Thursday, June 21, 2012

Places and things of interest.

The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

I believe I am like many engineers and others who have an interest in things that have a unique size or shape, unusual dimensions, are one of a kind, or extremely useful or constructed in a clever way.   

I would like to share some interesting things I have found in Ghana:  Lake Volta in the eastern part of Ghana, is the world's largest artificial body of water formed during  the 1960's by the clay and rock Akosombo Dam on the Volta river.  The electricity generated has been a real contributor to growth; another, Ghana is the country nearest to the spot some geographers call the center of the earth's surface, the place where the equator and the prime or zero meridian intersect.  The location with longitude 0" and latitude 0" is about 380 miles directly south of the coast of Ghana in the Gulf of Guinea/Atlantic.  Not useful or a tourist destination, just unique.   I hope to visit Lake Volta and the dam, but will fore go a boat ride to find the unmarked spot on the ocean.

Another, is shown  in the picture.  Called by almost everyone in Ghana "pure water" it is one half liter of safe drinking water in a thick, plastic bag or sachet.  Easy to transport and stock, durable, adequate shelf life, sold in kiosks, stores, or from a basket carried on the head of a vendor in the market or at a bus stop, this is clever design and marketing genius.  No bottle cap, just bite off one corner and enjoy refreshment almost any where.  Sold individually for about 6 cents each or by a lot of 30 sachets in a strong plastic bag for about 3 cents each, they are affordable to most folks.  No cartons and the bags of water conform to most available storage space. 

Down side, sometimes the water has an after taste and just like the plastic bottle, the disposal of the empty plastic sachet is an environmental nightmare.  The empty sachets are small, just dropped or tossed out the window, clog up most drainage systems and are very unsightly.   However, did not take long for the entrepreneurs to see that liquor could also be marketed in the same way, so vodka in a bag.

I had not seen anything like this "pure water" until I arrived in Ghana.  I am told by the teachers at the school the water sachets started appearing about ten years ago, are used in other African countries, but they did not know who had the original idea.  Told me the machines to produce are from China.

I would not be surprised if the Social Scientists and folks who study human behavior have plenty of cases to study as the people of Ghana adjust to new, interesting, unique and rapid changes in their country.  Many adults have cell phones and have a great interest in the features.  Almost every teacher at my school has up dated his/her cell instrument at least twice since my arrival one year ago.  I have seen no "sit on the desk" type telephone.  I am now noticing a few young people with cell phones, the first one appeared in my 8th grade class this term.  At least half the houses in my village have a bamboo pole with a TV antenna attached, and I am told up to date video games are becoming available.  The other half may not have electricity yet.   Change will happen but the difference from my experience is the accelerated pace here.  I saw my first cell phone almost twenty five years ago and it would have been a tight fit in a shoe box.  First cell phone some students in Ghana see could have the features of a "black berry" or more.

I believe my job is to help my teacher colleagues advance the quality of  education in the village where I live and not let the wonder and thrill of gadgets and stuff over whelm the more important building of the capacity for a stronger society.  

By the way, I am told the largest tree in West Africa is in Ghana.  Wonder where it is?

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