I arrived in Ghana and walked down the jet-way to the tarmac welcoming the warm sun, heat and humidity that only the tropics can deliver. With a not so full plane I exited quickly and breezed through customs. That was the easy part. The interrogation was the fun part though. In order to avoid tourists getting sucked into scams at the airport, cars carrying westerns with locals need to stop at the police station before exiting.
I was with John, the director of YCC Ghana (the organization I came to volunteer for). He was taken into a small room by himself and was asked about me. Then I was summoned from the vehicle and two officers proceeded to ask me about my business in Ghana and why I was in the vehicle with the other men. After a few questions I figured out they were doing this for my own protection, trying to make sure I wasn’t becoming part of a larger scam. The interrogation ended on friendly terms with one of the policeman showing me how to handshake….Ghanian style.
Upon leaving the airport we were bombarded with walking toilet paper vendors. Apparently this product is a hot item in the streets of Accra.
I am staying with YCC Ghana out in the country near the edges of the great Volta River – about 90 minutes from the Togo Border. This organization was started by John 6 years ago and today is directly helping over 250 children and families with education, water sanitation and identifying “slave masters” and notifying the proper authorities and or taking the children away and placing them in orphanages if appropriate. Talking about slave masters and child slaves at a new western mall in Accra seemed so incongruous to the realities a few hours away.
I’ve been trying to improve everything about their online presence but the Internet situation is quite grim. This is a perfect time to work on this as I have no outside distractions and can devote my entire attention for hours on end. However with a download rate in the byte’s per seconds at time, I’m afraid additional work will have to wait until I can find a much faster connection.
I walk to work each day – its about 20 minutes through green fields, mostly corn along dirt paths and dirt roads, past small crudely constructed residences eventually crossing the main highway that continues to the Togo border. The office also serves as a classroom so I find myself working literally in the middle of the classes as I and my net book are physically located where my electrical power source is!
Music is a big part of the Western Africa culture – the director is taking his first trip off the continent in August and is preparing 13 students for this. As a result every mid afternoon just under my window the students line up with drums and sticks and cowbells and their voices and burst into song for 3+ hours until the sun goes down! ‘
The small building where I’m staying is literally surrounded by agriculture – men are out in the fields plowing and hoeing by hand – the ground here is very fertile as its been brought in by the Volta River over centuries.
This evening we had a meeting of all the directors of YCC and we sat down for about 3 hours. The point of the meeting was to introduce me to them and then in turn have each of the directors share something valuable and insightful about Ghana. This was supposed to be a short meeting but everyone had much to tell me about their culture. The two things I’ve learned so far about their culture is Ghanians are extremely hospitable as well as patient.