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Blake and Nicole's Trip to Ghana

From april 30th - june 27, Blake and Nicole will be in Ghana volunteering in a La Polyclinic in Accra, Ghana. This is where all the action will be uploaded!

Diary Entries

Monday, 30 June 2008

Location: florence, Italy

hello everyone,

so we are done with the africa leg of the journey and on to the little italian stopover. It was really sad to say goodbye to the ppl that were our family for the last 2 months. We went one last time to madina and gave fati all of our remaining toys and school supplies, and in order to prevent mad hysteria as 30 kids fight over presents, she agreed to give them out as kids were good.

From accra we had a relatively hassle-free trip to rome where they only asked us what was in one bag and when we said presents, they said ok, your good to go.

For the last couple days, we were in rome. Rome is really pricy...especially coming from africa.
here is a little comparison...
taxi to the airport in accra - 5 dollars
taxi from the airport to our hostel in rome - 40 dollars...same distance

not to mention, our last meal in ghana cost nicole and i 75 cents, with drinks being 30 roughly 65 cents each. we split a pizza and had glasses of water for about 10 euro or abotu 16.50....a bit of a shock, but we were kinda prepared for this.

so in rome, we saw a bunch of artsy stuff, and some ruins (i am a science major, and really dont have the proper appreciation for art) but it was pretty flooring to see the collesium, and michalengelos ceiling painting thing, you know where the dudes are touching fingers??? the rest was relatively boring, but nightlife was cool...

we went out for a late dinner after having a nap and ended up seeing sites and drinking from streetside vendors until 2 in the morning...we went the wrong way home and were sober and tired by the time we got was amazing to see the difference in lifestyle, there were thousands of ppl out and chillin everywhere, youth drinking and not creating much fuss...sunday and monday however were very different, most of the shops were closed, and so we only really did touristy things.

tomorrow is the uffizi or something, and were gonna go see david and his tiny dong....internet is faster, so we might actually post some picss.....

thanks for reading....see you all in a week!

Blake and Nicole

Friday, 27 June 2008

Location: Ghana

Hey everyone,
This is our last day in Ghana. As clichéd as it sounds, it feels like we only arrived yesterday. There is lots to tell, we finished a lot of work on the Madina Orphanage project, creating profiles for all 31 kids and compiling information and photos needed for their National Health Insurance. Also worth noting is that Volunteer Abroad is going to adopt a more comprehensive interview process to better tailor the volunteer placement to the individual. A major component of this is a series of specific questions that I wrote up, and VA was so impressed (ha!) that they are going to use this for all future volunteers in all countries!

Also this week, we went to a world cup qualifying match between Ghana and Gabon. Ghana slayed the competition winning 2-0. It was my first football experience, and it was incredible to say the least. The energy in the stadium was tremendous and there were entire sections devoted to fans that played instruments for the whole match.

We have seen the majority of the 22 ppl we arrived with leave, and Nicole has been very sad. We are now just tying up loose ends and getting ready for Italy, a little bit more traveling on the way home. The internet is quite slow so still no pictures, we will post more than you can imagine as soon as we get home.

Bye for now

Blake and Nicole

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Location: Ghana

hello everyone,

This is Blake again. I am pretty much the one who writes on this thing, nicole is too busy with facebook.

So for exciting news, this weekend we did a bunch of travelling. We went up north to Mole national park and went on a walking safari. We saw elephants, warthogs, deer-like ungulates, and baboons up close...I will do my best to compress some pictures and post them. We were literally feet from wild animals and it was pretty awesome.

We also hit up a few other of the cooler things ghana has to offer. An incredible waterfall (where i slipped on some rocks) and our host father daniel took us to his home town which just so happens to be part of a monkey sanctuary. Daniel is so good with the (mona) monkies that he was able to coax them out of the trees and we could feed them. We also saw black and white colobus monkeys in the upper canopy trees.

We are coming into our last week here, and are just trying to finish up all things related to the Madina orphanage project. We will be going there a couple times this week, and scrambling to get as much information as we can for the kids health insurance forms. The last few days we will spend probably in Ada, and just reflect on our time here.

Anyways, thanks for reading, and I will do my best to post some pics.

Blake and Nic

Saturday, 07 June 2008

Location: accra, Africa

hey everyone.

