – Departments of Community Development, Co-operatives, CocoBod (the Cocoa Board) and the Ministry of Farming and Agriculture
Pretty soon after getting here I feared that role 1 (which should have taken up 80% of my time) was not going to go anywhere. There’s very little I can say about this online given that VSO Ghana’s future relies significantly on these types of projects.
Having spent three months trying to find different ways to approach the problems that I was here to address, I made the decision in December to stop and look forward. Through a combination of disappointment and illness, I’d been pretty down about the whole experience and had begun to spend a lot of time moaning about the situation and finding it difficult to see a way forward with the work.
Come December I stopped blaming and started taking ownership for resolving it. First by telling VSO I would no longer continue with Role 1. I think I’d made some minor progress with that role, but if I’d stayed here for 10 years I was never going to be able to tackle the fundamental issues that needed to be looked at – problems that have now bred wider problems – unless things a lot bigger than me changed, so it was therefore time to cut my losses.
Since then, my CCP focus has been wholly on helping the project’s district partners to identify their own training needs and to deliver one or two elements before leaving. Just as I was making progress on both, unfortunately I was sent home for some r & r which delayed things still further, although it opened up new opportunities that arguably have been the most rewarding aspects of the working experience. I’ll blog separately these, but I just wanted to give a bit of context first.
I learned some pretty valuable lessons in all this. Trust my gut instinct and act on it – it’s usually better than my reasoned judgement and it’s certainly quicker to come to the fore. There is always another way, so don’t be scared to take a leap even if that looks like failure to begin with. Recognise the importance of doing something you enjoy and that others appreciate and benefit from. The poential in great people is always there, you just need to be open to seeing it and them.
The last one I’ve only realised recently, looking back at how massively better working life in Ghana looks through the lens of having achieved things and as a result of having met some brilliant proactive, enthusiastic, passionate personalities along the way in people I didn’t see them in before.
Later I’ll blog a bit more about some of the bits and bobs I’ve been up. I'll also try to persuade Lucy to take up her quill...

Cain and Mabel...and Jesus

An acknowledgement to Christmas and Hogmanay is slightly overdue on the blog. I hope you all had a top time wherever you are.
We certainly missed friends and family over the holidays, but we managed to make the most of it ourselves. There were times that being here felt a little lonely, but this was not one of them. We hosted a party on Christmas Eve, with around 20 volunteers and 40 neighbours, colleagues and friends coming along.
Tradition dictates that on Christmas Day, you must slaughter some animals that you’ve been fattening up all year. To feed our guests, we invested in two chickens (Cain and Mabel) and a sheep (Jesus) and enlisted the help of friends to do the needful.

Mabel had the last laugh, crapping on Lucy's foot before the deed was done.

In their memory…

Phew, I'm about to begin again...

Many apologies for the pathetic lack of updates the last few months. It was a bit upside down for a while and since that point we've been crazily busy. I only have 6 months to catch up on so I'm going to chuck up all the posts I've had half-written for ages.

Going back in Feb/ March was very strange. We're so grateful to all of you who helped us out - too numerous to mention all, but particularly Jean & Douglas, Mark & Fiona, Fiona & Phil, Paul & Leanne, Col & Caz, Phil & Hope, Evin, Mike, James & Cathy.

We didn't take many pics but here are a few...

Odd being in the cold and snow. Odd being surrounded by goods, rampant commercialism etc, odd feeling ill. But the main thing that was odd was that having worked for several months in Ghana to feel a sense of place, being home made us feel that even less. Not that you didn't make us feel welcome, but we had no purpose being there other than to get better. And everyone else was just getting on with their lives as if we had never been away.

Lucy and I are both feeling great now - I can really see how ill I'd become now that I'm better. And that stone in weight I lost is back with a vengence.