It is exactly 2 weeks since I left home, and here I am now in an internet cafe in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana! So far from home and in such a different culture
To summarise - we were a group of 30 volunteers all arriving at the same time. There are about 80 VSO volunteers total in Ghana. the others come from the UK, Canada, Ireland, Holland, Australia, Kenya and the Philipines. We spent 10 days together in a very comfortable hotel (swimming pool, air conditioning, conference rooms etc) in Accra, for in-country training which covered the history, culture, food, customs, VSO's role in development etc, and was a chance to form a support network for all us volnteers. I'm starting to learn the local language for the Bolga region, which is Gurene. I haven't got much further than basic greetings, but it will come.
Accra was hot, steamy, noisy, traffic fumes etc, but I am constantly impressed by the overwhelming friendliness of everyone I meet, and the fact that English is the common language makes all communication so easy - I wonder how the volunteers in Mongolia and Cambodia are getting on!
20 of the group left Accra together on Thursday morning, for a 17 hour drive to Tamale, then the next day on up to Bolga, arriving at midday. We were travelling in an American style school bus with child-size seats, and many of the roads in Ghana are still under construction, so needless we were really pleased to get to our destination!
Bolga is wonderful! It is the regional capital of the Upper East region, so it has all types of facilities and services (Earl grey tea, but marmite was only available in Accra), but it has a small-town feel, very relaxed, tranquil and a real contrast to Accra. VSO have a regional office here, so we will have lots of support. I am lving in a house about 3 miles out of Bolga, sharing with Hilary who I met on motorcylcle training, and 2 Australian women, Katie and Lyndal, and an assortment of visitors such as the mouse, toads, gheckos, and plenty of flying things. The house is new, and huge! We've got a new fridge freezer, gas burner, 3 showers anbd toilets, a veranda, a decent sized enclosed garden and our own night watchman. It is much nicer than I ever imagined. We've bought basic kitchen equipment so It's my turn to cook tonight, and we just need to get a bit more furniture.
I know that there has been alot in the UK media about the floods in the Upper East Region. It has been a real disaster for some people, but the Bolga area has not been affected too badly. There are muddy puddles (perfect for mosquito breeding) and the area is really green and fertile looking, at the moment. I think we are at the end of the rainy season, soon to be followed by the dry, windy season. It's pretty hot already, but will get hotter!
It's really hard to know at this stage how my work will be- I will be introduced to people next week, and will then be working from home. I think it will be quite hard at first, but all types of development work start slowly and then grow. Time will tell.