Well okay public, you ready to be engaged? Good. Let’s get started.

 

Hello Internet! The World Wide Web! The Global Network! The Great Cyberspace! The Super Highway! The Home of Procrastination! The Centre of Fake News! The Executioner of Blockbuster! The Cause of all Seniors’ Confusion! And the True Sex-Ed Classroom! Hello!

Please, please. The applause is too much…

For those of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, I’m Doug J. I am an Australian-Canadian working in social development. Currently, I am taking part in the International Youth Internship Program (IYIP), an initiative established by Global Affairs Canada to provide Canadian Youth the opportunity to gain professional experience through international development work. We IYIPers, as we affectionately call each other*, are littered throughout the world. In my case, I have the pleasure of working and residing in Tamale, Ghana – a growing city where rural vibes meet urban opportunities. I am working at an NGO called NORSAAC that focuses on empowering women and youth via a variety of programs throughout Ghana’s Northern Region. For more information about NORSAAC’s numerous initiatives, please visit their website – www.norsaac.org. My role is of Financial Management Specialist. In brief, I’m responsible for tightening the screws of the organization’s financial policies and procedures.

One of the core components of the IYIP is public engagement. Throughout our internships, we are encouraged to write blog posts to share our experiences, spread the word and generate enthusiasm for international development work. Instead of writing an extended diary passage or a research paper or an historical essay or anything of value, I have decided to indulge in the abstract. In past travels, I have developed a habit of jotting down my thoughts and observations in the form of Haikus. I have continued this practice during my time in Tamale, and here you will find a collection of Haikus inspired by my internship experience.

What are Haikus you may ask? Don’t be lazy, look it up.

Just kidding. Haikus are a short form of Japanese poetry. They consist of 17 syllables over 3 lines – 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second and 5 in the third. Traditionally, Haikus centre around natural elements and the juxtaposition of these elements. I tend to break away from these traditional components, but I keep to the concise structure, where I think the strength of the poetic form lies. For one, it forces the writer to be brief. The author must choose their words wisely, assuring each is specific to the message they want to convey. (I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes – lazy poetry for a lazy man). And two, I enjoy Haikus ability to capture a single moment or idea. Nothing more. Nothing too ambitious. Not often profound. Some are just funny thoughts, others simple observations. My hope is that by providing a collection of these Haikus, I’ll be able to paint a picture or, at least, supply a glimpse of my life here in Tamale. I have organized these short poems into 4 categories: Work Life, Culture, Environment and Personnel. For context and clarity, each haiku is accompanied with a short comment.

Disclaimer: I will be the first to acknowledge, these Haikus are not ground-breaking. They range from slightly humorous to crap. I am not a poet. I’m a Financial Management Specialist. Enjoy!

Well okay public,

You ready to be engaged?

Good. Let’s get started.

 

Work Life

Excited greetings,

Love and care like family,

NORSAAC – a new home

Since our arrival, the members of NORSAAC have been incredibly welcoming, helpful and genuinely excited to have Natasha and I. We are very lucky to be with such a caring organization.

NORSAAC’s focuses:

SRHR, G&G,

Learning, Livelihood

NORSAAC has 4 key focus areas: Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights, Gender & Governance, Education and Livelihood. From promoting peaceful elections to tackling child marriage, NORSAAC has a range of programs covering these focus areas. The organization is doing very beneficial and impactful work. Being part of the finance team, its been great getting a glimpse at all the activities. As my internship progresses, I hope to go into field and see some of these programs in action!

Quickbooks and Excel,

Teachings, meetings and banter,

A day in the life.

As a Financial Management Specialist, most of my work revolves around the organizations accounting software (Quickbooks) and Excel. However, I have also taken on side projects which have allowed me to run some workshops and training activities. The daily back and forth with the cast of characters at NORSAAC is always fun.

Earnest to goofy,

Range of office characters,

Like cast of Muppets.

One of my favourite aspects of working at NORSAAC is interacting with the variety of characters at the office. It’s fun and dynamic. Everyone has a distinct personality, but all share a common yearning to smile.

Workshop? Check. Tools? Check.

Kids and breast-feeding babies.

Unexpected? Check.

I facilitated a basic accounting and excel workshop for movement called Young Urban Women. Since the age range was between 16 – 24, these women were accompanied by their babies and young children. It was a strange experience lecturing while they tended to their young ones, and one I did not anticipate. It was impressive that, even with their children present, the women were engaged and ready to learn.

