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Running in Support of EWB

It’s been almost two years since I last posted on this blog when I was in Ghana. A lot has happened since then and I still feel the affects of my experience and how it shaped me as a person. Most importantly what I want to talk about right now is the organization that made this possible for me. Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has provided me and many others like me an amazing opportunity to get involved with international development and have a great experience.

I really appreciate everything EWB has done for me, people like me and most importantly what EWB has done to address systemic and effective change where it is needed most. That is why I continue to support the organisation and that is why I’m doing what I can to give back in some small way next month. I am running in a 5k next to month to raise money for EWB.

I am super out of shape but I’ll be training until a month from today to perform well. If you would like to support EWB as well, you can donate here: https://r2ep.ewb.ca/halifax/evanmacadam1 . The money donated through this link will go directly to Dalhousie chapter to support the JF program that I participated in as well programs aimed at engaging students around Halifax on global issues. To learn more about the Dalhousie chapter click here: http://www.dal.ewb.ca/

P.S. I never really gave a great closing post a few years ago. I want to thank everyone that was reading my blog, emailing me in Ghana and talking to me about how they enjoyed the blog when I got home. It felt pretty good to know that y’all enjoyed it.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Children in Ghana

I mentioned in my facebook status that world vision must have a tough time getting those sad looking kids because all I got was a sea of smiles. This was by no mean hyperbole or an overstatement. As soon as you pay kids some attention, there’s a smile so bright that you can’t help but reciprocate.

My counterpart and I often drive around the villages on a moto to speak with farmers. In the process, there are quite a few children. They come running and waving often yelling “Fada, Fada, Fada” because they had a lot of interactions with missionaries. Others yell “Silminga!” which means white man or “Silminga! Where are you going?” The latter they will say even if you are quite stationary. Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe rural Ghanaian children.

The children love being greeted in return. It’s not enough to say hello and/or wave to a group of children. You must make eye contact with each individual or they’ll be left wanting. With a smile that wide who’s turning away?

I busted out my camera in the village to take a picture of a particularly cute kid wearing an Obama shirt. [Quick anecdote: When I told Ghanaians there were no Obama tshirts, underwear, belts, notebooks or flashlights in Canada they were very perplexed] They instantly made me take my camera around the village to take pictures of things. Problem was, every time I lined up a picture, there would be a sea of children by the time I pressed the button. It led to some really fun pictures that I hope to upload.

The kids are super curious and as a result are constantly peaking in my room to see what form of technology I’m playing with. They haven’t quite figured out that if they can see me, chances are I can see them. Some are still startled when I greet them and they think they are spying.

You can say what you want about people being different and cultures being different but at the end of the day, kids are kids. They just want to cause as much chaos as they can before they get caught.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Someone shot my cattle, what do I do?

My counterpart here is a veterinary man so we end up spending time around the office and I get to hear and see things that I sometimes rather wish I hadn’t. Like one time when Adam said a donkey was in dystopia and when I rounded the corner I found a female donkey that appeared to be stuck giving birth to a still born. This other interesting story was about a man and his dead cattle.

A man approached a group of workers at the veterinary clinic and seemed pretty bummed out. Turns out, all his cattle were shot. For those university educated people out there, that’s like someone knocked all the information out of your head, took your degree and left your student loan. Sort of like getting a B.A. (heh heh kidding). So this guy was in a pretty bad position.

His side of the story was that the chief of the village said he could raise his cattle on the chief’s land. Something got complicated and someone ordered that his cattle be shot. I don’t know who’s fault it was as the story was complicated, one-sided and in Dagbani. I do believe though that his animals were shot.

The craziest part of the story? The unanimous advice was the he should move to a safer area. That’s it. Contacting the police was agreed to be useless. Whether that was due to corruption, staffing problems or whether there was a law to address this issue, I don’t know.

So basically, someone screwed this guy financially and the general consensus was that he shouldn’t be around those people anymore.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Competition Between Yendi Input Dealers

I posted something on Untapped Markets which is a blog where field level insights in market facilitation are shared. Check it out http://untappedmarkets.ca/2011/07/competition-between-yendi-input-dealers/

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Yendi – A Day in the Life

4:30 am, Arabic over the megaphone 20 ft. from my window. Prayer time for the muslims, time to go back to sleep for me. I’ll roll outta my mattress in an hour or two. No need for an alarm really as there are plenty of roosters and people making noise at this point. I throw my mosquito net that drives me insane aside. I’m on my 4 in. mattress which is luxurious compared to my roommates prayer mat. It’s basically a yoga mat.

My room is probably tiny in Canadian terms although it’s about the same size as my tiny apartment room back home. There’s some weird stuff with hair hanging on the walls (not nearly as cool as my deer head back home). There’s a small desk that I usually use my laptop on. There’s also a small table with a TV. Yup, electricity. We’re ballas in Zhang.

