“OH MY GOD WHERE IS THE TOILET PAPER?!”

Today has been the most eventful day so far on my trip. For most of it, I have felt defeated and at a loss for words. It all started at 5:30am when my alarm went off way too early. Even though I go to bed before ten every night, I still have the hardest time staying awake during the days. I think the sun drains my body quickly. Anyway, I did my routine- bottled water toothbrushing, sunscreen and bug spray application, etc. and went into Senam’s living room at exactly 6am when Evans was to arrive. He was late- by 1.25 hours. Senam and I talked about how ridiculous cricket is while we waited for his phone call. We picked him up in the middle of a roundabout and went to the “bus” station. There, Evans negotiated transport for us to Anloga, a town near Kodzi, and we started on our journey. Three times along the way we were stopped by police to check if the tro-tro’s (think van sized rickshaw) papers were good, and eventually we reached Anloga.

Several eventful things occurred on the two hour journey. First, I considered the fact that it cost 5 Cedis (roughly $3.50) to travel about 300km. Second, I realized that the further away from Accra we got, the smaller and more run down the villages became. And third, the start of this strange and horrible day was a 2.5 inch cockroach that though it fit to climb onto the head of the lady in front of me on the bus. She of course flicked it behind her and onto me, and I narrowly dodged it. I didn’t have to worry about seeming too American, however, because everyone was freaked out about the cockroach. They have the same fear and loathing as we do.

Upon our arrival at Anloga I considered the fact that the town was uncomfortably small and that Kodzi, based on my observations, would be even smaller. We spent the late morning and early afternoon there visiting Evans family. They were very nice, except would not speak in English (perhaps they couldn’t) so I sat looking around the outside area while they talked. Eventually we took a trip to Keta to open a bank account for Evans’ younger sister. It did not work because she did not have a photo ID, but I did get to see a little person (It was intensely surreal). This lead us back to Anloga where we took a shared taxi to Kome, the cluster of villages that Kodzi sits within. During the ride, the already broken taxi lost a two side panels- I should count myself lucky that my luggage didn’t drop through the bottom of the trunk. We first passed Atitcha, which contained a school and many homes. Then through Deta which flew by in a wink. Finally we got to Kodzi. The town was comprised of a salon, a school, and many houses. My accommodations at the school were lovely- I had a private room with screens and fan, and there was a bathroom and shower for the staff. The headmaster welcomed me warmly and brought me to his office. At this point I was thinking how miserable I was going to be for the next three months, but also how it could be worse. Then he told me that I would be teaching computer literacy classes.

This sealed the deal for me. I decided that I would be more comfortable with the SOS Children’s Village and get more from the experience than I would in Kodzi. But I went on in silence. After school let out (he kept the children late so they could meet me, then scolded them with the promise of punishment on Monday after they did not welcome me properly) we went for a tour of the village. I met several people, none of whom spoke more English than to say “Good evening,” and I met the village chief who did not even greet me. I felt very unwelcome in the community, and began to dread spending the night. Interestingly a previous volunteer spent six months and then one year there teaching. She was from Australia and the people loved her. When we finished, the headmaster, Evans, and myself sat in front of the school and talked about soccer. This is when I told them of my decision to be at SOS. The headmaster was noticeably upset, which I expected. I explained that it wasn’t the village that I did not like but that the opportunity at SOS was better for me. I also promised to return some weekends to attempt the women’s development program. I am not sure how well that will go though.

This led to the most upsetting moment, possibly in my whole life. To put it in the most polite words I can I decided to use the bathroom to relieve myself and was pleasantly surprised to find a flushing toilet and soap at the sink waiting for me. After (for the first time since arriving) relieving myself I instinctively reached for the toilet paper and found NONE! I remembered reading that they use newspaper but found NONE! Then I remembered how my mom insisted that I bring two packs of baby wipes and reached for my purse… which was not with me. And so, after cursing many many bad words in my head I did something that I hope I forget quickly. Thank God there was soap.

Currently I am sitting in the living room of Evans’ father. It is feet from the lagoon and has a cool breeze floating through it. I showered with hundreds of flies (another experience I would like to forget), and am currently proud that I had the balls to do what was best for me. Three months without toilet paper and not receptive people would have been very hard for me. I am excited to begin my work at SOS. It looks to be a very fulfilling experience. I am already thinking of creative ways to use it to my advantage when applying to grad programs.

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #8: CARRY TOILET PAPER LIKE PRODUCTS WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES.

Practical Ghanaian Travel Tip #9: Cab drivers will most likely try to rip you off. It is acceptable to negotiate with them a better price. Even though I was with a born and bred Ghanaian, we got charged $6 when the cost should have been $4.50.

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One Response to ““OH MY GOD WHERE IS THE TOILET PAPER?!””

  1. Chelsey Says:

    Major props to you girlie on the TP situation.

    I also think you made the right decision going with SOS vs the woman’s program. I mean, I dont know much about the whole situation, but I know I would feel better teaching children vs women. Normally I would prefer the women, but they were raised differently and in a completely different culture. First off, its strange to be taught by someone younger than you (I am guessing “women” would be your age and older?). And then there is your automatic discomfort with the village. I am sure you would have gotten used to it, but its normally best to go with your first instincts. Plus, you would always be compared to the first woman that was there. I think if you enjoy the SOS then perhaps you can go back and do good here too, but either way, not to worry. =)

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