Musings from a soon-to-be Ghanaian Female Minister

I was particularly proud of myself for selecting, paying for, chlorinating, and eating my first solid set of vegetables in Karaga! Tomatoes, and a weird green thing that’s a bit like a pepper but bitter. Carefully trying to consume as little dirt as possible.

Walking through Karaga market-day, and upon hearing the afternoon greeting “Antire”, automatically responding with “Naaaaa”, and turning to find my semi-host-mom the Director’s wife beaming at me! Big win for the suleminga (white person) on integration!

Moving into my community, a village called Nangung-Ayili, and after a few days, reclaiming my ability to both sweep my floor and walk my bicycle into my room. Previously, these tasks were wrested from me by one of the women or small boys in the compound, respectively. Nice, but wholly unnecessary when they are otherwise productively engaged. Independence! (and yes, I do realise it is their way of making me feel welcomed, and I fully appreciate that. But there comes a point, where I want to be more than a burden on my host family, and in some small way contribute)

Sitting up late (after 8:30pm!) watching soccer videos with the whole compound, or being force-fed. Not once, but twice I was just starting to sleep when a knock comes at my door with MORE FOOD.

“It has no stones” takes on a whole new meaning after I have spent a short time sorting maize kernels. There are a lot of stones, and they are sneaky.

Realising that without a person who speaks English where I am living, it is imperative that I start learning Dagbani in earnest. Status: promising.

Being frustrated that the phone and internet service in Nangung is sketchy, and remembering my initial expectations of internet only once per week or two. I am living the high life, really.

Re-articulating my goals for my JF placement. It feels good to have direction.

Being entranced by the night sky, spangled with stars. Being perturbed by the night mosquitoes, lying in wait.

Reading my first letter from home. It was wonderful. I’m not saying who it was, but their words really made me light up inside. For anyone who’s missed the letter-writing opportunity, you haven’t missed the boat! An email works as well, with a missive in the subject line about when I’m supposed to open it. I can’t stress how much these letters, connections to home, will keep me going through the good times and hard times.

Spending hours and hours discussing with Arimiyaw the juice guy, and his friends from college and high school, the ability to get an education but still be without a job (farming is not considered a job, because there is no way to save, no way to advance your life). It is of their opinion, that often they will finish and be at the same place as the person who has sat on his hands the whole time. Yet, they stress, they still must try, for if some opportunity (read, lucky, lucky chance) passes by they may jump and grab it, whereas without education it would be impossible.

Talking to no fewer than FOUR of my EWB counterparts in Ghana, all of them conversations about work and behaviour change models or hilarious cultural integration experiences. Makes me feel like I’m really part of a team.

Having a guy burst into the shop and loudly ask “Do you want me?!” in Dagbani, and me replying “My name is Janine”. Completely lost in translation, and utterly hilarious and somewhat embarrassing when the situation was explained, though apparently mostly this kind of thing is just a special joke reserved for sulemingas. I then made sure to remember the phrase, and also learn in Dagbani the words for “Sorry, you’re too late” and “I have a husband”, both of which have seen good use even in the past day.

Donning my first truly Ghanaian clothing, made with cloth procured at the Karaga market, and tailored expertly by my friend Talhatu. The women in my compound were incredibly pleased when they saw me, and we had an impromptu dance party. Talhatu and the random passers-by in Karaga and my colleagues also being very excited by it, enough that my colleague Abdulai and Director agreed that they will make me into a Ghanaian Female Minister, at the rate I am going. Beautiful.


About Janine Reid

What is Janine? -board game enthusiast -political observer -Vancouverite -questioner -listener -health provider
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