I’ve spent the past 3 or so days in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region, learning about my placement, getting a few things and also getting used to Ghana again. On the one hand it’s a surreal experience, like I never left this place, on the other I’m working through the same challenges as before like culture shock and feeling like everyone is looking at me weird, adapting to a new place and different culture, and of course being around people who have little relative to back home and who may be struggling. What poverty looks like here and a discussion on what it is, will have to wait for a later post after I’ve been here longer than a week.
But today was the day that I left Tamale and heading up north by myself to Navrongo in the Upper East Region, which is where I’ll be calling home for a while. Unfortunately as I write this from a guest house (like a motel) it’s about 930pm and I’m not in Navrongo. Here’s what happened.
The first part of the day was fairly uneventful. I woke up at around 7am, used the washroom and shower, both of which have piped in running water and are similar to one you might find at a campground only instead of tile floors or walls here it’s concrete with a tin roof and wooden door. The shower was cold and refreshing and I was off to meet Dan for ‘egg and bread’.
It rained last night, and has been for the past few days so the non-gravel path and side road are pretty muddy and wet, which the ducks seem to enjoy but I’m not sure how the goats feel about it.
As I got onto the paved road I met with Dan, an EWB staffer and the team leader for our Governance and Rural Infrastructure sector (the one that is not MoFA or Agriculture focused) for breakfast.
We had ‘egg and bread’ which is essentially a meal consisting of 2 fried eggs on a toasted bun with a hot cup of either Lipton Tea or Milo. However, the friendly lady who runs the egg bread stand makes the best egg bread in Tamale – according to Dan – so she includes green peppers, onions, and tomatoes in the fried egg which makes it all the more delicious, and the Milo I had chased it down like a warm hot chocolate on a cold day. It has been cold here, probably in the mid 20’s, which of course is a relative temperature compared to the dry season where its high 30’s early in the morning.
Dan was off to work and I headed back home to pack my things and grab my computer to head off to the internet. Seeing as how I have one large back pack (maybe 60-70litres), a midsized back pack, a computer bag, and a hand bag, I decided to leave my things at the house and return for them later. So off to town I went. It’s about a 10min walk to the main road where I hoped in a shared taxi with other Ghanaians and rode into town (maybe 1-3km) for 40 cents (1 Canadian dollars = 0.75 Ghana Cedis). I decided that I would find the phone company office to get my SIM card activated for my phone. I’m going to be traveling for about a month starting in about 2 weeks so I’m going to need all the different SIM Cards for each phone network in case one is not working I can use a different network. In Ghana there are 4 networks that I know of, and you can buy a SIM card – a chip that fits into the back of your phone – for each and put in whichever at any time, and they are all pay as you go, so all you need to do is buy the credits that are all over the place. Just as you look down the streets in cities one of the most noticeable things I observed is how the phone companies are found everywhere in terms of advertising. Shirts, hats, patio type umbrellas, the majority of little shops painted with the companies colour and name, signs, banners, and I even saw a couple outside walls of a small house on the main road painted with a company colour and logo! Sure, it’s not like Times Square or Tokyo or anything, but the phone companies here are the main advertisers and you can escape their view.
Back to my day, I found that they sell blackberries in Tamale at the Zain (phone co) store and they go for anywhere between 400-800Ghana cedis. I mentioned to the lady how I never they sold blackberries in Ghana and she responded by saying something like “You see, we Ghanaians like expensive things”. Thinking back on it now, I should have shared how Canadians do as well. This lady (whose name I wasn’t given) attending to me knew about EWB! Apparently she went to workshops with Luke Brown who was an EWB volunteer from more than a few years ago; I remember seeing a video of him and Sarah Takaki (for all you old EWB members reading this). Anyways, I found it funny that she knew about EWB and I enjoyed chatting to her about it.
I stopped along the way home and bought some Cipro and Coertem, the first is for bacterial infections (like traveler’s diarrhea) and the second is for treating malaria. So malaria is pretty common in Ghana, at least up here in the north, I don’t know much about the South, but it’s a parasite that can be killed with a few doses of medication which is sold in all the cities pretty much. I’m not exactly sure why it’s such a killer, maybe because the meds aren’t exactly cheap for someone earning a dollar a day (the meds were 15 Ghana cedis), I thin the parasite can spread pretty fast in kids and the elderly causing fatalities within a week of infection (not a statistic, remember I studies anthropology not biology), and I think other factors like access to healthcare, sanitation infrastructure, malnutrition and such add to the problem. But from what I’ve observed malaria is talked about and treated like a common cold, in fact Wayne my boss (EWB supervisor/team lead) caught malaria and was in bed when I left. He took the treatment and should be fine in about 3-4 days, back to work feeling good. So it felt like I was picking up some couch syrup rather than a live saving remedy.
On the taxi ride to the internet café there was some snoop dog playing on the radio, then when I stepped out of the car I saw a little monkey in a harness (like a dog harness) tied to a tree. An interesting pet, but not quite as strange or disturbing as a Chihuahua in expensive clothes eating a $100 meal back home though, just for a comparatively strange pet example. Anyways, I was amazed at how fast the internet was! Like as fast as in Canada! This was a pleasant surprise and relief, especially after all the days where I literally spent hours sending a handful of emails last summer in Navrongo. From what I heard Navrongo has broadband instead of dialup now so we’ll see how that goes.
So far I just wanted to try and describe a few things of what I was up to and a bit of the context here. After I hopped into the taxi on the way to the tro-tro station heading to Navrongo is when things became more interesting.