Fauve van Veen & Maud Cox
Day 1 & Day 2– 27&28/12/2018
We arrived at the airport of Brussel and our adventure finally began! After saying our goodbye and hugging our families, we departed to Ghana. Once we had arrived in Accra (the capital of Ghana), we faced difficulties finding the right terminal for our domestic flight. Luckily, some Ghanaians approached us and were willing to help us. After some ‘Ghanaian discomforts’, our domestic plane left at 06:30 hour local time (1 hour earlier than in the Netherlands) to Tamale. We could not believe our eyes. Ghanaians were admiring us behind some fences and we saw a lot of uninhabited landscape. Our driver from the hospital, Mr Fred(erick), picked us up at the airport. Mr Fred took us to the market in Tamale, where he had to do some groceries for New Year’s Eve. Eventually, this took longer than we had expected, namely the whole afternoon, but it was definitely worth it. Not in the least because walking over the chaotic market in Tamale was a special experience; everywhere we saw small shops, and women and girls walking with big bowls full of things on their heads. After several hours, we drove, with of course some more stops, to Damongo, Canteen. It was quite an experience to see the environment, especially when you have never been to Africa before. It was very primitive, poor, busy and dry. Once we arrived in Canteen, we could finally see the West Gonja Hospital (WGH) for the first time and our very own MUSTANGH house! Wow, this is so cool… but we also had to get used to it. The MUSTANGH house was bigger than we had expected, and we also met a salamander in the sink. We were very happy to meet Kassim (the nightwatch) later that evening. He is a lovely man and we immediately felt a lot safer!
Day 3 – 29/12/2018
This morning we woke up in hot Ghana underneath our mosquito net. At 10:00 AM we met Dr Nelson (at the moment he was the head of the hospital) at this office in the West Gonja Hospital. He is a very kind and grateful man. Dr Nelson is going to to leave the WGH for 3 years, because of his studies in general surgery in Accra. Due to the absence of Dr Nelson, the hospital is left with only two doctors, namely Dr Vitalis and Dr Bernard. After an interesting conversation with Dr Nelson, he gave us a tour through the entire hospital, which to our surprise is quite big!
During our lunch at the MUSTANGH house we experienced our first power cut. The typical ‘Dutch stress’ was immediately present, up until the power spontaneously came back to life after 15 minutes. We could not be happier! Back at the hospital, we met Dr Vitalis. He is very warm-hearted and talked with us about serious business, like the shortage of doctors and the accommodation problem, but he definitely also liked to joke around. He told us about his ambition to become an orthopaedic surgeon (even if it would be in the Netherlands). After this meeting, Sham (the son of the nightwatch) asked us if we want to go to the market in Damongo with him. (side note: at Saturdays there always is a market in Damongo and people say that even visitors from Tamale and Kumasi come there). With the yellow-yellow, we went to the crowded market and bought our diner. Back at the MUSTANGH house, we played a game named ‘Phase 10’ with Sham and we talked about Donald Trump and Van Persie. Just when we had decided to start cooking, Madame Mary (the housekeeper) entered the MUSTANGH house. The timing could not be more perfect. In short: it was a very successful first day in Canteen!
Day 4 – 30/12/2018
At 10:30 hours in the morning (+ a ‘Ghanaian 15 minutes’) Mr Fred (the driver) picked us up to go to the National Mole Park. He is a great host; he took us to the safari park and even offered to drive us around with the hospital car. Mr Fred was born and raised at Mole. We picked up an armed guide and our big safari tour began! It was definitely our lucky day, because we saw 3 elephants, crocodiles, antilopes, monkeys and pumba’s. The guide, Majid, told us a lot about the animals, here are some fun facts:
- Mole is 4000 km2 big.
- Mole has around 600 elephants.
- Elephants can only pair 5 days per year because of the heath.
- Elephants are black (you can see that when they are in the water, after that they roll in the mud to protect themselves from the heath).
- Elephants are pregnant of their kids for 2 years.
- Only male antilopes have horns and when they get older (around 15-18 years) the horns bend backwards.
- Antilopes get 20-21 years old on average and elephants 60-70 years old.
- Mole restaurant has very nice pizza margherita’s 😉
When we got back at Canteen, we had a meeting with Tabi Emmanuel (current sponsorproject: anesthesia). The meeting with him was fantastic! He is very kind and grateful for MUSTANGH and told us a lot about his studies. He was also very happy when we gave him some Dutch liquorice, a Christmas picture from the board and most of all a selfie-stick. Also Kassim returned at night and approached us in a very friendly and polite manner. He asked us questions such as: ‘how are you?’ and ‘how was Mole?’.
We experience the Ghanaian people as very welcoming and communicative. For example, we received multiple interesting messages and phone calls from Dr Nelson and Mr Remy (the administrator of the WGH). It was an amazing day!
Day 5 – 31/12/2018 (New Year’s Eve!)
