A new place to live

As most of you know, Mike and I were forced to leave our first home unexpectedly (to be discussed in another post)!  However, we are now in a new home and finally starting to feel all settled in again! I know where to buy groceries, catch the trotro, and I even have a gym (with a big, marvelous pool) nearby!  Hopefully this will be my last post about new homes in Accra, and I will not have to be shown that third times the charm…

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This is my bedroom.  It has 4 big closets, 2 twin beds (one I use as a night table), and 2 big windows.  There’s also a vanity and air conditioning.  I have a fan to keep me cool at night, which doubles as a mosquito repeller (it blows them away so they can’t get you). There is also a mosquito net to sleep in when the power goes out (which I hate, since it makes me feel hot and claustrophobic).  I have my own bathroom (score!) which even has hot water when the electricity is working (there’s a switch I have to turn on about an hour before showering).

Our new place is great!  We really love the independence.  I can come and go as I please, and I have my own space where I can chill and keep all of my stuff.  Using the kitchen is nicer because there is only two of us sharing.  There’s even 3 bathrooms (which seems excessive) because we each have one in our room and there’s a third one for guests (off of the living room).  It has a balcony is we want to sit outside, and the neighbourhood feels really safe.

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This is our kitchen and our living room (before we moved in).  We now have some clothes lines in our living room to hang up our delicates, and we sometimes have a microwave on our counter (when Mike isn’t lugging it back and forth to the repair shop!).

Kitchen - Unfortunately, after a few weeks of living at our house we found that ants were weirdly attracted to the butter on the counter.  We kills those ants and hoped that would be the end of the problem… We were so wrong! Since then we have daily armies of ants parading down the wall. We spray them with raid and ensure that every single item of food is in a zip-loc bag, but we can’t yet seem to be rid of them. Thankfully, they’re not the big ants!  We used to have a mystery dust pile that appeared each day in the hallway, and our landlord said it was from the wood trim.  However, since the ants appeared, the dust has left – perhaps they’re related?  Or perhaps it’s because it is not hot and humid outside?  We’ll probably never know…

Landlord - Our new landlord is lovely.  She’s Ghanaian but has an American accent after living in the United States for a number of years.  She’s totally reasonable about all her rules, and accepted our payments in chunks (since we weren’t able to take it all out of the ATM at once).  Her grandsons come and help fix up the place (when the sink leaks or there are issues with the gas stove).  Mostly they’re just the people in the other house, and everyone just does their own thing.  It totally suits me.

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This is our courtyard (we share it with a larger house where the landlord and her family live).  The second picture is me enjoying a glass of wine on the balcony on the first night after I moved in.

Electricity - Our electricity situation is a bit problematic, but I don’t think it’s because of our new neighbourhood.  Our power at work and in other areas has been out a lot these past few weeks as well.  This means that about one in every 2-3 nights there is not electricity in our house when we get home from work.  Thankfully our stove uses gas so we can still make dinner, though it’s a lot harder to cut vegetables in the dark!  However, there’s not much to do without electricity.  Usually I play on my computer until it dies (and pray there will be electricity by the morning to charge it up again), and then read a bit by candlelight until it starts bothering my eyes.  That’s about it, and then you go to bed early.  Hopefully the ECG (Electric Company of Ghana) gets the problem fixed soon.

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This is the building we live in.  Each floor is a 2-bedroom apartment. and we chose the top floor.  The stairs to walk up are on the right side.  Currently, nobody is living in the bottom unit.  This is the street that leads up to our gate.

Neighborhood - I really love the neighbourhood.  It’s not full of expats and all the hawkers that come along with that.  It’s pretty easy to get around the city – we can take one trotro to work, one to Osu (the expat area with all of the good bars, restaurants and shops), and one to Labadi beach.  The people are really friendly and always say hi, as well as offering to help with my groceries when I’m carrying a big load.  It’s well lit at night (when the power is on), so I always feel safe.  There’s also lots of shops to buy everyday things like power bars, wine, bread, and phone cards.  What I can’t buy locally I can get at the big grocery store on the way home.


