Day 21 – Final Day

29th August 2014 brought my final day working on an internship at Lancaster University Ghana, and I think anyone who saw me that day knew full well that I didn’t want it to end. Staff and students alike knew that that Friday was my final day of work, and it really dawned on me just how settled I’d become in that environment. I got along with absolutely everyone there, and I really did feel at home. Whether I was talking to staff about the direction of the university, or a student about a particular society that they wanted to set up, I really felt like that I’d been there years. I’ve only spent four weeks in Ghana throughout my lifetime, but the memories I made, and the networks I formed there, are truly incredible.

Lancaster University GhanaI walked onto campus on that final day, armed with four bags of British sweets. I couldn’t help but take everyone some traditional sweets as just a small way of saying “thank you”. I was actually going to really miss them; they’d been such good hosts and even better friends.

I had my final lunch on campus, and then had a “debrief” with Raghav to talk through the past three weeks. We had a chat about everything I’d been working on, discussed each aspect of the university, and told him my general impression and opinion about the development, based on my three weeks there. The future of Lancaster University Ghana is bright, exciting, and engaging; I really can’t wait to see it prosper and watch it develop over the coming years, and I really hope to play a part in that.

Lancaster University GhanaI will miss a lot of things about Ghana and the university more specifically. Little things like walking downstairs and saying hello to everyone makes it an incredibly friendly place to be and, due to the relatively small size, everyone knows each other by name. I will miss my morning stroll to campus, which was highly enjoyable, and I will miss the nightly chats with my housemates. I will miss the cheap price of food, drink, and taxis, and I will also miss visiting the fantastic local attractions which are filled with such a rich culture.

I finished my time in Ghana by taking photographs with various members of staff and students, before heading out for the evening with friends. I really can’t think of any better way to finish my three-week long internship there.

Lancaster University GhanaI’ll be keeping in touch with staff, students, and Raghav; spending three weeks out there was absolutely incredible, and I really can’t thank the university enough for giving me the opportunity. Hopefully I’ll be returning to Ghana sooner rather than later!

Day 19 and 20 – Finalisation

My final three days working at Lancaster University Ghana were relatively fast-paced, and I really can’t believe how quickly they passed-by. Each time I bumped into someone, it reminded me that I only had a few more days left in that wonderful country. Work-wise, we had been focusing heavily on writing content for promotional materials, so now it was just a matter of using that same content and tweaking the language to make it suitable for other mediums. For example, the website and prospectus content adheres to a much more formal register than a student life booklet, so we tweaked the information and made it more appropriate for the particular reader.

We finalised the pre-departure booklet for incoming students from Nigeria, and I sourced information on eight different events that the university had held for the community. The university undertakes various corporate social responsibility projects, so I compiled information on each of them and made a booklet describing our work in the local area. We also finalised the prospectus content, and I was able to compile a booklet of student testimonials.

The final few nights were relatively late in the office, but I still found time to pop into Republic on Wednesday night, and enjoy dinner at Starbites on Thursday (whilst also finishing work off with Omar).

I had one more day left in Ghana, and I really didn’t want it to end!

Republic

Day 17 and 18 – Open Day

When I arrived on campus on Monday morning, I was asked to go and dish out some more flyers in Marina Mall and Accra Mall. The flyers would be advertising the following day’s open day, so it was important to get them handed out quickly and make people aware of what we were offering.

Open Day - Lancaster University GhanaUnfortunately, we didn’t really have much luck. The mall management at Marina Mall just kept sending us from one person to the next, and we didn’t really get anywhere at all. The supermarket said we were welcome to leave flyers on each check-out (once we’d got approval), yet the mall’s manager said they didn’t allow that anymore. Accra Mall wasn’t much help either, saying that anything which “looked corporate” wasn’t allowed. You’d think they’d be willing to support an educational initiative, but it appears not. In future, it would be beneficial to build up a partnership with these malls so that they’re willing to advertise our events on their property.

