“Smoke and dust in your eyes”

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By Valerie King

We do not have any clinics planned today.  We are going to make our first visit to the Christian Children’s Home in Hohoe. This is a very well run orphanage we visited last year and I am excited to return.  We have to rent a tro- tro to get us there.  The cost is 10 cedis per student (under $10).  We will be using that transportation to go to the Wli Water Falls also.  

A tro-tro is a larger passenger van that accommodates anywhere from 12-16 passengers legally but there are many instances where there are many more people jammed into these vehicles.  Occasionally you can see a goat tied to the top of the vehicle along with multiple boxes and parcels that the passengers are carrying.  Some of the larger transport vehicles will have 10-15 feet high of parcels and boxes.  It seems top- heavy to me and that it would not take much to topple the vehicle over.  The condition of the Tro Tros can vary from bad to very bad to very, very bad.   Usually they are very dirty with ripped or taped seating and dirty and slightly rust interiors.  We are all very glad that our tetanus is up to date.  Because of my motion sickness I am usually sitting beside the driver on the raised seat in the middle.  That is an advantage in that I can see out the front window.  It is a disadvantage because my bottom is sitting directly above the engine and it is literally the “hot seat”.  Seatbelts do not seem apparent except for the driver.  It is a manual transmission so I must move my leg whenever he has to shift the tro-tro.  It is very loud due to engine noise and all the windows are open.  There is no air conditioning and the open windows let in all the dust from the roads.  I am struck again by the air quality.  It is now the beginning of “burning season” and the farmers have begun to burn their fields in preparation for the next growing season.  The cars and other vehicles would never pass any emission test in the US.  They are frequently seen with a trail of black exhaust.  I do not know the incidence of respiratory diseases here in Ghana but I am sure it must be an emerging problem.

We arrive at the Children’s Home and are again greeted by a throng of happy children.  They sign some songs for us and I have captured some of video and will try to post on this BLOG.  They are all extremely affectionate and run over to hug me and the girls and grab our hands.  One little boy, Francis offers to carry my bag.  I am a bit leery but then I am reassured when he carries my bag but also does not let go of my hand.  We are buddies for the morning.  He gleefully shows me his schoolroom and dormitory.  The conditions are very spartan but there is an attempt at cleanliness and orderliness that I did not witness at other orphanages. I hug the twins that I met last year and I am told that they are being adopted and will move to a family in Texas.  There are about 40 children and 15 of them are awaiting adoption.  My heart wants to take them all home with me but I know that is not realistic.  I do want to contribute to their welfare and will use some of the money that has been donated to me by my church for this very worthy orphanage.  Today is a preliminary meeting for the children and the UML students.  We will return next week with some of our supplies (toys, clothes, medicine) and also will conduct a dental health teaching clinic.  We have received many donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste and one of my Community Project groups will be doing 2 dental health clinics at this and the orphanage in Peki.   It is time to leave these children but we have left them some coloring books and crayons and we will return.

                We have negotiated for a lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Everything here is about negotiation.  I have agreed to a certain price for our plates of food and we are served the food which is jolloff rice (spicy red rice) and chicken and vegetables. It is a clean restaurant and all is going well until the proprietor comes with the bill.  She has increased the price per plate, AFTER WE HAVE EATEN ALL THE FOOD, and now expects us to pay the increased fee.  I am livid and I tell her that is unacceptable and that we had negotiated the price prior with her? husband or father.  She states he did that without consulting her and he did not know the prices.   Part of me wants to just lay down the agreed amount and walk away but I am hesitant to offend this establishment as they are somehow connected to one of our escorts and he has been very kind to us.  It makes me angry and resentful of some of the Ghanaian people who assume that Americans are all wealthy and we can afford this price gouging.  I again express my displeasure and state for all to hear that I am very unhappy with this treatment and it makes me want to take my volunteers (and our donation of time and supplies) to a place that we will not be gouged.  Our escorts are somewhat embarrassed that we are treated like this but let me take the lead.  My vow is to be much more aggressive with any expenditures of money.  This is not the first instance of the “price changing” that has happened.  I realize that these people are only trying to survive but the whole premise of gouging has me angry and hurt.

                We return to our tro-tro for a 30 minute drive to the Wli waterfalls.  We are told that it is a very busy day here due to the holiday (January 2).  I am not sure what holiday that is but the prediction is correct.  We trek 45 minutes into the deeply wooded terrain and come upon the Wli waterfalls. They are magnificent and only pictures can describe.  I will try to post some pictures.  What amazes me on this trip is that there must be at least 300-400 people there. Mostly young men and women are in various stages of inebriation and celebration. There is much drumming, singing and dancing.  We are the only white people there.  We attract some attention but not as much as I would have thought.  The air is charged with all this energy and I am slightly uncomfortable and feel the need to watch the UML students and our belongings very carefully.  Most of the girls decide to go in for a quick dip under the cold waterfalls.  They do attract some attention as they walk to the water in their bathing suits and I feel tense as I watch for any signs of inappropriate contact.  They are accompanied by Kwadwo and Mawuli and I think that helps.  After they return to our little pile of clothes and bags they are now approached by some of the Ghanaian men for their contact information.  I ramp up to “mother –mode” and gather them close and tell the med that they cannot share the information.   He is not buying that.  I then tell him that I am their teacher and if they give out any information they will flunk out of school.  That carries a bit more weight and the men eventually leave.  We decide to leave and I am a bit relieved.  It has been a fun trip to the waterfalls but last year was more relaxing for me.

                It is starting to get dark as we leave and we have a long journey back home.  The road conditions alternate between smooth pavement and deeply rutted dirt roads.  We are jostled in the tro tro and try to rest a bit but it is difficult. On the way we drive through many villages with young people gathering for today’s holiday.  It is busy and loud and the tro tro must move slowly through the crowd but then our driver speeds up on the smooth roads so it is a very chaotic drive home. 

                We arrive back at our guest house find out that there is some type of event happening in our courtyard.  There are chairs and later on it becomes a very loud ceremony/gathering of some sort.  The PA system they use is scratchy and I cannot understand what they are saying although I believe it is in English.  There is loud music.  Now I hear a competing sound, on another scratchy PA system.  It is hard to tell where it is coming from and I don’t really want to leave my room to explore.   Unbeknownst to me it is beginning of a very long and loud gathering that will go on ALL NIGHT LONG.  There is drumming and a repetitive chanting and ? singing that is not melodic to my ears.  At midnight I hope it will end, it does not.  At 3 am I hope it will end, it does not.  At 6 am I hope it will end, it does not. Finally the roosters start crowing around 6:30 and the music seems to end but then the village awakens, the son is in my eyes and there is not much sleep to be had.  We had hoped for a good rest last night but we did not get it.  It is now January 3.  We have been here for less than a week and so much has happened.  We have 2+ weeks left and many more activities.

 

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This page contains a single entry by Keough, Elaine published on January 2, 2010 4:32 PM.

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