So this is my new ‘hood… I think I’m going to like it here! :)

 

EWB’s 5 Year Direction, rewritten

mandyrox2:

This blog was written by another fellow who is currently working in Ghana (though based out of a different city – Tamale – and working with a different venture – Amplify Governance). It gives a more detailed description of the work that EWB does, and where the goals and priorities lie within the organization. I thought it would be a good follow-up to my blog about work yesterday, and clarify any of the questions you’re still wondering about. I think it helps to make a lot more sense out of things… thanks Beth! :)

Originally posted on Rebuilding Foundations:

Last year the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) National Office (NO) wrote a new 5 Year Direction plan.  I’ve been involved with EWB for years, but I still only vaguely understand what statements such as “Our collective challenge is to unlock innovation” mean.  Give these documents to a First Year (or even Fourth Year) university student and the response is usually along the lines of “…Uh…what?”

I personally don’t like EWB’s jargon, but I understand their counterargument: they don’t want to be caged into someone else’s definitions, so they’re trying to invent their own vocabulary to describe their organization.  Still, though, no one else knows what they’re saying!  What’s the point of a written document if it doesn’t actually communicate your ideas?

I’m not trying to rag on EWB.  Their 5 Year Direction is super impressive.  However, I’ve taken the liberty to rewrite it into words that I understand.  That being…

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EWB, BDS, MBC… What does it all mean?!?!

EWB Canada (which stands for Engineers Without Borders) is the NGO who hired me for this placement.  EWB focuses on systemic change as its primary goal.  This is different from a lot of other development organizations, who might focus on just band-aid solutions.  For example, just giving a community a well when you don’t understand the complex water system and all of the actors involved is super problematic… especially after a well breaks down in a few years and there’s nobody around who knows how to fix it (which would fall into the category of WatSat – Water and Sanitation – which is a project we run in Malawi where two of the other ProFs are based).  Instead, EWB tries to understand an entire system, find out where the weak points are, and works with various actors to improve the entire system in a country as a whole.  Sometimes this makes it a lot more difficult to see quick, impactful results, but in the end we feel that this way of working is likely to lead to more positive sustainable change for a larger number of people.

EWB Canada (based in Toronto) did the recruiting, the training, and help with any HR related issues I might have.  8 of us were trained together in Toronto, but we went to work for different ventures, in 3 different countries, doing really different work.  As a ProF (Professional Fellow), I’ve been placed with one of the ventures (aka. project areas) called MBC (Mobile Business Clinic), who works pretty independently from the actual work of EWB.  MBC was originally started as a part of BDS, but now works independently.  BDS stands for Business Development Services, and their role is to provide capacity building and business development services to small and growing businesses in order to help them scale up and become sustainable.

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During my first week in Ghana, I attended this stakeholders meeting as a note-taker, and it was really informative.  The meeting focused on 3 ventures; MBC, Kulemela, and Growth Mosaic.  I learned a lot about each venture during the beginning of the day, when each Venture Leader did a short presentation to the group.  Mobile Business Clinic can be broken down into what it does based on it’s name.  Its involves providing business training (in the form of a clinic) in different regions across the country (aka. mobile).  Specifically, we focus on training agribusinesses on different skills that will help then to become investment ready. Each clinic takes place over a 3 month period, with the goal of running 4 clinics per year (each in a different region – Ghana has 10 regions).

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During the afternoon, we broke into smaller groups to discuss the issues.  Of course I stuck with the MBC group, and it was interesting to hear everyone’s perspectives!  Not only were EWBers at the event (from many different ventures), there were also past clinic participants, foundation representatives, investors, and business owners.  We talked about ideas for the future which would help MBC (and other groups like MBC) to grow and improve their business.

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The event was a great success, and even got attention in local newspapers and on the news (which I heard through the grapevine – since I don’t have a TV here).  After the event, we started planning our next clinic in the Eastern Region (which is the closest region to Accra).


 

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Another exciting event I attended (unrelated to my actual work) was with the Young Fellows Program (YFP), which is part of an EWB venture called AfriLead, where my fellow ProF Alexis is working with (you can check out her blog here).  They focus on recruiting young managers to attend a one month foundation learning session followed by a 5 month placement with a work place.  The goal of the program is to train young people to work within businesses to create positive change.  During the one-day session in Accra at the beginning of August, we helped to interview and work through case-studies with potential candidates.  Afterwards, 2 more sessions were held (in Kumasi and Tamale) and 16 participants were selected.  These 16 bright young managers are currently in the first month of training in Tamale as part of the program.


