La liberté de voyager.

All my belongings fit nicely in one big, red backpack.

Over the last two weeks and a half, I have had the opportunity to take full advantage of this fun fact.  I’ve been to Mole national park to connect with fellow Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Junior Fellows, see elephants, eat good food and talk in rants, and brainstorm on further ideas for our placements.  Then I went to Tamale, the metropolitan of the Northern Region, to attend an in-Country meeting with all of the EWB staff working in West Africa.  We talked strategy, passion and poetry, agriculture and our collective future, we talked about values, the news, and on Canada Day/ Ghana Republic Day I saw a few rap crews (possibly influencing the above rhymes…).   I also spent a week in the Upper East region of Ghana to be exposed to different realities and assess the impact of a program that EWB delivered to a few farmer groups in the community two years ago.  I went back to my home in Komoayili, spent a few days in my district in Karaga, and then came back to Tamale to help facilitate a leadership session for District Directors of Agriculture, well educated and travelled, influential, and impressive guys.  It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and both my heart and camera are loaded with beautiful memories.

Indeed, my big, red backpack has proven to be a good investment.

Some of my fellow EWB staff. Good friends, amazing people.

I’ve been welcomed in the home of very special and friendly people for whom I have immense respect.  I’m gaining confidence walking in crowded Ghanaian markets and in mostly empty millet fields.   I’ve had conversations about love and living a meaningful life under a canopy of stars completely free of any trace of light pollution.

I’ve seen how alcoholism can cause problems in families, anywhere.  I’ve realized that development is a complicated process with fuzzy end goals.  I’ve talked about hunger with farmers who faced this ugly bitch before, I’ve talked about the lack of rain, tractors and employment, and how electricity cables had been set up in a community eight years ago, but that the houses beside electric poles had not been yet electrified.

Electric lines, wired houses, political promises, and a lack of results.... maybe next election?

Travelling has expanded the ways I view the world.  It has helped me gain a better picture of Ghana, meet thought-provoking people, and spend some time reflecting on crowded and sweaty bus rides.

Going back to my community in Karaga, I’ve had the opportunity to bring a few simple gifts and share my adventures.  By naming the cities and communities I had visited combined with elaborate hand gestures and most importantly the help of young students who know some English, I was able to explain the amount of travelling I had done in the last few weeks.  That night, I sat again on the now familiar wooden, roofed platform with the other men of Komoayili.   A teacher at the primary school asked me to see pictures of my adventures.  I took out my laptop, and showcased the huge dose of privilege I have, simply due to the fact that I come from Canada.

 

My young friend Sylvester, showing me a beautiful view of Dua, my community in the Upper East.

I was showing snapshots of another region to people who had never had the opportunity to travel outside of the closest neighbouring cities.  For most of the people crowding around my laptop, it was the first time that they saw the rocky landscape of the Upper Eastern Region, only a about 150 kilometres north of where they are established.  I felt deeply humbled by the privilege I’ve had all of my life.  It makes you think, ya know?

I only have about five weeks left in Ghana before returning to Canada. Soon, I will be packing my big, red backpack.  I’ll miss the harvest and won’t be able to see the impact of projects I’m currently initiating.  I won’t see the worst of the dry season and I’ll go back to finish post-secondary education.  This summer, I’ve had the opportunity to travel halfway across the world, work and live with incredible people, and grow immensely.

My Upper East host mother, teaching me new skillzzz!

I can’t say that I truly understand rural livelihoods or my place in the bigger picture of creating a more just world.  I don’t understand how to build vibrant communities where people lend money to each other in times of need in Canada.  I don’t know how to create a system that enables a better, and more fulfilling job market in Ghana.  Rather I only have snapshots of inspiring people, enlightening conversations, moments of laughter, joy, and understanding, and… well cute Ghanaian children.  I have a few nice African shirts, a bit of Dagbani vocabulary, and an ignited passion to create more freedom for people.

I hope that my big, red backpack is big enough to bring all of this home.

Because my friends, we’ve got work to do.

12 thoughts on “La liberté de voyager.

    • Merci beaucoup Michel!

      Toi, comment va la vie poste poste-secondaire? Est-ce que tu retournes à l’école en septembre? Va falloir qu’on se voit quand je retournes à Chelmsford en fin août!

