It's been almost a month since my last post and I feel the need to give a quick recap to get back into the swing of things after a very busy holiday season.
I've covered some interesting stories, from a behind the scenes look at the fire safety preparations for the Cup of African Nations at the stadium in Sekondi to integrated HIV education for kids at the primary school level.
I spent a lot of time with my girlfriend as she navigated her way as a student physician through the often stormy seas of the Ghanaian health care system.
Visited "The Hideout" in beautiful Butre, back to Cape Coast and the slave castle, to Ho for a JHR workshop with the journalists in the eastern region of Ghana, back again to Amedzofe for long rain forest hikes and waterfall showers.
Then a two week vacation over Christmas and New Year's Day. From Takoradi, to Kumasi, to Tamale, to Mole National Park, to Tamale, to Kumasi, to Takoradi, to Accra, to Kokrobite, to Kotoko airport to send Kate home, Accra and finally Takoradi.
Mole turns out to the highlight of my time in Ghana. It's the land before time. We track elephants, hang out with warthogs and chill with monkeys. We meet some very cool people and have a very interesting Christmas day. Walking with elephants in the wild is the best Christmas gift I've ever received.
We have the pleasure of hanging out with two Dutch couples. One is a young med student and her partner (sound familiar?), the other an inspirational May-December union. The man is a fanatical cyclist, former award-winning journalist and current university prof and community organizer/mediator. She is a psychologist who trains police in hostage situations. The two are in the process of completing a trek from Timbuktu to Accra. They rave about their experiences and recommend we do the same.
Kokorbite turns out to be a bit of a bust. Kate and I get sick, maybe Kate a little sicker, and we celebrate New Year's Eve in a little cabin. We're too ill to go out to join the party with live reggae band, fireworks, acrobats and alcohol, raging right outside our door. First in line for the buffet dinner, half-finish our meals and go directly to bed. I set the alarm for 11:30 PM to see if we can recover in time. We don't.
Two other JHR friends also have bad New Year's experiences. One gets severe malaria and the other injures herself. Not a great way to ring in 2008.
Immediately after seeing Kate off back to Canada, and upon my return to Takoradi, I attend the evangelical wedding of my co-worker and house mate Kweku. The whole SKYY crew is there, as are many of my neighbor friends. It's a fun party in a language I don't understand, replete with singing, dancing and talking in tongues. SKYY 'bronie, another name I have collected, is even asked to stand and wave to the crowd.
I learn some juicy gossip as soon as I run into the SKYY crew: Cyrus DeGraft-Johnson, the head of radio news at SKYY is leaving to join JOY, maybe the biggest radio station in Ghana. A big step up for Cyrus, but it leaves a huge void at SKYY. The already stretched news department loses its main man. Kweku becomes the De Facto head of news.
I hide from the reception, go pay the overdue internet bill, buy groceries, go home and collapse.
Now I sit and ponder the remaining 6 weeks of my placement with JHR and SKYY News in Ghana. How is that possible, I ask myself? It truly feels like I've just arrived and yet nearly 6 months have passed. Still so much to learn, so much work to do, and yet virtually no time in which to do it.
CAN2008 will be in full swing in a couple of weeks and will certainly dominate the daily news grind.
I will be returning to the Buduburam refugee settlement to finish a short documentary on basketball and see to the donation of a water tank for ARCH, the Abandoned Refugee Children's Home.
After my six weeks, I'll be doing some more traveling. Jessie, my intrepid JHR colleague, travel companion and travel agent, fell in the shower and dislocated her shoulder just before New Year's eve - leaving my hugely ambitious travel plans in doubt and her arm in a sling. We had planned two trips: one west and north through Burkina Faso and Mali to Timbuktu - a second east to Zanzibar, the Serengeti, the Kigali film festival and Malawi.
I'm thinking about going solo to Timbuktu.
Sounds like a great way to end a fantastic experience.
A happy and healthy 2008 to everyone.
May the road rise to meet you and the wind always be at your back!