Back to MBC – The clinic will be held in October and last for 3 months, however, it’s not only in the classroom. The clinic will include 10-12 businesses from the area (selected out of those who have submitted applications). Two representatives from each business will partake, which likely includes both the CEO and a middle manager. Every two weeks a training module will take place, consisting of two days in the classroom. The three modules are: leadership and business, financial management, and project management. In addition to the training, each business is paired with a coach. The coach helps the business to understand the training, apply the training to their own business, and help the business overcome the challenges it might be facing. Each coach meets with their business at least 5 times.

At the end of three months there is a graduation ceremony.  During the ceremony, each business has to explain their business model and pitch it, as if they would to future investors.  One of the goals of the course is to get businesses to an “investment ready” stage, so that if they’re seeking financing to grow they will be more likely to succeed.  The alumni also form the MBC Club in their city.  This group can meet regularly and is a great chance to network, create partnerships, and help group problem solve with other diverse actors in the agricultural sector.

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been spending a large portion of most days in one of these: a trotro!  Trotros are used for both short distances (like city buses) and longer distances (between cities in different regions), though the cost changes based on the distance traveled.  We’ve been meeting with all sorts of associations related to agriculture, with groups such as mango exporters and poultry farmers.  We talk to the groups about what our clinic offers and invite them to apply for the upcoming clinic.  These meetings can take place in halls, warehouses, and even just walking down the road. So far we have received over 16 applications (with more that are scheduled to come in this week), and the next step is to sort through those applications to find the most appropriate businesses.  We will then meet with each participant at their business, fill out some forms, select the final group, and then match each business with a coach.

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We are also currently ensuring we have the best coaches and trainers for the job.  Another task that we’re focusing on in Monitoring and Evaluation (M+E) to ensure we have good baseline information before the training starts.  The last important task before the clinic starts is looking over the curriculum (including handbooks, slides and exercises) to ensure there are no mistakes and everything is being clearly explained.  There are currently only 4 of us running the entire project.  This team includes myself, Mike (another ProF from Canada), my Ghanaian boss (Kombate), and a Ghanaian co-worker, Bernard (who has actually been there the longest).  We have been sharing a small office with a big board room table for the last month, since we recently moved offices and are still figuring things out.  The power goes out frequently, which is pretty tricky since we don’t have a generator, but we just got WiFi, which is really nice!


So what happens after the clinic in October? Well Mike and I have been wondering if this is just a project, or if it can be turned into a sustainable, long term solution to meet the needs of the community. Looking into that is the next step…

Feeling Like I Don’t Belong…

When you go to a new place you spend a lot of time getting to know your surroundings.

  • Who do I trust (does that guy on the street asking for your number really want to be your friend?)
  • What do I eat (that won’t make me sick, but is still in my budget)?
  • When can I fit everything into my schedule (work, gym, groceries, friends, etc.)?
  • Where do I live (that’s close to work but safe and has interesting night life)?
  • How do I get around (and where the heck am I even going)?

It’s a bit of a whirlwind… with a lot of stress, excitement, adventure, and new stories every day.  However, after a while you settle in, you have a routine, you know what is expected of you (for the most part).  Then what?  For me, once you’ve figured out the: who, what, when, where, and how…. it seems like the next step is figuring out the why.  Why am I here?  What is my goal?  What is my mission to accomplish and how will I know if I succeed?  I find that really difficult to think about, especially when you don’t know where in society you fit in.  Being part of society means being part of a group… it allows you to share opinions, asks questions, get advice, and many other important aspects that come with being in a group.  But in Ghana, who am I…?

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A rich expat (or their globe-trotting children)?

THIS IS NOT ME….

A traditional expat has a lot of money… whether because they’re paid very well for being placed “on location”, because they’re independently wealthy, or because their average wages in the Western world translate to a lot more goods and services in this part of the world.  They usually have a driver (or a personal fancy car), a (sometimes demanding, sometimes flexible) 9-to-5 job, they like to go out for nice dinners and expensive drinks, and they tend to stick together in certain areas of town (which in Accra, is likely Osu).  Their children have all the same luxuries, and have been educated at the best international schools in the U.S. and Europe.  They take long vacations with family and friends to go skiing, check out the beaches, or visit far-away relatives.  Some live abroad and come back sporadically, while others consider Ghana home but travel elsewhere extensively.  The expats have often been here for years, and have a “been there, done that” attitude.

