July 24, the Day the President Died

I woke up dreading July 24. I had two things planned, a meeting with the Union and traveling to Hani alone. I really wasn’t looking forward to the Union demanding things from me. Nor was I looking forward to traveling to the bush without much guidance. Lucky for me, early in the morning on July 24th, everything changed.

It all started with a facebook message around 8am. Then an email around 8:05. Then suddenly I was crying, shaking, and barely able to breathe. I got amazing news. The kind of news that makes your entire week better. If you had been sitting in my room with me, I am sure you would have been destroyed by the happiness atomic bomb that went off.

Radiating felicity, I walked to the Union office for my 10am meeting. It was just me and Cynthia. We had a frank, easy discussion. We accomplished a lot in a very short span of time. Good, things were going better than expected. Meeting adjourned.

I then grabbed a taxi into town and walked over to the big grocery store (ha, that’s funny) to see if they had any milk. Nope, but they did have WHEAT BREAD and chocolate spread in a pail. So that’s a pretty decent trade off. In town I ran into my brother, which was a very pleasant surprise. I proceeded to the taxi station to grab a car to the next town, where I would get a car to Richie’s site. To my delight I was the last one and the car was ready to go. The taxi driver proposed to me when we got to the town. So, not only did I get a quick taxi, but a husband. He was number 49. I walked over to the station for Hani, which is really just two cars far away from the main road, for NO apparent reason. It was a tiny little Daewoo and we were waiting for 1 more person. I pulled out my Kindle and read for I don’t know how long waiting for the last person.

Finally we have enough people, 5 for a 3 passenger car! Perfect. So we pile in and get going. But then we stop and everyone gets out by my door won’t open, so I am stuck in the car wondering what the hell is going on. I see the driver pull out a bicycle tire pump and start airing his back tire. I giggled to myself. A bike pump…Everyone gets back in the car, time to go, again. The driver doesn’t look a day over 15. Every time he shifts, it is like he is performing the most difficult task on earth and giving a gynecological exam at the same time. We are trudging along down a paved road, we turn left and make our way onto a dirt road. I put away my book and decide to pay attention to this.

THANK GOD I DID.

So, I see up ahead a semi with a container on it. You really do see weird things on dirt roads in Ghana. What does a semi need to do in the bush? Whatever. So we get past a small hill and I notice the semi isn’t actually moving. Finally we pull up to the semi and realize it is not going anywhere. And that semi just so happens to be stuck blocking the bridge it was sitting on. The entire bridge, which was one lane, dirt, and barely surviving, was filled with semi. There was barely room to walk over the bridge. So, some farmers bike up to the taxi and start talking to the random white girl in the back of this bush taxi. They keep telling me to get out of the car. I refuse because that’s creepy. Also, I have NO CLUE where I am. The driver has disappeared and gone over to the side of the road. He has started moving giant wood blocks. It looks like he is clearing a path for the car, but the area is extremely muddy with very tall grass. The rest of the ladies in the car get out, so I decide I can too. We walk over the bridge and watch the taxi driver floor it around the bridge, into the deep mud and grass. He makes it! I am incredulous because that honestly should not have worked. So I continue walking over the bridge and I come to the end of the semi. There is no where to walk around the semi that doesn’t involve a giant puddle of muddy, filthy, nasty, standing water. So in goes my foot and I high tail it out of there towards the taxi. I try to get back in the taxi, but the entire contents of the trunk are now pilled onto my seat. Perfect. So the driver quickly rearranges and we get back on our way. But now the car is making an incredibly scary noise. Like an animal dying. So the driver gets out, opens the hood, and jiggles some wires. That’s obviously the way to fix all car problems. So, we decide to keep going. The driver now has a very small hill to conquer. By small hill I mean something an ant could make in a month. The driver is having serious issues making it up the hill. We have to reverse twice to get enough momentum going to make it over the hill. At this point, I start giggling. Uncontrollably. We are trudging up a tiny hill in an overpacked bush taxi on a dirt road. We just bested the bridge monster by making a new path. I can’t stop laughing. I feel so bad for the driver. Because let’s be honest, I was laughing at him too. My foot is soaked in nasty water, all the women in the taxi are rattling off in Twi at me. The bread in the trunk decides to throw itself at me on top of my head. (I am sure they sold that bread for more.) I can’t stop laughing. So I pull out my phone and record the situation. Because, what else is there to do? I’ll have to post the video some time when I have good internet.

I didn’t stop laughing until we got to Hani. The lady sitting next to me walked me to Richie’s house, because I didn’t know where I was going. Thank god he lives in a tiny village because every soul knew Richie.

Finally make it to Richie’s house, which was really nice, and he has flat bread and tuna salad waiting. SCORE. Later on we head over to the school for a meeting. We are waiting for people to show up for about an hour. They send a boy on a bike into town to go fetch someone. The boy comes back and he is this tiny little 8 year old. He is cowering behind a half wall and fidgeting like he has ADD. I heard him mention Atta Mills. Richie’s counterpart translates and says the guy isn’t coming because the President is dead. WHAT? That’s ludicrous and sounds like a Ghanaian hoax or a really good excuse for staying home.

So what do Richie and I do? We go walk in a circle with his phone in the air looking for a signal. We quickly google President Mills dead. Confirmed. We found out around 4:50 and apparently it had happened only a few minutes before. After the shock of the President is dead wore off smallsmall, I thought to myself: “how on earth did we find out so fast – we are in the middle of nowhere, deep in the bush. Well that’s impressive.”

We carry on with the meeting. Eventually the missing guy shows up and is completely humiliated because he didn’t show up on time. Later that night we heard music coming from town. The next day we find out the entire town has been up dancing. Richie and I were in total shock all night. The President just died! I just heard from someone random the other day that the President was sick and hasn’t been seen in a while. Who would have imagined he was going to die though?! Never in my life did I think I would experience the death of a President.

The Ghanaians were so nonchalant about it. They were shocked and instantly put on their red and black mourning garb, but they kept saying “we have to move on and keep working.” It just seemed so un-Ghanaian. Ghanaians tend to find ways to be lazy and stay that way. I thought the death of the President would have exacerbated that, but it didn’t! Maybe it was just Richie’s village. So strange.

July 24th started as just another day. It ended up being one of the most memorable days of my life. Great news, taxi ride from Hell’s redheaded step child, and the death of the President. Never a dull moment in Peace Corps.

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