Hi to all! I just wanted to write a short entry about a few of the events over the last month and hope you all enjoy it.
I have been working for an NGO called NDA (Nfasimdi Development Association) with the Programs Manager Sulley Mohammed. They set up sustainable development projects using funding from worldwide charities to improve the standard of living of poor communities. We get on really well and there is rarely a dull moment in his presence. The most noticeable difference with working life here and the very very limited experience I have of working back at home (and I’m sure you have heard this a lot by now) is the speed of it. Some 8-5 days comprise of about the same amount of work we would get done in a morning, or even a couple of hours, at home. This is not a criticism. In fact, after my first few days here I immediately felt a sense of admiration towards their relaxed lifestyle; whether it is because they have bigger things to worry about in their day to day lives than work so that, when put in perspective, they don’t worry about getting a funding proposal submitted as early as possible, or that they simply have an innate laid-back attitude. In terms of what I have been doing there, my time has been split between visiting the communities within which their projects are being implemented, speaking to them individually and collectively and office work (writing funding proposals to potential donors, NOT TO TZEDEK!, writing letters, post-project reports and often editing the English on any other kind of document). The types of projects cover things like water and sanitation, micro-credit schemes, vocational training programs and education. Once I adapted to the slowness (my attempts at speeding things up with a subtle push here and there almost always fail with the response generally being things like “What’s the hurry?”), the most frustrating thing about work are the virus-ridden computers which decide randomly to pretend that the memory is full and stop you saving work. Somebody actually came in to fix them one day apparently. I don’t know what he was doing other than playing Solitaire or Freecell but there has been absolutely no difference… I think he did change the background though!
Me and Josh have been playing football at 6 a.m. every Sunday with the local lads. Their physical and athletic ability is unbelievable and keeping up with them is as difficult for us as Tom trying to keep up with Jerry. This morning I became the first silly-minger to score. Josh wasn’t there to see it unfortunately but let me tell you I beat 8 men and then hit a 45 yard overhead kick lob into the top corner… well not quite. The reality was that it was pretty much an 8 yard tap-in but don’t tell him that! A funny anecdote from our first football experience was when one of them showed up wearing a Man City shirt with a red shirt underneath. I got excited and complimented him on supporting the mighty blues. He then informed me that I had misinterpreted his attire. The City shirt was representing that he liked Manchester... the red underneath was symbolising that he was actually a United fan. Whilst it was clear that he didn't quite understand football team supporting in Manchester as a concept, he made it clear that he was actually a dirty red.
As I have been here for over a month now, I feel relatively well-adapted to Ghanaian culture… and whenever I feel that or say that, something new comes up which brings me right back down to earth with a bump. An example is with regards to marriage proposals. I have been on the receiving end of a few. As a guy, it had always been a parent or other family member speaking about the girl that they wanted to “give to me”. Now, I can say I am pretty good at handling those situations. BUT, the other day, I was confronted by a girl’s brother… but she was there with him. Now this was worse. Explaining to her face was something I never really wanted to do and it was so difficult and I can honestly say that I failed… because at the end of our encounter he was under the impression that when I was 27, I would marry her. I just hope they don’t take that too seriously.
I can’t believe how much I have had to edit out so that this wasn’t ridiculously long but I will get it all in next time! To conclude I just wanted to say what my biggest lesson has been so far. I came here with, what I now realise was, the most ridiculous assumption – that life in Ghana was, without exception “worse” than life in the UK. After only about 3 days, Josh T and I discussed for ages about all the wonderful things we had noticed about their lifestyle that we were in utter admiration of. Of course we have to remember that these things I am about to mention could be inaccurate and that this is just our perception. Everybody seems stress-free! (Or relatively stress-free considering the hardships they suffer). Their communities seem so so so close. People are always sat outside with their neighbours laughing and chatting. And the most impressive and admirable thing of all, is how welcoming and friendly and genuine most of the people are and this is also the fundamental reason to why I felt so settled so quickly.
I have enjoyed writing this a lot and hopefully will get to write again soon.