Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What is Development?

[Kwame Nkrumah -Nationalist leader and president of Ghana from 1960 to 1966) ]

It has been 2 months since I have started my internship with Zoomlion but can I also consider these 2 months the beginning of my work in the world of international development and is yes how effective and sustainable is it..... really?

Am I changing anyone's life?

Answering this question involves understanding the content of my work with Zoomlion, how we define development and how does one contribuite to development.

Review of my work with Zoomlion:

The initial project that we undertook with Zoomlion basically consisted of a plastic recycling inventory involving the mass quanties of various plastic types produced in three economically differentiating areas of accra. The idea behind this project essentially was to get an idea about how much and what type of plastic is mostly generated by households in order to conduct a feasibiloty study on whether or not it would be economically profitable if Zoomlion was to construct its own plastic recycling plant. The data extracted from this experiment with further research on the appropriate technology required to recycle the plastic, and the market in which the final recycled product could be sold in would be all used to do the feasibiltty analysis.

The specific work that we are actually doing at the moment involves research into the market. We have visited various plastic recycling/reusing companies that are managing the plastic one way or another.

We visited a Company called Trashy Bags that used water sachets (the concept of water sachets does not exist in North America! Aside from water bottles people also drink water from water sachets which are made of plastic, you would make a hole in it and start drinking from it... the only down side is that you would have to drink all of it at once since there is no cap to keep the water sachet closed) .....and Yogurt and Chochlate milk wraps to sew duffel bags, wallets, purses, hats and etc. Of course they would collect the water sachets & wraps, wash them and then sew them. I purchased a wallet and a pencil case made of used water sachets and old yogurt and chochlate milk wraps.

We also visited another company that actually did recycle the plastic. They brought the excess plastic from various companies ( such as FanYogo & Fanchoc which is a company that produces yogurt and chochlate milk) and reycled them into plastic palates and plastic shreds and sold them.

Foreign Aid vs. International Development:

The literal definitions of Foreign aid is not exactly the same as that of International development. Foreign aid surely contributes to international development but it introduces the concept of help from a foreign source for international development purposes where as to me international development could be a product of internal or external factors and is not necessarily dependent on foreign resources. So what is internatioanl development or foreign aid?

For clarity purposes, let's hypotatically assume there is the country X suffering from poverty related problems and it is in urgent need of development in order to cease its population from suffering from health, social, econimical and even environmental let downs. Foreign aid would bring aid/help from richer nations and through invertments with either local NGOs ( non governmental organizations), governments or private companies somehow reduce Country X's poverty levels. Where as the international development of the country is not fully dependent of foreign aid and it could be initiated fully from the grounds of its own country and people free of external factors (foreign aid).

However foreign aid has been in exsitence since 1949 (officially) and so a depency on foreign aid has been developed by many developing countries. And so Foreign aid is linked to international development and so both can fall under the general term "development" which could be achieved by help of either foreign or local entities.

NGO vs. Private Company:

Whether contribution to development is done through works with a NGO or a private company, one must examine the effectiveness of the work done. The advantage to working with either one is that development is a goal to be achieved.... in theory at least.

NGO: It involves three parties, the donor, the transporter and the recipient. The donor is the entity that provides the transporter with enough funds to run their organization and projects. The transporter is the body organization itself that transforms the money into some sort of service and the recipient is the one benefiting from the service.


The main challenge faced when it comes to evaluation of work of NGOs is that there is no direct relationship between the recipient and the donor and as long as the trasporter defends their work well for the donor, the donor will continue to provide funds. And so it is very hard for the voice of the recipient to be heard since they are the main entity capable for providing a proper answer to whether or not the services provided to them is effective, ineffective or neutral.

The most effective NGOs are capable of breaking the disconnection between the donor and recipient and analyze their work critically even if their funds are soley given to projects they see ineffective.

Private Company:

Most private companies on the other hand share the incentive of making profit. And no investment is undertaken by them without the achievement of profit. So why am I working with Zoomlion, a private company that just wants to make money?

Because they are variations with private companies and not all fall under the same category. Is the profit going staright into "the CEO's pocket"....?? I believe not. Surely the money does not trickle down to the citizens but Zoomlion's services do. Why? Zoomlion is the largest waste management company in Ghana and so it is safe to say that their work has been sustainable because they have been making profit from their services and surely with no profit they would not have been able to operate for four years. One of their largest invetments has been the sorting and compsoting plant and their next project to be undertaken is the construction of a recycling plant. As their invetments are expanding to various areas, their services to Ghana are expanding as well. If profit was the main goal, why did they not stop at just collection the waste... or only have the sorting & composting plant... why are they now looking into building a plastic recylcing plant? Although making profit remains an incentive in all these investments, the services are truely benefitign the citizens, both composting and recycling are to protect Ghana's natural resources in additional to keeping the enviroment clean.

