Christine Brown’s memoir, Bucket Showers and Baby Goats, details her experiences during two trips to Ghana.
Motivated by her desire to be more than a “cog of Corporate America,” Brown sought to help others by volunteering in a village in the Volta region of Ghana. In daily journal entries, she provides insight into the lives and challenges Ghanaians face.
Brown’s volunteer work focused on Ghanaians’ difficulties accessing secondary and college education. Her goals included completing a library, providing computer training and reproductive health education, and compiling research for her graduate thesis in International Development and Social Change. During two, month-long trips, she experienced the realities of an impoverished country.
The author details the misunderstandings regarding birth control (including the belief that since condoms occasionally fail, “you may as well not use them”) that contribute to teen pregnancy. She also discusses barriers that the agriculturally-based economy and local customs present to consistent education and describes the tropical environment (complete with “National Geographic sized ants”); lack of running water, necessitating daily bucket showers; and often-dangerous journeys on ramshackle “tro-tros,” the area’s primary transportation. Throughout, her hosts’ kindness and generosity shine through.
Brown’s prose is conversational and descriptive: “With chicks at our feet and goats all around, we conducted our lesson.” But although the journal format conveys the ebb and flow of life in Ghana, it also results in repetitive and mundane information that soon becomes tedious, as in: “We began the day as usual with breakfast, though it was later than usual.” Brown also fails to compile her research findings in a concise manner until the book’s appendices; this information may have been more effective woven into the narrative. Finally, the prose routinely shifts from present to past tense, which proves distracting.
Brown’s sincere memoir provides a look at life and its challenges in rural Ghana. While many will be deterred by the mundane detail included, those who persevere will appreciate the author’s unique experiences and insights.
Also available as an ebook.