Nicole and I just got back yesterday from a mid-week excursion to cape coast. Cape coast was a major center for the slave trade, so appropriately, we went and did a tour of cape coast castle. We learned history of the site, which was really beyond words. Slaves were traded by local kings for weapons and alcohol, and the men and women were separated, into dark dungeons for up to6 weeks with no light, and in small cramped conditions. If interested, I am sure that someone has documented the history of the castle much better, but the experience itself was indescribable. We sat in small isolation cells where the most resistant of slaves were left to die...we saw marks on the walls and floors made by the slaves as they clawed at the ground.

The whole trip however was not this depressing. We went for dinner and did a mini-pub crawl on the way back to our hostel. The bars were small and barely fit the 6 of us, but beer was 1.00 and shots were 10 cents.

The following day we went and did a canopy walk in the rain forest, and the view was incredible. We will try and add pics, but the internet is slow... After that we went to a secluded beach and body-boarded in the waves for roughly 6 hours....hopped a convoluted trotro ride home and made it back in time for dinner.

also we are having a block party tomorrow for the neighborhood kids and their families. I will be helping to cook for ~50 ppl and we have some fun games planned for the kids.

anyways, we'll update more soon.

Blake and Nicole

Monday, 02 June 2008

Location: accra, Africa

Hello everyone,

Well it is past the half-way point, and I guess we can say we are somewhat acclimating to life in Ghana. Nicole officially left the hospital today, she talked with the head matron and thanked her for the experience. It is hard to actively participate in the health care process here as there are actually a lot of staff. I have been able to observe and learn quite a lot here though. I am given access to the doctor’s and the director on their weekly rounds and get to see patients diagnoses and course of treatment. This week I worked in the laboratory and got to see do the diagnostic tests for diseases like malaria, sickle-cell anemia and hepatitis. The lab is relatively high tech and they are very efficient.

So since Nicole is no longer at the hospital she and I and another volunteer are piloting a couple of our own projects. The first one is for an orphanage in Madina, a small town near Accra. At the orphanage we are working on profiles for the 30 kids and raising money to get the children health insurance. The health insurance is really cheap ($2 a year) so we look to do it until they are 16 or 18. We have already stumbled across some administrative problems, but should be able to work through them soon. Nicole and Devon are working on setting up a sort of planning guide for education programs in Ghana. Since some children (especially those who are orphans) can not afford good regular teachers and rely on volunteers. They are looking to set up a way to test the children to see what skills they need to develop (reading, writing, counting, etc) and set up a framework for what new incoming volunteers can teach.

A major problem here is that the kids will only learn (by memory) passages in books instead of the actual material, or the teachers do not follow the curriculum for varying reasons. As a result, these kids cannot pass the standardized tests to get in to future schools, and end up quitting school all together. Hopefully this program will keep the incoming teachers aware of the abilities of the students, and help them to pass their tests. Finally, a project I am working on is a placement selecting tool for incoming volunteers based on their experience (pre-med with no experience to nurse to med student) and expectations of Ghana and their experience to best place them. Coupled with this, I am working on a backup placement for volunteers if their placement doesn’t work out. It is going to be a simple educational presentation that they can take to varying communities. A lot of the medicine that needs to be practiced here is preventative medicine. Simple handwashing techniques and mosquito net usage could really limit the stress felt by the hospitals. So if there is a placement that is not working out for a volunteer, they will be able to come back to Accra, and do this outreach program.

Anyways, that’s what we’re doing, a bit more of the actual work this time, not so much culture shock stuff!

Blake and Nicole

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Location: Accra, Ghana

Hi everyone!

Nicole here :)

I hope everyone is doing well at home. I haven't really had a chance to read up on what Blake's been writing, but hopefully there isn't too much overlap.

It's amazing to think that we've been here for a nearly a month now. Sometimes I think that I haven't learned anything in this past month, and at the same time, I have learned so much. There are many differences here, and yet at the same time, there are so many similarities.

First off, I should mention that the mosquitos here especially love my blood. No matter how much bug spray I put on, it's not enough. Lol. My body reacts to these mosquitos really strangely which is sometimes quite alarming. In addition to the large mosquito bites that I get, I somtimes get a pink ring surrounding it. The next day, the mosquito bites turn into purple bruises. One of the guys here called it a mosquito punch rather than a mosquito bite... which I think explains what I get a lot better :) Right now I've got matching bites on both my ankles, the backs of my arms, my forearms and my thighs. Ridiculous.

