On Tuesday-morning, February 3, our journey begins on the airport of Dusseldorf. From here we will fly to London, where we will make the transfer to the plane to Accra. We land in Accra in the evening and after collecting our luggage we take the first available taxi to our accommodation for the night, The Good Shepherd Home. On arrival we are kindly welcomed by Jimah, the owner, and he directs us to our room. With its simple style and almost Spartan-feeling décor it is not a very luxurious hostel, but it is comfortable enough and after a day of travelling we gladly lay our heads down to rest.
At 5 in the morning we take off to the bus station in Accra to take the 7 o clock bus, which will take us all the way to Tamale. We leave at approximately 8.15, almost one and a half hour later than planned, as is the Ghanaian custom. Fortunately, the bus is equipped with proper airconditioning and during the entire trip we are able to enjoy a Ghanaian soap opera (note: lots of screaming). We are expecting it to be an 8-hour trip, but after the estimated 8 hours we soon discovered the ride from Accra-Tamale is in fact 13 hours… Luckily, being still very tired from our journey, we sleep for almost the entire drive up there. During the day, the bus stops a few times, which gives us the opportunity to buy some street food and use the restroom. At 10 ‘o clock that evening, we finally arrive in Tamale, where we spend the night at the Catholic Church Hostel. Despite our catnaps on the bus we are still able to fall asleep almost immediately after our heads hit the pillow.
This morning, the driver of the West Gonja Hospital comes to pick us up in Tamale. The ride from Tamale to the hospital in Damongo takes about 2 hours, which is nothing compared with what we have dealt with earlier this trip. On arrival in Damongo, Mr. Remy, the hospital administrator and the usual contact person for MUSTANGH, is the first person we see. It’s very nice to finally put a face to the name after communicating for already half a year by email. Mr. Remy takes us out for lunch at the local canteen, which is properly named “Canteen-Canteen”. Eager to finally have a proper meal, we dive in. During lunch it is already becoming quite clear that during this trip nothing will go as planned as Mr. Remy tells us that he will be absent the next few days and that the same goes for the othter people we were supposed to be meeting. Fortunately, he also comes bearing good news, because they were finally able to get the money out of the bank account in Tamale, which had been frozen for quite some time. This meant we weren’t needed anymore to travel to the bank ourselves and try to solve the problem. Despite the good news, we start getting worried for a moment, since solving the problems with the bank account and having meetings with Mr. Remy and some other employees was what we were planning to do the first few days. So without these appointments, how are we going to fill up our schedules for 3 days? Luckily, Tessa, the GEZP-student currently staying in the MUSTANGH-house, offered to give us a tour through the hospital the next day so that we can take pictures for our website and see her in action.
That night, Tessa takes us to the local food stands to get some real Ghanaian street food. Food is made outside in Ghana and is then packed in plastic bags for you to take home. Which means that even soups, sauces and other liquids are transported this way. We decide to choose ‘kenkey’ as our meal for the day, which is some kind of sourdough with a sauce/soup on the side. Of course, as is the Ghanaian custom, we eat our ‘kenkey’ with our right hand, which proves to be quite difficult when you’re eating soup. And alas, after a few bites we get the sense that our stomachs still need to adjust to this new cuisine.
In the morning we meet Jane, the cleaning lady/cook of the MUSTANGH-house, for the first time. She brings along her son, of one years old, little Basid (Ben). Basid turns out to be a real entertainer and is able to keep us busy for the rest of the moring with running around after him.
For lunch, Jane makes us “fufu”, which is a local meal that consists of cassava puree with a tomatosoup, again eaten with the right hand. It is normal in Ghana to eat warm for lunch and something small in the evening, as used to be the custom in Europe as well back in the day.
As promised, Tessa takes us on a tour through the hospital which gives us the opportunity to already meet most of the staff. She shows us all the different wards and of course we especially take time to look at the children’s ward, since its construction was funded by MUSTANGH.
At the end of the day we get to sit with Tessa when she does her consultations at the outpatient department. We soon discover that privacy is not an issue here in Ghana, since none of the patients seem to mind our presence in the consultation room and are all eager to smile to the camera.
Day 5 and 6
Saturdays and Sundays turn out to be very quiet days in Damongo. On Sunday, the majority of the community goes to church. Unfortunately, because a lot of people are out of town, we can’t have as many meetings as we had hoped. Luckily, dr. Jonathan was able to squeeze us in his busy schedule. Dr. Jonathan is responsible for the assessment of our GEZP-students. At the hospital, his function is the Medical Director, which means he is responsible for all the medical staff and takes place in the board of the hospital. At first, he can come across as quite firm, but we soon find out this not at all the case. Dr. Jonathan can easily talk for hours and hours about his work, his family and the students he has come to meet because of MUSTANGH and he does so with an appropriate amount of humor. At the end of our meeting, he invites us for drinks at Canteen-Canteen and afterwards for dinner at his house. As a parting gift, he gives us a whole box of eggs (40 eggs) laid by his own chickens. We are unusually happy with this gift because it means that we get to have a ‘normal’ breakfast for the rest of our stay.
Today we have our meeting with Francis, who is currently studying to become physician assistant. MUSTANGH is sponsoring his education. He tells us that he is very happy with the collaboration and is very enthusiastic to meet us. Furthermore, he tells us that his studies are going well and that he is grateful for the opportunities he is provided with by MUSTANGH.
If you would like to know more about Francis, keep an eye on our Facebook page, as there will be a short segment on Francis. Or take a look at his own page!
Today we also have an official meeting with Kassim, the guard of the MUSTANGH-house. Of course we had already met him before in the days before but there were a few things that needed to be discussed with him. Kassim also told us to be quite happy with his job and all his duties as guard. He usually makes great connections with the students and really enjoys meeting all these new people every year.
On Tuesday we have a meeting with Julie, who is currently studying to be a pediatric nurse. She is very happy with the collaboration, but also states that she really appreciates meeting us, since she didn’t have any direct contact with MUSTANGH before this. She tells us that she would like to have more contact via email or whatsapp in the future. Of course, we are very happy with her honest feedback and we will definitely take this into consideration in the future.
Furthermore, we had another meeting with Mr. Remy to properly discuss both of our visions for the collaboration between the hospital and MUSTANGH.
On the last day we have a meeting with the board of the hospital and with Sr. Seraphine. She is also responsible for the financial matters with our bank account in Ghana. She is able to show us an overview of all the expenses of the last year and tells us that the new bank account will soon be opened. They are opening a new bank account in Damongo, instead of Tamale, because of the travel distance between Damongo and Tamale.
Today we begin our journey back home. We are very happy with the results of our meetings and feel enriched with all the new experiences and the new people we got to meet.
Photos of this journey