August 05, 2011

ghana..part 1

as i walked down the road recently to buy eggs from an outdoor, wooden stand, i felt happy and grateful to be living in this neighborhood. i reminisced about how i've longed to live amongst african people and how i couldn't really do that in south africa. here, in east legon -- a neighborhood in the outskirts of accra -- i walk past gated homes and old, worn out small homes without walls, right next to each other. i see big metal pots cooking food, locally made foods being sold, corn growing almost wildly in yards, chickens and goats roaming around, dirt roads riveted with potholes adjacent to paved roads, and lots of inquisitive ghanaians referring to me as 'ibruni' (non-ghanaian).

i'm enjoying a lot of local things that are different: the soap that's smooth and sturdy..the hot peppers that are green and red..the big pots of bulk corn kernels being sold at outdoor markets..the sound of goats, cattle or chickens roaming nearby..and sobolu leaves for making a sweet but blood-cleansing drink.

life is so different here than anything i've ever experienced that it's hard to sum it up or give enough examples. i find that it's taken me this long, 3 months, to write about how i really feel, or what it's truly like to live here. the first 2 months in the guest house were like living in a bubble that was a world within itself. it is the company's place for employees to stay before they find a place of their own, like us. the company is almost all Indian so the food cooked is Indian. it was ok but got old after a month. the house itself, and all of its issues, took their toll on me. the toilet smelled everyday despite being cleaned more than 1 time a day; dinner wouldn't be served until 7:30 so the kids had to go to sleep on full tummies; the air conditioner didn't work properly; the electricity constantly went out and often the generator didn't work because of low fuel; the internet connection was disturbed everytime the electricity went out and for almost the entire 2 months was not working (we were able to get on after receiving a stick from the company); the mosquitos constantly came into the house because the doors were always kept open downstairs -- which made them spray heavy amounts of fuming bug spray on a daily basis; the cooks had an attitude with us when we requested something like eggs in addition to what they had already prepared; the water pressure was turned off almost every day so each morning or afternoon we had to send one of us downstairs to ask it to be turned on again (while one of us would be waiting in the shower); and for a month the laundry was still still damp from all of the rain that it would begin to smell once put in our bags (the worst being the towels which we had to exchange almost daily).

we arrived at the guest house at midnight on april 30th. by may 2nd we were introduced to our driver -- the driver who is paid by the company & who is assigned to us. this turned my stomach to such an upset state for over a month that i felt like i was having a war within me. it disturbed me to the core to not be able to  drive in this country. i felt trapped. i felt like i lost all my independence and way of life. i allowed my mind to wander in a dark valley of loss, wishing i could just get in a car and go, explore, be on my own, stop spontaneously, and be free. this theme still lingers in me but it has been replaced with a certain sense of genuine appreciation. our driver, augustin, has been incredibly helpful in this long transition. he's been a source of directions, translation of the local language, negotiating prices while shopping, physical assistance with our belongings, running errands for us on his own, and enabling us to not be stressed or concerned at all about the roads, the police, the traffic and all of the chaos of this city.  he's become a part of our family life to some extent.  what's most significant about him is that he's trustworthy -- we feel comfortable and free around him because we have no doubt as to his integrity.  this enables us to give him $, to have him be with our kids without us around, and to be able to rely on him in many ways.

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