Back in the shire

September 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm (Uncategorized)

So I’m back. After a lovely send off from RAINS, I was given the luxury of flying from Tamale to Accra, and then I spent a day in Accra visiting a friend. I could feel Pagnaa slipping away and ruth leavett returning as more and more things became familiar… coffee, airports, planes, white people, suitcases, shorts. I sat in the departure lounge looking at the Ghana flag key rings and bottles of gin, and began to realise that I was actually leaving.. leaving all the fantastic people I had met and made friends with, leaving the warmth and the chaotic but fulfilling way of life.. and that, really, I have been living a pretty exciting adventurous existence in Ghana, which I might not get the chance to repeat anytime soon!

After only 6 short hours, and two very compact meals, I was back in London. Terminal 5 looked immaculately shiny, clean and empty. No-one really spoke; there were no hold ups and everything was clearly and obviously marked; so no-one needed to say anything to anyone… it was cold too.

But then I took the tube to Chiswick and Louise and I had the most amazing breakfast 🙂 making a nice circle since we did the same thing the day I left for Ghana in March.

It is quite strange being back; so quiet without the chickens, frogs, mosques, crickets.. and with double glazed windows. Nothing has really changed.. new prime minister perhaps, and maybe my reflection in the mirror has changed as my hair has got even blonder. I have been getting a bit carried away with having such a massive variety of food to choose from again.. although I’m missing wachey and eating with my hands. Also I keep trying to click my fingers after I shake someone’s hand and I’m still conscious not to use my left hand for anything!

I am spending my days enjoying the comforts of being at home in the Lakes (of which there are many :)), and planning my next move. Ideas are being discussed at Gaia including sending me to learn from the Venda tribe in South Africa or some rural farmers in Kenya. But not till after Christmas, which will give me time to raise money for it, and to catch up with friends and family. I will be going back to London in the meantime to refine my material, and perhaps to do a photographic exhibition of my work!

If anyone has any ideas of how I can raise money I would very much appreciate hearing from you!

So, until next time.. (when I may have to change the name of my blog to Ruth’s South Africa Blog or Ruth’s Kenya Blog!)

nawuni son tuma, nawuni pahi ti gom

Pagnaa

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Nearing the end

September 16, 2010 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized)

I am leaving Tamale on Saturday! 6 months has gone very fast.

I just wanted to put down the link to the website I have built for Opportunities for Rural Development Foundation [www.ordfghana.org]. Meeting Seidu and getting involved in his project has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me here. I intend to keep being a part of ORDF for many years to come.

Also, for those who were not aware, my photographs from Zoosali were published on the BBC at this link [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-10935094] I am still very proud of this! I keep checking it is there.

The work I have done for RAINS and Gaia and ABN includes things like stories of climate change effecting subsistence farmers in Northern Ghana, Ghanaian food, farming in Zoosali, traditional customs in Zoosali, GM crops in Ghana, among other things, as well as a bunch of editing of core documents. I hope some of the readable material will be available on some websites soon.

I can’t think of anything profound to say right now, but I am feeling quite strange knowing that in a few days I will be back in another world almost. Im excited and sad and a bit overwhelmed at the same time!

I will write again when I am back in the UK.

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The Bank

September 10, 2010 at 2:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Only recently renovated, after at least a 6 month delay, the bank used to be a wooden desk in the middle of the room and a bench in front for people to queue on. It is necessary for a bench to sit on, because people with money are important, and some quite large, and the wait can be long on Ghana time, as everyone is aware. Now it is a new bank, there is no longer an oversized fan creating a wind tunnel to keep the customers cool, but a non-conspicuous air conditioned breeze that makes it feel ‘civilised’. Instead of a bench for the customers, they are now treated to a swivelling office chair each to sit on, which, while comfortable, makes the constant shifting to the next chair when the first person in the line goes to the teller, quite awkward. I have a cheque in my hands that is addressed to me, and my task is to cash it. But I have forgotten my ID, or rather I didn’t bring it because I don’t ever carry it on me, and last time I came, when the bank wasn’t new, I didn’t need it. But I’m thinking; now the bank has air conditioning and tall desks, and matching coloured balloons hanging from the ceiling, will they ask me for ID? How do they know that I am the Ruth on the cheque before they hand over the cash? I don’t think they do. I am in line after about 5 people expecting a long wait. Only when one teller shouts out “Cheque!” do I realise that this is the man I need to speak to. Everyone is looking at me, I have a cheque in my hands, the cheque man was talking to me. Unexpectedly bumped up to the front of the queue, I have sampled only 4 of the 10 or so swivelling chairs, but I hesitantly go and see the man behind the tall desk. I give him my cheque. Can I cash this cheque please? A nod of his head confirms that I can indeed cash my cheque and he stamps a few things before handing me over 200 one cedi notes. What am I going to do with all those?! I ask for a bag before I flash a bundle of cash to everyone I pass on the street, and he gives me the standard, a black bag. Can I go now? Yes. Awesome. That was easy. I walk to the new main glass door and step out into the still baking hot, still busy with people selling maize for 20p, street where the inside of the new bank appears to have been a very surreal larium filled dream. It’s possible.

