Thursday, October 26, 2006

shower sell-out, conferences, botanical gardens, etc.

It has been a while since I wrote, so its time for an update. p.s. for togo pictures, please click the ghanawebshots link on the right side. I haven't put up the Cape Coast ones yet.

Nothing much has happened, I haven't been traveling or anything too exciting. October 16-17th I went back to Cape Coast for a conference on decentralization and district assemblies' ability to generate revenue for CDD. I was the designated reporter. Since Cape Coast is a bit of a distance from Accra, we stayed overnight at the Elmina Beach Resort (this is where the conference was hosted as well). I felt like a sell-out...We were in an air-con car with a driver, stayed in a nice hotel with air-con, satelite tv, showers. I guess i felt like such a sell-out because I felt like the uppidy people i am totally against here. and the hot was just okay (i.e. it was a nice addition, but not necessary). Anywho, I am really grateful I had the experience of attending the conference. There was a presentation on the Cape Coast Municipal assembly and how they are attempting to generate revenue (tax collection is hard, especially with so many people in the informal economy not contributing to the tax base, so the assemblies have a hard time implementing successful development projects, such as trash collection.).One suggestion was the construction of student hostels, since the University of Cape Coast doesn't have enough housing for their students (the same applies to the University of Ghana, Legon...where I have heard rumors of one room with 13 people in it...a room meant for four). At the conference was the Central Region minister(he had a personal bodyguard too), some professors from UCC, members of the district assemblies, the Director of the Non-tax Revenue Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning from the central government, and a host of other prominent people as well as students and those involved in NGOs such as CDD and one of its chief funders, FNF. It was a really interesting conference...the director from the ministry of finance gave a presentation on street naming and house numbering. You just never think about how something so basic as this can really affect the infrastructure and development of a city. Anyway, as the reporter I had to write down everything that was said during the Q&A session, which was difficult because some people were mutterers, others were mumblers, others didn't really make coherent arguements, and still others were bringing up interesting topics that had nothing to do with anything. I went to the conference with Prof, Buntu (South African who is CDD's international fellow), and Joe, who has become my boss here at CDD (and who got me invited in the first place). We talked about US Foreign Policy (popular, eh?) listened to the BBC Africa on the way back, ate some pineapple, and had a wonderful time. I think that the internship thus far has provided me with the greatest experience, because I am with Ghanaians and learning so so much about the Ghanaian government, the innerworkings of a NGO, and getting to go to interesting conferences (like the one I attended today about women in the reconciliation process, how the reconciliation process should take on a more gendered approach to consider women who were abused, humiliated, or oppresed during the military regimes and the totalitarian governments of Ghana's past).
The following weekend my roommate's mom took us out to eat at a popular chopbar called Asanka's. I had yam and palava sauce (boiled yams and a spinach sauce) which was pretty tasty. My roommate's mom is a professor of finance at UofG and she is trying to get a fulbright in the US to study international finance at NYU. She is from Nigeria and has four kids, one in the US studying engineering in Georgia. She took us for icecream afterwards.
The next day we headed to Aburi botanical gardens, about an hour away from campus. It was built by the british and houses a ton of trees and flowers from all over the world. There is this one tree that got eaten by some crazy plant and the tree is completly hollow inside. We climbed in and it was cool. The gardens were small, but it was a change because it was a higher elevation than Accra and the air didnt smell like noxious fumes from cars. That week marked the official halfway point, and now its all downhill. I am not ready to leave...I mean i want to see everyone, but i think that you should come here, so i can see you and enjoy my lovely life in Ghana!
Last weekend (20-22) was also laid back, but sunday I went to prof's house for lunch. I met some of prof's friends, a chem professor from UofG that studied at duke, prof's ghanaian-canadian neighbor, a lawyer working in NY for international transitional justice, a woman on CDD's board of trustees who is a professor in communications at UofG, and a female lawyer who studied in London and is a non-sitting district judge. Prof's real name is E. Gyimah-Boadi, he is a professor at UofG in political science as well as the head of CDD. He doesn't want people to know what the E stands for. Anyway, he is a great guy, funny, smart, religious neutral (which is a "God-send" (no pun intended, haha) in this OVERLY christian society). Just sitting there, listening, i learned so much about Ghanaian politics. Granted, sometimes I had no idea what they were talking about (idk what it is with Africa and its 100 million acronyms for everything i.e. CHRAJ, PM, CCMA, AMA, CPP, NPP, NDC, etc and those are only a few of Ghana's million acronyms), but I got the general gist, like their views on chiefs and their desperation to hold onto power i.e. the Asantehene (the chief of the Ashante) who recently issued a fatwa on some journalists who wrote an article where his name came up in discussion about a cocaine scandal. Chiefs play a critical role in Ghana's democratic development, but it is interesting to see how they interact with the central government (in other words, they do what they want).
Speaking of religion, tonight we are going to a singles/relationship conference on campus. We are mostly going because we want to learn about things such as 10 things that are wrong about sex, 15 reasons not to marry your classmate, but to marry your CLASSMATE (whatever that means), etc. It will be an interesting experience, even if we don't believe what they tell us. I have no problem with Christians, mind you, but here in Ghana it is a bit on the ridiculous side, with someone left and right always preaching to you about something. Not to mention, one of the first questions in conversation is are you a christian? because that really matters if you are only trying to get the lecture notes from class. They are way too "holier than thou" for me.
This weekend we are hopefully going somewhere...p.s. only three more weeks of class...crazzy.

1 comment:

anna davis said...

Hi Justine,
Interesting reading, yet again. The pictures are great...I looked at every single one of them! For a minute there I did not recognize you with the braids and glasses -- different, but cute! Glad to hear you are still having a wonderful time learning.