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Friday, 11 February 2011

Touring in Tamale, and more

Friday afternoon in the Accra office and everyone is about to go home for the weekend. Some travel for 3 hours to get here, so extending the working day by half an hour Monday to Thursday enables the CARE staff to leave at 3 on Friday afternoon, to begin their commute by bus or car, through the heavy traffic to reach their homes.

Travel has very much been on my mind this week, as Monday morning started at 3.30am, when Amanda and I headed back to Accra airport to take a short flight 600 or so kilometres north, to Tamale. The third largest city in Ghana, Tamale's airport is more like a concrete strip in flat lands, and the city's buildings scattered around amidst the dusty fields and roads. The airline, much like any other, asks us to be aware that "exits may be behind...or in front of you". Good, exits. Glad to hear there are some. Also offer us tuna or chicken sandwiches as in-flight snacks. Until the passenger in front of me points out that the sandwiches labelled chicken are also tuna. I like tuna: I'm lucky!
In Tamale - a village of termite mounds near to the airport. What infrastructure!

In much more rural surroundings than the leafy suburbs of the Accra office, CARE's Tamale base is shared with another international NGO - Catholic Relief Services - and felt like a war time outpost, large airless rooms painted in flaky cream, modernised only by the addition of temperamental air conditioning and seventies-style rubber-tiled floors. There were CARE curtains on display, however, printed in the batik method being promoted among women as another means of improving their and their families' economic wealth.

We were in Tamale to learn about the field projects, and were lucky enough to spend the entire day meeting many of the project managers and key staff members working out in the north. One such project - related to farming and food security - has encouraged the farming of guineafowl, a bird which turns out to be incredibly hardy and therefore easy to rear in an unpredictable and at times, barren, environment. Understanding the significance of this, I felt I had to try some for myself - Ghanaian style, at Luxury Catering Services, and it was delicious (even though it appeared to have been steamed using a combination of saucepan and plastic bag).

Amanda and I celebrate another busy week with a margarita and mojito, and dinner at Dynasty, where both of us forget that we're even in Africa (apart from the distinctly Ghanaian waiters) as we enjoy good old sweet and sour pork and chicken and cashew nuts. At some point I'll write more about the project itself, but essentially each week we have another milestone on the project plan to achieve. Week four and we have accomplished this once again, so we're both pretty happy and are in a celebratory mood!

This time we were accompanied by a team of CARE's auditors, Kwaku, based in Accra full time, and Calista and Ed, from CARE UK, who has flown out to audit CARE Ghana over two weeks. We shared a beer and a spring roll (which arrived after a two and a half hour wait...slow cooking!) with them in the evening, where we learned from Kwaku a few words of local language (Akwaaba...welcome...and E te sen?...How are you?). Returning to Accra I asked colleagues if there was anywhere I could learn more. "Primary school?" one suggested. Hmmm. This might be more difficult to organise than I had hoped! Some pictures here of morning tea, where every Friday the staff at CARE Ghana come together for biscuits, fruit and the traditional morning catch up. Today many of the female staff wore beautiful Ghanaian dresses. Spot the monochrome English woman in the background!

Back in Accra after another packed week of work where we have completed the initial assessments we're working on, it's time to prepare for another trip. Next week Amanda will go to Malawi and I to Ethiopia to carry out the same assessments and meetings in those country offices, before returning to Accra the following Sunday for the remainder of my time in Africa. I'm less than excited about flying by Ethiopian air, where Skytrax reviews range from mediocre comments like "The vegetarian sandwich was close to inedible" to the more impassioned "The worst airline I have ever flown with. I received a $300 dollar travel voucher for Ethiopian air, which I won't be using as I will never fly with them again."

So if I ever return to update this blog again, I will be very thankful! Now time to pack up for the day and pack for Addis Ababa.

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