Monday, April 18, 2011

My First Visitor

All is quiet at the house again as I have returned by my lonesome from the airport in Accra today. My girlfriend Damla paid me a visit in Hohoe and spent ten days in the country with me to see first-hand what it is that I am doing and what it is like to live here in Ghana. I wanted to see the country through her eyes as someone who has not been here before. I gather the first impression was the heat and humidity of Accra and Ghana in general. For some reason the week was quite warm with very few interruptions in the heat index. Not that this was a bad impression for someone just getting away from one of the colder more snowy winters in the northeast of America, but it can really hit you like a ton of bricks.

I spent most of my time in the tro-tro ride home pointing out things that I thought might be of interest – the typical tourist stuff of which I have minimal knowledge. I know only what someone else has told me, and for most of the ride to Hohoe there is little to remark on besides the lake and the farms. As we were going over a few speed bumps I could see from my seat that the oncoming tro-tro had a goat standing on top of the roof. This happens but it is not something that I get to see everyday, so I told her to look out the passenger window to catch a glimpse, expecting her to be surprised by the very sight of a goat riding on the roof as it passed to our left (you would really not want a goat riding in the passenger area as you might guess). Unfortunately, this was the least-sure-footed goat in Ghana, and those speed bumps that we were were rolling over gave it a run for its money. She looked out the window the moment it fell off the roof. Good thing though, or bad thing depending on how you look at it, the goat was leashed by its neck to the metal railing that was welded on to the top of the tro. I told her to look at the passing vehicle the moment a goat was strung up by its neck, wailing and crying for its very life while one good Samaritan inside the car was grabbing a leg trying to help the tormented animal.

We kept driving right along. Nothing to see there.

Things like that are great stories to have on a trip, aren't they? It did not throw her off in the least, and we continued to have fun while running about. There was market day where she and I trailed off into the labyrinth of stalls that occupies about a football field of space near the taxi station in town. She found some jewelry and I found a neighbor to chat with and introduce, and off we went to explore further. People who know me would come up and I would do my best to greet and they in turn would look at her and say the pleasantries all in Ewe, which I failed to instruct her on before and after she got here. “Yo” is never a bad guess when someone says something that sounds nice but unfamiliar. I use it all the time and it will either be correct, or get me a good laugh.

We did manage to find the Wli waterfalls which is a must for anyone that comes to this region. A simple walk of about forty minutes gets you to a lush mountain side with a steep and beautiful waterfall as your reward. It did not disappoint us as the water was bounding over the edge and making a nice splash at the bottom. Many people were out for the afternoon to take in the sight, and we got some nice photos and videos of the scene to take back home.

I don't think I am going to let anyone leave Ghana without getting something handmade for them to wear. Part of the fun of being “Ghanaian” is dressing the part and when you see the prints and the colors and the fashions that most people here will wear, you don' want to stick out too much with T-shirts and shorts. Hence, you go buy two or three yards of fabric (the more colorful the better) and have a tailor take your measurements and do their thing. Voila! You have yourself a Ghanaian outfit. Damla had a few choices to make and did very well for herself. There isn't a lot to compare it to back in the states: you see that there is a pucker or a loose spot here or there, and you just tell the tailor that that needs to be fixed and they have at it. I can't imagine what it would cost to have your wardrobe tailored directly to your body back home, but here it runs from about six to nine cedis, or $4-6 American. Not bad, yes? She looked beautiful in all her attire here, that is for sure.

To state that I was a beneficiary in this deal is the world's largest understatement. She brought along so many snacks and goodies that I will be fat before I know it. Jelly beans, licorice, breakfast snacks, I could go on and on. My sweet tooth better get a check-up and soon because there is plenty for my molars to gorge themselves on here. She also packed and left a hard drive full of movies (dozens and dozens of my favorite odd-ball show, Mystery Science Theater 3000) and digital goodies. I might even speed up my learning of Turkish since she left behind audio lessons for me to digest in addition to the sugars.

Speaking of foods, I believe we both figured out what was edible and inedible as each day passed. While not getting her sick was the main focus, one might want to just dabble a little bit in the “danger zone” of foods to see what is good and delicious here in Ghana. Banku and Face-The-Wall were successes, but maybe not groundnut soup. So each day we added a bit more to the rice diet to see what was going to work. By the end I was so proud of her when she told a seller standing by our tro-tro “What is that?”, pointing to the top of her head, and being told what it was kindly said no to her. Braver than I was by a mile and a half even after my first two months here. Cow tripe on kebabs worked, so did the ice cream and frozen yoghurt that comes in plastic bags. Plantain chips were a “go”, but raw lettuce was never an option. By the end, she could say “Medi fo” and mean it (but maybe not understand it – I am satisfied).

Sadly though, trips like these have beginnings and the requisite endings, so we had to part ways as her job beckoned back on the other side of the lake. We made the last leg of the journey together on one more bumpy tro-tro with suitcases and glum feelings about the ten days that were now behind us. Emotional goodbye? You bet. But this goodbye was as much about knowing how happy we were together and how much fun we could have no matter where we were that it was a bit of gladness wrapped in with the sadness. Sneaking in to the customs line I was able to wave one last bye-bye through a wall of plate glass and wish her the safest of journeys (she made it back in one piece but a suitcase didn't) and then find my way around Accra all by my lonesome. It was a great visit and while I learned a few things about how to play host, I also found out one very important lesson: I am darn lucky to have her!

Thank you Damla for everything!


Jen said...

Great post, Dave! I'm glad Damla got to visit, and that you had a great time!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this was just so great to read, Dave. Very happy that Damla did make it over and you two had so much fun. While your blogs are fabulous and I can pictuer everything you write, experiencing it like Damla really is the only way to know how you are living. I am so happy you had fun!