Alright I have to start this one off and introduce you to the way people share things in Ghana. At least with the people I have interacted with so far. It’s not a big deal here to talk about poop, whether at dinner or just running errands. It’s talked about like a mosquito bite might be mentioned. With that said, I have only pooped once since I arrived in Kumasi, about a week now. Don’t worry mom I’m not constipated. I’m not sure, I think my body is just utilizing every last piece of food I eat. I also think a big contribution is that I don’t over eat. I have only eaten a few times to the point of feeling full. I stop when I don’t feel hungry anymore and then I save the rest. Okay, back to the poop. Our bathroom is actually quite interesting. The sink doesn’t work, so we have to do all that in the shower. Except the shower water only runs in the morning. So, we keep huge buckets filled with water. Then we use a smaller bucket to wash our hands or if we want to take a shower. The toilet also only flushes between the hours of 03:00 and 06:00. So, the toilet basically doesn’t work either. That means that yellow is very mellow. Then, after you poop, you have to take a bucket of water and pour it directly into the bowl. Somehow that washes it through the drain and there is still some left in there.
This morning there were no Twi lessons. I’m actually pretty glad because I just need to practice it in real situations. Instead, Amber said she would teach me how to wash my clothes. Remember I mentioned yesterday that washing machines are rare. Well Expo doesn’t have a lot of extra money, so we wash our clothes by hand. You can hire people to do your clothes. Or, and I’m not even kidding, you can get children to do it for free. Since I want to learn and I don’t particularly want to support child labor, I decided to do it on my own. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Now time to learn how to wash. It’s not called doing laundry, just doing wash. I had three buckets. One with water and a bar of soap, another with just water, and lastly a dry one. It’s pretty obvious how to wash actually. You take the bar of soap and scrub the smelly parts of your clothes and then cover your knuckles with two parts and rub them together. Amber warned me to be careful when starting because I would be forming callouses. I basically just scrubbed the armpits and front, back, and middle of the pants. Then they would sit in the soapy water for a few minutes as I finished things like socks. The cleanest stuff should be washed first because the water gets nasty pretty quick. Then you need to take your clothes and ring the soapy water out. The better job you do ringing the soap out, the less often you have to exchange the bucket with just water. The shirts by themselves weren’t very hard to ring out, but add them all up and it starts to wear down on your hands and forearms. Then I saved my jeans and towel for the last wash. Bad idea! The jeans were very hard to ring out completely and suddenly I realized how the callouses would form. The towel must have weighed 20 pounds. I had to keep the towel out of the water, off the ground, and out of the way of the water being rung out by one section. It took skill and strength. I’m beginning to understand why the Asanti people are in such good shape. It’s interesting because you can tell who is rich by their physical condition. If someone is ripped and in amazing shape, they probably don’t have enough money to hire people to do their chores. That accounted for about 95% of the people I have seen. These are the most fit group of people I have ever seen in my life. All the men have six packs, giant arms, and giant shoulders. Most of the women are thin, but have plenty of healthy meat to support their femininely muscular physique. I finally got my laundry done and took the dry bucket over to the line and hung my clothes to dry. Hopefully it doesn’t rain while we run errands.
Another thing while I’m on the topic of how fit these people are. The common way of people to carry heavy things here is on their head. Not only is it on their head, but the majority of the people are balancing whatever it is on their head. The other night I bought water for the house and decided to carry it back on my head. It’s not as easy as it looks. Try it next time you carry something heavy. I think people developed this technique so that they could carry their normal load and keep their hands empty to either carry more or preform other tasks. I have also seen these women with large cases of food on their head and a baby strapped to their back with a cloth. Now that is truly amazing. On the Tro Tro the other day I saw some woman come in with a baby in her arms. That’s pretty rare to see here unless the baby is being fed. Most babies I have seen were strapped to the woman’s back with a colorful cloth. Then this woman went to sit down and when she turned around there was another baby strapped to her back. I couldn’t help but look at her in awe. She was very beautiful. She looked like she was physically and emotionally very strong. She had the amazing balance of looking like she had been around the block, having seen some things that most of us probably couldn’t imagine, but at the same time she had an amazing presence of grace.
