Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Late Entry from Our Time in Enchi (January 16th to February 2nd)- Our group (Rachel, Michelle, Lyndsay and Ellen).
We got there on a tro tro and we would probably describe it as a skeletor version of an astro van? They often pack it with 16-20 people, live stock, luggage and any other goods they can cram in. We learned from my past bus experiences that dehydration was the key to an enjoyable journey, because you may only stop once in these 6-8 hour long trips.
When we arrived into this red dusty town after a very dusty and sweaty ride, the most wonderful lady picked us up, the clinic’s midwife Philomena. She is the best. We can honestly say there are very few people as welcoming and as generous as her. She’s got this cheeky sense of humour, knew where to find the best mangos, pineapple, and avacado (which tastes almost sweet here!), says the cutest ‘so sorry’s” AND when you were having a bad day you’d completely forget about it after you had dinner with her. Everyone in the town knows Philomena, because she’s worked with the Presbyterian church to get the clinic off the ground over the last 18 years or so. She’s traveled to Germany and Canada, and when we asked her where she went in Canada guess what she said… Salmon Arm!! If that wasn’t a sign that we were meant to be in Enchi, I don’t know what is.
Enchi was great. Reasonably priced, our hotel had AC and a fridge (luxury) and the people were unlike any other. If you were ever thinking of coming to Ghana, we would recommend Enchi but only if you have the time to meet the locals because they’re what made it worth it. It’s like a 3 day treck from Accra, there aren’t many interesting tourist attractions other than the Cocoa fields and the view of the rain forest, the food lacks variety but we learned so much from this little excursion.

The clinic - For two and a half weeks we worked at the local clinic which was made by the Presbyterian church but is now financially funded by the Ghanaian government. When we were there, there was a German midwife visiting for a month from the church so they’re still very much involved. The health care system is set up similarly to Canada. It’s largely government funded and if they pay 17 Ghana Cedis their care can be fully funded by the government (wealthier people pay more, but to give you some perspective lower income jobs pay 3 cedis a day and one cedi is 60 cents Canadian.)  The clinics treat a lot of the major diseases. Malaria, respiratory tract infections, STIs, antenatal care, and births. Emergencies go to a larger hospital in Enchi. I was actually really impressed by how much they do. But of course there were sketchy things we saw – but I won’t go into details here. A lot of the first week was observation but then we learned the ropes and started IVs, gave a lot of injections, participated in 3 births (including a caesarian section at the bigger hospital), spoke up in the staff meetings, and politely questioned their practice.
Our favorite time of all though was our trips to the villages outside of Enchi. These places were RURAL. like  RURAL RURAL maybe 300 people to a village, mud and grass huts, little to no english spoken and kids who’ve never seen a brunie (or a whitie) in their lives. Community health nurses visited these villages monthly to give immunizations and weigh the babies to make sure they’re growing. Moms come because they get to meet up with other moms. It was pretty sad to see a lot of the kids were in the 60-80% percentile in terms of growth and weight and that the Ghanaian health care standards of how much a baby should weigh is lower than in Canada. But man those kids were CUTE, and it was sweet to see how much good was going on with these rural outreach trips.
Our second favorite part was probably learning the local language. It’s called twi/chi and we mostly learned it when we spent our days with the pharmacy girls. It was the best thing we could do, it made it easier to chat with our patients, shop at the market and when we said our few phrases it was like an instant joke with whoever we were talking to.

The Presbyterian School- Philomena helped us arrange a visit to the Presbyterian School in Enchi. Michelle had worked with the Aberdeen Hall Grade 3 and Grade 5 students in Kelowna in her Political Action Project earlier in the year. They had donated packages with items like toothbrushes, soaps, combs and toys for the children in Ghana. They had also created brochures about themselves, and included a world map to give to the school. We had brought these items as well as Canadian souvenirs and visited each class in the school. The students ranged from age 5 to 20 years of age. It was a very exciting and fun day meeting with the students and teachers. We were exhausted afterwards, but it such a wonderful experience and rewarding to see how excited they were to meet us!

The Food – We tried many local dishes including banku and fufu which are like a spicy tomatoey soups with this uncooked dough made out of corn meal and casava root. You dip the dough in the soup and eat it. There’s usually fish or grass cutter thrown in there for protein. Grass cutter was like this beaver/rat animal. We couldn’t eat it after we went to the grass cutter farm because it weirded us out too much but at the time it tasted kinda like pot roast. Red Red was a dish we actually quite liked. It was fried plantain (a starchy version of a banana) and spicey tomatoey beans. Otherwise we were really glad we were told to bring ichiban, oatmeal, and protein bars. The guide book couldn’t be more spot on when it described Ghanaian cuisine as ‘something to be tried, but rarely missed by travelers’.

The Church - Almost every single person would inevitably ask “Are you married? do you go to church every sunday?” We went to church twice during our stay and that was quite the experience! The sermon vasilated back and fourth between the local language and english but the rest of the service was in Twi/Chi. Our favorite part of it was the dancing. Ghanaians get down! In many ways it would rival a dubstep concert, and it was probably the loudest experience of my life (they popped us right beside the speakers, and the services we went to were 3 hours long and we were told that we were leaving early!!).

So all in all we wouldn’t have traded Enchi for anything. We met amazing people, were treated so well, learned so much.

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