First Full Day in Antoa, My New Home

Last night I went to bed around 21:30. Naturally, I set my alarm 8 hours later at about 05:30. I remember my colleagues told me that the small towns are early to rise, so 05:30 will be a perfect time to get up with the sun and the rest of the town. Well, I was definitely wrong about that. There is a loud speaker that is broadcast all over town. Well, the announcer is now singing into the speaker before my alarm had gone off. I woke up in a panic, thinking that I had slept through my alarm. I looked at my phone… It is 04:30! Then I started to pay attention to what he’s saying, which is all in Twi. I can’t understand a word of it, but it sounds fairly urgent. He is probably talking about the rebels coming into town or something else less important than my last hour of sleep. I finally gave in at 05:00, when I heard people up in my compound sweeping and starting chores. I have noticed that chores here are done before the sun rises and makes everything too hot. This isn’t even the hot season either. Maybe they’re just keeping good habits.

            Daniel and his co-worker were up and getting ready for work. He was the doctor at the clinic and I’m sure she was some sort of nurse. She made Daniel and I breakfast. We sat down to eat yams and soup. I pick up the yam, with my right hand only, and use it to scoop some soup with it. It was excellent and very filling. Now it’s time to walk over to the school and get some Twi tutoring. The school is on the opposite side of town so I am preparing myself for a lot of introductions in between. Right as I stepped out the front gate there were three kids waiting there. They had been there when I arrived, so they found out quickly where the Obroni lives. About every 20 feet down the road someone how yell or point at me. I felt like I had to walk over and introduce myself. After all, I will be seeing these people everyday. I met people of all ages, both females and males. Almost everyone seemed interested in getting to know me. There were a few people that kept to their business, but I expected that. After I met about 30 people, I only remembered the last few. I arrived at the school and found Genevive, the Twi teacher. She started very formally and wrote the entire alphabet on the board. We went through and pronounced every letter. I can get most, but I am still struggling between the e and the 3. The symbol actually looks like a backwards 3. I can hear the difference and then I go to say it after a break and have completely lost it. We ended there and she told me to go practice. Apparently I was pretty bad.

            Now it was 10:30 and I really had nothing to do until I met with the school officials tomorrow. I walked back to my room and got out my stuff and started practicing the Twi I had just learned. I practiced and caught up on some other stuff until about 13:00. I’m done with everything I have to do and the culture shock has been seeping back in since I got to my room. I can’t help but get this feeling in the pit of my stomach, like I made a mistake in coming here. I’m no where near my family, I can’t speak this language, I’m surrounded by people I know nothing about, and I’m here with a very small organization. I finally left to go back out to the street to find something to eat, even though I’m not very hungry. I’m hoping this feeling is just normal for anyone who is left in a small town with a foreign culture. A few hundred feet from the house and I already said hello to four large groups of people. I walk to pass some older men sitting on a bench and they yell Obroni! It sounds more like Broni, when it is said out loud. It still always makes me smile to hear that. I walked over and introduced myself as Kwesi. That means that I am Sunday born. Then I saw Mattew. The other man also introduced himself as Kwesi and he loved that we had that in common. He keeps going on about how much the town like Adam and that I would be accepted just like him. He said the whole town is going to accept me with open arms. I thanked them and kept walking down the street. The next group of people were a few young men. I can’t stop looking at the one in the middle because he is wearing those oval shaped Jon Lennon glasses with purple tinted lenses. They look a bit outrageous. They are also very nice and accepting of my stay in Antoa. Lennon’s friend told me that his brother is fighting in the U.S. Army and showed me some pictures. I thanked him for his service and them someone from my right was yelling my name. I looked up and saw Mary. I had met her when Adam, Spencer, Mary, Amber, and I went out to dinner last week. I completely forgot she lives her in Antoa. She told me to come hang out with her and I said my fairwells to the Beatles and left. There are two other younger men sitting with Mary underneath an umbrella. They were also very nice and laughed uncontrollably when I would speak the few Twi words I had learned so far. After about an hour the young men left and another young man named Charles came over to join us. He looks much different from the rest of the Ghanaians I have seen. I think he was a product of a frisky Obroni that came through town a while ago. Either way he grew up here his whole life and was Ghanaian by anyone’s standards in this town. I sat there as Mary sold different clothes. She would go to the big city in Kumasi and buy clothing sent here in bulk from various developed nations. We were hanging out for a while and it felt nice to get to know people so well. Charles told me that I would need to fetch water for my house from a nearby source and he would show me how to do that. I want to fill up the reservoirs tomorrow so that way Daniel and his other clinic colleagues don’t have to fetch it.

            Then I look at the time and it’s 15:00. It’s time to head back and get Twi lessons from Daniel. He said that he is going to teach me more of the stuff I will be using on the streets. I said my goodbyes and walked back to the house. I’m thirsty so I went over to a blue cooler on the side of the street. That is generally an indication that person is selling cold water. I got a sachet of water for 10 peswas, about 5 cents. On my way back the ladies that have a shop right outside of my compound always say something to me as I pass. This time they wanted me to sit down and talk with them. I told them about the Twi lessons and that I would be back to join them soon.

            Daniel’s Twi lessons were very good. He taught me a lot of words that are related and showed me the simplicity of the Twi word structure. I was even able to guess words that I have never seen before.

            Now I need a break from everything, so I started to read in my room. I realized then how much better I felt about the whole situation. I have gotten to know more people and made good progress with my Twi. It must be culture shock if I can have swings of mood like this. I just have to keep reminding myself that I do want this deep down and that whether I really enjoy it or not I signed a contract for 6 months.

            Daniel and I sat down to eat Fu Fuo and have another discussion about Antoa and Ghana in general. He keeps warning me how dishonest most people are. He backs that up with the situation the government has set for everyone. There is so much corruption, it is hard to get anything positive done and when people try, they just get muscled out. He kept expressing how close Antoa is to Kumasi and yet there is no running water in the whole town. They have one small public toilet and little access to water. He again is laying down the tracks for my side project. The biggest issue would be funding. These project are from 10-40,000 dollars. There is no way that I or my organization could afford that. I still think Antoa is a special place in Ghana. Everyone from all over Ghana knows of Antoa and very important people travel here often. Whether it is with Expo or the next organization I am with, there is something special about the potential of a development project in Antoa. If a project is successful in this town, then it will be noticed by everyone and I believe it will have the potential to be replicated across Ghana. Since Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in West Africa and with their recent spotlight from the Presidential Supreme Court Case, a successful project that spreads through Ghana has the ripple potential to set the path for other developing West African Countries that are in a similar situation. I’m sure many of them have vastly different issues and assets, which sound like some interesting new projects for the future. Before I get to far ahead of myself I should get some rest and think about meeting up with the Headmasters tomorrow to get my tutoring program set up.

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2 thoughts on “First Full Day in Antoa, My New Home

  1. Hang in there, Matt! You’ll get into the swing and not feel like it was a mistake. That’s a lot of culture shock in a short amount of time. But seriously, soup and yams for breakfast???? Where’s the eggs??? Take the experience and be humbled by it 🙂

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