An intercultural experience – the Ghanaian team joins the German team

ENSA-funded team visit from 10th Nov – 19th Nov, 2018

10th Nov. – 1st day – arrival at Berlin airport – after a long and exhausting travel the Ghanaian team was heartily welcomed by the German team at BBS 1. November was pleasant  with temperatures around 12-15°C, however a winter outfit was essential in keeping our warmth-accustomed Ghanaian visitors safe from fierce November winds. We learned that a single winter jacket is just a single winter jacket that needs to be supported by a variety of warming accessoires – there cannot be too much of it!

11th Nov. – 2nd day – family day – after a good night’s rest, the programme started with a day in the guest families.  Each family/host organized the morning programme seperately – there was breakfasts in families, visiting churches or town centres. For the afternoon programme the whole group met in an outdoor museum village near Hoesseringen and spent the afternoon looking at traditional German village architecture and handicrafts. It was a golden day of autumn that greeted our guests with blue skies, dancing leaves and the unmistakable autumn light falling through red and yellow-golden leaves. We all learned that nature and weather have a huge influence on our existence in this region of the world, and that our heating systems at home had to get accustomed to our visitors as well. At first, the heating sensors did not react to “warm” November winds. Adjustments were necessary so that room temperatures became slowly comfortable for our guests.

12th Nov. – 3rd day – Welcome at BBS 1 – The headmaster Stefan Schaefer welcomed our partners in school, guided them through different grammar and professional school departments. In BBS 1 there are about 140 teachers and more than 2,000 students learning and working together.  After lunch, prepared by the cooking department, the group met for an ENSA training unit with Vicky and Lou. We learned that a partnership is similar to a machine consisting of many important and necessary components – each with a special function essential for effective operation. The day ended with a cheerful gathering at Stefan’s house – an evening enjoying “raclette food” and talking. Is the group growing together more tightly?

13th Nov. – 4th day – VW manufacturing site – our biggest and most important employer in this region of Germany has been the topic of this day. Mr Lippert, Malin’s father organized a memorable day of learning and activities. Visiting the manufacturing site is an amazing experience for most visitors – the combination of highly automatized processes and human labour power made a lasting impression on the group – and it was as well a starting point for discussion and criticism. Lately, there have been bad news on misadministration, especially in connection with the so-called “diesel scandal”, it’s consequences for employment in this region and the general credibility and responsibility of company’s management level. The day ended with a wonderful diner at Malin’s house – eating, drinking dancing, talking together – yes, we are growing as a team.

14th Nov. – 5th day – BBS 2 day – students and teachers from St. Germain alike have been learning about the dual system of education focussing on wood engineering, metalworking, colour & design. Theoretic and practical education are closely linked to each other – one is complementing the other. This could be a fruitful and supporting linkage for students in St. Germain school’s future development as well. At the moment, students take part in the basic school education before joining a company and becoming apprentices. That system allows a learner to become as well performing as the educator in a company. Connecting theoretic knowledge in a special field with the practical skills and competences in a company would enhance the learner’s opportunities to develop own, creative and new ways of performance. Vice versa – the students from BBS 1 reflected on their experiences with the Ghanaian system of elementary children’s education. In our system the room is regarded as “third educator” meaning that it supports the educators’ work by providing a vast variety of facilities. When visiting the educational rooms in kindergarten or primary school in the Agona Swedru region, the interior was, strictly speaking, less than basic. However, the students observed that the teacher-child connection was strongly sustained by means of songs, poetry and a focus on first-hand-communication. They reflected that the availability of vast facilities in our system could sometimes be an obstacle from the most basic needs of direct communication, instant regulating reactions, focus on the group as most important and supporting reference point in society. That is how both groups are learning from each others systems and cultures.

15th Nov. – 6th day – Production of chocolate in the Rausch company in Peine – two sides of the same medal. Cacao plantations in Ghana – producing the final product in Germany. That was fun work for the group – filling molten chocolate into moulding forms, tapping the form filled with chocolate 50 times on the table to get rid of bubbles in the chocolate, decorating the bars and waiting for the chocolate to cool down in the fridge.

This day was special, because it was a day of enlightenment regarding the differences in our cultures. Until this day, the existence of the group was always fostered by the human warmth and companionship we felt for each other from the very first day. Nevertheless, we had to learn in the process that misunderstandings can still pop up and cause unease and trouble. We learned about the dimensions of individualism and collectivism. So what happened? The German group tried to focus on the individual partnership members, feeling that after 6 days of non-stop programming the partnership members could do well with an evening for themselves. However, we neclected the fact that there was a group decisison on the other side of the partnership. And that group decision was very clear – there has been a lot of work preparing the food and the evening programme, so there is no excuse to drop the programme schedule. In the end, we had a great gathering in my very small dining room and the walls were vibrating to the rhythm of international music and dance. However, it was a landmark in our partnership. It showed us clearly that a lot of communication and negotiation is necessary to learn from and trust each other.