Today for errands, I had to exchange my spoiled phone. Oh and people here don’t seem to ever say broken. They use spoiled whether referring to cabbage or the bone in your leg. But for this errand, I was assigned to go on my own. I got off the Tro Tro in Adum and just started walking up the street. I don’t know where I am exactly or what street I need to be on, but I have a store name and can ask people if I get lost. Most people are very nice and helpful. I’ve just learned to ask a few different people for cross-reference. About 50 meters from the Tro Tro I found the alcove with my phone place. I couldn’t help but start laughing at how lucky I am. I went in an he was willing to exchange my phone. Although he was trying to be a magician and move pieces and things around that I didn’t notice. I felt like I was watching one of those fast-hand magicians that try to shuffle things up and confuse you. Well, I have seen enough brain games to not let this guy take advantage of me. He tried to do a sneaky move with switching the batteries. I just smiled and told him to put the good battery back in the box. I was trying to stay far away from anger because I figured he would be more receptive if I was calm about it. Also, I wanted to keep angry tones up my sleeve in case I needed to do a little magic and make him think I would cause a scene. That’s another great thing about Ghana. If someone is stealing from you or doing you wrong, just yell. Ghanaians from all around will come over and tackle the person if that is needed. Anyway he was receptive and I came out of the shop with a working phone.
Finding my way out of the city was a bit harder, but I just started walking in a direction. I knew it was pretty close if not completely correct. On almost every street I had people yelling at me Obroni! If they weren’t yelling at me, many of them were staring at me. I stopped to talk to two men and had a great conversation and they wished me luck with my travels. I picked up a Tro Tro that was yelling out Tech. As we went down the road he was calling out Ejisu, which was even further and the next place past Kentinkrono. That means I didn’t have to get out and exchange Tro Tros. I got back home and picked up some fried yams and pepper for a lunch snack. I got back and Amber, Regina, and Richard were eating lunch. Richard was one of the boys teaching me Twi. He was always the one that would keep the flow of the session, while Emmanuel would be explaining the specifics. Richard was also the only one to show up on time, actually he showed up 15 minutes early.
Today we were scheduled to visit Amber’s old village so she could say her goodbyes before she leaves this next Wednesday. She’s heading back to the states and will have hands-off involvement with Expo. Spencer and Regina are also scheduled to be leaving around May. It sounds like, as long as I don’t screw up too badly, I will have a position carved out for me. We took the Tro Tro past Ejisu and got off at Zongo Junction. Amber told me Zongo means Muslim. I had learned that meant slum. Richard said that it was true and generally there were a lot of Muslims in the Zongos. I have seen rich Muslim people here, so I know that isn’t absolute. However, I do know that the Muslims came in the Northern regions of Ghana, where they are much less developed, and targeted the least educated people to turn them Muslim. We walked down the street to help these two girls with allocating funds to their schools. Amber had found a scholarship these girls applied to and won. We told them we were going to Amber’s town and they said “Aaayy, we’re coming.” We all boarded a Tro Tro and headed off away from the main areas with paved roads. We got to a place where we had to walk the rest because it was too remote for the Tro Tros to travel to regularly. As we were walking Richard was continuing to help me with Twi and show me the different flora we were passing. Sure enough every block we walked passed we had children yelling and older people just staring at us. I’m getting pretty used to this so far. I like to wave back too. Amber, Spencer, and Adam tended to ignore most of the kids. Maybe I was still in the naïve stage, but I liked to at least wave back to them.
