October 12 – October 17
What a week. On Sunday Nikki and I had to take the volunteers in their teams of two to their new permanent homestay families. It was emotional, but we have tried to ease the pain by meeting up a lot and raiding the supermarkets for comfort food. A few of the girls and I have moved into “Aunty Ann’s” in East Airport. The house is beautiful, we are very comfortable here and living in a different part of the city has allowed our confidences to grow on the trotro system. We now understand that the stops at Accra mall are called different things according to the direction you are travelling – roundabout or spanner, a shape seen from an ariel view. It takes a while to get your head around all the names, but the signals and repetitive jingles from the ‘mates’ (fare collectors) are quite fun. For example, rotating the wrist saying ‘circ-circ-circle’ is Accra’s answer for London Victoria. As for lady of the house, Aunty Ann, she’s such a character! A stylish collection of wigs and a mysterious past as an airhostess who had the chance to travel a lot, she is fascinating. My highlight so far is definitely her singing MJ’s Billie Jean to illustrate the problem with teen pregnancies. I wonder what other creative messages she has for us.
This last Monday was also the volunteers’ first day in their new businesses. Some were successful, fitting in immediately and beginning their diagnostics to make the deadlines on Friday; whilst others walked straight into the reality of the inefficiencies of Ghana – with managers out of office or away on a honeymoon. It’s not as smooth sailing as we would have liked, but you can’t force things to happen the way you imagine. What is evident though, is that the businesses are busy and the lack of time from members of staff with research and analysis is usually due to them being so overwhelmed with their multiple roles as book keeper, processing officer and marketing manager, for example. It is the low turnover of these promising businesses which need multi-roled staff, and probably the multi-roled staff which impede on its turnover potential. Although frustrating, I believe each volunteer has already learnt a lot about the general operations of Ghanaian SMEs and will be putting this knowledge into advantageous action plans to make their projects of paramount success.
One other aspect which dampens our working day is the ‘load shedding’ power cuts, which we have been told will now last for 24 hours at a time – one day on, one day off. Having no electricity, no internet, no phone battery and no laptop charge means business comes to a complete stop. In a period of growing economy, the locals here are bemused as to why their government has decided this is the best way forward. No one knows how long it will last, or whether they are actually doing anything to improve the lines.
Luckily, for us girls at Aunty Ann’s, she allows us to have the generator on for a few hours so at least we get to eat a great dinner! I can’t deny its tough here, so it’s good to come back to home-cooked sweet potato wedges.