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A Record Breaking day!

I’m in a mood to break records. This is officially now my longest stay in an African country, and from here on out I’m breaking that record every single day. I can wake up each morning to know that I have achieved another personal best!

Another record which we’re about to break together is the 1000 all time views of my blog…just a few more are needed. Thank you so much for the support everybody. I’m actually amazed that something I started as a small project to keep others informed of what I was going through, has turned into a platform of support. Because of my blog, my creativity is being tested. Creativity of photography, creativity of writing, and creativity of thought. I hope I can continue to entertain you all.

So, we’ve covered the longest stay in Africa, and we’ve covered the 1000 views…Ah! I have another record. Today I went to the hospital for a blood test and it turns out I have Malaria and Typhoid fever. Oh boy. That’s a first. As well as my Larium has been treating me, with all those dreams, it couldn’t prevent everything…well at least it softened the blow. I’ve been coping with a headache, and muscle aches for the past 6 days, so finally I took the test and received a large amount of pills to take me through the next few days. I’ve been lucky not to get really sick, but it still limits the amount I can do. However, after all the rest, and hours of staring at the faded blue walls of my room, I was grateful for a motorbike ride to the hospital where I realised where I was again. I’m in Ghana, and there is so much for me to experience here…including the sickness!

Guns, Drums and a Dancing Horse!

The sound of traditional Ghanaian guns is phenomenal. Used as part of their funeral ceremonies, they literally shake the earth with their power. You would expect such a sound to come from something much larger than a rifle, but the sound is true, and it left my ear temporarily deaf. Today, I was fortunate to experience a traditional Ghanaian funeral. Unlike Europe, funerals in Ghana are a time of joy, with music, drumming and dancing from dusk until dawn.

I arrived to feel the shake of the rifles, loaded with gunpowder, and to see large crowds gathered. The buzz in the atmosphere was infectious, and all of the local people were happy to share their culture with me, guiding me to the spot with the best view, and telling me what was happening. As tradition goes, the eldest son of the family rides around the family home on horseback, while in front of him, another rider dances with a horse. When I say dances with a horse, I mean the horse was dancing! It was impressive, and at one point I had to jump out of the way as it almost rode into me.

The sight of this horse rider, mixed with the sound of the guns shaking my heart, and the rhythm of the drums really got me excited, and within half an hour I was in the middle of a circle dancing, much to the amusement of all the locals. The musicians came and played in front of me, while I shook my hips, and moved my arms… I didn’t really know what I was doing, but the people seemed to like it, and, as is custom, people came and put money in my hand as I danced, which I then passed on to the musicians. I was reflecting earlier this week, how difficult is to remove myself from my British, conservative mannerisms which stop me from expressing as much as I want. The desire to get up and dance has always been there, for example, in the church services here, I want to jump up and down with my hands in the air, but something inside always stops me. A fear of embarrassment? Is it me, or the result of my cultural upbringing? This was a good chance to practice that free expression, and I enjoyed it.

Somehow, it was very liberating to experience such an event. The Ghanaian people are so open with their culture, and love to share it with foreigners. Even when we are too shy to dance.

Sheep are smarter than goats…

One of the first lessons you learn here in Ghana, is that you are so limited in what you can give. It is my naivety that let me come to Ghana with noble intentions of alleviating poverty and improving lives. The reality is I am here to learn, and my input is very small in the scale of things. My goal cannot be real change, for that takes years, even decades, but the small steps that I can contribute will hopefully make some difference for those who are giving years to the cause.  The highlights in my stay have been the After School Programmes(ASPs) with children,  where I feel I’m able to give the most. We’ve been restructuring the ASPs and organising the children into smaller groups, so they can be better organised. As active as I can try to be, there is always ‘down-time’. The time when I have finished whatever task I’m working on, and am unsure of what to do next. Although it can be frustrating to have such a time, it has been useful.

