Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ghana Day 16, 8/18/14

We meant to head out and start work on our latrines today, but since the family apparently had not yet dug a hole of the proper 3× 3 × 1 meters3, our plans had to change on the spot.

We ended up spending the morning in a community called Ekumfi Ekrawful, which was hosting a medical brigade in its last day. We worked on speaking to individuals about some of their demographic information and the best way to deliver information to them and their community members, specifically about reproductive and sexual health. I was working in the team of 3 that I’ve been working with since our first couple days in country and focused on speaking to people under 30 years old. It was a really great experience because we got to see another group carrying out a brigade that was busier than ours, interact directly with patients, see some of the doctors and other health professionals that we worked with before, and do a little hands-on work. What detracted from my experience, however, was the fact that my team (The Strong Black Men, made up of me and two other ladies) had to work with our first interpreter again. She was the one that I didn’t think really enjoyed doing her job, and perhaps had solely selfish motivations for her work.

It was weird because she insisted on translating everything we said in Fante even when, according to the survey answers and our interactions with the community members, our survey participants could speak and read English without a problem. Having us say what we wanted to say and then having her translate not only took up time, but I felt insulted the intelligence of the individuals that we were talking to. I didn’t know how to tell her how I felt about what she was doing, but it made me uncomfortable each time it happened.

In addition to that, she didn’t translate when we wanted to first thank our participants for taking the time to talk to us even though they are under no obligation to whatsoever. I had to ask her to specifically translate what I said for her to do it, and even then, I’m skeptical because she always spoke for at least two times longer than we did when she translated. I suspect that she was adding her own information even though her instructions are clear to only translate what we have to say and act only as a medium of conversation, not a party in the conversation (unless there are special circumstances) as well.

There was one question on our survey that asked the top three ways that our participant thinks information would be best received, including about 10 different options such as TV, radio, community PA system, school, pictures, lectures, writing, etc. When whichever one of us asked the question and paused before listing the answers choices, she would just go ahead and read all the answer choices herself. I want to try to reserve my conclusions until I have more information, but the fact that I have no idea whether she is actually translating what I’m saying or just putting her own spin on everything because she has the power to is extremely unnerving. I hate that helpless feeling.

The information itself, though, was good. I could see that the young people who were still students did not have children and seemed to be the ones familiar with speaking and writing both Fante and English. Each one that I talked to, I wanted to see if they were going to go on and live awesome, fulfilling lives as advocates for themselves and the causes that they were passionate about because I wanted to see how their education and motivation could drive them to achieve their goals and begin to surpass them. These were two young men and one young woman.

What was a little discouraging, though, was that we talked to several young women who looked to be on the path into cyclical poverty – born into poverty, and having pretty much set their future up as one that will ground them in poverty for the rest of their lives. The information I received from them, however, reminded me how important the work we were doing could be if we carried out our part in all of it. There was one 15-year old girl (at this age, it’s hard to even say teen) that was carrying a baby that looked to about 1 year old – her first born. There was another 19-year old teen carrying a baby and saying that she had one more that she wasn’t carrying on her. There was a 23-year old that had 5 children already. Unsurprisingly, they were all dropouts from school, couldn’t write Fante, and didn’t understand English.  I’m currently 20 years old. There is absolutely no chance that I could do what I do and continue to pursue what I want with one child, much less 3 or 4. Even just during this short hour of interviews, I could see how important it was to educate community members about these reproductive health issues and work towards educating and empowering them, especially the girls and women. Wow.

Some pictures of the community:

There was also a little stall next to the clinic setup that sold refreshments, where I found this gem. If you are unaware, Kodjo is a very popular Fante name, which I was extremely surprised to see:

Right before we left, we had a chance to interact with some of the kids at the clinic that were waiting either for their parents or just hanging out in their free time. They were so cute! Again, I saw a great fascination with my and other interns’ sunglasses:

In the afternoon, we stopped by a resort called “Stumble Inn,” which rejuvenated my love for puns! They had a little store next to the beach area, so I was able to get some beautiful necklaces while I enjoyed the view:

One of the coolest things about it was that the paths were lined with empty glass bottles:

I was wearing athletic shoes because of our earlier trip to Ekrawful, so I didn’t want to go down to the shoreline and actually get into the water. After a while of just relaxing, I ended up heading back to the other of the two stores and just looking around. One of the other interns was already in there, having a bracelet made, so I was able to plop down and join in on their conversation. The guy who was running the store was eager to get to know that I had to say and not hesitant to share his experiences, so I had a good time speaking with him.

