Today Lynsey and I were driven from Accra to Assin Fosu. The streets of Accra are like a mobile, living, breathing flea-market balanced on the heads of perfectly-postured people. Everything you could ever imagine is sold from bags of drinking water and snacks to stacks of bibles, toy planes and foam childrens building blocks. Toys I haven't seen sold in twenty years available directly from the comfort of our bakkie (South African for pick-up truck- Lynsey's lexicon).
On the the pike in Taxachusetts, I imagine traffic sitting bumper to bumper filled with frustrated Bostonians waiting to pay those ever increasing tolls, road signs warning of the effects of drunk driving dot the highways. Meanwhile... Lynsey, Eric, Joe and myself sit in traffic waiting to pay our highway toll leaving Accra, Ghana. Head-carriers weave in and out of traffic -a small army of thrifty salesmen- and we could turn to our left and buy a 6-pack of cold beer if we so chose. This is the start of a wonderful adventure- Lynsey and I are off to 'the field'.
The saying 'started off on the wrong foot' could only apply to the beginning of our work in Ghana if we were talking about an octopus- eight wrong feet I think should do the trick.
1. Our bus driver to Heathrow was a horrible twit
2. The woman who issued us our ticket (emphasis on the non-plural) to Accra through Lisbon woke up on the wrong side of a bed dangling from a tree above a pool of starved emaciated leeches. She claimed she could only give us a boarding pass to Lisbon and that we would need to pick up our second boarding pass through to Accra at the Lisbon airport but ensured us our bags were checked to Ghana...
3. Flight is delayed on the runway for an hour and a half.
4. Lynsey is a vegetable and TAP Portugal has no vegetarian meals. The air steward told us he'd see what he could find (to replace the chicken salad sandwich I enjoyed)... he came back with a ham sandwich because in Portugal ham is not a meat...
5. We make it to Lisbon, a bit rushed. We meet with the transfer counter he tells us to go driectly to our gate. A drunken angry lady holds up the line at security, we make it through and check out the departure screen and our flight says 'final boarding' so, Lynsey and I- sweaty stinky, exhausted, hungry hopeless travelers sprint at top speeds through a seemingly endless hallway, past other gates and onlookers until we finally make our gate where we are met by a line of about a hundred calm, cool and collected passengers waiting to board laughing at the two exhausted sweaty white girls who ran at top speeds just to stand still. The woman at the gate then proceeds to yell at us and carries on in portuguese about how we were supposed to go to the transfer desk and that it is too late to give us our tickets and this that and the other, we think we are not going to Ghana... finally we are given the go-ahead and again, we sprint at top speeds down the stairs to make the plane and BOOM we are greeted by a trolley filled with calmly waiting passengers staring at the two girls who are responsible for making them wait... Oh, and this plane also surprisingly doesnt have vegetarian food either- Lynsey ate four rolls instead.
6. We make it to Accra and surprise surprise, our bags do not. And isn't it grand that TAP Portugal only flies here every other night and so we are bag-less for 2 nights. Good thing Lynsey and I packed really responsibly and brought nothing in our carry-ons but electronics and reading material. Needless to say we washed our panties and t-shirts in the sink of our hotel and hung them to dry each night. Lynsey slept next to me wrapped in a sheet cocoon and we had to meet government officials from the Wildlife Division and apply for research permits dressed like smelly tramps. If you want to hear the story of how we surpassed security to reclaim our bags- you'll have to buy us a beer and ask in person.
7. Lucino, the laptop Luke lovingly lent us for our fieldwork did not survive its first night in Ghana. This is unfortunate and meant we had to buy a new one-which is slightly more possible than impossible in Accra for a good price.
8. Ooh, what should the final wrong foot be on this Ghanaian octopus of troubles- it could be any number of small misfortunes but no, lets stop with the negativity because despite all these impediments Lynsey and I are bursting at the seems with joy and love and excitement for this month! Our supporting NGO, Conservation Alliance have done everything in their power to make this research a dream and the Ghanaian hospitality more generally, is unsurpassable.
So Lynsey is asleep nestled adorably beneath her little mosquito net in our lovely little room in Assin Fosu and the voice of a little girl singing just waltzed past our window. Let me tell you just a little more about getting here from Accra. You will have to wait for another time to hear more about our place in Assin Fosu, this community and the life we will lead for the next four weeks. .. You will also have to wait to hear more about our research (partly because I'm not sure we understand it either.. )
I'm going to try and piece together the sights and thoughts I jotted down in my journal during our trip to Assin Fosu (if I can decipher this horrid writting).
Now, I understand why people in England call mini-vans 'People-carriers' and Malaysians 'People-movers'. The amount of people stuffed inside these cars is utterly remarkable. It seems like the energy of this country streams from roadways- like arteries. Perhaps this is just because I have spent too much time in Ghana thus far on the road but seriously.. I think I've seen just about everything people do, happening plenty on the side of the road. People bathing, entire malls balanced on heads, lots and lots of bedframes for sale, lots of grilling (more on whats being grilled later...) and you can even buy a casket from the side of the road.
After leaving the major streets in the Greater Accra region and entering the more rural areas of Ghana, the sights and sounds changed dramatically. The items sold on the roadside changed from car covers and toliet paper to fruits, vegetables and smoked 'grass-cutters'. Grass-cutters are a c like rodent that are apparently a delicacy here. They look sort of like an over sized less-attractive version of the American opossum (for those of you shaking your heads baffled trying to imagine a less appetizing or attractive version of an opossum, this is precisely the point). I literally saw a man pick up by the tail from a grill a completely flat, hard smoked grasscutter. Its head and extremities were intact but its body was as flat as a board- roadkill perhaps, something I imagine Cletus the slack-jawed yokel from the Simpsons would eat on a bad day.
I saw an elderly man facing away from the road sitting on a box, playing an old trumpet to an audience of nobody and this is just one of a hundred thousand tiny beautiful and curious narrative I saw flash by my window in an instant. There are a lot of people napping on the side of the road, next to their petty trade shops. Everyone and everything seems exhausted from working so hard in the humid west African heat- even our horn sounds utterly exhausted. This makes sense because people in Ghana honk for every reason you could imagine- they honk to just remind you they are coming, to tell you to get out of the way, inform you they are passing, just at normal intersections.. we didn't honk at the baby goat we almost squashed though.
Oh I'm overwhelmed with things to share and say but i'm tired and need to sleep. We are going to church tomorrow with Alex, our new friend who is helping us do our research. My head is thumping with the sound of Ghanaian music- by the way there wasn't a single advertisement on the radio all day.
Till next time,
An utterly gracious and overwhelmed Yaa-Bethany (one of the two obruni I have seen my entire trip thus far in Ghana.. this number includes Lynsey who is an obruni i've seen quite a lot of this trip.. but we'll just count her as one)
ps. In Ghana, the day you were born on carries importance and your first name reflects this. I was born on a Thursday which means I am Yaa, men born on a Thursday are Yao. Lynsey was born on a Monday and her name is too hard to spell but its something like Adwa- Lynsey. Our computer was born on a Friday and so her name is Afia.