Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Random Thoughts

with 6 comments

June 2010:

  • there is a little “chop bar”  (eatery) within a five minute walk of work;  Jessica serves up a lovely lunch, which is eaten in a shelter with a rickety old bench.  It is the custom to wash your hands before eating, as many meals here are traditionally eaten with your hands.  Even though she kindly gives us a fork to eat with, we still do wash before indulging.  We get a plate full of food;  cooked beans (a local dish called “wache” – waaa chay); a few fried yams, some spaghetti and some tomato sauce.  very nice!  Jessica knows we are vegetarian, so she kindly separates out a small portion of her tomato sauce for us;  otherwise she would place chunks of meat in it.  All this for 1 Ghana cedi – about 80 Aussie cents.  We just need to make sure we get there “early” (ie: before 12:30), as she only makes a small portion of everything, and she regularly sells out, so if we rock up any later, there is no guarantee we’ll get our lunch!

May 2010:

  • interesting terms are used for things.  Aussies are of course, no stranger to using slang….  but there is one delightful saying here which is worth sharing:  when someone is going, they actually say “I am coming”.  So it can be quite surreal as you have a conversation with someone, and think that they are leaving (ie: going), and then they say “I am coming”.  Sometimes we don’t know whether we are coming or going!
  • the much anticipated rains have finally arrived.  While we haven’t yet had serious downpours, we are amazed at how quickly everything has gone from being parched, brown and barren, to lush, green and growing!  Also amazing is the rapidity with which the frogs have emerged!  they are soooo loud – they literally wake you up in the middle of the night!   and there are LOTS of them.  They sound like a veritable choir.  It is great to hear!   Only thing we need to be careful of now, is the snakes that live in our yard.  So perhaps this weekend we’ll weed a path through the foliage to our compost bin, to ensure we don’t frighten any slithering, slippery reptiles enroute to emptying our scraps!
  • the house we live in is surrounded by a tall fence; as tall as a person.  Many people – mainly women – carry things on their head.  But no matter how many times it happens, it still catches me by surprise… I will be looking out the window, and will see a “bowl”… “walking”…. down the road beside our house!  of course, it is only because I can’t see the person underneath that it looks that way – and even though I *know* that is what it is… it still strikes me as unusual!  Interestingly, I find it curious how our perspectives change on what “normal” is.  When we first arrived, all this head carrying business seemed very foreign and exotic.  But now, it is de rigeur, really….  although kudos must be extended to these women, who are incredibly strong.  And must have amazing neck muscles, because I have tried to walk around with a bucket of water on my head, and it is much harder than it looks!!!  try it…. you’ll see what i mean!

April 2010:

  • babies and small children here are often fascinated by “white people”.  But their avid curiosity can sometimes quickly swing to abject FEAR if the said white person comes too close, or tries to pick them up, play with them, etc…   We work next door to a stationary store; the lady who runs the store has a small child, who regularly screams when I need to go and pick up some stationary items.  One day, my boss was nearby, as the child screamed / cried out loud.  He laughed, and responded to her reassuringly, in the local language (Dagbani).  I asked him what she had asked;  he replied “she wanted to know if HER skin was white like yours… I assured her it was not!”…. whew!  thank goodness for the child!
  • geez – I really need to update this more often!  Our offices are on the road that leads to the airport.  So we often get to see “VIPs” as they hurtle past in their tinted windowed SUV’s, all travelling at high speeds, along with the entourage of motorcycle police officers and “rent a crowd”; usually busloads of people or open backed utes filled with people, often with drums or other noise making devices.  Yesterday it was the President of Ghana who was in town….  all very theatrical, as he was seen waving from atop a vehicle, and causing huge traffic jams into the city centre.  All very Hollywood-esque, although we expect that Mr. Rudd would not get QUITE the same reception in Perth…..

