Getting Lost, Again and Discussions About Development

This past weekend was fairly uneventful. Saturday I took things bocoo (pronounced bokoo), which means slow. For instance kasa bocoo means to speak slowly. It is also a common response to “what’s up?” or 3t3 s3n. The o’s on bocoo are actually the Twi alternative to o, but that’ll probably just confuse you. It certainly has left me baffled. On Saturday I spent most of the day studying my Twi flash cards. I ended up spending the night and leaving for Antoa Sunday morning.

 There are two ways to travel back to Antoa from Kentinkrono. I can either go through Ejisu and then take a taxi through some small towns until I pick up a Tro Tro or I can go through Kumasi and ride Tro Tro the whole time. Remember taxis, in my experience, is pretty much a guarantee that they will try to rip off the Obroni. They will lie to you and change the prices once you get there or just keep them incredibly high, especially if they know you don’t have many other options. I don’t think they realize how stubbornly far I’m willing to walk, but that will come back up in a short bit. Anyway, taking the Kumasi is cheaper and probably easier, but it takes much more time depending on when you go. Good thing everything in Kumasi is closed on Sunday. I mean literally everything. I hope it’s obvious as to which option I chose.

 I caught a Tro Tro to Adum, a small section of Kumasi. I just started walking straight. It seemed like a good start at the time. I got to a street full of Tro Tros and immediately recognized it. This is the street I walked up and down when I got lost on my first Tro Tro ride by myself. See how important it is to get a little lost every once and awhile. I’m being serious. The way I got to know my college town was from the early morning walks back to my car because again, I was too stubborn to call a friend for a ride or directions. I know those streets like the back of my head. Hmm, that sounds slightly wrong, but in a way probably correct. Okay, so I recognized this street. I knew that following that street would get me back to Kentinkrono, so I took a left across the street. I was cutting through a bustling market. There are people all around me coming from every direction, people speaking all kinds of languages, and the persistent chanting of Obroni coming from every direction. I grabbed my backpack and flipped it around my arm so I was now hugging it to my chest. At this point if I look up in the air to find the big vodophone tower landmark then when I look back down I might be completely naked. I decided to just keep walking straight. It seemed to be working so far. I exited the market and walked up the street. It looked like a smaller version of the market I just went through. I got past there with only hearing Obroni every few seconds compared to the constant sea of Obroni called out during the market. I oriented my self on the street and tried to follow the big tower to the Vodophone store. It’s probably a good idea to know how to find that since there are many important places I will need to visit around that area. In just one block there is the internet café, my bank, and the DHL. That’s pretty much every reason I would have to come to Kumasi. The only problem was that I can’t seem to find it. I saw multiple towers on different buildings. I’m confused because Spencer told me to follow the big tower. I solved the problem by walking straight. I’m pretty good at this aren’t I? I wanted to go up the hill to get a better view over the city. Then I saw a huge tower that was about four times the size of all the rest. Geez, why didn’t spencer just tell me to look for the big tower? I make my way over to the internet café and find the bank and DHL office. Great now I’m looking for a place called Dr. Mensa station. I ask one guy I recognize from when Spencer and I were walking around. I want him to point me in the direction, but he insists that he will walk me there. He looks like a Rasta guy and hangs near the park known for people smoking weed. I really hope this guy can stay on track and remember where he is taking me. He seems very nice, I don’t want to be prejudice. We walk down the road a bit and he asks me if I smoke. Without hesitation I squash that bug. He says “hey, I like drinking too!” This guy seems like a real catch. He told me he wants to stop and smoke a cigarette. I said fine and that I would wait for him. Right then it hit me that this was the first time I had seen someone smoke a cigarette, since I left the states. That has been a real cultural change that I have noticed, but just didn’t register. I’m pretty sure he smoked some weed to because he seemed much less determined than before. He walked me down the street and said to just keep going straight and that I would find it. I’m pretty sure he forgot what we were doing and got freaked out that some white guy was following him. I walk straight to the next block and again I recognize where I am. I’m getting good at remembering these streets. The funniest part about this street is that it is exactly where I got off at the Tro Tro. I have made a big hour and a half circle through Kumasi. I told you that straight strategy was a good one. Hey, at least I know this area far more than I did before today. I was walking down the street in the direction of the street to the right that goes to Kentinkrono and the left to the market. Haha, this guy is either messing with me or I was really close to Dr. Mensa station. I want to ask someone walking with me in the street, but I’m looking for the right person to ask. In my experience so far, women have been much more understanding and helpful than men. I’ll stick to that. A woman with a baby tied to her back with a beautiful cloth cuts in front of me. I ask her where Dr. Mensa is and she says that she is heading there as well. She leads me through the market, exactly where I walked an hour ago. Now the people weren’t yelling Obroni as often because most of them were gasping for air from laughing so hard. We even exited on the same side of the market. Instead of going straight, ehem, she turned right to go down the road. I didn’t recognize this from where we got off the Tro Tro on Friday. We kept walking and she asked a mate for directions to the Antoa buses. She said I have to go to the station on the other side. She insisted that she take me to it. She asked what I am doing in Ghana and shared her appreciation for my reason. She literally walked me right up to the Tro Tro and even made sure it is heading in my direction. I said Medaase paa. When you add paa to something it means very. So, I said thank you very much.

