New Tutor and Fetching Some Water

Today the plan is to secure the replacement tutor for Logical and find another for Isaac. As you know I kicked Logical out of the program and as you don’t know, Isaac has been accepted to an SHS, so he will have to leave the program early. As I leave I make my usual greetingson my way out of the town and wait by the SHS to catch a iride to Krobo, the junction town. Before I get to the end of town I pass the group of ladies who asked if I could teach their primary students, some weeks ago.. They have given me bananas a few times before, I guess as a thank you. On Thursday of this lpast week, they gave me a head of cabbage on my way home. On that same awlk home, Andrews, my young friend in the midst of my ladies on the edge of town, boutght me a meat pie. We were in the middle of discussion how much money he’s lost due to thieves and swindlers. I really appreciated the snack he bought me and made sure to tell him so, a few times. He bought me another one as the seller was leaving and explained it’s part of his culture to offer me food and drink whenever I visit him. A young woman, in her mid twenties, same age as Andrews, came over and started talking with us. In this culture if you are eating in public it is rude not to invite passerby’s to join you. Knowing this and wanting to continue with Andrew’s generosity, I offered her some of my meat pie. They both got very serious and told me that I should never share a gift with anyone else because it is meant for me and sharing it will indicate that I don’t appreciate the gift. I apologized and stuffed the cabbage and meat pie gifts into my bag. Okay, back to today. I pass by the ladies at the end and the elder one told the group to get me some bananas and ground nuts. Gratefully, I told them I would greet them again in the evening on my way back into town. At the very edge of town in between the SHS and American Man’s house, I waited only a few minutes before catching a Tro Tro to Krobo. There, I visited the JHS and met with the staff and asked them to help me find a tutor to replace Isaac. I greeted them all in Twi and they went wild! I held my own for awhile before their unfamiliarly educated Twi brought me to a stand still. I told them my name and one woman said, “OH, so you’re Akwesi Mattew!” Apparently I’m better known in this town that I thought. I guess that make sense being the only white person walking around town every week. After some time, the Headmaster walked with me to :show me off” and ask a few last minute blunt questions. He basically asked me how the program will benefit him an specifically all the students involved. I came up with some quick marketing strategies to include their school in the benefit and went through how our model affects the students we target and the rest of Ghana. I told him that I would be back on Wednesday to see who they could find.

 I found a spot to stand and wait for a car, in the shade. A young girl walked by and insisted I sit on her bench. She asked me where I’m going and then we didn’t talk much as I was watching the road for a car. After about 45 minutes of waiting, I decided to take this time to soak in the sights. I have been trying to take my meditations “off the pillow” and into my daily life, a task much easier said then done. I sat up and took some deep breaths as I tried to take in all the sense stimuli. As I look around my little world, I notice that there are no vibrant colors. Even the buildings painted red, yellow, and green, Ghana’s flag colors, showed the punishment of the sun and rain, like a boxer’s black eye. The color is faded underneath the overhang and basically non-existent near the bottom of the wall. While there are no blood reds, hot pinks, or neon anything’s there are still many different shades of the basics. Nature seems to be the one boasting like a male peacock. I start to look around at all the vegetation in between the houses and even beyond in the “bush” that surrounds every town near where I stay. There are so many different shades of green, I’m surprised it isn’t treated by the Ghanaian languages like Inuit’s treat snow. It’s very hot today in the sun, but as I sit in the shade the breeze cools me and the weather feels perfect.

