Questions from Canadian Grade 2 and 3 Students

19 Sep

My sister teaches a Grade 2/3 split class at an elementary school in West Vancouver and, after teaching them a bit about where I am,  she had her kids put together a list of questions for me.  Here’s what they came up with and my responses.

1. Have you seen any snakes or lizards yet? If so, what type?

I’ve seen plenty of little lizards around and one long thin green snake on the road as I was driving by in a truck.  One of the other volunteers who is over here with me almost ran over a cobra snake on his bike.  There are also pythons, black mambas, water snakes, and probably many other types of snakes in Ghana as well.  Luckilly for me, snakes are generally scared of people and are only a problem when you surprise them. 🙂

2. How do people stay alive when they are deep in the country?

The rural farmers who live in small mud hut villages all over Ghana grow their own food on small plots (the size of one or two football fields) and sometimes fish and/or raise livestock (goats, chickens, etc…) as well.  They make many of the things they use as well, or sell some of their crops at the markets to get a bit of money to buy things they can’t make.  Their lives do not look that different from what it would have looked like a few hundred years ago here, except for some clues.  For example, a plastic water bottle or some imported cheap manufactured clothes.

3. What do they brush their teeth with?

In the cities and towns, people mostly use toothbrushes and toothpaste just like we do in Canada.  In the villages, however, many people chew on neem sticks from neem trees to help keep their teeth clean.  There aren’t any dentists in my district, so it is certainly a good idea to brush regularly and keep your teeth in good shape!

4. Why don’t some buildings have doors?

Most buildings that someone lives in or that people work in have doors, but many smaller mud huts may not – they might just have a piece of fabric covering the door.  Some of the buildings in the pictures on my blog don’t have doors because the buildings have been abandoned.

5. What are the names of some of the foods?

There are three main dishes in Kpandai and not a lot of other choices.  Fufu is the most popular (see my answer to question 14 below).    The other three main dishes are Banku, Kenke and TZ.  All three can be made with maize (corn), cassava, millet and/or sorghum and they all  kind of dough-like,  They are typically served with with a palm oil and groundnut (peanut) soup.  I will try and post more information about all of these dishes soon.

6. What are the houses like inside?

Generally very basic.  Many beds are just a foam mattress on the floor.  There may be a few plastic chairs kicking around.  Most do not have a kitchen inside, but rather a cooking area in an outdoor courtyard where they can use charcoal stoves.  For the lucky people in town who have a toilet, it is probably located outside like an out-house.  Most houses do not have access to flush toilets and just have outhouses or they just go to the bathroom in the bush or fields, which creates big health risks.

7. What do they eat?

Most of the food that is eaten in Kpandai is grown locally and the limited food that is brought in from the bigger cities is too expensive for most locals to eat regularly.  The main crop is yams (taste like potatoes and are much bigger then in Canada), which are used to make Fufu and fried yams (like big French fries).  The second biggest crop is cassava followed by maize (corn), rice, sorghum, soybeans, etc…  The Oti river is not too far away and fishermen catch little fish that most people eat pretty regularly.  Many people also raise cows, goats, chickens and guinea fowl. 

8. What’s the main thing they use to help people in the medical clinic?

The medical clinic in Kpandai does not have a doctor so they cannot perform surgeries.  The nurses at the clinic handle a wide range of health issues similar to what a clinic in Canada would handle.  The nurses also often deliver babies because there are no nearby doctors.   In terms of health risks that are different in Ghana, malaria is a common problem and many people catch it multiple times per year.  You catch malaria from mosquitoes and the symptoms are like a severe flu, but it can also kill if you don’t take the medicine for it.  There are also cases of snake bites and many stomach bugs resulting from dirty water and sanitation compared to Canada.

9. What do the fruits look like?

You would probably recognize most of the fruits as they are grown in places like Ghana and shipped to grocery stores in Canada.  In my district, there are lots of bananas, plantains, mangos, and coconuts.  No fruits are brought into Kpandai from other parts of Ghana or other countries, however, so people in Kpandai do not have anywhere near the variety of fruit choices that we enjoy in Canada.  

10. What are the houses made of?

Pretty much everything is made of mud!  Generally builders will make bricks out of mud and then stack them and plaster them together.  For the few larger buildings, they may use concrete and rebar either mixed in with mud or by itself.  The roofs are generally made of bumpy metal, which is really loud when it rains.

11. What games do they play?

The most popular game by far is football (soccer).  There are generally numerous games in the late afternoon when the sun isn’t so hot on pretty much every day that it doesn’t rain.

