Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coaching AND Learning....

Well, here we are, my partner Damien from Ireland and I are in Sunyani in the Brong-Ahafo (BA) region of Ghana.  We arrived very late last night after over 8 hours of driving from the capital in Accra...oh boy what a long day but we made it here in one piece and the roads were much better than I expected.

It's interesting how they drive here...when it is dark out and you approach an oncoming vehicle they put their left hand blinker on....so that the other vehicle can see you better....and when there is someone in front of you that you want to pass you flash your lights at them and then they will put their right blinker on when it is safe to pass! Wow....is it me or does this not seem like a great idea?!

We spent our first coaching experience at the Sunyani Teachers Credit Union.  The credit union welcomed us with open arms and I can't say enough about their hospitality and how open they were to us, it was wonderful....what a great first experience for me.

I have to admit I was little overwhelmed before we went there this morning...questioning myself and my abilities....I think at times I get way too hard on myself and this was one of those times.  I can't say enough about my partner Damien, he is a returning coach from last year and has been such a great resource for me, he reminded me that if we only leave 1 thing here that is useful then we will have accomplished our goal...thanks Damien I really needed that pep talk, you were awesome today!

So we went over their books at the Sunyani Teachers Credit Union and met with their Board to answer all of our questions, they are a very organized credit union with a beautiful building and a great future ahead of themselves as they have such a solid background in place including an excellent business plan.  I'm looking forward to how we can help them become even more successful in their community as they so want to be able to give back. 

I had an interesting conversation with their Vice-Chair today and it was something I have taken note of (who knew these credit unions were going to be coaching me instead of the other way around!) HUH!  I had exchanged business cards with him and he looked at my card and said you are not from a credit union as we do not use the words "Credit Union" or the universal hands and globe logo on our business cards.  Hmmm.......he's so right....to someone outside the Okanagan, how would you know that "Interior Savings" is actually a credit union? Hmmm........

A great quote today comes from the Mission Statement of the Sunyani Teachers Credit Union:

"The ultimate aim of the Union is to improve the living standards of teachers, their families, and the people within this community."

It is such an honour to be here working with these talented people who are so passionate about making a difference in their communities and the people who live in them!  Wow....now that's exactly what a credit union is all about!

Heidi :)

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures I'm having trouble downloading them :(
Hopefully I can get this resolved soon!

Now THIS is Africa!

Post from Saturday, January 22nd:

WOW!! I'm in AFRICA...or should I say GHANA!!

We had the chance to look around today in Accra.  Our group (11 of us) headed out this morning along the main drag in front of our hotel to find a money exchange outlet.  The local currency is Cedi's but they can only be bought and sold in Ghana.

For our first stroll everything hit me all at once!!!!!  The sites, the smells, the heat, everything!  No matter how I try to describe it I could never do it justice...but I'll try my best....

The sounds - the traffic here is crazy...yet it seems to move better than back home and there are far less traffic lights.  They use their horns a lot here to communicate with one another...and there are different honks to signal different things...a honk to get out of the way ....this is alonger one!  LOL!  and there are quick short honks from the cabs at pedestrians to inquire if you need a ride...it's all very fascinating.

We were walking along the road and a tro tro (a small van that you can hitch a ride on for a small fee) went by that was full of young women...we were quite the spectacle all 11 of us obruni's (white people) walking together....these ladies waved at us and then broke out into song for us...everyone here is so friendly and unlike other places when they find out we're from Canada they ask what part.  Usually they ask Toronto or Vancouver so I just say Vancouver..it's cool!

We went to the currency exchange centre and I started talking to the guard on duty.  He originally thought we were Americans as we were exchanging US funds but when he found out we were Canadians his whole demeanor changed.

The Canadians have done so much for the Ghanaians, millions of dollars in aid in helping them with their country and they all seem to know this here and are very fond of the Canadians.

The guard asked me what I thought of Ghana and I said it was beautiful and he smiled.....a big smile and gave me their special handshake...you shake hands, then when you go to release hands you use each others middle fingers to snap your fingers...WOW!  COOL!  My first Ghanaian handshake!

Then we went to the Arts Market...holy cow!! What an experience, word spread through the market that there were Canadians there so they were again very welcoming to us and many asked where we were from in Canada and what we were doing in Ghana.  When we explained we were there to help work with their credit unions they said this was "nice, very nice".

Every where you go in the Market they say "no charge for looking; please come inside and look" and once inside they all say "I give you a good price" I went into one stall and said to the vendor, I heard you were going to give me a really good price and he laughed and laughed!

What amazing people, truly!  The friendliest I think I've ever encountered (except of course in the Yukon! ;)

We met a Ghanaian named Collin Powell, he came to the pub we were at (again having another Gulder!) as he wanted to meet the Canadians...he knew so much about Canada!!  I'm afraid probably more than most Canadians! LOL!  I asked him how he knew so much about Canada and he said when he was in school he'd received some books from Canada and one of them was a map and he studied that map and memorized every province, territory and capital city in all of Canada.  Then he had me film he while he serenaded us with O' Canada!  I'll have to see if I can download that clip! It truly is something to see.

Heidi :)


Sorry I'm so behind on my posts, yes I am still alive and well but Internet has been an issue for me and I haven't had any online access for days...funny how we take things like that for granted back home! I've been saving up my posts so I'll post them in a row.

This is my posting from Friday, January 21st


Arriving at the airport in Ghana you step off the plane and into a steep staircase to walk down to the tarmac and the moment you leave the plane it hits you.......HOT and MUGGY and HUMID...words cannot explain it so I won't even try....(if you ever catch me referring to Kelowna weather as "Africa Hot" slap me.....as there is absolutely no comparison! LOL!!)

You then climb onto a bus to take your to the airport terminal and I am happy to report that ALL of our luggage showed up! YEAH!  A good sign for the start of our trip.

Then we went through customs as a group and we were waved straight through - they didn't even check our passports, one of the perks of travelling in a large group!

The veterans in our group warned us to expect the worst as it was going to be chaos as soon as we excited the airport and we all braced ourselves to fight off the locals wanting to help with our luggage, but we didn't experience any of that, not at all, in fact it was quite pleasant.  Our contact from CUA (Ghana's Central Credit Union) was waiting for us with 2 vans to transport us to our hotel...it was great....HOT....but great!

We made it to our hotel, The Paloma (a different one then the coaches have stayed at in the past) and we all went to our rooms to have a shower...after 2 full days of travelling it felt fantastic!!

Then we met in the courtyard for a beer (which is pretty much the same price as a pop here!).  I had a large Gulder (a Ghanian beer).

What can I say.....other than great company....we've done it...We're in AFRICA!!!!!!