In addition, if Zoomlion is to under perform when it comes to the services they provide they experience the reactions of their customers first hand & so they are directly accountable to the people they service where as NGOs are accountable to their funders and not necesaarily to recipients.

I think it is easier to track down the effectiveness of the work done by private companies ( or partnerships with private companies) in comparison to that of NGOs.

Company <-------> Customers

Pirates vs. Angels :

Pirates: entities that contribute to international development for the purspose of making profit(monetary or non monetary profit ) while still contrinuting to international development.

Angels: entities that contribute to international development soley for the purpose of doing good for the world.

And so I can conclude that since I am working with Zoomlion which is making money with addition to helping the community, then I am a pirate.


Whether one works for a NGO or a private company it is crutial to identify the effectiveness of the work being done.

Everything I have talked about in this post has been soley my own opinions and thoughts, I still have so much to learn and my internship with Zoomlion has at least provided me with enough information to investigate, research and perhaps define what foreign aid really means not only in theory but on ground.

If you have finished reading this long post...congratulations & thank you. I hope I made sense.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Love vs. Football

I read in the Accra Daily Graphic that according to a survey done in UK the rates of "housewife" beating increases during the football Fifa World Cup. The reasons behind this conclusion were mostly based on the fact that males tend to go to more pubs/bars/restaurants with other male mates, drink and become more aggressive either due to a loss or a win of the favored team. The rage, anger ( or excitement) would influence males to become more involved in abusive behaviour toward their spouses all due to elevated alcohol levels.

The article continued to say that the wife beating is not only limited to "bar drinking" males.... but also in households where the spouse( the males usually) decides to watch the football match at home. In this case the fight over the remote provokes abusive behaviour since men want to watch football and women not so much.

Of course this does not mean that all males that watch football are to beat their wives when they get home after watching a football match but the chances of becoming involved in a "physical" fight is so much higher within males that have already shown "abusive" behaviour previously due to differentiating reasons.

And why am I writing this on my blog? Although the study was done in UK I still believe that this trend could show up in Ghana. After all.... the survey was a highlight of the Daily Graphic newspaper. This matter is much complicated though and here is why:

A related subject to this topic is that I have met a few women in Accra that have children with no father around. Yaw ( the lady that is in charge of the chores in Papa Jacob's house) is a single mother raising Jessica ( her little girl who also lives within papa jacob's care) on her own.

Another lady raising a child on her is the sister of Aunty Glades (Jess's Ghanaian mother). There is also Mercy who is a single mother, the lady that sew me the dress for the wedding on saturday.

Here is Mercy's story:

When Mercy got married she moved in with her mother in law and from the very beginning of her stay in her new home she was treated more or less as a servant. She went on to say that whenever the husband would come home from work, the mother would interfere with their time together, either call her to do some chores or call the husband to perform certain tasks for her and they never spend quality time together. The end result: Mercy became frustrated with her mother in law and after feeling sorry and helpless ( and crying hours and hours each day) for a few years she decided to leave her husband and her mother in law, at this point she also had given birth to a baby girl, not that it increases anyone's sympathy for her.

Now she is working as a seamstress, living in a house right next to her shop. She went on to say that she no longer is respected by "everyone" due to the decision that she made.

Issac, the boy that comes to iron Papa Jacob's shirts every Sunday has also a similar story. Papa Jacob informed that Issac's father is from Togo( neighbour country) and her mother is from Ghana. Issac has four siblings whom live in Togo, but him along with his Mom were brought to Accra by the father and left to live with one of the uncles of the family. He has another wife in Togo.

At this point, I'd like to point out that maybe these cases, both Mercy's and Issac's could be of the extreme in Accra. I honestly don't know. I don't know if this happens often here in Ghana or if these are unfortunate circumstances. But I do know one thing. Women that are separated here never apply for divorce. It just does not happen. The word "divorce" is just a word never an action to be under taken.

And are things any better at home? In Canada, the divorce rate is 50% which never fails to amaze me, this rate is assumed by me to be much lower in Ghana. But I think it is safe to say that women in Canada do not experience the same cultural and religious constraints as women do here and this could be a characteristic of "western development", surely women rights are much more in practice in Canada. We have about 40 women in the Canadian Parliament out of 308.