16th Nov. – 7th day – Berlin – Federal parliament – This was a landmark as well. Very early in the morning we were off to meet the student secretary of Hubertus Heil, Stella Meyer, in the Federal parliament in Berlin. We got there right in time to experience an amazing discussion with Stella Meyer, who was fluently explaining the German political system in English. Ms Meyer’s descriptions have been vivid and exemplified so that it was easy to follow and even better to understand. Ms Meyer was also highly interested in our group’s political interests, by the way we were very much focussing educational issues, and the Ghanaian political system. Here, Eugenia Rockson, Mr Francis Arthur and Emmanuel Marfo were especially supporting the discussion by illustrating the way of governmental actions in Ghana. Very imformative for all of us! After the discussion, which lasted about one hour, we were guided through Parliament and Reichtag enjoying a most interesting tour about German history from 1871 till today.  Especially amazing was the walk in the Reichstag dome which gave a wonderful view over Berlin as well as the many sights that Berlin has to offer. After the official part we had some lunch and the groups were parting in order to experience different sights of Berlin. Gilbert went with one group to meet ex-volunteers who have been working in St.Germain and the Agona Swedru region for some time in the past. Another group was experiencing the variety of shopping facilities in Berlin and one final group was climbing, no riding up the famous TV-tower of Berlin experiencing a magnificient nighttime-view over the city AND sitting by a real warming fireside enjoying spiced wine and hot chocolate together with a guy from Ukraine and different Berlin citizens. Wow, that was a day full of new images.

17th Nov. – 8th day – German farming site – Bowling and there-is-no-clubbing-tonight!-evening – The day started slowly at 10 a.m. visiting a farming family business at Spargelhof Kuhls in Neubokel. After that, there was a break off-programme for being in families. Later, in the evening the group met at Strike 24 in Brunswick to enjoy a classical American Bowling Arena and atmosphere, which was really fun. After that, we really tried hard to find a clubbing experience for the group, however and unfortunately, this region of Germany, especially here in Brunswick, is lacking creativity and open-mindedness to host an international group of students and teachers as simply and nice as we experienced this in Ghana. So in the end, we were driving home early and enjoyed a quiet evening.

18th Nov. – 9th day – Fair in Brainschweig e.V. – Friedenskirche (Church of Peace) – Solar Park in Wierthe – First thing on Sunday was to meet our partner association Fair in Braunschweig e.V. (http://www.fair-in-braunschweig.de/). We talked about fair production processes in a global perspective. That means, countries from the southern hemisphere are not only providing resources but are as well capable of producing the final products that earn the big money in the end. It is a critical view on European economic habits – taking advantage of resources for little money but controlling the buisiness parts that are most profitable. This is where Fairtrade is stepping into the system – enabling countries to profit from their own resources. This is done with the help of micro-credits for business men and women from economically disadvantaged regions worldwide. These credits are financed, among others, by associations like Oikocredit (https://www.oikocredit.de/). Some members were present at this talk as well. After that eye-opening talk, we all went to Brunswick Church of Peace. Besides praising God in songs and prayers, the service focussed on the issue of social inequalities in our so-called rich society and the worldwide gaps between high- and low-income earner.

Directly after church, we visited Frank Ziegeler, director of the Solarpark Wierthe (http://www.solarpark-alte-zuckerfabrik.de/). There, we met Prof. Dr. N. El Bassein who informed us about the new initiative and project: Empowering Rural Communities (ERC) – a Marshal Plan against Poverty, Hunger, Migration and Depopulation of Villages (link to documents will follow soon). So that could become a future project for the communities existing in the vicinity of Agona Swedru and the YLF Foundation (http://youngandlonely.org/), which was founded and is currently directed by Gilbert Kofi Germain. So let’s see if there is future potential in this special field as well.

The day ended with a wonderful diner at Toni’s in Gifhorn. There were a lot of words saying Thank you and Good bye – just for now! This partnership has to develop and grow and find a way to strengthen the ties that have been established.

19th Nov. – 10th day – day of departure – no need to say anything about this part of the voyage. It was hard to say goodbye on both sides. It is a physical goodbye for some time but none in our hearts. Time flies by.. we will see each other again very soon!

 

 

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