Thursday, April 28, 2011

Work in progress

Something that is very apparent, especially when sitting on the Citylink plane leaving Kumasi on my way to Accra, is that Kumasi is in a permanent state of construction.  Flying over the city, one can see the numerous concrete buildings with half-finished top floors where the first floor is already in use.  For example, one of the schools’ computer labs, which they are currently using, has a new library going in on the second floor.  In Ghana, buildings don’t have to be finished within any reasonable time of the start and the concrete/cement construction doesn’t get impacted by the weather, so people tend to start building with whatever money they have and work on the buildings as they can. 

This sense of unfinished business applies to my project, since even though the term ended, the project didn’t.  I spent quite a bit of time after the academic term was over working with the new S2S coordinator to help him get up to speed on the project.  He turns out to have been an even better choice that I realized, making me very comfortable with leaving the project in his capable hands.  He was teaching math and ICT before he took on this role, but he’s also taught JHS science classes, too, covering all three subjects for this program. 

One of my major assignments in the last few weeks was to compile a training manual on what Liz and I have taught during the past six months.  I’m so glad that I had preemptively started writing up sets of instructions even before my MCI manager requested this manual, as it made it much easier to pull it together.  I’m sure this makes me a total geek, but I was so excited to organize and write and format this manual.  The 40+ page final manual is a masterpiece of basic ICT training.  By “basic”, I mean tasks as simple as understanding the parts of a computer, like the mouse and keyboard, followed by how to assemble a computer and turn it on and off.  Using Windows isn’t until the third lesson in the manual.  We’ll see how much of the manual remains after it goes through the review process at the NGO and the education directorate.


One of the tasks I set for myself before I left Kumasi was to figure out what to do with all the used clothing from my stay there—some of it was gently used while much of it had taken a beating in the harsh African conditions.  I decided to donate all of it to the Kumasi Children’s Home.  A few days before I left, I stopped by to ask them what else they might need and was given a short list of baby-care items, like formula and diapers.  I picked those things up at the Opoku Trading wholesale section and Akmed and I headed over to the home.

When I arrived, there was already a huge truck dropping off many more items.  But they still greatly appreciated my smaller, yet no less heartfelt, donations.  I asked them if I could see the home before I left and one of the managers took me around.  It was one of the few times in Ghana when I was told that I couldn’t take pictures, because (just like in the US) some of those kids were there because they had been pulled from their homes y social services.  The buildings at the home were basic but clean and well-maintained.  Watching the housemothers interact with the babies was very heartening.  They truly loved the children in their care, making me even happier that I had given so much to the home.


I’ve been back in the US for a few days now.  I was intending to spend my first few days back easing into my life here, but thanks to an ill-timed accident (are any accidents ever well-timed?), I have been taking care of LJ as he recuperates from a broken right ankle.  He broke it not 26 hours after I landed in North Carolina and had surgery on it yesterday.  The surgery was a success, with the surgeon not seeing anything unexpected.  But this situation has wrecked havoc on my slow transition to my “normal” life.  At the moment, I’m not sure how I feel about being home.  I desperately missed my friends and family and loved ones and was thrilled to see many of them, starting with a welcome-home lunch at Bojangles.  But I’m already missing the energy and excitement and happiness that permeated my daily life in Ghana.  In this short time back, I’m struck by the more reserved nature of us Americans as compared to the Ghanaians, and this is in the friendly, genteel South. 

A couple of people have already asked me what I’ve learned in my stay in Ghana.  Unfortunately, I’m struggling to put into words all the things I learned about myself and my place in the world.  Even more unfortunately, within my first three weeks back at GSK, I’m supposed to summarize those learnings in a three-page case study.  While I recognize that there has to be some deadline, three weeks seems like the wrong time frame.  I feel like three to six months would be more reasonable—long enough that I can start to verbalize my experiences but short enough that they haven’t started to fade away.  I don’t know how long I’ll keep this blog going, but I know it will be for a while longer, since much of my experience won’t become apparent until after I see the contrast with life here in the US.

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