My Last Trip to the Market

The Techiman market is famous for its wide selection of just about anything. It is one of the largest markets in West Africa. I’ve enjoyed my weekly jaunts to the random stalls dotted along the market. Today my first stop is my friend Vida’s shop in the fabric section. She isn’t around so I tell all the neighbors I’ll be back later. I meander through the stalls stopping to look at the random assortment of clothes. I don’t have anything in mind to buy today, I just want to wander. I check out the jeans stalls to see if there are any hidden treasures, there are! But alas, they are all too small for my Ghana mama hips. I make my way over to the piles of clothes baking in the hot sun. This is my favorite part. Last time I pilfered through these piles I found a dress for 50p that I wore to Ghana Fashion Week. I made my way towards the start of the piles and slowly snaked my way through the crowded mess. There was one table with coats, but unfortunately the only decent and warm looking one wouldn’t fit around my hips. Cursed hips.

I found my favorite pile to look through. The pile with clothes from India. The silks and beaded tunics are beautiful. The colors are so vibrant and unique. Sometimes you find a matching tunic and pants. Sometimes it is just the pants. Today I opted for some pants. One pair is made from soft silk, another from comfy cotton, and another from some sort of synthetic fabric that doesn’t matter because they are ridiculous.

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The bright chartreuse ones have an intricate beaded design at the bottom. In America, I never would have bought anything like that. I would have thought – gah, how am I supposed to wash these? Now I know – you throw them in a bucket with soap and wash them. Easy, done. And what’s not to love about harem-style pants? I now have the coolest pajama pants. All three cost 1.50GHC (about 68 cents).

As I worked my way through more piles, I stopped and decided on a whim to turn down a small alley between two buses. And I’m so glad I did, sitting in front of me was a pile about 3ft tall of scarves. The lady in charge of the pile would scream out the price and then pick up the pile and turn it. I stuck with this pile for a while because I knew it would contain some real gems inside. (After all was said and done I spent 2GHC, or 90cents) I saw a scarf that made me smile, but opted not to pick it up. I regretted it immediately because the lady then turned the pile. Would I ever find it again? There had to be hundreds of scarves tangled in a giant heap. I pulled aside one because I liked the colors and it was larger, so I knew I could actually wear it. I’ve developed a real fondness for random bits of orange since being in Ghana too.

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The next one I found I grabbed immediately. Pile shopping is a very visceral experience. If you like it, grab it, you can decide on it later. But countless Peace Corps Volunteers before me have always said – if you like it, buy it, because you’ll never find it again. (Like that Jar Jar Binks head backpack I regret not buying almost two years ago.) Anyway, this one reminded me of my Oma. One of the only things I have of hers is a necklace with a pressed Edelweiss flower inside. The flower reminds me of my childhood and it brings back the happiest memories of growing up in Germany and time spent with my Oma.

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As the lady was turning the pile once again the scarf I regretted not grabbing resurfaced and I latched on to it. It just makes me smile. Yes, those are frogs and a princess. Who would ever give away a scarf this whimsical? (I found another scarf with roosters wearing Nikes that I thought the same, but I hate roosters, so screw them and their scarf likenesses.)

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Lastly, as the suns rays started to wear on me, I decided to give it just a few more pulls and then call it a day. Tirelessly throwing clothes around is exhausting. I noticed a pale blue busy scarf that just caught my eye. I flipped it around and tried to take it all in by letting it billow in the wind. I stopped dead in my tracks. Suddenly memories from my childhood came flooding back to me. I thought of my father and all my extended family in Germany, including in the Schwarzwald. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this scarf. I won’t wear it, but I needed it. I needed those memories. I especially needed them this week. I’ve been struggling with so many different things. I needed to remember that happiness is mental. You chose to be happy. Some things trigger sadness and despair, but you can always choose happiness. This scarf reminded me of that. I walked away clutching it in my hand, knowing that I will always treasure finding this at my crossroad. A German scarf that reminds me of my family, my childhood, my future, and I found it in Ghana.

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The past, present, and future. As I walked away from the market for the last time, I didn’t look back. I walked away smiling and happy that I found joy in the simplest things. These past two weeks have tested my resolve, but I know that I’ll leave Ghana with happy memories. Yes, I have scars. But a scar is always a reminder that you lived to tell the tale. And I’ll have many tales to tell, both sad and happy. It is the happy ones I’ll tell well after the sad ones have faded.

