Saturday, 28 May 2011

The name's Akua, Daniela Akua

Howdy partners!

I must start off by apologizing to you guys for not updating you for some time now. Negative 10 points for my non-existent blogging (In my defence, I was having Internet problems). The bright side of not blogging for a while means I have a lot to talk about! Yay!
Monday morning, I said goodbye to the guest house in Tamale to ride the bus with my coach Robin to my new home in Kumasi! May I say that Kumasi is a wicked sweet place! The air is much cooler, and the trees are absolutely spectacular! I love it here! ‘nough said J The Ashanti region is a wealthy one; you should see some of the houses around here! They are mansions! It is crazy! You may recall that I am working at a college, so I was supposed to be staying in one of the dormitories, but it turns out I will be spending my summer with a lovely woman named Lois who is a lecturer at the college. She is very kind and helpful to me and I would not want to stay anywhere else. Plus, she drinks Milo in the morning, which is basically hot chocolate, but more specifically, “The Energy Food Drink”. Oh yeah. It is my new favourite hot drink. Legit so good, especially if you put some sugar and tea creamer in that bad boy. I feel bad because I get my own room and Lois has a toilet… some Junior Fellows (JFs) are not that lucky and are dealing with some much rougher conditions.

Today is my second full day of work, and although I have been somewhat productive, I feel like not much has been accomplished. My purpose in Kumasi is to evaluate and assess an entrepreneurship project created and implemented by one of the lecturers here at Kwadaso. It has run for two classes now and has had many successes. I want to get feedback and recommendations from the students to see if there are any improvements that can be made, and to potentially scale the project to other Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) colleges in Ghana. This is of course while working with the creator of the project. He is also interested in any feedback and improvements that can be made. What else is interesting is that the feedback from the project can also play into the participatory education aspect of my placement. By seeing how students respond to a very hands-on learning approach can feed into improving teaching methods at the school. The plan is to have a workshop mid-July regarding participatory education and then work one-on-one with lecturers who are keen on learning some new tools. Here’s the deal: my timeline is pretty tight. You see, students vacate next week for summer. So my research with the students must be completed by then. And in terms of the workshop, I am going to the mid-placement retreat and then going on a village stay for approximately two weeks before the workshop. Needless to say, I’m a little nervous about staying on schedule. J

What have I learned so far? THAT’S A GREAT QUESTION! Hmmm, where to start… let’s see. I have been doing some research on the student’s entrepreneurship projects, and it is plain to see that they are full of ambition. It is very motivating to see that they have high goals and expectations for themselves. However, there is a flip side to this. Sometimes, overreaching ambition, specifically in terms of business and entrepreneurship, can be detrimental. In business, you have to start small. You cannot go into it thinking you are going to be the next Apple or something. Business on a small scale has to approached much differently than on an international scale. I was talking to a new friend about this, and he explained it as a ladder. You have to take the steps one at a time; you cannot jump straight to the top rung.
On a more personal level, I have learned that I need to push myself more. Coming into a new country where your known customs, nuances and overall daily life does not apply is hard. I find myself staying quiet, which is definitely not my personality. Over time, I think it will improve, but in the meantime, I really need to push myself into the learning zone. I’m playing it a little too safe.

A concrete thing I am learning is the local language! People speak Twi here, and so far I can say “I am eating rice”, “go”, “come”, and “thank you”. My goal is to able to have a pretty legit conversation by the end of the summer. Oh, and did I mention I have a local name? My name is Akua (pronounced A-kwee-ya) and it means Wednesday-born. Yup, I was totally born in the middle of the week.

I’d like to return to something I mentioned in my last post, as I had a comment on it (Shout-out to Dhaval!). I talked about the sanitation, or lack there-of here in Ghana, and despite it Ghana is not lost. I relate sanitation to perceived classification of a nation for a few reasons: one being that tourists like to go to clean places, where they feel safe and healthy. Where do people go on vacation? European, romanticized places, Florida, and Caribbean resorts. All these places, at least generally, have running water and garbage is dealt with. Sanitation affects tourism, which plays huge into the economy. Second, and probably more obviously, health is a biggie. Proper sewage and waste disposal prevents various diseases and keeps the population healthy. (Again, a generalization) 

Ghana is in a good place. It has a stable government, a lot of resources, and has a lot of potential for tourism. However, moving to the next step is hard without sanitation. I was talking to the IT guy at the college today, and he says he asks himself why Ghana cannot look like countries in Europe with nice roads. He commented on Ghana’s resources, how there are many, even gold, but they are sent to be processed in Europe, and sold back to Ghana. Why are there no processing plants here? I think that can even relate back to sanitation. Without water systems and sewers, it is difficult to process stuff no? Machinery and factories require TONNES of water! Ever watch “How it’s made?” on Discovery? Water is pumped into that stuff! These are just some thoughts… I’m definitely no expert.

Going back to my brief mention of tourism, I’d also like to take a moment to touch on the cultural aspect of it. Ghanaians do not travel. They do not take vacations. They only go to new places, even within Ghana, for school or work. The weird thing is, Ghana has a bounty of tourist attractions and beautiful places to visit. I think that if the government ran some sort of campaign, encouraging tourism and travel, it would be great for the economy here. However, since it is ingrained in the culture to live your own life, and just work to make money, it is definitely a boundary. I just think tourism definitely has potential for having positive effects on Ghana. 

I’m going to end off here for today. I will be posting again tomorrow about a wicked tool called an impact model. Stay tuned!

Later days,

1 comment:

  1. Hiya

    The issue of why resources aren't processed in the home country is a tricky one. Even here in Canada often we'll pull something (iron, nickel, oil etc) out of the ground in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut or northern parts of provinces, then ship it down south to be processed in the Great Lakes region. This creates an attitude that, even though we have resources, we don't get anything from it.

    I think it has less to do with water, and more to do with industrial ecology, general infrastructure and markets. For example, when Rio Tinto wanted to process aluminum, they didn't build the processing plant in Labrador where they mined the aluminum, but instead built it in southern Quebec where a) they were close to railroads, b) they were close to the St. Lawrence, c) they could dam a river for cheap hydroelectric power, and e) they were close to chemicals plants to obtain/sell the acids associated with aluminum processing. In Labrador they would only have had one of those things (two if you equate shipping on the Atlantic with shipping on the St. Lawrence). With respect to Ghana, it's probaby something similar. Gold processng requires a ton of heat, and may also require cyanide, sulphuric acid, zinc, sodium hydroxide, or activated carbon depending on the specific method. Industries thus prefer to build processing plants close (if not directly next to) to industries that produce these chemicals as byproducts (processing of some other minerals will produce cyanide for example).

    The short answer is that while a gold company could build a processing plant in Ghana, and it would save tremendously on their shipping costs if they did, there are probably a multitude of reasons why they don't, and it'll take some kind of attitude shift in the company to do so.