It is a privilege to sit in my position unable to even remotely imagine what it is like to be in Mercy's shoes. What must it really be like to have a child that my mother in law nor my husband value? ( because if a child has a value so should her mother and don't you have to love the mother of your children to love your child). How much did Mercy change by moving out and noticing her own light? If she can't even get a divorce, will a man ever come to love her... we all need love! What about her daughter? Is she to suffer cultural let downs because she has no father living in her home?

I am going to skip over the roles that religion, personal motivation, family upbringing, and media play that cause one to react differently to various conditions, because I am if anyone traces back the root causes of women's issues, all of the above play crucial roles.

So I would like to conclude with some solution.... because what good does talking about problems really do?

1. let's be good to one another ! Women standing up for women. Mothers understanding daughters and daughters raising men and women that will make this world better ( cheesy, general but not followed by everyone).

2. Emphasis on my 1st point: let's bring up our children so that they say no racism, sexism.... etc etc.

3. Take advantage of the fact that we live in a developed country and spread the word of equality in any big or small way possible.

& here is some John Mayer's lyrics( I think it's a beautiful song):

Daughters- John Mayer:

Boys, you can break
You'll find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A womans good, good heart

On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the god and the weight of her world

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A baby goat.

Some funny thoughts and comments:

1. I really wish I could bring a baby goat (kid) back with me, they are so cute and adorable. I could already imagine a kid playing in my backyard and eating all the vegetable that my mom has planted in our backyard. Maybe I could bring one along with me on the plane. Although the cold Canadian winters would be a problem.

2. My name is Abna is Twi ( local language in Accra). Names are given here based on which day of the week you were born on and I was born on Tuesday and therefore my name is Abna.

3. Even thought I have a Canadian name Kate and a Ghanian name Abna , I am mostly refered to as Obroni by people. And what does Obroni mean? it means...."white man" aka foreigner. It's the funniest thing when little chidren call me that whenever they see me. They would be going about their daily work and as soon as they see me they would shout Obroni, Obroni. Ironically, I even find it amusing when I see a "white" person.

4. When they say the rainy season in Accra lasts from May to beginning of August, they really mean it and now I know how true it is. It has been raining for the last 3 days and I have not seen the rays of sun in a little while. I really love rain so I am enjoying the weather. My tanning speed has decreased due to this reason though... not good.

5. I have gotten some marriage proposals. They all have been of the funny, silly kind. The funniest part about it is when I try to make funny excuses of why I don't wanna get married. Although there has been two cases when I had to lie majorly to get out of the situation, I had to lie and say that I have a boyfriend in Canada and he would be very upset if I cheat on him, I hate lying but sometimes it is necessary.

David and Jess have also gotten marriage proposals. Sometimes a person would ask David if they could either have me or Jess to marry, mostly because me, Jess and David are at times called sisters and brothers and they would wanna ask David if they could have one od his sisters.

One time Jess told one of the guys who wanted to marry her that he first had to fight a lion and then ask her to marry him.

6. I live with Papa Jacob who has a guest house and usually foreigners stay long term at his place. I am renting a room there. My place is between Jess and David's places. Whenever I come home from work I sit with him in the yard and he tells me stories about his life. He served in the military for nearly 40 years. He was first a nurse and then a physiotherepist. My favorite story so far has been those of his wife and how they met at the military, she was sick and so they brought her to the military hospital and guess who cared for her? Papa Jacob. She passed away seven years go. He is a very happy man, as a matter of fact whenever I ask him how he is , he always says he is perfect. I admire his enthusiam and appreciation for life. I don't know why but I randomly was thinking about how I would deal with missing him when I come back home.

7. Yaw, precious and little Jessica are the three females that live with Papa Jacob and help him with keeping the place nice and clean. Yaw is Jessica's mother , she is about 30 years old. Does not speak English. She also takes care of Precious who is about 10 and Jessica who is turning 2 soon. Precious is one of the most humble girls that I have met. Not only does she do well at school but she always helps Yaw with the house chores. The first couple of days of my stay at Papa Jacob's she would show me where everything was.

8. And as for little Jessica, she couldn't speak at all when I first moved in. But now she can say Kate perfectly. She runs to hug me when I come home from work. Sometimes I would say "Sa Sa" which means dance and she would move her tiny legs and dance.

