Monday, 14 September 2009

5th August 2009

an email i sent home:

Hi all

so I'm sitting in an internet cafe trying to savour my 1 hour of slow slow internet time. meanwhile the women who owns this shop is currently breastfeeding and im too western to interrupt. she already hates me as i always come in and ask 'is the link good?' if i wasnt paying her money for this service at the end of the day, i doubt she would respond. but im used to fast internet at home!

my volunteer work. this is the hardest to tell home about. mainly becasue my ngo (where i work in the afternoons) can do very little at the moment with lack of funding and internet and my boss having malaria that she refuses to get sorted out!I'm learning a lot by watching here. but in reality, im doing very little to help.

my work at Jana village pre school is draining, the kids are rowdy and it is hard to teach them when they dont understand english and have nowhere to sit but on the cement floor in the small classroom, with all donated teaching supplies lying on the other side of the room, also on the floor. nothing is out of their reach and so i spent most of my day trying to control 32 or more little hands from wrecking the place! the problem is that these kids are very cute and i want to cuddle them all the time rather than teach them to go to the 'naughty corner'. the greater problem is though that i am leaving tamale in a few weeks time, maybe to never return again in my life. how can i allow these kids to get comfortab

i am malaria and typhoid free at the moment thank G-d and will be going on a trip this weekend to the north of ghana to see some witchcraft village, and a project under the umbrella organisation 'Afrikids.' We're trying to budget it for a moment with our contact here Peter. Peter, much like my dad, doens't understand time and hopefully tonight we will be hvaing the meeting that has been postponed every night since last wednesday :) in ghana there is always hope.

i moved into the big house on the weekend and spent a lot of my sunday cleaning the kitchen and defrosting the fridge. hopefully, it is now typhoid free :) its not like uni here - if a place is dirty you cant just eat off the floor! and the fridge has been switched on and off by powercuts since we arrived that, now im in this house, i dont want to eat rotten food thank you very much.

i must go as im worried the people sitting around me in the cafe who are peering over my screen, can actually read what i am writing.

your ghanaian resident

Amy xxx

Monday, 7 September 2009

Tamale Relious Life

Ghana, especially Tamale, is a very religious place. The predominant religion here is Islam and everyone else is Christian, although traditional religions are incorporated, especially voodoo. The religious language and symbolism is everywhere - shop names, billboards, taxi windows and even the 'pure water' sachets we drink from. Every day we hear the call to prayer five times, and at the 1pm prayers I pass many small outside mosques on the steet, enabling to observe to my hearts content. Friday afternoons are also particualrly impressive as it is when everyone come out to pray. The big mosque in town has rows of people outside too and all the doors open.

Everyone in my office (all three of them) have decided they want to convert to Judaism despite them not knowing a thing about it, me telling them we don't believe in Muhammed and the fact that two of them have Mohammed in their names. Sulley actually used to be a Christian. I called him a religious slut but I think he did not understand me properly. Last week we invited our NGOs round on our Sabbath to show them what we do and they seemed to enjoy it a lot.

I have been into a few mosques but never during services. A few days ago I went with Amy to see the Church of someone from her NGO on a Wednesday evening. We walked in the dark for about thirty minutes through boggy land until we reached a field dimnly lit by stars and the far off lights on a building . There were five men standing around in a circle. We joined and Amy's friend Katherine was leading the service. She began by speaking briefly about thankfulness and asking us to think what we are grateful for (fans, broadband internet, pickled cucumbers, life) then everyone started pacing around a bit and muttering to themselves. Us four little white Jewish girls stood awkwardly. After a while the mosque kicked in to add to the oddness and so I decided the only thing to do was to mutter the Shema - one of the 'greatest hits' of Jewish prayers - loud enough for them to know I was praying too. This was followed by a lot of preaching from Katherine about Christ aimed exclusively at us although we were still standing in the circle.