 Before the Tro Tro left, the mate and I caught glances and he gave me a nice smile and wink. Tro Tro mates are a very interesting part of Ghana. I first found out about them when Koteay made a game for him Jennifer and I to play. Basically the worst thing you could end up with was a Tro Tro mate. Jennifer explained that they were often young boys who were recruited out of school. These men would go and find the boys that would make it far enough in school to count change, but then convince them to leave school to make money right away on the Tro Tro. I’m sure that’s not the case for all mates, but it is a very sad predicament. From that moment on I watch Tro Tro mates very closely when ever I ride in the Tro Tro. I have seen that it is very true that most of the mates are younger than I. Some even are around the age of 12. I’m pretty sure the way that most passengers treat the mates that the job is mostly looked down upon. Sure, there have been some nasty young boys that have a permanent scowl as mates. But, I have seen the opposite more often than not. I felt a lot of compassion for these boys, whether they scowled or not. More often than not I noticed that the mates were actually very helpful. I have seen mates help people on and off of Tro Tros almost anytime that a person needs the help. I have seen some mates lean over and give money to beggars. I even saw a mate hold a baby while a woman adjusted the load of stuff she was carrying. They weren’t overly nice because they had to keep some sort of authority to make sure they got the money, but they were definitely interested in making people’s day a little brighter. I don’t know why but the mates interest me so much and I want to know more about the profession and the boys that are mostly there. Anyway that’s why this particular mate’s wink caught my eye. After I got off the Tro Tro the mate turned to me and asked if I was sure this is where I want to get off. I’m sure he hasn’t seen any Obronis get off here. I said I was sure this was my stop. He asked me if I knew where to go. I smiled and told him that I indeed know where I am going. He said “Okay, I will see you around here.” I’m not sure if he was just being nice, or he lives in Antoa and is interested in being my friend. Either way I think this will turn into a good future opportunity to find out more about the mate job.

 The rest of the Sunday is pretty bocoo. I am spending most of the day writing my blog and preparing for the programs this next week. Daniel gave me a Twi lesson where he reinforced a lot of what we’ve been talking about and taught me a few new words. My living situation is great for learning Twi because it’s most Daniel and three other women that work at the clinic. They are speak Twi most of the time and sometimes Daniel will stop and breakdown what they are saying so I can start to pick words out. I still think I want to contact Tio soon and have him start to give me lessons. Adam said that Tio was a good teacher for him.

 For dinner we are served Fu Fu. Daniel told me that I have two options for my food. He said that I can either have food delivered to the place and the ladies will keep preparing it for us or I can have it be made somewhere else and brought over ready to eat. Apparently that is what the chief of the town wants to set up. He started the conversation, “The chief of the town was asking me about you.” My next big side goal is to meet this man. I want to ask him what he thinks I should do as a side project for Antoa. Whether I do or do not create a side project I will keep this town in mind for future organizations I work with. I really think this is a special place to all of Ghana, West Africa, and even the world. That might sound a bit dramatic, but I really believe it. Everyone in Ghana knows about this town and many people from small farmers to the president travel here, all to walk around town naked with a bowl on their head. Okay, maybe they don’t do that, but I know that this place is well visited to give blessings at the river. I also know that Ghana is a big hub of West Africa. It has one of the fastest growing economies and supplies electricity to many of the surrounding nations. I’m pretty sure that Ghana has the most advanced hospital in West Africa, so people will get helicoptered here if it is a big enough deal. Other than that people are sent to South Africa. Then, with this recent presidential scandal, Ghana has been in the mouths of leaders all across Africa and the world. I see a lot of potential there. Then again Daniel and I spend most of our talks discussing the corruption in Ghana and the rest of Africa. But, it could act in the opposite direction where this place is too much in the spot light and could be squashed if a project is started here that gives the power to the people and releases their dependency on domestic aid. The governments want to keep people eating out of their hands. I’ve been thinking about this ever since Rocky’s class, but I believe that real change in Africa will not come from one single project. Even with the scalability, the Antoa project would still be replicated from one. I believe that real change will happen when the small villages of Africa, like those in Burkina Faso or even ones worse off, are given a small amount of basic infrastructure that will allow them to grow their local economy themselves. This is a dumb idea, but something as simple as giving someone a rake that allows them to smooth roads out at an efficient pace would drastically change communities everywhere. I have noticed so far in Ghana that a large debilitating factor is the terrible road quality. Small distances traveled take a very long time and ding the life out of the transportation used. This is why I’m so attracted to the idea of micro lending. There is a good chance that is where I will go after I am done with my work in Ghana. Again, introduced to me in Rocky’s class. He showed a video about Mohammed Unis and Grameen Shakti, a small division of the Grameen Bank. Mohammed defied micro lending because he started giving out loans to the poorest people in India. He actually ended up making money with his organization and that allowed him to expand to reach more people. Then he focused his organization on women because he found studies that women were more likely to invest their money back into their households and communities. This would allow me to live where I could flush my toilet, but I would still get that experience of traveling and living with these populations for awhile as I investigate projects to invest in. Before I get too far ahead of my self here, I’m going to get some rest and focus on my tutoring programs here.

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