Archive for the ‘Daily Life in Ghana’ Category

Daily Life in Ghana

Now that I’ve been in Ghana for three weeks, I’m really savoring my time and appreciating all the everyday occurrences that make Ghana so special. Wisdom is the 15-year old nephew of my host family. Many parents name their children after the emotions felt during pregnancy, and I just love hearing these names, like Courage, Joy, Wisdom, Patience and Precious. Wisdom brought me to the village Kindergarten class. When we enter the one-room schoolhouse all the children stand up and politely greet me, dressed in brown and white checkered uniforms. The teacher states the name of a verse and they recite “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Rain, Rain, Go Away,” and “Ghana, Ghana, Ghana” in sing-song voices. Afterwards, Wisdom brings me to the road. Its seems like half the village is there working. It takes 30 minutes by car to get to my village, 13 kilometers on a red, dusty dirt road and the final 2 kilometers on an uphill rocky road. Several times a year, the village works on this last 2 kilometers. Men dig rocks with pickaxes to fill in the holes. Women carry buckets of dirt on their heads to pack between the rocks. They could wait forever for the government to help, so instead the community bands together to improve their lives.

I am in Ghana for over a week when another volunteer expresses dismay over being yelled at by children on the streets, “Yevu!” She told me it meant white, and I immediately start noticing this daily refrain from children everywhere.  Countless times a day kids are always yelling “Yevu” at me, while smiling and waving. A fellow Honduran-American volunteer is also peeved by this call, since she isn’t white! We ask a Ghanaian friend to translate yellow and brown for us, since we think it would be funny to yell this back at children while pointing to ourselves. He told us that Yevu is used for all foreigners, even African Americans, and the literal translation is “tricky dog.” Somehow, I am immediately comforted by this new more appropriate translation. 

The transportation system in Ghana is ruled by tro-tro’s or public vans. There are no timetables and tro-tro’s leave for their destination when they are full. Yesterday, it took me three hours to get from my village to town, and it’s only a 30 minute drive. Frequently, I have to wait for hours for my tro-tro to show up, and then wait longer for the passengers to fill the van.  Along the route, people get off and on, accompanied by an unbelievable amount of cargo. On the roof of the van, women load huge burlap sacks of corn and ground-up cassavas to sell in town on market day. Also furniture, generators and livestock. Besides the driver, there is another staff person yelling at people on the road to hustle up more business and collect fares. I’ve taken enough tro-tro’s to realize the premium position is the front window seat, next to the driver. They can squeeze a lot of people into these vans, including six people into seats made for three. But they only put two people in the front seat because of the driver and stick shift. I get to see so many interesting things in the front seat too. On a four-hour ride, we pass through 12 police checkpoints and I witness bribes at half of them (adjacent to huge signs stating it’s an offense to bribe police). When tro-tro’s pull into towns, the windows are swarmed by women and teenage girls selling products in metal bowls balanced on top of their heads. Passengers always share food with me, and I happily accept their offerings of smoked fish and donuts.

I go to the market to buy fabric and the choices are staggering. After I select a beautiful material, I don’t even haggle since it’s only $14 for six yards. We go to a tailor and I’m overwhelmed by the design choices. I pore through the designs and the 18-year old dressmakers are already giggling at me. One of them asks if we can be friends and slips me her phone number. Madame Regina takes my measurements. At one point, she pauses and someone from the back yells, “Yevu, have you eaten lunch yet?” I laugh and slap my stomach saying maybe I’m pregnant. This immediately evokes a flurry of questions like do I have children, why don’t I want children, etc. I tell them I’m too old now and plan to adopt in a few years. Madame Regina grabs my breast and says, “Don’t you want a baby to suck here?” The entire experience is hysterical, much like many of my experiences in Ghana. I don’t understand the culture here at all, so just try to be my authentic self and laugh a lot.

A friend and I visit an orphanage two villages away from me. When we arrive, the staff members cheerfully greet us. The kids start to arrive from school and peel off their uniforms. They each have one uniform and daily wash the dust and sweat from their clothes. At first, the children are a bit reticent with us, but soon they are laughing and playing and hamming it up. The facility is lovely, supported by a German NGO. It’s quickly apparent that although theses kids are well fed and taken care of, they don’t have any extra amenities. There are no toys and they are all playing with rocks and old metal bike wheels/spokes.  We ask them what they need, and immediately agree to buy a second school uniform, shoes, baby supplies and arts/crafts/toys. We measure each of the children’s feet on paper and they are getting excited. Most of them only have flip-flops, and they need sturdy enclosed shoes for school. There are fifteen children from newborn to 17 years old. The only babies are twins. When we are visiting, the mother is nursing them. She had premature triplets and one of the babies died. Her family is too poor to take care of the children, and she frequently visits – it must be heartbreaking for her to leave her children. Most of the other children are ages three to six years old, with three teenage girls. I can’t wait to visit next week, our arms laden with presents for these kids.

Read Full Post »