Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 49 - Last Day in Koff-town & Movie Night with Children

So today was my last day here in Koforidua. While 7 weeks is not that much time, in some regards it seems like so much longer. When I arrived here in Ghana, there were many things that seemed quite strange and out of the ordinary. Now they just seem normal. Its interesting what 7 weeks in a place will do to your perspective on things.

There are many children that live in the compound behind the Burro office. Many times they will come up during the day just to play or see what is going on. Jan has befriended many of them and treats them as if they were her own children (she does not have any children of her own). I have been wanting to try and do something for the kids before we left. I had thought that it would be a great idea to have a movie night with them, but didn't know how or where I would find a projector.

Last thursday Andrew, Cecilia (a Burro employee) and I were out shopping in the market. We stopped by an electronics shop and to see where we could rent a projector. They didn't know, but said that they might be able to find a place that does. They started calling some people, but weren't able to reach anyone. They told us to stop by another day and we would see if they could find one.

On Friday I was in the office all day and didn't have a chance to go back to the shop. On Saturday afternoon, I went out for a little while and stopped by to see what they had found out. I ended up meeting the owner of the shop, Kinsely Jefferson. He is, without a doubt, one of the most Christlike people that I have ever met. He hadn't been able to find a projector, but said they he would personally take me around to some other shops and see what we could find.

We first went to a store and was told they didn't have one. A few nights earlier, Andrew and I had seen a restaurant showing a movie out front, so we went over there night. Yes, some patrons had watched a movie there some nights before, but no they didn't know where the projector was. However, they told us of someone in the market who might be able to help us.

We went to the market and attempted to find the individual who might know something about the projector. We couldn't find her little store, so we had to ask around. We were finally directed to a small nail salon and Kinsley started explaining what we were looking for. Yes she said, she know the man who has the projector, but doesn't know if the projector has already been rented out. However, she can direct us to another place where there are some people who can find out.

We walk across town to a "cold store." A cold store is where you go to purchase frozen meat (chicken, beef, fish, etc...). When we got there, Kinsely asked for some certain individuals, but we were told that they were out running an errand. We would have to wait until they got back. We sat around and waited for about 20 minutes and finally they showed up. Yes they know about the projector, and yes they rent it out occasionally. But no, they don't have it. Their uncle has been entrusted to help watch over it. Kinsley tells them that we want to have the projector by Monday and asks if that will be a problem. "No," they reply, but they will have to check with their uncle and make sure. Kinsley takes down their name and phone number and indicates to me that he will call them on Monday morning to make sure and then he will let me know.

All in all, Kinsley nearly spent 90 minutes with me on Saturday., trying to help me find a projector.

I called Kinsley this morning. He replied that he had spoken to the other individuals but that the projector wasn't going to be available for some reason. He did, however, want me to come to his store around 2:00 and we would go out looking again to try and find one. I showed up around 2:30 and we went out looking for a projector. He has an idea in mind and off we set. Getting there, we find out that no they don't have a projector, but that there is another place that might. Kinsley makes sure that he has the directions, and off we walk to the other location.

While we were working, I learned that Kinsley shuts his store down at 2:00 every day. He works at the store in the morning, but is also a minister of education or something like that. He also works in a school and helps teach the kids about  and do other projects with them.

This is Kinsley Jefferson

At one point, I thank him again for his time and taking me around to find a projector. "No problem," he replies. He just wants to help out because he knows that someday he will need help of someone else.

We find the location, and Kinsley proceeds to negotiate on mybehalf, making sure that I get a good deal on the rental of the equipment. He also double and triple checks to make sure that we will in fact be able to get the projector tonight. What diligence he demonstrated. The reservation was made and we agreed to come back around 6:00 to pick up the machinery (and the individuals that come along with it to watch over the equipment). Although he didn't need to, Kinsley asked me to stop and pick him up so that he could come back with me to get the equipment. He wanted to make sure they gave me all of the equipment that they said that they would and that they didn't try and charge me more that we had agreed upon.

After we picked up the equipment, we dropped Kinsley off at his store. I tried to give him a little bit of money for his time, but he refused.

