Alcoholic goats, power cuts, wonky candles and the 8th wonder of the modern world
Not for the first time, I was lured to a woman's house under false pretences! I was expecting a relaxing weekend, of gentle bike riding, mango eating and beer drinking. While all three of these things did happen, I also was put hard at work cooking, carrying food from the market, fixing light bulbs and surviving nightlong blackouts with wonky candles!
Lawra (pronounced Laura) is a small town/village/group of buildings about 100 km west of Tumu. There lives Sarah, a fellow newly arrived volunteer, who as well as having the same job description as me (TSO) is also the only other volunteer who has no one to play within their local village. (Will Buchan and Capt take note of the right use of their!) (I hope!) Because of that and geographically we are virtually neighbours (its only three hours away on treacherous, trench-filled, animal playground, dusty roads/paths/route with least amount of trees and rocks) we decided that to stop ourselves going stir-crazy we would hopefully make regular motorcycle trips to visit each other.
So after being made to walk home with the shopping (eggs don't travel well cross-country in the basket of a bicycle) and put to work being a handyman we took the two bikes out to the local spot for a drink. What I love about Ghana is the randomness of stuff. There we were having a quiet drink and 12 goats just wander into the pub for a quick pick me up. 20 minutes later they stumble out and head home and no one batters and eyelid. We asked one of the local goat-herders how he kept track of his goats and said, "like this," and emitted a bizarre, throaty sound that lead to all the goats in the vicinity that were his to wonder over at a leisurely pace. Apparently there is no need for goats to be kept in pens as no one ever steals them. If one gets lost most of the locals will be able to recognise the goats markings and return it to the owners and all goats will have gone through 'conditioning' so they know how to respond to different sounds. (All animals are trained to an almost sheepdog standard in Ghana).
One of the problems about Ghana is the heat means that alcohol affects you much harder and faster then back in England. So after two drinks and with darkness descending we headed cross-country rather unsteadily to Sarah's house in the burbs. She's situated about a 25 minute walk from the town centre out behind a local boarding school. The disadvantages of being so far out are slightly negated by the fact that she has a few pet goats who love her composting and the town gym is directly outside her kitchen window. From what I gather she has whiled away many an afternoon sneaking peeks at the local shirtless men working on their guns and then bathing themselves from her kitchen window, although there has been less of this recently after being approached in the town by a local telling her she had been 'spotted' checking him out!
The rest of the weekend was taken up with going to our first weekly market (would never have imagined it was so difficult to find change, but every time you buy something you have to wait 10 minutes while the old woman you have bought your goods from wonders around aimlessly looking for someone to change the equivalent of 40 pence so she can give you 4 pence change), Getting an electrician in to fix some flickering lights (He walked through the door, said 'you need to change the lightbulb', everyone looked a bit awkward, Sarah said, 'thanks for coming' and he left about 40 seconds after he arrived. In my defence I had already made the same bold statement 12 hours earlier but apparently, and I have no idea why, my opinion about man tasks was not taken as gospel and Sarah wanted the opinion of a 'proper' electrician), more 'refreshments' in the local spot and then that plan was to go back and celebrate our first semi-successful trip to the market by cooking a full-on Ghanaian meal. Unfortunately a 16 hour power cut put an end to that but on the flipside a box of sangria, groundnut paste (local peanut butter) and jam sandwiches and enough battery on a laptop to watch a film made the whole experience much more pleasant then I had originally anticipated.
While on the way to market on a bicycle, Sarah and I witnessed what can only be described as the 8th Wonder of the modern world. It was so miraculous that I had to confirm that I had just witnessed the event when we were a bit further down the road. Many people in Ghana, instead of using bags, carry their possessions on their head. They start with smaller objects when they are young and build up a remarkable amount of neck strength as they progress into their teens and then adulthood, some of them carrying luggage almost as heavy as they are and end up in need of the help of a few people to get it down. As we cycled we spotted a local Ghanaian with probably 30-40 kgs on their head. This in itself would have been impressive, but combine this delicate balancing act with having a pee was also very impressive. But what I realised as we passed was this Ghanaian was a woman who, I imagine with years of practice, had deftly hitched up her skirt with one hand and having probably walked 5 hours from her local village for market day was peeing exactly like a man. When she was done, she gave a little shake and was on her way. Now I have always believed women when they whine about how lucky men are that they can pee anywhere and it's so tough being a girl and there is never any loo paper etc. Well, no longer will this excuse be valid! Although this mystery girl may have been the exception to the rule I think all you girls out there need to find a quiet patch of grass and have a go peeing standing up, give a little shake when you are done and then carrying on with your daily task. In fact I am going to add it to the homework. Anyone who tries this and has an independent witness to verify it (I would rather you did not send me pictures, not really my thing and would be rather difficult to explain away if anyone ever had a gander at my hard drive!) will get an EXTRA-SPECIAL bonus gift! Good luck!
Right, after that slide deviation let's get back on track. One problem I had not foreseen was that it's so hot in Ghana that the candles melt and end up in bizarre bendy shapes and great fun was had during the power cut trying to come up with inventive ways to;
A) Light them without getting wax everywhere,
B) Not setting the house on fire.
We were only moderately successful with both objectives.
On the Monday I went into the office with Sarah to see where she worked and then headed down to Wa to be 'picked' (Used all the time when talking about getting a lift/riding pillion/anytime you want to say picked up in Ghana) the next morning to get driven to Tumu. So two and a half weeks, a week and a half after almost every other new volunteer in Ghana, I was about to finally head to my new home.......and I could not wait!
Homework: inventive ways to control 'flaccid' candles so they don't burn down living quarters. Pictures will be greatly appreciated! Verification of any woman peeing standing up (bonus points for balancing something on your head!) Pictures will not be so gratefully appreciated!