Tuesday, 13 July 2010

In Country Training and First Experience of Accra

6-9 July 2010
We went through an in country training training from 5-9 July. After arrival of the volunteers VSO arranges an in country training to familiarise them with the VSO programmes in the country and also the culture of the country. Generally they make it a point that volunteers arrive in the country of their placements at a certain date so that the training can take place in groups. Sometimes if a volunteer does not arrive in a country as per the schedule he may miss that opportunity and will be put directly in the place of his placement. As I came as per the scheduled date, I could attend the in country training and everything was properly organised from arrival into the country up to the travel to the base of placement. We were total seven volunteers in the batch. Speaking nationality wise there are 2 Indians, 1 British, 1 Filipino, 2 Kenyans and 1 Ugandan. Speaking gender wise there are 2 women and 5 men. They had also invited volunteer representatives from various regions in which the volunteers were going to be placed. This interaction with the volunteers helped to learn a lot because of their first hand experiences.
The first day was sort of getting acclimatised to the conditions, which were actually good because of the nice hotel. We were taken on a two hour city tour in which we moved around the Accra city. Getting to know all these new people and VSO Ghana was the main part of the day. Various sessions on VSO programme areas and approaches followed in the remaining days. There were sessions on how to keep oneself healthy and avoid diseases. A special session on HIV and AIDS and new VSO goal area called inclusion where the issues with the disadvantaged sections of the society are mainly dealt. A session on socio economic situation of Ghana was also taken. It helped a lot to learn a lot about approaches in the programme areas and needs of development of the country. VSO has given us loads of material to read. (which is also a large weight to carry ;)
Evenings were great part of this period. On 6th, on suggestion of some Dutch volunteers, we went to a café run by a Dutch person and their was this big screen on which they played the football match between the Netherlands and Uruguay live. All the Dutch community in Accra had gathered and the café was full with them. Two Dutch volunteer representatives Krista and Danielle had suggested this event to us. Although not interested in football much, it was interesting to have a glimpse of life outside the hotel. On 7th we went to Alliance Francaise where every Wednesday they have some musical programme. It was a lively evening with some music from northern part of Ghana. Friday was the last day of the training and we had a lunch organised at VSO office where we visited people working at the office, collected our in country allowances and had a delicious lunch. They served a dessert which was made from rice flour and milk which was really sweet part of the lunch. I don't remember the name of the dessert. But the interesting part is recipe. They soak the rice and then grind it to a paste to which they add sugar and milk and then boil it to a gooey consistency.

We went for shopping afterwards. The market area of Osu is very near to the VSO office. We visited a shopping mall and roamed around the area. A person selling hats on the street came after us calling Bhai Bhai (brother brother) by recognising that we were Indians. The area is touristy and there were many shops selling clothes with African designs and beads. The beads were just ordinary similar to those which are commonly seen in touristy areas of India. We came across two Indians and their was some waving of hands towards each other. Back in India, Indians are very serious on streets with the strangers but here all of them (including me) seem to have changed. There is a shop called Sagar in Osu area which is run by a Sindhi person. It was full of Indian goods. Most of them were food items such as spices, pickles, ready to cook vegetables, pulses etc. I could also find Pohe (rice flakes) which are so loved by Maharashtrians. The prices of all those things was just huge compared to India as most of these things were imported.
Later in the evening we also visited the biggest shopping mall in Accra called Accra Mall Most of the goods were imported and prices were very high. Hearing my constant comparison with Indian prices, Rahul suggested me strongly not to compare them with what one has in India. I think I should stop thinking in terms of Indian rupees now and just concentrate getting to know the pricing based on Ghanaian conditions.
To my surprise I found Kokum which is used as a souring agent by the Konkani people in place of tamarind which is used in rest of India. They were imported and packed by an enterprise in Ghana. I don't think there are so many Konkanis in Ghana so that an enterprise can do this all importing, packing and selling it. The packing was simple and from the information it was clear that it was not meant of Konkanis. But it was clear that it is being used by some other communities abroad. While producing these in Konkan, very few of the natives are aware that their Kokum is being exported.