“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Monday, May 31, 2010

Things About Ghana:

So it has been more then a week since I have arrived and this place is really amazing, the people here are so friendly and nice, but at the same time completely different from anything I have ever experienced in my life. I knew going into this volunteer abroad and working in a health care setting it was of course going to be different from what I am use to in the USA, but to actually see how different it is, it can be overwhelming at times.

•The hospitals are dirty. The OPD is one large waiting room that sick patients wait, so first they are seen by the nurse, their vitals are taken and then they go wait in another long line to see the doctor. The nurse’s station is really just a cubical with a table and some instruments that are used to take their weight, BP, and temperature. As far as I could see the thermometer isn’t disinfected very well or at all at times. I had sure that when I was at the station I asked for some disinfecting alcohol and cotton swaps and wiped it off between patients, but I don’t think that happens every much when I am not there.

•The roof to the OPD is elevated from the rest of the building to let airflow through, but when it rains (which it did once) it comes pouring into the building. So the nurses and I went to the Injection Room and did vitals, but the patients had to stay out in the large waiting room, just getting wet.

•When they finally get to go in and see the doctor, the doctor says about 2 words, doesn’t really do an examination and sends them to the dispensary for medication. I realize that they have a lot of patients to see and most of them aren’t really that sick, but I am unsure how they are diagnosing UTI’s, malaria, and a wide range of other sicknesses without a single lab being done. That just would never happen back in the states and I guess that is exactly why I wanted to come to a developing country, because it is so different and I seriously feel very lucky. I also don’t want to say the doctors are being lazy, but out of the 4, one in particular seems to hate his job. He listens to the radio, says about 2 words to each patient, and sends them on their way. They all answer phone calls during their rounds and they often stop talking to the patient to ask me questions about me and President Obama. They work ethic here is just so different it’s hard to get use to it.

•Enough about the hospital, I have mentioned before how we get to some places around Ghana. There are line taxis and Tros, we usually take Tros to get to destinations that are far away because they are pretty cheap and hold a lot of people, but they are death machines  Some don’t have working headlights, so at night it was so scary getting home, they can break down, they are big so they can tip easily especially when the driver is trying to pass, and they are kind of uncomfortable. But it’s the cheapest way to get around Ghana if you don’t have a car, so we take them. I haven’t had a bad experience yet, but I have heard some stories already. Line taxis are good for going short distances, but you have to ask about prices before you get in, because taxi drivers can really rip you off (especially if you are white), so it’s always a challenge to bargain, but it usually works out.

•People are always trying to sell you things on the side of the road….ALWAYS! You never get away from it, but after about 2 days you really do get use to it. Just say “no thank you” and they move on, but they are often handy on long Tro rides because the sellers are usually on busy streets so if you need water or food, they will come up to your window.

•The Ghanaian word for white person is “Obroni” and everyone calls us that. Little kids LOVE screaming “obroni” at us when we walk down the street and they follow us, wanting us to take pictures and stuff. \I might come back to the states with a complex because no one will be screaming “white girl” or “white sister” at me or want to take pictures with me  But it’s a strange world here because I would never walk down the streets in the states screaming, “hi Asian” so it’s weird that it is so common here.

Day Eight: 5/31/10

Today when I went into the Consulting Room with the doctors, one of them asked me if I wanted to be in charge of “consulting” which is clearly the doctor’s job, and I made it perfectly clear that I was not in medical school and had absolutely no training in this, but he didn’t seem to think it was a problem so I played doctor today and it was AMAZING  He of course stood behind me and told me what to write and stuff, but it was cool actually doing what a doctor does because I don’t get to role play in the states. I also wrote some labs and prescriptions, I felt very important, plus when I walked out of the room, patients kept calling me “doctor.” It was a fun day!!!

Day Seven: 5/30/2010

Time to leave our little paradise and head on home, but before we left we took a boat tour of the river and the other land around, and got a tour of a run factory. Which really in a couple of separated places on a farm, but it really cool to see how they made rum (see pictures below), and then at the end of the tour we all took a shot of this rum  It was really good, spicy and strong but definitely different from any other rum that I have had before, so my roommate and I got a big bottle of it for 10 cedi (about $7), you can see the picture below of us holding the bottle. After our boat tour we caught another Tro back to Medina so we could get another Tro back home.