I Can’t Stop Smiling

There’s something in my water, I just know it. That’s got to be the reason I’ve been so happy lately. Or maybe I’m happy because I am. I haven’t stopped smiling since I got back from Germany. That vacation truly did wonders for me. I really needed it and I’m so fortunate to have such a loving aunt and uncle who knew I needed it too.

Why am I so happy? What’s been going on? It’s nothing major, but the small things just add up and make everything better. When I returned to site, it was a wonderful homecoming. I was actually happy to see my latrine (I needed to pee really badly). My neighbors were yelling my name, the small girls ambushed me for hugs, and the puppy almost had a heart attack when she saw me. I went to market on Monday and found my dear friend Vida waiting for me with open arms. She was so happy to see me. We sat and talked about my adventures in Germany. She told me about the new things happening at the market. We shared stories and laughs. I love spending time with her. She calls me her best friend. She’s not married and her son is older. She lives alone. I sit at her stand and keep her company. She’s a wonderful human being and sells the greatest batik. I bought 22 yards that day (there’s a story behind all those yards, but that’s for another time). I walked to my veggie stand and was greeted much the same, with enthusiasm. I made my way to Modern Way for lunch and it felt like walking back into your mom’s kitchen.

Yesterday, the small girls came by to hang out. I sat and talked with them for an hour about all sorts of things. I discovered an incredible secret though. Those girls drank so much water when I gave them one of those MIO water flavoring things. I’ve never seen them drink water and they were slurping it up like they had been running through the Sahara. I taught them the importance of water to a healthy body and they agreed to drink more, especially now that they had this great MIO thing. At one point, I was demonstrating different vegetables and how we eat them in America, when one girl squeezed a cucumber. It literally burst in my face. I was laughing so hard. Who knew spoiled cucumbers could explode?! We alternated between Twi and English. They are such a great group of girls, I enjoy having their company.

Today, I started working very early. The night before I finally finished my work plan for SAP. I spent a good amount of time making it beautiful and timeliney. This morning, with renewed vigor, I sat down to do some spreadsheets. I still have to finish my data analysis, but I love it. I love every minute of analyzing data in Excel. And nothing makes me happier than having new, fresh data to play with. After I worked on the data for a few hours, I did the rest of my wash. I sat down outside and began washing my underwear. As I enjoyed the sound of my washing board intertwining with the country music in the background, I watched the morning pass in front of me. I watched girls go to school, moms washing dishes, and unemployed boys sitting aimlessly. The rainy season weather was perfect, cloudy, windy, and not too hot. The sheep came storming by, freaked out by a pack of dogs. I watched as they leaped over each other in a mad dash to escape those wily dogs. The compound puppy came over to greet me with her all too sweet howl. She obeyed as I told her to lay down beside me. She loves to nip at my heels, but I began teaching her the meaning of NO. Gifty, the little 2 year old who lives next to me, came over to see what I was washing. She never talks to me, never has. She always smiles and runs away when I try to talk to her. I asked her where she was going in Twi. She answered me. She actually answered me!

The afternoon was met with those “seriously?!” moments, that I’ve come to appreciate in Ghana. First, I let the cucumber I was peeling slide right out of my hands straight into the trash. Then I dropped all my silverware trying to grab just one spoon. Then I burned my hands picking something off the stove. Then the rain began to pour, immediately after I had just come inside from checking the status of my clothes. I didn’t get upset at my downhill luck. I laughed. Watching that cucumber slide in slow motion out of my hands and into the trash was priceless. And as much as I hate pulling laundry off the line, there is something so quintessentially wonderful about running in the rain to rescue your clothes from sudden downpour.

I ate my delicious tuna salad lunch with a new cucumber. I sat back and enjoyed eating healthy. (For breakfast I had hardboiled eggs, toast with olive pesto and sardine pate.) I feel good. I feel wonderful. I feel happy. My work with SAP is incredibly fulfilling and will keep me busy through the rest of my service. I love spending time with the people around me. And I know that I have people all around the world who care about me and want to know that I’m happy. I love what I do. I love who I’ve become.

I could also just be smiling because I look fabulous today, but maybe that’s just as a result of how I feel. No, who am I kidding, I put eyeshadow on today. I look great.

And I feel great too.

