Last week was our first opportunity to see the tourist areas and big cities of Ghana up close. We left Ho towards Hohue, which holds the Wli waterfalls and Mt. Afadgato (the tallest in West Africa apparently). As we drove up to Fodome, where we stayed the first few days in Ghana with SPIMA- a group from William & Mary college, we checked up on the progress of their project and then continued on to Wli to see the waterfall. After about 20 minutes of walking, a huge fountain appeared. Naturally we jumped right in. We took a million GoPro pics/videos, then headed back to the car. On our way back, we noticed a large group of “yevus” and as we came closer I heard a loud shriek- it was the other group of FSU Global Scholars from Tafi! IHow refreshing to be able to see some familiar faces. The next day, we met the Tafi group and 2 British med school students at the mountain and hiked up. Once we reached the top, everyone’s cameras popped out of their bags immediately because of the gorgeous view (we could even see Togo, Ghana’s neighboring country, in the distance). Everyone survived the journey downhill and then came to our place in Fodome for a lunch of Banku with “Fodome chicken” aka all bones. We weren’t ready to leave everyone so we joined them in Tafi for a night where we then visited the Monkey Sanctuary the next morning. The monkeys we saw were so incredibly friendly. They would just hop onto your soldiers, or in some cases, hop off of you onto whoever has a banana in their hands. Their little fingers would peel the bananas in a millisecond and begin scraping banana, shoving it into their mouths. Unfortunately, we ran out of bananas (mostly because the alpha male showed up and would walk up to us, snatch the entire banana, and walk away), so we continued on to Cape Coast! This beach side city is so populated and pretty modern compared to Ho, that it took a minute getting used to. Our rooms in the guesthouse provided sheets for the bed- such a luxury for us! We spent our time touring the Cape Coast castle, learning about the terrible slave history, walking through the trees in Kakum National park, and visiting the University of Cape Coast. This trip really helped me understand some of the reasons why many Ghanaians think all Americans are racist, rich, etc. I wish I could change their opinions, but its very difficult considering that they have a constant reminder in Cape Coast. Fortunately, a plaque donated by the chiefs in that area lifted my spirits: http://m4.i.pbase.com/u36/grahamg/upload/23423414.100_0096_CapeCoastCastlePlaque.JPG
The rest of the week at the clinic was so invigorating. I felt like I was using my interests to help those in need as well as having a superb mentor. It took a while to get used to the less strict ways of Ghanaian healthcare. For instance, I worked a day in the dispensary and the pharmacist allowed me (after a few hours) to read the prescription, gather the drugs, and hand it out. This made me so nervous, especially when she wouldn’t check my work instantly. (I didn’t want to be unethical- no one wants a yevo with no experience to give them drugs!). The next day at the clinic, I was able to use what I learned in the dispensary to assist in the diagnosis room with the PA. He would translate the symptoms and I would be able to come up with the issue and offer my idea of what the treatment should be! The cases were usually quite simple because most people came in with a positive malaria test or a blood pressure of 180/100.
After our week at the clinic, we began our interview process of the HVTI project in which we collected data about the community’s interest in a local vocational school. Hours of work, 150 surveys, 3 translators… Not the most entertaining thing we have done on our African journey, but it was nice to meet new people, especially people who live only a 40 minute walk from our town. The data shows that most people are interested in the school. They want the school to offer courses from electrical engineering, to hairdressing, to bead-making. Hopefully something will happen with all of that work! I did find it interesting though that the jobs most common for youth include farming (obviously) and driving. Many people will park their moto-bikes around the center of the town waiting for people to pay them for a ride to Ho, which is maybe 20-30 minutes from the town- Waya.
This week we will be having an excursion week where were roadtripping Ghana! After practically surviving a hurricane last night (I woke up to our window breaking from the heavy winds), the roads are awful. At one point on our trip to Ho we had to get out of the car and walk a bit because it was too heavy to get past a certain area of mud. It’s actually a hot topic in Ghanaian politics: many chiefs around the Volta region are giving the government another week to form a plan to fix the roads “or else”. But I’m excited to visit Tafi Atome, maybe see my fellow global scholars, and see the history in Cape Coast!
I never realized how many things can happen in such a small village! Last week, we taught at the primary school to children who barely spoke English. The school is located very close to our house so it’s a quick walk in the morning. I had the opportunity of teaching Class 6. The first day, the headmaster informed me that I would be teaching them about volume in mathematics and adverbs in English. There were numerous students constantly raising their hands, saying “Madame Ellen, Madame Ellen! Call on me!” and correctly answering the questions. However, when I gave the class individual work to see everyone’s progress, they would ask each other the answers or sneak somebody’s notebook to cheat. As the week progressed, I noticed all of the many quirks of the class and would base my lessons and assignments off of them in order to actually see if they were learning anything. One day, I had to force them to be quiet, do the first problem on the board including work as to how they found their answer, and show to me to check. Once I would check their first problem, I had them finish the rest and turn it in. It was aggravating when I would see one of the students who understood the concept “helping” one of their friends… In the end, I had a fantastic experience- being forced to make lesson plans because the teacher would just give me an English grammar book and leave, discipline the kids without using the cane, and being blessed to have students where the majority of them spoke enough English to understand me, unlike Class 4 with Cole (sorry!).