10. Yaw is a very quite woman and it was very hard for me to communicate with her. Although our relationship changed majorly when we watched a football(soccer) match together. She really surprised me with her massive amount of passion for football, and now we have something huge in common. She relies on me to call her when the football matches start and it is always good times when football is on TV.

9. I'm very happy about the fact that I am in country whose football team has made it to the world cup. People just go about NUTS when Ghana is playing. They have a pretty good team actually. They beat Serbia on Sunday and I'm pretty sure that 80% of Accra's entire population was in the streets sining and dancing, celebrating Ghana's victory.
For all of you whom I've promised soccer jerseys, no worries I have not forgotten.

10. I am getting a dress made to wear on Friday. At Zoomlion everyone at the office is to wear traditional clothes. I gave it to Mazy (don't know if I spelled her name right) to sew me a dress and it is supposed to be ready on Thursday I'm so excited to wear it. Mazy is the seamstress that has a store near the Madina Marker where I live and I find her very talented.

That is all for the list, I have probably left alot of other things that have happened but I'll write them as they come to me.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

I think I am getting sick !

It has come to my attention that I have been feeling much more tired these past couple of days than the usual... but unusually I don't really know where the source of it is. But I have come to two conlcusions:

1. I am running low on thoughts triggering motivation and energy
- usually it is due to work related frustration but non has occured since I've felt this way
- usually detectable

2. I am getting sick.
- I have a stuffed up face (ears, nose and throat) which is not very pleasent in the morning
- muscle pains in my leg
- not signs of fever

One of the most fabolous things I enjoy here has been the fact that I go to bed very early... by 9:00 p.m. I am usually in bed and falling asleep. Hopefully as I continue with this schedule I hope I'll be able to defeat whatever it is I have.

I have stopped eating dinner... because the food is too deliscious. Yes I said deliscious.... and that is why I had to make sure I stop eating one meal of the day to keep a normal balance. The food is really good so I eat larger quantities for lunch and breakfast. And this is aside from all the bananas, mangos, banana bread and cookies that I eat as snakes. So ya the food is really good, and that is my problem.

It has been a tiring day here at work and I am just looking forward to going home and talking to Papa Jacob who always lifts up my mood. He is over 70 years old and yet his enthusiasm at times beats mine. Some people are just inspirational.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Work update!

So my work at Zoomlion has taken a new direction. We were originally going to work on two seperate projects, one being the plastic recyling inventory and the next one which would be working with the Korle Bu teaching hospital to categorize the waste being produced.

So we have decided to expand on the first project and continue to extend our work on it until the end of our stay here. The main reason for this decision was due to the fact that the two projects are similar when it comes to their overall objective, and working on the second project will give us the same overall experience that the first one is already offering us. With the extension of the recyling project we would also be able to look into areas that we are more interested in.

So what does the extension of this project include:

1. Operations: coming up with an actual method to recycle the plastic ( also the part that I am very excited about). Knowing how to plastic recycle will take considerable amount of research but it is very much related to the "appropriate techonolgies for international development" course that I took last semester. I will also get to do some "engineering" work.

The actual design/technology that will be used for recyling of the plastic in the central location is going to be brought either from China or Iran. I'd be really beneficial to see the design and know how plastic recycling will be done on a large scale.

The method we would come up with would be used on a much smaller scale and perhaps be placed in locations far from the central plastic recycling plant ( if it is to be used at all).

2. Come up with an educational program that will continue to raise awareness on the importance of plastic recycling either in the areas where the experiment is being run or throughout the whole city.

The plastic recycling bins are in the process of being collected. During the course of next few days we will look at the plastic collected and categorize them and determine what the data collected mean when it comes to the feasibility of having a plastic recyling program in place.

That is all for now when it comes to my work stuff. I will keep you all updated with the data we gather from the plastic recycling bins and what conclusion we come to ( a week or so from now).


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

From Slum to Sexy !

It was Friday May 28, 2010. One of the most interesting, confusing, inspirational, awkward and alarming days that I have had so far.

I woke up in the morning very early as every other day, got ready, put on my black pants , white dress shirt and my zoomlion ID card on and left to meet Jess and Dave at rawling circle where we planned on meeting to take a taxi and later a tro tro to work.

Our work schedule for the day was to find candidates for the recycling program that is to be run next week in one of the assigned areas. There are three areas that we chose to run the experiment on, first is the Adenta area considered the high class, the East Legon the middle class and Nima the low class aka the slums. By friday morining, we had spoken with people and found good candidates from the Adenta and East lagon areas. And on friday we were to go to the Nima region and continue the process.