Older Stuff:

  • Barclay’s Bank may be up to par in many parts of the world, but Tamale is not one of them.  We spent hour(s) each day for five days attempting to set up an account with them!  Lucky for us – today (Friday) the planets aligned, and we were each issued with a bank card for the ATM, which we hope will work when we need it to.  We are still struggling to understand the manual general ledger system, given the computers evident at said bank.
  • Malcolm’s is the local department store where we have spent considerable time and money this week, equipping our house with “things”.  Mostly plastic, made in China things.  Some of which are still working after a few days, several of which have ceased functioning already.   I had no idea I could get so excited about plastic “things”.  But alas.  I have become a plastics girl.  I am not going to describe what this means, but those of you who know how I like to organize can imagine….
  • Malcolm is a case study in inefficiency, if ever there was one.  The “system” is that you choose your item, you get it written down on a scrap of paper by a plethora of shop assistants, who may or may not be present when you wish to have your purchase recorded.    Now do this every time you want to buy an item (NB: separate shop assistants at each decision point), and then queue at the cashier to make purchases.  At this point, hope that the item identification number on your scrap of paper matches your intended purchase on the computer screen.  Once paid for, return to original shop assistants, who will tick off your item on the receipt, function test your item for you, and (if large), carry it to the front of the store.  Repeat this process for each item purchased.  Once at front of store, hand over receipt (with checkmarks on each item) to check out control lady, who will then cross check your purchases against your receipt.  If successful, make your way to exit point where security will let you past, and you can go and collect your original bags, which needed to be checked in at a separate counter prior to entry into store originally.  Repeat process daily.
  • Shared taxis are the modis operandi for getting around Tamale.  During daylight hours, they are ubiquitous.  Not so once the sun has set.  However, this is how we get to work each morning.  The signaling is key.  Point in the direction of travel if you wish to hire a seat in a shared taxi (which generally holds four passengers plus sundry items).  If you wish to charter a taxi yourself, point to the ground ahead of you, and begin negotiations for how much to your desired destination.
  • The roads that the shared taxis negotiate are shared with many other life forms.  Pedestrians, chickens, goats, cows, cyclists, motorbikes, scooters, tractors, tanks, 4WDs, cars, utes, buses (with optional rooftop passengers) and other shared taxis.

Written by Mar(k)

October 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

6 Responses

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  1. great to hear you have a place to call home although i think you need a medal already to have survived the said conditions thus so far – i guess now it will be easy. ilike the hard working conditions you have been subjected to – don’t get too exhausted – although i guess you did need the time to sort out the house. we have just had the wedding and all went extremely well. the day was perfect and the threatened rain held off. it has been very very dry but there was mention of thuderstorms but fortunately these did not eventuate. it was lovely to see the family together minus a few but you were all there in thought. Nicola looked beautiful as did the girls and i will attempt to send you some photos. is there a mailing address and do you think i should send a few hard copy photos. all the cousins had a great time together and it was a very happy occasion. Grace unfortunately got a tummy bug and was not very well on the day but someone had to take all the attention off the bride!!Tonight i take Nicola and Tony up to Brisbane as they head off on their honeymoon to Phuket and Pa and Judy are here for the rest of the week as are Alex and Michael and Jack. a farewell dinner will be held here tonight and i am now looking forward to a few quiet days before getting back to work. i should say it would probably be quieter and easier going back to work than stay at home and feed these hungry growing boys (Michael and Jack i am sure compete as to how much they can eat at each sitting) Michael is training for a half marathon this weekend and Jack and Alex are running some of the distance for support so they feel they need extra sustenance. Chris and i are not planning any holidays but are looking forward to a few short trips before the end of the year. we will go down to Melbourne in early November for Jill’s party – which by the way we gave her her locket whilst she was here and we were all together and she really loves it. i am sure you will hear. well that is all the news at present keep the emails coming as we love reading them and feel that you are closer by reading them. Love to you both from us here Chris and Jan xx

    Chris & Jan

    October 5, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    • Really enjoying reading about your adventures Mar – I can feel a book coming on! Keep safe and happy Chris W xxx PS Malcolms doesn’t sound so bad – ever been to Ikea on a Saturday morning?!!

      Chris Williams

      October 11, 2009 at 4:58 am

      • hmmm… you make a good point Chris! Similar – just reduce the IKEA size by about a factor of 20. then triple the occupancy. Then get rid of the air con and all fans. Now add a nice warm 42 degree Perth summer day. now THAT’s starting to be more like it! ; )

        Mar Knox

        October 12, 2009 at 9:16 am

  2. Who would have expected such a Mar-able IKEA in Ghana!!

    Jennifer Cochran

    October 29, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    • indeed! hours of shopping fun for the whole family!!!

      Mar Knox

      October 29, 2009 at 1:33 pm

  3. Classic!

    Mace

    January 21, 2010 at 3:47 am


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