"Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

-President John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Days 3 and 4...scroll down for 1 and 2

Day 3:

I apologize if these posts are too lengthy and have unnecessary details, but I am also typing this out somewhat for my own benefit so I can recall the beginning of this adventure down the road. They will shorten soon as I will summarize a bit more and post some insights and such, rather than recount my day. Once school starts, on the 10th, the focus of my posts will change toward the school system and what all happens at school and in the classroom.

Woke up at about 630 and decided to pop right out of bed. It looked like a nice morning out, and I wanted to see how people were out and about around town, so I grabbed my bucket and went to the borehole. It was good to get out right away and greet people, plus I need to continue practicing carrying the bucket full of water on my head. Everyone gets a kick out of seeing me do it.

I ate my last clif bar for breakfast since I still have no food. I spent some more time organizing my home and also reading through the cookbook peace corps gave us specifically for Ghana. I made/added to a list of foods and stuff I needed in Walewale, bucket bathed, and was off to town by 845am. My plan was to just start walking down the main road and wait for a taxi or trotro to go by and hitch a ride, when along came a taxi with a driver who already knew who I was! It turns out this man was good friends with Carol before me, and he knew I would be coming. I now have his number and he said whenever I need a ride somewhere to give him a call. I also found out that I bought things from his wife yesterday. Small town!

At some point fairly soon I will be able to jump on my bike or just run with my GPS watch around the village, and upload it to the internet on a satellite image and post it here so you can see how small/big the village is. Also, now that I have fairly reliable internet on an as-needed basis, please feel free to reply to the posts and ask me questions, or send me an email.

The driver, Dauda, drove me past his preferred tailor to show me where to take my cloth to sew, and then dropped me at the bank. Lucky for me, my bank is in Walewale. Some people have to travel hours to get to their bank, but its just a few kilometers down the road for me. I was there by 9am, when it opened, and it was actually nice inside and had air conditioning! I saw a person I met the day before, and he told me to go sit by the tables and wait for a banker to help me, rather than wait in line to go to the window teller. So I waited, and waited, and waited. The bank had many people going in and out and a lot was going on. There were two bankers at desks helping people open accounts, and for some reason they were taking absolutely forever! I was second in line, but still sat there for an hour before deciding to take action. I had been asking the Ghanaian next to me what was taking so long and he didn’t really understand and he seemed to not even realize that we were sitting there for an hour. Time passes differently for Ghanaians; they don’t see it as ridiculous to sit and wait for something for such a long time. I got up and went over to a man in a suit and just explained I was with Peace Corps and had a bank account opened but haven’t accessed it yet, and he jumped on the case. He took me straight up to the desk and started doing everything for me. We got forms filled out for mobile banking, I was able to withdraw my money, and apply for an ATM card. That all also took forever, so I was out of there in two hours. I tried not to get too frustrated throughout my time there, Ghanaians just do things a bit differently, even in a westernized bank.

Next I went to the tailor and gave him my cloth to sew a couple more shirts. There were three young men working there, and I chatted with them a bit in Mampruli/English.

After that I just began wandering around town going into various shops along the street to buy the things on my list. As I’ve said before, everyone loves it when I try to speak Mampruli to them. Walewale surprisingly gets a decent amount of white people passing through or staying nearby for short times, but most don’t speak Mampruli to the Ghanaians, so when they see that I am learning the language they appreciate it and help out more.

By noon I got some rice and beans from a vendor on the street and went to the loory station (area where all the taxis gather). Dauda saw me and we waited until enough people filled the taxi to go to Gbimsi and we left. Instead of dropping me on the road, he drove along the dirt paths/roads straight up to my home!

It rained for most of the afternoon so I was inside not doing much. By four the rains had stopped mostly, and I knew it was Gbimsi market day, so I walked over (five minutes) to where the market was being set up. Since Gbimsi is just a village, the market is small and you can’t get many things, but the basic vegetables and things are there. I got onions, peppers, beans, groundnuts, and some other small things like that. I was chatting with a man there for awhile, and he took me around and did some translating and explaining what things were. I went back home and it was getting dark and starting to rain again so I couldn’t go get food without getting messy. I was tired and hungry and didn’t have much food to cook really, but I had bought eggs and bread in Walewale so I made an egg sandwich for dinner and called it a day. After dinner I connected my computer to the (slow) internet via my iphone and the cell signal, and uploaded some of these posts from my living room chair! Woah. I didn’t really expect to have internet readily available, and even from the comfort of my home!

