“When you leave things, you leave your spirit behind, too. But if you don’t leave them, you age.”
Before I started my PULSE assignment, I had mixed thoughts about the 6 months in front of me: Sometimes I felt that it would be very long (it is two whole seasons in Turkey, for God’s sake!) and sometimes I felt it would fly by. This is like the feeling you get when it seems like New Year’s Eve was just yesterday and you woke up to find yourself in July. The world’s possibly worst hangover is the routine life that once you let yourself get into, you start to have absolutely no clue about what actually happened (what was worth happening) over the last 6 months, one year, etc.
One month into my arrival in Ghana, I can confidently say that the “time flies by” cliché is correct. But this time, I seem to remember my every step, everything that I saw, every African tune that my ears caught on the street, every person I caught keeping a rhythm to that tune, every person dancing to the tune or at least, mumbling along with it. I like talking to myself and I am feeling so close to people singing to themselves.
First things first: I landed in Accra on a hot sunday night (to be followed by many more hot days and nights). After explaining to various people my purpose of coming to this country with my huge luggage, I was out of the airport to meet the taxi driver who was supposed to pick me up. This was my first encounter with a taxi driver who, as I realized later, had charged me 3 times over the usual price. By the usual price, I mean the usual price for foreigners, which is probably at least twice the Ghanaian rate anyway. (Here is a short and funny video for you to get a better sense of what I am talking about.) This is not only for taxis, life here is all about bargaining for fruits you get on the street, souvenirs, bracelets, fabric, everything! Ghana is one good country to use all the “negotiating skills” you hopefully acquired during your corporate trainings.
I don’t mean to sound whiny, though. I got used to it pretty quickly, maybe because my culture is somewhat similar… And I am not uncomfortable paying a few more Ghanaian cedis for something that is already cheap. Like coconut. When I find an actual coconut, with its juice and flesh for half a dollar, I don’t need to discuss it further.
I spent my first month in the capital city Accra, where I scheduled and held meetings with various NGOs such as UNICEF, FHI360, HealthKeepers Network, CRS, CHAG, Willows International, IPAS, PPAG etc. On these meetings, I talked about the One Million Community Health Workers (1mCHW) Campaign mission and the Operations Room. The campaign team aims to map out all volunteers, health extension workers, nurses, midwives etc. who are actually reaching out to the population especially in rural areas that have limited access to healthcare facilities. I told the NGOs that, building this map is only possible with support from the government and the NGOs. I can say that I was warmly welcomed in all my meetings, and people were extremely friendly and helpful. Whether they had relevant data or not, I felt that the representatives of these organizations were all open to collaboration. They directed me to other organizations who might help me in my task. I liked that they were selfless about their work.
Apart from the people I met for work, I also made some great friends and even had the chance to plan a trip together to Northern Ghana, where Tamale city and Mole National Park are. We were on a safari weekend. It was quite a long trip to the park, made harder by the African World Airlines who decided to cancel our flight without any notification. But at last, we had the chance to see the elephants! There were also various other animals like monkeys, guinea fowls, warthogs, baboons, antilopes, water bucks etc. but the elephants were the most exciting part of all.
I would like to write more about the food, the religion and people’s perception of it, music, art and many other things; but all posts should come to an end. Remember to follow me on Twitter for daily updates and some random photography: @suleinghana
See you soon!