I guess I could start by saying that I’m safe and healthy in Accra, Ghana. I’ve almost been here a full week, spending the first few days in a hotel while I looked for an apartment. And happily, I just moved into a one bedroom apartment yesterday morning! I don’t have pictures yet, but it's right by the beach, and modestly furnished—a bed, wardrobe, couch, coffee table, kitchen table, 3 chairs, fridge, hot plate, and small kitchen utensils, including a butcher’s knife that was first used to decapitate a cockroach in my kitchen. And no, I didn't eat it.
But what DO you eat?! That seems to always be the first question. I've been able to sample a few of the traditional dishes so far. First was Kinkey, a large doughy ball of corn paste that is dipped in spicy red-pepper tomato sauce. The Kinkey I had was served with whole fried mini-fish, also meant to be dipped in the spicy sauce. The phrase that comes to my mind when describing what it’s like to eat a whole fish in one bite, is like the sour patch kids commercial, but instead of, first its sour, the its sweet, I’d say, first its chewy (and salty), then it’s crunchy (and salty).
And fishy. Oh so fishy. Mind you, this was at 10 in the morning. One of my co-corkers told me that eating the fish brains improves his own brain. So move over Wheaties, this is the real breakfast of champions.
Another dish I’ve tried is Banku. Very similar to Kinkey, Banku is again a large doughy ball dipped in sauce, but it’s made with ground corn and cassava, making it a little smoother and sweeter. And there's plenty of West-African standard dishes—like rice and beans, rice and chicken, rice and fish, rice and goat, rice and rice…you know. But Ghana’s unique twist on those traditional dishes is in their spicy pepper sauces. Much spicier than a lot of the dishes I had in Niger.
The city itself is huge. Wayyy bigger than I was anticipating. And the most annoying part: NOTHING is walkable. As someone who very much enjoys walking, this is a nuisance because traffic here is unbelievable. Picture the beltway during rush hour, with only one lane open…and sheep running across said lane. Luckily, my commute is opposite of most people’s, as I live close to downtown Accra, in a neighborhood called South Labadi, and my office is East up the coast away from Accra in a neighborhood called Teshie. But trying to get to meetings downtown or to project sites has been a nightmare.
Speaking of nightmares, I had a friend suggest that I keep this blog as a dream diary—since the main side effect of the antimalarial I’m taking (mefloquine, as listed in my blog’s title), is intensely vivid dreams, which for me usually manifests itself as me “waking up” from a dream, but having another dream, and not be able to determine whether I’m really awake or not. But I have heard stories of people having severely violent or psychotic dreams while on this drug. Fortunately that’s not the case for me.
But anyway, dream tangent aside, because I can’t walk anywhere, I use the public transportation system, which is actually really fun. When going to work for example, I take a commuter “bus,” which is actually an old five-row construction van (very similar to bush taxis in Niger) called a tro-tro. There are several different tro-tros, each going to a different final destination. Every tro-tro driver has a helper, who collects money and yells out the final destination. There are also different hand gestures that represent each destination, since streets are often pretty loud. After getting off the tro-tro in Teshie, I then take what’s called a “last stop” taxi. This means that it’s a flat rate taxi that always runs the same route and drops passengers at different points along the way.
I’m finding that it’s much harder to go exploring when you’re by yourself, especially being a girl. So far I’ve been controlling my stubborn tendencies to go out on my own (you’re welcome, Dad), but it certainly makes learning where everything is a little slower. My coworkers have been very helpful in this regard. They’ve been really willing to show me where things are and take me places, and the first few days, my coworkers took turns babysitting me to and from the office (in the tro-tros and taxis), just to make sure I wouldn’t get lost.
The job itself is awesome, and they’ve had lots for me to do right away, which has made it much easier to get in the swing of things. First on the agenda: The organization I’m working with is trying to expand their programs North of Accra, into the Volta region of Ghana. Next week, I’m going on a trip to Volta to help finish the hiring process for eight new peer educators, and one outreach coordinator, and then help run the three day training workshop for those hired. This week, I’ve mostly been working with the Strategic Information Officer to revise the peer education training materials, and put together the program.
Other fun things about Ghana:
The word for white person is “obrueni,” which kind of sounds like jebroni, so it always makes me laugh.
There is a very heavy Christian influence, not only in the population but in the way stores and things are named too. My favorites thus far, are the “God is my provider Sewing Center,” the “By His Grace Plumbing Company,” and the “God is King Chop Bar.” (Chop bar is local slang for restaurant).
The beach. I love being a 2min walk from the beach. (Take THAT, Becky)
Alrighty, I think that’s sufficient for a first post. Lots of love to everyone from Ghana!
(Also, sorry the picture qualities are not so great. I've been using my ipod to take photos since it's so much easier to carry than my camera. But I'll take some real pictures soon)