Greetings from the rural Volta region, the Eastern-most region of Ghana which borders the country of Togo. I am just outside Adidome (“addi-doh-may”), a town perched on the edge of the Volta River.
The town is regarded as small, but seems pretty bustling to me, with many roadside huts that make up shops, eateries, and bars (called “spots” in Ghana, often with a blue and white picket fence), plus the ubiquitous tro-tros and motos (motorbikes) zipping around. To get into the centre of town, it’s about an hour walk or 1 Cedi (~50 cents) to ride on the back of a moto. You can guess my choice! Kind of weird holding onto a strange guy though. Cats, chickens, and goats freely wander the town, though the many boys with herds of long-horned, bushy cattle stick to the countryside.
Ewe is the language of the Volta region. So, me vebe srom – I’m learning Ewe. Intensely. It’s the first language of all the women at my centre, some of whom speak no English at all. My supervisor has challenged me to become conversant in Ewe in a month and a half! The language has some nice quirks, like a hello to a newcomer (to the country, region, or even just to the bench you happen to be sitting on) is always woeso, welcome. It also translates for those who speak English, so almost everyone I come upon tells me “You are welcome.” Quite lovely.
As Volta/Ewe/Adidome Jess, I even have a new name. My white-person name is tricky for some folks to remember/pronounce (understandable from my POV), so they gave me the traditional name for girls born on Fridays: Afi. Women also seem to refer to each other with a familial term too, depending on age and status (?) – Sister, Auntie, Mama, or Madame. And yes, there are some Ewe words that seem to be French. If I hear calls for “Sistuh Afi, Sistuh Afi”, I have to remember to turn and look -because that’s me!
And where am I exactly? I’m at the International Needs Vocational Training Centre (INVTC), or “Mama School” as they call it in town. It’s a place for women to train in, yes, new vocations. I’m specifically working with the Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP) for impoverished women, which has four possible fields: textile design (batiks), beading, soap-making, or catering. Lots of exciting crafty opportunities there. There are also courses in hairdressing and dressmaking, but I won’t be involved in those to the same degree.
I spent today with the textile design/batik crew. Totally delightful fabric designed, and all electricity-free. Heating water for dyes and melting the wax used with the big wooden stamps was all done over fires. E hodzo (it’s hot) though!
This week will be especially fun because I spend a day with each of the four vocations before choosing which will ultimately be my group to focus on. I’ll be keeping up with those women, attending community meetings, following up with their new businesses when they return to their hometowns in December, and writing reports. I’m also the official “photojournalist” for the project, taking all the photos to use in reports and documentation. Plus, I’ll soon have a roster of about 10 women from across the WEP for one-on-one counselling. Seems like a great possibility for a multi-layered social work experience.
Other minor stories and oddities?
- Ghana’s lightswitches go the opposite way: down is on and up is off. What!
- The toilet paper is absurdly thick! I have to separate the ply and use half the amount.
- I got stung by an anyi (a bee) – painful – during the Saturday evening “entertainment”: singing and dancing and silly/embarrassing/fun things like musical chairs and an eating contest. And bees, apparently. In some ways the school reminds me of a summer camp…
- Everyone’s mentioning my amu (mosquito) bites. I didn’t even notice the mosquitoes getting me. Very sneaky. But don’t worry, I’m taking my anti-malarials. And apparently malaria isn’t considered such a big thing here. As my supervisor said about the on-campus clinic, “It’s just for small things, like a headache or malaria”. Huh.
Later this week: a day each with soap-making, beading, and catering; a visit to Adidome’s Tuesday or Friday market; my first community meeting on Saturday. Goal: Ewe practice to the extreme.