I knew that the Nima area was considered one of the poorest areas of Accra but I didn't really have a picture or a description of it in my head, specially since to me Accra looks all relatively the same and NOT that it is all the same because it is not, but the areas that we usually travel to are very consistent looking. But this was a slum area.

Once we arrived in Nima I got a chance to talk to the locals and spend a few minutes with them and ask them questions related to their waste management challenges and diffculties. I spoke to women whom spend most of their time just cooking, washing clothes and taking care of children. And this might sound very typical but the process is much complex in reality that it may sound on a computer screen. Mostly because to connect with these people, one has to get over one's own life style and try to sound sincere and caring enough to gain the other party's trust, at least enough trust for them to stay committed to the experiment. And it is hard because people are different from one another. And in most places if you are different... in a sense that you are richer or more "beautiful" that other people, then you will acknowledge your differences. After all there is approximately 250 million people that have subscribed to facebook ( according to google) and most of people at least on my facebook friends' list have the most glamorous pictures of them, in beautiful clothes at beautiful places..advertising to the world how beautfil their life really is...... including me.

And this day was special to me because I had assumed that coming to Accra would allow me to at least partially disconnect myself from the "glamorous" world. Not that the Canadian way of life is very glamorous, but my own personal life in Canada is.

And I loved this day. I just loved it. I talked to a woman that was washing her dishes at a corner of a very tiny narrow street as sweat was dripping off her face, and another lady who was taking her washed clothes from the ropes while her baby was tied to her back as she told me the necessity she saw in having a plastic recycling system in her area (refer to pictures).

I did not want this day to end. Talking to these women and just observing them for a little while in their own environment was an amazing experience. And I'm not gonna lie, I was very proud of myself. At this moment I felt strong, happy, useful and thought this was the very purpose of this trip. For me to see a reality with my own eyes and feel and touch things. And not just rely on the TV, or the internet to get some skewed version of what struggle is. All the people that I come across were hard wokring people and they were stressed YES.... but also grateful for what they had. And YES they were SKINNY but strong ..... not helpless as I had seen so many similar looking faces on TV back home.

So yes I enjoyed this day more than words can express.

Approximately 5 hours later I decided to attend a FASHION SHOW along with jess, David and David's room mate. It was friday, I had a fabelous day with amazing people at work and going to a cocktail fashion show just seemed like cherry on the cake. I did not really did not give it much thought.

It was the oddest experience, being in a slum in the morning and 10-15 hours later being on the roof of a Mercedes-Benz building which was next to a holiday inn hotel ( there is one very close to my house in Windsor) and watching outer beauty being promoted. And yes there were couple of very anorexic female models that scared me.

But the weird part about this whole experince was that I was critiquing the clothes, I was telling Jess and David ( David's room mate, they have the same name ) which dresses I liked the most and which shoes I did not think went with the outfits. I suppose that's called normal behaviour at fashion shows. There was salsa dacing going on and I remembered how I really wanted to join Western's salsa dance club.

IN CONCLUSION, I have mixed verdicts about this whole day. Is the world of glamour, a money driven motivated people never to be escaped? Or is it just me that somehow gets linked to a world where you are what you look like. And I have a stong opinion about this because I feel that the middle eastern culture that I come from does put a huge emphasis on outer beauty.

But at the same I wonder maybe it is good after all that several minutes away from a slum there is still a fashion show going on and nobody is concerened about refuse disposal issues, maybe it is an indication of development ......little hints here and there that say to one, people rise above their circumstaces. That one does not need to travel to paris, or toronto or New York to see a fashion show...... if you are from an African country.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Working with Zoomlion has been one of the most important parts of my learning experience so far, not only in terms of technical work but also in terms of social and cultural . It was necessary for me Jess and Dave to be properly introduced to the various parts of Zoomlion and get to know all the different departments and their associated managers and officers. As a result a clear and specified work definition of the project we would work was not defined until later on.

Zoomlion's head office consists of the following departments: finance, research and development, operations, communications, transport unit, human resources technical, internal audit, safety and security , monitoring and evaluation and landfill department.

Zoomlion's work expands over a wide variety of areas. They not only provide residential and communal waste pick but they also provide serives regarding beach cleaning, street cleaning, oil spills, waste water collection, Cissept service, beautification and landescaping, forestation and fumigation, janitorial assitance and landfill management. They either do this using their own resources or by hiring private contractors. I had no idea Zoomlion covered such broad areas but now I realize there is a reason why Zoomlion is the leading compnay in the waste management sector.