Day Six: 5/29/2010

I wake up about 4:30am everyone morning in Ghana, so I decided to get up and go watch the sunrise and get a look at everything in the daylight. Here are some pictures from the place, it was amazing!! It is like a tropical paradise and in terms of American dollars really cheap, people would pay thousands of dollars to have this kind of experience and I maybe paid $50. This “resort” is located between the ocean and the Volta River (there is a place at the end of the beach where the river meets the ocean), but the ocean and some pretty wicked waves and a really dangerous undertow so Projects Abroad really advised against swimming in the ocean, but the river side is really calm and the water is so warm and amazing. I went with a group of 11, so we took advantage of our day off and went swimming and played water polo with some older South Koreans that showed up for the day, had lunch, laid in hammocks, took naps, ate dinner, etc. It was just so relaxing there, we were really the only group of people staying there so we pretty much had the entire “resort” to ourselves. I will let the pictures describe how absolutely amazing this place is 

Day Five: 5/28/2010

Just another day at the OPD, but I left early because some friends and I are traveling to a beach called Adafo.

We all took a Tro to Accra Tro Station where we transferred to another Tro to get to the beach, it took about another 2 hours to get there so it was pretty dark when we got to the place, but there was a full moon out so it lit the way. And let me say this place is PARADISE!!! We had to walk about 20 minutes through this village to get to the “resort” but it was so beautiful. Once we got there we were greeted by the ocean waves crashing against the beach and beautiful white sandy beach that was really wide and so long. I can’t even really describe how beautiful it was and it was night time, but with the full moon out with was breath taking. We got to the place and had some dinner and found out grass huts and went to bed.

Day Four 5/27/2010:

Every Thursday at the OPD, is a HIV/AIDS clinic so anyone that needs to get a routine check-up, more medication, counseling etc usually come on this day. So anyone that is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS gets a patient folder that looks similar to the regular ones but it is bigger and they get this big green booklet in it (that book is used to keep track of their disease). I was in-charge of opening up lab orders and marking in the booklet, and it was a really weird experience to open up my first lab order and see the words, POSITIVE, red, all caps ink. It changes their life forever and there were about 40 patients coming to get a check-up another 5-10 that were just getting diagnosed. It was really overwhelming at times.

For the patients that were getting routine check-ups, the doctor would ask them a series of questions and look for other signs and one questions that asked “are you sexually active? Yes or no,” if they say yes, we move on to sub-questions that asked “are you letting your partner know you are infected? Yes or no,” and about 15 said yes to being sexually active and no to letting their partner know because they are too embarrassed. I was so mad and frustrated, I mean I’m sure it’s the same problem in the rest of the world, but in a Africa were so maybe individuals are infected it is almost impossible to stop. I was glad I got to be a part of this clinic, but the stigma associated with this disease really prevents people from being open with their sexual partners and it really made me look at my own life and realize how truly lucky I am.

Day Three 5/26/2010:

It was a national holiday in Ghana, so I didn’t have to work so one of my roommates and some other volunteers went to a near by town called Aburi to a wood market. It was about 20 stands that lined a road and had a lot of different wood carvings. Masks and figurines of all sizes, I brought 3 things, but I really wish I could have gotten more. But I have to fly home with already over weight baggage, plus I really want a huge mask or figurine which definitely won’t fit  We spent about 3 hours there and then went to have lunch in the town next to it. In Ghana, you have to get use to other people getting their food way ahead of you. One of my friends waited over an hour after us to finally get his food! After that, stopped at a fruit market (just some stands on the road) and got some oranges (that are green  ), pineapple (which is amazing), and some bananas (also amazing), the we headed back home.

We took a Tro-Tro to get back, they are this huge vans that have all this seating that are very cheap to take to places far away, but they are the scariest things I have ever been in. They definitely don’t care what side of the road they drive on, they use their horns to let other drivers know they are near or passing instead of a blinker, they drive fast and they probably could fit 10 comfortably plus the driver and the mate, but they will cram as many as 14-16 in them. But they are cheap so we go  Once we got to our junction, we got out and were greeted by a huge down pour of rain, so my roommate and I had to run under a shops porch for about 15 minutes and wait until it passed. Then just went to the internet cafĂ©, walked around, went to a football game (soccer), came home and went to bed.

Day Two 5/25/2010:

I am working in the Out Patient Department (OPD) for now and I will switch to maternity, then surgery. The OPD is very crazy and busy, they have about 150 people coming in and most times only 2 doctors on staff. So for my first day I was basically just thrown into the pit and started working. I am doing want all the nurses are doing, so I work in the cubical type space (3 pieces of dirty white work), with a card table and 3 chairs, along with my blood pressure equipment, thermometer, cotton balls and a pen. So for about 5 hours I just did vitals and it was overwhelming to say the least. I haven’t actually done BP measurements in about 3 years and it is so loud in there and there are people all around you that is so hard to hear the beats of the heart, plus according to all the nurses I write like an American. So instead of saying “difficulty breathing” I put “trouble breathing.” So it was crazy and I feel totally unqualified to do this job since I didn’t actually do my undergrad study in nursing. It’s weird how I am totally unqualified to do this job in America, but very qualified to do this job here.