Open Day - Lancaster University GhanaThe open day itself, on 26th August, was a huge success and I, for one, was happy with the turn-out. Around 50-60 prospective students and parents visited campus in total that day, with some people travelling from Nigeria to see our state-of-the-art facilities and meet our staff and students. The open day began at 10am, and it opened with a presentation by Provost John Grainger, discussing what the university can offer. The previous week, Rebecca (Admissions Officer) had approached me and asked me to give a presentation on “Student Life at Lancaster University”. Naturally, I was more than happy to give a presentation – especially when I was able to chat with prospective students and discuss our Lancaster campus. I was up straight after John Grainger, and he’s a tough act to follow…

Open Day - Lancaster University GhanaMy usual presentation on student life can last anywhere up to one hour, so condensing it into ten minutes was no easy task. I removed quite a few slides before-hand, and focused on the more general things rather than the smaller details. People began arriving relatively early, so we cracked on with the day and I gave my first presentation to a full lecture theatre (seating 25) just after 10am. As the proceeding presentations went on, our numbers had more than doubled and just under 60 people were seated in the new lecture theatre that everyone had moved to. I went back to give the presentation again, which went even more successfully the second time.

Open Day - Lancaster University GhanaBoth the prospective students and their parents were highly inquisitive and curious. They wanted to know what I study, what year I was in, what I liked about Ghana, etc. I felt good afterwards, and it was nice to have some kind of impact on making their day that little more informative.

Open Day - Lancaster University Ghana

Day 16 – Art Centre

I returned to the art centre on 24th August in the hope of finding a few more gifts to buy for family back home. I hadn’t had enough time on my previous visit to have a good look around, so took the opportunity to spend a bit more time wandering around.

BukaThen again, wandering around isn’t really an option at the art centre, as I found myself being ushered from one shop to the next by market vendors. As soon as we got out of the taxi, the chap who sold me the djembe drum, just a few days prior, remembered me (apparently it was my gold chain that stood out to him). I went off to find some wristbands that could be personalised with names – I’d got one for myself in April, but decided it would be nice for Lily to have one too. I had a chat with the man making them, and apparently there are only around 25 people in the area who can make them, with six of them working right there at the art centre. I wondered if he knew the three guys I spoke to in April, so showed him a video of them that I’d shot at the time. As it turns out, he knew all three of them and they were working just a short distance away at the other side of the market.

BukaAs we moved further round, I paid a visit to the shop I bought a wooden giraffe ornament from in April. The vendor seemed to remember me, especially when I pointed out he was wearing a large silver chain around his neck when I last saw him. I ended up leaving the market with a piece of artwork, a wooden rhino for my Grandma, and a few different wristbands. The people working there have fantastic customer service skills – they practically spoil the buyer in the hope that they’ll purchase something from their shop. They also really know how to barter and negotiate the best price possible – it’s such a unique social situation to be in.

BukaDinner that evening was at Buka where I decided to go for fufu, a traditional Ghanaian dish. Fufu is a combination of cassava and plantain which is mixed into a starchy consistency, kind of like melted cheese. It’s buried in a pool of soup, and we asked for it with goat’s meat and cow leg adding too. Traditionally, fufu is eaten with the fingers of one’s right hand, which understandably can get very messy when an outsider gives it a go. I actually quite enjoyed it, although it’s rather heavy after a while.

BukaAfterwards, we headed off to James Town again; we were told that there would be a beach party, but unfortunately there wasn’t one in sight. Instead, we spent the remainder of the evening relaxing at Champs. My final weekend had come to an end, and it had been nice to kick-back and relax after being so busy in the office!

Day 15 – Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2014

Taxi, Accra23rd August 2014 brought the Chale Wote Street Festival which was being held right near the lighthouse in James Town, one of the oldest districts in Accra. We’d seen a few advertisements for the festival throughout the week, so a couple of us in the office decided to go along, check it out, and make a day of it. Whilst making plans, it dawned on us that students may also be interested in joining us, so we transformed it into an official trip and took the mini-bus to the coast.

James Town LighthouseI didn’t wake until early afternoon, so unfortunately missed the bus with everyone else on board. I flagged down a taxi and embarked on what should have been a 20 minute journey. It turns out that the trip would, instead, take a grand total of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There was just an incredible amount of traffic on the road, presumably because of the street festival’s road-closures. I just sat there in the taxi, listening to the Afro-pop over the radio, and occasionally checking out what the street-sellers were offering (without looking like I’m inviting them over for a chat, of course). The taxi driver was very friendly, although he dropped me off quite a distance from the lighthouse. He pointed me in the general direction, but I must have taken a wrong turning somewhere and I ended up wandering off in the opposite direction…

James TownI approached a random stripy-topped tro tro driver when I realised I was lost. He turned to his son, who must have only been around six or seven years old, and asked if he knew where the lighthouse was. He had no idea, so the driver himself walked me down the way I’d just come before handing me over to a woman and her son. They were very friendly, asking where I was from and what I was doing in the area. They took me through the heart of James Town towards the lighthouse, and everything seemed familiar from my previous visit in April. I could smell fire burning, with the odd whiff of fish as street-sellers sold their daily catch. It’s a very simple and natural way of life which works for that community.

Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2014I eventually reached the lighthouse and met up with the group. Chalk drawings filled the road, with a whole mix of live music playing, right from hip-hop to RnB and house. A series of stalls filled the middle of the road, and large groups of people congregated to form a track for local teenagers to perform bike stunts. A little further up, a theatre group did a dance performance amidst a circle of people, whilst others displayed their graffiti nearby. It was, generally, a very happy atmosphere and everyone was in good spirits. As I stood videoing some of the impressive bike stunts, two young children stood and looked up – “Snap me!” they said. The camera proved hugely popular, with random people coming over and wanting their photo taken; I even starred in a couple myself as they took selfies with me.

Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2014We left the festival at around 7:30pm, and then headed off to Champs, a bar at the Paloma Hotel. The evening was spent playing pool and chatting to people, and I struck up a conversation with a group of Turkish gentleman who were visiting the area on business. The older man spent a period of time in Tokyo and was fluent in Japanese, but at home he lived right on the border with Syria. He felt danger, and heard frequent bombs dropping just a short distance away. He sounded worried about his home, but spoke highly of his time in Tokyo and Accra. I also found myself chatting to a British chap I’d met the previous week at Afrikiko. He’s been working in shipping for five years now, and finds himself sticking to Accra due to the ease of his job and cheap cost of living compared to the UK.

Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2014Godfred and I grabbed some dinner, and then headed back for the evening. We took a tro tro for part of the distance – just for the experience, of course. Tro tros are privately-owned minibus share taxis that travel fixed routes when they’re filled to capacity. They can be boarded anywhere along the route, although there are designated ‘tro tro stations’ too. ‘Tro’ is twi for ‘small’, suggesting ‘small change’, which makes sense considering they are so cheap. It cost a mere 50 pesewas each for us to travel down the motorway. Each tro tro has both a driver, and the driver’s “mate” who is responsible for collecting money and calling out where the vehicle is travelling to. This made sense, as I’d seen (and heard) these individuals shouting things out, but really had no idea what they were talking about.

James TownThe tro tro trip that evening was quite the experience. We were seated on the back row, and I was in the middle of a row of four. Leg-room just wasn’t an option, as every single seat in the minibus was filled. The back window had been smashed in, and a fantastic bouncy beat from UB40 was playing over the speakers. Apparently people travel several hours in these vehicles, getting from region to region with just a couple of cedis. I was impressed; the guys next to me seemed to enjoy the company, although I think taxis are still the preferred method of transport!

James Town

“Chale Wote” translates as “friend, let’s go!”

Day 13 & 14 – Staff vs. Students Football Match

British Council, AccraOn 21st August, I spent a couple of hours off-campus as I was asked to go and hand out some flyers around Accra, advertising the following Tuesday’s open day. I was travelling with a guy called Nana who was on an internship at the university. He’s going to be studying at the university in January, but was getting some work experience before starting his studies. He was a really nice guy, and I quite enjoyed the morning out – we started off at the British Council, and then moved on to the Stanbic Bank Headquarters. The British Council was pretty cool, and we headed into the reception first. The girl working there took our flyers, had a read of one, and then enquired about our courses. As it turns out, she was interested in joining us in January, so I went into full recruitment mode, listing the courses we offer and telling her just how awesome the university is. She seemed like she was going to get in touch with the admissions team, so I left feeling pretty suited.

We took them to Stanbic Bank Headquarters, Lizzy’s Sports Complex, A&C Mall, and then Koffee Lounge; so far, it had been a pretty successful day. Once back in the office, I began finalising the student life booklet that I’d been working on with Omar and Godfred. We were making good progress, and continuing to work on content for the LUSU Overseas booklet.

