Just outside of campus, about a 10 minute bike ride away, is where I will spend the bulk of my time: the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana. We finally visited it on Tuesday (May 8). The director, who goes by “Mama” took a moment to show us around the location and inform us that the Outreach Director was out of town on his honeymoon. We will have to wait another week until we can begin, next Monday. But it’s okay, we could use the extra week since we still hadn’t unpacked at this point.
Steps of moving into Ghana:
- Step off plane: omg humid.
- Drive to accommodation; sleep through many near-death experiences.
- Walk into room for the first time. Lights, working fan, running water, flushing toilet: check, check, and check.
- Remind yourself that having all of the above means this is amazing accommodation for Ghana, but you still can’t bring yourself to walk barefoot or touch the walls. Approach bed gingerly.
- Don’t unpack because of the thin layer of red dirt that seems to cover everything. Live out of suitcase for up to a week.
- Be afraid of the bathroom and shower, even though it is the best one you have access too.
- Go shopping, buy all the random stuff that doesn’t matter until you don’t have it (I still don’t have a fork here in Ghana, we eat our instant noodles with a spoon).
- Dust EVERYTHING.
- Bleach EVERYTHING.
- Unpack, finally. Start to feel at home.
We did steps 7 through 10 this week. Feels good. But in step 10 there was a hitch: I lost the key to one of my bags, I was locked out.
After searching the room in vain, I ventured outside to see if I could find pliers or a hammer or someone with really strong teeth. Thankfully (and strangely), the hostel security guard also doubles as the hostel carpenter. Emmanuel the Carpenter came into the room with pliers and a hammer, and broke open the lock in less than a minute. I shouldn’t say broke since he managed to do it without actually breaking it—it still functions if I can find the key. The man had outdone the US Department of Homeland Security, who had to shatter my lock to open it. Because this is how the world works, a few days later I did find the key, but we got to make a new friend. Every time I feel lonely in Ghana I will lock myself out of a bag and venture out to look for someone with a hammer; it’s an easy way to meet people.
The best part was when Maggie asked to borrow his hammer so we could nail in a stick of plywood to support a shower curtain. He saw Maggie hammering away, came over and took the hammer away and started doing it himself. When Maggie started to protest he turned and looked at her:
“Are you a carpenter?” he asked.
BAM. End of discussion. You’ve been carpentered.
If you didn’t catch the foreshadowing at the beginning of the post, we bought bikes. It only took 1 hour of walking, and 2 hours of bargaining. All three of us got cruisers. Mine has an aluminum frame, a 3-speed internal hub, dynamo tail light, and a bell; it’s pretty legit. We have now formed a bike gang: Ghana with the Wind. Feels good to cross that one off the life to-do list.
I’m riding shotgun on a cab back to our place and I see a huge bush rat run across the street, stop part way, look at the cab with its eyes glowing in the headlights. Thump. Not your average Ghana road-bump, that’s for sure. The driver stops, runs out. My head: is he going to pick it up? Is he seriously going to go and grab that thing? No way, it can’t be, he wouldn’t—the driver opens the front door, the huge rat dangling by the tail. He shows off his catch, grabs a spare plastic bag, and tosses it into the trunk. Another thump. I ask: will you invite us over for dinner when it is ready?
The nearest transportation hub from our place is the Science Market. All the cabbing is starting to get expensive so I decide to find a short cut to Science Market, from there everything is easy. The plan was to go outside, borrow a bike, leave my cell phone as collateral, and bike around until I found a short cut. Brilliant, I know. I flag a passing biker, we start to talk. It turns out the bazillion people who lived here before me already figured out a short cut—well duh. He was on his way home, but instead he gets off his bike and walks the shortcut with me, and back (20 min each way). We talk about many things: he tells me I need to act less like a tourist in order to avoid getting bamboozled (my word, not his), tells me about where to buy bikes and how to leave them safely, and other Cape Coast tidbits. He was incredibly nice and this small act of kindness was probably one of my favourite moments on this trip. I came home and told the girls I had made a new friend, his name is Nana Gyato.