  • They’re really fun to go out with on a Friday night. But I’m a volunteer, on a stipend, and unless I want to spend all my savings on everyday living, I can’t lead that kind of life.  It’s also hard to get to know the country if you’re separated from it so much.

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A rich expats wife?

THIS IS NOT ME….

They have all the benefits of a rich expat, but generally have no real job.  At a women’s event I attended today, I heard that this was sometimes called a “trailing spouse”.  Sometimes they volunteer, work part-time, or do short contract work, but many of them don’t do any work at all.  They have live-in staff to watch the kids, do the cooking and cleaning, and a driver to take them to social activities and getting groceries.  They shop at stores with expensive international products and go for morning coffees with the other ladies.  They join associations with other similar ladies, and together they take exercise classes and have lunch-ins during the week.  They often do their part to help out with charity.

  • I can’t sit around all day and do nothing. I’m sure they have a lot of activities, like bridge, golf and volunteering, but I don’t think I could like that kind of life without a clear purpose.

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An everyday Ghanaian?

THIS IS NOT ME….

Everyday Ghanaians are very community focused.  They know what’s going on with the people around them, and make a point to chit-chat with those around them.  They will intervene with a lot of yelling (but almost never any physical violence) if they think they (or even someone they never met) has been cheated in some way.  Friendly customer service isn’t found very often, but you can buy almost anything from the roadside hawkers on your commute.  Some people wear traditional African cloth outfits while others where jeans and t-shirts (a lot of it used North American clothes that can be easily purchased here).  No matter how they dress, the women carry their babies in fabric on their backs, and take on the primary care-giver role, even if working themselves.  If you ask for help, people will give you directions every time (even if they don’t know exactly where to go).  I’m not really sure what they do during their downtime, other than sit with the family and perform household chores.  Restaurants are not common (most people eat at home or at small roadside shops with little seating) and venues with activities (like bowling, pool halls, the beach, and the movies are not frequented very often, even though they exist).  The vendors are very friendly, and will ask about your health and family once you have met them a couple of times.

  • However, it is difficult to be best friends with a vendor, since it’s unlikely they will want to talk to you about much more than the weather, your outfit, politics, and other everyday conversations. They’re lovely, they just come from a different world, and there’s many cultural, language, educational and social boundaries that are inherently difficult to cross.

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A missionary?

THIS IS NOT ME….

Missionaries are generally very religious, and therefore tend to live a modest and simple life, with work as their primary focus, and basic living activities (like sleeping and eating) in between, with less down-time for fun activities and socializing with those outside of religious activities.  Some do great community work that really impacts lives, while others try to teach the word of God, and how it is “superior” to the religions already being practiced in the region.  Some missionaries are less religious but focus on really important issues, like medical help for those in war-torn areas.  They often have the same lack of free time due to the demand for services and their crazy work schedule.

  • I am not a saint. I drink, I stay out late, and I have not devoted my life to god.  Some of them pretend to be saints, but actually spread a neo-colonialist view of the continent needing to be “saved”.  Some of them do great work to help those in need, and I applaud them for it.

Of course these are stereotypes, but they describe most of the people I meet.  They’re nice, we chat… but they’re not living my life.  There are of course exceptions… development workers who have come with their husband but have a job themselves, rich elite Ghanaians, and down-to-earth police officers, but for the most part, these are the people I run into on a day-to-day basis.

So, who am I?

A few days ago I asked Mike (my co-worker and roommate) how I could describe myself to someone I met a few nights prior.  He said “Oh, you’re the small, blonde girl.”  Apparently, everyone in my neighbourhood will think of me when this description is mentioned.  I’m the only one of my kind in this area….

So that’s me… the small, blonde girl in Accra, feeling a bit lost and out of place.  When I figure out a better description, I’ll let you know.

Buenos Aires, Argetina – A little bit of Europe in South America

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We arrived in Buenos Aires in the evening, and there wasn’t much open.  We went for a simple dinner and went to hang at the hotel.  The hotel had a movie room, so we grabbed a DVD from reception and chilled on the couch for awhile before bed.  Our hotel also had some daily activities, so we decided to grab our breakfast and then head on a city tour.  We visited the main square, learned about some history, and went in the church where the current pope used to preside.

