Monday, 5 November 2007

First 2 Weeks in Ghana (2007 Year Out Volunteer)

Its already may the 5th. i can't believe how quickly the time has flown. The past 2 weeks have blown my mind. Ill try be brief........

Our first week was spent in Accra and was a subtle introduction to life in dusty, hot life in Ghana. We stayed at a hostel - air conditioned which seems like such a luxury now we have left. We were shown around by our guide Charles, who we all became friends with and our trusty driver Isaac (affectionatley known as oh chi chi which means big crocodile). Our week consisted of markets, traditional drumming and dancing, language lessons, the beach and clubbing Ghana style. I cannot get sick of my surroundings as there is always something interesting going on. The landscape is barron and dusty but scattered with coconut trees and brightly coloured houses and shops. The Ghanians have so little yet their hearts are huge. Everywhere we go we hear 'obruni where are you going?' obruni is a white person and means from the horizon. We shout back 'obini where are you going?' which means black person. It sounds cruel but they think its hilarious. A few times a day someone will tell us they would like to take us as a friend. We have all picked up bits and pieces of Twi. The phrases 'GYE SAA' which means stop that and 'mempe saaa' i dont like that come in handy especially when 4 men surround you saying they are going to marry you.

I have now however moved into my my village. Its called Gomoa Bezedes and is tiny. Its situated about 15 mins out of a small town called Swedru. My Ghanian family is amazing and their hospitality is overwhelming. I have been given the African name Adjuia which is based on my day of birth. I have also been given a family name, a church name and a name from school all to follow this but i cant pronounce them let alone remember them. I have however only just been able to work out my family as everyone that comes over is an aunt, brother or sister. My mother is Mary. She has lots of children but I have 2 brothers called Kofi and Wofa who are 14 and 12 and I have a sister called Mena who is 11 who live with us. I then have a cousin who is 20 and her 2 children who are 4 and one week old. On Monday we are invited to a traditional naming ceremony for the baby.

Our house is one of the central homes in the village. Our is a courtyard house which means our main living area is an outside courtyard which all of the other rooms feed off. We have a pit toilet and a bucket shower. Despite what you all might think these are not to be feared. The bucket shower is actually refreshing in the heat. Our Mum is the best. Even though she can't speak much english everytime we come home she gives us big hugs and has food waiting. Ghanian food is amazing. The majority of the cooking is done outside and we also eat outside. Did i mention that we eat with our hands? A bit worried about what my manners will be like when we return. By Ghanian standards we are too thin and our family is aiming to fatten us up. Our serving sizes are about 4 times something we would be served in Australia. When i finished all my rice yesterday Mary cheered. She is teaching us how to cook. Yesterday we returned the favour and showed her how to make french toast. The only problem is our family does't let us help. Every now and then i manage to convince her to let me help clear and wash plates. They say it makes them happy to be able to help.

We wake up at 5 every morning. Every third day we hand wash our clothes. It is pretty labor intensive but rewarding. I stand back and look at my clean clothes on the makeshift clothes line with pride. Our mum supervises and often takes over. While we wash some of the villagers come to watch and clap and laugh. Any adoption of their culture we undertake they think is great. Yesterday at 6am a lady arrived to braid our hair. It took her 2 hours and cost us 20 0000 cedes which is about $2. Swedru which is the nearest town is 15km away but takes 5 minutes in a taxi and costs less than 50 cents. The alternative transport is a tro tro which is a van which can squeeze 17 people in. The roads are chaos and each time i enter a vehicle i have to shut my eyes.

Swedru is very overhwelming. The infastructure is poor and the city is very disorderly. Along the side of the road there are gutters which can be up to 2m deep. Sewage runs freely and they are also used as rubbish bins. The smell is a little off putting to say the least but surprisingly we are getting used to it. Taxis and tro tros block the roads and the sounds of the drivers shouting their destinations adds to the chaos. There are people everywhere carrying different products on their heads - africans can carry anything on their heads. Africans don't really go to shops they buy most of their stuff in markets or on the roadside. You can buy anything from fruit to stationary. Yesterday we bought 6 mangos for about 20 cents. The Ghanians manage to eat them on the street without peeling them so we thought we would try too. To say the least it was a big mess. Each time we are in Swedru i wish to return to my family and my village. Its strange how easily ive adapted and Africa is beggining to feel like home. I definently miss lots from Australia though.

There is rarely a moment when we aren't covered in sweat. Everyone has experienced travellers stomach. When we were having a language lesson in Accra one girl said she didn't feel well and before we knew it she had thrown up on the door on her way out. We all wondered how we would get out. The Malaria tablets sometimes make us feel lousy.

School is from 7-2 and some of the local kids wait in my courtyard and we walk to school together. On my first day one girl told me that she would like to be my best friend because she likes me so very much. This week there havent been any classes and the students have been "cleaning the compound" which means bringing their blades to school and cutting the grass. On monday we will start classes. Im excited to meet my class but am hoping they will be goood.

We are also regualrly visiting the local orphanage. There are about 60 kids there ranging from 1 year to 16 years. The children share two rooms and one shower and one toilet. There isnt much food and when we are arrive we are swarmed but all they want is hugs. Its obvious they crave affection that every child should get from their parents. Each time i leave i have tears in my eyes because they are so happy despite their hardship. We are all scheming about something to fundraise for them.

Sorry this was so long but internet is over an hour away. Sadly dont expect regular emails, the internet is impossible here!

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