The movie night went off without a hitch. Everyone had a great time. And the best part, it only cost GHC 24 ($17.14 USD). This was a fun way to spend the last night in Kofforidua

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 48 - The Church in Ghana

Wherever you happen to visit an LDS church meeting in another part of the world, you can take comfort in knowing that it will be fairly similiar to what you are accustomed. When you visit other locations, however,  there are always unique perspectives that give the church a certain flavor in the location that you should choose to visit.

Here in Ghana is no different. Today for example, there were many things that happened at church that are worth mentioning.

1) When he who directs gets up to welcome everyone, he will start by saying "good morning." Almost in unison, the entire congregation will repeat "good morning"

2) During sacrament meeting, the leader speaker was Elder Cranney (the senior missionary that we spoke about at the beginning of my blog). He gave a very good talk about tithing and about how you will be blessed by paying your tithing. The message must have hit home with one woman and she got up out of her seat, walked to the front of the the chapel, and proceeded to ask Elder Cranney for a tithing slip. He politely asked her to return to her seat and mentioned that she could get one after the meeting was over. Talk about giving such a power message that you inspire people to act (or get out of their seat :) )

3) During Sunday school, the lesson was on Samuel 11 and 12 "Create in me a new heart." We were talking about the story of David and his fall with Bathsheba. Somehow the conversation turned to whether or not David raped Bathsheba. For the next ten minutes or so, several people felt that it was their moral responsibility to voice their opinions on the matter. Finally, the teacher happened to look over at Andrew and I. We gave him the "its time to move on" look and he finally moved on.

4) So in sacrament meeting I was flipping through the front of the hymn book that I happened to be holding. There in the front of the book I found this image. Kind of ironic. (Does this mean that whomever wrote this will be punished by God?)

5) We had a joint meeting with the relief society and priesthood. Towards the end of the meeting, the first counselor in the branch presidency was walking around waking up people who were dozing off. Good thing that doesn't happen in the states or else they might be waking me up every week :)

These are just a few perspectives that I have noticed on the church while here in Ghana. Church will never be the same after experiencing the church here in Ghana!!!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 47 - USA vs Ghana....

Would would have thought that it would come down to this. World Cup football match. USA vs Ghana. I happen to be living in Ghana, but am an American. Who do I root for? Do I root for my partria or side with the locals with whom I am living amongst? So much internal conflict!!!! :)

The days leading up to the game today have been pretty crazy. A majority of the cars seen driving down the road have Ghanaians flags on them. Everyone that you meet is talking about the game and how their "Black Stars" are going to end the match victorious. Everyone is willing to tell you their predictions on the game and by how many goals the Ghanaians will beat the US.

Andrew and I made arrangements to have a buffet dinner at the Capitol View with the other Burro office staff. It was nice to be able to just show up and have our food ready, without having to wait for an hour just to get our food.

Here is our table, with a great view of the game

Part of the waiter staff at the Capitol View, standing for the Ghana national anthem during the opening part of the game. The waiter on the left is Joseph. He knows us as we are regular customers

Our buffet

Minestrone soup, vegetables, egg fried rice, french fries, grilled chicken, fish fillets, beef stroganoff, and ice cream

Everyone deeply engrossed in the game

Rose, the burro office manager, worried that the US is going to score

So Jan brought these table decorations. Each country had its flag, along with three colored balloons representing the colors on its flags. When one team would score, we would pop a balloon of the other country (i.e. when Ghana scores, we pop a US balloon). This is the balloon situation at the end of regulation

The balloon situation at the end of overtime

Once the game was officially over, the entire place erupted. People were running around dancing in the restaurant. It was mad hysteria. The celebration continued the rest of the night, but in the streets. Driving arounds afterwords, there must have been thousands of people out on the streets banging pots and pans, blowing trumpets, and yelling. (Kind of reminds you of a King family New Years eve celebration).

Andrew and I were discussing this evening how awesome it is that these third world developing countires have something to rally around. Had the US won this evening, would you even known it driving down the road? Sure there may be select pockets of people in the US that would be out celebrating, but for all intents and purposes, it would have largely unnoticed, unless you happened to watch the game. Here in Ghana it is a completely different story. The ENTIRE country rallies around their football team. You see people, anywhere from young children to older adults running around the streets after a football win. Andrew and I have both spent time in latin and south America and the same phenomenon occurs. Your national football team wins, you are happy for days. If they lose, it is almost as if there was a death in the family.

