Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's More Like Shades of Brown

Four weeks. I can’t believe there are only four weeks left. Looking back on the past two and a half months, I’ve had my ups and downs. There have been moments when I’ve been frustrated with cultural differences, annoyed by the constant attention, disgusted by the sanitation facilities (or lack thereof), and really really homesick. There have been times when I’ve been breath taken by the natural beauty around me, impressed by the genuine care and concern of people I’ve met, mesmerized by the fascinating culture, and savouring every moment I have here.

I keep a list of all the things that I would like to write about. The list is long and I have barely made a dent in it. There are many aspects of my experience that I have yet to mention. Also, my experience is just a very brief glimpse of life in Tamale, never mind life in Ghana or life in Africa.

In project-related news, I completed our final district analysis last week while Luke finally took some time off and trekked up to Mali. So now our mission is to figure out what all this information we’ve been collecting actually means! From the district analyses we hope to identify general areas in which capacity building activities would be beneficial to the District Water and Sanitation Teams (DWSTs). The next step will be to do a more detailed analysis with one pilot district, working alongside the DWSTs to identify district specific areas in which to build capacity, tailoring a program to suit the team’s needs. And then after developing a capacity building program, we will implement it in the pilot district. This work will likely be carried out by Luke, who will be in Ghana until December (at least!). It’s been very rewarding to have completed one phase of the project and beginning to see the shape it might take in the future.

A few weekends ago, we had a mid-summer retreat. We discussed what we’d done so far – the challenges and successes we’d each had, and what we planned to do for the remainder of our placement. These exercises were useful for sharing ideas and approaches, as well as for organizing the hundreds of thoughts zooming around in my head into a realistic work plan. It was also extremely motivating to hear about all the small successes that all the volunteers have had, and realizing the effect of the summation of each of these seemingly tiny contributions.

Out of the three-day retreat we had one day for pure relaxation and fun. We chartered a tro-tro and headed 4 hours south to Kintampo. Kintampo is famous for the Kintampo Falls just outside the town. However, we first headed to the lesser known Fuller Falls. It was like discovering a secret garden – a rocky staircase leading down to a secluded area with low stone walls separating little stone sitting areas, under the canopy of towering trees, with the sounds of rushing water loudening as you approached. The staircase falls look like they were perfectly carved out of the earth. We spent several hours there, swimming at the base, climbing up the rocky steps of the falls, and generally just enjoying the beautiful scenery and each other’s company.

Fuller Falls

The Secret Garden

Kintampo Falls

Two weeks ago, I was in the East Gonja District for another district analysis. I borrowed a bicycle and rode to the neighbouring community to buy some bread. At the small kiosk where they sold the bread, I had an intriguing conversation with a 46 year old man named Mohammed. He asked if I had a husband. I said no. “I will take you as my second wife,” he said. I said I was flattered but not looking for a husband. “You would not marry a black man?” he asked. I replied that I didn’t care what colour he was, I just wasn’t here to look for a husband. I then tried to explain how my parents are different races, but to no avail. “They are both white,” he said. “Oh. How many different races are there?” I asked. “Two,” he replied, “black and white.”

Now this is just Mohammed’s view and the young men around us found it highly amusing, but I have heard similar beliefs before. There are blacks and then there’s everyone else. Africa and the rest of the world. Growing up in a multicultural society, I’ve always been aware of different races but not overly concerned with race. Growing up in a small rural community here, where possibly the only foreigners you see are white people driving by in white SUVs or white people in nice clothes posing for photos with the new hand pump they paid for, your view of other races would likely be significantly different.

Conversations like this really make me think. Who’s right? Why does he think that? Is it my responsibility to rectify misconceptions about “white” people in general? Is it other people’s responsibility to be open-minded?

And my usual answer is, “Is there an answer?”.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article! wow gold opportunity!

3:53 a.m.  
Anonymous Mom said...

Sar; glad to hear you didn't get married!
Savour your last(for now anyway) moments in Africa.

12:41 p.m.  
Anonymous Inga said...

Hey milkbone,

First off: as if you recieved junkmail in response to your blog! How rude!

Second off: was this man at least good lookin'? haha We always giggle about who will get married first, but never who will get popped the question first! Does that technically count? Imagine the opportunity you just passed down though - you could have been some man's SECOND wife! hahah priceless. Keep having fun! Eat and be merry!

4:31 p.m.  
Anonymous Aunt Daisy said...


Your journey is coming to the end. You have successfuly conveyed the beauty and mysteries and dilemmas you have encountered. The questions you have raised are significant to the human race. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers - only more questions. But if we strive to understand, as you are doing, we will be richer for the exercise. Congratulations on your successes this far. Keep safe and know your endeavours are indeed so valuable.

Aunt Daisy

8:07 p.m.  
Blogger Tomato said...

Hey Sarah!

Just want to say again how amazing your blog is. I read it I get entertained, usually laugh my ass off and then I pause and reflect about the really tough questions which you asked.

I do have one request is that your very last blog which you write maybe you can give us your insight on how we can help developing countries. List of websites, clubs to join, organizaitons to donate, books to read etc... You have a capitive audience and you should view that as an opportunity to educate or give us the chance to go about and make a difference.

5:48 a.m.  
Anonymous Kate said...


I can't believe your trip is almost over! Enjoy your final weeks/days there. You may be homesick now, but once you get on that plane you'll be sad you left so soon. Can't wait to see you!


(ps. uhh Inga, actually I had the first proposal in grade 11 by a pizza chef in Cuba!)

12:09 a.m.  
Anonymous Nanaimo Bob and Margaret said...

It's a wonderful work you're doing, Sarah. And what a truly interesting, enriching experience as you describe it. Stay safe and return home safely.

5:54 p.m.  
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