One month goes by very quickly, and I have to be honest in saying that I have not done much. I have been told that a volunteers most productive time is in the second and third months of their stay, so I have optimism that I will still be able to bloom here in Ghana. Although my contributions have only been, and can only be small, the amount I can learn is huge, and already my perception of Ghana, Africa, and developing countries has completely changed.
Following some light meditation and reflection (see image above), I’ve realised some things. A short service project gives you enough time to identify the aspects of a developing country that you most expect; the poverty, the barefoot children, the mud huts, and the supposed inability of people to take care of themselves. Yet, to experience a country as I have this past month, in a slow and reflective way has enabled me to identify other aspects which we don’t hear so much of in our daily lives at home. The word I hear most frequently here is development. I hear it on the radio, on TV, I hear it in passing conversations and see it on many sign boards. Development is an issue which all Ghanaians are facing, albeit at different speeds and with different effects, and a short stroll along the road will give you an insight into how many development organisations there are.
I came to Ghana with my own definition of poverty, and somewhere in that definition was the idea that mud huts equalled poverty, but on closer inspection I noticed my own definition of poverty was something that didn’t factor in the human. The human has pride, and emotions, desires, and lifestyle choices, and all of these things affect poverty. I have learnt that poverty is not whether you live in a mud hut as opposed to a brick house, but it is the inability of the person to control their environment to cater for their basic needs. A person living in a mud hut can have the ‘resources of mind’ to feed the whole family, provide medical needs, and send the children to school. The fact that he lives in a mud hut, and wears flip flops, and works long days in the field is then a lifestyle choice, and who am I to judge such a choice which follows on from the lifestyles of his ancestors and of tradition. At least this is one aspect of poverty I have come to recognise. I know that there is still a lot to learn on this matter.
Well since my last post, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy another ‘cultural feast’. I attended a traditional funeral, but this one was different from the last. There are many tribes in Ghana, each with their own traditions, but even further still, certain villages have different customs and traditions themselves. I attended the fourth day of the funeral where all the men from surrounding villages come and shoot a log with bow and arrow. If you are able to split the log then, as the tradition goes, you have to marry into the family. I was able to have a go myself and, thankfully, I did not split the log, but after a first attempt of the arrow falling miserably in front of me, I managed to get one in. Before all of this happens, the village comes with drums, and of course, guns, carrying branches above their heads. As a group they dance around the hut of the family who is mourning, and hit the roof with the branches. It’s always interesting to be among these cultural celebrations, and this was in a community that I regularly facilitate an After School Program, so I was happily accepted amongst the members.
It was requested that I add some pictures of the food I’m eating here, and so here they are. Typical Ghanaian dishes are Fufu, Banku, rice and stew, Yam (similar to potato), and a dish mostly eaten in the north which they call T.Z. (pronounced Tee-Zed). Unless it’s rice, then the meal is always served with a soup. Last week, they even put smoked rat in the soup to add some flavour! Oily, greasy, heavy and full of carbohydrates is how I would describe the Ghanaian menu. On many occasions I have found myself day dreaming of a glass of cold fresh milk, or some Lasagne. A full English Breakfast, with extra breakfast, would be most appreciated.