I have been able to observe things and reflect upon them. For example, watching how the schedule of the day runs its course; children go to school and return in the afternoon; workmen start their hard physical labour, not stopping when the sun is at its highest; mangos grow on trees, getting bigger each day, and the Guinea fowl roam the roads making loud noises.  I also now know that goats are dumber than sheep when it comes to crossing the road, often choosing the most inappropriate and dangerous times to brave the traffic. I have feared for my safety more than once because of a goat crossing the road. Ghana is so different from Britain. Everything is different; the animals look different, the trees are different, the smells are different, the foods are different,  traditions, cultures, lifestyles, all different. Yesterday I rode past fields of scorched earth where a wild fire had been passing through, a few days before that I was given a freshly fried rat to eat, and I haven’t experienced rain since I left the UK.

Anyway…I’m now twenty days into my journey, and as lucky as I have been to avoid all the common illnesses associated with Africa, I have been unlucky enough to catch a common cold. A weekend of rest ahead of me should sort me out just fine.

My host family got a puppy!!

Capturing confidence…

Confidence is something I always find wanting in myself. Though greatly improved through my experiences over the last few years, I constantly come across situations that require confidence. Today, Saturday, I decided to go for a bike ride into the country. My purpose was to take photos, and it was in this that my confidence was tested. Packing enough water to survive the trip, I set out on my mini adventure. A 40 minute bike ride found me in the middle of nowhere. I was in one of those rare places where you can’t hear any civilisation. No cars, no factories, no buzz of electricity…just the wind, and the squeak of my bike, pressing on through the dirt roads. Maybe it’s not as rare to find it here in Ghana, but there is a feeling of freedom that comes with the silence.

As I passed through savannah land I stopped to admire the view, the sound and the smell. Flies fiddling with my ear, and sweat on my brow. It was nice to take pictures of the silence…but it wasn’t satisfying enough. I wanted to photograph the people, the culture and lifestyle. In the distance I saw a lady sifting sand from hay, and another lady carrying a pot on her head. This time I was on my own, with no one to translate for me, and these country people don’t speak English. It took a few minutes of standing under the sun, thinking of the possibilities before I decided to brave the culture clash and go and ask them if I could take photos of them. Success!!! Confidence boosted, and a great few hours out!

My activities this week have gone beyond the conscious world as well. Because of my Larium, anti-malaria medication, I have been having dreams every single night!! Sometimes more than one. I have been swimming in some huge pool with friends, climbing mountains and taking some incredible photos of nature in Finland, even sailing a sand ship through Ghana!!! Going to sleep is an exciting prospect, wondering what adventures I will have during the night. Take care everyone!

Here is a panoramic view of the countryside. Click on it to see the large version:

Click to see full size version.

“Desseba!” – “Naaaa”

Having the wind flow through my hair is an experience I’m fond of. Somehow, it’s always new. I seem to only take notice of it when I’m exploring, and it brings with it new air and new smells. This week I noticed it while riding on the back of a motorbike; travelling through the Ghanaian countryside to rural villages of mud huts and straw roofs. I looked up to the sky to see an eagle circling above, and herds of cows in the distance with farmers guiding their way. The wind, causing my hair to stand up straight, made the speed feel real.

This week has been one of discovery and orientation. Figuring out where I stand in all of this, and where I’m going. I was officially introduced to all the staff of CPYWD, and was able to be involved in some of their after-school activities which is at the core of their programme. One of these After School Programmes (ASPs) was in a rural community where 79 kids attended. I could hear them shouting ‘Siliminga! Siliminga!’ as I arrived into the village, meaning White man! White man!, and they came running up to me smiling and laughing. Simple games, both modern and traditional were played, and all the kids joined in enthusiastically.

The work of CPYWD in the past three years has helped in several communities through organising fun activities that bring children together to learn through play, and I can see firsthand the results of their labour. More children are attending school because of the efforts of CPYWD and so creating more opportunities for them and their communities to grow in the future and move out of poverty. On personal reflection I’ve been able to learn a lot this week through small observation. Past experiences in Africa have left me thinking that this is a place that is dangerous, hostile and intimidating…but since I’m now living in Ghana I’m seeing a side that is a bit different. I’m watching Ghanaian TV, where they show African dramas, and political debates. They keep up with Premier league football, and make African versions of shows like ‘Deal or No Deal’. Everything has its own African touch but you get a different impression on a fast paced, three week service projects where you are being rushed here and there to forums and physical work, and you’re still taking in the environment that is so new and strange. In this week I’ve been able to slow down and observe life in Ghana a little more intimately. I’ve been enjoying the sound of ‘Desseba!’ and the reply of ‘Naaaa’, which is the way people greet each other in the local Dagbani language. I really look forward to discovering more.

