Better late than never

Due to a failed blog attempt last weekend, this is the only (and very overdue) entry from our group’s rural placement.

It all began way back on July 11th when we hopped on an overnight bus from Accra. We were all looking forward to sleeping through the 12-hour ride into the Upper East Region of Ghana, but these hopes were dashed due to Nigerian horror movies being played at high volumes all night long. The journey did not end when we got off the bus in Bolgatanga, however. Another two-hour bus ride took us the remaining distance to the village of Sandema, our home for the following two weeks.

We quickly got acquainted with our host families, and spent some time with the OG Discovery team, who introduced us to some very friendly Sandemans (Sandemites? Sandemoans?) as well as to a glorious Baobob tree. This tree became a favourite spot for climbing, hanging out, and pondering the meaning of life… or at least the meaning of OG.

On weekdays we went to the Sandema Regional Hospital and were able to shadow the doctor, which entailed following him on rounds, observing his diagnoses in the consulting room, and even standing in on a few surgeries. About 80% of the patients that go through the hospital are diagnosed with Malaria, so I think that now we are all well-versed in the signs and symptoms of the disease.

On the weekend, we took the bus back to Bolgatanga. Getting there was a turbulent experience, which I don’t wish to relive, though I will say that it began with an arduous walk through the rain, a lost room key, the kicking down of a door, a missed bus, and a dead goat. It ended up being worth it though, as we had a great weekend, visiting the crocodiles in Paga, touring a slave camp, and drinking a few Stars at ‘Soul Train Nite Club’ on Saturday night. I even met a couple of fellow Calgarians! Then it was back to Sandema on Sunday.

Apart from our time at the hospital, we all enjoyed market days (which occur every three days) where we all bought excessive amounts of colourful Ghanaian fabric and had clothes made to complete our cultural integration. Delicious mangoes were also purchased at market, and I am now in withdrawal, as they are not in season in the south (where we are n0w). We also spent some of our time working on personal projects in town. Tarek and Jon went to Horizon Children’s Centre where they talked to the children about Canadian life, and had them depict what they learned in a picture. Tarek will take the art work back to a school in Canada, where he did the same thing before coming to Ghana. Caitlin, Anna, and myself were inspired by a man named Gilbert who runs the Disabilities Resource Centre in Sandema, and we are continuing to work on a proposal to help him acquire grant money to expand his centre and improve the life of persons with disabilities in Sandema and the surrounding communities. We hope to take this proposal to foreign embassies in Accra; a resource which helped Gilbert get he centre off the ground in the first place.

We were very sad to say goodbye to Sandema and all the friends that we made there, but now that we’re in Accra, it’s also proving to be a fantastic experience. On our first night here, we went with our host brother to a ‘drink-up’ (aka house party) which turned out to be hosted by one of the Black Stars’ coaches, and was attended by some of the players. Jealous? Hopefully we’ll have more stories like this by the end of our two weeks here.