Wow. I have made it! Past the madness that carried me here, over the terrifying threshold of mastering the moto, through the weeks of cultural confusion and fuzzy heat-induced light-headedness, and beyond the 'What am I doing? Why on earth am I here?' bouts of confusion, I can happily say I am well and truly settled in. Hurrah!
So I am celebrating....
By cleaning! Now, this is not how I planned to spend my Saturday...but when I got up this morning something somehow overcame me, and the next thing you know I was climbing on top of cupboards, sweeping away the cobwebs, puffing clouds of red harmattan dust over the whole house in my frenzy, turning over chairs and emptying the wardrobes...anyone would think I had something to get out of my system. I think more likely it's the lack of running, dance swimming and general physical activity, I think the yoga is simply not cutting it to be honest. Bring on the BIG CLEAN!
Lucky for me a few of the local kids turned up, and insisted on helping...(not that I'm into supporting child labour, you just have to trust me that here this kind of thing is perfectly normal, it's one of those things that's too hard to explain!). So eventually we had a right team effort going on in the house, we were shifting beds, mopping floors, sorting through all the random junk left behind by years of volunteers, freaking out the geckos who were watching us in bewilderment - and before you know it the place was spik and span!
It was all this cleaning that got me somehow thinking about all the things that I have got used to here, and I came up with a list of things that I never expected I would say...
You know you're settling in when:
Your dreams involve lots of people babbling away in local Ghanaian languages!! I'm not sure I am speaking any Kusaal in these dreams, but hearing others speak it is really bizarre. The first time it happened I woke up thinking a whole bunch of old men were standing right outside my window having a real barney about something...but when i got up to check the only things there were the donkeys. Since then it's happened quite a lot and it's kind of strange - I've never dreamed in another language before!
The children welcome come bounding over from all over the place yipping, whooping, clapping, singing, cheering and hollering (and I am not exaggerating), just to welcome you home at the end of a long day. It's so sweet and lovely. And I'm sure it's because they are simply happy to see me. Not because the louder they shout teh more biscuits I give them, honest.
The strange noises in the night stop freaking you out and become comforting signs of normality. The donkeys have random bouts of ee-aww-ing that sound like someone desperately trying to put up an air bed with a dodgy exasperated and broken pump, people walk past really slowly so there is a spooky crunch...crunch..crunch in the sand outside the window, the little children giggles as they climb up the window frames, and the goats get quite randy and chase each other around the house...but all of this now actually makes me feel at home. Bizarre.
You can hold a 5 minute conversation in the local language- and be understood! I can now go through the whole how are you, how's your mother / father / wife / husband / house / children/ work scenario in less than two minutes. Hurrah!!! I'm still answering the question 'how are your children?' with 'they are fine!' as that's the only response I know...but there is time.
You become a dab-hand at fly swatting. My stealthy swift moves would rival any decent karate pro. (Except for maybe my nephew who I'm not prepared to compare myself to seeing as at age 5 he is already collecting trophies, don't want him challenging me to a fight when I get home!).
The utterly absurd begins to become normal...Being offered donkey meat, taking hot showers to cool down, eating slimy okra stew, wearing shirt + trousers + shoes in 45 degree heat, getting a lift round the corner to work in a donkey cart... enough said.
You stop counting the days, weeks, months that are left, and instead start wondering where on earth time has gone!
It feels completely normal to eat T.Z. (local staple) and gooey Okro Stew at 10.30 in the morning in the name of relationship building with the manager.
You can blurt out prayers on tap (pre-meeting, post-meeting, pre-trip, post-trip you name it I can do it!)
You no longer get cheers when riding down the street on your moto, as you no longer wobble like an amateur, but whizz through the town like a pro!
You become completely comfortable with the changing landscape of life as a volunteer, and accept that the learning curve is far steeper than you could have imagined
You adopt a pet puppy / kitten or at least start talking to the goats... I'm not quite at the puppy / kitten stage yet, but a few of my friends are so it had to go on the list J.
So, to continue my celebrations, it was with enthusiasm that, at the end of the day today, I accepted my best party invitation yet...two little boys enthusiastically playing the drums on an old tin pan and some corrugated metal. They are the little boys of the family that I pass everyday on my way to work, and they were clearly in the mood for a Saturday evening boogie! There they were playing their makeshift drums, dancing on the mat outside their house, the littlest boy was singing into his bright green microphone, extension cord lead dangling around his neck like he was a hip rock star. They saw me coming a mile off. It was a great twenty-minute mini-party, and the perfect way to celebrate my three months anniversary J.
With love from Ghana,