Settling In

The first couple of weeks living at my site, Abutia Teti, have been both exciting and challenging. So far the Peace Corps hasn’t been a two-year vacation. I’ve been very busy working with my Local NGO, which has been subcontracted by Relief International to implement the Ghana WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) project. In short, Ghana WASH is split up into “hardware” and “software” portions (I knew this engineering thing would come in handy eventually).

The main goal of the hardware portion is to work in communities to end open-defecation by subsidizing the materials to build household latrines for anyone who wants one in the community. However, there is long and sometimes complicated process to this. First, we introduce the project to the chief and elders of the community. Next, we create a water and sanitation profile of the community. Then we “convince” the community that they need to defecation in latrines, not out in the open (this step deserves a whole blog post on its own). After people agree that they need to build latrines, they must produce some of the materials (such as sand, stones, etc.) themselves, while local artisans trained by us produce the rest (bricks, roofing sheets, etc). Finally after the latrines are built, we ensure that they are properly operated and maintained.

The main goal of software portion is to ensure that community water and sanitation facilities have continued use and function. We plan to accomplish this by working with the Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) committee in each community.

In the past few weeks I’ve worked in both in the hardware and software portions in about a dozen different communities. My Local NGO is in charge of over 30 communities and each community is in a different stage of the process—so we always have something going on. I’ve had a lot of practice speaking Ewe and people are often surprised that “the white man can hear Ewe”, however I still need a lot more time until I’m conversational. Here is a photo of my co-worker and I monitoring latrine materials for each household of the community.

The most challenging part of the Peace Corps isn’t the physical aspect of living in “harsh” conditions (although I have running water and electricity most of the time) or the mental aspect of learning a new language. The most challenging part is the psychological aspect. Living in a village where you are the only foreigner can get tiresome at times. There is definitely a fishbowl effect where it feels like everyone is always watching you and there is nowhere to hide. Luckily everyone in my community is extremely friendly and always willingly to help the Yevu (foreigner). For example, the other day someone I just met gave me 5 huge avocados (or pears as they are called here). Sometimes it seems as if everyone under the age of eighteen is scared of me or nervous to interact with me. However, I’ve already noticed people have started to get more comfortable being around me, especially when I try to speak Ewe.

So far I have no big complaints with my community or work and I feel blessed to have this opportunity. Here is a photo overlooking part of my community. I will get some better shots once I climb the steep hill that overlooks my community.

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About Ryan

I'm serving in Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer for 27 months. View all posts by Ryan

5 responses to “Settling In

  • Donna Hovis

    Ryan,
    Finally had time to read your blog that your grandma Sharon is always talking about and it is amazing what you are doing. Sounds like you are looking at the positive side of your adventure. I remember during all of my much loved travel it was always wonderful to hear someone talk English. Stay safe love reading all about your adventure.
    Donna from Huntington Beach

    • Ryan

      It’s fun meeting other people visiting Ghana because you can speak English with them and also share outside perspectives of the country.

  • Gary Amico

    Hi Ryan – This was a great post. I especially love the comment about being different. It certainly is a great “teaching” moment for Roman and Julian. We love the stories about life there.

  • houtan

    Whats up Ryan – Just got caught up on reading your blog. Glad to see that things are going well and that you are enjoing your new project, Ghana WASH. That picture is beautiful, looking forward to reading more and seeing more pictures.

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