Along with being a nurse, I was taken aback by the sanitary conditions that are practiced there. As you can see in some of my pictures, the hospital is far from sterile and clean. I had one thermometer to use for all my patients and I only had dry cotton balls to clean them off with. I don’t know why I was so surprised, but I was and I was grossed out by the lack of just clean equipment. I know they are doing their best, but it just sooooo different from any of the hospitals in the states. Which is exactly why I came, after just one hour in this place I realize how damn lucky we are. So my day came to close and I really just wanted to cry because I was so stressed out and overwhelmed and I don’t like being bad at things (I am getting better at taking BP), but the nurse I am working with is just so sweet, so it definitely makes things better.

I came home, ate dinner and went to bed at 8:30pm.

Day One 5/24/2010:

It was quite an experience getting to Ghana, but I finally made it. I had the worst flight of my life and I can assure you that I will never fly with Delta Airlines internationally again. But that is all behind me because I am finally HERE!!

I had to the sleep at the Projects Abroad headquarters because I arrived so late (around midnight). So I was greeted by some very muggy weather and I hadn’t showered in 2 days, so once I arrived I quickly took my first African shower. Even through the water was more cold then warm and the pressure was almost zero it felt amazing!! I was so hot and tired that anything at that point felt amazing. After that I went to bed and quickly found out that my phone’s alarm clock doesn’t work anymore (I suspended my contract with AT&T while I am gone). So I kinda woke up late for my meeting with my taxi driver (he was driving me an hour north to Mampong), but he was very kind and didn’t care. So I left Accra and headed north and in the first 5 seconds of being in that car I realized that there is NO code for driving, no real rules, and everyone just does what they want. It was a little scary, but I am alive and here.

I meant my host family and their 3 young children, there are also 2 other girls staying here (other volunteers) which is nice because we work at the same hospital (which is across the street from where we live). I start work tomorrow, so I am excited to see what I will be doing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today is the Day!!!!!!

Waiting in JFK right now waiting for my flight to Africa :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Less Then 2 Weeks Away

In 12 days I will be in the JFK airport waiting for my connecting flight to Accra :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010


My Host Family:

Mr. Frank Obuobi is a Computer analyst who works at the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine at Mampong. He also owns formating internet cafe in Mampong.

Other people who live in the house are Mrs. Akosua Ofei Obuobi his wife (house wife), Maame Esi Baffoe their daughter (2006), Kobby Ofei Obuobi their son (May 2005), Nana Yaa (2008) and Ruth Nfum (1995) who is a house help.

Akosua another househelp comes to the house to help but does not stay in the house.


The house is situated in Abotekyi (Mampong) about 5 minutes walk from Tetteh Quarshie Hospital in Mampong.

The house is also directly opposite Dr. Winful's residence.

The Akuapem Hills is at an elevation of 400m, and hence have a slightly cooler climate than most of Southern Ghana. Mampong has a post office, a market and a few bars and restaurants. There is much to see and do in the surrounding area including good hiking, mountain biking and visiting waterfalls and bead markets.

About My Room:

Frank hosts a maximum of four volunteers and your shared room will have two beds, fan, light and space for clothes. Volunteers have a private bathroom so the family do not share in theirs and basic cleanliness is satisfactory.

General Information:

Frank is keen for you to explore the region and is happy for you to go out in the evenings with other volunteers but not to return too late, so you do not disturb the family. They really appreciate it if you are home by 9:30pm.

Internet service is in this accomodation therefore volunteers with laptops will be able to browse.

Placement Details :)


Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital,
P.O. Box 26,
Greater Accra Region

My Supervisor:

Dr. Owusu Acheampong

Job Title:

Medical Superintendent


Tetteh Quarshie Hospital opened in 1961. It is the main hospital in the Akuapem area and therefore a reasonably busy one. The hospital is setting up a library that is dependent on donations. Any medical books would be an appreciated contribution. The children’s ward always gratefully receives any toys and early learning equipment.

Typical Day:

Volunteers have the opportunity to work in numerous departments at the hospital. The most popular are: paediatrics, physiotherapy, the male and female medical wards, and the public health unit. Please make sure you bring a white medical jacket with you as they are extremely useful.

Project Structure:

You can join a doctor on ward rounds, who will be willing to answer questions about the varying cases, some of which may be shocking and extreme. You may attend out-patient clinics, visit clinical conferences, watch surgery if you are qualified, and if you are part way through your medical training, get involved in clinical research – possibly even giving your own presentation or assisting with a medical officer. Depending on your interests, confidence and ability you may yourself also carry out observations, tests, check BP and injections. Hours of work are flexible. Volunteers can work morning shift, afternoon or even night shifts.