I recently reviewed another book set in the Volta region, and the contrast between the two couldn’t be any more different. If I’m being honest, Christine’s description of Ghana doesn’t sell the place to me at all – but, of course, I am being obtuse, because a travel guide was never her intention with Bucket Showers and Baby Goats; the book sets out to highlight the plight of a poverty-stricken and under-educated nation. And, this she does extremely well. One thing which is consistent in accounts of Ghana, however, is the beautiful friendliness of its tremendous people.
Narrated by her diary entries, the books shares Christine’s account as a volunteer from the United States, who spends two short spells in Ghana promoting schooling and sex education to the children in a small village. And, through the plight, poverty and disease of the people, the saddest part is probably that the children place more importance than their education than their parents do, and their future is invariably ultimately taken away from them by ignorance, misinformation and pregnancy. It clearly takes a very special, patient and tolerant person to do this type of work, as the frustration may occur to most of us, at a people who could perhaps do more to help their situation – there are times when even the author looks close to losing her rag with them.
This is not an anecdotal journal; there are not fun situations or entertaining exploits for the reader to become engaged in – that is not the point. The diary is more about the mundaneness and reality of day-to-day life out of one’s comfort zone, in a village with sparse and highly unsanitary infrastructure. Christine’s day, for the most part, is characterized by hellish bus journeys and staple yet nutritiously suspect food. With a continuous monologue and no chapters, as such, I did find myself wanting a touch of respite from this way of life, and at the midway point it was offered, as Christine returns home to the U.S. But, the respite is short-lived, as within a couple of pages, two years have passed and Christine has returned to Ghana. To be truthful, it was a bit of a relief when her time there finally came to an end.
An interesting depiction of the culture and a candid guide
of what to expect for those travelling to the region. Well-written, too, by an extremely competent and
well-educated author. Whilst not
brimming with entertainment, there is certainly a lot of educational value to
be taken from it. Sadly, the real
fundamental purpose of this book, and of Christine’s tours in Ghana, are not
really profoundly addressed until the appendices, at which point the important issues
of teenage (and younger) pregnancy, sex education, poverty, medical care and
education generally, are addressed with academic relish. This seems a bit of a shame, and an
opportunity to optimize the cause in the first 250 pages missed a little, about
what is relatively quite an under-reported country, in comparison to more “needy”
African emergencies. Definitely, though,
hugely enlightening, and an impassioned work to raise awareness of these people
and their plight. High quality and
highly emotive – also, highly recommended.
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In : Book Reviews
Tags: christine-brown ghana travel volunteer africa non-fiction journal memoir