After a weeklong self-exile to my room, I finally went out in to town today. Last week was a tough week. I made a lot of observations and discovered quite a bit about myself. I have set myself on a path for some self-improvements and I am feeling very positive. I have a feeling that in two years I will emerge from Ghana a different, better person.
But back to today. My day started out fairly rough, but after giving myself a pep talk, talking to my best friend Martha, and dancing in my room I felt much better. I set out from my house with only two small things in mind for the day. I needed some information from Vodafone, MTN, and Airtel. And I wanted to go to the schools again and talk to them about giving lectures/seminars/sorta teaching but not totally.
Completely off subject, but I just looked outside my window and had a small freakout. I swear I saw a lion walking by. No, just a ragged looking sheep. Anyway, back to the story, again.
So I head to the high school. Headmistress isn’t there. I head to the junior high. I see the headmistress and she tells me that I haven’t followed protocol. I have to speak with her boss at the Ghana Education Service office first before I can talk to her. In American terms – it would be like having to go to the Superintendent to ask if you can volunteer with a school. At this point, I was pretty discouraged and considered just giving up hopes of giving a seminar on financial literacy and/or HIV. So I trudged on into town making my way towards Vodafone. I took a shortcut, I love taking this shortcut. I takes me through a really interesting part of town. The chief’s palace area. There is a tree outside the chief’s palace, I have never seen anything like it before. There is a pink fruit that grows on the tree, it almost looks like a cashew fruit, but fairly small and no nut. They smell wonderful, but I am afraid of asking to try one. Who knows what ancestors I would piss off by eating the forbidden fruit. The tree is huge and I am always in awe when I walk by. Some tree in town is currently flowering and it smells magnificent, these flowering trees are all over this section of town. Taking this path was like walking through another world. The houses are different, the people seem different, it is all a little eerie yet majestic.
So I am walking towards Vodafone when out of the corner of my eye I see a familiar face. My brother was walking with a friend. I stop and greet him and he accosts me for not coming to the house more often. I know, I know. We chat, then I let him go on his errands. I go to Vodafone. I ask my question, I get the answer I didn’t want. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be possible. So I head to Airtel. Closed. Hmmm, well that was everything I was going to do for the day. So now what? It is 9:30 and I don’t want to go back home yet. So, I go get an egg sandwich from my favorite egg guys. They great me and make my sandwich without even asking what I wanted, I guess everyone just remembers what the obruni likes! It was pretty sweet. I sat there eating my egg sandwich watching some Japanese version of the Bodyguard with Jet Li.
Still not wanting to go home, I head to the radio station to see if my pal is there with my copy of our radio interview. Nope, he is out. So I head over to my friend’s store. I greet her, she just went to Kumasi and bought a lot of new stuff. Her shop is looking really good. I leave her and head to MTN. I ask them the same question I asked Vodafone and get the same answer. The woman working at MTN wants to be best friends with me and asks me to return after all my errands to walk her to my house. I graciously decline (creepy much?!) and tell her in the general vicinity of where I live and tell her if she wants to find me she can come to the neighborhood and ask for me.
Which different story, but I need to interject here. Someone was looking for my house about a month back. They asked where the obruni lived. This guy told my friend I don’t know but a German man lives down that street past that yellow house. My friend dismissed this since I am not a German man and kept looking around. Finally my friend goes in circles and can’t find me. He goes down the street and past the yellow house. AHA. My house. Turns out I am now a German man. Awesome.
Okay back to today (again again). So I leave MTN and decide, well I am in town and halfway there I guess I will go up to district assembly hill. Perched on the hill overlooking all of Wenchi is the district assembly, national board for small scale industries, district police, immigration office, educational service, health service, the office of paranoid peoples (aka disaster office), and my ministry of food and agriculture (mofa). These offices are tucked away in a very nice part of town and the view from up there is beautiful. You can see all the mosques in town, with their minarets poking up, you can see the churches, the thousands of compounds. You can see all the beautiful trees in the distance. The hill seems like at some point it was a teak forest, there are teak trees everywhere. It is somewhat secluded and quiet. I like going up there because it so quiet and peaceful.
I head over to the education service and look as lost as possible, because I didn’t know who to talk to and looking lost seems to work. Well, it did. This guy comes out and greets me like he knows me, well turns out he does but I have always been zoned out every time I meet him because Ralph is dragging me around town fixing computers. So I talk to him about why I am at the office and he brings me over to meet the director, aka superintendent. I start talking to the director and mention that I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. Something in his eyes told me he knew about Peace Corps. So I ask him if he is familiar and he says yes, Peace Corps has been in Ghana for many many years. I want to go back and talk to him later and find out if he knew any old Peace Corps Volunteers. I give him my whole spiel about how I want to volunteer with the schools with HIV and financial literacy. I have to explain the concept of financial literacy to him, which is kinda promising and further proves what I have observed thus far. So I explain to him that I want to help the students truly understand the concept of money, how to spend it, how to save it, how to budget, and how to treat money. Many people believe that money is supposed to be spent and that more will always come. I personally feel that if some of the Ghanaians I know spent their money more wisely or actually saved money, they would be much better off. From what I have observed status is everything and people will spend a ridiculous amount of money to one up their neighbors. If you educate students at an early enough age about financial responsibility, I feel like they will be less likely to act rashly. That’s what I hope at least. The concept of financial responsibility is something my mom taught me from an early age. It is something I feel very strongly about and I think even Americans are lacking proper education. Alright well, anyway, the director agrees with me and will discuss with his people about doing a pilot. He will call me. So I move on.
