One Month

October is slowly changing. Instead of the leaves turning colors and the crisp air filling my lungs, the days are getting hotter and the rains are slowing down. My time is coming to a close and it is as if the universe wants to give me every last test possible.

I’ve been sick since September. I had bronchitis, which was not pleasant, but bearable. It disappeared for a week and a half, although a cough lingered. And as soon as I was feeling myself again, it came back. Was it the stress of working so hard for two days straight? Was it the pollution that fills my lungs every time I walk out of my house? (Seriously, have a lung illness living next to a soap factory that burns lye and being in the transport center of Ghana does not make for a good combination for fumes.) Or was it simply Ghana’s way of saying: “We can’t let you leave without one last good illness?” Whatever conspired against me did a good job. This past week I’ve been all but bed ridden. Friday was the worst, I deteriorated so fast I was terrified. All I could think about was how Danni had just one month left too. That thought of not making it to see my parents again, or my friends, or my dog, or my Oklahoma, or my aunt it gave me the strength to do everything in my power to heal. Plus, the 2g of antibiotics I’m taking everyday seem to help too. I will heal because there ain’t no way I’m going to let bronchitis ruin me after all I’ve been through.

And if I thought that would be the last thing, of course I’d be wrong. The truth has a funny way of coming out, right when it simply no longer matters. This month I’ve watched as my neighbors have become drunker and drunker. The other day as I walked to the latrine, boiled cassava came flying by me. And then my neighbor threw a crab on the ground. As I sat in the latrine, I heard someone rambling in English nearby. Upon leaving the latrine, I found my drunk neighbor right outside the door talking to me about heaven knows what. There were a few people sitting there and the sober ones all looked contrite. I’ve heard this guy’s ramblings before and most of the time it involves me being white and him being black. His wife (?) recently moved in and I saw her on my way home yesterday. She decided to come with me home. I told her I was sick and going to take a taxi, but since she didn’t have money she could walk home if she wanted. I wasn’t going to pay for her taxi, why should I when I barely even know her other than by appearance? She proceeded to tell the taxi driver a whole slew of lies. In Twi. Well, lucky for me I understand Twi. The taxi driver understood English. So I told him the straight story and that I would not be paying for her. Now, this may not seem like much of a to do, but after two years I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of being taken advantage of. I’m sick of my skin color being some sort of unspoken code. I tired of people treating me like a pet. This woman has begged me for gifts and money since she moved in. I was not about to reward her for taking advantage of me while I’m sick. Later that day, the drunk neighbor (her husband), dragged my small girl away because she didn’t wash the dishes. The day before I asked the family if the small girl could help me wash my suitcase the next day. She was probably two minutes away from finishing when the man came over and dragged her away. I asked him to have a little patience since she was almost done. He proceed to rant and ramble at me about doing things properly and her needing to do her job. He kept going on and on about how she doesn’t know her place and I don’t know mine.

And that’s when I lost it. I felt myself grow 8ft tall and take a stand. I let him know that it simply didn’t matter. The girl could do both things and it didn’t matter when they were finished because in the grand scheme of things, does it matter? No. If the dishes don’t get washed for another five minutes, the world was not about to end. She works all day slaving away and he treats her like dirt. I puffed up and told him to stop yelling at her for the most ridiculous things and to have patience. I watched as the air deflated out of him, but then he went to say something else. And I stopped him. I told him our conversation was finished and this discussion was over. I organized the other small girls and turned my back on him and walked away. The whole neighborhood was watching our exchange. The whole neighborhood of women. They were smiling. The small girls told me afterwards that he is crazy and a drunk. But they smiled at me. I stood up for all of them.

The truth continued to ooze out for the next few hours about how that family has been stealing from me for months. When I had an old padlock, one of the guys had a key. They stole my water. They lied to me about entering my house. The girl stole my food and something very dear to me. The guy who used to live in the house stole the money I gave him monthly for the light bill. The mom lied to me about the light bill and stole my money just this past week. One of the brothers wants me to go with him to a big man to show off that he has a white friend. It drives me crazy that the family still treats me like a five year old. Last time I checked, I’m competent enough to know how to wash clothes, close a door, and walk across the street.
They have told me lie after lie. I could taste the bitterness on my tongue as the lies all unfolded in front of me. This is the taste that will linger in my mouth when I think about my home. This will be my last taste of Techiman. But I won’t let this cloud my memory of my time here.

I have my fabric lady, Vida. Her sweetness will compensate for the rest. And I have so many other wonderful things that I will remember that will make up for the disappointments.

But I’m ready. I’m ready to go. One month and my Peace Corps service will be over. Two years of life changing experiences will come to an end. When I get back to America I want to buy a t-shirt that says:

I survived.

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