HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope you all had a good one. I spent new years' firstly in the church and then in the local bar. Spirits were high and there was a buzz in the air. I found myself looking around and thinking how surreal it was that I was here, in Ghana-outside a hut for a bar, surrounded by houses and washing lines, making shadows on the wall behind the bar with our hands, watching with bemusement at this guy carrying a table with his teeth and another guy blowing fire, his mouth smelling strongly of petrol when he came to speak to us afterwards. The countdown was a perfect representation of Ghanaian time-it was 3 minutes late!! The barman, who was also the DJ left the computer and therefore the time on the screen to get some of us drinks, so we missed it! But at 12.03 we all stood in a circle and counted down to the new year, laughing at the fact it was late and the fact we were spending this moment with people who were strangers a month ago in a totally new continent. When we got back to our house, Josh made us the most amazing scrambled egg butties cooked with garlic and onion over a pot that Peace lent us. I went to bed full of happiness…and eggs.
So, yeah we've been here a month now and admittedly that's enough time to really feel the ups and downs and the times when time has draaaggggged. In these times, you feel about a 9 on the blagged scale ;) the washing line is full; there's a que for the bucket bath, there's nowhere soft to sit, you're feet are constantly grubby and you're constantly scratching you're mozzy bites. Sometimes I catch myself missing home food and tea-leaf tea, marmite, cheese, salad, chippy teas, vinegar, bread that isn't sweet….then I obviously miss my family and friends and the familiarity of home. BUT, apart from that I AM loving it here. It's only natural to have times of frustration etc. The main thing that drags people down in the group is how slow some days seem to go. But after speaking to Ebenezer about this, he encouraged us to go to the village and get more involved in local life. But it does feel strangely daunting walking down to the village, alone with no purpose apart from exploring and chatting to the locals. I'm used to having a reason for everything. It feels so intrusive simply walking into someone's garden where they're washing, cooking, eating like "cooo-eeee", ducking your head under their washing line and inviting yourself into their space. It's challenging because it goes against all I've become used to in the UK-don't speak to strangers. Respect personal space etc etc. But anyway, I'm not in the UK, I'm in Ghana, and everyone is so much more welcoming here. When you do pluck up the courage to visit people, they instantly stand up and go and get you chair, sit you down and don't questioning what you're doing there. I've chatted to the headteacher, watched local women sew, helped shell corn with local kids, had a go at pounding palm nuts that makes palm oil, paid Ese to make me a dress for me that I wore on New Years, went farming and cut down corn and peeled the leaves off.
I've been to help Aunty Peace, Ester and Vivian cook a few times to learn some recipes to cook back home. I love those women! They crack me up and have such warmth and spirit about them. Peace laughs at everything. When her friend came to visit and show her her new baby, she let me hold her. She was so tiny and delicate and Peace laughed at how carefully I held her. "She's also Ama", Peace said smiling "born on the same day as you". Once she was back in Vivian's arms and I was chopping the veg, this guy randomly proposed to me-which is a common thing to happen here apparently!-and I looked up and said "I'm a little busy right now"….All the women started howling and Peace smacked me on my back affectionately saying "ahhhh…Ama Hannah"….
The village reminds me of what Grandma Joan told me abut Austwick, the little village where she grew up-living can be hard, but you live together. I was talking to a guy in the village who has a strange combination of a Ghanian and American accent. He moved to America as a young adult. He was talking about how in cultures based on material things everyone are individuals-less aware of how we all depend on one another. You get up. Get into your car. Go to your office. If you want to contact someone in the same room as you, you can email them. You can survive, get by, in theory, alone. Here, it's different. There's a real sense of community-of interdependency. It's more equal somehow. Everyone gives one another support-it's vital, he said. Everyone needs one another and there's a sense of loyalty there. And on top of that, the community is extremely welcoming and willing to share their way of life with us! I guess the obvious thing I've learn is that sometimes the less you have, the more you value and the more you share.
The village at night is another world. Walking down alone is scary-what with the darkness combined with the fear of being bitten by snakes and the silhouettes of men carrying machetes-even though you know they're simply on the way back from the farm. Once in the village, it's easy to get lost amongst the shadows in the night and the buzz in the air. It feels surreal and as cheesy as it sounds, magical. The little pockets of light coming through people's windows; the glow of the fires with pots on and conversation around it. The smell of smoke in the air seems stronger at night. People cooking, grinding corn, talking….it felt surreal to be amongst it all.
Christmas felt like any other day here. I peeled back my mozzy net, brushed my teeth in the courtyard and inspected how many insect bites I had before heading for breakfast and getting into the chain/production line of passing water down from the boarhole to the nursery to water the plants. The presents I got from home were ace and left me with a big smile on my face…they were simple, yet sweet and reminded me of how much they know me. The black pepper is coming to great use!! ;) It was a really good day, and whilst it didn't "feel like Christmas", I found myself happily dancing to collect water singing Kings of Leon "Bucket" to myself, swinging my blue bucket as I walked.
I'm still mega enjoying my time here….looking forward to teaching (meet the teachers on the 12th when school re-starts), plan to go up the mountain again (been up 4 times so far, but plan to go up 10 times before I leave!-the feeling at the top is pretty unbeatable) I hope you are all well and happy, and don't have tooo much of a hannahshapedhole in your hearts ;) I'll write again soon…… Oooooo as if I nearly forgot, I tried cocoa yesterday and it has the most amazing flavour ever! You crack it open and you suck the seeds (you don't bite them-I tried that and it's all purple inside) but the goo on the outside has a sweet and very distinctive flavour like nothing ive ever tasted before…so yeah, I wanted to quickly add that before I hop back on the trotro back to the village….bye xxx