Monday, 22 July 2013

Mole National Park

This past weekend we went to visit Mole National Park, which is West of Tamale.  It was a very exciting trip!  We went on a safari the first day and we were able to spot warthogs, baboons, deer and even an elephant.  One of the most interesting animals we saw was called a waterbock, which was close in size to an elk.  We only caught one glimpse, because they seem to be less curious that the smaller kob deer.  

From the hotel, we there was a lookout from which we could see the animals moving about the park and swimming in the water hole.

We also went on a hiking tour the next morning. We had torrential rains overnight, so the ground was all mud, but we were able to rent some boots so we stayed clean and dry.  My favorite part was that we were able to be within 25 feet of an elephant.  They are amazingly powerful creatures, and we watched as it ripped a small tree out of the ground right in front of us.  

While walking around the motel, we could see some monkeys and baboons.  They are mischievous little rascals.  A baboon even tried to steal some food out of a bag I was carrying!


male kob

The view from the motel

Baboon looking for trouble

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Triumph and Tragedy in Fieldwork

This past week I have finally gotten to go out and begin working in the field.  I traveled to a community called Demabi located about an hour from the WASH office.  On our way we got to see some of the countryside, which is absolutely beautiful.

The people of the community came out to help in the pump maintenance. Most don't speak very much English, but I was able to have fun trying out the Dagbani (the local language) phrases I have been learning.  They really appreciate the effort, even if I only know a few phrases, and its always good for a laugh when I mess up! 
View of Demabi from the pump
 The first day we were not able to fully dismantle the pump because our toolbox was missing some key tools.  I was able to perform the preliminary tests for the water quality testing, and was happy to see that all five tests were negative for the presence of bacteria.
Bacteria tests- if they stay yellow they are clean
The second day we returned to the same community and got a bit farther, but we were still not able to completely dismantle the pump.  This time we had challenges with a different tool (the pipe wrench), and were not able to separate the pipe casings. So, we returned back to base once again.

Third times the charm though.  This time I brought a WASH pump technician along with me, to have an expert.  Nothing could go wrong, or so I thought!  Once the pump was completely dismantled, all 10 pipe casings brought above ground, I was disappointed to discover that the plunger was not a model which I could replace my part into.  I was not even aware that there were different types of plungers, among the India Mark II models, so this was quite a surprise to me.

So, after all that effort, the part could not be replaced and I am back to the drawing board again.  Now I am reassessing what pumps have the correct type of below ground components so that I can be sure we don't have this same problem again.  All in all, I have learned a lot through all the problems I have run into this week. 

Removing the pipes

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


This past Friday, my mission was to go out and see what water treatment technologies could be bought from local shops.  The plan was to find out what types of treatment would be available, in what quantities, and for what cost.  So, when Seth and Shannon were picked up to go to the office, I ventured out to catch a taxi.  I started in the biggest shops on the busiest streets, and then branched out down to the smaller shops and the market area.  Ideally, I was hoping to find filters of some sort (most likely ceramic filters) and chlorine products.  The trip itself was plenty eventful! It was a nice change of pace, since I have been spending all my time in the office, so it was nice to get out and stretch my legs for a day.  The added bonus was that I got a chance to learn my way around really well.  In the end, I did not find any filters, although some of the stores do carry them occasionally.  There was plenty of bleach available though, and I surprisingly found some alum which is a powder added to cause small particles to group together so they can be easily filtered out.

As far as the rest of the past week, things have been going well.  I feel like we have settled in well here.  I even sleep through the morning prayers about half the time, so I know I must be getting used to living here.  For those of you who know how light of a sleeper I usually am, you know this is nothing short of a miracle.  

My other work this week was to help Seth in planning and leading a workshop for a group of managers from the Area Development Programs.  The workshop was about inclusive development strategies.  This means considering the needs of everyone in the community, including those with disabilities, when planning a development project.  I was far less than an expert on this subject before we began planning, and I learned a lot!  One thing that really hit home for me was the constant cycle of poverty and disability.  When a person is poor, they (and their family) are more likely to become disabled because of they will not be able to pay for proper medical care.  This could be caused by a broken bone which is not set properly.  Not only that, but persons with disabilities are also more likely to be poor.  Social stigmas and physical limitations may prevent them from getting a job and therefore cause them to live in poverty.   For example, children with disabilities are usually not sent to school but instead hidden in the house all day.  This lack of education only stands to push them into poverty later in life.  Through our workshop, we worked to empower the ADP managers to move to inclusive development for the work they do in their communities in order to break the cycle of poverty and disability. 

This weekend, we went out into the field with our landlord, Sule, to see what his NGO does.  We were able to visit two communities in which he is working to install a community system to provide piped water.  Sule’s NGO works to establish a committee in the community to maintain the water systems and also manage the money collected so that repairs can be made when necessary.  In this way, the community is set up with a good water source and they will not be reliant on continued NGO intervention.