I stop by and visit my favorite office – immigration. It seems like such an odd place to hang out and make friends, but I love visiting the immigration office. My brother Ralph first introduced me to the immigration office. The first time I was there I bonded with Samelia over how many countries were part of West Africa and ECOWAS (economic cooperative of west african states – or something like that). I also became friends with her boss, whose name always escapes me, if he wore his name tag I wouldn’t have to sneak around and remember his name. I have had some of the best conversations in that office. Everyone is around my age and they are all educated. Today we talked about american food, the american dream, peace corps, Wenchi, and how the immigration officers came to Wenchi. Last time I was there I was educating one of the guys on the difference between peace corps and an ngo. I used a great analogy that I can’t remember anymore, it was so good! Oh well, something like an NGO hands out money, Peace Corps hands out knowledge. I can sit in the immigration office and talk to them for hours. And I have, I did it today. When people come in I let them actually work, but I have only seen that once. I found out today that 4 of them are from Accra they were assigned to work in Wenchi just this January. So I had a really interesting talk with Gladys today about her experience first coming to Wenchi. She had never left Accra before, she thought Wenchi was going to be a small village. The way she says village is really fascinating, she says it with such disdain. When she was assigned to Wenchi she was mortified. So her and Samelia drove up one day, before their service here started so they could see the site. They reached Techiman and got in a taxi for Wenchi. She said they were staring out the windows, hoping, and praying. There are a lot of small villages between Techiman and Wenchi. The taxi drive stopped at one of them, one of the poorer ones with mud brick houses. Gladys said she panicked and yelled at the taxi driver: THIS IS WENCHI?! The taxi driver laughed at her and told her no. She was so relieved. They continued on until eventually she saw the sign for Wenchi. Then she saw the streetlights. And then she saw that the road turns into four lanes. Then she saw that we had a roundabout. She said she wasn’t afraid anymore once she saw the four lanes and streetlights.
It is really interesting for me to hear her tell her story. Because when I remember my first trip to Wenchi, my thoughts were so much the same. I remember peering out the windows. I remember the little villages. I remember seeing the streetlights. I remember the excitement of seeing four lanes. I remember the roundabout. I remember that first trip to site like it was yesterday. I may be coming from America, but Samelia and Gladys are coming from Accra. By the way the population of Accra is about 3 times that of Oklahoma.
This just further goes to show that people are the same everywhere. We have the same fears, hopes, and dreams. The color of our skin might be vastly different, but we are all still people. We all want the same thing out of life – happiness. Some people focus on the differences between groups of people. I like to find the similarities.
Alright, back to today and less philosophizing. After spending a good amount of time with my new friends at immigration, I headed to my office. I sat down to chat with Cynthia and her sister walked in. UHOH. I was in big trouble, I haven’t been by the house in quite some time. She told me I have been a bad sister. I know, I know – Kwadwo told me the same thing this morning. I hung around for about an hour, talking life, cashews, and facebook. In that order. Then I left for Kaaf, my bankou place. I took it to go, it is my way of pretending like I am sorta in America sometimes – getting food to go. I devoured my bankou and amazing chicken while watching West Wing. I then proceeded to pass out for 2 hours with a lovely nap. I woke up and felt like I had been run over by a truck. It took everything inside me to sit up and get out of bed. I could have laid in bed for hours. That nap was exquisite.
After a quick shower to further wake me up, my carpenter came over to finally install some posts for my mosquito net. So now I have a canopy bed. We had to move the bed out from the wall to put one side of the posts up, so now my bed is smack dab in the middle of my room. Directly under the fan. Yeah, I am not moving it. That fan is my poor man’s A/C and probably my best friend in this country. I love my fan like a child. I should name it. Let’s name my fan. Hmmm…
For some reason Larry seems to be sticking in my mind. Larry is a hard working fella. He works all day and night for no pay. Larry is loyal but can be stubborn. Larry the Fan.
Alright well now that that’s settled…So now my room is basically my bed. I really need to start doing stuff in my other room. Right now it is current storage. But as you may recall a wad of cash told me that I didn’t need a sofa, so I have no idea what I will do in there.
Today was a good day. Even though I didn’t really accomplish much in a traditional sense, I felt like I made some really good progress. I walked home with a smile on my face and I felt good. Tomorrow I am going to farm, that should be interesting. Who’d thunk I would be farming in Ghana?