Von Erhard Zeiss und Marcel Bülow

After a short stop in Amsterdam we made our way to Kotoka International Airport in Accra. Our first impression touching African ground was not just the temperature around 30 degrees Celsius and a humidity of about 80 percent which hit us hard exiting the air conditioned airplane from the 5 degrees cold Netherlands. But the warm welcome of the Ghanaian people.

A small “band” – one man with a digital piano playing and singing in the arrival hall of the airport – certainly contributed to this impression. In the row to the obligatory temperature scan (fever?) and the visa check we were well entertained – in particular when the singer started a song on Amsterdam when the Dutch cabin crew entered the hall and began dancing to the African vibes.


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In this relaxed mood we were not surprised that the passengers waited patiently (!) for their luggage for about two hours. Everyone just seemed okay with it. Nobody was getting angry or seemed irritated due to the long waiting time. Apparently it is just the way it is, here in Ghana.

Leaving the airport we entered a loud and crowdy bus station which felt somehow like an oriental basar. But we quickly found the driver from our hotel near the airport and after a 10 minutes drive we checked in and had a good first night.

WASCAL: Strange encounters

Day 1, Saturday, arrival at WASCAL headquarters (after a strange and funny encounter): A bus which will be exclusively at our disposal all week long picked us up at the hotel to take us to the research centre. After a short welcome by Eli Ellis Sokpoli, a WASCAL facility officer and our contact person for the first days, we got on the small bus. Suddenly another man jumped in, we were astonished but he greeted Eli so warmly that we thought nothing more of it. Probably an acquaintance of him, who just rides along. But after we had taken the first turns and passed the nearby airport he asked Eli Ellis anxiously: “Isn’t this the bus to the airport?” “What, no! We drive to the WASCAL headquarters. I thought you belonged to the team from Jülich”, Eli Ellis answered a little amused. “And we thought you belonged to Eli Ellis”, we added, laughing. Also the stowaway took it with great humour. “Next time I’ll ask before I hop on a bus”, he promised. At the next traffic light he jumped out of the bus and made his way on foot to the nearby airport.

WASCAL, first impressions

WASCAL headquarters in Accra

WASCAL: the abbreviation stands for “West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use”. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the centre is run by West African and German partners. It aims at strengthening the research infrastructure and capacity in West Africa related to climate change by pooling the expertise of ten West African countries and Germany.

WASCAL  headquarters is a modern building with an impressive entrance, together with buildings of other science organizations and those of employees it’s placed in a kind of tropical garden with fields that can be used either for scientific purposes – or for simply growing vegetables. Hot, damp air with a rich odour of fertile soil. Two dogs in the shade, both fast asleep.

Daniel Felten and Thomas Schuster prepare the conference room

Inside, the “vanguard” of PASCAL, Daniel Felten and Thomas Schuster, prepare the conference room on the ground floor for the HPC-training (Monday to Wednesday) and the hackathon (Thursday and Friday). Large metal boxes had been shipped to Accra a couple of weeks ago, had been checked by the custom-services and now are waiting to be opened. Their content: notebooks, a kilometre of cable, roll-ups, etc… From Monday on, every two of the 40 participants have to share one notebook. In the centre of the u-shaped row of tables there is one large screen for the lecturers and tutors. Speaking of cables: You have to improvise once you have realized that a HDMI cable is missing, the connection between a notebook and the large screen… Thank heavens the friendly service at the hotel is able to help, even if it’s only for the Sunday.

On the first floor of the WASCAL building, the “E-Library” is transformed into a “fairground” with two information stands: one of Forschungszentrum Jülich, the other of Geoverbund ABC/J. Within the next days Bianca Fernengel from Human Resources and Solomon Agbo from Corporate Development will hold information on possibilities of a career at Forschungszentrum, while Christine Müller from University of Bonn will present the German research landscape to the participants from 10 African countries. The following partners will be represented with information material: the universities of Cologne and Bonn, the Centre of High-Performance Scientific Computing in Terrestrial Systems (HPSC TerrSys), and the International Soil Modeling Consortium (ISMC). Last but not least Erhard and I have set up our press center in the E-Library, where we write these blog posts and where we later can talk to local journalists and offer room for interviews.

About Marcel Bülow

Marcel Bülow, a science journalist by training, became a part of Forschungszentrum Jülich in 2012. He took on the role of social media manager within the corporate communications department, where he serves as the editor of the "Jülich Blogs" and represents Forschungszentrum Jülich's voice across various social media platforms.