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After the tour we decided to take a walk down to the water.  It took a lot more time that we thought, and we had to walk on a bunch of roads with no sidewalks, but we made it.  It was a nice day, so we got some fancy drinks on a patio by the water.

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After drinks we just wandered around, looked at some boats, and found our way back to the hotel.  We were tired out and took a nap, but woke up in time to head to Tango!

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 The bus picked us up from the hotel and brought us to our tango lesson.  We waited in the room for everyone else to get there and then the lesson started.  The instructor would show the girls how to do a move and then the guys how to do the corresponding move (which seemed super unfair because theirs were always so much easier!)  After awhile he let us actually dance in pairs, and we traded partners every few times (since there were way more girls than guys and that gave everyone a turn).  I stumbled around a bit but eventually we got the hang of it, and even got a certificate! :P  After the lesson we went to dinner, which was really good, and had lots of drinks.  Then we watched a great performance of the professional dancers, which included a live band.  It was a really fun night, I’d definitely recommend it!

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On Tuesday we decided to go for a day on the ranch (since Argentina is known for it’s beef)!  We left our hotel early, and it took a few hours to get there because we had to pick and drop people off along the way.  The first thing we did when we got there was have empenadas and wine.  Steve loved them, and I loved the wine.  I mixed it with orange juice, yum!  Unfortunately, I don’t love onions and spices, but Steve gave me the doughy part, so I was happy.  We did a tour of an old  museum (it was really weird) and then wandered around the property.  There were cowboys everywhere, and tons of meat cooking on the grill!

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Before lunch, we had a chance to take a hay-ride and ride some horses.  Thankfully, Steve’s allergies did not kick in!  The lunch included many different courses, which were basically the servers coming around with different kinds of meat for us to try.  There was music and dancing, which was a lot of fun.  After lunch we watched the cowboys herd the horses into different configurations.  They also played a bunch of games where they rode as fast as possible and tried to spear a small ring from a string hanging on a pole.  It was a full day, and we headed on the bus back to our hotel!

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The world cup!  Now, I’m not that big on soccer, but it’s the world cup and it was the semi-finals.  We weren’t sure where to go so we asked the people at our hotel.  They said there were three big squares where everyone would go (but one was sketchy so avoid that one).  So we went to Obelisk, which was right near our hotel and there were tons of supporters there proudly wearing blue and white, with blow horns, families, and lots of cheering. We were told that Argentinians loved riots and protesting, so if they started to obviously be the losing team, we should head back to the hotel right away for our own safety. However, as the time of the game arrived, the screens nearby (it’s like the Times Square of Buenos Aires) didn’t start showing the game.  People didn’t wait, and everyone ran in every direction to try and find somewhere else that was playing the game on their screen!  People were poking their heads in convenience stores, squeezing into pubs, and pressing their face against the glass in already full restaurants, it was pretty crazy.

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Thankfully, Steve and I found the last remaining seat in a small cafe that was playing the game.  It was awkwardly behind a column but we could still see the TV.  We got some drinks and food and enjoyed the afternoon.  After awhile we won… and everyone went ballistic!  People streamed out of every restaurant and bar and took to the streets.  There was cheering, honking, and singing everywhere we went.  Eventually we found our way back to the hotel, and the sounds of the streets could be heard throughout the night.

The next day we relaxed a bit, went on a tour of a famous cemetery, had some Italian food on a nice patio, and packed our bags.  That night we got on 3 different planes, and by the next afternoon we were back in Canada… the start of a hectic next few weeks of conference, packing, and getting ready for Africa!

A Weekend Full of Surprises (Good and Bad…)!

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Chale Wote – Street Art Festival – Jamestown 2014 - Chale Wote is all about the community coming together (especially involving the youth) to create many different kinds of art.  There were break dancers, painting (on canvas and on the street), installations, musicians, and performance arts pieces.  One entire building was covered in burlap sacks which had painted squares sewed onto it all over (pictured above).  The artists doing the murals were also super talented!