Today our last Sunday in Tamale and I realised I still hadn't been to Sunday church service. Victor from Jonny and David's NGO invited us and so three of us went for another bizarre but very differnt religious experience. When we arrived, there was a keyboard making organ-like sounds and a full drum kit being played with a few microphones going around. The community was in a three walled tin roof classroom with rows of wooden benches. There was some good hymn singing and we were made very welcome immediately.
We had been picked up by the Pastor and out of curiosity had asked how long the service goes on for. He made a fuss of introducing us and talking about all of our names - Deborah the prophet, I didn't really understand what he said about Catherine but when it came to me he thought my name was Jasmine and started going on about jasmine rice and fragrance which somehow linked to god. Ghanains have massive problems pronouncing my name - most people think it is Jesscan, and on my last day of work I saw that my boss had me saved in his phone as 'Jasican'. The Pastor then went on about how we had asked him how long the preaching lasts and that in England everone walks out after half an hour so he was going to try to keep it down for us, which was slightly embarassing. As it went on he kept asking our permission to go on longer. At one point Dez had discovered a lump on her arm and I was inspecting and speculating when i realised he was saying "My sisters at the back are chatting - they are bored with our long preaching!" The preaching itself was interesting and went on for fifty minutes in the end. It was hard to follow at times because it was constantly being translated in to Dugbani and at random times in a sentance there would be audience dialougue interruption which went along the lines of:

By Jess

Early travels

We have been doing a bit of traveling since our brief stay in Accra. A group of six of us went to Mole National Park (pronounced Molay, you can imagine the imaginative jokes). We had to take a tro-tro on the worst roads in all of Ghana. We were being thrown about in the already overcrowded pathetic vehicle for a good four hours. All I can say it was a cultural experience.

The best story from our stay there apart from the safari walk and seeing elephants involved a baboon. Caroline went into our dorm room we were sharing with some American girls and was confused to see that her bikini was out and seemed to be smeared with peanut butter. None of us could understand what had happened until we were on the safari walk and one of the American girls was going on about how a baboon had come into our room and unwrapped her sandwiches and sweets and eaten them all and even had a go at her last peanut butter supplies. Mystery solved. I like to imagine the baboon holding up Caroline's polka dot bikini before smothering it in peanut butter.

Last week we went as a group to Bolgatanga up north near the border with Burkina Faso. Here we did exciting things such as stroking overfed crocodiles, eating, cultural dancing and drumming, visiting the projects of an amazing NGO called Afrikids, saw a goldmine and even a witch-camp.
Ghana had oil and gold and so really should be able to afford some tarmac roads between big towns. The impressive football stadium in Tamale was built by the Chinese in return for access to Ghana's oil. If the government had simply invested itself in oil, the money could be going into Ghana's economy. The same is happening with it's gold. We visited a little very poor village that is mining gold but cannot afford to process it further than gold dust and so the Chinese are building a factory and are going to employ locals and build a clinic. This is all very good stuff but once again the profits are going to be pumped straight into the Chinese economy, not Ghana's.

The witchcamp was also a bizarre cultural experience. It turns out that pretty much everyone in Ghana believes in witches, even my boss who has posters all over the office encouraging people to 'show compassion to women accused of witchcraft.' We had to bribe a chief of the main village first and all of us squeezed into his little hut. Peter, our African Tzedek correspondent for some reason decided it was necessary to tell this chief we didn't believe in witches, to which he replied something along the lines of, "If something does not exist, how can it have a name?" Although mutterings of 'vampires', 'unicorns' and 'Father Christmas' went around, we made the noise they make when something is understood - a much more enthusiastic pronunciation of uh-huh. Unfortunately we had a translator so we could not ask the witches our own questions and hear their responses. They have to 'admit' to being witches to be allowed to stay, but with threats of death or at least having their ears cut off in their own communities, their options are limited.

Cultural dancing was hilarious and some quality videos have been taken. There was an amazing little old lady who got on stage from the beginning and was a very enthusiastic dancer and ululater. Despite all twenty of us having to squeeze into a bus meant for ten, we had a great trip.

By Jess

The only vegetarian in the village

'Vegetarian' is not a concept well understood in Ghana and constantly ridiculed. I usually try and explain it along the lines of "I don't want to eat animals, I like to make friends with them" but this is just used as excellent banter material against me. Yesterday I held a debate with thirteen men sitting outside by my office which I am pretty sure I won although no one else agreed.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a village with Sulley my boss, did you usual necessary work, and as we were leaving he was translating the pleasantries ("Thank you for making the long journey to Ghana, may you take us back to your country so we can roam around there", etc etc) when suddenly he announced they were now going to slaughter a guinea fowl in my honour. My face sent him into giggles and he told me it was their tradition, because they had not fed us and tradition is very serious business in Ghana. Although they could not understand me I started whispering and hissing and waving my arms insisting that NO animals were to be slaughtered in my honour, which amused him even more. The end result was that we drove off with the guinea fowl tied up ALIVE to the front of the motorbike which was probably worse, so Sulley could have it for dinner with his wives (he has two, men here can have up to four.)
Another strange day in Tamale.

By Jess