Since we had a meeting scheduled at 9:00 AM with Sr Seraphine (the senior accountant) in the WGH, we got up early. Mr Francis and she are responsible for the financial administration of the hospital; so this was a highlight especially for the treasurer. Sr Seraphine was already waiting for us with a financial overview of the entire year. We were very happy and grateful for it! After some searching with the accountancy, we found the right documents between a lot of paperwork and Sr Seraphine made a lot of time for us. Unexpectedly, Dr Vitalis called us during the meeting and asked if we would like to attend surgeries; two c-sections. Immediately, we were enthusiastic and went to the theatre. It was great to experience and undoubtedly a bucket-list check! We were happily surprised by the Ghanaian hygiene and their way of working during the surgeries. The ambiance during the surgeries was good; the doctors and nurses were constantly joking which creates a relaxed atmosphere. In the afternoon, we met Iddrisu (a possible sponsorproject). Later on we were welcome at Dr Vitalis’ house. He has three very cute daughters (side note: who like to watch American wrestling on the TV) whom we brought some toys. Soon during our visit, Dr Vitalis was called by the hospital, because a child with a snake bite arrived at the emergency ward.
We spent New Year’s Eve with Kassim and his son Sham. The funny thing is that we have celebrated the new year twice; at 11:00 PM we received a lot of messages from our friends and families, because it was already 2019 in the Netherlands by that time. While we were enjoying our delicious Ghanaian beer (‘Shandy’) and were listening to music, we heard some festive noises. Around midnight, we went outside and saw that many people have gathered at the church. They sang and danced together and celebrated the start of 2019!
Day 6 – 01/01/2019
For the first time
during our stay in Ghana, we had a very relaxed day. In the afternoon we had a
short and nice meeting with Francis Tierenye. Francis had just finished his
studies and was going to start working at the WGH again as physician assistant next
week. Francis was very relaxed, but maybe this was because of the 12-hour bus trip
he had made from Accra to Tamale the day before ;).
Back at the MUSTANGH house, we had a conversation with Madam Mary. It was hard to have a fruitful conversation with her, since she was very shy and her English was not the best. Afterwards, we worked on writing some reports and went for a walk in the neighbourhood. All of the people that we saw and met during our walk, wished us a ‘happy new year’ or a ‘good afternoon’ and sometimes asked if we were enjoying our stay in Canteen. We experienced this as a huge contrast with the mentality that most people have in the Netherlands, where everyone is more self-centered and is not looking after others as much. In the evening the medical students, Lotte and Fleur, arrived with their families at the MUSTANGH house. During their two-weeks holiday, they had made a trip through Ghana and we enjoyed listening to all their stories. All of a sudden the MUSTANGH house was a full house, which we experienced as very cosy!
Day 7 – 02/01/2019
We were awoken by the sound of donkeys which, in the meantime, had become part of our morning ritual. To our surprise celebrated the Ghanaians the new year more on the first day of the new year instead of on New Year’s Eve. We heard loud music all day long until late at night. The planning of this day: in the morning we had a meeting with the medical students and in the afternoon we had a meeting scheduled with Mr Remy. The president has the most contact with Mr Remy and therefore it was very crucial for her to meet him. From Sr Seraphine we heard the terrible news that Mr Remy’s uncle passed away this morning. However, especially for us he came back to Damongo.
We decided to use the time we had in between the meetings to visit Damongo with the yellow-yellow to buy some paint. Damongo is a very nice town and we bought two big bins of paint so we could paint the MUSTANGH logo on the house later on.
The meeting with Mr Remy was longer than we had expected. Mr Remy is a very friendly man and he was wearing a beautiful traditional Ghanaian shirt, to mourn his uncle. Moreover, he is a very busy man, a lot of people came into his room to ask him questions and he received several phone calls during our meeting. After the meeting, we rushed back to the MUSTANGH house and quickly started painting before the sun would set. Our painting attracted a lot of kids from the neighbourhood and they were willing to help us. The end result of the logo was very pretty (thanks to help of many children)!
At the final night of our stay in Canteen, we had a very nice three-course dinner with the medical students and their family in the MUSTANGH house. After dinner we started packing our bags. At the end of the evening, Mr Remy invited us to have drinks at CanteenCanteen (the local bar) together with the medical students and some other employees from the hospital. It was a great and fun evening!
Day 8 – 03/01/2019
Mr Fred was going to pick us up at the MUSTANGH house at 9:00 AM. We were surprised by the early visit of Iddrisu before 9:00 AM, he brought us some homemade ‘shea butter’, which was very sweet! After a short photoshoot with the medical students in front of the MUSTANGH logo (which we are very proud of 😉) it was time to say goodbye to Canteen and to depart to Tamale. At the airport in Tamale we met Julie; she is a very warm-hearted woman. She is going to the WGH soon to work there again, because she just successfully finished her education and has become a paediatric nurse. After this lovely meeting, our long trip back to the Netherlands began. After two power cuts at the airport (everything is possible in Ghana) we flew back to Accra. Unfortunately, we could not meet Dr Jonathan and Dr Anthony (the two sponsored gynaecologists in training) any longer, because they suddenly had to work. We decided to explore the capital of Ghana, Accra. By taxi we drove to the inner-city, during this ride we were treated with a sightseeing-tour and we saw a lot of beautiful buildings, like the jubilee house, building of justice and all kinds of embassies. We visited an art/cultural market where we bought some souvenirs for our families. When we got out of the taxi, we were immediately surrounded by six Ghanaian men who were telling us to buy something from them. Luckily, we found a peaceful and beautiful place close to the market where we could have dinner. We chose a typical Ghanaian dish: banku (another bucketlist check). Banku is a mix of casave and mais. Unfortunately, we did not like the dish that much. Later on, we went back to the hotel. We were able to sleep for a short period of time and later that night flew back to the Netherlands.