Every meal or snack,

Doesn’t matter how much left,

You are invited!

 

Whenever a colleague is eating something, they always “invite” you to their meal. This is normally done with the proclamation “You are invited!”.

 

 

Bathing in my sweat,

Co-workers draped on their desks,

Power, please come back.

 

Unfortunately, we experience frequent power outages at the office. The worst part is no A/C or fans. Everyone slowly melts into a pool of sweat. Productivity takes a hit, as does sanity.

Meeting start time – 9,

It’s 10, not a soul in sight,

Hello Ghana time!

There is not the same emphasis on punctuality here as there is in Canada. I would argue this is not necessarily a lack of respect for time, but more due to putting too much on your plate. People are busy and often double book themselves. With that being said, NORSAAC is making a concerted effort to be more structured in terms of time.

After presenting,

Prepare for blunt, fierce feedback,

And try not to cry.

 

Ghanaians love giving feedback. They love sharing their opinions, even if that means pointing out that you’re wrong or your ideas are inadequate – in front of everyone. I enjoy this in-your-face, blunt approach. But, I suspect, people would cry in Canada.

An audit today?

Org-wide meeting tomorrow?

Why not? Let’s do it!

 

Communication and planning can be a bit of struggle at the office. Events that would be planned months in advance in Canada, often are organized only days before hand. Sometimes, activities are not even communicated to you until day it begins. It’s challenging, but you have to be flexible.

Sounds of disbelief,

Exclaims of passion and rage.

Communication.

In general, Ghanaians communicate in a very animated fashion. Where in Canada you would think two colleagues were having a dramatic stand off, in Ghana, two colleagues are merely debating how to format a document.

Culture

Why standing on plane?

Do they need to use toilet?

No – they just chillen.

On the flight to Accra, when the seatbelt sign went off, a lot of passengers got up. They were hanging around in the free space next the laboratories. Stretch your legs, chat with friends – makes sense to me.

Ghanaian first thoughts:

Incredibly vibrant clothes,

Even better hair.

 

In Tamale, people like to wear a range of styles with lots of bright colours and cool patterns. The variety of hair styles is also exceptional.

 

 

In Ghana, the show

“So you think you can dance” would

Be called “You can dance”.

Its astonishing how well people can dance here. I’m almost certain it’s a universal trait. But seriously, how can they move their body that way…

Five minute convo,

Add I might visit Accra,

Call me anytime

While visiting a town called Paga, I met a man from Accra. We chatted for about 5 minutes. He was adamant if I ever was in Accra, I should give him a call and he would show me around. The other week, I travelled to Accra. I gave him a call, and he took me out as promised. A great example of the kindness and generosity typical of the Ghanaian people.

Never settling,

Always seeking to learn skills,

People of Ghana.

A quality I have noticed in my co-workers and other locals I have met is that they are consistently trying to improve and learn new skills. This was particularly apparent when I ran a workshop with Excel-based activities. Some of the students didn’t even know how to open Excel, but their determination and willingness to learn drove them to complete the activities. It was inspiring.

When party rallies

Become motorbike rallies,

Ghana Elections.

Ghana is having a federal election in December. One time I was busing home from a weekend away, the bus got caught up in a political party rally. It was quite raucous. Crowds of people gathering in the street and marching. Meanwhile, motorbikes were speeding back and forth, revving their engines at any opportunity. It was pretty intense and intimidating. I hope no one got hurt.

How you carry things?

Backpack? Case? Plastic bag? Purse?

How about your head?

The main method to transport goods from stores and within a market is to balance them on your head (often in a large metal bowl). Its incredible how many items and how much weight a person can carry. One time after a big grocery run, my roommates and I had too much stuff to carry and were concerned about weaving through the congested market. Not to worry. A young girl showed up, placed all our items in her metal bowl, plopped it on her head and happily weaved her way through the market to our car. It was incredible.

 

 

Beans, rice and fried yam.

Porridge and eggs, staples too.

Oh cheese – I miss you!

Local food consists of beans, rice (cooked in a variety of ways), yams, chicken and fish. I am enjoying it, but there are times you miss home comforts. Luckily, Tamale has a quite a few of restaurants that offer Western dishes. My fellow interns and I have an unwavering craving for poutine. Our goal is to cook home-made poutine (or something close) in the near future. Wish us luck!

