Sunday, May 31

Wintanga a yaya

Thanks so much for the wonderful comments on my last post, I'm glad you enjoyed. I'm not sure I'll be able to continue to impress you, but I feel as though I have to try.

Writing them on paper might be a good idea, but with the help of Moses at the office I've discovered that I can just use one of the monitors in the office and use my laptop as if everything was normal! Although I still can't use it outside the office. At the same time I didn't discover that early enough to prepare a post in advance, so this one will a be "on the fly".
I'm trying to arrange one-on-one discussions as we speak. I've made up a basic structure with some key questions that I'd like answered. And hopefully through that interaction I can get a clearer idea of the environment they find themselves, with more specifics.
As well, I wasn't in Accra, so I apologize if I said that somewhere, it was a mistake. The internet cafe that I'm using is in Tamale, about a 25 minute drive from Pong-Tamale. I will be spending most of my time in Pong-Tamale, only coming into Tamale on weekends. I hope to elaborate a bit more on my attempts to find a permanent residence later in the post. As for the compounds that you likely saw from Google Earth, each of those would generally house a family. I'm not 100% sure about the functions of the larger buildings and smaller huts, because I believe it varies from family to family. Generally, though, I think the larger rectangular buildings will house the head of the household and in many cases has other rooms for other members. The other huts can serve many functions it seems, usually as a room for sleeping but some are the entryway to the compounds. Once I find a compound of my very own I'll provide the layout.

So this week was a bit different than my previous ones, it presented me with my first truly tangible pangs of home-sickness, a drop in motivation and general frustration with the difficulty I've had communicating with those around me. It was a bit up and down. I would have a day of feeling more or less useless and then start to feel better the next day, and then the next day I'd be down again.

I'm feeling fine now, and today in fact was quite fun, but I'll save that for the end. This week was difficult for a number of reasons, many little things compounded together to appear much more frustrating than they should have been. First of all, I was thinking that things at work were moving to slow, and that I wasn't pushing myself enough to keep up momentum. I was banking on my interactions with the students this week to act as my springboard to jump into the coming week, but on both Wednesday and Thursday, the students failed to arrive. It turns out that there was a scheduling mistake and they had been asked to meet with me on the two days leading to a deadline to fill out some important paperwork in Tamale. But even given this, it still didn't feel good to think that I had wasted two afternoons waiting for them, and that I was unable to make the preparations I was hoping to make for the following week.

This let-down was added to my inability to make any progress in finding a home in the community, so that I could begin the process of attempting to understand the local people and their livelihoods in earnest. I hadn't felt that I was properly communicating my need to live in the community to the Principle of the College, with whom I was staying. And in truth I had no idea where to begin, I was simply going to have to stroll into the village and start asking.

A stroke of luck came with the intervention of an extremely helpful individual by the name of Rahman. Thanks to a call from Sarah my coach to the Vice-Principle, as well as the subsequent conversation that he and I had, the Vice-Principle had asked Rahman, a young man of 25 who lived in the community to give me a hand. Rahman and I had met before, he had helped get my bicycle ready for use. Rahman had immediately spread the word that I was looking for somewhere to stay and the following days were spent meeting all the individuals who had a room to spare. Rahman had presented me with more options than I could handle.

So the prospects of finding a suitable place to stay in the community are now much better than they were at the beginning of the week, and I've been able to give myself the extra push to realize that I can and should just pursue the things I'm hoping to accomplish at work, such as interviewing teachers, rather than waiting for something to just happen on its own. The important thing was to get past the fear of feeling annoying!

And now on to today! Adam and I had arranged earlier in the week to go farming with his host family. So this morning I woke up bright and early and caught the first tro-tro (a large bus-like van) for Tamale. After a breakfast of egg-and-bread (literaly fried egg squished between a bun) and a mug of Milo (hot chocolate) I joined Adam and his friends Yussif and Ibbrahim outside their compound and we jumped onto bicycles to make the journey to the farm. It wasn't exactly a comfortable one since I was riding on the rear rack of the bicycle and could feel every bump and rock! After one small tumble caused by mud, we recovered and arrived at the large rectangle of earth that we would transform into a maize field by spreading seed.

Yussif and two others traversed the field back and forth poking holes in the group for the seed with large sticks, than Adam, the rest of the boys and I walked behind them tossing seeds into each hole and covering them in soil with our feet.

It wasn't that tiring but the sun began to take its toll, calling for lots of water! Eventually we were joined by the women of the family, and they joined us in the sowing of the seeds. It took surprisingly little time to cover quite a bit of ground. The family laughed at Adam and I as we sweated and applied and re-applied sunscreen. This prompted the phrase "Wintanga a yaya"

The sun turned out to be too much for the entire operation by the time 2:00 rolled around, because it had dried out the soil, and it was no longer productive to continue sowing. And thus ended my first farming experience in Ghana.


  1. Hi Evan,

    I am glad things are looking up for you. The bike ride would have been funny to watch. i guess you are not riding any mountain bikes.
    Evan I know you are a fighter so do not give up you are there for a good cause. You are braver than i would ever be. In regards to being home sick enjoy your time see a different culture. You will have travelled places we could only imagine. We are looking forward to a powerpoint presentation when you get home. By the way the weather is not that great here any way so you are not missing much. Enjoy yourself and take care.
    Carol Anne

  2. Hi Evan,
    You need to tell us what "whintanga a yaya" means...
    I may be one of the few people to actually be glad you are at least a "little" home sick...
    I was starting to worry!! You have to miss us
    a little; if not we'd be really hurt.
    BUT...glad to see things are better.
    Enjoy the adventure... drink lots of water & keep applying the sun block!!!
    Lots of love from home!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Hey Evan!
    I just caught up on your blog entries, the whole experience seems amazing/awesome!
    The weather over their seems like it'd be to much for a ginger like myself haha, but never the less at lot better then what we've been getting home haha.
    Also using an external monitor for your laptop is a clever idea.
    Anyways, I really don't have much more to add, just kind of felt the need to leave a comment and say hi!

    Have a good one,
    - Eliz

  4. Thanks guys,
    And sorry but I was running out of time at the end and with the way the page was loading and reloading, the translation of "Wintanga a yaya" got lost in cyberspace. It translates to "The sun is too much!"

  5. Thanks for the follow up on the compounds question. Have you settled in a permanent residence yet?

    You're doing a great job with keeping us informed, even if some time goes by between posts. I really do find reading your posts to contribute to my EWB experience. I like the familiar connection in the sense that I know you enough to be able to feel that extra connection to your stories. That makes a difference for me, more so than reading blogs and case studies etc by people that I've never met. You're a really good communicator too. You let us see the wheels turning in your head, which gets the wheels turning in mine! Awesome. Please keep sharing as time permits!



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