Everything is wrapping up. Quicker then I may be able to handle. This weekend the Vice wants to bring me to Paga to visit the crocodile pond, and then on Monday I’ll leave Pong-Tamale for the last time and head to Tamale to meet the rest of the JFs for a debrief. We have a few days in Tamale before shipping off to Accra. In Accra I’ll be meeting the National Director of the Human Resource Development and Management Directorate of MoFA to fill him in on all the work at the Vet College. We have one free day in Accra before we fly back to Toronto. I’ll spend two days in Toronto before flying home on the 25th of August and arriving in St. John’s at 11:59 PM.
These last two weeks were nothing like I expected. I’m not sure if ever formed a clear picture of what I thought they would be like, but most everything surprised me. For example, just when I had given up on getting to go on a village stay, Sarah helped me arrange one just outside of Tamale. A village stay is when a volunteer spends anywhere from two days to two weeks in an extremely rural village to get a first hand look at rural livelihoods. I am so glad that I was actually able to have that experience, since it truly deepened my understanding of the Dagomba culture and the attitudes of rural farmers. I stayed with an Assemblyman who represented his community and two others at the Tamale Metro Assembly, which is the local government body. He stayed in a compound with his father and his father’s three wives, his own wife, his brothers and all the younger children. I wanted to learn more about a woman’s typical day so I rose before the sun with the rest of the women, who began sweeping the compound and preparing the fires. They prepared the porridge known as koko that the rest of the family would eat when they woke up. After feeding everyone they bathed themselves and the children. Then they went to fetch water.
This was where I asked to get involved, and although they were shocked by the request they happily provided me with a bucket and a scarf to place between my head and the bucket. Walking towards the watering hole we were greeted by hoots of laughter and a cacophony of questions and exclamations about the white man joining the women to fetch water.
It was I who was shocked when we arrived at the watering hole. The water we were gathering was actually the water that had collected around the foundation of a latrine that was still under construction. I knew the water was unlikely to be very clean, but the muddy brown water was more than I had expected. The women were extremely efficient at getting all the buckets filled and in no time two women were lifting a bucket to be placed on my head. I didn’t get six feet before I knew I was doing something wrong. The women noticed and helped me shift the bucket further back on my head so that I didn’t have to look up into the sky as I carried it. It was incredibly heavy, and terribly difficult to avoid spilling water all over myself. I got about half way before the left side of my neck started to cramp up. I was able to ignore it for about thirty seconds, but I had to admit defeat. One of the women came and relieved me of my burden.
Upon returning, a lot of my time was taken up with preparing the various reports and projects that EWB requires us to complete so that our experiences and lessons learned become part of EWB’s collective knowledge. I also participated in the colleges strategic planning process. They’re hoping to outline their priorities and make a five-year plan.
And so my work at the college has come to an end, and I’m heading home. It feels strange but it feels right. I have moments of wondering about what it would be like to stay longer, follow through on my work some more, build stronger relationships with the people who’ve shared the last three and a half months of my life, but in the end I really am looking forward to coming home.
And the greatest thing is, the work I’ve done isn’t simply going to be left where it is. Another EWB volunteer has arrived who will take my place at the college and continue my work. It’s a pretty great feeling to think that someone is going to be putting all their energy to take something you started even further.
Her name is Carissa Vados, she is 23 and she comes from the Vancouver Pro-chapter. She studied at McGill and now works for Aeroplan. She’s going to be putting the finishing touches on the entrepreneurship curriculum, learning about how extension methods are taught at the college and teaching a weekly ICT course. So to keep an eye on how things are going at the college you can follow her here: http://carissainghana2009.blogspot.com
As for me I’m not sure if I’ll continue blogging when I return. This blog will probably seem less interesting once I’m on the same continent as all of you. As well I am probably going to be fairly busy, and blogging may not be a priority. So I’d just like to thank you all for following my journey, and for commenting and showing interest. It has really helped to share my experiences and to hear your thoughts on them. Thank you so much, and please keep Africa in your minds.