Day 4:

It’s getting less detailed I promise.

In the morning I made a groundnut paste (peanut butter) and banana sandwich! Scrumptious. I did some more cleaning/organizing of the tiny kitchen, and prepared another list of more things I needed. Today is Walewale market day. I think I mentioned before, but market days are every three days, so it goes Gbimsi market day, Walewale market day, no market nearby, then Gbimis, etc. The Walewale market has a lot more available. I didn’t want to bike there because I was afraid I’d get caught in the rain, plus I planned to buy a decent about of things, so I’ll save the bike trips there when I don’t need as much and I feel more like risking getting caught in the rain. I went over to the chop lady and had my jollif rice there; it cost me 50 pesawas for a decent amount of rice and sauce. They actually had a spoon for me!

I waited at the road at about 1pm. I called Dauda to see if he was around to pick me up, but he was in Walewale waiting for his taxi to be filled and then he would be coming back. I sat along the road for almost an hour before a trotro with a seat available came by and picked me up. About two or three taxis went by but they were packed, a couple packed trotros, and a million trucks carrying stuff up to Burkina Faso and back to Accra. It really is just a crapshoot trying to get a ride. Sometimes I’m sure one will come by within five minutes, and other times I’ll wait an hour. It is what it is. Guess I should just bike it more often than not.

Today in Walewale I met my language instructor from down south who lives up here. It was nice to see him and he was glad to see me. We had simulated “going to the market” in many a language session, but today we actually got to do the real thing! He took me all around the huge, bustling market as I found the many things on my list. He helped me with my Mampruli while trying to buy things. I will hopefully get a picture of a market at some point, but let me try to explain it. You may have a decent idea of what it is already, but let’s see. Basically, the market is a large open area, in the dirt, about the size of a football field lets say. A bajillion women and girls bring their foods and other goods and set it all up on wooden tables or on mats on the ground. It is a chaotic, smelly, happening place. Since nothing has a fixed price, it is much more interactive, sociable, and fun than simply going to a grocery store!

What did I buy? I got a sifter strainer thing, cabbage, lime, garlic, ginger, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, tomato paste, used tablecloth, rags, noodles. One of the tables had fruits that get brought up from the south, and I was able to get bananas, plantains, and a pineapple. When avocado (called pear here) comes in season soon I will also be able to get it. I also saw some apples. No mangoes sadly.  At an actual shop I was able to get a box of oats to make some oatmeal. I need milk powder in a bigger city though. It was a solid day at the market and I was home by 430. I unloaded everything and packed my tiny fridge, then little Rosaline who is 13 came by and asked if I wanted help cooking. Surely! I had planned to make spaghetti and whip up a homemade tomato sauce, and probably could’ve handled it myself, but in hindsight I had no idea what I was doing. She had never made a tomato sauce before, but just knew all the right amounts of everything to throw in. It took us half the time it would’ve taken me to cook it alone, and it probably tasted better than what I would’ve made. It turned out great and we sat down on the chairs in my sitting room to eat. She’s a sweet little girl, and is constantly working around the house next door. Curious to see what her days are like when school starts. I forget if I mentioned this or not, but I do my dishes by putting some filtered water in a medium-sized Tupperware and scrub away with some dish soap and rags. One day I’ll total up the exact amount of water I use in a typical day, and if you’re up for it, I challenge you to try it out.

Oh another note about water, I absolutely collect rain water into my can and buckets as it runs off the roof. I bathe with that water, and also dump some into my filter to use to drink, cook, and do dishes.

Had the dishes done, took a bath, and was typing this by 630 tonight. I feel good. I finally have a decent amount of food, can control my diet, am meeting plenty of people, and starting to figure things out. I once again have no idea what I’ll be doing tomorrow…

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