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Zoosali under water

September 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized)

I returned once more to Zoosali. This time I got my bike rammed into the boot of a taxi that was too small for a bike in the boot really, let alone two. It dropped me in Diare and I biked the rest of the way to the village.

There weren’t so many people to greet me as I arrived this time as they were out at the farm, but a small boy hung onto the back of my bike and ran alongside me all the way!

The village and the chief’s palace looked different again, as there were piles of groundnuts and rice drying in the sun instead of Shea nuts. The grasses and crops had grown even bigger making the paths to the farms like corridors, and I didn’t even recognise the place where ‘my tree’ was, where I spent so many hours picking shea nuts before. Also its still ramadan so the food people were cooking was mostly just different types of koko. The women would get up at 2am to start cooking for everyone to eat before the sun rises. Then at 3/4 ish they would start cooking koko again to break their fast, and TZ for dinner. No Adowa at lunchtime on the farm, or gabli, or wachey back at the village… Having koko every day makes up for it though, I love it.

On Saturday I mostly just chilled out, the ride to the market in the morning to get the chief’s kola, and from Diare to Zoosali knackered me out. So I sat with Ma Hajia taking stalks out of a pile of harvested groundnuts… just like I used to sit taking the shells out of a pile of shea nuts. In the evening (after I had the first warm water shower/bucket since I got to Ghana, outside with a lamp) we watched a dagbani film on Ma Hajia’s new TV.. she told me the story beforehand and I was able to pick out enough words to understand the gist! Many kids trickled in to come and watch, the room was packed after a while.. two small girls who juggled with me last time I returned to the village, sat next to me and for some reason hung onto my feet. This time I wasn’t leaving to go sleep in the teacher’s quarters as I was staying in Ma Hajia’s hut, so after removing the dead rat, and after the film got cut off because the power went out, 5 of us found a space on the floor and slept.

I was woken the next day by noises of cooking and chatting. It was still pitch black. I got up too, and sat with my koko in a corner of the compound as the sky started to get brighter. Most people and the older kids got up, took a carrying pan and a big hessian bag and filed out to the farm. I looked out over the wall of the compound and saw them walking out into a layer of mist on the ground, the sky still only a lighter shade of dark blue, chatting as they went holding the pans on their heads.

Nearly at the bridge

I went with Adam in a different direction at about 6:30. We wanted to see the bridge that we went to last time, but we walked because we had to wade through lots of water to get there and it was too deep for the bike in places. We past a place that sounded like there were a million massive toads making a noise across a whole field .. but infact it was just a small puddle full of tiny tiny frogs. We had to take our shoes off to wade into where the water floods the path, and I finally found a really good way to tie my african cloth so that I can walk properly, and also not get it wet! It was cool water and the mud was all slippery underneath my feet, I was pretty worried Id slip and fall in with my camera. I was told there hadn’t been a crocodile in this area for a long time though. So that was good. We reached the bridge and the water was pretty deep. We had to wade in up to a metre or so before the bridge actually began, some farmers had left their bikes to walk the rest of the way. Standing in the middle of the bridge the water underneath was really moving fast, and it was all murky from all the soil it had travelled through. I knew exactly how deep it was since I had been standing underneath it only a few months ago! I didn’t want to fall in.

We rushed back so Adam could meet his friend and then I wandered out on my own to the farm where people from the chief’s place were harvesting groundnuts. It was nice walking through the crops alone. Lots of bird noises. So I spent the next 2 or 3 hours with Ma Kubura and Chimsi taking groundnuts off the plant, listening and watching the many others who were hidden behind the tall millet grasses doing the same thing.