12. Do they get tsunamis?

Not where I am located, as I am in Northern Ghana far from the ocean.  I’m not certain whether the coast of Ghana has experienced Tsunamis, but I imagine that it’s possible, as the coast is on the Atlantic ocean.

13. Are the people tanned?

Yes, but everyone here has black skin so it’s pretty hard to tell, as people just turn a darker shade of black.  I’ve been getting more tanned myself but I don’t think I will ever catch-up to the locals. 🙂

14. What is “fufu”?

Fufu is by far the most popular dish in all of Ghana!  It is made by pounding yams into a dough and is served with palm oil and groundnut (peanut) soup, often with bits of fish or meat in it.  You eat it by dipping balls of the yam dough into the soup and then swallowing them hole – no chewing!

15. What do you like to do there?

I really enjoy meeting new people and learning about their view of the world.  There are many things that we Canadians can learn from Ghanaians.  I also really enjoy exploring on the bicycle I bought and going for jogs in the morning.  I haven’t seen anyone else jog here yet and I think the locals think I’m crazy – especially the women carrying firewood on their heads and the men going to their fields whom I pass on the dirt roads.

16. Are all the people in Kpandai black?

Yes!  I am the only white person in my town of 8,000 people (Kpandai) and probably in the whole Kpandai District of 100,000 people, so I attract a lot of attention.  Everywhere I go people are curious about me and call out greetings.  This is a lot different than back home in Canada where we have a mixture of people from different backgrounds.

17. Does it snow there?

Nope – never!  The vast majority of Ghanaians have never even seen snow.  Ghana is located just north of the equator on the Tropic of Cancer and there are no tall mountains.  There is, however, plenty of rain and you can tell the seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall) by how hot it is and how much rain there is.  During the rainy season, the rain falls here much harder than it does in Vancouver.  During a heavy rain, you might be able to fill-up a tall water glass by putting it outside for less than half an hour!  This is generally good for growing crops, but sometimes too much rain can hurt the crops and cause flooding.

18. Do they have baths?

Yes, most people wash themselves by filling a bucket with water from either a well or a stream.  Basically it is like a sponge bath and then you poor the water over yourself to rinse off the soap.  There are very few people in town who are rich enough to have a shower and I have not seen any bathtubs yet.

19. What are the restaurant walls made of?

I haven’t seen a single restaurant in Kpandai that has walls!  All of the restaurants are just open stalls on the side of the street.  If someone was to build a building for a restaurant, the walls would be made out of mud (see my response to question #10).

20. What do the coins look like?

The coins look pretty similar to our coins at home, except they are all silver (not gold like a loonie or copper like a penny).  They all have the crest of Ghana on one side of them and a different picture on the other side depending on the amount.  Instead of calling coins ‘Cents’ like we do in Canada (i.e. 25 cents), they say Peswas and one hundred Peswas equals a Cede, which is like our Canadian Dollar.

21. How do they make their clothes?

Traditionally, fabric was woven locally and then made into clothes by tailors.  Ghana is famous for Kente weaving, which is colorful, fancy and produced mainly in southern Ghana.  There are still numerous tailors working in small shops all over Ghana with foot-powered sewing machine.  You can buy a couple of yards of fabric and get a shirt made for about $10 Canadian.  Like in Canada, these days most Ghanaians buy imported mass produced clothing from south-east Asia.

Sorry I couldn’t post more pictures, but the internet is very slow over here and it is difficult to upload them. 

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8 Responses to “Questions from Canadian Grade 2 and 3 Students”

  1. Suzanne September 19, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    Mark,

    I can’t wait to share you answers with my class tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes! Knowing my students, we may have more questions…

    Stay safe.

    Love,
    Your sister

  2. Penny Heaslip September 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    Mark

    I really enjoyed reading the details of life in Ghana. Thanks for putting so much time into your blog. Penny H.

  3. doris September 21, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    Haha – I love your answer to #1. I bet it’ll get the kids (particularly the boys) excited about someone living amongst the ‘wild things’!!

    Thnx for posting!

  4. Brian September 23, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    They forgot a very important question… How’s the beer over there?

    • markwjabbott September 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

      Quite good, but most of my co-workers are Muslim and they do not drink. 😦

  5. MAKAYLA MACKINNON September 26, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Thanks for all your answers i enjoyed reading them. I am one of Mrs Fultons grade three students. When will you be returning? Can you come and visit our class?
    Makayla

    • markwjabbott September 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

      Hi Makayla,

      Thank you for your amazing questions and for reading my blog.

      I would love to visit your class. I will return from Ghana just before Christmas, so my visit will have to be in January or February.

      Have fun in Mrs. Fulton’s class, but not too much fun. 😉

      Mark

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