Andrew and I were hypothesizing that perhaps it has something to do with the socio-economic status of the countries. Perhaps because the people do not have a lot materially, they find out things to rally around and prioritize in their lives. How awesome it would be for an entire country to have something to rally around. Something to get excited over and something to celebrate. Let us in American take note from these people. Let's find something that we too can all rally around as a country. After 9-11, for a time it appeared that the country was united. But shortly thereafter, everyone slipped back into their own little world. Shame, shame, shame

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 46 - Burro HQ (Where all the action takes place)

So many many weeks ago I promised to show some pictures of where we live. Now with less than a week left here in Ghana, I better do this post or else it may not happen. 

Burro HQ reside in Koforidua, Ghana, West Africa. We are located on hospital road, near the intersection of market street. Burro actually has their offices on the second floor of an old building that was build back when the British still occupied Ghana or shortly thereafter. (Ghana used to be a British colony) 

We have our offices and live on the second story. Below us is a restaurant, but we don't ever hear any noise from it. In addition, we have never eaten at the restaurant. Even the Ghanaians have told us that it isn't any good :) To get to our entrance, you walk to the left of this building and go around back.

You walk up these stairs

To our front entrance

View of the courtyard from the front entrance

Looking out from our front entrance. Behind us, there is a compound of houses, with a big courtyard in the middle

Looking down from the front entrance. The stairs are very steep. We are always afraid that the little kids will fall down them and get hurt.

Here is the layout of the office. As I show pictures from the rest of the office, I will try and reference the rooms above. The room entitled "Whit's room" is no longer Whit's room. Just before us interns arrive, Whit got his own place to stay. That room has since been turned into an office.



Hallway from kitchen, leading to toilet room and shower room

Shower room

Toilet room

Main hallway that you enter when coming into the Burro offices. The entrance is halfway down this hall on the right hand side
Conference room, what is labeled at dining/training room on the layout from above

Battery Charging Room (where all the action takes place)

This is the room where Andrew and I stay. This is the room labeled "spare room"


Views from the street outside of our house

Views from the street outside our house

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 45 - Newsletter Writers for a day and Late Night at the office

The MBA program has a newsletter that goes out periodically. During the school year, it the goal is for it to go out weekly (although it usually doesn't always follow that schedule). This summer, the newsletter committee decided that they would send out one edition during the summer. Nearly a month ago, they send out a request for individuals to submit articles for the newsletter. Amongst other types of articles, they were asking for individuals to submit articles about a "very unusual / super cool internship experience." I didn't initially give it much thought, but after a few days decided that it would be cool to write about our experience here in Ghana. As do most people, Andrew put off starting to write this until 2 days before it was due. We mulled around some ideas for a while, but couldn't get too decisive on what we wanted to write about. We were given a limit of 400 words (which we went over ) so it was hard to boil everything down.

We went through several iterations back and forth Wednesday and Thursday. Finally around 11:00 Thursday evening (the day that it was due), I hit the send button and emailed it off to the press. Sounds like the newsletter will be sent out within a week or two, so when it is, I will try and upload it to this blog. Who knows, maybe this is the start of my journalism career.

I have been working some pretty long hours to get these financials completed. I was up until 3:00AM (Friday morning) trying to get them finished. I did get them sent off and will review them tomorrow to find out what changes I need to make. Its been a fun experience to build the financial projections for Burro, however I definitely don't want to do 100% finance for the rest of my career. I would like to get out of the office occasionally.

Andrew came in and snapped some photos while I was working late tonight

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 44 - Worldcup Mayhem, Fufu, and "Let the music flow"

So world cup mayhem continues here in Ghana. This afternoon Andrew and I went to the Capitol View hotel to watch the US vs. Algeria came. As previously mentioned, I have never been much of a soccer fan, but have really gotten into to it down here. As crazy as it sounds, it can be fun to watch people run around for 90 minutes and try to kick a ball into a net. For those of you who saw the US game today, thank goodness for stoppage time at the end of the game. The US had so many chances to score, but just couldn't seem to find the back of the net. When Donovan and Dempsey made the last run down the field and found the back of the net, it was awesome!!! As we drove home, we came across a sign that I think explains the last drive and goal by the US.

Ghana also had a soccer match this evening against Germany. We were invited over to one of our coworkers house, Nat, to watch the game. When we got over there, they were just making fufu. Andrew and I both had thought it would be interesting to pound out the cassava plant, so we took a turn at it. 