My work here is tied to the Development and research department of Zoomlion. The R & D department consists of a head supervisor Mr. Meizah, and 5 officers that work on different areas but have the same work status within the department.

The two weeks that I have been here, we have visited three landfills, a number of communical dup sites, spoke with sub office managers and dicussed the challenges, limitation and possible areas which could be improved. In addition we visited Zoomlion's sorting and composting plant which is in its construction stages.

Zoomlion has built a sorting and composting plant, and now they are looking into building a plastic recycling plant. Of course prior to construction, a study on the feasibility of the plastics is required. They are counting the amount of plastic wasted at three final disposal location being mainly landfills. But the data collected from landfills do not indicate the percentage of waste coming from different sources. So we are now looking into residential plastic waste inventory to figure out what percentage of plastics is generated by residences, households. We are distribuiting pastic recycling bins to specific houses and collecting their plastic over a period of seven days and analzying to detemine how much plastic is being produced. Of course the experiment is run for households of low, middle and high class to increase accuracy of the data collected. As part of this experiment we also needed to educate and raise awareness on the topic recycling itself. Althoug most people know what "recycling" is, many ( mainly low and middle class) do not understand what it means when plastic is recycled.

I have learned alot during these past few days. I don't want to say that the path to development is completly different than what I had originally thought, but I was definetly underestimating some factors and influences. I will write about it in my next post because this one has turned out long enough. Hope you all now have a better understanding of what it is I'm doing these days.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Coco Beach !

My love for beaches influenced me to dedicate a whole post to this very topic. Hope you enjoy looking at the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.

So the Coco beach is one of the most beautiful parts of Accra that I have seen so far. We stopped by during work. And yes I keep on saying work and you probably have no idea what I'm actually doing here but I figured the "work" topic needs its own post. So ya I took these pictures during work and let's leave it at that for now.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Day in Accra!

Hello Followers, Ette Sin (how are you in Ghanaian)??

It has almost been a week since I have arrived to Ghana. I still can’t believe it was only last week when I was in Toronto going through the pre-departure training, trying to predict what Accra would be like, but I must say the guessing game is officially over.

Days in Accra begin very early in the morning; people are up and working on their chores almost from 5 am. It is perhaps because the weather becomes very hot here around 8 am and so people find it easier to get some of their tasks done earlier in the day. I wake up everyday to the sound of alarm clock.... and roosters.

Night time begins quite early as well; it gets dark here at around 6:30 which I’m definitely not used to, as I recall during summer time it does not get dark until 9 pm in Canada. By 6:30 I am usually back to the guest house from work, taken a shower and writing in my work log book.

I have been sharing a room with Jess ever since we came to Ghana, and David’s room is across our room. One of the things that I noticed early on is the fact that you only see hotels (Canadian version) near the Accra urban centre, and as you as you zoom out from this central location there are no hotels and guest houses become the common place people reside. Guest houses usually have one floor with a big yard and a hallway that has a number of rooms. The guest house that I am currently living in is more luxurious that it should be, we have running water, a/c, tile floors, TV, fridge and a tiled floor. My adjustment to a permanent & “less development” address is still the challenge ahead.

The main roads in Accra are paved and asphalted, but again as you get farther from the urban centre, the roads are no longer paved and you drive on bumpy roads. Seat belts are not worn here but everyone usually holds on to something when a car starts to drive.

The streets of Accra are also occupied on both sides by stores, shops, beauty salons, restaurants and general markets and as a result the streets are usually full of people that are either buying or selling materials and running businesses.

And this is what is amazing about this city, if you want a banana, coconut, mango or fried chicken all you have to do is cross the street and buy some.

The main market is Accra is the Madina Market. It is definitely one of the crowded places I have been to. We spent approximately around an hour or two there but I could have spend another three hours there and not have been tired. The stores are located less than couple of metres from one other leaving enough space for shoppers to go walk through; the function is to maximize the number of stores. The market is like a maze that goes in so many directions and if you are new you could easily get lost. The amazing fact about this market is that you could literally buy what you need to buy as you think of it, from food such as vegetables, fruits, meats (pig feet, snails, chicken, fish) to fabrics, clothes, bags, shoes and jewellery. It is definitely one of my favourite places in Accra so far.

Some of people’s favourite foods here are Banku and FuFu, which is dough, made of cassava and plantain with a soup that goes overtop usually made of various meet types with spices and oils. The dough is placed inside a bowl and the sauce/soup part is poured overtop. The trick is to eat the dough and the sauce part simultaneously using your hands. I have tried both of them once and to be honest I had a miserable failure. One serving of Banku or FuFu is a lot more in quantity than I’m used to, I guess I just need a little more time to get used to the food. I love the bananas, mangos, coconuts and the Jallof rice (rice made with spices and vegetables) so far.