Monthly Musings–Goals 2 and 3

My service was different. I hit the ground running. I was lucky to work with established groups, organizations, and locals. I didn’t have to wait to assess my community’s needs. It was all laid out in front of me. (In retrospect, maybe doing the assessment might have saved me some from being evacuated. Speculation though.) So while most people’s experience resembles a diminishing return curve, with a general increase in activity up until the very end, mine is turning out to be opposite. I started out busy and highly productive as the months pass by, my projects have started to wrap up. While my calendar still has penciled in trainings, my focus has changed to goals two and three. I spend more time just sitting and talking with my Ghanaian friends, enjoying their company and stories. I eat local food as often as possible, I know that at some point this year I won’t get it anymore. I often find myself drifting through the market, aimlessly stretching my legs. The smells, the feel, the frenzy, it is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced in America. I want to spend the remainder of my time loving every moment. I want to soak up the smiles, the conversations, the attitude. I can teach bookkeeping to as many people as possible and I wish that I could. I could also spend a few hours a day sitting with Vida, my best friend in Techiman, watching people pass in the market, chatting, and sharing moments together. Diplomacy isn’t just about building boreholes and increasing farmer yields. Diplomacy is sharing the American ideals: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; hard-work and tenacity; and finally, freedom.

I’m no longer having the personal revelations I had during my first year of service. I’ve had a few, but I just feel different now. I feel like the last year I spent peeling back layers of myself until I discovered the true me. What’s left now is the new and improved model. I’ve attacked my flaws face on and I feel like I’ve won. I’ve overcome obstacles and learned to cope. I’ve been trudged through the slimy stairs of Hell and found my way back to the land of the living. I’ve learned how to be a better person, employee, teammate, coworker, friend. I’m proud of who’s emerged. I can’t wait to show you the new me at the end of this year.

I love long tro rides. I can stare out the window for 8 hours and be content. I love eating with my hands. I love taking a cold bucket bath. I love early morning walks to the junction to get kenkey. I love feeling like nothing is extraordinary here anymore – it is the Ghana I know and love. I still find beauty all around me, but nothing surprises me anymore. It all seems so normal.

Moving Day! Somehow.

Earlier in the week I moved all my belongings for the second time in two months. This time it was to my new home. I had to await a bed though, so I couldn’t actually move in until a few days later. Moving in Ghana reminded me of moving out of my old apartment back in America.

I remember the day very well. It was a cloudy morning, but it quickly turned into a sunny day. My dad and two of his friends drove an hour and a half to help me move. We rented a truck and stuffed it full of my crap. It is really remarkable how much stuff I had accumulated. I honestly don’t know how I filled that truck up, what did I own?! I know there were quite a few boxes of just clothes and shoes. I did have a ridiculously nice bed too. Now I’m thinking about my mattress and how wonderful it was. You know what’s crazy – springs in mattresses, what a concept!

Moving here in Ghana I realized that the majority of my stuff was the same – clothes. Surprise, surprise. We were able to fit everything into one SUV this time though. I had a wardrobe, bookshelf, and small table piled onto the top of our car.

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I’m surprised we didn’t rip down some power lines while driving.

When I first saw my new house, I was so excited. It is just one room with a nice front porch. On the porch is a cabinet of sorts for cooking. That’s my kitchen. There is a latrine behind the house and a bathing area too. I no longer have running water, but I still have electricity. My old place was two big rooms with 5 windows in each room. I also had a separate kitchen that was massive with a built in sink. I had a shower and a flush toilet. I was in Posh Corps. You’d think I’d be upset having to downgrade, but honestly I’m pretty happy.

I’m happy that I have a site. I’m happy that I have my own place. I’m happy that the area is quiet. I’m happy that my new town is wonderful. I love my new town – it is pretty big 80,000ish people. It is also the location of West Africa’s largest market. Just recently a cafeteria opened up, which serves delicious pizza and other American foods for decent prices. I have easy access to cheese, yoghurt, milk, vast supply of vegetables, and faster internet. Not to mention there is a crocodile that lives in the Tano River, so I have some good company.

Techiman is also a historical city. I’m pulling this from the internets:

Techiman, the legendary birthplace of the Akan people, was the nerve center of the ancient Bono Kingdom which was rich in gold and had strong trading links with the ancient Kingdoms of the Savanna and Sahel, notably Timbuktu and Egypt.  According to Bono Techiman traditions, the forebears of the Techiman people were the pioneer Akan people to settle in the area occupied today by the people of the Brong-Ahafo Region.  It is not surprising that today, Techiman is at the center of major crossroads with an important
marketing center.

