Our first task in Tamale was to pair up with someone of the opposite gender (why? A culture post with that answer is coming soon) for a scavenger hunt in the market. We were instructed to pick up:
1. A phone and two SIM cards (the networks are patchy sometimes)
2. Cloth for either a shirt or dress
3. Fanmilk (an explanation follows)
4. Directions to BIL laboratories for malaria and other tests
5. Lonart malaria treatment pills
6. A wireless internet modem
8. Other things that I can’t remember
It seemed easy enough, but Alex and I were sceptical about the so-called fanmilk after hearing JF horror stories about weird scavenger hunt items. We figured we’d grab it last, if there was time after all the essential items had been purchased.
The market was, in a word, overwhelming. It was very crowded, with stalls enclosing narrow walkways that were full of people buying and selling vegetables, fruit, cloths, meat, flours, clothing, shoes, and a host of other items. The meat was particularly overwhelming because the scent was very strong and it was definitely a new experience for me to see a cow’s head placed somewhat cavalierly on a table for purchase. In general, the scents and sights were awesome.
The cell phone was the easiest item to find. You can purchase cell phones from every second vendor on the street here in Tamale. I got a sweet knock-off Nokia for a very low price that holds both my SIM cards AND has a flashlight. It’s pretty sick. While we were buying credit for our new phones, we ran into another group and decided to try and find BIL together, so we asked the credit vendor in our best (but still awful) Ghanaian accents where we should be headed. Her brother jumped forth and offered to take us there.
Latif Adam is a 17-year old student at secondary school (SS) in Tamale. He speaks the local language of Dagbani, enjoys football, rides a sweet motorcycle (moto), and won’t stop calling me! Ghanaians are known for their friendly and welcoming demeanour and Latif was a perfect example of that. He showed us where to get everything on our list, and even bartered for us when he knew we’d get ripped off. I thought it would be a good idea to get his number, since I’ll be living in Tamale this summer and I can always use a friend in the area. It became immediately clear, though, that he was calling me with ulterior motives: after inquiring about my state of being, he always asks for my “sisters’” phone numbers! (My sisters being the two female JFs with which I spent time at the market). What a cheeky guy.
Latif wasn’t the only friendly one. Practically every shop we went to welcomed us generously, offered up a seat, or even offered to stay open longer for us. I’ve learned already that such warm gestures are the Ghanaian way. Of course, not all Ghanaians are super nice; we did get called souleminga (a general negative term for foreigners) a few times in the thick of the market. We were told during pre-dep that if we act like we fit in, we will. I’m fairly certain that on that first day in the market, our nervousness was generally apparent, and that’s what elicited the jeers. I can’t wait for the day that I feel completely comfortable making purchases and communicating with the vendors in the market.
At the end of the long, hot afternoon, Alex and I found a fanmilk vendor on the street. We each paid him 60 pesewas (100 pesewas = 1 Ghana cedi) and he reached into the white cooler attached to the front of his bike. The anticipation was actually pretty high for me, because I was expecting a very strange item to be pulled out. Instead, the vendor passed us two sachets of ice cream! It was an excellent way to cool off as we headed back to the training centre after a long, hot afternoon.