I will try to upload pictures and videos to help with the visualization of most of the things I talked about, even though the internet is slow here I will keep my fingers crossed.

Me da Si ! ( thank you)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Leaving Canada!


It is Monday may 10th, a sunny day here at Toronto Ontario. I have fianlly managed to find some time to write about what has been going on with me. My flight is exactly 4 hours and 35 minutes from right now, that is only if our flight does not have any delays. I am all packed up, got my medication, my clothes and my technology aka mylaoptop, my camera, my mp3 player.

I have said my farewells to my family and friends and am ready to get on the air plane to enter the continent of Africa, and finally be in Accra. I suddenly realized how at this very moments my nerves have calmed down, my concerns have faded away somewhere out of the way in my brain and I am simply waiting to get my journey started.

I just really apprecitate the place that I am at this moment. I have no longer a a lister to refer to and comment on how much work is still left to do before I am ready, because RIGHT NOW I am ready to do and everything has been done, all the prep work of course.

I am done packing for one thing, I'm pretty sure I will get to Accra and think of an item that is absolutely essential to have and I'll just wonder how I forgot to bring one with me and how it managed not to end up on any of my "to buy" lists ( because there were alot of them and let's just leave it at that).

And I'm just really really happy about the fact that I think my parents are in more peace with the whole fact that I will be away from them more the usual amount. They are probably still more worried than they should be. But I will continue to have faith in them as they continue to have faith in me.

Me, Jess and Dave have been spending the weekend here at Toronto, there was a training session set up for us at the University of Toronto by Mike Klassen president of engineers without borders of the Uof T chapter) and Binnu ( returned JF/Mechanical Engineer), we covered a huge range of topics but what caught me off guard was the fact I realized most of my prep work was going into my adaptibility skills to new environments, but I think what most people don't realize is that, you have to exceed beyond that in order to reach out to the communities in are in need of real help and just being adaptable may not get the work done.

A couple of hours earlier, me, Jess and Dave took a walk around the neighbourhood, did a little bit of shopping, stocked up on sun screen and just enjoyed this sunny, lovely day. We also browsed this cozy little book store and I bought the book "does foreign aid really work" by Roger Riddell. I am so looking forward to reading it.

I guess that would be all for now. Hope you have a good morning as well. Only if I could hold on to this feeling forver.hmm......

Friday, April 30, 2010

Shopping !

I spent a few hours at the mall today shopping solely for the things I need for my trip to Ghana. After spending a few hours at various stores I got rid of the following items from my "to buy" list:

1. A long sleeve shirt ( it's white, pretty, summerish, 100 % cotton which should be perfect for hot weather)

2. face moisturizer ( it was a very expensive one, but since I wont be spending any money on make up I thought I could invest in a good moisturizer)

3. sunglasses

So out of the the 100 items on my list, I have now narrowed it down to 97...!!! Shopping will continue until further notice !

Monday, April 26, 2010

Progress !

I'm still having a hard time trying to write about how things are going with my internship, what fomal progress has been made and how I generally feel. And it is hard because I have so many thoughts scattered all over my brain that I don't know where to even begin, I don't know what thought to pull out of my brain first.

So I guess the highlight of this week has been finishing exams, packing, and going through departure training with Dr. Robinson who is by the way the head of the organizing team.

We have now gone through all the details of what we need to know in case of emergiencies, health related issues, what we need to be aware of in terms of culural and social interactions with others and how foreigners basically need to handle things in a developing country, I could go into detail with what we covered but that would take pages and pages of writing.

The outcome however has been quite comforting. I was and still am going through very different emotional phases when it comes to how I feel about going away to Ghana. Most of the time I am just excited and it seems like I couldn't leave early enough but at times and it is usually late at night when I come home and have some time alone to myself that I start thinking about what could happen that I just simply cannot predict. I have discussed my worries and concerns not only with people that I'm going there with but also with Dr. Robinson who has done alot of work in a develping country and also with students who have gone overseas to various parts of Africa before but for some reason I expect myself to be prepared in all ways possible. They always say except the "unexpected" but I think I try to not only define what the unexpected is but also how to deal with it. I think unconsciously I put this pressure on myself and now that I think about it, it is incredibly unrealistic.

