by Tara Cavanagh, Working Abroad Program Manager
Part 6 of the Volunteer in Ghana blog series
Drumming and Dancing – Ghanaian Style
During my final day of orientation we took drumming and dance lessons before going to meet up with our host family a few hours outside of Accra. There are several types of drums in Ghana, but we learned how to drum on a kpanlogo drum. Using the palms of our hands we learned a few simple beats and put them together to form a beautiful rhythm. As part of our Volunteer in Ghana program, there is an option to take two weeks of drumming and dancing lessons in Accra. Then we moved on to traditional dancing. Our instructor was so enthusiastic it was contagious. Our whole bodies were involved and there was a lot of swooping and bending, you really had to relax your body in order for the dance to look beautiful.
Host Family Accommodations
After our fun filled morning, it was time to travel out to our host families. Along the way we visited our participants in their host homes. Many participants were living in very basic conditions. None of the homes had running water and often you had to go to the local watering hole to get a bucket of water to bring back to the house for bathing and flushing, if you even had a proper toilet, which most host families did not. Ghanaians made carrying water look like an art; they carry large, heavy, buckets of water on their heads very gracefully and they made it look easy! Often the "toilet" area and the bathing areas were in separate rooms, both with holes in the ground. Because you bathe out of a bucket you quickly learn how to be conservative with your bathing water. In addition, several of the kitchen areas were outside of the home in a separate open area and there might be a common living area inside, usually unfurnished, and then bedrooms.
My accommodations were at a private school and it was my host family's first experience hosting an Obroni. I really enjoyed my host family. My host mother was the headmistress of domestic affairs at the school and there were tons of girls at her house who were cooking and learning about domestic tasks. My hosts' house reminded me a little of some homes you might see in Florida with the glass windows that have the slits and flip out. I had a toilet, but still had to use bucket water in order to flush. In a separate bathing facility was a sink and tub, neither had running water, so again I needed to go out and get buckets of water so I could wash. Because I used my entire bucket every time I bathed, my host kept giving me larger and larger buckets. I had a ceiling fan in my room, but it was so hot that I was up when the sun was. My host family was up well before that. Everyone had already eaten breakfast and was deep into chores or already at work for the day. At 6am I was considered a late riser – imagine that!
Working Abroad always advises our participants to visit a travel doctor in the U.S. before you travel to Ghana in case you need to take any special medication, such as malaria pills. Since there is little protection from the outside elements in many of the bedrooms in Ghana, mosquito nets are key in preventing malaria. Often people go inside and to bed at dusk because the mosquitoes are so bad. I drenched myself in DEET bug spray and they were still after me, though they died before they could penetrate my skin. Malaria is very common and just about every participant we visited had had it at some point already. In Ghana, it's regarded a little bit like our flu, it's common, people get it, and you go to the hospital when you have it. It's important that if you travel to a country with high cases of malaria, like Ghana, that you take as many precautions as you can and go to the doctor as soon as you suspect any symptoms to be treated. Wear bug spray, take your malaria pills, and don't sleep outside.
A fan of independent cinema and proponent of the Oxford comma, Matthew began his career at a Miami-based tech startup before returning to West Virginia University to pursue his M.A. in Foreign Languages. He has worked at InterExchange since 2006 and currently serves as a Marketing Project Manager.