26th November to 2nd December 2010
Volunteers like me, who live in the rural areas in the northern corner of Ghana, always like to grab the opportunity to go to the southern part of Ghana and especially if it is the big city like Kumasi or Accra, it is the chance not to be missed out.
It was the workshop on GSAP (Guided Self Assessment Process) for the organizations with which VSO is working. The volunteers are expected to facilitate this process at their respective placements. It was a great learning opportunity for me because I have not had any exposure to the field of organization development before.
Before I write anything about the exploration of the city, something about the workshop which I attended. First time, the workshop was conducted entirely by the volunteers and program staff of VSO were not on the role of resource persons. Aidan Cantwell, a volunteer with good experience in the organizational development process facilitated it with the help of some other volunteers. It was a really good learning experience with proper combination of group works, PowerPoint presentations and discussions which involved experience sharing. I was not very much sure before whether I am the right person to be doing organizational development work. But this workshop made us realize that it is everybody's cup of tea and if you are working in an organization, then one has to be part of its development.
Having an opportunity to go to Accra or anywhere in the south means one more thing to me and that is utilizing all the weekends for touring. We always want to save both time and money as it involves travelling over a long distance through the tiring journey on the road. Along with having fun, I also tried to use the days to explore some more aspects of my study on Shea butter and Guinea fowl and it also lead to an exciting and memorable experience. It took me to the rich and famous shopping malls of Accra and Makola, the craziest street market in whole of Ghana.
There are two famous shopping malls, where most of the rich and famous of Accra frequent. The first one I visited was Accra Shopping Mall. Compared to the shopping malls visited in Mumbai, it is small. Yes but these days I am living in the small town of Bongo in the northern corner of Ghana and not in Mumbai. After seeing the shiny displays in the shops, I started to have the same feeling, which a villager who comes to the city for the first time or at least after a long time. The glossy and rich displays with highly priced and beautifully packaged products, which I had been seeing after about 4 months started to make me envious of the volunteers living in Accra.
While searching for the range of Shea products available there, I found out that there were only two primarily synthetic products with some Shea butter added to it and there was only one locally made product which had its major ingredient Shea butter. In the country which is a major producer of Shea butter, one of the most important shopping malls, out of its 40 plus body and hair products had only one Shea based product. In the other shopping malls which I visited, the picture was not different.
One intriguing incidence happened while we were returning from Accra Shopping Mall to Rishi's house. (Rishi is an Indian volunteer friend of us who lives in Accra). We were returning by a tro tro to his house. It was late evening and there was lot of rush on the bus stop as everybody was rushing towards their homes. While I was getting in a tro tro, I found myself stuck at the small entrance as one person did not get down even after all the people in the tro tro got down, while we had started getting in. I could not give him way by getting down as another tro tro came at the side of the one in which we were getting in. While I was stuck up in this situation, I sensed that one hand had entered into my back pocket. All the cash, which I had brought, was in that pocket. I managed to take my hand back and to insert it into my back pocket. I held the fingers of the person who was trying to take the money out. The person started to call loudly that he wanted to get down and as if I was the one who was holding him to get down. I forcibly took the fingers out from my pocket and he escaped. Afterwards I could go inside properly and one person also made some space for me to sit. He told me that the person who was trying to get me stuck at the entrance was a pickpocket. He suggested me to check the pocket, which of course I did not, as I did not want to take all of my cash out in the public while in the tro. I could sense from the feel of the bunch of the notes in my pocket that the pickpocket was not successful in his job at all. It was a lesson for me however, so that I would keep my cash more safely, while travelling in the tro tro during the rush hours.