The cassava is boiled and then it it put in this wooden bowl and beaten/smashed for about 30 minutes until it becomes a glob. It is then added to soup and eaten. 

We had a great time at Nat's house watching the game. Even though Ghana last to Germany, they were still excited because they made it on to the second round. Interestingly enough, their next game will be against the US on saturday!!!!

As with any party with Nat, the night wouldn't be complete without some dancing. A while back when we had a party at Whits house, Nat coined the phrase "Let the music flow!!!" It has been a running joke between he and I since that time. Above is Nat "letting the music flow"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 43 - Unwanted House Guests

There are many reasons why one may choose not to do business in Africa. It may due to the lack of infrastructure. Perhaps it is because you would be too far away from family. Language may be an issue for some. You may love American food too much. For me, however, one reason could possibly be the unwanted house guests (I have had such a great experience here that I could probably get over this one).

I was chilling out in the battery room this evening when Andrew came in and said to me, "you're gonna want to see this. Grab your camera." Thoughts went racing through my mind. What could be so spectacular that he came rushing in to the room. "Is it a bat?" I speculated. "You'll have to come and see," was his reply.

I ran into the conference room to grab my camera. While in the conference room grabbing my camera, I happened to glance at the ceiling and saw one of the biggest spiders that I have seen. Coming to Africa, I expected to see a lot of spiders and bugs. I have definitely seen my fair share of bugs since I have been here, but haven't seen many spiders. Although I loved the movie Aracnaphobia, I am actually quite terrified of spiders. If you don't believe me, just ask my wife about the story of "Wolfy."

However, the spider took back seat to the bat, at least temporarily. Andrew took my camera into the room and got some footage of the bat flying around. Andrew had been sitting at his computer in the other room when all of a sudden he heard a noise above him. Looking up, he saw that there was a bat flying around. The building that we stay in is fairly old. When Burro first moved in here, there were a lot of holes in the ceiling and there were some problems with bats in the attic. There are still a few very small holes in some of the rooms and best we can tell, the bat came down from the attic through one of those holes. Andrew opened the door again to look for the bat, but couldn't see it at first. He happened to look up, and the bat was hanging above his head. Not knowing how to take care of the bat, we decided to deal with the spider first.

Heading back into the conference room, we tried to develop a game plan on how to take care of the spider. The ceilings in this building are fairly tall, probably about 14 feet or so. It was no easy task to reach up to the spider. We tried to find something to use to kill the spider, but had a hard time finding something tall enough to reach. We finally found a mop and removed the mop part, just leaving a flat piece of plastic. Up Andrew went onto the table, while I stayed away filing the footage. He took a jab at the spider, but missed. The spider started running all over the ceiling and I started screaming!!!! Andrew repositioned himself and was able to half squash the spider, although the spider fell to the ground and was still partially alive, but not moving. I grabbed the can of raid and finished the job!!!

Back to the bat. Before going back to the room that the bat was in, we decided to shut all of the doors to the rest of the house just in case the bat came flying out. As we went to shut the door to Jan's room, it appeared that there was a bat hanging from the ceiling in her room. Upon closer inspection, we noticed that there was just a hole in the ceiling and it appeared that some of the insulation had started to fall through from the ceiling. (We later found some insulation on the table in the room that the bat was in and believe that the bat must have come in from the ceiling in Jan's room). As we went to leave Jan's room, Andrew happened to glance over at the other door in Jan's room. Above the door, there is a small pane of glass. There was another spider just hanging out on the pane of glass. We started to wonder if a nest of spiders had hatched or something like that. The saga continued as Andrew attempted and succeeded in killing this spider as well. Things didn't go as smoothly with this one, however. He wasn't able to kill the spider while it was on the wall. The spider fell to the ground, and Andrew chased it around the room. He finally got the spider cornered and want after it. The spider literally started running at Andrew. Even after Andrew whacked off a couple of the legs, it still kept moving. Finally he stopped the stop completely... whew!!!!!!

Finally back to the bat. Andrew decided that he was going to go in the room armed with a towel, a laundry bag, and an umbrella and take care of the bat once and for all. I think he was a little disappointed after he entered the room and wasn't able to find the bat at all. There is an adjoining room and he searched that one as well, but we never did find the bat. Perhaps the bat was able to get back up into the attic through one of the very very small holes in the ceiling....