At 3pm, staff and students headed off to Lizzy’s Sports Complex for the Staff vs. Students football match. I’m not a football fan in the slightest, so I decided to just stay in the office and carry on working. Then, a few minutes later, I received a call asking me for the SD card bringing for the camera, so I headed off and followed the crowd. The game had started by the time I got there, and the first half was relatively close with just one goal separating the two sides by the end of it. Throughout the second half though, the gap widened and the staff team began to get weary. The students, who had undergone a substantial amount of training, really took the lead – the final score was Staff 4-12 Students.

Staff vs. Students Football MatchWe headed back to the office after the game, but I was feeling pretty run-down for some reason; I had a headache, and felt pretty weak. I went back to the house when everyone else left, and slept for a few hours. I had dinner with Omar at a pretty chilled Turkish restaurant called DNR; the chicken kebab with rice and chips was absolutely delicious

The remainder of my evening was spent chatting with some of the Nigerian guys I was living with. Apparently, Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures are pretty similar, although the relatively quiet area of East Legon was a lot different to their home-town of Lagos!

22nd August was, again, spent finalising content. We finished the content for the LUSU Overseas pre-departure booket, and had a couple of meetings to discuss progress on the smaller tasks. Whilst Omar, Godfred, and I had been focusing largely on writing content, and designing, a handful of promotional materials, we also had our own individuals tasks to do. I, for example, had the fact sheet and student testimonials to compile, along with a community update outlining what the university had been up to throughout the 2013/14 academic year. Just one week left remained until I’d be heading back to the UK, and I was determined to get everything finished in time!

I had dinner at Starbites with Omar and his friend, before going out to Duplex with some of the guys from my house. I visited Duplex back in April whilst on the FASS trip and, yet again, it was excellent.

Day 12 – Tweet Calendar

20th August was another generally packed day of catching up and starting a couple of new projects. We started the day off having a meeting with Edward, the Assistant Recruitment and Admissions Manager; he gave Omar and I a list of the year’s most important events, all ready to plug into our “tweet calendar” that was under development. Essentially, what I wanted to do was write out a series of tweets and schedule them into TweetDeck, ready to be automatically pushed out over the coming year. That way, the Lancaster University Ghana staff didn’t need to worry about the generic things, and they could instead focus on live tweeting up-to-date research and photographs of student life events.

We finished the student life booklet, and I made a start on creating a fact sheet. Essentially, the fact sheet gives a brief overview of the campus population, its facilities, staff, and events; it can be handed out to corporate partners to give an overview of what we offer. I also began asking students to send me some testimonials so that I could compile them all and have a bank of feedback from students. Again, not only would this feedback be useful to the university to measure its progress, but it could also be quoted in future promotional materials.

Day 11 – Selfie Tuesday

19th August brought Selfie Tuesday on the Lancaster Ghana campus! Essentially, we were inviting staff and students to take a selfie of themselves with the Lancaster logo, and then have them post it up on social media for the chance to win a prize. We were giving away two cinema tickets, along with popcorn and drink at Silverbird Cinema. Quite a few people decided to get involved throughout the day, and it was nice walking around and seeing people taking photos of each other on campus.

Selfie TuesdayThe day itself was spent working on lots of different things. We had a meeting about the Business Cup Challenge, worked on web content, and even got involved with the planning of some activities for LUSU students when they visit on the Overseas Programme this weekend. The students will be visiting from Lancaster University for three weeks; they’ll be working on academic projects, getting involved with some volunteer work, and then seeing a lot of the local attractions – just like we did in April. The schedule is jam-packed full of events, and if I wasn’t on a trans-Atlantic cruise next week, I’d be pretty jealous of them!

Peter Pan RestaurantI had dinner with Godfred that evening at a restaurant called Peter Pan in Madina. I was intrigued by the restaurant name, and must have looked a little odd taking a photo of the plastic statue of the Disney character which stood outside the door. Somehow, the conversation went on to Ebola, and I wondered how Godfred felt, as a Ghanaian, about the looming threat. He commented on the fact that it was relatively big news a couple of weeks ago, when the two fishermen entered quarantine, but people don’t seem to be discussing it quite so much more recently. Apparently this is quite normal practice for people in Ghana – the topic dies down, people let their guards down, and the virus has a higher potential of spreading through the country. I think the reaction is mixed – about half of the people I’ve spoken to think it will reach Ghana, whilst the other half think we are able to keep it out. Time will tell.