Ma Kubura and groundnuts

We filed back to the village around 1pm, and I took my small contribution to the farmer who’s farm it was, along with all the others. It works like this; if you go to harvest on someone elses farm then you get to keep one fifth of what you picked. So my small pile was divided into five, and I got to take some home! Everyone thought it was pretty funny, my small pile. Its hard work picking groundnuts!

Around 4 the clouds were looking pretty dramatic and ominous. Adam and Adamu said I need to get going before the rain because it wouldnt stop once it had started and Id get stuck. So I said some hasty but meaningful goodbyes and got bundled into a taxi on its way to the Diare market. As soon as I got to Diare the rain was torrential, and my camera had been left in Zoosali somehow.. so I stood with many others taking cover from the rain at the market, waiting for my camera to come back on the next taxi!

After a few hours the rain still hadn’t stopped and it was getting dark so I braved it, to many exclamations from those around me, and ventured out to find a taxi home.

Nyeba's first steps

manyaanga mani mani mani

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Cape Coast

September 1, 2010 at 9:43 am (Uncategorized)

Looking west from the castle

I took a trip to Cape Coast to see the ocean. After staying an unexpected night in Accra in an unexpectedly nice hotel with a blue tiled bathroom, Josh and I arrived into Cape Coast on Saturday morning. I first noticed as the bus was getting closer, how the usual red dusty earth was now a brighter sandy colour, giving the place a more.. sandy feel. Stalls on the side of the road were now selling pineapples and mysterious blue packages rather than yams and oranges.

The first thing we did upon arriving was walk straight to the beach. As we got closer we could hear men singing a sort of ‘heave ho’ type song. A group of about 30/40 men, I reckon, were hauling in a fishing net and singing in time to their pulling. It was kind of magical, my first view of the ocean, Cape Coast castle in the distance, crashing waves and eerie fishermen songs.. and the vast horizon of blue water. I tried to imagine how it would have looked and felt 100 or 200 years ago with big foreign ships arriving to take hundreds of thousands of people away from a dungeon they were forced into, to a place they didnt know existed.. I couldn’t.

The castle itself was unexpectedly pretty for such a horrific history.

At one point we were sitting in a ‘chop’ bar opposite the castle where a bright green fishing net was laid out and men were fixing the holes in it somehow. There was music playing the customarily loud Ghanaian music from an unknown source and whenever someone passed by they would start dancing! Girls carrying water, fish, banana chips, men who had just come in off their boats, children on some errand or another.. would all dance as they walked by. I would have joined in had I not have looked like an idiot white woman trying to ‘fit in’.

Sunday we explored Elmina, a town full of fishing boats and fish.

On Monday Josh went onto Accra to get his flight home, and I took a bus up to Kumasi at 5:15 in the morning. This stretch of road was new to me, we went through a few towns that had big gold mining type structures and green trees. At Kumasi I had only 2 cedi on me to get myself to Tamale, so I had to find a bank. It was a good excuse to explore a little bit of the town, but when I got back to the bus station I found that there wasn’t another STC bus to Tamale that day! I think if I hadn’t been here a while this would have sent me in a panic. However, I managed to get a taxi to take me to the other bus company station, where the buses are smaller, more cramped and make dodgy sounds. I got a ticket for a bus that was leaving for Tamale “whenever its ready” and found my seat which was wedged in between the aisle and a raving christian pastor.

After ascertaining that I was a christian (for some unknown reason I decided it would be a better idea to agree, for the sake of the journey perhaps), he said I was blessed for the sacrifice I was doing working for free in Ghana, and that he wanted to buy me lunch before we set off. Which was nice. The 7 hour journey in a hot, packed, but windy bus was interspersed with girls selling things at the window whenever we stopped in a town, or a deserted road block, and interrupted with questions like “you people, I heard you have sex before marriage, why do you allow yourselves to do that?” and “when I marry you, will you want only 2 children like most of you people do?.. why? and how do you people stop yourselves from having more??”. His mobile phone also kept interrupting: “You are blessed on your family, you are BLESSed on your work and you are BLESSED on your finance!”. Good god… Nice man though.

One thing he mentioned was that ‘we Africans’ want to marry ‘you people’ because he said Africans have a lot of respect for the white people. But why?? We come barging in, take all your gold, divide up your land for ourselves, inflict our religion onto you, then take all your people to work on our fields that are growing on someone else’s land .. I can’t understand it.

pulling one side of the net

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