Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kakum National Park!

 (Local kids copy every facial expression Christina could think up. She even got them to stick their fingers in their noses and act like their faces were being melted off.)

Christina and I tagged along Dalhousie's Cape Coast day. We checked out Kakum National Park and its phenomenal canopy walk. It is pretty darn high, enough to give me a slight sense of vertigo. Luckily, the guide explained that there have been no injuries or death. I felt pretty darn safe.
Taking up the rear of Dalhousie with Patrick, GMB Adviser.
Our trek up gets a little steep.
Watching Christina balance the shaky suspension bridge with one hand!
Students take in the incredible scenery!
Walking out to pose for a photo.
Yes, I was a little nervous and yes, I am beginning to look like a Chia Pet.
There are a total of 7 suspension bridges that make up the canopy walk and is 330 meters long. If you are coming out for a visit, I am definitely taking you here!
The sides are plenty high so no one has ever fallen over...YET!
Pausing at one of the landings to capture the lush forest. My photos don't do it justice.
Bruce! This looks like something out of 'Uncharted.'  Kept wishing you were here with me.
Today was an office day well spent despite the power outage we experienced for a couple hours. Also, successfully finished "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. I highly recommend it. The book has already got a long list of people at the house waiting to take it all in. You won't be disappointed by this incredible true story. I am moving on to read "The Heart and the Fist" by Eric Greitens. About humanitarian work, I don't think its timing in my life could be any better. Hope you are enjoying your week! I am thinking of you!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Life is Tasty!

What a Sunday! The house ended the weekend on a relaxing note. Beach trip! Here are some photos from the day.
So colorful!
Fresh vegetables galore!
Taking it all in!
A mountain of flour?
Tasty Tom is an oil brand and definitely my favorite.
Walking with Rebecca and Kyle to grab a taxi.
In case you were wondering, where shoes are bought and sold.
This guy had a more visually appealing set up.
Choices, choices!
In the tro (taxi van)! It cost 70 pesewas which is 35 cents!
We make it to Anomabo!
Brigaders enjoy the beautiful beach!
Christina and I stayed a little longer.
Catching the sunset on the way home!
Cool looking Guiness ad.
Pass this building A LOT and finally got to snap a photo of it. Immediately after taking this I got scolded t and then a woman demanded that I pay for the photo. Luckily, some kids came to the rescue and told us I didn't have to pay and on our way we went.
Hilarious barber shop signs!
How not to take care of your community.
Fufu! Super popular dish in Ghana. It is casava and plantains boiled and mashed up. It is very thick and difficult to swallow. I have heard that it fills you up so you can take fewer meals. Unfortunately, it lacks vitamins and nutrients.
I loved this barber shop ad!
The mosque near the house. It looked amazing.
I am kicking off the week with a canopy walk and a visit to the slave castle in Cape Coast! Expect some great photos. I also have the honor of cooking dinner for everyone tomorrow night. Here is to hoping it comes out tasty and there is plenty to go around. Hope you had an amazing Sunday!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My First Week in the Communities!

Here is a quick photo share of the amazing work I witnessed in the communities during my first week. Enjoy!
Community members line up to receive their medications. Also,  note the huge tanks! That is one of our rainwater harvesting systems.

Cute girl!

Boys fighting to get their photo taken.

Dalhousie dental students show to brush properly. I am going to be a pro master at teeth brushing by the end of the year.

Kids show off their stickers and teeth brushing tracking sheets.

First try of street food. Fried rice and fried chicken! I am addicted to the fried chicken in Ghana.

Christina and I step out for a beer.

And then cows came home.

Kings discusses malaria prevention and treatment, nutrition, and exercises.

Sisters at our Public Health station.

What not to do.

People line to see a doctor. Some folks came as far as Ivory Coast. 

Made a friend while observing!

Dental students remove a decaying tooth.

Beautiful babies!

Akwaaba to Ghana!

HI! My first week living in Ghana is officially behind me. To be honest, I am still adjusting to the fact that I am going to be here for an entire year. Part of me feels I will going home soon, but this is just the beginning.