 

If you want to go to any town in the northern regions of Ghana, you have to go through Techiman. So, while I was first aprehensive, I’m now extremely excited. I love Techiman and I know that I will enjoy living there.

I noticed something while moving though. Rewind the clock to November of 2011, when I visited my first site for the first time. I remember being scared, anxious, and nervous. I wasn’t excited at all. Every little thing that was out of place made me panic. It was the fear of the unknown. Now, it is different. I wasn’t nervous walking up to my house for the first time. I was happy. I saw one room with a lot of potential. I saw the opportunity to make this one room and a porch mine. I can’t wait to paint, to decorate, and to arrange my furniture. There is something so soothing about unpacking. Putting everything in an orderly place. Touching everything, feeling the memories. I’m not scared anymore. I’m at ease. In my mind I’ve accepted the transition and I know that I can handle whatever life throws at me.

I’m looking forward to living without running water and with a latrine. I’m happy that I’ll finally get the real Peace Corps experience, despite living in a town with so much. I still don’t really have any projects in town. Everything I’m slated to do is mobile – literally, smartphones. I’ve almost been given a promotion. While smartphones will keep me busy through the cashew season, I already have plans to occupy myself as well. I’ve been requested to teach business literacy throughout the country at other volunteers’ sites. I already have quite a few people chomping at the bit to have me come present. I’m hoping to also partner up with the National Board for something something something (business government group). I really want to work with tailors, getting them producing things for resale. I want tailors to use their scrapes to make wallets or purses. I want kids to pick up water satchets and have the tailors make them into bags, wallets, cases, anything. I want tailors to make effective schedules, record their sales and purchases, and find new ways to make additional income. Plus, let’s be honest I want to be able to shop around for the best tailor in town.

Those are my goals for the next year. Not to mention continuing my work with SAP, hopefully expanding the pilot to more communities both in Ghana and throughout West Africa.

I’m excited for the opportunity to have a fresh start. I won’t let the disappointments of the last year affect me. I won’t let those incidents impact my ability to help a new community. I will admit though, every time I see a white truck I jump to the side and have a very mild panic attack. It makes me want to buy a bigger truck when I get back to America though.

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My one window looking out on my porch. The room is going to get a fresh coat of lighter paint.

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The view from my front porch. I’ll get a better picture soon, but from behind those houses, you get a great view of the cliffs.

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My kitchen.

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New house, new set of keys.

A Quest to Find Monkey Heads

The past week has been crazy to say the least. When they tell you Peace Corps is a roller coaster, they definitely don’t lie. I’m sure I’ll write a book after Peace Corps, the past month itself is enough for a nice novel. Starting today all Ghana PCVs are restricted to our sites (well, except for me, but I’ve been moved to an office, while a new site is found for me). Friday, Ghana is having an election. No one is expecting any violence, but things will get contentious. So, in order to prepare for 5 days of sitting pretty, we went into town to buy food – amongst other things.

There is a show on Discovery Channel entitled Jungle Gold. It follows two really dumb real estate agents who got hit hard by the recession. They still live in giant houses and there wives don’t seem to work. They are deep in debt and somehow they believe coming to pan for gold in Ghana will solve all their debt problems. Because you know, buying expensive equipment and forking over lots of capital so you can dig around in the dirt in Ghana is a GREAT IDEA. I highly encourage everyone who is in debt to spend 2000 dollars on a plane ticket to pilfer Ghana’s land. You are all invited. Anyway, the show goes to Kumasi so the guys can buy parts. They stop by Central Market for some really great footage of one of the craziest markets in Ghana, probably West Africa. They find the juju section and for about 5 seconds show animal pelts and dead monkey heads. Dead monkey heads?! You can buy those?! Alright, my interest is peaked. If these buffoons can find monkey heads in Central Market – so can I. It is one of those things that once you say it aloud – ‘”let’s find monkey heads in the market” the thought grows and grows inside you, until you are determined to find the ridiculous, just to prove it to yourself. It becomes a quest. Jason searching for the Golden Fleece. Me searching for market monkey heads.

So we start our day going to buy veggies and meat. Food for the next 5 days. Sweet potatoes, which are incredibly hard to find and only available for a few weeks out of the year, are in season right now. So I buy a truckload of sweet potatoes. I’m going to make mashed sweet potatoes with fresh parsley and laughing cow. I’ll probably make baked sweet potatoes and sweet potato fries. After buying all of our veggies, we head to Opoku market – the white people grocery store in Kumasi. I got supplies for Mac and Cheese. It is going to be a good next few days. After a hearty and amazingly delicious vegetarian banku and groundnut soup (with kontomire and cabbage) meal, we headed to the cultural center.

