Reflective Report by Ranveig Kristine Sneve-NORWAY
On Sunday the 3rd of October I arrived in Accra together with a friend and fellow nursing student. The flight had gone very smoothly, and we had no problems with our luggage. Fidelis was waiting for us at the airport and that made the whole situation a lot simpler for us as newcomers in Ghana. We went with a taxi straight to New Kokomlemle Guest House where we were to stay for a few days before leaving for Tamale. The first day in Accra we went to the beach which was a dream come true for us Scandinavians. The next two days just flew by. Fidelis had some meetings to tend to, and we spent most of our time not doing anything at all.
On Wednesday we managed to get a hold of bus tickets for Tamale, and on Thursday we were waiting for the bus to leave. It didn`t take many hours on Ghanaian soil to realize that things take time, a lot of time…So it`s important to bring some patience. The bus left for Tamale around 11 (we had been waiting since 07.30). The bus trip was a very positive surprise though, it was by far the nicest bus I`ve ever sat in. Air-conditioning, Steven Seagal on the tv (I`ve never seen that many Steven Seagal movies at once), and comfortable seats. There is quite a lot to watch outside as well of course, as the bus is going through many villages and cities.
We arrived in Tamale around 02.00 a.m. that night – it turned out to be a long and bumpy ride.
The next morning we got to go to REVSODEP and meet some of the crew members. They immediately made me feel very welcome and it was clear that REVSODEP`s office would be a safe-place for us. The organization even arranged with bikes for us to use during the period while we would stay in Tamale.
After being introduced to the crew and the office spaces we were taken to our host family which lives in Gumani, quite close to Jusonayilli where REVSODEP`s office is situated.
Meeting the host family was very nice, I felt welcome and at home, especially with our dear mama Aisha around. Mama Aisha has 5 sons, 3 of them still living at home. My experience with having little brothers was sometimes that it was hard to understand them. The littlest would always be open and happy, while the older kids could be reserved and angry at times, seemingly without any reason. During my stay in the host family I felt I had a little trouble understanding my little brothers and their ways. Being a guest in someone else`s house it will in the long run get frustrating to analyze whether you have done or said something that could be offensive to anyone..Our host mama was very good to us though, asking us what kind of food we liked and she prepared the food she knew we liked. After 2 weeks she went off to Mecca though, so her sister came to care for us for the remaining weeks.
It was an adventure to come to Tamale. Women are so beautiful in their colourful dresses, and I never seize to be impressed by the weight they can carry on their heads. There`s people, cars, motorcycles and bikes everywhere, not to mention all the goats walking around. Ghanaian goats are like miniature versions of the original, and following so much cuter. The market in the city centre is an experience. You can buy beautiful fabrics, beads, flip flops, food, or whatever else you might need. The culture centre is worth visiting as well, for shopping sandals, bags, art, souvenirs and so on. I was amazed to see how easy it is to get hold of the basic necessities, and fresh fruit, roasted peanuts and crackers are available at every corner.
After spending our first weekend in Tamale we went to the hospital on Monday. We were to be introduced to Labour Ward before starting work on Tuesday. Due to REVSODEP`s meticulous follow up, the hospital staff had managed to misplace all of our papers. It seemed like they weren`t even aware that we were coming to work this week. All of Monday, Tuesday and half of Wednesday we spent waiting together with Fidelis for the staff to finish their paper work so we could start our internship. Late on Wednesday we finally got introduced to Labour Ward. As I knew Ghana is one of the top ranking countries in Africa concerning health care, I might have had a little too high expectation. Experiencing Labour Ward left me shocked and appalled by what I witnessed. During the two and a half day I spent there altogether I didn`t see anything that I would bring home and adapt to Swedish health care. I have chosen to see this as another way to learn though, the ultimate experience of how not to do things.
The next week we changed ward and spent our days at the children`s consulting room together with 2 Swedish doctors as well as a Cuban doctor. During these days we observed a lot and even participated in diagnosing patients. I learnt a lot about identifying the patient`s needs and how to handle children of different ages.
After having spent nearly 4 weeks in Ghana I am truly amazed by the generosity, hospitality and kindness that I have met in the Ghanaian people. I could never imagine I would feel as safe as everyone has made me feel. REVSODEP has definitely provided 99 % of that safety, but even the Ghanaians in general make me feel welcome and safe among them. I have a single experience where I felt hassled and unsecure, which was in a community outside Mole national park. Other than that I have felt perfectly safe at all times. People are interested and friendly, but not in a pushy or forced way. People are cool, relaxed and understanding. Today I can say that what I liked best about Ghana was the Ghanaians. With an open mind, some humour and patience for “Ghanaian time” you will come very far in Ghana.
During these few weeks that I have spent in Ghana, I have truly felt cared for by REVSODEP. They have been helping in every way they can during the whole period, and they have been an excellent resource in numerous different ways. Any concern I have had as a “family member”, a nursing student or simply as a human being has been heard and I have received tons of help and good advice. Coming to a completely different continent and meeting people with a completely different culture can be both challenging and frustrating at times. REVSODEP has been a excellent resource in terms of understanding the Ghanaian culture better, and the crew members have an openness towards their students which I appreciate greatly. Travelling to Ghana as a nursing student would not be as successful without the help of REVSODEP, they have been excellent mediators between me as a student and the hospital as well as the wards.