I would like to introduce you to the Global Brigades (GB) house! It is located outside of Mankessim, roughly two and a half hours from Accra. The house thankfully has 3 functioning bikes. Some mornings we have yoga sessions in the courtyard and others go on runs. I have been diligent about getting a ride in every day except today.
Our house!
Our office is also located at the house. Every morning we sign in at 9:00 AM and we get cracking. The past week I have been out to 3 communities with 3 different Medical Brigades. My goal was to observe their Public Health Stations and the door-to-door follow ups they do on their last day. Loyola (Chicago), Kings (London), and  Dalhousie (Halifax) did incredible work.
The office!
Highlight of the house is the attic. It is where we chill out and occasionally do yoga. It was recently cleaned and set up anew. Pretty fancy!
The attic!
I share a room with 2 other ladies, Caitlyn & Rebecca. Our room is located on the second floor of the house. Caitlyn is our architect for the Campus of Holistic Development (CHD) that is being built to house brigaders. Currently, students stay at Weda and Fair Hill, centrally located "hotels." Here is some information about the CHD if you are curious. Rebecca is the advisor for Water Brigades and soooo much more! I met her back in May when I first came to Ghana. For me, she played a big role in my decision to return. As you can see we use mosquito nets and they have been pretty helpful. Only got a few bites and have not had to use repellent yet.
Home Sweet Home!
Right now the house does not have running water, so using the bathroom requires some planning and it kinda gets a little stinky. We carry buckets of water up every day so we can do our daily washing. There is a second house in the back that has running water where we can shower and cook.
I guess at some point there was a wall between the houses, but someone decided that it should come down. Great idea especially when dinner is ready!
Getting to the back house!
Right now there are 10 of us living here and we share cooking and the grocery shopping among ourselves. Food gets eaten here so quick. Partially because it is super organic and actually rots in a couple of days and because there are so many of us. A thing of ice cream was devoured in 15 minutes, if that. And if you are thinking about sending a care package, please send food! I miss hot cheetos, sriracha, cheese, dark chocolate, tortillas, pizza. Oh geez, just thinking about all that stuff makes my mouth water. Bruce, I want to personally thank you for taking me to some DEEEE-licious places before I left. Those memories are keeping me going! My address is: P.O. Box 93, Mankessim, Ghana. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
Our kitchen!
Our fridge is a joke compared to the ones back in the states. Oh the luxuries we are fortunate to have!
Baby fridge!
If you are wondering where everyone is because no one is in any of the photos it's because they were either napping or out in Aboano, a community we work in. Last night we went to Salt Pond's festival. It was ridiculous. We danced and drank and ran into interpreters that work for GB. Our accoutant, Aikens, made sure to show us a good time. Azonto is a popular dance style in Ghana that is really fun. It is my sincere hope to come home and somehow be good at it.

So now that you know where I am staying and what it kinda looks like you are probably asking yourself what I am doing here. Well, I finally found out! As Program Developer for Public Health, my goals are pretty straightforward.
  1. Improve Medical Brigades' Public Health station.
  2. Provide support to Water and Medical Brigades in their work with selling Life Straws, filters that remove bacteria and parasites from water.
  3. Improve the follow up conducted at door-to-door.
  4. Ultimately, develop 10 day Public Health Brigade.
While it is pretty clear what I am to do the work all lies in the HOW. In the next month, I am working on having a comprehensive understanding of Public Health in Ghana as well as in Central America. I am researching project ideas with Kyle and Rachel for a UCLA brigade that is coming in December. Kyle and Rach are advisers for Medical and are super excited to help out. I am couldn't be more pleased to be working with them and to have their input. 

I am really excited because I have the opportunity to put the knowledge I gained while piloting gender empowerment workshops in Honduras. I definitely learned quite a bit about engaging community members, facilitating discussions about change, and empowering others to take ownership of their well being. I am a little rusty, but I think in a month's time we are going to have a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. And thankfully, I can share all that I am learning and doing with YOU! I miss you and can't wait to see you when I  visit in February. I hope we keep in touch until then. 
My view as I write to you.