Brief Story About Studying Abroad
University of Cape Coast
MPhil. Agricultural Extension
Thesis: ASSESSING READINESS OF INDIGENOUS VEGETABLE WOMEN FARMERS IN KAKAMEGA COUNTY TO SATISFY QUALITY STANDARDS OF HIGH VALUE MARKETS IN KENYA
My name is Annah Indeche. I am a Kenyan and a member of staff at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and currently in Ghana having just completed my MPhil. Agricultural Extension in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, University of Cape Coast. I arrived in Ghana on 17th August 2013. I had no idea what lay ahead but within me I knew it was going to be an experience of a lifetime. I wasn’t wrong. It has been a two-year journey with memories that will never be erased from my mind. When I arrived together with three other course-mates (all young energetic men from Nigeria, Sudan and Mozambique) the warm welcome of the staff soared my hopes that I had made the right choice in applying for this scholarship. Ghanaians are very social people full of courtesy. They said I resembled their own but the mere fact that I walk briskly and fast gave me away. Back in Kenya we greet but not very formally as in Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! No! We go something like hi, hallo, sasa! We rarely stop to exchange pleasantries. We wave at people, as a form of greeting and it really doesn’t matter whether you wave with the right or the left hand. In Ghana, you stop to greet nicely, if you have to wave not with the left hand. The left hand doesn’t do anything! Dare you go to a shop and give the money to the shopkeeper with the left hand! Trouble comes! I had to reorient myself to walk a little slower, greet properly, desist from using the left hand for waving at people, start every sentence with please and make sure before the sentence ends two or three other pleases appear somewhere.
The first week we ate in the restaurant we were introduced to when we arrived. The pepper in every meal was amazing. Teary eyes and a running nose characterized mealtime. The food was so spiced and oily for a while I thought I was going to die in Ghana not because of anything but some food related ailment. Slowly I overcame. Price wise, on average we were spending close to between 30-50 Ghana cedis on meals (approx.11-20 Euros at the exchange
rate then). We asked ourselves if this was sustainable and we concluded it wasn’t. We started to venture elsewhere and try local dishes. In Kenya we eat ugali (maize meal cake) and I saw something like that at the place we had discovered. My other colleagues were skeptical about trying local dishes so they were still eating rice but at a cheaper price than the restaurant. I gathered courage and ordered for “that ugali-like” dish with fried fish. It was brought with
some hot pepper sauce and the fish. The first bite of the ugali caught me off guard. This was some fermented ugali that “bites” your cheeks because of the sourness. It also had salt in it. We don’t add salt to our ugali. I just ate the fish, drank water and left amidst chuckles from my colleagues. There is this young boy around 16 years of age who was selling airtime to us and somehow I liked him because he was the age mate of my son. I narrated to him the
incidence and he encouraged me. He told me to just continue eating the ugali (here its called Banku) and that with time I will love it. As I speak now, I enjoy banku as if I invented it. Academically, we were a class of 15. Two of them were pursuing PhD (Ghanaians-Male). The rest was the MPhil cohort. The four of us under SHARE, three under West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP), Ghana, Two under WAAPP, Liberia, One under USAID and three self sponsored. In total we were six ladies and nine gentlemen. The class was very interesting. However when the assignments started coming in a torrent with every lecturer wanting to deliver the best to these international students, I started to miss home. I would imagine myself in my house relaxing yet here I was spending sleepless nights to beat some deadline. I was the class president so I needed to set a good example. I love excellence but for once I found myself doubting if I was going to sail through with the flying colours am used to. The grading system was another issue. Here in UCC they use the GPA system and a GPA of less than 2.5 at the end of an academic year for a post grad student means you cant proceed to the second year for you to do research work. How my heart would beat! I had never encountered this GPA thing before and I was so confused. All I knew was that in order to get a GPA of 2.5 and above one needs to make NOT LESS THAN C+ (65%) in all the courses taught. In JKUAT 65% is a B (it meant more was expected of me). To get an A here in UCC one needs to score 80% and above. In JKUAT if you get 70% an A is yours. In Kenya, JKUAT is renowned for high academic standards; I came to meet its match in Ghana. The atmosphere is so serene it just ‘breaths’ books. No noise, no rowdy students and they have a saying this is UCC FOR YOU meaning nobody jokes around here. I heard loud and clear and toed their line. My confidence soared when we did our first quiz and
believe me I scored all. I knew ahhhh am on the right track. The lecturer student relationship here is so relaxed. The respect is there but the friendship also exists. I was given an opportunity to teach one of the courses to their level 200 students, an experience I cherish because out of the whole class I was the only one who was privileged with this rare opportunity courtesy of the head of department. I got a platform to also give Kenyan examples and the students appreciated so much. I learnt a lot too from the students in terms of Ghanaian culture. Socially, I attended a wedding of one of our research assistants, an engagement of a friends cousin, funeral of one of the lecturers, one of the PhD fellow also died (It was shocking) and close relatives of staff. Here they keep the body of a dead man for as short as two months and as long as one year. In Kenya two weeks is long a time to keep a dead body in ice. If the person dies in the village within three days we bury. In Ghana funerals are a big social event and the funeral insurance policy has the most sales. Music should blast and good food should be eaten. It’s a time to show your status in society. Funeral announcements are made on big billboards as though announcing a crusade of some sort. A receipt is issued for all donations collected during the funeral. Mourners MUST be in black or red nothing more nothing less unless you want to be suspected to be the witch that killed the deceased. In normal circumstances people don’t put on clothes of these two colours unless you are mourning. I had a red dress and the first time I put it on all eyes were on me. I was forced to change it into a funeral dress. Engagements are done very early in the morning in a traditional ceremony then the couple moves to the church to have the union solemnized. In Kenya these two events
are totally distinct and occur on different days among most people.
Economically it was shocking to buy two onions (I started cooking hahahahahaa) for one cedi. One cedi is equivalent to 30 Kshs and for 30 Kshs I can get a quarter kilo of onions unless things have really changed while am away. A small loaf of bread whose size is not standardized and so keeps changing with the mood of the baker goes for one cedi. Everything starts at one cedi moving upwards. At the stores in town, the owner sits in front of the shop.
As the client you enter leaving the seller at the door. This was strange because at home the seller always behind the counter. Sellers have very little patience for bargaining. They insist on the price tag on the item. In the supermarket you queue two times. The first time to pay and the second time for goods to be verified one by one. If you are in any hurry kindly buy your goods off the counter and not in a supermarket in Cape coast. The campus is big so taxis and shuttle buses operate within the campus. From one point to another one cedi. This cedi! That is not upto the charge for traveling from Juja town where JKUAT is located and the nearest town called Thika. A friend advised me not to keep converting the cedi to the Ksh unless I want to be a lunatic. I heed the advice and am very sane now.
I have had the opportunity to travel throughout Ghana. It’s a beautiful country with quite a good forest cover compare to Kenya. The trip to the northern part of Ghana and the eastern region were very exciting. Oh the trip to the western region too was good where we went to a place called Nzulezu – a village on stilts I interacted very little with Accra the capital city. The few times I went I noticed that its women who carry luggage for people. In Kenya its
men with little carts who do that job. I enjoyed my stay despite the challenges, which were all over come-able. I however wasn’t able to learn the language fluently but I can speak a few words especially water Nsu. The way the weather is hot here one needs to rehydrate. Thank you