The cultural center in Kumasi highlights the Ashanti traditional crafts – woodwork, beads, wax mold brass, pottery, and kente. It was fun looking around and seeing the unique items that Ghanaians have perfected over the centuries. The items are truly beautiful and inspiring. While perusing one shop, I got a call from my boss. It was the news I wanted to hear! They found me a new site and it was the one I was hoping for. I’m moving to an even bigger city and I will have access to Ghanaian “cake,” my bank in my own town, the best meat pies in Ghana, and meaningful, focused work. I’m excited. The good news helped me to enjoy the rest of my day even more.

We continued walking around the cultural center and we found the brass section. I found an amazing scorpion ring that is pretty big. I’m a Scorpio, so I identified with the little guy, he is pretty cute. So, history/cultural lesson. Back in the day, gold dust used to be a currency in Ghana. We are the Gold Coast, and as discussed above, we are sitting on a huge reserve of gold. And here is some info from a website:

Akan goldweights were used as a measuring system by the Akan people of West Africa, particularly for weighing gold dust which was currency until replaced by paper money and coins. They are referred to locally as mrammou and the weights are made of brass and not gold. Used to weigh gold and merchandise, at first glance the goldweights look like miniature models of everyday objects. Based on the Islamic ounce, each weight had a known measurement. This provided merchants with secure and fair-trade arrangements with one another. The status of a man increased significantly if he owned a complete set of weights. Complete small sets of weights were gifts to newly wedded men. This insured that he would be able to enter the merchant trade respectably and successfully. Beyond their practical application, the weights are miniature representations of West African culture items such as Adinkra symbols, plants, animals and people.

So, the scorpion resembles the gold weights and naturally it has a meaning too. The scorpion bites with its tail not its mouth, meaning enemies work in secret, and the thing which seems most threatening may not be the most dangerous after all. I think that’s a good thing to have sitting on my finger. I consider it protection from the last month.

After the cultural center we slowly made our way to Central Market. Which meant getting on a super slow tro going through the parking lot that is Kumasi just to go about a mile. Laziness always wins out though and we had already been walking all day. On this barely moving tro, we tried to steal another driver’s sunglasses, talked with street vendors about eating fufu, and came up with quick witted responses to the mates ridiculous questions. Highly entertaining.

After we got to Kejetia it was time for the dreaded walk into Central Market. Getting into central market is the hardest part. The entrance to the market is an incredibly crowded street and it is kinda like merging into 100mph traffic. You have to keep moving but you have to time it right to get into the other foot traffic flow going into the market. It is a pretty epic battle and quite crazy. Once you get in, you have to get off the main drag immediately because it is just as bad traffic wise. But once you are off the main path, it is quieter and the sun isn’t as bright. In fact, it becomes entertaining instead of incredibly stressful. The amount of people in central market at any given time is probably close to over 100,000. It is truly amazing.

We looked at the fabric section and then slowly made our way deeper and deeper into the market. The farther back you get the smellier it becomes. The dried fish section is a special treat for your nose. Imagine dead fish smoked and dried for hours lingering in the hot sun for hours, days even. You walk past stall after stall of fish in all sorts of awkward poses. The smell stays with you for well past your trip to the market. I can still smell the Accra fish market from over a year ago.

While delving deep into the market we came across pure shea butter. L’Occtaine sells 100% pure shea butter in 5oz tins for $40 on sephora. I bought a softball size ball for 1cd ($0.50). Something tells me that’s a good deal. Must be those math classes I had to take in school. You can use less than grain of salt size amount and it goes an incredibly long way. You can use it as lip balm, moisturizer, anti-aging skin cream, aloe vera substitute, and leave-in conditioner. Shea butter can also be added to food, such as chocolate instead of cocoa butter. It is much cheaper than cocoa butter actually. Shea fruit is grown in the north of Ghana and there are PCVs helping to develop shea in their communities. Anyway, so I got some of the best moisturizer on the planet for about the price of a can of Coke.

