Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wrapping Up My Time in Ghana

Yesterday was my last official work day for Global Mamas, and today is my last day in Cape Coast. I was surprised yesterday when I suddenly got hit with a wave of emotion and felt very sad that it was my last day. Although I have had a good experience in Ghana, I thought I was ready to go home. Turns out I secretly grew even more attached to this place than I thought!

Crowded office full of interns!
This week I started working on a very important project for Global Mamas, and I am sad that I am not going to be here long enough to finish it. I was doing timing exercises with the Mamas in Cape Coast. So I would go to a Mama’s shop, then I would watch her make a product from start to finish and time the process. This may seem like a trivial job, but it is extremely important for us, because Global Mamas is going to upgrade their pay scale based on the results from these trials. They want to make sure the Mamas are fairly compensated for the amount of time that they put into their work. I really loved this project because not only was it important, but it also gave me a chance to meet more of the Mamas and see what their shops are like. 

Grace working on the pleated skirt

Jennifer working on the pocket skirt

Jennifer's shop: God Is King Fashion
At the end of the day yesterday we had “Fan Ice Friday” in the office to celebrate the interns that are leaving (myself and three others). Fan Ice is like a Ghanian soft serve ice cream that is served in a plastic pouch. Tonight we are having our last dinner at Elli’s, an amazing chef who lives down the road, with all of the interns. Then tomorrow morning the four of us who are leaving are headed to Accra to stay there until our flights. Of the four of us I will be the last to leave since my flight is not until Wednesday morning. 

Celebrating Fan Ice Friday

The interns with the QC staff

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Emma, NOT Ama!

Here in Ghana most people have multiple names. They have an English name, and then either a Ghanian or a day name. Your day name depends on what day you were born. So for me since I was born on a Tuesday my name is Araba. This same name would be given to anyone who was born on a Tuesday (though some days have multiple name choices, and the names for men and women are different). 

The problem I have run into however is that the day name for Saturday is Ama, making this an extremely common name. So when I introduce myself as “Emma” I have not yet encountered a Ghanian who did not think I was saying “Ama.” One man even got angry because I was “refusing to tell him my REAL name” (he wanted to know my “American” name) even when I tried explaining that my real name is Emma! (sounds to them like Ama)

So every time I introduce myself to someone this awkward and lengthy explanation of my name is sure to follow. I have to say “It’s not Ama, its Emma! I was NOT born on Saturday, my name just sounds similar to the Ghanaian name but it is actually with an E.” 

Now you may be thinking “how often do you really have to introduce yourself?” but the answer is multiple times a day. As an “obruni” (literally “white person”) I stick out here like a sore thumb and everyone wants to know who you are and what you are doing. Cab drivers, people you walk past on the street, people visiting the resort where I go to use internet will all be constantly asking about who you are.

I think from now on I need to just start introducing myself by my middle name or something instead…  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Work work work!

So what I have been working on the past week is to create new training programs for our producers and quality control staff. We offer these special training courses to help our producers and employees gain more knowledge, grow their businesses, or get promoted. We have already held trainings in the past, but our guides on how to do trainings have not been standardized, and some have not been updated in years. So myself and another intern, Miebi, have been going through all the old files and fixing them up. We have also hosted focus groups to figure out what the employees want from their trainings. 

On Monday I am going to be hosting a SMART goals workshop for our quality control employees. This will teach them how to set goals for themselves and make realistic plans to meet those goals. Since my time here is almost up I will not have time to run other trainings, but I have also developed trainings to cover the topics of bookkeeping and costing & pricing. I am glad that Global Mamas is able to offer these trainings to help the women! By helping them grow their businesses they are gaining a way of creating sustainable income to support their families. Many of the women have been able to send their children to school after working with Global Mamas, when previously they could not afford to.

Besides working I am also making time to have some fun! This week I took surfing lessons and did a canopy walk! Both were great experiences! 

A wild monkey! It got really angry after I took a photo of it with the flash on!

Surfing at Black Star Surf Shop!

The canopy walk! Great view, but not recommended for those who are scared of heights!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ghanaian Wedding!