      Ciao!

      Marc-André

      • J’avais pas vu que tu m’avais répondu!! J’dois avoir oublié de cocher la boite. Moi la vie de poste-secondaire continue toujours! J’entre à la maîtrise en histoire au mois de septembre pour travailler sur l’identité culturelle franco-ontarienne. Oh yes, ça va être trippant. J’ai hâte en bibitte! Comme je l’ai dit dans l’autre post que je viens de t’écrire, on s’assure de se voir quand tu seras à Chelmsford au mois d’août!!🙂

        Prend soins de toi mon ami!

      • C’est awesome, j’ai hâte d’entendre parler de tes plans de recherche en personne, bientôt! L’identité franco-ontarienne, c’est toute un sujet! C’est intéressant parce qu’ici au Ghana il y a plein de minorités linguistiques de différents peuples qui se sont établis dans le pays cependant la seule langue officielle est la langue colonisatrice, l’anglais. Même à l’école primaire, dans ma petite communauté rurale, on semble pousser beaucoup l’anglais même si les parents des jeunes écoliers ne parlent pas la langue (et les enseignants ne la maîtrise pas nécessairement non plus…). C’est intéressant!

  1. Great post Marc! Hearing about everyone’s village stays in the Upper East makes me miss my old stomping grounds!

    Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see you all in Tamale before you leave. Make the most of those last 5 weeks!!

    • Hey Lauren!

      The Upper East is beautiful, I only spent a week there and I’d also love to go back! Where will you be based for the beginning of your work, Tamale?

      Hopefully we will cross-path at some point, we’re going down to Cape Coast for the end of our placements, but some of us will definitely be travelling through Accra.

      Marc-André

  2. Marc-André, what an inspiring post! I got shivers at the very end. Excellent story arc with the big red backpack. It’s indeed humbling to talk to people about unknown parts of their country (just a skip away in Canadian geographical terms), which we zip around with little fanfare. It almost feels wrong for me to enlighten them to their own country, as if I am spoiling some natural order of things.

    On a different note, my perception of role of elections has been completely reinforced since coming to Zambia. Zambia is having elections in September, and government provision of development projects has sky-rocketed. In Canada, we certainly discuss the “rush to please” voters in the run up to elections. However, in democratic African countries (complete generalization), the “rush” is (i) more pronounced and (ii) has a larger impact on people’s well-being, since it is the very basics which are being installed. Opposition parties are weak and voiceless (drowned out by state-controlled media), so the only instance of accountability is rare, and it comes uniquely in the form of elections.

    Wow- that was a large tangent from your one comment about electrification (“maybe next election?”).

    Thanks for the inspiring post, keep it up!

    • Hey Elliot, thanks a lot for the comment and it’s nice to hear from you!

      I agree that the rush of service provided around election times is more pronounced, but I think that here too there are a lot of empty promises that aren’t planned to be fulfilled. I’ve even heard that some political party supporters conduct “voting education programs” in small rural communities to “help spread democracy”. This seems very noble on the surface (and in a project proposal) but often translates to an event decorated with the colours of the party conducting the exercise and even handouts of swag from the corresponding political party. In my village, we have a communal cup with the face of a past minister of education on it. Sometimes I wonder how it got to my small community…. There are also road signs for each community in the region, designed by another political party with their slogan and everything on it. Explicit permanent advertisement is something that we’re not as used to in Canada, but that is apparently ok in Ghana.

      I’d be really interested to hear more about politics in Zambia. Is there only two main parties or is it fairly divided? Do people talk a lot about politics? It’s interesting to see that a lot of progress can be made when the political will is there too…

      Anyways, thanks again for your comment, it definitely made me think more about one passing comment too! Have a rockin’ last few weeks of your placement my friend and I’m sure you’ll have great impact with your mobile agents!

      Later!

      Marc-André

  3. Marc-Andre! This post has definitely got my motivation kicked into high gear! Thanks a lot for your wonderful story-telling, I love love love it! Can’t wait to get this show on the road😉

    Leah

    • Our back and forth emailing with the Chapter about plans for next term has also been motivating me, I wrote this post during the email chain about Ghanaian Ties and Soap haha!

      So thanks for your comment and I’m super happy that you liked it! And I agree, I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in September too.

      See you soon,

      Marc-André

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