Onward we went into the market. Finally when we thought we had gone too far, we reach a place that starts having some juju items. We are on the right track! Literally, we were walking along old railroad tracks. Most people here are from the north and they didn’t understand a single word we said. On one table we found old coins from British times back when Ghana was the Gold Coast. On another table were dead chameleons. We walked further back into the market and found a stall selling animal pelts. When we took a closer look we discovered we had in fact found the jackpot. Hyena pelt, lion pelts, an entire leopard pelt, dead birds, a monkey skull, lion claws, elephant skin, and plenty of crocodile skins rolled up. It was pretty eerie and creepy. No monkey heads though.

Okay, I have to admit it was really fascinating looking at all these items. Yes, I came back from safari just two months ago. These animals are rare, beautiful, and incredible to witness in real life. I don’t support killing them for sport or anything else. Juju is a weird and magical art. It is a part of the culture here though, Ghanaians have been practicing traditional beliefs for centuries, maybe even longer. In fact you can find versions of juju throughout the continent. These traditional beliefs are a religion here. They hold cultural significance. While I don’t support killing these beautiful animals, I also can’t deny that their byproducts are a part of the culture here. Globalization is wiping out or blurring cultural identities and even though I don’t believe in juju, it is still an important aspect of how Ghana has evolved. I don’t think it should be squashed simply because it is outside our realm of normal. We should preserve culture, not shy away from it.

Okay back to the juju stall. We tell the man we are looking for monkey heads and he looks rather puzzled, he doesn’t speak English. Someone does and a man runs off to go bring us some. About 5 minutes later he plops down two definitely dead hairy monkey heads. The monkey eyes are closed and they still have teeth. The one has a extremely gross look on his face and he isn’t pretty. The other one just looks like a laughing dead monkey. I love him. He is kind of amazing in his happy, dead monkey state.

Monkeys in Ghana are annoying little creatures. They are eaten as bush meat. I know that this monkey was probably killed by a hunter, eaten, and his head was sold or given to the juju men. I feel sort of bad for supporting the dead monkey trade, but again monkeys are annoying. I asked the man what monkey head is used for, because they told us what lion claws are used for. Lions represent strength and power, they are used for good juju. They wouldn’t tell me what they used monkey heads for, but they offered to do it for me. I declined graciously. That must mean something bad. Really bad. Monkeys are mischievous thieves, something tells me their heads might help with that. 

They wrapped my monkey head up in a double plastic bag and I threw the sucker in my purse. His face kept hitting my thigh though, so I had to move him to the other side. Kinda disconcerting to have monkey head in your handbag. I started getting superstitious thinking “oh god, what is going to happen to me now that I bought a monkey head?! Is the sky going to open up and smite me?” We continued through the market and stumbled upon a man selling some more juju items, but hiding under his table was a cage. Inside the cage was a live chameleon. It was fun watching it change colors and climb around. They are bigger than I thought they would be. He was only 30cd, I kinda wanted him, but then realized dead monkey heads don’t eat. Live chameleons do.

We continued on, it was getting late so it was time to head home. On our way out of the market I bought 4 yards of a sawawa/piecey piecey/PCPC/patchwork. It is scraps of fabric sewn together to make two yards. The one I got is red, yellow, and blue – all the fabrics have the same colors. It is incredibly beautiful and now the painful part – deciding what to do with it. I did wrap it around me once I got back and ran around the house like a cape. That was highly entertaining. I picked up a gari dryer to use as a earring rack as well.

Emerging from the market was fun, I walked by a woman selling peppe and she grabbed onto my leg and held me tight. I think she wanted to feel my rock hard calves. Or maybe just my white skin. She let go once the ladies next to her started beating her. It was all in good fun. Then right when we were about to leave the market a man selling cane sugar stalks jumps out at me and scares the living shit out of me. I was laughing so hard, Ghanaians have an interesting sense of humor but I enjoy it.

We finally get on a tro heading back home, we switch tros and then realize my gari dryer was left on the old tro. So we hop off and go in search of the tro, but we couldn’t remember what color the old tro was and this station has tons of cars. We run around like mad women looking for this thing, but have to settle that it is in fact lost. Oh well. We get in another tro and continue home. I have a great conversation with the man sitting next to me and then we hop off to head home.

For the first time in over a year, I can admit I enjoyed spending time in Kumasi. Normally the city is so crazy, congested, and hectic that I can barely breathe. I’m glad I took the time to fully explore the central market, since it is a true icon of Ghanaian culture.

