It’s not every day one hears about Ghana. Most Americans don’t know where it is, and many don’t even know it exists. The only mainstream media that gives Ghana any attention is the BBC News, but their stories are almost always soccer-related: a Ghanaian player transfers to a European club, a coach for the Black Stars gets fired, that sort of thing. As a returned Peace Corps Ghana volunteer, I’m a little disappointed the country doesn’t get more press.
That’s why, when watching ABC World News Tonight last December, my mouth dropped open. Charles Gibson suddenly started talking about Ghana! The story, from London-based correspondent Mike Lee, was all about Paga, a small town far in the northeast that is famous for one thing: crocodiles.
Note that Mike mispronounces the town’s name: It’s pägä, not pāgä. (Surprising, given that he actually visited the place.) Otherwise, it’s a nice segment that provides a fun glimpse into Ghanaian-style tourism. If you’re interested in even more scenes from Paga, check out the videos Straddling a Crocodile and sight n sound from the jungle.
These videos are especially fascinating for me because I’ve never actually been to Paga, even though I lived for twenty-six months in Tumu, a town less than 100 kilometers away. And I would often pass through Navrongo, a town just 10 kilometers from Paga, for my trips south. (If you use Google Earth, see just how close I was.)
So why did I never end up in Paga? At the time, I was much more interested in using my vacation days to head down to Accra, the only place in the whole country where a guy can get a burger, a shake, and a movie! But the next time I visit Ghana, I’ll definitely be swinging by Paga.
As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), I like to keep up with the Peace Corps Ghana community. One of the best ways of doing that, I’ve found, is through a Peace Corps Ghana mailing list, which currently has around 250 members. Sometimes RPCVs will use the list to exchange anecdotes or try to find old friends they’ve lost touch with. Mostly, though, the traffic comes from people who’ve just received their service invitation and have questions about what to pack, what to wear, and so on.
Some time ago, I realized that the same questions were being asked on the list over and over again. (“What should I pack?” is the perennial favorite.) The RPCVs on the list want to help, but it’s not fun going through the same Q and A routine for each new batch of volunteers. And it’s not so great for those who post the questions, either: Helpful advice might not come up in every new discussion, either because old knowledge is forgotten or because people simply don’t have time to mention all of their tips. Of course, there’s an archive of old messages, but searching through them to find answers is tedious and time-consuming.
Seems to me that new Peace Corps volunteers would love to have a single source for this collective wisdom, and RPCVs would love to stop repeating themselves, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone by creating a FAQ. The idea was to capture the most up-to-date information about Peace Corps Ghana. It would be a repository of helpful tips that any new volunteer should know but won’t find on the official Peace Corps website. (Examples: Is it wise to bring along my iPod? How do I mail myself something? Is it okay for men to have long hair?)
To make sure this FAQ would represent the combined knowledge of RPCVs, and not one man’s opinion, I set it up as a wiki that could be edited or expanded by anyone. And as a wiki, the FAQ would become a “living” document, never going out of date. (Theoretically, at least.)
In addition to the FAQ, I also added some poignant anecdotes written by Ghana RPCVs, as well as links to other websites related to Peace Corps Ghana. Having gone to all that trouble already, I thought, “Why limit this wiki to the Peace Corps? Why not make it for everything Ghana?”
And that’s exactly what I did. I even registered its own domain name: ghanawiki.info. I started it off with a few brief articles on cheap flights to Ghana and how to get Ghanaian radio and TV over the Internet.
Hopefully, other Ghanaphiles will soon discover the wiki and help me create new articles and add more content to the existing ones. With luck, it may one day reach “critical mass” and become a key source of information for Peace Corps Ghana volunteers or anyone else wanting to learn more about the Ghana experience.