But I as I mentioned this whole traning process has been very comforting, because aside from the general worry that comes with traveling to a place I have never gone to before, all of my other conerns have been shared and discussed.

It is now time for bed , I need to wake up early in the morning as usual.

I should also mention that I am very excited about tomorrow, I get to relax and enjoy the day with my friends whom I will be leaving for the summer, not looking forward to saying goobye. Tomorrow will be one bittersweet day.

Also, I will be deticating my next post soley to everything that I am looking forward to this summer, because the list has been sky rocking.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


It is now April 23 and I am getting closer and closer to the departure date. My elevated stress levels due to exams have finally started to subside, I don't feel as guilty when it comes to having drifted thoughts about Ghana for "long" periods of time when I should be studying.

I still feel there is a lot of work to be done before I leave for Ghana. We have been having some trouble with our visa applications but I'm sure everything will get sorted out very soon. I was not paying much attention to the Euro air lock travel but I'm hoping that will go away too.

My room has become quite the mess, I definitely fit into the perfect description of a traveler. It would explain the large volume of books, clothes and suit cases that seem to be everywhere. And when I say everywhere I mean everywhere, I don't even think I have a closet at the moment, or better yet I think my entire room and living room have become my closet, like I mentioned my stuff is just literally everywhere. Although I must say I am quite excited to get packing and having my stuff sorted out, I'm hoping it will contribute to emotional/mental state of departure as well.

A lot of packing is coming right up !! I should probably get some sleep now though, I still have one exam left and studying is not over yet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dear family, friends, and general blog browsers,

So if you know me, you have probably heard me talk about my summer trip to Ghana this summer more than let's say a few times. You have heard me complain about the slow process of becoming prepared but have also seen me jump up and down from all the excitement that I cannot contain within me at times.

Below is a little description of what it is I will be working on oversea in Ghana:

Along with my partners Jessica Barker and David Marmor will be working with a solid waste management (SWM) company called Zoomlion which is currently the largest SWM company in Ghana. We are scheduled to work on two projects, the first one will be on a plastic recycling inventory - what plastics are used in the country and what the facilities are like to recycle them and the second one is working at the Korle Bu teaching hospital to categorize the waste being produced.

Continuing on.... I would like to get started on where I stand with everything related to this trip ....with the fact that there is only 21 dayssssss until departure time, which means I've got 21 days to actually wrap my head around that fact that I AM Going. Apparently all the planning/work that I have done so far for preparing myself for this trip has not been enough, at least not mentally. When it comes to every other way of being prepared however, I must say I am ready to go. From booking flights, getting vaccinated, travel insurance, passport application, organizing fund raising events to budget preparing and still on going work I must admit I still feel as if I wont be leaving in a long while from now, even though I will be leaving in TWENTY ONE days!

And the part that I find most interesting is that, due to the fact that I have such a vague picture of what life would look like 9452.19 kilometers away ( distance between Canada and Ghana), I keep on trying to picture life here.... without me. I definitely will not be going to Windsor to my family and I definitely will not be spending my late summer afternoons at Windsor's good old river front like I do every summer since I've started university.

And as for how I picture life in Ghana.. well.....the painted picture in my head is currently too good to believe. Me being in a different continent, country, city, with my parents being in peace (inside joke only some people will understand it) and be doing the kind of work that is of greatest value to me is just too much to ask for. And by work I don't just mean working with Zoomlion, I mean what I get to do since the time I would wake up in the morning to the time I go back to sleep (may or may not include me being very sick, hot and sweaty, me missing everyone terribly) !

I am going to end my second post here, I am noticing that I've been talking generally about everything and not specially about one topic. Maybe I should start posting material based on themes or specific topics, if you have any suggestions on how I should do this please let me know. I am very new to this and I feel like I need to talk about everything.

Also, I feel very awkward writing my thoughts away on this blog and having it fully exposed to the world but I am already starting to get over this fact.

I am hoping not only this blog allows me to enhance my communication skills but also provide some sort of reliable insight on what the process of traveling to Western Africa and working on development projects will be like.


ps: for those of you that do not know me, my full name is Katayoon Pejman, my first name means planet Venus in Persian and was apparently the name of one of the greatest queens in the Persian history. I love the connection between the meaning behind my name and the word Ghana which means the "land of warrior king", just a little side note.
FIRST Entry:

Hello world of blogging !!

Firstly I would like to welcome myself to this new world of communication, I am quite unfamiliar with this territory..... at least for now.

And to everybody else who is visiting my page for the first time.....WELCOME !