I’ve also been a reading a book entitled ‘How to Change the World – Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas’. It’s a fascinating book about people who have changed something in society to help people. They are the kind of people that work without thought for wages, or fame but sincerely work for the greater good! They dedicate years to their cause, coming across obstacles and pushing past them, again and again, until the goal is achieved. It’s a very appropriate read for someone going into development work. It makes me evaluate what I’m trying to achieve in my life. Anyway, I’m only 21…still a long way to go.

My Host home.

I want to keep practising my graphic work, so this is a little video I created. It took about 4 hours spread over two nights, and almost as long trying to upload it. Enjoy!

World Traveller!

The smell is what tells you, you’re in Africa. The first step off the plane takes you already, the air just smells…different. It smells African. It’s not an unpleasant smell…just different. I guess it’s the heat as well. There was no smooth transition from my cold European air to the thick, warm air of Accra, but I embraced it! I’m back, and I write this with a big smile stretching from ear to ear.

So far I’ve spent a day in Accra, visiting some locations with my guide, Evans, a 24 year old teacher of African arts. And then yesterday I travelled from Accra to Tamale. A near 14 hour journey, across the country. You can see the changing landscape from jungle in the south to savannah in the north, and the homes get simpler and simpler from city to countryside. I had my music with me and played some ‘Blood Diamond Soundtrack’ to get me in the spirit.

 

You can see the heat is getting to me...I'm a mess!

Some amazing Sand Art at the beach.

The home of my host family is very nice. I’m very lucky to have a room with a fan. In Accra, my nights were 90% tossing and turning in the heat and 10% sleep. Now it’s reversed, so I’m grateful. I’m sure it will take a few days to figure out where I am, what I’m doing, and how I can find my place in this Ghanaian society, but in time I’ll find my way.

I was very happy to see the boarding ticket for my flight. They added something to my name which I believe fits perfectly.

 

Patrick German, World Traveller

Patrick German, World Traveller.

I certainly feel like it. These days, I find myself one morning in London, then in Holland, then in Accra, and now in Tamale. My life is an adventure, and I’m inspired to see myself becoming a Global Citizen.  My mind naturally reminisces of my past experiences, those ‘moments’ where I touched something much deeper than myself. Whether it was driving through the Rocky mountains of Canada, watching stars in Austria, climbing mountains in Switzerland, camping out in Albania, walking through forests in Germany, sleeping in a van in Belgium, feeling the heat in Dubai, jungle rides in Cote d’Ivoire, or miles above the earth In a plane. I certainly am grateful that now I’m in Ghana, able to create those experiences for myself again. I hope what I’m writing can inspire at least one of you readers to go out and experience.

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..and he’s off!

The day of my departure is arrived, and I am so grateful to all who supported me in my efforts to raise the money to get to this stage.

It has been a great few weeks for me; working in a wholesale fish company, dealing with salmon and sea bass. Then travelling to Holland to meet the new YSI team, who are a really great group of people. Now I am back in London, only an hour before I leave for the airport. My bags are packed, and my mind is ready, but some butterflies found their way into my stomach.

Before every great venture, butterflies is a normal experience, but in my mind there are questions of what to expect, and what could go wrong. How will I sleep in the heat coming in the next few days? I checked the weather in Tamale…38 degrees. I have to remind myself of the people who live in these places permanently. Of course, they may be used to it. But it’s hot none-the-less. I cannot complain, or find my attitude lacking, but embrace the weather and the people, the situations…and the butterflies.

My father is a missionary in Chad, working on humanitarian relief and family values education to prevent HIV/AIDS, and spends a few months every few years there. Working in temperatures which sometimes exceed 50 degrees! That is intense! Please look at the website of IRFF Wales to see more info.

