Dust, Dirt Roads, and Flu

So, I have been out registering farmers all week. The villages my counterpart and I visited for this project are by far the most remote villages I have been to in Ghana. The roads were what you think of when you imagine remote Africa. Dirt, dust, and bumpy. Thankfully we had an awesome taxi driver who navigated these dusty roads for us in his tiny little Daewoo. Go offroading in a daewoo – worth the experience! So we travel down this dirt road. We reach a fork in the road. Which way do we take?! Left apparently. 30 minutes down the road and bam. Village. There is apparently a nice waterfall next to the village too. Anyway, lots of farmers come to register. We register them. No one hits me. Good day so far. We get back in the taxi and head back the same way we came from. We reach the fork in the road, we take the right side this time. So, when you reach a fork in the road, don’t decide which way to go – go both ways! This time we travel for a good hour to two hours. It is hard to distinguish time here. This road was all sorts of fun. We had to drive into the bush because there was a container – like shipping container in the middle of the road. Who the hell dumps a 20ft container in the middle of nowhere?! Then we continue down the road and I hear this crackling noise. I look over and there are flames right next to the road. Bushfire! The taxi driver drove rather fast past those parts. We finally make it to this village. It is obvious that I am the first white person they have ever seen. We sit under the tree and register these farmers. At this point, it is noon so it is hot. I only had a liter of water with me and the water is getting low. No pure water satchets in this town. So I start conserving my water for the ride back. +I was starving. Being a peace corps ranger though, I had packed half a loaf of bread and some cheese. Go me!

So we register the farmers and hop back in the car. Drive drive drive, bushfire, drive, bushfire, drive, more bushfire. It was like twilight zone really. At this point the dust really starts to get to me. I felt like I could have breathed dust fire. I can still feel it in my lungs. I am starting to feel progressively worse too. Body aches, headache, cough. I figured it was just exhaustion. So we get back to town and I need to visit the bank. I am beyond exhausted and hungry. I have to visit the bank today though because I am broke and still need to help pay the taxi driver. So, after buying water, we walk into the bank covered in dusty filth. My counterpart tells me that she will do the talking. So we bypass the line and go to an actual banker at a desk. She tells the banker we are stranded and the bus full of people is waiting for us. Didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but whatever. I am still half asleep from the ride, covered in dust, and not feeling so good. I look like hell. It helped. Unfortunately, there was a small oversight when they set up our bank accounts – I guess our photos didn’t get attached to our accounts. So the banker refused to tell me how much money I had in my account. So we went to the manager. Who just so happened to be reading the newspaper at this desk. LOVE IT. (Fyi, the line inside the bank was rather larger). We tell him the story, how I don’t have a picture, peace corps peace corps peace corps (luckily, he knew peace corps), stranded, poor American, don’t know how much is in my account because of dollar to cedi exchange rate, give him an estimate, it was close so he showed me my account. It was less than I was expecting, but hey still money. I fill out my withdrawal slip. My counterpart asks him to do a fast withdrawal, he sighs, but still does it. He comes back with a wad of cash. LOVE IT MORE. We get his card, shake hands, and thank him. In and out of the bank in 10 minutes. HA. Take that line. Yeah, we abused the system. Yeah, it was like being a bad Ghanaian, but it worked. Can’t fight systematic changes, just gotta live with them and try not to encourage them too much.

So, we see a popular rice chop bar on our way back to the office. I get plain rice with stew and an egg. Tasty meal to end all tasty meals. 1 cedi of rice is a crap ton by the way. Later I got my first street bbq – sausage. It was so good, I can still taste the spices in my mouth. It was so delicious.

That night I started to feel worse. Progressively worse. My nose wouldn’t stop running, I could tell I had a fever, I still felt dirty despite my shower. So, around 1am I wake up from some nightmares. Each nightmare I had (probably 3 of them) was the same premise. I was in a taxi and getting covered in dust. I had dust everywhere. I was filthy and couldn’t breathe. The dust was choking me. So I couldn’t sleep afterwards because I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe. Plus I was freezing from my fever. Next morning, I felt horrible.

Headache, body aches, congestion, stomach pains, nausea, fever, runny nose, the whole nine yards. Yep, it was the flu. But it was still farmer registration time. So we head out to another remote village. I was in a slight fever delirium so all I really remember is being cold, taking photos, then listening to farmers vent their frustrations for the next 3 hours. It was like being in church! Everything was in twi – when one guy tried to ask a question in english for my sake they all shot him down. Don’t placate the american! She should know twi. I did understand half of what they were saying. And all he had to say was one word in english for me to understand his question. He wanted to know how they could process cashew apples instead of wasting them. Bless that man! Anyway, I started feeling worse and worse and worse. Sitting on a tiny wooden plank didn’t help.

I ask a villager to show me where I could urinate. He takes me to this far off hut that looks like it was built for hobbits. I look at him, look at the hut, look at him. Say screw it, and enter the hut. Mind you this hut was actually really long. Turns out it was the town poo station. I stood there dumbfounded for a good minute, trying to figure out how it worked. I only had to pee though. But seriously, there were these planks in the middle. Did people poo from the wooden planks hovering over this hovel of poo? How does this work?! It was so weird. So I just pee wherever and gtfo. I chuckle to myself slightly because seriously, why is this day so weird? I get back and more people want to register. I can’t handle anymore. So I lay down in the tiny daewoo. My counterpart finishes and we head “home.” Which means we go to the bank, back to the office, and finally to the taxi station. We see her cousin who drives like a mad men over potholes, but extremely cautiously near sheer cliffs. He takes us back to Techiman. My counterpart wants to buy some stuff in the market (market day in the biggest food market in West Africa). I start almost crying I am feeling so miserable. So she decides to just buy sausage (excellent choice in hindsight) and we get a car back home. The car drops me off near my house. I crawl into bed and take lots of medicine.

I wake up hungry thinking how excellent it would be to have bankou and groundnut soup. My brother delivers bankou and groundnut soup. But it is not groundnut soup, it is squash that tastes like groundnut with goat. Meh. Whatever, it is food and I love bankou. It didn’t last long in my body anyway. I go back to sleep, after reading some count of monte cristo! I always read such excellent books when I am sick. You know I had my really bad bronchitis in Germany around the same period of time being in that country – after about 3 months. Weird. Anyway, this is the sickest I have been in probably over a year. So I go back to sleep, wake up with a migraine – really body? really?! – get a text message. Text message tells me my account has been topped up by 30 cedis. I call my dad so excited. He did it literally a minute before. I call my mom. It is 2 in the morning. I go back to bed.

I wake up with a feverish zeal to investigate backpacking in South Africa or Tanzania. I write this blog post. I will probably go see if I can get someone to pick up some bread for me. Then I will make an egg sandwich. I will go back to bed. I will sleep all day. It will be superb.

Care package update: if you are thinking of sending a care package. Please include copious amounts of chocolate, magazines, letters, and chocolate chip cookies. Please and thanks Smile


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