After some fairly ridiculous travel adventures I am finally in Tamale, the greatest city in Ghana (or so I’ve been told). We arrived in Accra in the evening on Tuesday (May 17) and were greeted by Robin Stratas, the Ghana JF manager, at the airport. She led us to the taxi stand and quickly commandeered a fleet of cars to fit us all. She showed us to our car, handed me some unfamiliar currency, gave the driver our destination, and told us to try not to be afraid. Her warning was welcomed; the speedometer of the taxi was definitely non-functional, but I’m fairly certain that our driver was attempting to beat the current land speed record (while honking his horn at every opportunity).
We arrived at Kokomlemle guest house pretty quickly and hopped out for a quick meeting. The plan: team leaders were responsible for coordinating everyone to be up on time, while other volunteers were responsible for getting breakfast and taxis for all. We were exhausted after two days of travel and so everyone fell asleep pretty quickly. I was worried about waking up early enough (5:30) to get everyone else up, so it was a welcome relief (and a completely new experience) when a real-live rooster crowed the next morning. Too bad it was only one in the morning. That rooster crowed every hour, on the hour, until six. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much.
Everything went smoothly the next morning; we arrived at the STC station at seven to check in for our 8:00 bus to Tamale with egg and bread in hand (Ghanaian breakfast—more on food soon). The bus did not show up at eight, but Robin assured us that departure times in Ghana are of relative importance and reliability and thus that it would be there soon. Seven hours later, the bus pulled into the station, ready to take us north. At some point in that seven hour period, the J in me broke and I burst into random, maniacal (or at least more maniacal than usual) laughter in the middle of the bus station. They told me that Ghana time would destroy my J-ness, but I didn’t think its demise would be so swift.
A 12 hour bus ride quickly (er, slowly, I guess) turned into 20 hours. Overnight. In rural Ghana. I was glad to have the rest of the team there with me. We stopped about a hundred times for food, bathroom, and security breaks. At the first stop, the brother of a young woman tried to get my number for her. “She will text you,” he told me with a grin. Thankfully I didn’t yet have a phone; awkward situation avoided. At about 3:30 we stopped at a market that was turbo bustling. At 3:30! It was kind of crazy when the vendors swarmed the bus and started accepting cash through the open windows. Spencer asked for 1 cedi (Ghanaian currency—more on that later) of mangoes from one of the vendors and was promptly handed a bag of about 20 pieces of fruit. That’s about 0.63 CAD for over a kilo of fruit! We’re livin’ the dream here, I tell ya.
We finally arrived in Tamale at about 7:00 on Thursday (May 19). As we pulled in to the periurban area, I watched the sunrise over the very flat horizon. Despite all of my exhaustion and frustration, it was a beautiful and calming sight that generated a lot of excitement in me; after all, I was finally in the city which I hope to call home. We arrived in the city proper a few minutes later and caught a tro tro (a very crowded bus, often with people/chickens/goats/a combination on the roof) to our destination: a guest house and training centre at the outskirts of the city. We showered, changed and jumped into sessions for the rest of the day. That’s right; after four days of straight travel, we immediately continued with our learning process.
If that experience doesn’t demonstrate the hardcore experience that is EWB, then I don’t know what does.