Life in Ghana has been good for collecting stories, but bad for recounting them to those at home. With rolling power outages, it has been tough enough to catch the internet. Add to that the sudden, pounding rainstorms and the fact that I am not really allowed to leave the compound at night and the result is me feeling a bit cut off from everyone back at home.
Thankfully there has been so much happening here that I don’t have time to miss home. My days have been packed. I usually start around 9:30, sometimes later (I usually sleep in because I stay up late observing in the maternity ward), I hang around the dispensary and see if there is any work to be done. Usually I wander away pretty quickly. The new insurance system is so confusing and there are so many people scrambling around in such a small space I don’t really feel like I am getting anything done. In addition to most of the yelling being in another language and the names of the drugs being equally confusing and I end up tired before I even start! My new favourite place to work is the records office. I can ask for someone’s age, home address, birthplace, age and if they have been to the hospital in Ewe, so that is kind of funny to all around me. They are all pretty impressed with how fast I learn everything. One of the teachers’ said it was because of how we are taught at home, we don’t learn by rote, but have more emphasis on creative and independent thinking. If I don’t know something, I am more than likely to take a educated guess and get it verified than to not do the work. Anyhow, one of the eye-opening things at records is how many people are not registered with the national insurance scheme. Even though almost everyone is eligible, many people are illiterate and don’t know how to figure out the forms. Many people have to sign with a thumbprint, so the chance that they would be able to fill out forms is slim. Another huge benefit to working the records office is the access I get to the disease and demographics charts. They collect a lot of information on what goes on in the hospital so it is really interesting to see who is using the health care system. For the most part, it is heavily relied upon by women of childbearing age and the main illness seems to be malaria.
Depending on how the day goes, I will wander around trying to find the most interesting cases to witness, or might go down to the school campus. The building project hasn’t started yet, but there is a lot of enthusiasm from those involved. We have had two estimates, but it is hard to tell how official it all is. One might say we need 100 2×4 planks the next will say 70.
Gathering information has been interesting to say the least. Sometimes I have no clue what is going on and just have to really trust whoever is translating for me. The first day we went to take an estimate, it was like a sketch comedy. There I am trying to figure out what the carpenter is saying with about 45 kindergarteners standing around me chanting in Ewe. The carpenter seemed to be pulling numbers off the top of his head because I never saw paper or a tape measure (they later came back with measurements and it about halved the material they initially quoted!) There have been other meetings, which I am happy to say have been quick and effective (and have started on time!). I met with the chief last week, although I have no clue what that did, besides him saying that I was welcome” about a million times.
One of our major issues will be labour. It can be of great expense and no one seems to be willing to donate their time. I understand that it can be difficult but this is what could make or break the project. It seems that my rock-climbing skills will be put to use in a few weeks because I said I would play carpenter’s mate and climb up on the roof. The committee acted shocked but I think they are secretly looking forward to seeing a white girl putting up roofing sheets… Seems that all those summers helping Dad build the deck will pay off.
It seems that the town library was converted into the new police quarters, but no one can say where the books went. The building is now empty again though (it was completed March 2006 when I was here last). The reason? It is not on a main road, so the cops weren’t able to collect enough money from passing motorists. That is a big thing here, the police will set up roadblocks and stop every passing vehicle, which I am sure equates a handsome salary in bribes.

Anyhow, after poking around to see what can be observed in the hospital or around town, I usually go back to the pharmacy or to the emergency department. While it is nothing like the emergency room of the famed “ER” it is still sort of exciting. You never know what will come in. It’s weird but the doctors seem to spend a l