The Curious Incident of the Dog at 12:09AM


The Curious Incident of the Dog at 12:09AM

I have successfully completed my first day in Ghana. I arrived ahead of schedule and was accosted by friendly taxi drivers, luggage handlers, and one very bad (crotch-scratches and weird laughs gave him away) con-artist who offered his phone for my use to make a call. All of these things were discussed in my travel books, so I expected it. Along with that having traveled to Jamaica on several occasions (and getting scammed by a phone offerer) also prepared me. In fact, Ghana sounds and smells like Jamaica, the real parts of course, not the all-inclusives. Manual cars leaking gasoline, baths that consist of two buckets and a “broken” hot water pipe, and roaming dogs, chickens, and children all remind me of my visits to family. This is not to say that Ghana is disappointing. It has, in fact, exceeded my expectations and blown many of my stereotypes out of the water. The first clue was a neighbor on my last leg who listened to a Bose headset while playing on his iPhone. He wasn’t the only one- at Joburg airport there were several people with MP3 players, and one even had a silver MacBook (jealous!).

I also bought a cell phone. It is quite cute actually. It reminds me of a Nokia brick, except very thin with a yellow stripe outlining it. It’s basic, but way too complicated for me to understand yet. Military time is standard and there is an always changing percent sign on it. Geena, my host mother for the time being, sells phones for a company called MTN and tried to explain it to me. Something about the percent representing a certain discount you get on units used depending on the time of day. I think I will be making calls when it says 99% from now on… not that I am cheap or anything. I need to buy units, which is sold in Cedis and peswas, the national currency. I haven’t gotten a clear answer as to what the current exchange rate is and have consequently been ripped off a bit throughout my journey. Tomorrow the plan is to remedy this and go to a reputable institution to trade my greenbacks in. Well most of them anyway since the easiest way to get anything seems to be flashing a USD.

Tomorrow I am also supposed to be visiting the University of Accra. I am quite excited actually since I considered a semester abroad there. Senam, the internship manager, is going to introduce me to other American students there- I can only assume that he believes this will make me feel better. I will also visit the SOS Children’s Village site in Tema. When I arrived Senam told me that I would have a choice of two programs, the program in Kodzi (pronounced Koji), which is a remote fishing village on the Keta lagoon where I would be teaching women basic skill sets, or volunteering with the SOS Children’s Village. There are 5 Villages, the two newest being in Kumasi and Tamale. There I would be working with orphaned and impoverished children to become productive adults. Both programs are appealing to me for different reasons. The idea of solitude and working directly with Women’s Empowerment draw me to Kodzi, but the culture of Kumasi and being able to improve the lives of children draw me to Kumasi. At the moment I am leaning towards SOS, but I am always hesitant not to see a plan through. I also do not want to disappoint the people in Kodzi. I am to overnight there on Friday and then make my decision.

As for the dog at midnight, I suppose it is something I will have to get used to. During my two hours of sleep I believe I heard a monkey (either that or a strange cricket). After the dog howled it triggered a long retort by another dog, several chickens, and crickets. It is quite again, however, so I should attempt my remaining 5 hours before an early start at 6AM.

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #3: When you meet a Ghanaian and shake hands you should snap your middle finger with his or hers at the end of the hand shake by sliding your palm down and hooking the middle fingers. This symbolizes the bonding of two friends.

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #4: When you enter a home you will be offered water. This is a way of thanking you for making the journey to a person’s home. Even though you may be terrified of contracting some evil disease from the water, YOU SHOULD DRINK IT. Offending your hosts is much worse than an upset stomach in my opinion. In the towns the water is fairly safe. It is very hard, but does not contain bugs (how true this is I do not know- with the exception of that first glass I have been drinking bottled water).

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