I head outside to get a bucket and do the morning greetings. To get an idea of the village, think discovery channel village. Yanno, round mud huts with thatched roofs. Now throw a bunch more in there, add slightly bigger square buildings, a few powerlines, some motorcycles, two tractors and a cell phone tower in the backdrop. Ya, motorcycles next to mud huts, Ghana is pretty crazy.

I grab my bucket and strut over to the bore hole. Every time I pass someone:

“Despa”

“Na”

“T’ibera”

“Gom be ennay”.

Which is terribly spelled but basically translates to:

“good morning”

[recognition or reciprocation of some sort]

“how did you sleep?”

“I slept well”

To fill up my bucket I usually have to push people out of the way. Not because I’m impatient but because they won’t let me do anything for myself. After the bucket is full, bucket shower outside. Aww ye. At least I’m not in line of sight of anyone.

After the bucket shower, I go back to my room. There’s something that’s supposed to be food called porridge or coco but it’s sort of like what I imagine that meal in the matrix is with less nutrients. I leave that stuff for my roommate. I throw my bag on my back, my motorcycle helmet into my bicycle basket and bike about a half hour into the city.

During the ride I pass by a few people, usually saying good morning to them. I pass by my bike repair dude who stops me to talk 100% of the time (and also does some preventative maintenance). I also pass by a school which is usually pretty fun. Sometimes I have to pass by in the afternoon and the kids go nuts.

I stop at my favorite egg’n’bread place. I don’t even have to order any more I just say goodmorning and he knows what’s up. They fry up the egg, throw it on the bread and finish it off grilled cheese style on the frying pan. It’s accompanied by Milo which is sorta like coffee but super delicious so I’ll spare you the description since you’ll never have some.

After this point, there’s really no typical day. I might spend the day with one input dealer in his shop or I might drive on a moto to far off villages on roads that can’t imaginably allow four wheeled vehicles but these vehicles defy imagination. If you want to know more about my work, check out some other posts. At some point in the day I get a fanta to drink with rice and a hardboiled egg for 2 GHC which is less than 2 bucks. Or is it 3 GHC? I can’t remember but it doesn’t exactly break the bank.

At the end of the day (4-5ish most days but it could be earlier or much later depending on the day) I bike back to the village. This ride is much more enjoyable as it’s almost all downhill. I come back to some:

No idea how to phonetically spell this: “Antele” if really early or “Anula” if after 4

“Na”

“Na gwarem”

“Na”

Sorta translates to:

“Good afternoon” or “Good evening”

[again a form of recognition or reciprocation. Kinda like when I say word.]

“How was your journey”

[In this case na indicates that you’re journey was well]

In the evening I kill time with villagers. We watch movies on my laptop, talk about differences between Ghana and Canada, listen to some of my music, listen to some P-Square (it’s backstreet boys meet usher featuring 50 cent. The 90s are over Ghana, get over it) or just stare at me while I read a book. That last one usually applies to the Ghanaians that don’t speak English but must spend time with the foreigner.

Supper is served after prayers around 6 or 7 and is always TZ. TZ is a big ball of starchyness that you dip in soup and then eat. I don’t like it one bit so I do my best to fill up during breakfast and lunch but the Ghanaians swallow fist fulls of it and look around for more when their bowl is empty.

I usually hit the mattress around 9 or 10 after getting my mosquito net ready. That thing is infuriating to me because even if I’m not touching it, I know it’s there. I would never consciously choose malaria over the net but I can see why many Ghanaians forgo the net even when it’s an option. I drift off to sleep and the whole process repeats… at 4 am.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

What am I doing here?

I’m on a beautiful journey to make a better world and find out who I truly am. Ha ha. Hippies. Seriously I do have a job here. The overarching goal of EWB is to improve the life of “Dorothy”. Dorothy is just a prototypical rural African I guess you would say. How do I fit into that? I’d love to say glad you asked but it’s going to be extremely difficult for me to be concise enough to keep you interested.

I’m part of the Agriculture Value Chains (AVC) team. Agriculture value chains are an approach used to better understand the flow of products/information/money through the agric sector. The sectors are mapped out to show what goes where and illustrate potential areas of improvement.

I’m working early in the chain with input dealers. Input dealers sell agriculture (agro) chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, etc.), fertilizers and seeds. Wholesalers sell to retailers and retailers sell to farmers. My role is to understand the challenges of the input sector in Yendi. I am using information gathered to drive interventions in a business I’m working with. I’m also sharing various things I learned and attempted interventions with other players in the development sector to provide on the ground information.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Kidney Chronicles

So I have some problem with my kidney. We really don’t know what is yet but it’s enough for now to say something’s wrong, I feel fine most of the time, and it’s probably going to be fixed real soon. I’m in the huge city of Accra now and as a result I can’t do any on the ground work in Yendi. To stay productive I’m going to be articulating the information I’m learning in a hopefully useful way and really thinking out what interventions I’ll be doing when I get back. So I’ll be drafting up a lot of brainstorming information in the near future and probably throwing it up on the blog so people get to see some of what I’m doing. Spoiler: I’m not building schools. Sorry to disappoint.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Uncategorized