Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another day in the life..

So today I had what seemed to be a very normal day for me in Northern Ghana. But at one point it dawned on me, and I heard a voice in my head say:"this wouldn't have seemed so ordinary before".

Hope this gives you a taste of what some of my days look like here in Ghana. Enjoy.

6 am. I wake up after snoozing my alarm one too many times. I just got back to Wamale last night after an 8 hour bus ride from Kumasi. Still a bit sluggish. I wake up Rahama, my dear little sister who slept on my floor last night, and tell her to go to the compound house before her mom comes looking for her. I read and write for some time in my room before heading to the compound for breakfast.

As usual, I am greeted by many children, and proceed to greet each of the women, one by one. We ask the usual questions and wait for the usual responses, in Dagbani. I sheepishly tell them, half Dagbani half English, that I will be traveling again today- to the Upper East. They tell me I travel too much and need to rest. I smile, tell them it's true. I grab a wooden stool and sit beside one of the mothers to drink some delicious Nescafe and eat some bread- same breakfast I've always had in Wamale, since October 2009. Still satisfies.

I'm already sweating and its only 8am.

Fast forward to me hopping out of a sweaty taxi in town, as I venture into the Tamale Central Market. I am coming to pick up a new dress that my seamstress, Auntie Fausti has made. As usual, I am always a bit nervous- "will it turn out the way I envisioned? Will it even fit? Will it make me look fat? Will they tell me I'm fat?".

But this time, it’s a success! The dress is great, she really is an amazing seamstress, and Erin picked out a beautiful cloth. Fausti and her young female apprentices remark at how well the dress fits, and before I know it I'm walking back through the market. Turn right by the high heel shoe seller. Turn left by the groundnut paste seller.

I'm walking through the crowded aisles and then I hear "whack. Whack. Whack!" A ha; I see a butcher chopping some meat.
Whack. Whack Whack.

And just as I am passing by, WHACK and chunks of meat and meat juice splatter on me. "That's a first!"- I think to myself, as I flick a piece of meat off my shoulder. The ex-vegetarian in me cringes a little bit.

I head to the Transport Yard to catch a Tro Tro to Bolga for another wonderful West Africa Retreat, with all EWB staff currently working in Ghana and Burkina, as well as some staff coming from Canada, Zambia, and Malawi.

I buy the ticket, 5ghc, and wait on a bench in the shade; it is incredibly hot and sunny these days! I am wiping sweat off my face but it doesn't seem to help much.
Just when I thought this was bad, I'm squished into the Tro tro, with no air conditioner but the natural hot breeze that passes through the windows. I enjoy the time to think, though. I think about the weekend. Think about all that has happened in the past week in Accra and Kumasi. New ideas come to me; I jot them down. I listen to music. I make a few calls.

After nearly 4 hours, I arrive at the Guest House and greet familiar faces- we have come here before, and I remember the warm staff just as much as they remember me. I love that. After some discussions, confusion, and finally clarity, we've sorted out all the logistics; meals, rooms, conference halls, drinks. I get to talking with Mary, one of my favourite staff, as I'm playing with her son. I ask innocently, "Where is his father?" and she replies, "He is dead". I stop. I feel horrible. Try not to make a big, obvious reaction on my face. I ask calmly, coolly, "What happened?". She goes on to tell me that when Damien was just 2 months old, her husband died in a moto accident. Suddenly I see her so differently. I see Damien so differently. A little boy who never got to know his father. A woman who may never marry again. Imagine becoming a widow with a 2 month old. Wow. ...

They bring me to my room- a "special one" with an air conditioner and a hot shower! They tell me that, since I'm "the organizer", I get this nice room for free. And for once, I'm not complaining about special treatment and hierarchy in Ghana but enjoying it. Just a little.

After a delicious, refreshing shower, I put my MTN Internet Modem into my beautiful little laptop (thanks Mom!) and get down to business. So many emails to reply to. So many things to finalize before everyone arrives tomorrow.

Just another day.