Friday, April 24, 2015

Dancing and Sweating in Bolgatanga

Colloquially known as “lights out”, Power cuts, are a common occurrence in Bolga. Of course, due to the 12 hours of high sun and 40 degree heat, having no electrical light in the TradeAID office is not exactly a worry. But having no lights also means no printers, no laptop chargers and no internet. Ghana maybe a developing country, but they are no less dependent on these technological staples as we in England are. The TradeAID office is particularly vulnerable to lights-out as most of our work involves emailing and selling our products through Etsy.
So what would any self-respecting Ghanaian office do to pass the time? Hand write emails maybe? Draw up next week’s plan? Naaah we Dance!

Dancing is big in Ghana, it is no wonder then that people are generally happy and upbeat all the time, regardless of the relative lack of sugar and caffeine in average diets.
Luckily our resident Dance Diva Naemah had enough laptop battery left to open up some saved music videos. Lena, Phil and I definitely have a lot to learn from Naema and Nelson when it comes to dancing but we had fun nonetheless.

This week has been rather busy here at TradeAID, on Tuesday we had our first official Record Keeping session with the basket weavers of Sumbrungu. As is traditional in Ghana, they welcomed us with singing and dancing. I was the first to awkwardly step into the circle, internally panicking about the 36 pairs of eyes on me. One lady wearing a beautiful outfit of bright orange African print took pity on me and got me to mirror her energised dance moves. I even managed to throw in a few bum wiggles and arm flails, like the self-respecting English girl I am ;) Who needs alcohol and sticky club floors to have fun hey?!

Dancing is the perfect way to start and end a session in which both we volunteers and the basket weavers had to engage in intense thought. I feel like there is a lesson British schools could learn from this somewhere…)

The next day we held an assembly at Kolgo Junior High. I think we can all agree that the day went amazingly; Naemah showed us her inner teacher, Nelson managed to make them sing and smile and shush, Phil got rugby tackled for the bag of sweets in his hand and Lena and I? Well, we may as well have sat out as the kids couldn't understand our accents. I know what our report cards would say; Must. Try. Harder.
But on the whole it was a success; the kids didn't know about Fair Trade before and now they do.
Job Done.
Victory dances all round!!!! Who’s for a celebratory Malt drink?!

Dancing is great exercise, and in a country that is always hot, this amount to serious quantities of sweat. In fact, for Phil, TradeAID’s very own computer whizz Kid, dancing is not a necessary prelude to excessive sweating. Why am I telling you this? For the very same reason he tells us twenty times a day. I just haven’t figured out what that reason is yet ;)

Inspired by the constant dancing in Ghana I had a go at choreographing my own. One I like to call The Moto-Dodge. In Bolga we have wide pedestrian paths, wide enough for at least four people to walk along together. However, often these are used as slow-motorbike lanes. All in the name of safety, some drivers slowdown in order to take a phone call, or speed up to avoid those pesky speed bumps. So my 35 minute walk to work every morning is made more enjoyable by frequent sidesteps, toe-taps and quivering Jazz-hands.

Right now I am craving a double espresso and a pack of jelly beans, but maybe after my time here, I’ll learn to do as people in Ghana do and generate energy and happiness through a more natural stimulant; dance-generated adrenaline!


 By Harriet Fielding, 
UK volunteer.

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