Kristin is a Field Advisor for Literacy Bridge. She currently lives and works in Jirapa, Upper West, Ghana providing guidance to the Literacy Bridge field team on programmatic work and operations.
On September 16 I groggily arrived in Accra after a fifteen hour flight from LA to Dubai and a seven hour flight from Dubai to Accra. On the plane, right as the wheels touched down, a group of about ten Ghanaian men started singing in harmony. At first I thought the airline was playing gospel music to welcome us and then I turned around and realized the sound was coming from the back of the plane. The singing got louder and more spirited, largely ignoring the flustered Emirates flight attendants who were frantically trying to keep a sense of decorum as more people joined in. I laughed, happily breathed in the music and thought…it’s good to be in Ghana.
It’s been a little over a month now since I arrived in Jirapa from Accra. To get here I took a 12 hour overnight bus to Wa and then a minivan (called a Tro Tro) from Wa to Jirapa. During the trip my seatmate and I (a college student), kicked back, talked about American music, shared candy and watched the hilarious Ghanaian films that blared throughout the night and seemed to all revolve around some version of a love triangle while trying not to look at the road (at the speed the buses go, it’s best just not to look). A few years ago when I moved to Paris someone told me “when you move somewhere alone, you’ll never forget the person who picks you up when you arrive”. So true. I will never forget getting off the bus in Wa and being warmly greeted by Fidelis and Toffic, two of our staff members and then being greeted by many of the other staff members when we arrived in Jirapa.
I’ve had a wonderful time over the past month getting to know the staff and the town. I’ve sampled various local dishes, gone to the colorful Sunday market and have learned how to properly ride a motorbike (don’t hold on to the driver!). I’m also adjusting to the heat and intensity of the sun (I recently got burned wearing 70 SPF sunscreen) and am working on learning the local language, Dagaare. I’ve been staying in a Catholic guesthouse for the last few weeks but this week I moved to an apartment near the office. I’m looking forward to having a kitchen where I can experiment with cooking with local ingredients.
In the Upper West the staple crops are yams, maize, beans, rice, millet and groundnuts (peanuts). These are sturdy crops that can be dried, stored, and sold throughout the many months here where it is too hot and dry to grow crops. Most farmers understandably turn to these reliable crops and grow far less fruits and vegetables. Other than maize, the vegetables mainly consist of okra, cabbage, and tomatoes (I know, they are technically a fruit) and the fruit is mainly oranges, although I did see a few watermelon at the market recently. I am a fruit and vegetable lover through and through and realized how much I’ve taken for granted having easy access to an abundant variety of vegetables in all the places I’ve lived in the US and abroad.
In fact, one afternoon I was sitting at my desk in the office when in walked Fred, our Field Manager, with a pineapple. He saw a lady selling them (who we haven’t seen since) and knew how much I’d enjoy having fresh fruit so he bought one for me. I was so touched that he thought of me and so excited at the sight of it, without thinking, I grabbed it and hugged it. The next day I brought a plate and knife to the office and cut the pineapple and the staff and I ate it. Whether it was the company or the pineapple itself, it was definitely the best pineapple I’ve ever had.
Things I’m loving right now, in no particular order:
- - Spending time with the staff
- - Marianne Elliott’s online yoga course 30 Days of Yoga for Aid Workers (I’m on day 24 and highly recommend any of her courses and her book Zen Under Fire: How I Found Peace in the Midst of War)
– Fried plantains
- - The Sunday market and buying local fabric there to have a dress made
- - My Kindle. I recently finished The Goldfinch and just started The Brothers Karamazov