Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanks Have Been Given

It is two full days back at Hohoe and I still feel like it happened way too fast. The Ambassador to Ghana invited those in the embassy and all of the Peace Corps volunteers in the country to his house so they could enjoy the pleasures of a very splendid turkey dinner with all the trimmings and the best Thanksgiving you can get while you are thousands of miles away from home. This year I almost didn't make it.

We tend to get the announcement that there is an invite waiting for us when the September newsletter is circulated to all of the PCVs in-country. It clearly states that you are invited but that you must RSVP to reserve a place for you on the guest list. Naturally, I made a mental note of that and promptly forgot to do so five seconds later. By the end of October I had talked to one or two volunteers who said that they would be seeing me at Thanksgiving when I realized that I hadn't responded yet. Typical.

It was by the goodness of one lady's heart that she overlooked my lateness and added my name in pencil to the bottom of the list. I am not sure if I was the last to respond, but there were plenty ahead of me on the sheet of paper that I saw. Sometimes Peace Corps is strict about their regulations, but in the end I was incredibly thankful to have them bend the rules.

Thanksgiving last year was almost identical to this year save for the fact that now my group was the old group and the new group was eager to understand what they were in for when the food came out. The chefs and staff at the Ambassador's residence still know how to put on an edible show as the feast began at 2PM and didn't really stop until 4 with dessert. I tried my best to not be gluttonous but a second helping of mashed potatoes could not be resisted, and an extra slice of pie (or three) was also there for the taking with some extremely fine coffee. I was satiated and then some.

With most of the volunteers in one spot you could walk no more than eight feet and not stop to talk to someone about how things were going and what they planned on doing next. Maybe after talking to one hundred people and having been up since 5 that morning in order to catch a tro-tro to Accra the day had grown on me a bit. Being just a little weary and finding out that I could stay with an returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who was living with her family in Accra, I begged out of joining others for more fun in the city and went to the family's house. It was just what the doctor ordered: I had a quiet place and a very fast internet connection. It allowed me plenty of time to chat with and call my girlfriend back in the States, and provided for a serene evening of air-conditioned comfort. Also, a swimming pool.

There is one thing though that makes the trip to Accra a bit painful. Leaving it. I am not a big fan of the city and while it has plenty to offer for everyone, I am much too used to the quiet days and the roosters calling at all hours. It just seems more like home when there is less noise, smoke, and people around. To get home on the very next day, Friday, meant that I had to find a Hohoe tro in the afternoon. It was not very easy at all. When I walked into the park that operates as a central Volta station I saw three or four long lines of passengers waiting and absolutely no vehicles. That isn't a good sign. On Fridays there is never enough tro-tros to fill the demand. Hence, a long line. Oh, and the price escalates by two cedis for the trip.

I made friends with the man that I stood behind in the queue. Soon, maybe 20 minutes or so, someone approached him and spoke very briefly. Emmanuel turned around (he was dressed nicely and I assume that since his shirt had the words Ministry of Health that he worked there, seemed like an eminently trust-able soul) and motioned me to follow him. It pays to greet people here.

We walked for maybe a half-mile to a station that I had never seen before that seemed to be at the heart of a wild labyrinth of market stalls selling everything from smoked fish to purse imports from China. Sure enough though, at the end of our meandering path there stood before us the dilapidated tro-tro that would take us home. I landed in the flip-out seat in the second-to-last row (the last row housing several pieces of automotive hardware which were in need of repair) next to a very big father and his children. It was tight, hot, and uncomfortable and we waited for about 40 more minutes for the last person to arrive so that we could make our exit.

This is not to complain, as the trip back and forth from where I live to Accra is a fifth of what others go through to come down from their homes, but it does not make it any more pleasant or easy to bounce along and know that others have it worse.

By about 7 o'clock I was back in town and a few more minutes later I was at the house resting. It is always nice to see other volunteers and to be treated to very American foods, but at times all you want to do is go back to the place you call home.

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