 Finally I catch a Tro Tro the rest of the way to Wonoo. I get out at the stop and look for some food that sounds like “going.” It’s basically rice and beans, but I really want to try some. The lady is not there so I head back to the center of town to find some food. None of the usual vendors are in their spot and the only food I have to choose from is fried rice, which is too expensive, and fried yams, which doesn’t sound healthy enough for my mood right now. Remembering the quadu (banana) and nkatea (ground nut) in my bag, I give up and just look for some cold water. The woman tells me to wait as she gets more water. Right then Isaac comes up to me and asks what I’m doing in town. I tell him and ask him where I can find food close by. He tells me that the light have been off, meaning no electric power, for the past two days straight. I asked him if that happens often and he says about every month the lights are off for five or six days and then they will stay on for a month straight. This place is much more remote than Antoa because I’ve only experienced the lights out for a 12 hour period in Antoa before and that was unusual. I couldn’t imagine how it must been in the less developed areas of the North region of Ghana. He tells me there is a rice lady behind us. I tell him I’m aware of that lady and she wasn’t there when I just checked. He insists that he would take me to find a food seller and I follow him. Stubbornly he leads me to the exact spot of the rice lady we just talked about. I try to explain to him again, “I literally was just here and…” now the rice lady is there. Slightly embarrassed I thank him and get some food. I make my way to the JHS and test the new tutor.

 On my way back to Antoa I greet the usual people on my walk through the center of town and wait by the edge of the bush for a Tro Tro. After a few minutes a Tro Tro comes and I am directed to attend the front seat. As we are making the loop by the bus stop, I realize that I was in this exact Tro Tro on Saturday when I was coming back from Kumasi. I remember because the car was very tall and the driver a very large man. I also remember that there was no legroom and my seat was falling off, but it’s much better now that I’m in the front. Almost every week on my way back to Antoa from Wonoo I have either walked or taken some kind of vehicle larger than a Tro Tro. On this ride back, I am reminded of the terrible condition of the road. It didn’t help that this Tro Tro is in bad condition itself. The driver must have been in a hurry because he didn’t seem to slow down very much for the bumps. As we are going over the bumps I honestly feel like were on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, except there are no seatbelts in Tro Tros. As we get to Ohojo, the town between Wonoo and Krobo, the road only gets worse. Right about now I’m starting to hear the theme music playing in the back of my head. I wouldn’t be surprised if I feel the blowguns from the side of the car. As we get on the last stretch of bad road there are two normal sized cars on our side of the road, the better side of the road. Our driver, being a nice guy, waves them to stay on that side and he goes to the left to take the very bad part. The hill that we’re on is so steep that I have to hold on to the outside of the car so I don’t crush the woman to me left. Calming myself down I try to push the worried thoughts of our Tro Tro flipping over. After all, the driver knows his car very well and wouldn’t take that kind of risk. Right? The road begins to level out and as we go up the last little incline, I can see a man hanging from a rope telling me not to look at… whoops I’ll blame that one on the Larium again. We make it back safely to Krobo and I hop out of the Tro Tro. The mate doesn’t stick around to ask for my money so I do the same and don’t pay for the ride. I walk to the edge of town and wave down the passing cars. At this time I’ve been pretty lucky to get off duty vehicles to give me a ride home. The second car that passes stops to pick me up and I realize it’s the same guy driving the school bus that picked me up last week. He stays in Antoa and I had a long discussion with him once about not being able to help teach his kids. He’s very nice and drives me back to the SHS.

 On my walk back through the edge of town I make mu usual greetings. There are a group of tailor ladies that I usually don’t mention on the furthest point of the left side of the road before American Man’s house. Sometimes I buy oranges or mosquito repellent from them. This time they ask me to sit down and chat. I intend to buy some oranges from them because I’m dying of thirst and it sounds like a good treat. Literally 10 seconds after I sit down one of the women hands me a cold sachet of water. They ask me some usual questions about the US and some less usual ones. After our chat I get up to make the rest of the walk back. As I get back to the house I realize that it’s 18:00 and time to find something to eat.

