Sunday, December 09, 2012

Slaves of the Lake

I'll admit I was feeling uneasy for a few days after publishing my previous post. But then I realised that keeping quiet about it doesnt help in the least.

My study at Winneba is over! We interviewed all sorts of children - who sleep in abandoned cars, who havent eaten in a week, who dont have money to even bury their dead parents...I honestly cant bring myself to write about it, but I know I should.
Luckily, I happened to chance on this documentary which says all that I am unable to!
Do spare some time and look at it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEDVFndYuT0
The last 2 days were all about the Presidential Elections in Ghana - campaigns, lobbying and agenda-pushing....I wonder if the cause of the slaves buried in the lake can even surface for air!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fishing for life

I was sure that she could see behind my forced smile! I could hardly bring myself to touch the woman whose hand I was shaking.  I was staring at her face, taking in every little detail so that I could recognise her when I saw her again. To most people, she was normal. Like many others, she had sold two of her children and sent them to work on the Volta lake.
The Volta lake in Ghana is the biggest man-made lake in the world, the kind that makes tourists gush about its beauty. The lake joins the sea and also boasts about an economy that thrives on unbelievable abuse of orphaned or trafficked children. These children are as young as 4-5 years and are sold by their parents to fishing businessmen for as less as 8 Ghana Cedis ($4). They are paid nothing but given food everyday. They toil endlessly and sleep on the sea in their boats. They are required to engage in the notorious deep-sea fishing throughout the day and night.  Deep-sea fishing is a risk to your life.
According to my field surveyor who did a study on this - “Every blessed day at least one child is lost to the sea”!
These children are subjected to terrible abuse by their “owners”. They are beaten and starved if they don’t work. They are robbed of their childhood for absolutely no fault of theirs. It doesn’t matter if they die, the “owner” would just buy another!
The organisation I work with does wonderful work in preventing this type of trafficking and rescuing these children!
Parents who are unable to take care of their children or are in urgent need of money sell their kids to this cause. Many do it just because they don’t want the responsibility of taking care of the child. Like the woman I was talking about. She didn’t look particularly poor. She was sitting across from me, talking and laughing as if she didn’t have a care in the world. I wonder how she sleeps at night!
Sometimes, I hate that my job exists!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Choice!

So Ive been out of a full-time job for more than a year now! Yes, I took on a research internship, started blogging professionally and did many online assignments so that my otherwise impeccable CV didn’t suffer too big a hole. But all this hardly helped the perpetual sinking feeling of not actually having a job.
Most people understood and supported my choice. Well, why wouldn’t they? Staying at home and supporting your husband is considered the most worthwhile pursuit, after all!

I soon knew I had to do something or my end was near. No, I’m not being dramatic, its true! My self-worth had fallen considerably, and I began to have insane rages and violent tantrums. I was doing more harm than good for the people at home!

So I began applying for jobs in other cities in Ghana and within 3 weeks, I had one! It is a research consulting profile to conduct studies with children in multiple districts in Ghana. Perfect for me! I took it without thinking twice.

This is my last week in Obuasi. I move to Winneba in a few days. I will live out of a suitcase, stay in some guest-house, starve most of the time and more likely than not, end up with Malaria!

But I am happy, its where my heart is! Best of all, I’m going back to fieldwork, my soul-food! J

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Just so everyone knows!

