3 September – 4 October
After the long build up to leaving, I finally arrived in Accra late on Tuesday 30th September. The flight was a mix of movies and mingling with all the chatty Ghanaians on the plane, an appreciated and friendly introduction to West Africa. Once landed, what I thought would be a simple immigration process turned into a sweltering two and a half hour wait made interesting by the security guards who kept changing the direction of the queue (at the glee of those who were cutting line). Thankfully I met a fantastic American lady who was travelling to conduct her PhD research so we were able to enjoy the bustle towards our bags and the inquisitive nature of customs officials together. Walking out the airport to meet Nikki, I was stopped by one of her friends frantically waving the ‘Challenges Worldwide’ sign who then guided me to her and after a kind introduction of herself and Accra we set off for my first night in a Ghanaian homestay. It was late by now, but I was still met with such warmth and encouraged to eat dinner which they had prepared especially for us.
The practice of ‘welcoming’ people is something I have realised in deep within their culture and goes beyond the multiple times they say it each and every time they greet you. I recognised this more and more as over the next few days as my wonderful manager Esi, Nikki and I were able to visit some of the home stays and businesses our team of volunteers will be living and working with. Each person we met were eager to meet their pair of volunteers, happily showing us around their open-planned homes typical of those in hot and humid climates, or their small, hand-operated businesses powered by a few smiley people who wholeheartedly believe in its potential. I am grateful to have already learnt so much about the agricultural sector from these initial business consultations, but i’ll wait for the team to share that knowledge on their personal blogs too. What I can say though, is that entrepreneurial spirit is embodied here so evidently and passionately that I am so sure every project will be a success, and everyone involved in the ICS programme will leave it feeling empowered.
Fortunately on Thursday, Nikki and I found a few hours after work to head into the central part of the city so that she could show me around. We took the unofficial method of public transport, a crammed mini-van locally called a ‘tro tro’, to the sounds of popular Ghanaian afro-beat music towards the coast and past various iconic landmarks such as Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and Independence Square. I have made a note to revisit these sites on a weekend, where I can spend the time in museums further educating myself on the history of Ghana, a compliment my current reading book ‘The State of Africa: A history of the continent since Independence’ by Martin Meredith. It was nice to wander around for a while, taking in the new environment and settling in slowly. Accra appears to perfectly safe, from my first impressions, it’s no wonder people refer to it as the ‘easy way in to Africa’.
Nikki and in are both eagerly awaiting our team of 12, comprising of 6 volunteers from Ghana and 6 from the UK. Unluckily though, we have realised that they all will arrive on Friday evening in pitch black whilst Accra operates a scheduled power system according to which zone you live in, locally known as ‘load shedding’. It will definitely make for interesting introductions!