ARE YOU PACKED? YOU TOOK YOUR SHOTS? LET’S GO GHANA! AND THE BEST PART IS… YOU DO NOT NEED TO GET A PASSPORT!
Coming to Ghana Day 2 – Long Journey to Volta Region
I went downstairs to get my breakfast and the lovely young man, Hubert, that checked us in last night was still there bright eyed. I asked him where breakfast was held. I walked in to the recreation hall and saw two young women enjoying each other’s riveting exchange of Twi. Across from them was a older white thin man dressed in all white linen suit hitting his table out of frustration with his laptop and the very slow wifi.
I sat by myself and ordered tea. A mature Ghanaian woman came in and said hello to me and she sat down on my table, I no longer felt like the new kid in a high school cafeteria. Her name was Ellen and she told me her story of going to London at 56 years old and training as a nurse then her children soon followed suit and now they all live in London. She was retired and came to Accra to visit her family. When our breakfast came, we both fell silent as we were both very hungry. After demolishing my plate, I said my good byes and headed back to my room to tidy up before retrieving my laptop and returning to the hall to make contact with my friends and family for the first time.
As I was wrapping up another writing session, Hubert from reception came over and sat beside me and said he was going and he wanted me to stay in contact when I get back to Accra. He handed me his card with his name and number. I blushed and graciously accepted it.
After Alfred (the host) and I checked out of the hotel. Alfred left me to buy the medical supplies and malaria kit for the medical outreach for the weekend. Ellen came into the lounging area where I was to checked up on me. We said our goodbyes on Alfred’s return and hopped into the taxi heading to get our bus to Volta region.
When we got to the minibus station , there were children, men and women carrying items for sale on their heads in large silver bowls, trays, small glass cases and bowls. There were many mini buses parked in the most efficient ways without much of a known system and other minibuses where being guided out. There were market stalls along the sides, selling everything from toothpastes and food to watches and books. It was exciting and filled with so much entrepreneurial spirit. Poor Alfred dragged my ridiculously heavy suitcase to our minibus. We got on and other passengers soon poured unto the bus. The sellers came up to passengers and tried to sell, sell, sell. I found their techniques quite amusing.
As the driver and his colleagues were checking all our tickets, there was this wondering preacher who came to give us the good news. He preached loudly, fearlessly and with urgency. Everyone seemed not phased but I was intrigued by his passion. After the bus reached maximum capacity, the young driver got behind the wheel and his colleagues started shouting and directing him out onto the roads.
The driver played reggae music setting the mood of the bus. Some of the passengers were singing along to Bob Marley and others giving each other banter and jokes. The scenery of the city life was filled with modern and government buildings, colourful hotels and apartments. The school children were leaving their schools and enjoying their freedom. The various school uniforms were all kinds of shades of oranges, yellows, reds, browns and blues. It reminded me of my early school days in Guyana. There were homeless men sleeping under trees and busy workers leaving their work places and shopping. Along the streets there were endless stalls selling tuba wear, fruits and vegetables, clothes, snacks, slippers, and other household goods. Whenever we stopped on a busy road, the sellers, mainly young women, walked into the roads and sold to anyone in cars, buses, trucks, and on motorbikes.
When we left the city there was a clear difference. The first town for me to see was Tema, the outskirt was greatly under developed. There were shanty towns made out of mental sheets, wood and earth. Children were playing at the sides of the road while families were selling fruits and vegetables. As we passed through, lots of construction sites were becoming evident. There seems to be a lot of small businesses and stalls (mainly converted eye catching painted shipping containers) for car repairs, parts and accessories; as well as, shops and yards selling all things construction from massive water tanks to concrete blocks. I wondered if this was a more of an industrial town.
We passed through so many other towns which felt like they which started blurring into each other. Regions were separated by toll booths. The further away we went, the more dense the greenery was and more traditional the housing became, made out of the earth and coconut tree leaves thatched together to make the roofs. One thing I saw over and over again was young boys and men playing football. There was an abundance of chickens and goats along the roads. As well as spotting a grey monkey running the opposite direction of oncoming traffic.
We travelled for miles which felt like forever before having a pit stop. I was relieved to stretch my legs and run to the toilet. I soon learnt what I thought was a toilet was very much different! As I got to the tiny outhouse labelled ‘women’, I soon realised it was a small toilet seat without flush. When I peered through the toilet, I saw a hole and cesspit. I quickly unravelled my jeans and knickers, squatted down and went for it.
As we arrived to Volta, it was just so beautiful with the mountains faintly appearing through in the background, the tall thick green foliages, and huge jungle like hills in the foreground. We disembarked at a market spot and walked over to the taxi rank. Behind me I heard women that were selling with the silver bowls on their heads jeer “Jamaica” then again at the taxi rank. Alfred said they think I am a Rastafarian because of my hair was wrapped up high. I laughed and enjoyed their welcome.
The taxi took us to Gyamini Township where I am staying for the next two weeks. There were countless children selling, playing and walking around. There was colourful small concrete homes, one catholic school, a church, shops and dirt roads. We pulled up to our place. I was introduced to my room mate and fellow volunteer, Marie from Germany, a young French and German student teacher. We got to talking and quickly got acquainted.
Our room is basic and sits in the middle of a row of 4 square dormatry rooms. The walls and floor were concrete, supported by modest wooden beams and a tin sheet roof. The floor had wooden flooring facade lino and two mattress with mosquito nets fasten to the lower wooden beams making a L shape. We have two windows opposite each other to give a flow of cool air. There is a small front porch to socialise outside. Alfred and Shalom (founders) lived on the left of us and a teacher at the right of us. The view behind the shower and outdoor toilet is the wide Volta River with the fishing boats passing by and in-front of us is the majestic very big hill covered with tropical trees and around us are trees and foliage.
Shalom and Alfred explained to me this is a small fishing town and they have there own language plus Twi and not everyone speaks English. And the reason for so many children is that the
parents have as many as they can to help with their fishing livelihoods; therefore, traditionally education is not the primary focus here for children. He also elaborated to say that children work for their own money or go an get training in the fishing boats so a lot of children themselves do not value education but make money to provide like their parents. I asked about receiving help from the government or enforcing legislation for these kids outside the city to go to school and stay in school. He replied that there is no help from the government to ensure a good standard of education, funding for educational institutions for those in villages as all the attention is in the City. I felt Alfred’s frustration because he a local in he region knew the importance for these children to have an education so they can dreams and achieve bigger things outside the fishing town. I guess that is why he called the charity “Dream Child Foundation”.
As I settled down with Marie, Alfred came in and announced that he was taking us out for some night life. We got changed and was met by three young men on motorbikes who were our taxis. With the wind through my braids and the bright stars before us, I was filled with adventure and thrills. I had my arms around the driver who laughed every time I clutched him tighter around his waist when he swerve around pot holes or sped over the little humps on the dirt roads. We passed bustling streets with people up, some getting ready for work the next day, others playing music with their friends chatting, and others just people watching. The motorbikes dropped us off outside an unassuming public house. We went in and was met by a friendly waitress that served us ice cold drinks.
It felt the first normal thing I have done since landing. A nice cold drink on a warm night, sat around a table with the founders and Marie. We made small talk and shared some stories about our life before catching the motorbikes home.
I was met by a two brown spiders by my bed so I quickly crawled under my net and settled in facing away from my little eight legged friends. I watched a few old episodes of Family Guy until I drifted off hoping to meet the children in the morning with great excitement.
Stay tuned for day 3 when I start my first day at school teaching.
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