Living and traveling in Ghana
Bolgatanga Travel Blog› entry 2 of 7 › view all entries
I lived in a few cultures before when I moved to Ghana. I thought it was gonna be an easy time. But that was so not true. I had an amazing time, but there were quite a lot of moments when I asked myself the question: what the hell am I doing here and why??????
For a long time my travel-wish-list noted a long term stay in Africa. But since a holiday is way to expensive for the budget I had, I decided to do volluntary work. I ended up by a Dutch-Ghanaian organization and they dropped me in the poor north of Ghana.
Ghana is one of the safest and developed African countries. Ghana is "safe". But use your common sense. Just like every else in the world. Ghana is developed... yes, only south... where the government is. The nothern part of Ghana is really poor. It's so dry that nothing will grow, hardly any rain in the rain season and the medical situations are 10x worse than down south.
One advice to you: don't end up in a public hospital in Africa. I got wrong medication, a too high dosis, saw a young boy die just because doctors didn't know how to do CPR. More details? No computers/monitors, TB patients in the open air, toilets filled to edge, if you have no family/friends to get your medication, bring you food, take you to the bathroom, you die. Doctors are not for taking care of you, just for the treatment. Private hospitals are much better, so don't worry. Don't let it scare you from traveling to Africa. There are so many good things and the change you end up in the hospital is small. I was just unlucky by getting typhoed. Shit happens.
Teaching in Africa is in no way to compare with the Dutch system. 55 kids in your class in normal, kids of 18 years in primary school is normal too. The kids learn what their teachers dedicate to them. They learn by repeating sentences without understanding what is means, what is used for or how to use it. Kids love doing sports. Especially soccer. Soccer makes a kid forget all the trouble in life.
I lived with a local family (father, only 1 mother, two sisters, 4 brothers). When you live in a host family you're one of their kids. The organization gave the family some money to make sure they could get me food. I eat the same food as them. That means I had more then three months the choise between rice or yam (looks like potato). Meat is for rich people, which my family wasn't. Not sure if they had meat I would had eat it. It might be any kind of meat (chicken, goat or guinnea fowl when you're lucky, pig, dog, cat or rat if you're less lucky...).
My family wanted to do every thing for me. Like preparing my food, washing my clothes (by hand), cleaning my room and getting water for a shower. But I prefered to be part of the family and village life. So I did as the only white woman my wash by hand at water pomp in the centre of the village like all women do. In the beginning they we're always laughing at me. They tought is was funny that sollamiinja (white person) knew how to wash by hand and actually getting it clean :-) Communication is hard. The national language is English, but un schooled people speak only there local language. Many Ghanaians never went to school.
After school hours or at days off I hang out with other vollunteers, some of them became really good friends, Jiska, Saskia, Aurelie and Chiara. We shared everything. From daily difficulties to what color we'd shit... Hahaha, some times it was pretty nasty :p But we needed each other. Just to speak Dutch and talk about things the locals or families didn't understand.
There are still a lot of statements the Ghanaian (maybe all Africans, I don't know) have about white people. Parents tell their kids if they touched the hand of a sollamiinja you get healing powers, all white people are rich so everybody wants to be your friend. If Ghanaians have white friends they're more important. The question is how do deal with that without putting them down.
Sometimes I had a few days off and with some other vollunteers we did some small trips in the area of Bolgatanga. I went twice to Paga where you can sit on sacred crocodile. You have to buy a chicken and the guys use it to distract the croc. Then you can come close to the animal and take pics. Afterwards the croc get the chicken alive. The chicken is come with a blink of your eyes. Crazy...
In the beginning of March we visited Mole Parc where you can do hikes in the savanna and spot elephants, monkeys, crocodiles and many kinds of antilopes, wardhogs and other creatures. Amazing!!!!!! Been as close as 20 meters/60 feet from wild elephants. We stayed at Mole Motel. What a place to relax. After four days we decided to stay two more days than we had planned. How often do you get so close to all these wild animals?
When I finished my work as a teacher I traveled for 2 weeks. Saskia and I left a week after Jiska and Claudia. We met them in Cape Coast, where we stayed for a couple of days. After that we went together to Krokobite, at the south of Ghana. Relaxing at the beach and enjoying a real toilet and good shower :-) We stayed at Big Milly's Backyard, owned by an English lady. Good food and the bar was open from early to early.....
Accra, the capital, is a world at itself. Just sit down and watch other people is a great thing to do for a while, or shop till you drop... What ever you want is possible in Accra.
Make sure you have traveler checks or a master card. Cash money is the best thing, but I think you don't wanna cross the streets with all your money in cash. But you'll never have problems getting money on what ever credit card or traveler checks...
Have fun! Ghana is a great country. People are always willing to help you and they are really friendly, tipping is wel appreciated and have patients! Without patienst you won't come any where in Africa: The Western world has the clock, the Africans have the time... Keep that in mind :-)