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.