In which we almost see a hippopotamus

It’s been a busy month. I turned 26 (thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes!), and I feel no different whatsoever. I also got more computers in my computer lab, which involved quite a bit of travel, confabulation, and negotiating. I caught a stomach bug and spent 3 days at home because of it, and I have spent more time in my computer lab and the classroom than I care to admit.

The rainy season has started. In fact, it just rained. The dust is gone, and fetching water has become considerably easier, but with the rains come the mosquitoes, and the humidity has returned, especially at night. Think June in the upper Midwest of the United States: beautiful days, miserable nights. If it weren’t for my fan, I would be pretty much useless due to poor sleep quality.

Marathon training is proceeding on schedule. I am working on building a base, which means getting my body used to the idea of running to nowhere in particular for long periods of time. Once I have a solid base, I start training my body to run to nowhere in particular for ridiculous periods of time.

Alright, it’s time for me to go off and prepare my lesson plans. I leave you with the next installment of Caroline’s and my Christmas adventure.

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On the Sunday following Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family) we said our goodbyes at the monastery and set off for Bui National Park. We managed to catch the last tro-tro for Bui out of Wenchi, and spent 3 dusty hours on the road. We finally arrived in Bui Camp, the worker’s village that houses all of the park staff and their families, as well as the main camping area for the park. After a quick discussion with the caretaker of the camping area, we were able to locate the nearest provision store, as well as secure the use of a coalpot (charcoal cooker) so that we could make dinner for ourselves. In the process of making dinner, we managed to impress and fascinate a Dutch woman and her two daughters, whose dinner plans consisted of cookies and whatever drink they could find. We did the dishes, took warm bucket baths, and then retired to our bed for the night.

The next morning, we awoke to discover that we had overslept. We had arranged to share a park guide with the 3 Dutch ladies and set off early so that we could all hopefully see the hippos at Bui and get back in time for lunch; they would then try to leave on the afternoon tro-tro so as to get to Techiman by nightfall. We hurriedly packed a day-pack and set off with the guide for an hourlong walk to the river. When we arrived, we contracted with 5 boats to take us out on the river, where we proceeded to look for hippos.

We saw part of a hippo. Two, actually. The guide and the boatmen spent about an hour an a half tapping on the sides of their boats, trying to get the hippos to come out of the water. Unfortunately, it didn’t work; all we saw were ears and the tips of noses. Eventually, we gave up and headed back to the landing.

That’s when the nickel and diming began. We ended up paying each boat crew GHC10 (we were told it was going to be GHC5 per boat). We then walked back to Bui Camp, where the Dutch ladies proceeded to grab their packs and try to head out, only to discover that they had missed the afternoon tro. After frantic consultation with the caretaker, they decided to try and charter a taxi to Nsawkaw, which Caroline and I decided to join. After all, Bui didn’t really have all that much to offer in the way of hiking or sightseeing. We settled up our bill with the caretaker, who proceeded to add on the park entry fee, the guide fee (per person per hour!), and the camp site fee. All told, caroline and I paid GHC39 to see 4 hippo ears and two noses.

Needless to say, I don’t plan on going back to Bui any time soon.

Anyway, we settled up and then crammed into a Tico (think Geo Metro) with our 3 Dutch companions for an hour and a half long ride to Nsawkaw. 5 people and a driver, plus all of those people’s belongings (more Dutch belongings and less PCV belongings, by the way) makes for a very crowded Tico taxi. After a bumpy, dusty, but surprisingly expedient taxi ride, we arrived in Nsawkaw. Luckily, we were able to catch a tro leaving for Wenchi, and filled the last 5 seats (it’s amazing how quickly you can travel by tro-tro when you can fill close to half of any given 13-seat vehicle). On the way, we discussed our plans with our companions, and they decided that Kumasi was as good as anywhere.

Upon arriving in Wenchi, we met up with a Metro Mass Transit bus that took us to Techiman. We then took another Metro bus to Kumasi.

We got to Kumasi just after nightfall; around 6:30 or so. When we arrived in Kejetia, the ladies looked expectantly to us for the next step. When we announced we were parting ways with them, there was an ever-so-slight note of panic in their voices.
“You aren’t going to the Guestline Lodge?” they asked.
“No, we’re going to the Peace Corps office.”
“Oh… is it far from the Guestline?”
“It’s on the other side of town, actually.”
“Oh… Are there any hotels around there?”

Going anywhere in Africa at night can be tricky; after all, streetlights and headlights are optional. However, Kejetia station at 6:30pm is hardly challenging. Still, we remembered our first days and weeks in country, smiled a knowing smile, and continued our good samaritan routine.

“Not really… Would you like me to help you get a taxi?”
“Would you? That would be very nice!”

We got them on their way, with slightly relieved looks on their faces, and proceeded to find our own way to the office, where showers, fried rice, and the internet were waiting for us.

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Grant

I'm just this guy, you know?

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