Chapter 6: “To be sitting on a gold mine”

Hi everyone, I am still waiting for your answers to my last post’s request with your suggestions for the next one… (That was sarcasm: You see? I’m still here…) as you can see, I’ve already started writing it since it seemed that no one was going to answer or had any questions. So, I’ll continue with my usual way, the time’s almost gone because in 15 days I will go back to Spain! I hope someone is till reading my stuffs, that could be the reason why nobody has sent his/her suggestions…, but after 5 posts I find this is a very good exercise to think about my time here, and now I even like writing them, can you believe it? Even though sometimes it is not easy… like this post, and I am not sure if it is because I am in my last month or because my inspiration has gone…

One thing that I understand after 6 months here is “Ghana is sitting on a gold mine” (here, I have my idiom for this post…”to own something very valuable, especially without realizing it”, I know… it is not the best one but it is an idiom, isn’t it? For this reason, I am going to go further… I will include several idioms all related to gold, something similar to what I did with the quotes about the chameleon.  I like taking risks…! I hope you like it).

Ghana is sitting on a gold mine, literally, every day in my car trip to the laboratory (I’ll say it again, in case you don’t remember, this is the Ashanti Region in Ghana) I can see all these men looking for gold:

portada 1

But this is not the ONLY reason why Ghana is sitting on a gold mine, and I guess that after reading my post you will agree with me…First, a little bit of background, during my time here, I’ve had the chance to visit other African countries:

  • South Africa: What can I say about South Africa? I only had the possibility to be in Cape Town. If you remember I went to the ASML conference (the African Society of Medical Laboratories). I really enjoyed my time there, not only because the city was amazing and because my friends were there (thank you again, Rosalle, for showing me the city and for take care of me all the time), but also because I discovered a new kind of conference about Global Health and how you can approach health issues in Africa, very different from my usual work in R&D, I can tell you; it is a great experience for everyone that is working in R&D to see other points of views, more focused on patients, and in real problems about logistic and laboratories…

Cape Town is maybe the most European city of the whole African continent, very far to other African cities (very worthly, of course one place to come back again…). (https://pablocastanedaghana.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/chapter-four-to-be-over-the-moon/) Click here to read the post I wrote about S.A.

  •  Uganda: Also known as the pearl of Africa. In Uganda you can find a lot of natural parks to go on safari, as well as the Lake Victoria (with its famous and spectacular waterfall) and, of course, something you can’t miss if you go to Uganda, the Bwini Impenetrable Natural Park where you can see Gorillas, one of the best experience in my live, the image speaks for itself:
    • Uganda
    • Victoria Lake
    • Bwini Natural Park (Gorilas…amazing place)

But when you can see how they are moving:

If you want to see more pictures, and internet here allows me, you  could find  more in the other https://pablocastanedaghana.wordpress.com/, I need to put another pictures here:

But I went there to work, so, let’s talk about it. I was in the Keystone Conference about Malaria Eradication, a subject closer to my actual work, so it was very useful. This conference gave me the chance to see something more focused on Global Health and what´s the Keyston Association doing fighting against the malaria problem in Africa.

A very beautiful and ( have to say it) hard experience, lots of talks, round tables, workshops, lots of relevant information, different points of view from people like me working daily on the ground. They were all strike gold to me , all of them helped me to learn more about Global Health point of view against Malaria and the workshops gave me the change to do a lot of contacts with people working in the same field as I do.Thank you very much Janeth, the little time I could spend with you was great.

Ooooops! Wait! I am losing my objective…I was going to tell you about my experience in Ghana and I’ve spent most of the time talking about other countries… this is only the introduction ( and to be honest, I wanted to put these pictures…). Cape Town is very different and Uganda is perfect, everything´s clean and tidy, ready for Tourism.

BUT… and here is what I aimed to say before I lost track of it… Ghana is different, maybe because it is not sitting on a gold mine only for the gold, Ghana is sitting on a gold mine for a lot of reasons. These reasons are not very obvious, and you can’t see them at the beginning or maybe because you have really discovered a different way to see the things (I guess that if I were living in another country I would still think the same). But those things are still there, you only need to discover them. I will start for the easy ones:

  • Natural resources: Of course gold, Ashanti  Region is called “the gold coast”. The picture used to introduce the post is not the proper mine, is only the people trying to find small quantities of gold that come for the big mine…some pics of it, as you can see are not like the others:

    Speaking about natural resources, Ghana is a very fertile land (remember the rain forest that I showed you on my daily trip to the lab), this is why anything can grow here. Maybe this is also the reason why Ghana is one of the biggest producers of cocoa in the world:

    And also wood, remeber the forest:

    And of course, as you can imagine, there is a huge variety of fruit (not only bananas and plantain (a big banana)… I am eating more bananas than ever!)

    And you can also find the most exotic fruit ever. All these fruits that you can find has become from this time, something very important in my daily meals. 