Shannon and I learning to carry water on our heads.
Its much harder than the women here make it look!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A Welcome Storm

We survived our first week of work!  Not only that, but this Monday is a holiday in Ghana, so we have a long weekend.  Today we went to the market in Tamale to buy food for the week as well as branch out a bit to see what's around.  The market is crowded with people, and tends to be a very tiring experience.  I was able to find some fabric for a great price though. I'm hoping to be able to have it made into a dress, since there are plenty of seamstresses around.

This evening we got a pretty powerful storm, which is very nice since it cools everything down.  Its actually not as hot here as I had expected it to be, but the cool breezes are still welcome after the heat of the day.  We were lucky enough not to have lost power yet, so all in all it makes for a very nice night.

Looking back at our first week, it seems like we have come a long way.  Some of the things we have experienced are things I anticipated, while others were unexpected.

As I mentioned, I thought it would be much hotter.  Don't get me wrong, its plenty hot.  But, I wouldn't say its been worse than the hot days in August in Pennsylvania, except that it is more humid here.  Although, its only been a little over a week, so who knows what's in store!

Another thing that is different than expected is the food.  We were not originally expecting to have a kitchen which would have meant eating out the majority of the time.  I am very happy to have our own kitchen and to be able to prepare our own meals.  Sometimes simple things like making familiar foods bring an extra joy since they are uncommon here.

All in all, we have been happy, comfortable and healthy!

Shannon and our Ghanaian version of grilled cheese , which we all enjoyed greatly

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Snapshots of Daily Life

So now that we have finally settled in, I figure I can give you an idea of what goes on in our typical day.
At precisely 4:00 AM each morning, we get a wake-up call from the local mosques which are scattered throughout our neighborhood, which have their morning call to prayer over a loudspeaker.   Its plenty loud outside our windows, but I just put in earplugs and sleep through it.
I get up around 6:00 AM to get ready for the day and eat breakfast.  Most days start with a good cold shower which is nice since its plenty warm and humid.
About every other day, it is necessary for us to walk to the small shop down the street in order to buy eggs and bread.  It’s a nice little shop that carries all the essentials.
the store down the street

Next, we are picked up and driven to the office.   So far all our work has taken place in the office since we are still working on planning for the work we will be doing out in the field.  Shannon, Seth and I all share one office, all working at one desk.
our shared office

After work, we prepare ourselves some dinner and then have time to hang out.  The sounds of the evening prayers at the mosque float through our windows.  We typically entertain ourselves by watching movies, reading and of course writing our blogs.
Around 9:30 PM we all start to head to bed.  I tend to be up the latest, typically hitting the hay around 10:30.  This is the earliest I have gone to bed in a long time!
And that pretty much sums up our typical weekdays, at least so far.

Seth and I found a pump at the World Vision office!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Here's the Deal in Ghana

As promised, here are some photos of our house.

 The front of our house

My room: made complete by my cardboard dresser!
Our house is situated right within a typical neighborhood in Tamale, which gives us the added bonus of being able to befriend local people.  The children gather around whenever they see us.  They love to get our attention even if just to say hello.  Yesterday we went out to the school down the street to play with them, since they were all asking.  Seth played soccer with the boys while I did some manicures for the girls. 
Before we could even walk down the street, we were surrounded by a dozen children who were very excited to play with us!  Word must have spread quickly, since many more children soon made their way to the school.  Even when we decided to go home, a group of girls came to the door.  They had seen their friend's nails and wanted to know if we could do theirs also.  It was so fun to be able to spend time with them and learn a little bit about them.  This has been my favorite part so far, and I look forward to being able to play with the kids for the rest of our time here.

Surrounded by curious onlookers while getting my nails done by Hamnah

Seth organizing the boys to play some football (soccer)

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Settling In

Just a few days ago, I arrived at my house in the city of Tamale, Ghana,  where I will be living for about six weeks.  For the duration of my trip, Seth (another engineer from Messiah College) and I will be working as an interns with World Vision.  I will be working on pumps and water quality testing.  I'm sure I will get into the details later when I really get into the work.
Our journey here was mostly uneventful.  Since our arrival, we have been planning our work for the coming weeks and settling into our house.  Our house is very large, with eight bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a large living room area.  So we have plenty of space, but not a lot of furniture.  Our bedrooms have a bed (of course with a mosquito net) and a large carboard box which we have generously named a "dresser". However, we went out and bought a few chairs today, so at least now we can all sit down at the same time.   All in all, we have everything we need to live comfortably here.
We have also been getting aquainted with new daily chores such as producing clean drinking water.  In order to disinfect our tap water, we first filter it through a Sawyer filter and then use a water with a UV light system.  Both of these methods would be sufficient to clean the water independently, but it is even better to use both since we have them available to us.  Of course I really enjoy being able to make our own water instead of buying it since it relates well to the work I will be doing here.
Our house will also have one other occupant while we are here.  Shannon is a graduate student at the Desert Reasearch Institute, and she is working on her thesis this summer at the World Vision Office.  We have all been having a great time together so far, and I am looking forward to the weeks ahead since we will have plenty of time to get to know each other.
I have been having a lot of trouble using the internet on my computer, but it seems that we finally fixed the problem.  So, hopefully I will be able to post more details soon and get some pictures up!