Apologies for the frustrated post below that follows after a nasty incident that left me with a splitting headache for the next 2 days!
  • If you barge into the gate without informing us, our dogs will attack you! 100%! We can guarantee it on stamp paper.
  • Is it so difficult to understand this? Do you really need to experience this first-hand to get the message?
  • No, we didn't train them that way – that's what they do! They are dogs, they are territorial.
  • Yes, we should’ve probably trained them to just bark at strangers and not attack, but you know what? They have a sixth sense and can judge people’s intentions when they see them. They’ve never attacked our friends or family even when meeting them alone in our absence for the first time! So sorry, but maybe it is you!
  • No we are not apologetic about this AT ALL! We live in Ghana where every third person we know has had nasty experiences with armed robbers! I’ll admit, we didn’t get dogs for security but it is very welcome, given the circumstances!
  • Yeah, maybe our dogs are a “threat to the community”! But maybe you should’ve taken heed of the three HUGE “Beware of dogs” signs on the gate! Its put up only for people like you! Or maybe you should’ve had the courtesy to call before waltzing into the gate!
  • If you "hate dogs", then please don’t come to our house! Simple! We can ensure that they won’t harm you but we can’t tie them up, we never do! This is their house! Is it so hard for you to understand that?
  • Why is it so surprising that we put them first? Just because you think a human life is more valuable than an animal’s? Sorry we don’t think that way. Our dogs are our family and you wouldn’t be surprised if I put my parents/ children over you now, would you?
  • Ever heard people say that dogs can sense it if you don't like them? Yes, that's true!
  • But it is also true that if you just put your prejudices aside and give them a chance, you'll be pleasantly surprised with wonderful friends!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Office Wife

The whole of last night, the power was out. But it wasn’t so bad, there are hoards of mosquitoes to keep you company and you can enjoy the benefits of their presence long after they leave.

So, this morning I woke up with blood-shot eyes, covered in bites and very irritable!

Depp: You look like a wreck.
Me: Thanks, you always know the right thing to say!
Depp: Come on, cheer up! I’ll help you pick out what to wear today.

He holds up a bright blue wrap-around, patterned in flowers.

Me: Thats good, but I need to look professional for work, not like a housewife in a park.
Depp: You’ll look good in this, whether you’re a housewife or an officewife.

Officewife - the term certainly threw me off! And as I’m typing this post, spell check has no issues with housewife but flags officewife. Well, maybe thats a good thing!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The magic of being!

I wasn't sure what we all were looking at. It looked like a HUGE space-craft spanning almost 5 miles and was so high that we couldn't see how tall it was...as we strained our eyes to see its end, it seemed to taper and finally disappear, though we were pretty sure it was structurally a cube...well, hows that possible now?....anyways, we stepped forward hesitantly...and then came on the lights....I mean, there was light before, but now everything was some sort of an illusion and we felt as if we were in a hologram....

We suddenly realised that everything we were thinking was being recorded somewhere and this machine was responding to our thoughts...time enough to dwell on that but I needed answers first....what I was standing on felt lighter than air but was tough as nails and I did not have to walk on it, it seemed to move beneath my feet and took me in whichever direction I wanted to go...sound was not sound in here, sound was what made things move...our eyes couldn't really see since it seemed we were in more than 3 dimensions.. white light split into not 7 but more like a million colors...and colors so fragile that a small tilt of your head changed them drastically...air was not plain old air, air moved in exotic patterns that you could feel around you....

This wondrous machine and everything in it was definitely alien or at least not invented by us yet....but hey, it was actually centuries old....how can that be????

And then it struck me - this was something from the future time traveled to the past!!!

And that's when I woke up...

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Ghanian Greeting!

Random Person: You didnt even greet me!
Me (WTH): Oh sorry, good morning, how are you today?

This has happened many a times in Ghana but today it got worse!

HR in my office: V, it is taking you too long to understand our culture. When you see someone, you have to greet them. It may not be the Indian culture but when you are in Rome, be a Roman. Else people will think you are rude.
Me: Alright sorry, I didn’t see the point of disturbing you just to say hello!

To be honest, this is very frustrating to me. I get pretty annoyed when people barge into the room and jerk me out of my task just for “greeting”. Especially people I don't like. It is not that I don’t value niceties but the same person "greeting" me every single when we are within shouting distance for no rhyme or reason gets on my nerves. Also, I strongly feel that whether or not to greet someone should be MY choice, and not their right to demand.

My boss tells me that all Africans including Ghanians value “Greetings” tremendously. You may be the nicest person but if you don’t greet someone, they’ll say that you are "mean" and "wicked" (his very words!). And vice versa.

Oh well, theres another lesson for me! Although this does compel me to take "greetings" more seriously, I really dont see myself "greeting" people when I dont feel like just because they think I should. I've never been good at pretences. Should I really change this just because I'm in their country? :( 

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