The morale of this blog post is to think about what is important to you if you decide to do business in another country. For me, I am not a big fan of unwanted house guests. But as long as I have an umbrella, a mop stick, and a can of raid, I can probably handle anything that comes my way (unless I have someone else there to take care of it for me!!!! Thanks Andrew!!!!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 42 - You're welcome.... You're invited

One observation that I have noticed here in Ghana is just how polite everyone is. Everyone from the shopkeepers to people that you meet on the street. Sure you run into a few people every once in a while, but by and far the people here are very friendly and hospitable.

There are two phrases in particular that the people always use with us: 1) You're welcome, and 2) You're invited

You're Welcome - Whenever we have gone anywhere new (gone into and new stores, arrived at our hotel, spoken to people on the street, etc...) frequently the first words out of their mouth are "You're welcome!!!" At first I thought this was a little strange. After all, I thought, that is a phrase that is only supposed to used after someone tells you thank you. The more that I have reflected on it, however, there more I have come to revere and appreciate the way that it is used here. The interesting thing is how sincere Ghanaians are when they say those words. You can tell that they truly are glad that you are there and they want you to feel welcome and at home. They will go out of their way to make sure that you have a memorable experience.

You're Invited - Another phrase that is fairly common to hear around meal time is the phrase "You're invited." It is used at other times as well, but mealtime is a fairly common time to hear this phrase. It is customary in Ghana to offer to share you meal with anyone that is in the room when you are eating. For instance, if I make some food and take it to the conference room to eat, if there are other people in the room, it would be customary for me to say to them "You're invited." Basically it is an invitation for them to share my food with me, if they so wish. It is very refreshing to be around people who are so caring and selfless. They are always willing to put others first.

I think that us Americans can take a few lessons from the Ghanaians.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 41 - Driving / Traffic in Ghana

So you want to know about driving in Ghana? Buckle up!!!

As was mentioned in a prior post, the first thing that makes driving an interesting experience is all of the potholes in the road. You need to be a fighter pilot in order to dodge all of the holes.

On a recent trip to Accra, the driving experience here in Ghana manifest itself quite nicely. Everything can be going very nicely on the roads when all of a sudden you come up to an intersection or a town. Everything can change in a blink of an eye. All of a sudden you have what was a 2 (better said, a 1.5) lane road, now you have people trying to make it a 4 lane road. Other drivers will try and pass you, only to block oncoming traffic. 

If it is like this in Ghana, I can only imagine what it must be like in other less developed African countries.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 40 - 6 Headed Palm Tree and World Cup Madness in Accra

Andrew and I decided to take advantage of today and go to Accra to hit some markets for shopping. We got out of here fairly early (around 6:45). About 30 minutes from Koff-town, we hit the town of Kwamoso. Kwamoso is widely known as the only location in the world with a six headed palm tree.

Picture I took

Here is another history lesson for you. "Kwamoso was once treasured as a land of mysteries where the fared Tigari cult and other forms of African traditional worship dominated but has now become a safe haven for numerous Christian churches.The name Kwamoso "Wokoa emoso" literally means "As you go, don't disclose what you saw," reinforces the belief that there were mysterious occurences and unexplained pyschic phenomena and traditional healing on such a large scale which attracted worshippers of traditional religion to Kwamoso in the distant past. Today the worship of deities is almost confined to history as Christianity has taken deep root in the life of the people.

Picture from online

"The only reminder of Kwamoso as a place of wonders is a six-headed palm tree located on the outskirts of town on the Accra-Koforidua Highway. Botanists regard the obscure palm tree as a freak of nature. However, the traditionalists see it as a manifestation of the supremacy of the gods who made the mystery six-headed palm tree their abode.

We spent some time in the markets in Accra to purchase some last minute souvenir items.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was watching the Ghana world cup game in Accra. At the movie theater in the Accra mall, they put the games up on the big screen. It was exhilarating to be in the theater and hear these Ghanaians cheer for their team. I have never been much up on soccer, but after sitting through an experience like that, how can you not? The atmosphere was electric. Unfortunately, Ghana wasn't able to capitalize on many opportunities that they had and ended up with a draw. So if Ghana and the US both advance to the second round, they could end up playing each other next Saturday or Sunday. Imagine how that game would be!!! Go Ghana!!!!