And for everyone wondering, I washed my hands for about 10 minutes then took a shower after taking the monkey head out of its bag and putting it in his new home. I named him Mr. Jackie Chan. The guards at the office were freaked out and it was hilarious watching grown men cower and make such amazing faces. What will we do with Mr. Jackie Chan? No clue, but for now he is watching over the house, protecting us from thieves and works as a great conversation starter.

 

And lastly, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me during this upheaval. I’ve been through every emotion possible in the past week and I’m so happy to have the support of my friends and family both in America, Ghana, and Germany. It means so much to me that my friends care so much and can still support me half a world away. It has truly helped me come to terms and accept all the changes happening. I have a new site now and hopefully I will be able to move there in the coming week. Fingers crossed! But know that I am safe and doing better. All thanks to your support. I love you all!

Market Fail

I’ve discovered that going to the market is like playing slots. Sometimes, you get lucky on the first pull and you walk away happy. Sometimes, you have a really bad streak, but you keep playing because you are just hoping that next pull will be a winner. Yeah, that’s me and the market. Some days when I go, everything is there – everything I need. Sometimes, I go for just carrots or a cucumber. Nada, sold out. Really?

Today, I travelled all the way to Techiman in search of some sandals. I have a pair of sandals that I love dearly, unfortunately, they are starting to fall apart. They were made here in Ghana from recycled tires, so I’m pretty attached to them. You would think finding a Made in Ghana product would be easy. WRONG. I’ve checked for these sandals every time I go to Techiman, no luck. That’s where I bought them originally. I asked around and everyone told me that I can get them during the week. Ugh. I walked around the biggest market in West Africa for hours today searching for my sandals. No one was even selling decent sandals. Nothing, it was dead. No one was there, the other times I have gone it was super busy. Why Ghana? Oh, WHY? So, I bought a pair of 4cd sunglasses to replace the ones that just broke yesterday. That makes 3 pairs of sunglasses that have broken in country so far.

Dejected, hungry, and tired, I hoped in the taxi to go back home. The lady in the middle seat thought it would be fun to keep her elbow and arm in my lap. And to wave in front of my face while I was reading. Yeah, that makes sense. The lady sitting next to her didn’t have an arm in her lap. So, when the lady got out one town early and complained to the driver about him charging her the full fare, she opened my door again and was causing a fuss. So, I told her in my most passive aggressive bitchy voice – you are complaining about 30p and holding up our taxi. Move on. Then I closed the door in her face. The driver sped off. Everyone in the taxi was complaining about that lady, they looked at me with reverence. I’ve entered my “I ain’t putting up with your b.s.” stage of my service. Also known as – sassy me. Also, when I was walking home, the little annoying kids chased me screaming the white person song. So I just muttered obscenities at them under my breath and kept walking. I’ve been living here for almost 8 months now, you’d think after 8 months they’d figure out that singing that song doesn’t work for getting my attention, or my autograph.

Some days I really do feel like a celebrity. The other day, someone was walking towards me. He stopped, pulled out his cell phone, snapped a picture of me, THEN greeted me as I walked past. I’ll admit, I looked really good that day, so it didn’t bother me as much. I just chuckled and walked past. People who I don’t remember, recognize, or know greet me by name anywhere I go in town. When I enter the taxi station it is like walking on red carpet. Everyone is calling my name, trying to get my attention, trying to take a picture. It is a little ridiculous, a little fun, and partially an ego boost. There is one house next to me, whenever I walk by the entire gang of kids runs out to greet me. Even the little toddler who is never wearing pants says: “Mama Good Afternoon, How Are You.” Kid has no clue what he is saying, he just repeats it. Good for him though, 2 years old and busting out the English to impress the ladies.

Side note: How dare you come to my house, uninvited, while I am not feeling well, and tell me that my headache is because God is punishing me for going to the market today. I just met you 2 minutes ago, when you knocked on my door. Go away and let me have my sinus headache because there is low pressure today. I replaced a volunteer at my site, there used to be a man who lived in my town. He is now a cashew buyer and the big man. For some reason, everyone thinks I either his secretary, daughter/wife/sister, accountant, or banker. Nope, just his friend. People are always coming to me with news or info for the guy. Hey, why don’t you try calling him? Just a thought.

So, now I sit here, dejected, tired, with a headache. Days like this make me mutter under my breath like an angry old man. GET OFF MY LAWN. That’s really what I want to say. Thank goodness I’m going on vacation in a little over a month. I sure need it. I also really need some chocolate and I could go for a nice hot fudge sundae, maybe with cashews on top?