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Jamestown is actually a poorer neighborhood, and there are hundreds of unsupervised children running everywhere.  It’s obvious that all the expats were down there for the festival, but that the kids weren’t used to seeing so many white faces.  They would often come pinch you and run away, and one girl even petted Curtis’s arm hair.  Overall, they’re super cute though, and had amazing BMX tricks, dance moves, and soccer skills.  In fact, I’ve never seen someone with one roller-blade and one flip-flop, using the blade as a little scooter and trying to jump over his friends who were lying on the street, was a pretty interesting day.

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We were supposed to go to Cape Coast for the weekend, but I’m so glad I went to the festival instead.  We basically just took a tro downtown and wandered until we found it.  We walked all the way from the end of High Street to the Jamestown Lighthouse.  Gordon (another EWBer who lives in Accra) couldn’t make it because he was out of town, but he recommended I meet up with his friend Jonas, so we hung hung out for awhile and he turned out to be really cool.  It’s hard to make friends in Ghana (because everyone asks to be your friend but it’s hard to know their intentions), so it’s good to meet people through other people… I’m hoping it will help me hear about events and make friends with other groups of people I don’t know yet.

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The event also had lots of vendors, selling everything from arts and crafts to food.  I bought a whole bunch of hand-painted cards.  The sculptures were beautiful but way too big to bring home!  In the food-court area, we got some popcorn (you can choose between sweet and salty here – I always choose salty!) and went to a crazy juicing station.  You could get almost any combination of juices you could imagine.  They had at least 4 different kinds of fruit preparing machines… it was pretty intense.  I got a watermelon, lime, and sugar cane combination… but it definitely wasn’t as good as the one Jonas got (pineapple, peanut butter and banana – sounds weird but it worked!).

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Hanging with the JFs - I attended the festival with Curtis, and met up with Jonas there too.  During the afternoon we managed to meet up with 5 other JFs who were in town on their way to their final debrief session before heading back to Canada on Wednesday.  We sat at a cute little restaurant by the water, had some drinks, and watched the waves crash on the rocks.  You could smell the salt in the air, and yes those are cows chilling on the beach, I’ve never seen that before!  Then Curtis and I went to run some errands in Osu (which included buying super expensive imported groceries at the expat grocery store) while the others went back to the hotel to change and relax.  We went to a Jamaican restaurant for dinner, and thankfully we had brought our own wine and cheese (I’m surprised they let us), because dinner took a long time to come out and we were all starving!

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Late Night with New Friends – After dinner, 2 people left and the other 6 of us headed to Container for more drinks before the real night started somewhere else.  It was basically an outdoor patio, and some JFs had disgusting shots of the local liquor.  Then we went to Republic, which is basically a bunch of chairs and people standing around right on the side of the road, and people were constantly almost hit by slow-moving cars trying to squeeze by.  Unfortunately, I still had groceries with me (I didn’t know we were going to go out), but I shoved them under a chair and got to socializing.  Through Ingrid (a JF) I might a bunch of cool expat guys (Matt and Sidney).  After all my friends had left to go back to the hotel, I decided to go with them to the Shisha Lounge.  It was pretty crowded, but we danced a bit and it was fun to get to know new people.  Then Sidney left, and the three of us headed to Shaka Zulu, which was dead, so they only had one drink and I just chilled.  We decided the night was over and they put me in a cab.  Overall it was a late night, but not particularly crazy… at least until I got home that is!

Getting Evicted! - So, I know I said I loved my room (which is true) but the truth is, I never really loved the landlord/housing situation.  In Ghana you are supposed to pay the whole rent for up to a year in advance of moving in, which seems crazy to me.  It seems to give the landlord all the power, and the tenant no power at all.  Which is especially dicey in a country with a questionable legal system (compared to what I’m used to).  On top of that, additional rules were given to me by my landlord during the first hour after I arrived.  Some were totally reasonable (no open food in your room, it’ll attract bugs and no swearing – she has a 5 year old son).  But other rules seemed really extreme from the beginning, such as no alcohol in the house, and no friends over.  Mike and I tried on multiple occasions to compromise on these issues, but she wouldn’t change her mind.  So we decided to look for a different house for the last 2 months of our stay (which we hadn’t paid for yet), and to follow the rules until we had made a decision.  She also wouldn’t give us the keys to the house, so it was frustrating that we had to call her when we got home and wake her up, because she went to bed around 8, but she said it was fine, and that eventually she would make us keys.

