Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sorry for the Delay...

Dear Readers,

I just wanted to make a quick note about something. Quite obviously, my blog does not detail everything that I have done during my time in Ghana. Instead of briefly accounting events, I hope to paint pictures of specific memories that are meaningful to me exactly as they happened. As such, taken as an entirety, what you are reading is a memoir of my Ghanian experience with very little real transition between the entries. So, if you would like to have the blanks filled-in, please speak with me directly!

Several weeks ago, instead of going to work, I went to the “saloon.” Now, before you jump to the conclusion that Becky has become an alcoholic due to the immense affordability of Ghanian alcohol, please permit me to explain. In actuality, Ghanians call beauty salons beauty “saloons.” This confused me greatly for the first couple of weeks, as I wondered why so many women were telling me about all of the hours they passed in the saloon. It didn't seem like something that would be spoken about so liberally in a highly-Christian society. Nonetheless, I eventually figured it out and adjusted my only-in-Ghana vocabulary accordingly.
So, as I said – I took the day off work to go to the saloon. (On a side note – only in Africa can you take the day off work to get your hair done and have no one question you). I decided that I wanted to get my hair braided – mainly as a way to keep cool in the hot Ghanian climate. I was told beforehand that I needed to purchase hair extensions to make the braids “nice,” and, surprisingly, I was actually able to find some extensions similar to my hair colour in the little village of Fotobi.

Julie, the lady that took me to church in a previous blog entry, decided to take me to her sister-in-law, a local hairdresser to get my hair done – promising that she would not over-charge me. This sounded like a very good plan to me. And so I went, and sat for 6 hours while 1-3 women worked on my hair. As they worked, they spoke in Twi. I knew they were often talking about me, despite having no idea what they were saying. I have become accustomed to this however, over the past couple of months. And so, 6 hours later, I walked out of the saloon with about 5 times more hair I had when I went in. Overall, I quite liked my new African-style hairdo. However, since washing the braids is impossible, combined with the hot and humid Ghanian climate, the braids lasted only a little over 2 weeks before I had to remove them. One little-mentioned component of getting your hair done like this is that when you remove the braids, you lose about 50% of your original hair. No exaggeration. I was horrified by the thought that I was going bald as handfuls of my hair came out as I combed it with my fingers.

A few Fridays ago, I had the experience of attending a Ghanian-style fundraiser at the school. Essentially, our school is fundraising for a school bus as participating in field trips is currently next to impossible due to the rurality of the school's location and the less-than-ideal transportation systems in-place in Ghana. The fundraiser was set to begin at 10am. No one began arriving until 11am. During the event, some of the students sang and danced, and then came the “Appeal for Funds” segment. During this occasion, various groups appeared in front of the audience and danced until people give them money. So, each class of students danced until their parents came forward to give them a few cedis. Then, everyone thought it would be HILARIOUS to have the Obruni girl (ie: me) go up and dance too. I told them that this was not a good idea, but still I was dragged forward in front of everyone and told to dance.
And so, once again in Ghana, I swallowed the small shreds of my remaining pride and danced until people threw money at me. Over all, we raised about 1800 Cedis – a far cry from the 30 000 that we need for a school bus, but not too bad for such a small school in a small village.

For those of you who have seen my facebook pictures, you will know that I recently acquired a cute little orange kitten. Although you may assume that I did so to counter feelings of loneliness, that is not entirely true. In Ghana, everything is different. And I mean EVERYTHING. The food, language, weather, people, houses, water, electricity, clothing, transportation, sanitation, furniture, houses, shopping, etc. etc. In all of these things, I just wanted one thing to be familiar to me. And fortunately, I found this through Koko, my new kitten. He speaks a language that is familiar to me, and is the only one that doesn't treat me differently for being an outsider, or have presumptions or expectations of how I should act or what I am capable of. I love him for that. (Sorry for the cheesiness, but it's true.)

In the past 10 days, I have been supervising a Girls' Empowerment Camp in Accra. Essentially, 257 girls from the most impoverished areas of Ghana were selected to attend the camp. Ten of the students from our school were selected to participate, and I was chosen to accompany them. Those ten days were possibly the longest 10 days of my life. After attending summer camp on various occasions as a child, I had certain expectations of what this camp would be like. But, as I should have known, things in Ghana never happen as I expect they will. First of all, the students had to wake-up every morning at 5am to go jogging for one hour. For those of you who have never tried it, motivating 10 teenagers to wake-up ten days in a row for jogging at 5am is almost an impossibility. It felt like bootcamp. After jogging, everyone was expected to bathe together in a communal shower room. Ghanians have no problem with this, or nakedness in general, but being the only Obruni girl made me a major object of attention during these procedures. And so, I had a bucket bath while 50 young girls and their accompanying Ghanian chaperons stared relentlessly at me. Fortunately at this point though, upholding my dignity is no longer one of my major priorities.
Secondly, everyday at the camp was spent indoors being lectured at for about 6 hours. Actually, let me correct that – probably about 2-3 of those hours were spent WAITING for the people who were supposed to be lecturing us. It was very frustrating how poorly organized everything was, and how poor leadership and zero communication are just accepted norms here. Of course, the only people that appeared frustrated by this fact were myself and the two other Canadian volunteers who were working at the camp. In all, the campers had the opportunity to “play games” only twice and completed only one craft during the ten days. There were no talent nights, roleplaying, funny skits or attempted humour of any kind. At the end of the 10 days, my students declared they were more than ready to go home. It was sad that the camp COULD have been so wonderful, had the leadership been different.

Well that is about it for now. As I said, many other things have been happening, but I have decided to only share the things that really stand out in my memory. My apologies for not updating my blog sooner – I have had several half-written entries stored on my desktop, but there is usually about a 70% chance that my internet is not working when I am ready to post an entry.

Hope everything is going well! It feels strange that for the first time in 16 years, I am not preparing to go back to school right now.


  1. As always hun i love reading your makes me feel very sad for you when you talked about how your kitten makes you almost brought me to tears i just wanted to give you a big hug and tell u how much i love and miss you.Love you Sweetie xoxo

  2. Whoa saloons and dancing until people throw money at you? Becky's going wild in Ghana ;)

    Glad to hear you're jumping in and swallowing your pride!

  3. i don't know how you always get yourself in such situations but i think you handle them beautifully.. the singing/dancing and nakidness especially. Write more often! it's so entertaining to read!

  4. Becky!!! Way to go, your blogs make me laugh like crazy!!!!

  5. Elizabeth and I were walking alone down by the old barn last week, just before Thanksgiving and talking about the adventures that you kids undertook in the area over the years growing up. It had us reminiscing about you and Drew. Your adventures seem to have broadened but I wonder if they are as fun as the ones right here in Owen Sound. I hope you miss this area too. Your entries always make me emotional.
    Aunt Sherri