Environment

Mud brick, humidity thick.

From dirt roads to NGOs.

This is Tamale.

 

Tamale is found in the Northern Region of Ghana. It is know for its hot weather as much as it’s incredible amount of NGOs (and acronyms).

 

Boys, girls, men, women,

Emerge from random bushes,

Gotta poop somewhere.

 

 

A sad reality.

 

 

Yellow, blue and white,

Hovers over brown and red,

With blotches of green.

 

An attempt at poetry to describe the primary colours of Tamale. There is a lot more vegetation and green than I expected, but it is predominantly reddish brown dirt.

 

Have you heard this one?

How does the goat cross the road?

Teamwork and courage.

 

Goat and sheep are just another participant of the morning traffic jam. Its astonishing watching herds of them cross the street together in an organized fashion. The leader even goes back to gather any misguided soles.

 

Do not be alarmed,

For that is not your alarm,

But time for prayer.

 

Every morning at 4am, mosques pump out morning prayers from their speakers. All part of the package of living in a Muslim community.

 

Doesn’t matter where,

At markets, pools and town events,

Speakers are blarin’.

 

Ghanaians love their music, and they love it loud. Like really loud.

 

Tuk-tuks and motos,

Speed bumps, holes and baby goats,

Please drive cautiously.

 

I had the opportunity to drive the other week. It’s hectic! You must always be alert, as there are so many variables to account for.

 

 

 

 

Personnel

On the tennis court,

When your hit loses the point,

Oh! They’ll let you know.

I have joined a tennis club, which has been a lot of fun. The members are tennis diehards, but they are not your typical posh, polite, sweater-around-the-neck players. When they are beating you, they love to let you know about it.

Oh and don’t even get me started on my tennis rival Adams. He thinks he’s so top-shelf. He’s not. He will get his upcommance…

 

Full disclosure. He beat me recently and, as a result of our wager, I had to buy the entire club beer. I may be a smidgen bitter about the situation…

Bugs, beetles and ants,

In bed, a party every night.

Kittens, time to strike!

Unfortunately, my room is infested with ants and other critters. Fortunately, we have acquired two kittens who are now my ministers of defence.

 

Seul-Minga HELLO!!!

This must be what it feels like,

To be a “Beatle”

In Tamale, there is a term for white-people – Seul-Minga. Children love to scream “Seul-Minga hello!” whenever you pass by (it can be pretty intense). I often respond with a wave and hello back.

I’m pretty much the John Lennon of Tamale. (Pan to Travis and Natasha aggressively shaking their heads – no.)

Want to lose weight?

I have your answer right here.

Sweat, sleep, sweat, repeat.

I have a lost a bunch of weight since moving here. Probably not healthiest thing, but oh well. I attribute this to sweating 24/7 and just not eating anywhere near the amount I usually do at home. We eat a lot in Canada...

Tennis, yoga, pools,

Fashion shows, plays and field trips.

Time keeps on slippin’.

 

I’ve managed to fill my after-work schedule with a bunch of fun activities. As a result, time is going by very quickly.

 

Friendly with big laugh,

A true Canuck from the heart,

Travis – Always fun.

 

My roommate and fellow intern working at an NGO called CALID in Resource Mobilization.

 

Smart, considerate,

Woman of endearing sass.

Natasha – Good friend.

My roommate and fellow intern also working at NORSAAC. Her role involves Monitoring & Evaluation, Resource Mobilization and remembering to bring ramen.

Selfish, bland, boring.

Repugnant in every sense.

Just James – Just go home.

An entity living in Bolgatanga, a town about 160kms north of Tamale. Also a Financial Management Specialist, but of severely lower quality. Works for an NGO called Widows & Orphans. I’m sure they regret their decision taking him on…

 

Just kidding, Just James.

Just bright, kind, fair and witty.

James – not Just at all.

 

 

Some would say our relationship is abusive. I say we are good friends.

Pinky or Small Boy,

Jerry or My Fair Lady,

What’s my name again?

 I have accumulated quite the number of nicknames since my arrival. Some make more sense than others.

 

Doug Strasser is working as a Financial Management Specialist with Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC) in Tamale, Ghana.