    But, unfortunately, because of the corruption and the investments from foreign companies, they are not able to take advantage of it to itsfull capacity. After the last elections they are really happy because with the change of government maybe things will change… or so they hope, and this is why they celebrated the results from the last elections in a very funny way:

  • Natural environment: Although, sometimes it is difficult to see this wild life, is like gold dust (the same gold that people are trying to find) because the main difference with Uganda and South Africa is that they can´t see the potential, they don’t realise the big potential for Tourism they´re having, because they don’t keep places clean and they don’t have a good infrastructure (remember what I said before about the roads):

In spite of that, you can find some amazing places. Have a look at my last post to remind you. They need to believe in their potential a little bit more and work towards that end. Just as a reminder, here are some of these places:

Beach (Cape Cost , Takoradi and Accra)

Lake, waterfall and  forest (Bosontwe, Kintampo and Kakum)

Wild life (Mole, Paga, Monkey Santuary)

ALSO, AND MOST IMPORTANT, they have the two most valued assets for what is worth its weight in gold and believe that  they are sitting in a gold mine:

  • Tradition and culture: Just seeing people walking on the street in their traditional clothes is amazing. Compared to Uganda and South Africa here it is easier to see it every day:

The colours of all their clothes, the typical material here is called Kente….

Sometimes the combination of colour it is unbelievable, and you can see all these things just by walking on the street every day or in churches (like in my hometown, in Gordoncillo – León – on Sundays they use their best clothes to go to church)

But, then, in funerals, it becomes amazing. I had the opportunity to be here for the Queen Mother’s funeral, and it was incredible, it lasted a whole week. Everybody, rich or poor, wears those traditional clothes and have the same ceremony (Black and red for funeral, just black and with for live celebreation). I can’t really describe it in words…

  • AND, the most important asset, the people here have a heart of gold. For me, maybe this is the most remarkable point, you can find one of the most friendly people in the world … always happy, always trying to help you. You feel completely safe and like at home every moment of the day… it is something amazing …

There´s music everywhere and at the end you are able to feel rhythms of Africa, specifically the Ghana rhythms, it is impossible not to dance like them, don´t you think?

I’m not going to upload any video of my dancing…, but there were some…

Ghanaian need to believe in themselves and realize that they are SITTING ON A GOLD MINE… they are working on it:IMG_5345

Do you think that I have finished? No, I haven’t, but don’t you worry, because I haven’t said anything about my work yet… And if I don’t, you’ll think that I am just on holiday here, and I am not! I must say that I feel very happy with my work here, maybe I’ve struck gold (sorry, but I needed to introduce my idioms… It means “to become successful”). There are only 15 days left for me to leave the laboratory (the Tropical Laboratory Initiative) ,and everything is going very well. We went for the gold when we started, I’m not sure if we will get it in the end but at least we’ve tried to do our best, and so far, the results don´t look bad:

  • Very good commitment of the Clinics. When we started to work, it seemed like a gold dust (very complicated),  we started with a communications plan that became the spine of our good vibes and quick answers. After knowing all the people and sharing our time with them, I am very happy with the results and their response..… Those pictures will be for the last post…( During this week I will visit the clinics with new telephones and one update of the software)
  • Insurance issue… From now on the Tropical Laboratory is part of the National Health Insurance Scheme… can we ask for more? Maybe this will be the key for the lab to be sustainable in the future. Ken started this work the last year and now we are implementing the strategy.
  • Organization: This is a team work, thank you to all the Tropical Laboratory Initiative team because they worked very hard and they worth their weight in gold, helping me all the time and trying to adapt their way to work with me… (Here the chameleon is working for both sides…)

Now, in my last period, I am doing more paper work like claim forms, excel files, articles about TLI, and leaving all the things finished… But all these experiences, even the paper work, have given me the opportunity to feel like I am sitting in a gold mine because in the future the lab could be sustainable. It was one of our big goals, a dream for many of my collegues in Ghana, and it´s now more close… and, of course,  I’ve learnt a lot, but I needed a little bit of time to discover that (remember my steps in the other posts)DSC_0936

Ok… Maybe it is not one of my best posts, but it is not easy to write every month. I hope you’ll like it although it is not good as gold… At least I’ve tried to give you some clues about how I am feeling here and I hope I have also make you enjoy, at least a little bit, of this experience with me. I’ve tried to share it with you all this time.

Perhaps this will be my last post before I leave Ghana (Javier don´t worry and thank you for always support my posts… and sorry Nuria and Simon, that you always help me with my posts, I promise will be the last…), I will write the next one in Spain… I am not going to ask or propose you nothing today, but I am always open to any suggestion…Thank you very much for being there during all this time with me, you worth your weight in gold too

MEDASE (Thank you)

Note: Due to technical issues, wifi here it is not very fast, the Spanish translation will be upload during this week, if I can… https://pablocastanedaghana.wordpress.com