You know, of all the things I’ve been told to do while receiving a paycheck funded by your tax dollars, the one I’m currently enjoying the most is just screwing around in my house. So far this morning, I’ve swept the floor, hauled out the mattresses for their weekly airing-out, and done a small amount of laundry (my sheets and 3 pairs of trousers, to be precise).
It’s a marked contrast from last week, where I’ve found myself a passenger in myriad tro-tros, taxis, and fast cars, as well as spending many nights in strange and fantastical places like the Swissrest Hotel and the Kumasi Sub-Office. I also feasted on many strange and exotic foods that one does not normally find in Ghana, such as butter, cheddar cheese, bacon, carrots, and Chicken Tikka, along with more pedestrian fare like coconuts, bowfruit, and pineapple.
Our tale begins in the humble village of Seikwa (a place I have grown rather fond of over the past few months). I got up very early, brushed my teeth, checked my bag one last time, and set out for the bustling metropolis of Accra. 11 hours, several tro-tros, and GHC15 later, I found myself just outside 37 Circle in Accra, ready to meet my friends Sara and Caroline, and go anywhere that didn’t involve an internal-combustion engine. We dropped some things in the rid room at the Peace Corps office and set off for “The Bunkhouse” at the Swissrest Hotel.
The Bunkhouse is a special room that Peace Corps contracts with the Swissrest exclusively for Peace Corps Volunteers who are on business in Accra. It’s a suite-sized hotel room that has 4 bunk beds, a full bathroom, some locker spaces, a small refrigerator, and air conditioning. When the Bunkhouse is full, it’s kinda like summer camp, in that you stay up way too late talking, telling jokes, and laughing.
The next morning, the whole motley crew — Caroline, Chris, Sara, Sasha, Tammi, and myself — got up, went for a delightful and costly breakfast at Melting Moments (this is where the butter and bacon comes in, kids) before heading off to BarCamp Ghana at the Kofi Annan Center for Excellence in ICT. BarCamp is a technology conference, but it’s unlike a traditional conference in that the emphasis is on two-way conversations. There are some panels, and some organization, but the best information I got was from talking with people in the hallways and during the breaks. Ironically, the Peace Corps contingent ended up being the unofficial representatives of rural Ghana; most of the attendees were from Accra or other large urban areas and worked in technology. We kept finding ourselves in the position of saying “Yeah, but 90% of Ghana doesn’t *have* that…”
At the end of the day, we returned to the Swissrest briefly to ditch our laptop bags and other related equipment before heading for the Paloma Hotel. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Paloma is home to Champ’s Bar and Grill, which is possibly one of the only sports bars in Ghana. We came, we talked, we laughed, we dined on such delicacies as nachos (with cheddar cheese and sour cream. That’s right. Dairy products. ), beef medallions, and apple pie (with ice! cream!) before paying the rather large bill and heading back to the Swissrest for one last night in Accra before dispersing back to our various homes.
I did have some excitement of the undesirable kind on Tuesday as I was making my way back to Seikwa. I had stopped in Kumasi Central Market to buy some vegetables that I don’t normally get at home, like green peppers, cucumbers, and carrots, and was making my way to the Sunyani car in Kejetia. As I was going through one of the more narrow passes that surround Kejetia, a perfect storm arose; An NPP campaign car pulled up and inadvertently blocked one of the main exits, a hawker stopped to sell some things off her head in the middle of the path, and a worker with some rather large disting on a hand truck was trying to make his way past the hawker. Being it the day before Christmas Eve, and with people trying to actually get places, a few in the crowded passage began to try and push their way past. People in front of me started pushing; people behind me started pushing; and I began to slip on the rather slick pavement that one finds when garbage and food scraps are thrown on the ground willy-nilly.
As I stood there, trying not to fall to the ground, visions of a rather untimely, sticky, and flat demise began to enter my head, and I could hear a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Dude. Get out of here. Now.” I thus proceeded to make a hasty exit in the opposite direction, which was more open and less crowded. Eventually, I reached open space and stopped to breathe a sigh of relief.
It was at this point that someone tried to abscond with the contents of my right trouser pocket. Feeling rather incredulous and slightly angry, considering what I had just experienced not 5 minutes prior, I grabbed for whomever was digging around in my pocket and began to turn around. The brigand in question cannot have been any older than 10, because he/she/it managed to break free of my grip and beat a hasty retreat into the crowd before I could identify them. Luckily, all I was carrying in that pocket was a pen and a handkerchief, but I was fed-up and frustrated none the less. Having exhausted my tolerance for Kejetia that day, I decided to check out the Metro buses, and after discovering that they were no better, I called my APCD and made an impromptu appearance at the KSO, where I once again reveled in the company of my friend Caroline as she, too, was making her way home.
I then spent most of Christmas Eve day traveling (albeit under much less stressful conditions) and managed to buy some pantry staples and small luxuries for myself before returning home to Seikwa to enjoy the first day of the standfast period. I listened to a Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols live from King’s College, Cambridge, ate a Christmas dinner of cucumber and cheese sandwiches (Trust me. Anything that brings you joy and makes you smile will work as a Christmas dinner. Doesn’t have to be baked ham or eggnog), and drifted happily and exhaustedly off to sleep.
And now here I am. Christmas was delightfully quiet, as was Boxing Day, and now I am lazily puttering about the house, doing chores as I find them and happily enjoying my brief holiday from school. I find it to be proof of my belief that Christmas is too often a baroque, gaudy, glitzy, debt-ridden bacchanal and too rarely a celebration of peace, love, and gratitude for what we hold nearest and dearest in our hearts. For me, it was wonderful to wake up in a quiet house knowing that I had just spent several days with good friends, that my family was happy and in good health, and that I had everything I needed and nothing more.
Alright, that’s it. I have stuff to do and a bike ride to take care of, so that’s all I’m going to write for now. Take care, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Afenhyia paa!