 As I’m leaving the compound I notice Fadilla, the nurse I live with, coming back with a bucket of water on her head. I hesitate first starting to go for the food and then accepting that I should help her get some more water. I do need some more practice with this whole head-balancing thing. I follow her back in and tell her to wait because I’m getting a shirt for my head. I get a smaller bucket then the one I used last time. As we walk over to the water area I ask her some questions about herself. I find out that she’s from the Upper West part of Ghana, where her family is from, and her husband lives down in the West region by Takarati. That was the town that I went to before Hideout, down by the coast. I also find out that she knows how to speak 10 languages! I couldn’t contain my yelp of surprise when she tells me. I’m hoping that I can accomplish learning four languages in my lifetime. I couldn’t imagine knowing 10. I don’t know how she doesn’t get them confused. I start to fold my shirt to put on my head as a cushion and she just takes it from me to fold it the correct way. On our way back she leads me around the tree where you have to do the limbo to get under and instead we step across a three-foot gutter that would be a broken bone covered in sewage if I don’t make the step correctly. Concentrating with near-death focus I take the step across and then the step down the ledge. A good amount of water comes out of my bucket and makes me soaked. It’s hard enough to balance this bucket on my head; stepping across a crevasse and off a cliff doesn’t help the process. We make only two trips and the sky ominously looks like it is going to pour rain. She tells me “nsuo be to,” meaning it’s going to rain. I really enjoyed fetching water with Fad and getting to know more of her story. There is always a weird dynamic when Daniel is around. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but he puts her in a place that makes me feel uncomfortable. I think he is the one that makes it known that I shouldn’t be helping with the cleaning or cooking because he certainly takes the same stance. I don’t know if it’s because I’m the Obroni or if he is traditional in the view of men’s tasks around the house. I think completely the opposite of him and would prefer to cook myself and help with the other cleaning chores. He also seems to give her commands a lot and I always keep quite about it because I don’t want to step in and create any bad blood between anyone. It was a nice night getting to break that barrier and do some of the chores with Fad as I got to know her better. I really want to make this a regular thing.

 Now I leave to actually go get that food. I get yams and stew. For one cedi of yams and stew I can be stuffed to the brim. As I’m buying the food Theo comes up and greets me. He says that he is getting some rice and going to the bar to get some drink with a weird name. He asks if I want some and I don’t hesitate to say yes. The bar girl is very religious and bickers at Theo for corrupting me. I laughed with Theo, but had a strange suspicion that she is dead serious. We sit down and sip the drinks. He tells me that it’s similar to bitters. I could tell why, it is very bitter and tastes like cough medicine. I appreciate Theo buying the drink for me, but this just reinforces why I don’t enjoy taking alcohol. Hah there’s some more good Ghanaian English for you. Whenever anyone describes eating or drinking they use the verb taking.

The night ends with Charles coming over to discuss some things about the tutoring program and just catching up in general. As he’s leaving I head across the street to get a big grouped pack of the water sachets for the house. Still energized from fetching the water I hoist the pack up onto my head to take it home. Charles laughs at me and tells me I’ve done well. Then as I’m closing the gate I need to use two hands to put the lock back on. Very slowly I take my hand off of the pack of waters on my head and concentrate as I use my hands on the gate. When closed, I turn around and head for the kitchen. Instead of putting my hands back on the water, I just try to balance the pack for the short walk. I’ve always been a fast learner with new physical activities, so I know that when I finally put my mind to this fetching water thing I will be very good. I take a few steps with my hands out ready to catch the pack. Then oddly enough, I feel very comfortable and let my hands fall down to my sides. I walk over to the fridge wit no problem and with a joyful chuckle I take it off of my head. After the successes from the day with the tutor, to the water fetching and getting to know Fad, to talking with Charles, and with balancing the water on my head I’m way to happy and energized to be going to sleep right now. But really though, my legs are jumping out of their sockets and I can’t stop them. I’ve heard of this before, I must have restless leg syndrome. I should probably head to the clinic across the street and get my medicine. Or I could just do what I’ve always done and just exercise them a little bit. I do some wall squats and walla, no more jumpiness. I would be a pretty good doctor. If some one came to me and said they were sick I would just tell them to go exercise it out, if they have a cut to rub dirt in it, or if it hurts when they do ‘that’ then they should probably stop doing it. Yeah okay, I will probably stick to the development career path.

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One thought on “New Tutor and Fetching Some Water

  1. Matt,
    This is such a great story! You told it so well that I read it twice. I love your descriptions of the buildings and the colors and your humor is laugh-out-loud funny. Nicely done.

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