February 21, 2010

My thoughts on writing the guide to Ghana

This time around Godwin interview me on my experience writing the guide. Surreal! You can read more at www.g-lish.org/ghanaguide

Most challenging aspect of writing the guide book?

When I tried calling the STC in Accra to get the timetables they hung up on me five times. I’d get as far as, say, Cape and Kumasi and I still needed about six other cities and the customer service woman would say, “Oh Madame, why?!” and hang up on me. I waited a few days and tried again, got a different person, and they hung up too. I melted a pair of flipflops in Accra when we ran around finally getting the info on foot. During the final two weeks of writing we had no electricity at home between 9 am and 5 pm so I had to change my work pattern to start in the late afternoon and end around 2, 3 and 4 am—which was very productive, actually—and Godwin would get up and work from 3 or 4 a.m. until the power was cut around 9 or 10 am.

What was the most exciting part?

Rediscovering places I hadn’t seen or been for a while and the thought of sharing that with travelers who would experience it for the first time. Seeing it come together at the end and hearing the first words of feedback from readers was fantastic.

What would you like to say to readers?

I remember how nervous I felt before coming toGhana. And I remember struggling to work out how the parts of the guide book I had joined together on the ground in Ghana. I hope that our guide provides a strong sense of Ghana, while also being entertaining and, most importantly, useful. And I truly hope that this guide helps you enjoy your travels, that it makes the everyday details on the ground easy to manage, and that you find it useful throughout your long-distance journeys. Any problems, confusing areas—please let us know. And let us know what you enjoy too!

Anything else you want to say about the experience?

Details, details, details. I said I’d never write a guide book. It was surreal. I like things to be as great as they can be and we’ve begun a new round of updating as we write.

What will you be working on next?

Like Godwin said, we have been developing an innovative basket making project in Bolgatanga, the poorest region of Ghana, where we live. It will be an income generating project that will support about 50 women to begin with. The guide helps us fund this. Actually, the guide income goes into the hands of basket makers, so our guide customers are directly supporting impoverished communities in far northern Ghana. Basket making is huge here but the producers are taken advantage of because of over supply; many are illiterate and they have no bargaining power. The middle man doubles the price he pays to the basket maker and sells it on to another middle man or the overseas buyer. We intend to change that and shorten the supply chain by selling online directly to customers at G-lish. Producers will be paid at least twice what they’re being paid now, if not more and we’ll be giving a reliable income to over 50 women, skilled and unskilled, who otherwise have no work or engage in subsistence farming. You’ll see more on This is Ghana and G-lish shortly.

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