My JF Experience – Part 2

My JF Experience – Part 2

Zair Naim

So I didn’t really intend to write a second part to my JF experience but I think I missed the best parts in the first one. So I think we were at the point where I stepped off of the plane, it didn’t take me long to witness “greasing”. Just as we entered the airport we were greeted by a receptionist asking for proof of yellow fever vaccination, and it so happened that one of my fellow JFs had forgotten hers. So they asked her for $50 USD and let her go. We were a bit confused as to how this potentially serious health concern was fixed using nothing more than some cash but we didn’t think much of it.

Alas that was not the only bill that we would be separated from that evening. Moments later a young man approached us dressed as a baggage assistant of some sort. He knew exactly what he was doing as he grabbed our bags and piled them onto a trolley. We insisted that we did not need his help but he was just a good citizen doing his job. And of course, minutes later, we reached a checkpoint where we had to give him a little money to let us pass through.

Now I don’t mean to paint Ghanaians in a negative light: they are very nice people. They have a long standing history of gift giving as a sign of respect. Unfortunately, however, due to some negative impacts of colonialism, it has shifted to bribery in some cases. Anyways, let’s get back on topic. After the airport, we managed to fight our way into a taxi, which was a lot harder than you might imagine as all the taxi drivers wanted us in their taxi. I find it rather amusing that just as we may consciously or subconsciously stereotype “Africans” as poor, they seem to assume we are rich in the same manner.

Speaking of being rich, there were many times during my placement when I would request a trotro, and I would instead be promptly directed to a taxi because why would I, a rich foreigner, ride in a 30 year old gutted German utility van with the common folk? Convincing them otherwise was an exercise in futility. But one of the great things about EWB is that its volunteers must live at the level of everyone else. It allows us to better know and understand our community and forces us to become a part of it.

Arriving in Kumasi felt rather strange because I was in the city where I would be working for the next few months but it would still be a few more days before I could move into the VOTO house. As part of our in-country training, we had to go to the market to buy a number of items, one of which were bathing slippers. Firstly, we missed the market entirely because we went the wrong way, rather impressive considering how utterly massive it was. Next, we found slippers and spent 10 times as much we were supposed to, one of the many great perks of unlisted yet negotiable prices at any street side stall you walk into.

Getting lost and caught in awkward scenarios became somewhat of a speciality of mine during my stay. I received a marriage proposal by a mother and daughter while buying cloth; nothing came out of my mouth besides a lengthy awkward laugh before I turned and essentially ran away. I failed at buying hard boiled eggs, I got ripped off on countless occasions. Fortunately, I got a lot better at knowing when it was happening even if I didn’t care enough to do anything about it. Derp… I didn’t get around to talking about my actual work which was the entire reason that I had to write a part 2 to my original post. Well I guess you’ll have to ask me in person or through facebook. Something about VOTO or phone surveys or something.

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