Towards the end of the week, we just couldn’t handle the kids much longer. At this point, they had seen where we go after school and would follow us to the house. One afternoon, 15 kids were on our floor in the main room. I love the kids, but I was ready for a new adventure! We rode to Adaklu Waya to visit the clinic for orientation. Taylor and I learned the check-in steps such as taking bp, rapid result malaria testing, paperwork, etc.. The clinic is very laid back. On Friday, there were no patients after lunch so we sat around talking to the staff. Yesterday and today, we have been working at the clinic. I have been shadowing the PA in the diagnosis room. We have seen cases of mostly malaria and hypertension, but also a few with STIs, infections, diabetes, rape, and more. Whenever a patient enters the room, the PA greets them in Ewe (“waezo”), asks them if they speak English so I can easily understand (if they don’t, which is essentially every time, he translates for me after they explain their symptoms), and then we discuss their diagnosis and treatment. Also, I find it interesting that the government pretty much determines who becomes a doctor or nurse or PA. The students who have decent grades are asked to go to certain schools. Once they graduate, the government places them in a town or village for 4-5 years. Everyone has national health insurance, so if they bring in a paper called a “scheme”, they do not have to pay for their visit. Their prescriptions usually cost virtually nothing, like around 5 GH cedi.
So today marks the end of my second week in Ghana! I feel like I’ve accomplished so much in such a short period of time. First of all, we have finished our interview/research process for the Water for Students by Students project and have analyzed the data in order to formulate a solution. https://www.omprakash.org/blog/Story/check-out-our-new-campaign-water-for-students-by-students?blog_user_id=173&cf=p
Now our goal is to raise a certain amount of money in order to begin construction on the system. https://www.omprakash.org/DonationForm/form/WaterforStudentsbyStudents
Other than that, I have done so much in Adaklu Anfoe in my free time. We walked to the soccer field to kick the ball around and ended up with 50 kids following us. We barely touched the ball, but had a blast! Also, Precious and Doris have cooked many traditional dishes for us such as Fufu and Banku along with, my favorite, plantains. Yesterday, we went to the primary school next door to see how their education system works. The children were going to the JR high to hear about Child Labor. The teachers organized them in two lines. As soon as it was time to go, two boys in Class 6 began drumming and the rest of the students began to march in sync with each other singing a never-ending song. It was so unique, but very cool! Afterwards, we observed the headmaster teach about math in Class 6. The kids are very violent with each other. They play by hitting each other, but no one seems to care! Its their version of messing around and is accepted by society- I’m just not very used to it. Also, any adult will discipline any child by lashing them. It teaches respect and is a part of their culture.
Next week we will be teaching at the primary school! We were also offered to teach at the high school. I dont know about that… Even though I have taken so many chemistry classes, I would be nervous to teach a whole class for 80 minutes. Eventually, we will also be observing in the district clinic, so that should be interesting as well!
On Thursday May 29th, I left from Orlando to Boston where I then caught a flight to Rome and finally to Accra (we stopped in Lagos, Nigeria but didn’t get off the plane). Accra is the capital of Ghana and is very large and heavily populated. Richard from HCDP picked us up from Kotoka Airport where we then stayed a night in Accra and left to Fodome Ahor the next morning. Fodome is about a 5 hour drive from Accra, but Richard said it was maybe 2.5 hours. Also, he said we would be leaving at 7AM when we actually ended up leaving at 9AM. Time does not exist. However, it’s quite refreshing to live without a watch! In Fodome, we came to a guesthouse where a team from William and Mary College were ending their service trip. They were a team of 14 from Virginia who had began a community development project to build a communal toilet. Their official name is SPIMA and they have been coming every year for 4 years to help this village. In Fodome Ahor, we were greeted by the elders and chief of the town with a welcoming/leaving ceremony. Richard surprised us with beautiful woven scarfs with the words “HCDP Ghana & EdGE” embroidered amongst garnet and gold. The women of the village made us bracelets with handmade beads in which we were given by the Queen Mother. Then we danced the “borbor” for a few hours, which is essentially shuffling in a circle around some guys playing drums. It was very entertaining though!
Finally, the three of us (Cole, Taylor, and myself) were ready to start our own project in a new village. We finally drove 2 hours to get to Ho- the capital of the Volta region. Ho is a large city similar to Accra, yet cleaner and greener. Once there, we separated from the other team and headed to Adaklu Anfoe. Adaklu is the district and Anfoe is the village. Adaklu Waya is the district capital ten minutes from Anfoe where we will be presenting our results to the district assembly at the end of our adventure. Fodome and Adaklu districts are all in the Volta region where the tribal language Ewe is spoken. We are gradually learning this language because the villagers don’t speak too much English and its fun to see them get a kick out of us attempting to pronounce some of the words. I’m getting used to the goats and chickens roaming around everywhere and waking us up at 5AM, but the bucket showers are difficult and, unfortunately, not daily. The villagers don’t care, though! To them, I am a “yevo” or a “white person” and they enjoy seeing me and practicing their English along with teaching us how to dance and sing anyways!
I’m waiting and waiting and can’t wait anymore to go on my trip to Ghana! I’m ready to experience a culture different from my own. I’m ready to begin this clean water project and help set up this polytechnic school. My coworkers are starting to get annoyed at me because, randomly in the middle of any and every conversation, I just say “I want to go to Africa” or “Can I leave tomorrow?” I have a friend who is backpacking Europe and leaving the day before I do so we have a countdown. Yesterday, we were talking about how many days we have left until he goes to Europe and I go to Africa. FSU’s kicker on the football team Aguayo overheard our conversation and started talking to us about our trips! (Also, he said we were cool, but thats a given.) Anyways, I just want to skip finals and hop on a plane right now.