The surmountable trials of Lady Ghana


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A low kind of day

I have hardly been here two months that it’s already started: I get annoyed. I am irritated at our house maid who comes in two hours late and starts her working day by sitting at our dinner table to eat her spaghettis using our plates and crockery. I repress a silent curse when an incompetent receptionist keeps me waiting while finishing reading her friend’s status on Facebook (and then goes on commenting on it), all this in front of me and without shame. The word “idiot” slips off my mouth too quickly when I’m driving.

Yet life hasn’t been so bad. For the first time in years of moving out to new countries, I almost immediately found a job to keep me busy until Christmas. Our heavy baggage has arrived in one piece and our house now looks cosy and familiar. And the sun shines EVERY DAY.

But comes the evening, anxiety starts. I don’t look forward to tomorrow. I feel lonely, uninspired and tearful, and I wake up with a heavy heart. I know the symptoms for it’s happened before – I think I’m going through a phase of slight depression. And it’s got nothing to do with Ghana, rather with new beginnings.  I am simply not good at it. I need to feel settled, to have a purpose, to know people and to be known. It’s not about getting invited to a party on a Friday night, but the comfort of having a few people with whom you don’t have to try, people who get you.

I promise the next post will be more cheerful, but for now let me be plain honest with you: I don’t like it here. I guess the first step is to accept how I feel and make some small changes, among which:

1. stop taking Lariam, those pesky anti-malaria tablets that have been known for causing depression as a side-effect;

2. read something inspiring, like Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones;

3. look at something beautiful, like those tiny red flowers, sole survivors of our feeble gardening efforts;

4. drink some Rwandan coffee, freshly brewed in my French press;

5. pray and hold on the hope that God knows what he is doing with us here.

And be patient rather than resigned.

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Get off my road

We’ve had this long-standing argument with Mr Club. I got tired of seeing him zipping around town on his cool motorbike while I had to hail a taxi just because we ended up with a lemon of a car on our previous post.

I reached a point where I was desperate for a two-wheeler of my own. Not a motorbike, since I would struggle to maintain my usual class on it, but surely a scooter would solve my misery. Mr Club however remained inflexible: take a basic training course or I won’t let you get one. Therefore as I travelled through Europe this summer, I booked a class and I am now proudly qualified, if not safe, to hit the road.

Getting a scooter in Accra is really easy. The streets are strewn with hundreds of imported motors that you can buy for about 500 dollars or less. I settled for a Suzuki 125cc that had been shipped from Italy. The ownership papers indicated the right body number, but on close inspection the brand read Yamaha 600cc. Interesting.

I agreed to pay the retailer once he would come back with the ownership papers duly changed and a regular license plate, and I left him 150 Ghana cedis (about $75) for the government registration fee. Three days later he came back with the right papers, the right plate and a receipt for 50 Ghc. Apparently and a few people have confirmed it since, although the government officially charge 50 Ghc, they like you to pay three times as much to help them do the work “correctly”. Whatever.

But for the past three weeks, my scooter and I have been cruising the streets of Accra, avoiding mad drivers and potholes, while trying to stop my skirt from embarrassing me too much. And I’m told that I look very French on it.

Result.


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Ghana’s “beautiful” beaches

We had been warned. “Make sure that you leave Accra once in a while, otherwise the chaos will drive you crazy”, a friend told me. She was right, so a couple of weeks into our first month, we decided to get out of the city and spend a long week-end at the beach.

What nobody told us is what we would find at the beach.

After two and a half hours of driving a mere 50 km through congested roads and bottlenecks outside the capital, we finally arrived at Sisimbo Beach Resort. Tucked away on a quiet bay east of Cape Coast the lodge is simple but quiet and the semi-private beach is clean and lined up with pretty coconut trees. Nowhere near the appeal of an Indian Ocean resort and after years of East Africa, I confess to be slightly disappointed.

On our final night, we decided to take a walk along the beach, towards the nearest fishermen’s village. There is something that must be said for Ghana – the level of harassing is surprisingly low. We walked past a few people who greeted us with a smile or a nod and went on their separate way without asking us anything. However, as soon as we left the boundaries of our hotel, we were amazed by the amount of garbage found on the beach. Discarded bottles, plastic bags, used water packets had been washed back from the ocean to their sender and were blanketing the beach.

We were approaching the fishermen’s village when we walked among a few people sitting on the beach. Everyone was sitting by themselves and was staring pensively at the sea. We greeted them as we walked past, when we noticed the somewhat tense features on their faces. That is when it dawned on us. They were not meditating nor admiring the ocean but in fact were simply crouching and having a crap on the beach. We had somehow managed to end up walking right in the middle of the public toilets.

Past the initial shock which I’m trying to recover from, I am still to decide whether the worst was:
1. That a only few meters behind them stood a block of public latrines, which they were obviously ignoring;
2. That as we walked through a minefield of poo we remembered that we’d romantically decided to walk bare feet on the beach;
3. That some of them started to greet us back, hailing “hey Obruni, how are you?”.