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Nicola Haggarty - General Journalism Projects in Ghana

Baboon at Mole National Park

As a journalism student I decided I wanted to get the most out of my university placement as possible, so rather than making tea in a newsroom in the United Kingdom I decided to travel to Ghana and work at a radio station in the capital, Accra.

I worked for Vibe FM radio station and from the moment I arrived in the office I was treated like part of the team and was allowed to choose my own stories to cover for the daily 1pm news bulletin. Some days were very slow, we would mainly find International stories which could be edited and re-written for the news, and I would be home to my host family for lunchtime.

Other days however, were simply hectic. I would arrive in the office in time for the 7am news, begin reading the morning newspapers and decide which stories I wanted to cover for myself, head out into the city, usually with another member of Vibe, and begin interviewing everyone from the Head of the police, to the Minister of Education. I would arrive back in the office in time to write up my story for the lunchtime news and would then go out again in the afternoon. No two days in work, and indeed in Ghana itself, were ever the same and the experience I came away with is unrivalled to anything I could have done at home.

Boating down a river

I stayed in Accra for one month, during July 2009, the rainy season, and boy did I know about it. The hot dusty city was instantly turned into a humid, muddy area when the rain started falling and anything you were wearing that day was transformed into a brown, soggy mess. There were days when I would be running for a tro (the local “buses”) in the rain at 6.30am and would arrive at work sopping wet and just wishing I was back home, but I never seriously wanted to leave this fascinating city and when the time came for me to fly home, I wished I could have stayed another month.

My host made me feel welcome and always made sure I had everything I needed and wanted while I stayed with her. We were called her “children” and were really made to feel like one big family. Living like a true Ghanaian (washing from a bucket when the water ran out and sitting in the dark when the electricity was cut), far from hindering my experience, enhanced my time there and made me feel very grateful for the Western lifestyle I knew I could go back to when I left.

Kids on the beach

The Ghanaian people are truly some of the friendliest I have ever met in my life. They regularly stop you in the street, simply to say hello and to learn a little more about the “Obruni” (white person) who is living in their midst.

Myself and the other volunteers always looked forwards to the weekends whilst in Ghana. During the week we would meet up regularly, whether it was at our weekly quiz night, at a local spot bar, or in the westernized Irish pub in Osu and would compare our days and discuss where we would go that weekend.

We travelled around Accra itself, visiting the local market and the art center, where some great bargains can definitely be found, but only if you know how to haggle. We travelled to Mole national park for the weekend, which was well worth the 18 hour bus journey it took us to get there, and was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Where else can you find a baboon in your room, have a monkey jump onto your dinner table and steal your food and be chased by a herd of elephants while on a leisurely bike ride?

Typical street

We also spent a weekend at Cape Coast, where we did the canopy walk into the rainforest and then trekked back through it with a guide. We visited Elmina castle, which is the oldest slave castle in Ghana, which was a harrowing but fascinating experience and on a lighter note spent an afternoon simply playing on the beach and swimming in the huge waves crashing in from the Atlantic Ocean. We also visited a place called Ada Foah which I can only describe as paradise. We spent a weekend on a deserted island, which sits between the biggest lake in Ghana and the Atlantic Ocean, and it was the perfect way to spend our last weekend, relaxing on a beach, only a few hours away from the bustling city of Accra.

All in all, if you are looking for luxury and comfort then Ghana is not the place for you, but if you want to see how people in a third world country really live, where they work, what they eat and what their culture is like, then you will find no better, or friendlier place to experience this than in Ghana.

Nicola Haggarty

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