So, I got home at 4am after a really fun night.  On the way home in the cab I realized I didn’t have my phone, crap, I usually call my landlord to let me in if the gate is locked.  Thankfully, the lock was on the outside, so I got into the compound.  She had given me a key the day before but it only opens the back door, and she had instead locked it with a bolt from the inside.  I tapped on her window and she woke up and let me in.  I knew it was late but it wasn’t against the rules and she said we were free to come and go as we pleased.  I got my groceries and went inside to get ready for bed.  I had a nice skype chat with Steve and then went to brush my teeth.  I heard her moving around in the living room and it turned out she was packing all of Mike and Curtis’s things and putting them by the door.  She came to the bathroom and told me I should go pack my things as well, as I was no longer welcome in the house… what?!?!

We proceeded to have an argument where she said I had broken all the rules, and I told her I had broken none of the rules.  I said what she was doing is illegal, and she must give me notice and return my deposit.  However, she said what I had done was worse than illegal, and that I would have to answer to a higher power.  Eventually I realized the discussion wasn’t going anywhere and went to my room to contact people from work, EWBers in the area, and Curtis and Mike (my roommates who were also being evicted without their knowledge).  Everyone said that she technically couldn’t kick me out, but since she had a key to my room and controlled the gate, I was worried about what would happen to all my stuff when I left for work on Monday.  So I went to bed for a few hours, resigned that I would pack my stuff and sort out a temporary place to live the next day.

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Eventually Curtis returned to get his bags and I heard them outside talking.  Unfortunately, my phone was lost and his was dead, so he had to speak through the window.  Curtis decided to wait for me outside the gate, and I went back to pack my room.  I tried reaching out to some EWB staff about everything, but it was Sunday morning, and a lot of people were out of town.  Eventually we were recommended a guesthouse, so I packed all my stuff and dumped it outside tee gate.  Curtis had a much smaller pile because he was already preparing to fly out, and my pile included all of Mike’s stuff because she kicked him out too.  Curtis called a cab he knew, and we waited for a bit (at least it was a nice day, and I had grabbed some water out of the fridge before leaving).

I called Matt (since he had been driving us the night before) but he didn’t have my phone, and neither did any of the bars… oh well, it was a long shot!  But thankfully Curtis lent me his old Nokia to use for a few days so I could call about houses and communicate with people at work.  I got a room at the guesthouse for 46 cedi a night (about $15) and it had a fridge for my groceries and a private bathroom, so I was happy.  I was totally exhausted, hadn’t eaten, and felt gross, but unfortunately the water was out.  I passed out early and slept like a rock, and in the morning the water was working and I had an amazing shower, it was great.  Just trying to take things one day at a time.. (which is so unlike me!)

New house, new phone, new life in Ghana… - Since Sunday I have realized what good friends everyone here is, and how they’re willing to help me out when times are tough.  I got emails and messages of support from friends, family, and people I had just met.  My boss and co-worker even spent a whole morning looking at houses for me to live in without me even asking them to.  Monday I went to work but spent the whole day calling and emailing about potential places to live.  I also spent the whole night travelling to houses and checking them out.  Today I’m headed to get a new phone (since my old one was not found), and they’re okay with me not working for a little while to figure everything out.  I was planning to do more house searching today but there’s torrential rain so it might have to wait.  For now I’m just going to chill in my hostel, do what needs to be done, and hopefully have a new little home for Mike and I by the end of the week! *fingers crossed*

Just Another Manic Monday!

So this week Mike is working in Tamale, and I’m on my own for for the first time since arriving in Accra!  For the first two weeks after I arrived I was always hanging out with other ProFs.  I shared a guesthouse room with Alexis when we arrived and we traveled together during training.  Then I moved into my new home on my own.  However, only a few hours later Mike arrived from the airport, and since we both live and work together, we were pretty much around each other all the time.  Here’s what happened the first day on my own, it was definitely an adventure…

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The first image is the view of the tro stop at Madina.  There’s lots of trotros, taxis, and vendors to be found.  The second image is the street I walk down to get to my office.  There is a lot of black smoke blowing overhead, which I thought might be a big fire, but it was probably just a “controlled” garbage fire since the fire-station (which is also on the street) didn’t seem concerned.

