Dragging My Feet

I know, I know, I’ve been reaaaaaally bad at updating this site since I moved to Madrid back in October last year.  I’ve been keeping myself busy through a LOT of travels on weekends, and that combined with management consulting hours doesn’t leave a lot of time to post photos up here!  But keep reminding me to update it and I promise I’ll get to it soon!!

Here’s a taste of what’s coming:

  • Spain: Madrid, Ávila, Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Mallorca, Pedraza, Córdoba, Sierra Nevada, Sevilla, Pedriza and Manzanares el Real, Valencia
  • Portugal: Lisbon
  • Switzerland: Basel, Baden, Elm, Zürich
  • Morocco: Marrakech, Fès, Merzouga and Erg Chebbi (Sahara dunes), Todra Gorge, Essaouira, Ameln Valley, Aït Benhaddou
  • England: London
  • India: Delhi, Agra, Taj Mahal, Milan and Christina’s Wedding
  • USA: San Francisco farewells, Los Angeles ECT

Up North – Hot Tamale!

We spent our final few days in and around the northern city Tamale (pron. “ta-mah-lay”).  The north of Ghana is drier and far more arid savannah, and famine and hunger are much more prevalent.  And boy was it hot hot HOT.  We were there to meet with the UN World Food Programme and Catholic Relief Services, who were both delivering aid food to local communities.

These organizations drove us no more than 30 minutes out of the city (which seemed quite well-off) and just a few minutes off the highway.  The transformation was incredible – we came across tribal communities struggling to survive off the land, and they didn’t even have clean drinking water available.  In fact, clean water was by far the most important issue we felt needs to be addressed in rural Ghana.

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One meeting with the village leadership and tribal elders.  Our visit was an important event for them, and when we visited the school we found all the mothers there who wished to air their grievances.

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Incredibly, this is the village’s only drinking water!

After a couple of days in Tamale we flew back to Accra to crank out our report and present it to our client (Abenaa, who came down to Accra from Kumasi) on our final day in the city.  After roughing it around the country we blew our budget on a pretty nice hotel along the coast on the outskirts of the city – the pool was a god-send!

“Bub-bye, bub-bye…”

Elephants @ Mole National Park

On our second weekend we took the chance to go way off the beaten track to Mole National Park, a large park in north-western Ghana known for its wild elephant population.  To get there it was a bumpy and looooong drive along terrible roads with our Ghana Health Service driver Donku at the wheel.

A dirt road in the middle of nowhere, Ghana.

We arrived in the evening to find the one hotel in the park full, but we eventually wangled a room out of them.  The next morning we woke up to find all sorts of fauna around the buildings – warthogs, babboons etc.  We took a guided walk through the savannah to see what we could see and saw many different kinds of antelope and kudu.  As we walked back towards the escarpment we passed one water hole and saw some small crocodiles.  In the distance we then saw the herd of elephants heading towards one of the water holes!  We walked towards the herd and managed to get as close as 20-30m to wild elephants!  What an experience!!

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A couple of pics taken through Kirsten’s binoculars.

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Taking a morning bath.                           "Working" by the swimming pool.

That afternoon we walked through the heat into the local town to see its one tourist attraction – the oldest mosque in Ghana.  The architecture was fascinating and it was constructed using a mud-and-pole technique.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to go inside.

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Walking into town = very hot!                 The mosque.

Fascinating mud-and-pole architecture.

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They must be little people…                   Back into the National Park.

We Finally Visit a School Feeding Program

While we were in the Ashanti region, Abenaa took us to see her pilot program – finally we would get to see a school feeding program in action!  After six months of working on the project we were keen to see how one actually looked and operated.

We drove a few hours north-east of Kumasi to the Sekyedumase district, a fairly "standard" rural district of central Ghana.  We visited a local pre-school in the village which had implemented a voluntary feeding program – it was staffed by local mothers and paid for by the parents of the children.  They used this money to buy fresh goods from the local market, but also needed to supplement the meals with food aid.

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A local pre-school.                                Soccer after school in the twilight.

We were greeted at the school by tens of children singing a song.  The only word we understood was the word "obruni" – we’d heard it everywhere we went – which is a non-offensive word for "white man".  When we asked our translator what they were singing, he answered that they were signing "the white man is coming!".  Apparently our presence meant that larger-than-usual meal rations would be issued (so that we would be suitably impressed), and so the kids were happy that we were visiting.  How sad…  :-(

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The kids were a delight to be around, and we had a wonderful few hours there with them.  We also met with the school’s committee (teachers, headmaster, community leaders etc.) to discuss the program, and we gained valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t.

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                                                            Saying goodbye.

The Kingdom of Ashanti

Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom in central Ghana, and it was our home for the second week of our trip.  We were there to work with Abenaa, another member of the UN Hunger Task Force, a senior staff member of the Ghana Health Service and the woman responsible for the pilot school feeding program we were in Ghana to develop.

We spent a few days in Kumasi, meeting with several agencies and discussing the project with Abenaa.  We also visited a hospital for malnourished children which was really depressing to witness but extremely relevant to our project.

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Learning everything you need to know    A malnourished child. The hospital
about milling grains.                             also educates mothers on nutrition.

Kumasi is also home to West Africa’s largest market, and we disappeared into its depths for a few hours to explore its labyrinth of alleys, shacks and sheds.  It was an amazing experience!  Unfortunately they didn’t like us taking photos much so the camera stayed away for the most part.

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Indeed.                                                 How do you like your snails, sir?  Big!!

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Closing down sale – everything must go!   I have no idea what these are…

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Cape Coast & El Mina: The Centre of Ghana’s Former Slave Trade

I didn’t know it before I picked up a guide book, but Ghana was at the centre of the slave trade from West Africa to Europe and the New World.  We’d been told that we HAD to go and see the remnants of this dark chapter in Ghana’s history, so for our first weekend we caught the bus down the coast to see the slave forts at Cape Coast and El Mina.

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The slave fort at Cape Coast – a sobering experience.

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Hundreds of slaves used to be crammed into the dungeons.

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The fort is surrounded by the fishing community of Cape Coast.

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The smaller village of El Mina a few kilometres down the coast.

While we were in the region we also took half a day to take a canopy tour through the rainforest in one of the nearby national parks.  This is a new eco-tourism project and the only one of its kind in West Africa.

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Self-proclaimed "tree-hugger" Kirsten enjoys the canopy walk…

Accra – Ghana’s Capital

We arrived in hot and humid Accra and checked into one of the better hotels in the tourist district.

Over the next week we spent each day meeting with a bunch of government departments and officials, several UN agencies, a handful of NGOs and other relevant organizations.

By the week’s end we were happy to see the last of Accra.  The city doesn’t have much to offer the tourist whatsoever (although the market was fun): it’s an unattractive city and difficult to get around.

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Josh is all cashed up.                              About to delve into the market.

There’s always one…  And this time it’s me.