Day 10 – Media Club

I spent Monday 18th cracking on with work and catching up with things. We had a meeting to discuss potential events that could be planned over the coming months, and we organised a trip to the Chale Wote Street Art Festival that would be held that coming weekend. It actually sounded pretty good from the flyers – live music, street art, dance groups, and stalls. It was being held in James Town, one of the oldest towns in Ghana which is where we visited last in April – I was looking forward to returning.

I also published some of the students’ video responses to Robert Davis’ guest lecture. During the lecture itself, we noticed that there was a selection of confident students who were really engaging with what he was saying. Rather than merely absorbing his tips, they were asking some quite challenging questions; wondering why Kingdom Holdings chose to build in Accra rather than somewhere like Lagos in Nigeria, for example. Naturally, we were interested to find out what the audience thought of his lecture. A group of students got together to interview each other on camera, and we were presented with three videos ready to upload to the university YouTube channel. It shows how students critically engage with guest speakers, and of course that is excellent publicity for the university itself.

Hopefully, this is the foundation of a new “Media Club” that will begin to grow over the coming months, and particularly when the new cohort arrives in October. Having students cover events such as this allows them to reflect on their experience and gain good experience in photography, video-editing, and writing. Student media is quite big at Lancaster University in the UK, and I think a committed group of students here in Ghana would be able to develop it over their years spent at the institution. By giving students the opportunity, and encouragement, to cover events like this in a professional manner, they are developing a whole range of useful transferable skills in the process – skills that are useful to a potential employer in the future.

Barita'sI had dinner with Godfred at a place called Barita’s that evening. It was a Chinese restaurant, so I went for the beef in curry sauce. It was absolutely incredible, albeit very spicy; something which Ghanaians seem to really favour!

Day 9 – Art Centre and Labadi Beach

I woke up, for the first time, at around 8:30am on Sunday 17th August. I could hear the sound of church hymns echoing around the house, and I assumed that this was some kind of weekly ritual that my housemates engaged in. I later learnt that it was actually a fellowship church group that had dropped by, and a couple of guys decided to join in with them. It was actually a really nice sound – quite angelic, and rather soothing to wake up to.

Art Centre - Accra, Ghana

I managed to get a few more hours sleep, and then woke up to meet Godfred. After I’d returned from Ghana in April, I decided that I wanted to buy a djembe drum; I’d seen them on our final day, for sale at the art centre, but decided against it at the time. I’d specifically brought a large bag so that I could buy one this time, so I didn’t waste any time in getting one. We took a taxi to the art centre and, as our luck would have it, the first vendor that spoke to us happened to have a whole shop full of them. I used to play djembe when I was younger – I was part of the group in Junior School, and used to do performances in the local community. I always wanted to own one myself, and there was no time like the present.

Art Centre - Accra, Ghana

The vendor explained how the drums were made. The wood is acquired from around 3 hours away, and it is brought to Accra. We could see a group of men sat around shaping the trunks and hollowing them out, ready for a band of iron fitting, and either goat or cow skin stretching over the top. The particular drum that I picked out was covered with goat skin, and it had two symbols on the side: one represented knowledge, whilst the other suggested “don’t badmouth people”. It looks pretty awesome, and the group of vendors all got together to do a little performance on their drums.

Labadi Beach

After the art centre, we took a taxi to Labadi Beach. Everyone pays an entrance fee to Labadi Beach, and it’s a very busy place. It’s very relaxed, although there are a whole lot of people trying to sell you things as you sit minding your own business. Godfred suggested I try the palm wine, and whilst I thought it would be disgusting, it was actually really nice. It’s produced by cutting the palm tree down, setting it on fire, and then collecting the sap. We went up to the bar, which overlooks the whole beach, and had a beer. Again, it was really relaxing, and it was nice to just sit back and have a chat after the busy week we’d both had!

We called at Accra Mall to have dinner at a place called Boneros, before heading back for the evening. Today had been quite the experience – I’d never been in a taxi in Ghana before, but now I’d managed four in a day. Taxi fares must be agreed upon before actually getting in; there’s no standardisation like there is in the UK, and it leaves a little room for negotiation. I was impressed.