I’ll try my best to get a post in the next few days. My schedule is to stay in Accra on monday and travel to Tamale on Tuesday.

Thank you, and see you soon!

Ghana Study Day!

It’s amazing how quickly time flies by. When I created this blog Ghana still felt so distant, but now I realise it’s only 6 days away. Once again I will find myself in a land that amazes me, a land that captures me. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am in.

My last few weeks have been spent raising money, and buying all the things needed. I’m already two weeks into my anti-malaria medication, and experienced my first side effect, a night mare that woke me up early last night. My bags are packed and visa is ready; flight is booked and I’m just about ready to go. Externally I’m ready…I still need to get my internal sorted out.

I am actually now writing from Holland. I came to visit the new YSI volunteers and also to attend a Ghana Study day to help in my more internal preparations for Ghana. The content was extremely interesting, with a number of talks from professors, and other such qualified people who have had extensive experience in Africa and elsewhere around the world. One of the big topics was culture, what it is and how to deal with it. I found it very interesting.

The speaker said there are 5 issues that every society has to face. Biological needs, Kinship/relatives, Religion, Invisible Social Differences, and finally ‘Social Charity, aid and globalisation’. The way a society deals with these 5 issues is the culture, and differences in culture come from different approaches to these 5 issues. Very interesting, and very useful.

I also had a good chance to think about what I can offer to the people in Ghana. What are my skills? What are my qualifications? A lot of people who volunteer with CPYWD are doing it with their school, where they have a specific task or investigation set to them. I am going because I want to experience Africa, I want to understand ‘the situation’ whatever that situation is, and I want to offer something of myself. It’s going to be interesting how I will find my feet there.

 

T.I.A.

You can imagine a trip to Africa would contain these cinematic experiences that you never forget, where crazy things happen and you just end up saying ‘T.I.A’…This is Africa. I would like to share one of those experiences.

In Ghana, we stayed in a house, 4 guys to a room. We didn’t have fans, and barely had a window, so at night it got pretty stuffy. So bad that most nights i couldn’t sleep. Being sick didn’t help either. One night it was so uncomfortable that i went out into the shower and just had the water running over me, while using a bottle of shampoo as a pillow. I remember being crunched up in that small 1.5 x 1 meter space, a cold grey concrete floor, and faded white walls. Amazingly it was in those sleepless nights, while the water ran down my face, and as my stomach churned and growled that i determined to come back to Ghana. I smiled and said ‘T.I.A.’ Hah! I must be crazy!

Anyway to celebrate my experience i have made a video dedicated to the YSI team in Ghana. Enjoy!!

What will I be doing in Ghana?

Hi everybody. So my first real post will be about what I did and what I will be doing in Ghana.

My past experience in Ghana was a 17 day trip last March, involving a lot of work with and for young people; organising forums and activities, and also helping in the construction of a ‘Discovery Centre’ which would provide a space for youth group meetings, and better facilities for children. I went with an organisation called Youth Service Initiative (YSI), a one year full time volunteer program based in Holland.

I will be working with an organisation called Community Partnership for Youth and Women Development (CPYWD).  A quote from their website best summarises what they do:

CPYWD is dedicated to build partnership with the communities and to form youth and women groups (clubs). Led by interns and (community) volunteers, these groups have the chance to explore their interests and to acquire social and lifestyle skills. We focus on stimulating the social structures within and between the communities, and on building the capacity of the people. The community members are responsible for the development of their community by themselves! Through these social structures CPYWD builds the capacity of the local people. Eventually the communities should take over the lead and adapt CPYWD’s ideas and inspiration in their lifestyle.

A teamwork activity for the teenagers.

In my four month stay, I’ll help in the projects of CPYWD, including organising and facilitating after school activities, and engaging the children in activities that will stimulate them.  When in Ghana last, I organised a simple game of charades  which the children had never heard of before. With the children acting out animals that they see walking around them all day, such as goats and chickens,  I could see how a little creativity goes a long way with children who don’t have any toys to claim as their own.

A forum with school kids.