On Saturday I went to the engagement ceremony of one of the mamas named Suzy! This is a ceremony that takes place before the wedding to make an engagement official. The entire ceremony was in fonte so it was a little hard to understand what was going on, but some of the Ghanaians there explained to us a little what was going on. Essentially what happened was the heads of the households exchanged gifts, then many prayers and songs were recited, and finally the bride was brought out and the couple exchanged rings. The entire thing took place in the living room of the bride’s parents’ house, with about 50 people squished in. 

Global Mamas interns dressed up for the wedding!

Families exchanging gifts

The couple exchanges engagement rings!

Afterwards everyone went outside where tents were set up and music was played (though pretty much the only ones who danced were the children present).  The newly engaged couple were greeted by many cheers when they came outside, and many pictures were taken! Then the meal was served, jollof rice with some meat. Also, they handed out plastic baskets to all the guests, which I guess is a tradition at Ghanaian engagements. 

The newly engaged couple!

The entire thing did not last long, the ceremony started around 1pm and we left by 2:30 or so. Though officially the ceremony at 9am. However, this was 9am Ghanaian time, which means actually starting at 1pm. We showed up around 11:30 despite the 9am start. I am starting to get used to how this "Ghana time" works! The ceremony was really cool to see, and we had a lot of fun playing with the children there, including this little girl who I think is a future model based on how she was posing with our sunglasses! 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Crazy Week!

So, a quick update on what the past week has consisted of for me!

Saturday: 8 hour hike up Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in West Africa.

Sunday: Rest and recovery from the long hike at a nearby lodge.

Monday - Wednesday: Working in Ho at one of our production sites. Myself and another intern had to teach them new patterns as well as new batik stamps.

Thursday - Friday: Timing exercises at a production site in Ashaiman. The first day I had to time how long it took a team of seamstresses to complete an order of eight skirts, but I had to stop timing any time they were distracted or not actually working. The next day I timed each step in the process of creating an Eli dress. They were long days.

So, despite my brief descriptions, it was certainly a tiring but informative week! I had to do a lot of traveling between production sites. I am glad I got to see so many places though, and spend several days observing the mamas. I have a better appreciation and understanding of the work they do now! Tonight I am back in Accra and tomorrow I head to Cape Coast where I will stay for the next month!

Viewing the falls from the mountain top

Celebrating the completion of the hike by taking a dip under the lower falls

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tro tro

I have been so busy lately and have so many experiences to post about! I would post more often but we haven't had internet. So for today I will tell you about my first experience leaving Accra and riding a tro tro to Hohoe.

A tro tro (aka tro) is essentially a modified van with extra seats added that functions as a taxi for 15 people. There is a tro station, but it is not what you would typically think of as a station. It is a dirty parking lot in the middle of the city with dozens of vans crammed in. It is crowded with people – some screaming out the destination of their tros and loading luggage, some looking for transport, many carrying items for sale, and others doing who knows what. When we got out of our taxi a man came up to us and took us to the tro we needed (for a 2 cedi fee of course) and we loaded on. We got the three seats in the back row. It cost us 11 cedi each. The tro has no certain leaving time – it leaves when it’s full. Thankfully ours was mostly full by the time we got there and we only had to wait about 20 minutes to leave. There was too much luggage to fit in the trunk, so they tied the door shut with some string. We drove the whole way there with a half open trunk, but thankfully nothing fell out. Clearly this was not an unusual problem. 

This was my first time getting out of Accra since I arrived in Ghana. The countryside is very interesting. Most of the time we were driving through green brushy areas. Occasionally we would pass through a small town, often with sales people who would run up and try to sell us items as we passed. Our driver stopped in one town and our entire tro became surrounded about 3 women deep, all trying to sell us food and drinks. They would pull open the windows and hold their products inside trying to entice us. We bought one water satchel to share. The farther we went the more the scenery became like the Africa I pictured. The areas looked poorer, and there were huts with straw roofs. The entire way we constantly saw goats and chickens along the road. We passed many schools, all with children wearing orange and brown uniforms. We also saw many beautiful mountains.

Another thing about tros is that you can feel every single bump in the road. And since this is Africa and the roads are not up kept, there are a lot of bumps and potholes. Tros also do not slow down for speed bumps. At one point I literally flew a foot up into the air out of my seat. The farther we got away from Accra, the worse the roads became. 

Overall the tro actually was not as bad as I was expecting. It seemed to go by pretty quickly! And all the scenery made for an interesting ride.