So on Monday the 18th of March, I started my first day of work at the United Nations World Food Programme. This is my first full time job out of university, so it was a big deal for me. WFP has a number of different units within the agency, these are P4P (Purchase for Progress), PRRO (Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations), Programmes (sort of project management), and VAM (Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping). I am directly employed by the VAM unit and I am based out of the VAM office, but I will also be required to work in all other units of the agency. My role at WFP is Food Security Project Officer and my job description as provided prior to my arrival is to assess the current FSNMS (Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System), to train Government staff (from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ghana Health Service) in the use of PDA’s (Pocked Digital Assistants- which are in field data capture mechanisms) and lastly to be involved in data collection to assess different communities vulnerability to food insecurity. Work begins at 7:30am every morning and I had spent the hour leading up to my first day choosing my outfit, had to be presentable, granny Margie, you would have been oh so proud. At 8am every Monday the Sub-Office in Tamale (where I am based) engages in a tele-conference call with the country office in Accra to discuss the previous week’s comings and goings. This meeting went for an hour and a half and after that I was left to my own devices for the whole day. Pretty much from 9:30am-4:30pm. This was no Australia. No formal orientation or anything of the sort. I spent most of the day reading work related documents…maybe I was on Facebook a little too. On Tuesday, my supervisor wasn’t in the office, but I had been advised from other employees that I had to complete 3 safety and security modules and exams, each of which took 4 hours. Tsk, the U.N is so risk-averse. I had finished the modules on Wednesday around mid-morning and from then till Friday at 4pm, I was given NO work. I spent lots of my time reading past WFP documents, surfing the net and trying to change that bloody picture on my blog. Still, to no avail. Grrr. Monday 25th of March, marked the second week of work, and again it begun with a 3 hour conference call (that just goes around in circles and concludes with nothing of importance) with the country office, orientation and then I finally produced my first piece of work (if you can call it that). It was a letter to some of our partner organisations informing them that we would be conducting a review/evaluation of their dry season gardening projects. I won’t explain what that is. Don’t want to bore you. I know that is seems to be so little, but after a week of doing absolutely nothing, it was revolutionary.
The weekend bought with it many adventures. All my housemates had planned a trip away for the weekend; I was going to be the only one in that big house. I couldn’t have that, so Courtney came to sleep over on Friday and Saturday night. We had initially planned a movie night for Friday night (as we have a projector in our house), accompanied by a steak and red wine dinner. The movie night was unsuccessful however, as there was no power, so we ended up making our steak dinner in the dark and sitting out on the porch, talking about life and love over a couple of glasses of red. Very romantic. Saturday morning, Courts and I made breakfast together and then went shopping. As I have said in previous posts, shopping in tamale is very difficult, especially if you don’t have a car. So what often happens in this instance is that you hire a taxi driver to accompany you on our shopping trip. The Australian expats here normally utilise the services of a young gentleman by the name of JB. So, he has also become our go to man in situations like these. He picked us up from our house at around 12:30pm and then drove us around to all the different shops. We were home by 2:45pm. What I bought: a bag of 4 potatoes, a bag of 4 carrots, a bag of 4 capsicums, some crisps, biscuits, coffee, milk, cheese, canned peas, baked beans, juice, ciders, wine, a mirror, some dried fruit, cereal, bread and a mattress. We also, only briefly went around to some tro tro (otherwise known as vans in Australia and combi’s in southern Africa) drivers to try and organise someone to take us up to Mole National Park over the Easter weekend. Are you seeing how long this takes? Frustrating. At 3pm, the driver from my work took me to go and look at scooters (couldn’t have gone by myself, they would have just seen my skin colour and put the price up by like 200%). So with Mohammed’s help, I bought my scooter (known as a moto in Ghana), now I have a way of getting around. My helmet is about 3 sizes too big and will possibly be the most likely cause of an accident….Should really look into getting a smaller one. Not sure if I’ll be successful though. Saturday evening, Courtney and I joined some of our new Dutch friends (Lotte, Peter, Gerhard, Nieke and Kim) for dinner at Luxury, the only restaurant that sells apple pie and chocolate brownies (although we didn’t have any as we were rushing to attend a Ghanaian stand-up comedy show. The sound system at the show was terrible, and we couldn’t make out the accents, so we ended up leaving half way through. Sunday morning was spent lazing around, Sunday afternoon Courts and I went for lunch to SWAD ( an “Indian restaurant”- it’s more like Ghanaian food made with Indian spices) where we met an interesting bunch of old expatriate women. 3 of the 4 women were married to Dagomba men (tribe from the Northern region of Ghana), and had lived in Ghana for 50 years, 25 years and 6 years respectively. After lunch we went for a swim at the local swimming spot, Discovery Hotel, Courtney and I have pencilled that in as part of our weekly routine and we will be lazing around there most Sunday afternoons.
Planning for Mole National Park- Over the Easter weekend, 6 (Michael and Ingrid, Tom, Adam and Renee and Alena) fellow AYADs and their partners are coming up from Accra and Courts and I are joining them for a Mole National Park getaway. Trying to organise transport from Tamale to Mole has been the bane of my existence over the last week, particularly because there are so many of us. Initially there were meant to be 5 of us going, so we had only booked a 3 bed fanned room with scope to place 2 mattresses on the floor. Now there are 8 of us going and I’m not entirely sure how we are all going to fit in the one room in 40 degree heat. Some of our friends from the Netherlands (the one’s mentioned above) will be heading up to Mole at the same time as well. So essentially there will be 12 other people I know up there. Fun times ahead. We leave on Good Friday and return on Easter Monday. I envisage a lot of eating, talking crap, sipping G&T’s at the pool and walking safaris. Will let you know how it went next Wednesday.
Just some cultural differences
- Every morning I spend at least 30-40 minutes greeting each of the 24 WFP staff members. Ghanaians place a huge emphasis on greetings and really appreciate it when you take the time to enquire how they are. Had I done this in Australia, Joel would have fired me as my productivity would have been too low, 30-40min doing no work is just not okay. That guy is such a task master. Love you JK.
- People hiss (yes hiss- like a snake) at someone when they are trying to get their attention. Try that in Southern Africa or Australia and you would have no front teeth left to be able to hiss after someone is done with you.