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Arriving in Ghana


Accra from Jamestown LighthouseA view of Accra taken from Jamestown Lighthouse

I think it’s fairly universal that the days leading up to a big trip are guaranteed to be hectic. In my case, preparations for 6 months in Ghana began with several organized lists and ended with a chaotic final day of: running around finding a few ‘must-pack’ items, completing last minute paperwork, organizing my airport pickup in Accra, constant emailing and so much more. Somewhere in the mix I even managed to sneak in a few odds and ends of quality moments with family and friends!

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, introductions first. My name is Rob Maxwell and I’m one of MEDA’s new interns. For the next six months I’ll be based in Accra, Ghana, where I’ll be working as the Impact Assessment intern for MEDA’s exciting new High Performance Tree Seedlings project. In a nutshell, this project aims to improve the economic well-being of male and female tree crop farmers and small enterprises working in the predominantly export oriented tree crop sector in Ghana (focused specifically on cocoa, cashews, rubber, and shea). I’ll leave it at that for today, but I’ll be sure to share as much as I can about the project’s work here in Ghana in the upcoming months.

So yes, the last few weeks of preparations have flown by. I had a quick trip to Ontario for an orientation session in Waterloo, which provided a great introduction to MEDA’s work and a chance to meet the other MEDA interns and quite a few of MEDA’s Head Office staff (check out intern Janelle’s post for more on our orientation week). Now, after my first full week in Ghana, I am mostly settled into life in Accra and eager to start my work with the project!

To close off my first blog posting, I thought I’d share a few quick highlights of my first week:

- After arriving to my first day at the MEDA office, I was promptly sent off for a visit to a tree nursery site, a 2 hour drive from Accra. As my flight had arrived the previous evening, I hadn’t had a chance to see much of anything, so the drive gave me a chance to take in a bit of the city and countryside. Then having a tour of the tree nursery and speaking with the nursery mangers gave me a taste of what to expect over the next few months. All in all a good first day!

- On my second day I moved into my new studio apartment and then began to sort out the many peculiarities of a new country and accommodations. These include scheduled power outages (don’t stock up on ice cream, it will almost certainly not last a 12 hour outage), dealing with water (how much bleach should I add to rinse the dishes?), tracking down some random household items (e.g. strangely my furnished apartment came with 5 spoons, but no forks or knives), and figuring out where to get food in my neighborhood (so far I’m a regular at a nearby fruit stand, an egg place, and a water store, but am still looking for a good spot for vegetables).

- As street names and numbers mostly aren’t used in Accra, I’ve been hard at work memorizing countless local landmarks in order to direct taxis (... was it left or straight at ‘America House’?).

- From the beginning, my supervisor and the local MEDA staff (a small, but growing team) have done a great job of making me feel right at home. Beyond giving me a thorough introduction to the project’s work, they’ve been a huge help with local information and helping me find my way around the area.

- Finally, I’ve been trying as many different Ghanaian foods as I can. I usually aim for one new thing a day, with the clear winner so far being: ‘red red’ –basically a mix of beans and fried plantain, which is mixed with a nice red palm oil (note to self: only eat this while wearing dark colored shirts).

So bit by bit I’m starting to feel at home, and am looking forward to posting more as I get underway working on the high-quality tree seedling project. Stay tuned!

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