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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Amaraba! Welcome To Ghana!

Hello! We are the new cohort of volunteers (Ollie, Charlie, Johanna & Jack from the UK along with our new national volunteers Jill & Festus), here to stay until late March. We will be joining Justice and our Team Leader Matthew, who you should already know! As an introduction, we're going to let you know about our initial thoughts with regard to food, religion, marriage and clothing in Ghana in comparison to the UK.

The RAINS staff greeted the new Volunteers outside the office & couldn't pass up the chance for a photo-op!


Ollie

The food here has been an experience in itself so far. Our first few days were spent in a guesthouse, where the predominant dish was rice with a tomato stew and chicken on the bone, whilst breakfast was always thick bread with a boiled egg. A particularly interesting dinner was a giant rice ball with groundnut soup, which I personally found excellent but I can’t exactly say I represent the consensus!

Rice ball and groundnut soup with beef
Having now moved out of the guesthouse and into our main accommodation for the next few months, we have been eager to try more of the local cuisine. So Charlie and I tried Banku (which is best described as fermented corn dough) with goat. However, this is certainly an acquired taste that both of us unfortunately do not have.

Generally, the food is very heavily carb based in comparison to back home, with meat (which is usually goat, guinea fowl, beef or chicken) always being on the bone. It takes some getting used to and finding what you do and don’t like, but there are some great little food stalls to be found throughout Tamale – especially near the RAINS office! Both our lunches so far have been great; I can definitely recommend having 'waakye' (pronounced "wach-ey").

Enjoying our waakye for lunch one afternoon
Johanna and Jill

When we first arrived in Tamale we had our in-country training. In this time we did a cultural exchange that brought up some very interesting points. Take for instance religion; Ghana is very religious, everyone in Ghana practices Christianity, Islam or Animism. This is very different to the UK where there are many more religions being practiced and it’s not unusual if you don’t believe in any religion. You are considered religious in the UK simply if you say you are, there’s no expectation to practice your religion in ways such as attending church or praying five times a day. This is very different compared to Ghana where if you do not practice your religion then you are considered not to be a true believer of that faith.

The mosque just a short walk from our house
Another main difference is that in Ghana religion tends to be involved in everything from politics to festivals, whereas in the UK religion tends to be kept out of things such as politics to avoid religious disagreements. Although there are many differences, there are also similarities between religion in Ghana and the UK. In both countries the political leaders are openly Christian. Both countries teach religious education in schools, teaching more than one religion to children. And possibly the most important similarity is that in both Ghana and the UK, excluding the minority, both religions coexist together peacefully.

Charlie and Jill

We had a very interesting conversation about marriage today. The difference we highlighted was that in the UK marriage between two partners tends to be more of an individual based practice whereas in Ghana it’s more collective. The role of parents and family is important in the engagement process, whereas in the UK parents do not have as such a significant role in the process. In Ghana the husband traditionally presents a token to the family to show his commitment to the bride. The representation around this token reminded me a lot about the conceptualisation of what the proposal ring represents in the UK. In Ghana, presents are given to both the family and the bride, whereas in the UK an engagement ring is given to the wife. You can view in both cases that these tokens are symbols of the seriousness of the couple and their commitment to one another despite the disparities between the two countries towards marriage.

Jack

On my arrival into Tamale I noticed informal dress was as expected; Ghana is a nation in love with football and because of this boys and young men proudly show off the shirts of their favourite European teams. However, the formal wear is entirely different and is definitely something Britain has to adopt. As we met the National volunteers for the first time, they were smartly dressed in traditional brightly coloured Ghanaian shirts.

Fetus wearing a traditional Ghanaian shirt

Looking around the market in search for one, I've discovered you can get fabrics with USBs, baths, showers, hairdryers and various fruits printed on them ready for tailoring. The main language in Ghana is English, but it can be hard to understand due to the strong West African accent. For our project and our own needs we were advised to learn some of the local language in Tamale, known as Dagbani. Although, when salimingas (white people) attempt it for the first time they might attract a few laughs.

Festus

There were a few differences in the languages and clothing between the National volunteers and the International volunteers. Some of which are as follows; Firstly, I noticed the UK volunteers spoke only English whilst the National volunteers spoke a variety of languages including Dagbani and Frafra. Secondly, the UK volunteers did not have traditional attire unlike the National volunteers who wore their traditional attires like the smock and tye dyes. Also, the UK volunteers had an accent that was difficult to understand initially by the national volunteers and vice versa. Again, there were certain colloquialisms used by the UK volunteers that were not familiar to the National volunteers and vice versa. Finally, some of the UK volunteers were in “casual” attire like shorts and T-shirts at the training sessions but the national volunteers were at all times in trousers and on few occasions in T-shirts.