Friday, 30 August 2013

Akwaaba!

Life in ze Ghana

Gosh, I'm not off to a very good start, am I?  I've had plenty of time to write this blog, but have also been focusing on other things as well.  Like, managing life in a new country with a new culture and a whole new lifestyle, to name a few.  Now I'm finally feeling relaxed and motivated enough to actually throw a lengthy update your way while I listen to 90's classics (currently: "Shoop" by Salt n' Pepa.  Aww yissss).  I can't promise a super quality post - I've never been a great blogger.  In fact, I've never been one, so cut me some slack.  I'll get better , I promise. 

I've been in Ghana for approximately a week and a half now, and while that's not even a fraction of enough time to feel totally at home or integrated into the culture here, I think I'm doing pretty okay.  I've had the benefit of visiting Ghana for a full two weeks during the Christmas holidays in 2012 to visit Mark, my amazing and inspiring fiancé, so I came back with a good idea of what I would be getting into this time around.  

Mark, our travelling friend and EWB worker, Heather, and I, arrived in Accra on a cool, Monday evening - a nicer welcome than the heavy,  humid 36 degrees that greeted me during my first visit to Ghana! Immediately, I noticed by the familiar smell of Accra (I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it smells like.  It smells like Accra.  That's all I got.) and the finger snappings and "tsss"'s of people trying to get my attention (which I once perceived as like, totally, incredibly rude, but now recognize it as the Ghanaian way of saying "excuse me") and help me through customs.  I made a critical error when passing my customs declaration form to an officer with my LEFT hand, something considered pretty offensive here.  So embarrassing.  Fortunately, the officer laughed it off and told me I'd adjust quickly. 


Socially awkward even in Ghana
After a lovely evening in Accra with Mark and our friends Heather and Alex (which included yummy pizza and chocolate milkshakes!), Mark and I caught a V.I.P. bus to Kumasi in the morning.  The V.I.P. busses are these incredible, air-conditioned, transit busses with big, comfy, reclining leather seats, and lots of space.  WAAAAY nicer than any Greyhound you'd take in Canada (though at least the busses in Canada have bathrooms....). They're definitely the most comfortable way to travel between Kumasi and Accra, though the movies they play are questionable and headache-inducing.  



Our house in Kumasi is huge.  Like, ridiculously large - but absolutely lovely (except for some careless errors on the builders' part - also, the house is still under construction - that heap of rubble won't be there in the end).  I'm definitely excited to call this place, which is filled with VOTO employees and EWB friends, my home for the next year.  I'm especially grateful that every bedroom has its own bathroom and shower! 

Somedays this is what I think after having a shower.


The people here are incredibly warm and welcoming - I'm definitely feeling like a part of the household and not "the new girl".  Also, we have a cat! Kwame Nkrumeow, named so after Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah.  She loves to spend all day under the bed, and on people's keyboards.  Aww. 


It's cool.  I didn't like that episode of Scrubs anyway, Nkrumeow.

I've been spending my time in Ghana travelling and exploring so far.  Mark and I travelled to the Stumble Inn resort at Elmina, where Mark spent time debriefing the EWB Junior Fellows, and I read The Book Thief and wandered along the beach and marvelled at the total beauty and power of the Atlantic waters.  From there we spent time in Accra, the country's capital, as Mark had meetings, and I, being an unemployed bum, explored some of the vast metropolis. Luckily, our friend Alex was also in Accra, and let me tag along with her as she showed me around certain places like Osu (where I saw what I'm pretty sure is the largest KFC in the entire world (three stories!), as well as a pretty yummy sushi place that I will make sure to visit when I'm back in Accra!), so I wasn't completely on my own.  

KFC - 3 stories of finger-lickin' good

Now we're back in Kumasi, and I'm finally starting to get past the hang-ups of being uncomfortable and unsure of myself in this new place, and getting excited to explore different school and make connections with individuals in the education world.  Wish me luck!  Here are my take aways and general musings from my first week and a half:

  • It is incredible how cheap SIM cards and data is here.  I got a SIM card on the GLO network for CND $0.75.  Wat.


  • The names of many businesses and shops here are (unintentionally) hilarious.  Often named after religious phrases and proverbs or celebrities, I've seen places named things like "Jesus Saves Phones and Accessories", a cell phone shop, and "Chevy Chase Fashions", a clothing shop.  I'm pretty sure Chevy Chase didn't approve the use of his name for a clothing shop, nor am I sure I want to model my attire after Chevy Chase.  Things like this make me smile when I see them.


  • Blue Skies pineapple juice is literally (seriously, no hyperbole) the greatest juice in the entire world.  I challenge you to find something better.


  • In general, the people in Ghana are friendly and eager to help each other out.  I've definitely encountered Ghanaians who insincerely claim that they "want to be my friend", as well as people trying to sell me items for a higher price due to the big white stamp on my face that suggests I might have lots of money, but in general, most people I meet are genuinely friendly, welcoming, and kind.


  • Personal space is not really a thing here.  I've been crammed into Tro-tros and taxis, and squished in grocery store line ups.  Seatbelts in taxis aren't usually a thing, either.  I'm so grateful whenever I get a taxi with functioning seat belts!


  • The amount of rice Ghanaians can pack away is mind-blowing.  I can't even.


  • Though I'm starting to get used to it and finding ways of dealing with it, the general stares and shouts of "Obruni!!" (white girl) directed at me can be pretty annoying.  Mostly small children yell out "Obruni", to which I will occasionally respond with "Obibini" (black person) - that usually confuses them or makes them giggle.  


  • While initially unsure of the tro-tro transit system, I'm starting to love the fact that I can travel from one end of the city to the other for less than 50 cents, and buy pretty much anything through the window of a tro on the way to my destination (like a kettle or first aid kit.  Seriously.)


  • I've learned to take toilet paper with me everywhere I go.  Just in case.  (Luckily, I have yet to need it. But you never know.)


  • I'm starting to get used to the fact that sometimes things either just don't work, or only work sometimes.  So far we've had only one power outage in the house...


  • Thank goodness for e-readers.


  • I miss all my friends, family, and colleagues.




  • I miss my mom.

While I'm going to spend lots of time outside of my comfort-zone, I'm excited to see how the rest of my year goes, and I'm excited to share my adventures with you! I'm pretty lazy, so I can't guarantee a blog post every two weeks like the wonderful, incredible, and inspiring Sharon Harvey, but I assure if you if you stick with me and keep checking back, you'll get an update from me!! 

Thanks for reading! Until next time!

Jo

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