I slept in a bit, I haven’t been getting enough sleep since I got here, and my stomach has been weird too, no fun.  My job is pretty flexible about what time I want to come in/leave which is nice.   I waited for the tro in the morning, but I’m not pushy enough, so everyone else who was waiting got on before me (even though I was the first one waiting).  Another one that wasn’t full came by about 5 minutes later, so it was fine. Then we got stopped at the police barricade by my house (which is basically just two metal barricades – the type you have to create a line at a club – in front of the police station, that is occasionally manned by police). The mate got out, then the driver, and all the passengers were looking around to see what was happening.  After awhile the cop came over and spoke in Twi and pointed at me (I was scared!). I just kinda looked around and then eventually everyone started talking and yelling in Twi and a lady gets out. I asked the guy in front of me about what was going on and apparently the driver had a super expired license, but the lady was yelling at the cop that it wasn’t fair (even though that seemed like a fair reason to me). Eventually they let him go and we were on our way (surprisingly, I didn’t feel any less safe about the driver, they’re pretty crazy drivers in the best-case scenario anyway, so not sure how much help a proper license would be).

Then at Madina (the last stop of the tro, and the main intersection by where my office is located) there wasn’t my usual breakfast ladies, so the food was sub-par (normally I get a donut ball and a hard-boiled egg).  Once at the office, I found out that Kombate (my boss) has a second house he’s building and the contractor had the key and stole some supplies. So I guess after some back and forth, the guy was sent to the police. Therefore, he had to be on the phone all morning with the pastor, the police, the church elders, and his wife.  It wasn’t very serious (the theft wasn’t for that much money) but there was so much drama, and it led to some super interesting conversations!  In the afternoon, it was just Bernard and I, so I looked up a few new farmer associations and we set up two of our first meetings which is cool (we’re trying to recruit some participants for our upcoming training sessions).

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 Some pictures of the apartment I visited.  It’s pretty minimal, and the little patio with chairs facing the garden is a nice touch. :)

Mike and I are currently living with a Canadian woman and her adopted 5 year-old Ghanaian son, but we thought we might try to check out another place for the second half of our placement, to get some new experiences.  So I left work at 4:30 and I made friends with the lady at the paint store.  She remembered my name from that morning and I complimented her sparkly outfit… so were pretty much best friends now! :P  Bernard gave me directions to another tro station near Madina (this is the fourth one so far… I didn’t know there were so many!) and a guy I asked in the lot brought me to the right tro (though there was a little more touching than I would prefer). The ride was about 45 minutes, and a nice guy told me to get off here (obviously the address on Google is completely wrong, so it’s in a completely different area of the city than I anticipated).  However, I called the apartment guy and it was the wrong stop, I got off one stop too early.  So I’m an obroni (white person) in flats and a dress walking down the side of the highway, with huge tanker trucks and motorcycles whizzing by, it was pretty terrifying. Eventually I found the landlord, who’s a Jamaican rhasta.  We walk for like 20 min on dirt paths to the house.  I almost stepped on a huge frog, we crossed a railroad that goes downtown (who knew?), and we arrived at the apartments.  The complex was nice, a gated little garden area. and nice to have a little balcony. It had a convenience store there with drinks and snacks, and the owner was really nice. The rooms were simple but I saw a huge cockroach!  However, it’s just way too far away for it to really be feasible….

Coming home we took another path where I had to jump caverns in the dark and go across swamps on rickety boards. Thankfully we had his cell-phone light, but I can’t say it made me want to live there any more (I can’t imagine taking that path home after a few drinks downtown!).  Once we were back at the junction we had to run across the highway, where the Jamaican guy almost got hit by a motorcycle!  I wanted to call out but I was afraid he would stop right in its path and get hit, so thankfully he stopped just in time, and I ran across to the other side.  However, it came so close that his phone got hit and smashed into the road, but fortunately he recovered it and it worked once he put it all back together. We waited for a tro but none came and he mentioned it was because of the diesel shortage. So I ended up taking a shared taxi to somewhere random, then a tro to Madina, then another shared taxi back home. It only took about 4 hours for a 20 min visit, but at least I can say I saw a new area of the city!.

Anyway, it was a long day!  But I’m proud to say I made it on my own, and didn’t freak out or panic when I was lost and confused.  I think that constitutes a success… time for a drink!