Archive for June, 2011

Up at 6am, at the bus station by 8am, on the bus leaving the station around 1230pm. Normally waiting at a bus station for four and a half hours for the bus to come would be pretty frustrating, annoying and leave me in a bad mood (especially when it leaves over 2 hours behind schedule. But this time I had one of my favourite books to keep me company The Alchemist as well as national newspaper The Daily Graphic.


As I sit back her in Tamale the morning after I arrived at 11pm in the night, thinking back: if all this delaying and waiting and things not going according to schedule, if it didn’t happen then I wouldn’t have been able to have experiences that I did. I’m not just referring to sitting around waiting a bus stop or sitting around waiting on the side of the road when the bus broke down for 2-3 hours, but rather what happened in between.


At the bus station I read some interesting articles: one that was promoting the need to for rights and services to women confined in “witch camps” as well as pushing for the practice to be abolished; one written by the minister of finance arguing that GDP is one aspect of measuring economic growth and should not be the sole mechanism, esp. since GDP can increase without jobs being created and without most people benefitting; one arguing that Western style democracy (referring to the US) is not democratic and should not be blindly adapted in Africa but rather African nations should find their own path to development and develop their own form of democracy.


And in addition to the newspaper, The Alchemist always encourages me to live in the present, treat people with dignity, respect, and love, and pay attention to ‘coincidences’ for they are often significant – in general I’m reminded to keep a positive outlook on life.


Nothing eventful or significant happened while on the bus, I listened to my IPod and slept. When we stopped in Kintampo I bought some fresh huge mangos, avocados, and a pineapple for pretty cheap to share with my friends back in Tamale, and we picked up 3 Norwegian young ladies. Then our bus broke down outside of Kintampo, which turned out to be a good thing since I met and talked with the Norwegians and a German named Daniel. I talked with 2 of the ladies (one named Frida) about what they were doing in Ghana – some exchange at a university for environmental studies and writing a paper on climate change and the adaptability of farmers, unfortunately the program didn’t really include filed work or face time with farmers so they were asking me if I had any insights. They also asked about what I was doing and I then explained.


But what stood out for me was talking about politics. We discussed how Norway isn’t an EU member and it’s a very heated divided issue in politics there, with half the people for and against. I also learned first hand that Norway ‘s economy is driven by oil which one of the ladies expressed wasn’t a good thing. Frida also explained that she was on the list to become a municipal representative for a community, I still don’t understand their political system but it was interesting to here how she supports the socialist type party and the mere fact that a socialist party had support there – I mentioned that back in Canada a socialist party would be condemned like Stalin. So I was thankful for learning about Norway and hearing different perspectives.


The bus was finally fixed and we continued to Tamale. It’s a different dynamic in the city at night, I see young people and wonder if their parents are neglectful like the 2 young boys dancing at the drinking spot in Navrongo late one night. The gang of us white folk set off to find a guest house, but realized this would be difficult since the president is in town – who woulda thought? Luckily the first place we went to had a room for 2 people so Daniel and I stayed there while the 3 Norwegians took a taxi and searched for another place. Daniel is pretty cool, has traveled a lot and is really friendly. I thought to myself, “only in Ghana would you meet someone a matter of hours ago and trust them enough to be sleep in the same room. This would never/rarely happen in Canada.”


While visiting the agric college a few days ago in Kumasi, I was talking with a lecturer EWB has been working with named Ishak and he said “Every challenge or problem is an opportunity”. Thinking back to yesterday I feel thankful that I was able to take advantage of the opportunities instead of indulge in the negativity of the challenges.




Some people have asked me “so what’s an average day like over there?”, and I often reply that it’s difficult to summarize and explain since so many ‘different’ things seem to happen. I’m not sure if this is an average day, maybe it was an abnormal day, but regardless these were the events, sites, thoughts of one of my day’s here in Navrongo.


I awoke sweating profusely as the heat that my zinc roof absorbed throughout the day didn’t leave my room throughout the night. I began to get ready and boiled some water to cook my Quaker oats (bought in town) and add my local unpasteurized honey, along with some chai tea given as gift from back home. I then walked about 100m to the nearby borehole and pumped my bucket full of water in order to wash myself and wash some clothes – I needed to make 3-4 round trips. Since I ride my motorcycle everywhere it was good exercise as the sun was just beginning to appear over the trees (not too hot yet, but enough to get a sunburn if you’re out long enough).


