"May God bring you back safely from your journey"
To start this one off, I’ll first apologize to everyone for the very long silence this blog has felt. The last month has been a flurry of activity – a second village stay, really diving into work, lots of report writing, and saying goodbye to the incredible people that were my home these past four months.
For this second village, I went with a friend who is doing his attachment (like co-op) at the District Assembly to his village. Emmanuel is studying at the University for Development Studies and entering his third year next month, just like me! He grew up in Lonto village, raised by his grandparents. At 12 years old, he was in form 2 (of 3) in Junior Secondary School. His grandfather went took a trip to Yeji (a big city on the lake in the Brong Ahafo Region) and learned of a new international school opening there. Next thing you know, Emmanuel is in Yeji entering grade 3 of Primary School. How could the graduates of that JSS in Lonto be expected to compete with graduates from that international school in Yeji? They’ll all be entering Senior Secondary School with the same qualification (Basic Education Certificate) but almost definitely with vastly different levels of knowledge and learning experience. People can build all the schools they want but unless the quality of the curriculum and the teachers improves, education will always be sub par. You hope that people will come out of school, innovate, work hard and build up the private sector. If the private sector grows, more jobs are created, people are less dependent on widely variable unknowns, funding their education and those of their children will be much easier, and the cycle begins – one hopes.
The visit to Lonto was quite pleasant. The food, prepared by Emmanuel’s cousin Lizzie (who is entering her final year at Salaga Secondary School next month), was amazing! One of my favourite meals of the summer is definitely her boiled yams and stew with fish. There’s nothing like eating fish in a fishing village… or at least, in a village a stone’s throw away from a fishing village. We biked down to Negbo, said fishing village, and did some small fishing with Abraham. On the Sunday, we took a trip to Yeji on the engine boat, basically a very large canoe powered with two speed boat motors and filled with over 50 people, large sacks of produce, and normally a few cows and goats. Yeji is a very interesting town with a massive bustling market that felt bigger than all of Salaga! And to top it all off, we visited Emmanuel’s uncle’s ostrich farm. Those massive beasts can sell for more than 9,000,000 cedis, which means massive profit when you buy them for just 4,000,000 in the first place! I’ve posted a few photos from this trip at http://picasaweb.google.com/ewinchiu/20070826VillageStayInLonto
From Salaga to Ottawa
I finished off work on Wednesday the 15th and spent the morning of the 16th with my host family before taking off for Tamale. It was a very joyous goodbye with not many tears, maybe because I know that we’ll keep in touch and I will definitely be seeing them again, though the when and where of it all is quite uncertain.
We had a final meeting Tamale on the 17th with the JFs and LTOVs before setting off on the 18th. I ended up stopping in Kumasi with Nicole, Sean, and Jad (and Janna and Laura who then split off to Cape Coast) in our way to Accra. It’s unfortunate that the main day we had for exploration of Ghana's business centre was a Sunday – the city was on the quiet side with most people gathered at church. We left on Monday for Accra and barely had any time to roam around. Having seen only the cultural centre of Accra (a big market selling paintings, drums, material, crafts, and other tourist-y items), I definitely didn’t get a good feel of the city. We only had the chance to experience lots of traffic and very pushy salesmen – quite unfortunate since I have no doubt the capital is a very interesting place with lots to share. Guess it’ll have to be next time…
As I board this train to Ottawa that is the final leg of my journey home, the old man behind me says, “I’m just happy I don’t have your load to carry!” These three large bags can certainly be a hassle, but I have zero regrets about the things I’m bringing home. More than just the stuff in the bags, it’s the memories and the incredible people I’ve had the great privilege of experiencing this summer that will shape the person I’m to become. While I am coming home much more confused about the world than when I left it, I couldn’t be happier about it. Yes, I’m more confused, but at least I know I’m confused! I think we all want the same things – a safe and clean world where we can live in happiness and peace with our friends and family. Hopefully with this new awareness, I can figure out what role I have to play in working toward that world.
Finally, I want to say thank you for taking the time to follow this journey. It’s been more than a pleasure to have you all share some of this experience and I’m looking forward to sharing even more and catching up with each and every one of you!!