Thursday, December 14, 2006

Not so final farewells

I’m pretty busy running around now – just over 24 hours until I fly out of the country. Tomorrow (Friday) will be spent with a 10-hour drive down from Tamale to Accra, immediately followed by 20 hours of air travel to Toronto, where I’ll have a two-day debrief with EWB’s returning volunteers.

So I find myself running from place to place – buying a few more cassettes, picking up a few more gifts for friends and family, dodging sheep, typing up final reports, laying the groundwork for my return to Ghana in February (I’ll be coming back for a 2nd placement), packing up my room, scaring Ghanaian babies, and most importantly in as social a culture as Ghana, doing my rounds of goodbyes.

I’ve been quite touched by the goodbyes I’ve received so far. In West Mamprusi, the District Chief Executive (the top dog) made me an honorary chief of West Mamprusi District Assembly, and gave me a traditional smock. So now when anyone greets me, I expect them to crouch down and clap their hands (the traditional greeting to a chief in the Mamprusi culture).

Last week, my friend Al Hassan proudly announced to me that his wife had given birth to their first son. He said the “naming ceremony” would be held soon to give the child his name. I jokingly suggested the baby should be named after me. Lo and behold, Al Hassan now has a son named Lukman (my Muslim name).

And the staff of NORWASP (the Canadian-funded water and sanitation project under the CWSA) held a farewell lunch for me yesterday. My good friend Mashood, the office manager for NORWASP, insisted that each person at the table say a few words about me. I wasn’t embarrassed when he ended up talking about the digestive problems (growing pains for any EWB volunteer) I went through when first arriving. Diarrhea is not a taboo topic here, even for the dinner table – I think that, given the lack of sanitation facilities, it’s not possible for bowel movements to be an issue of intense privacy, and thus they’re not off-limits for discussion. In any case, the lunch was excellent, and I truly appreciate everything that Nancy Cosway and her NORWASP staff have done to help me in my work here.

I don’t have time to get into anything more in depth here, but suffice it to say that my 10 months in Ghana has had a profound effect on me. It’s been quite the journey so far, and I want to thank everyone who has been reading my blog and posting comments. I hope that my writing has helped demystify Africa a little bit, and present a side to it not often seen in Western media. I’ll continue writing when I return to Ghana in February 2007, but perhaps throw in a few more entries between then and now.

In short, thank you for reading, and thanks to Ghana for having welcomed me with open arms to this country.

West Mamprusi District Chief Executive, me and Salifu (DWST Team Leader). Latifa, in the family compound where I stayed in Walewale

Wisdom, in my Walewale compound.

The family I stayed with in Walewale.

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Kyle said...

Lukman, I'm excited to catch up with you in Calgary, and also that you're doing another placement!

However I have some warnings for the journey back to Canada:

1. Do not deworm before boarding the flight. Seriously. I did.

2. Do not buy 1L of chocolate milk when you get off the flight. Seriously. I did.

See you soon brother,


Luke Brown said...

Thank you for the advice, Kyle.

You speak with the obvious pain of the experienced.

Michelle said...

Honourary chief eh? Does that mean you're allowed 23 wives too?
GREAT seeing you tonight!
Thank you for the stories, and good luck with the madness ahead!
A bientot!

Emily said...

hi there,
i just stumbled on this blog after googling "walewale", where i spent 3 months interning with a little NGO called NENFOUND in 2004 (there office is on the west side of the tamale bolga road at the south end of town). i'm canadian too -- from toronto. i have one of those smocks from the DCE too! and the photo of you on the cleanup bike is in front of the west mamprusi district assembly, right? i'm loving your blog. so many memories...

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