In which our intrepid hero says goodbye to a friend and extols the virtues of bicycles

This week was marked by a sad event. BJ (formerly Prince BJ, who had abdicated his title upon leaving Old Tafo) has made the decision to return to the United States due to the serious illness of a family member. At this point, his return to Ghana is possible, but unlikely.

I received a phone call from him on Monday informing me of this news. After some plotting, scheming, and massaging of my teaching schedule, I was able to arrange a mad dash to Kumasi on Thursday to see him as he passed through on his way to Accra. We came, drank beer, ate cheeseburgers, talked, laughed, commiserated, and got the opportunity to say goodbye.

I am deeply saddened by his leaving, and can only hope that the events at home come to a happy conclusion that allow his return to Ghana.

In other news, I had my first site visit from my Associate Peace Corps Director, Mary Noorah. All in all, it was a good visit; she brought me the pleasant surprise of mail, including a package from home and my first batch of letters from my Coverdell classroom. She also got to watch me teach a class, see my fledgling computer lab, and check out all of the work I’ve been putting into my home.

I’ve also managed to keep racking up the miles on my bike, as well as adding to my ever-growing knowledge of bicycle repair. As soon as payday rolls around, my bike will be getting new brake pads, a new chain, and a replacement cogset. (No, I’m not going to explain cogsets. That would take all the fun out of it.) Indeed, one of my favorite parts of the market is the section where they sell and repair bicycles; it’s a marked contrast with the rest of the market in that it’s a place of quiet, steady, peaceful industry.

It’s an interesting fact of life in this country that a bicycle is just as useful as (if not more so than) a car, and makes life possible in places that would otherwise be unreachable. Indeed, as someone who hauls his drinking water in a jerry can via mountain bike, I have experienced this firsthand. It’s a common sight to see both men and women ride out into the bush on an old Royal Mail bicycle, farm-bound and outfitted with a jug of water on the cargo rack, a machete strapped to the frame, and a shotgun slung over their backs. It’s also a common sight to see people on bicycles passing cars and trucks on the road simply because it’s easier to navigate between the potholes and troughs in the road.

To say that I have rediscovered a love of bicycles and cycling would be an obvious statement, but it is not because of obvious reasons. For all of its simplicity as a machine when compared to its motorized equivalents, it has an incredible impact. Without a bicycle, some of my students would not be able to come to school. Without a bicycle, some people in my village would not be able to travel the distance to their farms on a daily basis, and would thus have serious difficulty in feeding their families. Most people in this country cannot — and will never be able to — afford a car or motorcycle, but can easily buy one or two bicycles. Having witnessed the huge, though mostly silent impact that a bicycle can have on someone’s life, I will never think about them in the same way again.

Alright, that’s enough out of me. It’s time for me to do stuff that doesn’t involve a computer.

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I'm just this guy, you know?