On the way to work, down the road I travel every morning, I saw some smoke at a small road side kiosk that looked like the type pig roasting mud oven (hard to describe, it’s the place where they cook and sell grilled pork). It was a bit early seeing as how most people prepare and sell pork late in the afternoon. As I approached I noticed he wasn’t preparing pig, he was preparing dog.


I debated whether I should post about this or whether I should censor myself. I’ve noticed in the past that many people back home tend to remember the “strange” events or stories I tell more so than my work, people I interacted with, etcetera. So I feel that some detailed explanation is in order to hopefully prevent anyone reading this to walk away thinking that Ghanaians are “savage” dog eaters.


First off, the consumption of dogs is not all that common across the country, especially in most Muslim areas and also in the south. Here in Navrongo dogs are mainly used for watchdogs since they bark at night if someone is approaching, but many people see them as pets too. They are mostly fed human scraps of whatever was left over from dinner. One of the main differences is that they are not treated as pets like in Canada, no one up would let their dog sleep in the same bed or pay for their dog to have its nails clipped and fur trimmed (when I mention these things to people they are shocked and burst out into laughter at times). Some dogs are pretty thin and skittish looking while other are chubby, relatively clean and happy. They name them like Fate (the dog in our compound), Patience and so on. Like back home some are treated better than others.


Some of the main reasons why people sell their dogs are: when a dog isn’t performing well as a night watchdog, or it’s getting old, or they simply need money for basic necessities. Most people won’t eat their family dog, they’ll send it to the market to be sold, and some people are emotionally attached to their dogs and have to get someone else to take the dog away since it would be emotionally distressing to bring your dog to the market.


Personally, I just look at it as a cultural difference; people eat dogs, so what? What’s the difference between eating a dog and a pig? They’re both domesticated animals with emotions, we just don’t dominate and look over pigs as a master or view pigs as loving companions, and pigs are far more intelligent, we just don’t view or treat them as pets or companions. That said, I would be pretty upset if the dog at our compound was sent to the market. Treating animals like humans just isn’t near the top of the priority list here; maybe it is in some developing countries for different reasons (like cows in India maybe?) but not in this area of northern Ghana.


So back on my motorcycle driving to work I passed the ‘chef’ preparing a meal with his machete making his small daily earnings, and then a little bit down the road I saw a sheep tethered inside an old station wagon frame with no interior or windows and literally laughed aloud at the strange site. “It’s going to be one of those days” I thought to myself.


I went to the office and it was an uneventful day at work, I sat in my office on my laptop working on developing questions to ask a farmer group I was to meet with next week. Did I mention it was Saturday? My good friend Kofi who I met in 2009 called me and we were off to find some Kenke for lunch (you can google Kenke). I was proud of myself today for it was the first time since I’ve been in Ghana that I ate a whole fish, head to fin (with the exception of the thick spinal type bones). It wasn’t very big, about the size of my hand, but they deep fry it to crispy perfection so the bones and head are nice and crunchy..mmmmm…..


Since there wasn’t an open table we ended sitting at a table where an old man seemed to be relaxing with a cold beer. I thought about how this would never happen in Canada, can you imagine going to restaurant or bar and having to share a table with a person you didn’t know? I think people would outright refuse and leave the place. Anyways the man was pretty old, but wore a friendly smile and kind eyes upon his face that seemed to be there for years. He wore one a tilly style hat that read “Florida” on it. I immediately thought of my 96 year old grandfather who often wore the same style hat, and went to Florida every winter to play tennis even into his early 90’s. The old man was also having a single drink by himself, which again reminded me of how ‘Gramps’ had his 1 rum and coke every night. I continuously find it amazing at how on the other side of the world across the ocean on a different continent I experience these types’ connections with people.


That was the highlight of my day, but there were a few other notable experiences like chasing a chicken out of my office on the 2nd floor, eating a big fresh ripe pineapple and bundle of small sweet bananas costing me under 2$ in total, sitting outside in the compound watching the little bundle of joy, 5 month old Ajigeway explore life with such curiosity, and then finishing the day with a big bowl of maize TZ and some great Ghanaian reggae beats of Rocky Dawuni.


Come to think of it, this day was anything but average.