Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Full Day

[Belated Post]

Today was actually quite full though I sense that I didn't accomplish too much that is easily checked off on my life's to-do list. Yesterday a fellow volunteer swung through my town and paid a visit that turned into a stay as a vehicle would not make it back to his town before nightfall. We are not supposed to travel at night within the country as a security measure – sometimes not-so-nice people like to rob passing vehicles under the cover of darkness. That one was drilled into our sub-consciousness repeatedly during training. So Raj stayed the night and he came bearing gifts from the Kumasi Sub-Office. Books! He grabbed quite a few and felt the load was a bit much to carry the rest of the distance so he left a few behind for me here. The Sub-Office by the by is a place operated by Peace Corps where volunteers can crash for the night to prevent nighttime travel, and get a few books plus some internet service. Raj helped himself to all but the stay.

I was glad to have company here and glad to rummage through the books that he grabbed. I have The Hunt For Red October, Running With Scissors, and Dear American Airlines. Not my typical reading material, but then again it will hold my attention better than the Peace Corps manual for teaching HIV/AIDS did. That book was a bit dry reading the other night.

I digress, as always.

Raj was over for the night so it gave me an excuse to go exploring the neighborhood with him when dinner time came. Last night we stopped at a chop bar around seven and had ourselves some banku and what I think was ground nut soup. Both of us agreed that it was more than spicy enough for our palates. Almost too spicy for mine. Hence our next quest for some Fan Ice which I may have mentioned before is vanilla soft serve ice cream in a bag. It is usually frozen and when you buy it, you work it between your hands for a bit to get it somewhat melted and then tear off a corner of the plastic bag and squeeze yourself some fond memories of Dairy-Queen goodness. For that we had to walk even further into the town in the dark for to administer the fix. A kind stranger showed us the way to a place he knew had what we sought, and when we arrived and made our purchases we dashed* him some money so that he could buy a candle. I figured it was really for a drink, but who knows really. We had our ice cream and I was happy.

This morning I saw Raj off to the station where he met his lorry van for Dambai. I am betting he waited on-board for the better part of an hour, maybe longer, before the vehicle left the station. One of the issues you have when planning a trip here is that one may know the time it takes to get to the destination, but not the departure time. The last time I left Hohoe I waited for over an hour in the tro-tro before we picked up the last passenger to fill the remaining seat. This just throws a general question mark in your plans when going someplace far away. He arrived safely back in Dambai around 3PM; he was sitting in the lorry before 10AM and the trip should run about four hours. It was a while waiting I am sure.

After that brief excursion for me I returned home and did my best to mingle with the shop keepers who are getting to know me. Some are even going out of their way to help me know the ropes of the town and the people. As Raj and I returned home last night we were met by a stranger who really wanted to walk us to my place on campus. Quite nice of him. Then I said hello to my tailor friends just outside of campus and the one very nice woman motioned me to come close, her expression was not at all the one I was accustomed to. “That man who is with you, he is a thief. Be careful.” It is a very good idea to get to know people well when you arrive apparently. We detoured from our trip home and bid the man a good farewell just to be on the safe side. It pays to talk to people and smile I have learned.

So after again chatting up my acquaintances along the way I got ready for a one o'clock luncheon with a teacher on campus. He took me to his house and introduced me to his family. Homemade fufu is something to covet here, and this occasion was no different. I ate what I could and he did as well, and we covered a few subjects of both his country and mine, and what I could expect from students when classes started. Again, the naturalness of sharing and socializing here makes me pause sometimes and wonder why we don't do the same in America. That is for another post along with other observations, but for now I am happy to be living here and receiving the welcome that I have had so far.

I should mention that sprinkled throughout yesterday evening and today I was reading through the one book Raj lent me. I found that Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs was set in my old stomping grounds of Western Massachusetts. In fact, it was in most of the towns that I am most familiar with: Amherst, Northampton, Hadley, and so on. It was neat to read about some of the places that I even recognize, including the Emily Dickinson House, the Hadley Mall and Thorne's in Northampton. It made me miss a bit of the places and the people back home from that area, and when the Amherst Regional Middle School was mentioned I got nostalgic for Tuesday night volleyball. I am still thinking about you guys back there, just so you know.

I should say that the material covered in the book was a bit on the “holy moly am I reading this?” end of the spectrum that would cause me to greatly caution others (this means you Mom) from reading it, but it was very well written and funny, if not unbelievable for a memoir. I finished the book already, so you can see how much time I have between missions here. It felt good though to get caught up in a book rather than watch my clothes dry.

When I was almost finished a man approached my place here and said that my house was ready for me to move in, provided I didn't mind ducking and dodging the lightning bolts that were approaching. We agreed that maybe tomorrow morning would be a better time to get the goods over the new place. I figure it is maybe a driver and a sand wedge to the new place, so it won't be too far. Bright and early tomorrow I will be in the permanent home. Fortunately there is a gas shortage right now in Ghana so I won't be getting a fully operational cook-top until a gas cylinder can be procured from town. That means I get to have a home but can continue to get served meals three times a day from the school kitchen. I am sure some day I will get used to the toils of living here.

That is a joke, it has been quite swell so far.

*dash - (v.) to give someone something extra out of kindness; to give someone a bribe

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