We arrived at the neighboring town and took a side path down a row of crops. We walked between houses to pick someone up. This community was very beautiful. I felt like we were in the middle of a flourishing farmland surrounded by rainforests. Then we met Moses, a math teacher for JSS kids. He joined us and we continued to Amber’s town. Then from there it seemed like every block we went down we picked up another person to our posy. By the time we had gotten to her town he were surrounded by the entire neighboring town. I hope you’re beginning to understand when I said that I feel like I am a rockstar getting off a tour bus. One of the elders in the town had recently died and today was a small sized funeral in the middle of town. Small is very relative to the funerals in Kumasi because there were about 200 people here. Everyone was in black or red. People wear red for funerals on Saturday and White on Sunday. I saw one building that said “Beauty Saloon”. Hmm that’s an interesting combination of women getting their hair done and men throwing up in it. Moses was telling me all about Antoa and how it’s name came from the nearby river. Apparently that river is famous all across Ghana. People go there to curse others. In order to reverse the curse the person must travel to the river and put a pot on their head and walk around town naked. Wow, hopefully I don’t get on anyone’s bad side. He also said that Antoa was one of the first town established in Ghana and that I would be learning about the history of Ghana if I learned from Antoa. That made me a lot more excited to get started. As we continued through town Richard showed me palm trees, mango trees, orange trees, plantain trees, cassava trees, maze, bamboo, and something called Tek in all different stages of growth. I was learning so much and loving every second of it. Everyone was so excited to teach me and when they saw equal excitement from me, they just kept going and going.
Then we went to visit Farmer George. It was about a 30 minute walk through fields and dirt roads. Every turn we made it was through a path that looked like someone made with a machete. Probably not far from the truth. George was very welcoming and seemed very interested in everything we said. We had a good discussion about the supreme court decision for the president of Ghana. He insisted that Ghanaian people are very peaceful and don’t like to fight. From what I had seen that was mostly true, except for their movies, which were filled only with fighting, for some reason. On our walk back George asked me a few times how my family was and asked about their response to me traveling to Africa. That was one of the few times I had heard someone say Africa. Africa is really only mentioned when talking about very general things. Other than that most discussions involved country names. Very different from most of the discussion I’ve experienced in the US. I had always just grouped everything together as Africa. Which when you get to know the continent, doesn’t even really make sense. I think it makes more sense when talking about something from the distant past. It’s even hard to make comparisons about Ghanain people because there is such diversity here. At the end of his road George went to turn back home and finish his chores. He told me to get his number from Amber and visit him anytime. Amber clarified that George was one of her really good friends that she could have very long and in depth conversations about a multitude of topics. She said he was very well read, despite only having a JHS education. I would have never guessed. There was no denying he had a wise soul.
On our way out of town the funeral was playing music and people were up and dancing. It seemed like it was more of a celebration than a funeral. Just another reason for me to love Ghana. I have always said that I want people to be laughing and having a party at my funeral. I believe we should celebrate the good memories of a person and be grateful that we got to have them in our lives. There were people finished dancing all around the sides of the streets just sitting around and enjoying each others company. It seemed like everyone was reminded by the funeral to cherish the people in their lives now and live life to the fullest. On the other side of the “block party” many of the older boys were playing futbol. As we walked down the street out of town, the sun was setting and everything seemed surreal. I felt at that moment, like I was in paradise. I think this town had figured it out. They all loved each other and even though they might not have had everything from the developed world, they seemed like, at that moment, everything was right there and you’d be crazy to be thinking about anything else.
Visiting this town really helped me with my adjustment to Ghana. I think for the past few days my spirits have been a bit down. This was just the dose of reality I needed to kick me in the ass and realize how special this place is. I’ve heard it’s hard to adjust to living in new cultures, and I experienced that first hand these past two weeks. I’ve grown so much already since arriving in Ghana and it feels like I knew nothing compared to what I know now. I’m sure in another two weeks I will look back on this moment and think the same thing. I think that is how time spent here seems to fly by. I’m excited and grateful to absorb everything Ghana has to offer.