Having just returned from a well appreciated mini-holiday in Germany with a one day Dubai shopping stopover, I returned back ‘home’ to Ghana over the weekend. Back to the ‘expat life’.
Sunday morning we headed off to Somanya, a village about 90km out of Accra that holds a series of annual female puberty initiation rites ceremonies – called Dipo. (A more culturally sensitive and detailed post with photos to follow). My good friend had gotten us an official ‘obruni’ invitation to come and observe.
So the day started in true Ghanaian style, dodging church traffic and hawkers, through a maze of roads, avoiding road construction and trotro drop offs – and this was a Sunday!
Armed with full bottles of Voltic water, we were all set and arrived in the village just in time to realise we all needed to pee. Uh oh. This is not a desired state to be in, arriving as an obruni in a village in Ghana. You can’t just straddle the gutter unnoticed as others can... and the chances of finding an actual flushing toilet with – gasp – toilet paper - were slim. Luckily one of us had been here before and knew a trustworthy ‘spot’ (Ghanaian roadside restaurant). This one was indoors, WITH a toilet AND toilet paper. No flowing water though, but two outta three ain’t bad. We ‘dashed’ the waitress a tip for saving our butts literally, and headed to the ceremony.
It was about a million degrees in a tight little dilapitated compound, writhing with about 20 times the bodies safe for such a space, and we pushed our way in.
We emerged three hours later, after having offended half the village TWICE through some daft and semi-serious cultural faux pas, having nearly passed out from heat and over-crowding, and having witnessed quite a spectacle – shot gun salutes and all!
And with that we headed back to Accra, conscious not to be caught on the roads after dark...
As we came into the city we realised the entire spanse of Accra was bathed in darkness. ‘Light off’ is the affectionate term... A few spots of light here and there, accompanied by the deafening din of diesel generators led our way.
At home we followed the usual procedure, flashlights in hand, switching over to the generator. Only this time the lights danced and whirred and flashed and the
generator answered with a few gasps and sighs. And then in a millisecond the flames had lashed out and jumped fast – one of our trusted voltage regulators in the socket had turned into a hot orange melting fire block. JW calmly shouted orders, “Bring me a wet cloth, quick!”, and “Bring me a broom! Quick!”. And Q and I did as we were told. And within a minute the fire was out. The computer room had been reduced to a smoky, stinking grey cell, with a blanket of black ashes everywhere. The white wall, now mostly black, branching out in a fan pattern from above the socket.
We spent the next hour testing what had caused the generator to ‘misbehave’, and then started cleaning away the evidence of the fire. With all the windows and doors open, the smoke had cleared and everything was now in order, apart from the bloodthirsty swarm of mosquitos that had come in, taking advantage of our vulnerable position...
Then Q wanted his hair done – this involves a straightening chemical treatment from a box that I smear on his head every couple months, in the name of his vanity...this treatment tames his wild locks, and we’ve got it down to a science, but as the chemicals involved are actually quite serious, it must be rinsed out at just the right time or... or I just wouldn’t want to know. Visions of hair clumps and singed scalp come to mind.
So as Q headed up the stairs to get the gunk out, the generator started playing it’s tricks again and after a few coughs and spurts it died. And there was Q – up in the shower, in the dark, water having stopped (being powered through a pump it’s dependant on the electricity). Panic. Plan B was put into motion immediately. I instructed him to squeeze his eyes shut and get a towel. Marched him down the stairs, through the darkness and out the front door. We have a water tap that runs out in the garden, under the mango tree and mess of bouganvillia that is not dependant on the power from the house. He crawled under the trees, turned the tap on full blast and proceeded to rinse and rinse, down on all fours, knees in the dirt, the white chemical mixing with the mud, making a greyish sludge out of the garden. With the moonlight as our guide, I passed the special shampoo and conditioner down, one by one, until the job was done. Emergency averted.
Just then the power came back and the neighborhood came to light and to life. Great.
Exhausted I headed up to bed, stopping for a well needed shower. But on entering the bathroom, four – yes four – giant cockroaches decided to peek out from under the dark dank hole they occupy under the tub. Instead of my usual scream and evacuation, I decided they needed to simply be dealt with. It was that kind of day. I calmly got my weapon – RAID (Fast Acting) and let them have it. Half a can of it. I left the room feeling quite satisfied with myself and came back soon after to find them writhing uselessly on their greasy brown backs, limbs jerking wildly from the nerve toxins I’d subjected them to.
Another day in the life was over. The next day, Monday – back to work. With the memories of the crisp cool air, German perfectionism and view of the Alps in the distance fading faster than my cockroaches would succumb to their punishment...