That means welcome in Ewe (Ae-way), the native dialect spoken in the town where I live. I'm starting to pick up the basics: please (medekoko), thank you (akpe), good evening (fie), etc. The people here speak it all the time, so I'll either learn it fast or spend 8 out of 9 months in a state of confusion.
Last night, Sylvester got me a hotel room in Ho and we went through all my debriefing stuff, then he left around 10. And as I closed the door I had the revelation that I'd never spent the night in a hotel alone, and now I was doing it for the first time on my first night in Africa...
My new home is in Aflao, several hours away from Ho right on the coast.
Ghana is an amazing place so far. It reminds me a lot of Guatemala, actually. (The Tigo advertisements plastered everywhere should amuse my International Samaritan buddies). The buildings are low and many are brightly colored with corrugated metal roofs. Some of the third-world/African stereotypes hold: There's raw sewage running through the deep, open gutters in the streets and I've seen many people publically adding to that. Dogs, chickens, goats and black pigs roam the streets, although they do have owners to go home to at night. Women in brightly colored clothing walk along with enormous bundles balanced effortlessly on their heads. And we've driven through plenty of small villages with your stereotypical mud huts and straw roofs.
Driving has been by the far the most interesting experience so far...and incidentally the thing I've done the most of. There's no such thing as lanes, speed limits are as fast as you can go without going off the road, no road signs, and forget seatbelts- cars are lucky to have both rearview mirrors and a gas cap. And horns are used to signify passing, turning, greetings, warnings to pedestrians, annoyance, stopping....the existance of life. Also, I will never complain about Michigan's potholes ever again! I went to see a "bottomless pit" in a cave once, but it must've just been a Ghanaian pothole that got misplaced because they're virtually the same thing.
I've ignored other third-world stereotypes though. I've eaten everything offered to me, even if it came from the street vendors- wouldn't my travel clinic nurse just love that. She'd probably be wondering why I haven't dropped dead yet. I don't have much to worry about from pickpockets, at least in the day time. And there are definitely waaaay more mosquitos in my US backyard than there seem to be here. Maybe it's the season? But I've only seen maybe two or three so far. (Don't worry, Mom, I'm still taking my doxy and using the mosquito net anyway.)
My house has cement walls and floors with a corrugated metal roof. There's a fence of woven palm branches around the courtyard. I live at the very end of a long dirt path off the main road, about a 30 minute walk from the orphanage. I will leave at 7 every morning, walk to the orphanage, teach in the mornings when school is in session, leave at 11:30 to walk back home for lunch at noon, return at 1 or 2 and stay until 5:30 when I am home for the night. My route takes me down the main road, so I pass by all the businesses in Aflao and can really get a feeling for the town, which is a lot bigger than you might expect. There is a well in our courtyard and a couple towering coconut trees. The ground is rust-colored sand, very desert-y. Lizards run around like squirrels; I keep thinking they're mice! I have electricity and (obviously) internet access in my house, but no running water. An outhouse and a screened off area for bucket showers are my bathroom facilities instead. My room is probably bigger than most of my friends' dorm rooms, especially because it only has a bed and a small table in it- and considering my only roommates are some cockroaches and crickets. I'm sure the lack of plumbing and furniture will annoy me at times, but I really am glad I get a more authentic African experience.
Well, it's 11:30 here and I need to be up a little before 6, so I will write more later! Hope that gave you at least a snapshot of what my life is going to be like here though. : )