A gecko just climbed up the inside wall of my house. No joke. I think it’s so cool.
“Akwaaba” means “welcome” in Twi (pronounced more like Chwee). And I cannot even count the number of times I have heard it in the past few days. Ghanaians are beautiful, laid back, social people. They always say “You are welcome to Ghana.” I love it. They call foreigners “obruni,” so we hear that all the time, too, especially in the markets when they want us to spend money. haha. It’s not offensive at all–just cultural. They take the time to greet each other on the streets, especially in the small village I am in, and they all run on “Ghanaian time,” which can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 5 hours early or late. It’s going to take a long time to adjust to that.
The trip over here was LONG, and I was quite nauseous during my last flight (London to Accra) and for the first day and a half here. We worried a little that the sickness might be from the anti-malarial drugs, but the timing was wrong, so I think I was just exhausted. Anyway, I slept it off and am back to normal!
We (8 new volunteers) were picked up at the airport and driven to Eddie’s house for the first night (the man who owns Ghana Volunteer Corps Organization). I was in a taxi with a staff member and one other volunteer. The driving is crazy! They squeeze through tiny gaps in traffic, and there are no street signs, addresses, or even lanes on the road. They do, however, drive on the right side of the road instead of the left, which surprised me.
Accra, the capital, is HUGE. We’re going to see it officially tomorrow, and it will be very different from where I’m living now. I was assigned to an orphanage in Dodowa (pronounced doh doh WAH), which is supposedly “45 minutes” outside Accra, but I swear the drive took much longer than that. Ghanaian “time.” The orphanage, Potter’s Village, has 115 kids! The youngest is 1, the oldest is about 19. We don’t know exact birthdates for a lot of them, so ages are sort of a guessing game. Potter’s Village is so named because they are “molding” the children into successful people. The lady who runs the orphanage is Mama Jane (Jane Irina Adu), and she is a reverend, a teacher, an author, and a traveling speaker. She has made extraordinary educational/empowerment efforts among women in Africa, and she is truly amazing. She left her rich life to begin Potter’s Village because she believes it is the calling God has given her. Mama Jane is respected and loved by the children–and, I’m sure, by everyone else who knows her. 30 seconds in her presence would give anyone the impression that they are secure, safe, important, and loved.
The house I’m staying in is basically at the same poverty level as most of the village. We have two toilets and a “shower,” but all three require bringing buckets of water from huge barrels outside the house. I actually like the bucket showers. When I’m hot and sweaty (which I basically always am here), pouring water over me feels REALLY good.
Some things I’ve learned about Ghana:
- Their mangos are delicious
- They are VERY religious. I pass stores all the time with names like “Unbreakable Man Furniture,” “Jesus is One Carpentry” and “God’s Grace Salon”
- Most Ghanaians speak in some mixture of Twi and English. The kids love teaching us Ghanaian slang (and we love learning it!)
- Drinking water comes in little plastic 500 mL bags. It actually tastes really good, though the bags take a little getting used to.
- Trotros are the cheapest way to get around. They are like big vans, and it’s a mixture between a taxi and a bus system. You basically just stand on the side of the road and get on the first one that is going to the place you want to go. It’s hot, crowded, and very cheap. And quite the experience 🙂
- The roads have red dirt
- Bucket “showering” feels really good but is essentially useless, since I am dirty within about 1 minute of stepping out of it.
- There are random goats and chickens wandering all over through the streets
- The humidity never goes away
- They still cane children at school for misbehaving
- They apparently don’t see white people very much. I’m quite a spectacle 🙂
So there you have it! Hello from beautiful Ghana!