I love the food here... it's too bad that it doesn't love me back. My stomach seems to reject food that I eat here... and transports it through my body speedily... if you get my drift! Haha!

Also, I'm changing placements here. I've got a couple of things on the go as to what I'm doing now... but nothing is planned yet. I'll keep everyone updated...

Okay, that's all I can really think of now. I'll write soon though.


Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Location: accra

hey obrunis

Internet still isnt working at the house, and yesterday the electric company threatened to cut off the power because they thought we tampered with something. There seems to be some corruption around here (they had their water turned off for a couple months before) and you have to do a lot of smooth talking or else pay bribes. Luckily we have a few ghanaians living with us and they know what is legit and they stand up for the house. I am glad I am in accra, even though it is a really busy city, I have avoided a lot of the harder parts of rural living (like fetching water daily, blackouts, money for transportation to work).

The hospital has been good for me, and well, not so much for nicole. we somewhat came in with a grandious view of how I would be changing and saving lives, and it isnt really true. THe medical system is new, and there is health insurance but not everyone has it. THere are also private clinics that are terrible. They are better than canadian hospitals and only the rich can afford them. A night stay is around 300 dollars and in a place where this exceeds monthly income it is rediculous. The hospital we work at is a govt hospital and so even though the luxuries (and sometimes supplies) arent there, the staff make it great. They genuinely care, and everyone works well together.

I will soon be in the treatment room doing wound dressings and I am learning lots from the doctors and staff. I am getting better at cross-cultural communication, and have a new appreciation for working with tropical diseases and the simple educational things that you can do to save lives. I have seen really sick kids get a lot better, and got to do rounds with the doctors and director.

Nicole was okay for the first two weeks, she was in the lab and then in peds with me, but this week she was supposed to be in the labor ward. Since it is a major hospital, they wanted her to have scrubs on(and they didnt have any). Nicole has been pretty hesitant about the whole medical thing, especially seeing procedures, and so yesterday we made a huge confusing trip to a different hospital to get her scrubs that they also didnt have. This was pretty much the breaking point and nicole has decided to stop volunteering at teh hospital.

We had talked to our coordinator about doing something else anyways and she already had it in the basically after i am done at the hospital, nic and i will be going to an orphanage and playing with kids there. In the mornings, nic is going to work with kersten on another conservation project.

Time is flying by and i have only 3 1/2 weeks of volunteering left. We have had a couple romantic getaways, and plan on seeing some slave castles, doing a canopy walk and going to a national park. One of teh ghanaians living here is also going to take us to his hometown that is a monkey sanctuary and we might feed some monkeys!!

anyways we'll see you all in canada soon. oh, and pictures take forever to upload, so you might just have to wait....

Blake and nic

Thursday, 15 May 2008

its my birthday!

I just ate a fan-yogo which is like a strawberry frozen yogurt in a bag. its 40 cents and delicious.

Nicole and I have now worked a total of 3 days at La General Hospital, and it is something completely different. I was placed in the Pediatrics ward (due to my experience at the canadian hospitals) and nicole was appropriately placed in "the lab". I will let her tell you about the lab, and I will tell you about peds.

First off, my basis of comparison is the mult-billion dollar alberta children's hospital, so needless to say, the difference is astronomical. La General Hospital was recently changed from La Polyclinic. It was a clinic, then was deemed a hospital, with no change in structure, and no influx of money. The pediatric ward where I am working is 2 rooms and a desk in the hallway outside. Each room is no bigger than a double room at the childrens hospital and holds 7 kids and 7 moms who do most of the work and sleep on the floor or in the baby-sized bed. This is the inpatient department, so these are the kids that need attention now! Today they discharged 3 kids but took on 7 more so mothers had to sit in chairs in one of these communal rooms and have their kids taken care of.

The hospital needs money and new infrastructure, and I could rant about what it is lacking, but i have 6 minutes left at this internet cafe.... There are some positives though, all the staff are great and friendly and want to know everything about Canada. I got to go around with all the doctors (about 6) and the director and do their weekly rounds. I have seen some crazy stuff, that is hidden very well in Canadian hospitals, but is right out in the open here. (I wont be graphic, if you are interested, we can chat about it when i get back) Regardless, the experience is just that, and experience. I have been here 3 days at the hospital and it has been sensory-overload.

well running out of time

Bye for now.


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