Silver Linings – A Lesson In Patience

26 Sep

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On Monday, September 13th, I travelled from Kpandai to Tamale, which is the capital of the Northern Region, to attend two days of meetings at the Ministry of Food & Agriculture office on the 14th and 15th, and two days of EWB Country Team meetings on the 18th and 19th.  The plan was to hitch a ride back to Kpandai with my Director on the 20th.

On the 19th we learned that a section of the main road between Yendi and Bimbila was flooded and impassible.  We also learned that a last minute meeting had been called for Tuesday, so we waited until Wednesday to attempt an alternate route to Kpandai through Salaga.

After 5 hours of driving over bumpy dirt roads on Wednesday the 22nd, we encountered the flooding in the picture on the left above.  The flooding went for as far as the eye could see and people estimated that it probably covered around 4kms of the road.  In the picture, you can see a man using a wooden canoe to transport his motorcycle across the flooded section of the road.

So we spent Wednesday night in Salaga.  While having dinner, we heard that a truck had managed to make it across the direct road between Salaga and Kpandai (we had previously been told that it would be better to take the less direct route through Bimbila).  The next day we drove for almost 2 hours before hitting the flooding in the picture on the right above.  Again the flooding went for as far as the eye could see.  So we turned around and, after spending a bit of time running errands at the MoFA office and District Assembly in Salaga, we drove all of the way back to Tamale.  Very frustrating!

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So we waited for the original route to be fixed and we finally made it back to Kpandai earlier today (the 26th) – a full week late!  The road was still in pretty rough shape, as pictured directly above.  The picture on the right shows a truck flipped over on a particularly bumpy stretch. 

I am frustrated to have been away from Kpandai for 2 full weeks, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles during rainy reason in Northern Ghana.  This type of major inconvenience seems to be the norm as opposed to the exception, which directly impacts attitudes and management styles.  You simply can’t stress about time the way most people do in Canada and expect to keep your sanity. 

Based on what I’ve told you so far, you’d probably guess that this has been my most frustrating and un-rewarding week yet in Ghana, but the exact opposite is true.  Up until this week, it had been very difficult for me to get alone time with my Director.  While stuck in Tamale this week, I stayed with him at the new house he is building and we’ve had numerous amazing personal and work conversations.  Last night we capped the week off with dinner at a restaurant in Tamale that serves Obruni food.  Director tried spaghetti and pizza for the first time and discovered that he really likes them both.

So there was a significant silver lining for me in last week’s rainy season storm clouds.  I think that, if we had not have been delayed,  in my haste to try to accomplish things at work, I may not have taken enough time to connect with my Director on a personal level, which ultimately would have meant getting less done at work and missing out on a friendship. 

As I have gotten to know the Director, I have grown to greatly respect and like him.  He is a dedicated family man – a single father with a 16 year old boy and 11 and 7 year old girls.  His father had 6 wives and 24 children, so he has a huge extended family as well.   He works hard and he has a great vision for his District and I can’t wait to get to work on all the ideas we discussed this week. 

6 Responses to “Silver Linings – A Lesson In Patience”

  1. Rogayeh Tabrizi September 27, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    Sounds amazing Mark, your positive attitude is so up-listing.. and i can’t agree more with you about the impact of the personal connections on you and your coworkers. after all it is all about people, amazing people with amazing spirits. keep up the great work!

  2. Rob Simzer September 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    Keep up the great work, Mark!

  3. Michelle Nicholson September 28, 2010 at 4:56 am #

    Mark, I love that story. A good lesson for all of us to focus less on checking off tasks and more on building relationships. We miss you here, keep up the fantastic work!


  4. Carissa September 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    Thank you for sharing Mark – the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” seems to apply to many different experiences in Ghana – some of the best times come from the unexpected.
    Keep healthy and happy!

  5. Fiona Rintoul September 30, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Wow Mark! What great insights!
    One of my drivers told me that those bumpy roads in Africa are the pathways to heaven, because they shake the hell out of you!!!!! Still makes me laugh.
    Be safe!

    • markwjabbott October 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

      Great quote! I will definitely use that one. 🙂

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