I forgot his name (L) but we talked a little about my impressions of Ghana (which I can speak a little about) and Africa (which I can’t make any judgment on yet). He eventually said, “Man is one day born, one day die.” It wasn’t the first time that I’d heard it, but here, it means that you truly never know when your life is going to end. Our required reading for the internship is The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty by Nina Munk, and she chronicles (among other things) that you truly can be healthy one day and die the next from many, many more reasons in Africa than one can in the Western world, and that motto takes on a new meaning in the different context. He was explaining that Ghanaians love to drink, but he prefers to smoke marijuana because it relaxes him rather than makes him more aggressive, the way alcohol does. He wished that he had some with him because he would share it with me and the other intern, but I don’t think I would have taken it either way.

From our conversation, I could also guess that he didn’t know very much about Asia. He, like many others, guessed that I was from China, about which he knows only that kung fu exists. I explained to him where Taiwan, where my parents emigrated from, was. We talked a little bit about the Ghanaian foods that we had tried already, and when one of his coworkers came in with a bowl of one kind of specialty fish soup, he offered some to me. I hate how strong the taste of fish is in stews like that after trying the fufu from the other day and refused, but it was cool to see it.

Looking around the shop, there was similar stuff from the shops that we’d passed through in Cape Coast near the Castle, with bracelets and shirts and masks. One of the signature symbols in Ghana, one that looks like a vertical squiggly line where both ends create a circle around it and means “one god,” was all over the shop. In addition, there were good sized cloths with “Greetings from Ghana” written around it and a picture of a woman that was printed in the middle. She was the same one that was in Cape Coast again, and it turns out that she is the most recent Ms. Ghana and she might have been from the Central Region where we have been this whole time, so that fascination with her picture makes a little more sense.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the smaller roads in Ghana are not paved, and that makes many of them extremely rocky. When we drive along them, we bounce like nobody’s business on the seats, and the roads leading to Stumble Inn were especially bumpy, which made the ride extra uncomfortable back to our lodge.

After dinner, we had a meeting scheduled so we could input our data from this morning and run it through STATA to analyze it quantitatively, but Deanna, our visiting professor, canceled it because she had a newfound fascination with trash she found at the beach (empty liter Coke bottle, sticks, the bottom of flip-flops) and combined them into a little car that was actually really awesome. It didn’t have special features, of course, but it looked like a viable toy that the children could make easily from discarded materials. She knew that the other brigade staying with us was leaving the next day and going to party it up tonight, so she decided to push back our data analysis and let us enjoy a night off instead. Here she is with some of her beloved materials:

As a result of the night off, we all piled into the bus with the Loyola Chicago students and headed down the 5-minute or so drive to the other lodge. There, we walked in on a cultural dance performance that had already begun and looked like it was pretty far along.

Even so, it was an awesome thing to be able to sit down and just watch the dancers take the patio as their stage. There were 8 of them total, 2 men and 6 women, and they danced at least the entire time we were there, about an hour. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had danced for a while before that. What made their movements so fascinating was their speed of movements. The moves themselves were not terribly complicated, but they were all done extremely quickly, with precision and coordination in a full-body performance. They didn’t even wear shoes because their details go that far; the dancing is a show of athleticism more than grace.

The dancers were constantly moving, and the details along with the beauty of the starry night sky behind them made for a picturesque view. They had a drum line accompanying them, loud enough to shake the air and make me feel the beats around me. The drummers were an integral part of the performance process, not just for the drumming. Occasionally, they dancers would chat something and seem to have a short conversation with the drummers, which was a cool touch even though I couldn’t understand a word of the Fante they spoke.

It was really cool to be in the audience watching them, and I’m disappointed that it was already so dark and I couldn’t get quality pictures because the dancers moved so much and so quickly and they performed in the dark.

Right before we left, I followed some people up to the roof of the lodge, about three or four stories into the air. I couldn’t see much because the sun had gone down over 4 fours earlier, but I could see the lights in the distance and hear the waves of the ocean crashing to the shore not so far away. It was peaceful and away from the distractions at the ground and the view of the stars was even better. I thought it was a truly fantastic way to end the day. 

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