Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Final Days, Part I

I spent my last weekend in Ghana away from the sea in the Eastern region. On Friday I traveled to the small town called Krobo-Odumase with Rebecca, a Peace Corps volunteer who has been working with Global Mamas for the last 18 months. Krobo is Global Mamas' site for bead- and jewelry- making and I was definitely excited to see how everything is done.

I said goodbye to charming Cape Coast and took a fast car (15 passenger van for 7 cedis) to Accra; then I met up with Rebecca and we took three different tros to get to Krobo. Traveling on a Friday was a crazy experience because, as Rebecca explained, many people head to 'village' on Friday afternoons for weddings or funerals. Weekend weddings made sense to me, but I had to ask a few more questions about weekend funerals. Evidently, when someone dies they wait to bury the body for weeks, or maybe a month or two, to until most of the family can gather. Anyone we saw wearing a nice outfit in bright colors was probably headed to a wedding; and anyone wearing black, tannish-orange, or red was probably headed to a funeral celebration. So we were caught in the exodus of people from the larger cities to their smaller hometowns/family towns.

When we did arrive in Krobo I had a chance to meet the 15 women who make Global Mamas' jewelry and Gladys, the production manager, because they all work at the office. Gladys' mother, Grace, is a bead-maker and though bead-making takes place at bead-makers' individually owned facilities, she came in on Friday so that I could interview her for a story in the Annual Report. Grace is a beautiful and poised older woman; she speaks Krobo, but no English, so Gladys translated for us. I was touched by Grace's sweetness and passion for working with beads, which she has done for 20 years, and she told me that she is happy to share her story with a larger community.

The next morning, Rebecca and I actually went to the bead market where she orders and buys Global Mamas' beads from local bead-makers. She makes sure to buy from artisans who pay their employees and apprentices, and she only purchases beads made from 100% recycled glass. The market itself was absolutely picturesque, with thatched roof awnings, narrow dirt alleys, and crumbling cement-block steps. To my delight, is was also slow at the market because we were there in the morning and many were busy with weddings and funerals. Speaking of which, as we left town that afternoon, I saw countless crowds of people beautifully dressed in funeral colors and processing through town. Some processions also take place with pick-up trucks; they fill the bed of the truck with people, some with a few instruments like horns, and everyone chants as the truck drives through town. Rebecca said she went to a funeral once and left early after four hours, so these are truly weekend-long events.

Once we'd finished at the market, we picked up our weekend bags and headed another twenty minutes east (by tro) to Aylos Bay on the River Volta. I was excited to see the Volta because the dam on the river forms one of the largest human-made lakes in the world and it generates the majority of Ghana's electricity. Furthermore, we met up with some other Global Mamas employees (Maria, Jess, Renae and her family) for a day of floating on the water and relaxing.

Being with these amazing people I worked with all month in a beautiful bay on the water was a lovely way to spend my final weekend in Ghana. After a slow morning on Sunday, we all headed back to Accra and spent more time with Global Mamas folks (Tim, Lydia, and many more Ghanaian friends). On Sunday evening, and for most of Monday I tried to finish up the remaining threads of my projects for the internship. I'm going to continue to tie up a few loose ends this week and send them along via the interweb, but overall, I feel that my work this month has benefited Global Mamas and that's a wonderful feeling!


A New Sister in the Global Mamas Family

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