Friday, April 28, 2017

Banter in Bolga

Mine and Winner's host home/mansion

Firstly we would like to rejoice in the fact that the heat has calmed down – it is now only 35 degrees, basically the North Pole this morning*. In a somewhat Jon Snow-esque manner I will simply say, ‘Rain is Coming’. Despite having developed a permanent musky smell due to the sweat (yes, that is as delightful as it sounds), we remain well and healthy. I am also pleased to inform you that we have all become social butterflies over the past three weeks. This was primarily achieved through the introduction to our host families. We have been living with them for two weeks now, and everyone is very welcoming and friendly; Winner and I love sitting and relaxing with our family in the courtyard section of our house (which has been dubbed the mansion – what else would befit two princesses – no seriously, last week I was referred to as a Ghanaian princess).

Matt and Elle introducing themselves to the Yebongo 
community elders, just before the arrival of the Chief
Step two: introduce ourselves to two new communities and conduct a needs assessment in order for us to assess how exactly they would like us to help them. Unfortunately Big Ol’ was ill so we were down to the single team leader, but Damtal is the height of calm and collected so we had no worries at our slightly off-balanced team. Everything was going swimmingly, our Fra-Fra was so fra so good, and our manners were top notch. Unfortunately our social skills took a slight hit when we went to meet the Chief of Yebongo. We were offered some drinking water from a calabash and Matthew took it upon himself to take the first dip… rather than sip. Matt submerged his hands in the calabash and laughter erupted from all sides. Thankfully no one took offence, and we were soon back on track with making a great impression.
Damtal dominating the dancefloor at our community

We then went off to meet with the Basket Weaving Society of Yebongo. We were greeted with a welcome dance, something we were also expected to participate in. Anyone who has seen me dance can testify to the fact that it is not a sight for the general public. This point was proved when I was ‘invited’ to the centre of the circle to dance. Impulse kicked in and my Monica from ‘Friends’ dancing ensued – I can only apologise to everyone who was involved. Unfortunately mine and Anna’s dancing was considered not good enough and we were invited back to dance some more – someone may have given up at this point but not us, Mama didn’t host no quitter.

Conducting our questionnaire and needs assessment
with the Yebongo Basket Weavers community
After the hilarities we got down to why we were there. We conducted a questionnaire, which asked the ladies about their basket weaving process, and any challenges that they faced. That’s what ICS is all about. It is not up to us to tell communities what they need because what do we know about making baskets? Instead it is up to us to ask the questions so that they can give us the answers. We then made our way to the community of Yikene where we received answers specific to them and their needs. Yikene was a great community to go to because they had many positive things to say about previous cohorts; this just goes to show that this project is definitely working, something that we only hope that are able to further develop.

Haggling for mangoes in the market
Josephine looking for fabric in the market
Finally, step three: the supply run to Bolga for the other three Upper East region volunteer teams. We were their tour guides for the day and oh my goodness what a responsibility. Although we have been living in Bolga for a couple of weeks now there is just so much that we don’t know. Or we think that we’ve nailed it and then we end up getting completely lost in the 40 degree heat and someone yelling “soliminga” (white person) at you… always fun, especially when you’re not actually white. Nonetheless I feel confident in saying that we were successful in our mission. We explored the markets and then popped off to the supermarket where we ran into some of our local friends. For a brief moment I felt like I was at home where I always seem to bump into everyone I know on a trip to Sainsbury’s, and then I felt the sweat globules drip down my back and was suddenly jolted back to reality.

In ‘SWAP’ restaurant having a natter with the
volunteers from other communities
We then headed to ‘SWAP’, a restaurant that serves PIZZA. Although the pizza was tasty, unfortunately it did not live up the exceedingly high expectations we had set for it. Finally, after a jolly good natter (more ‘sistaas who sweat’ than ‘ladies who lunch’), we headed to the main event: the pool. Oh sweet relief. After bidding farewell to the teams for another two weeks we thought about how a day almost didn’t seem enough, but nonetheless it was epic seeing everyone and hearing all about their trials and triumphs while also sharing our own.

And so another blog post comes to end. See you in two weeks!

*After revising this I can say with a broken heart that the heat has gone back up to a consistent 42 degrees, something that my soggy t-shirt will attest to.

Written by Amandeep Turna


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