Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Card sharks

January 20, 2007

I got out of bed at about 10 am - so luxurious in my queen-size bed and air-conditioned room. I thought I was supposed to be roughing it here! I soon discovered, though, that the shower didn't work. I sat in the shower stall with a bucket of cold water and a scoop. I washed my hair and my feet and splashed some water on my face. I don't know how Janet's going to take this news about the shower - or lack thereof :)

I got dressed and unpacked my suitcases. The room now awaits Janet and her suitcases full of stuff. We seem to have plenty of room and closet space.

Joseph called just as I finished. He was going to take me, Eva and Darrell to the market to buy material for tailored clothes, which are quite cheap here. I walked down the road to meet him. I was in such a daze (I'm surviving on little sleep and only a coffee a day right now) that I walked right by him and his friend Derrick as they waved to me from the other side of the street.

We walked all the way to Eva and Darrell's. We kicked around for about an hour and I had my first coffee of the day. It was past noon by the time we headed to the market. The 'market' was actually many city blocks long, and encompassed the area stores, as well as street vendors. It was teaming with people - so invigorating, and it's quieter on the weekends apparently. We spent an hour jammed into a fabric store. It felt like shopping in a transport trailer - not very wide but long and high...and dark. I was looking for yards of cotton for tailored pants (or trousers, apparently pants mean underwear here, so we always get a smile when we said pants).

Afterward, we wandered up the street through more of the market. Darrell and I bought transistor radios from a street vendor and I also bought an iron! My clothes are wrinkled to the point that even the heat and humidity can't iron out.

I made another Ghanaian toddler cry. One of the market vendors gestured to a little girl, who was trying to catch my attention. I went over and knelt down in front of her. I started to talk and she started to cry! The woman smiled and picked the girl up to comfort her. She brought the little girl back over me and she started to wail even louder. This was the second time I'd made a girl cry since I arrived. At the hospital I leaned down to talk with a little in the waiting room. Her lower lip began to quiver, and then she cried and ran to her mother.

We then went for a late lunch at a local restaurant on a bustling but poor street. Ramshackle shacks house the shops and restaurants, the roads are dusty, open sewers line the sides of the roads, and garbage is everywhere. But damn that food is good - and cheap - at the places the discriminating locals eat. I treated today - $3.50 for everyone - not each, everyone. I had fish, rice and beans - it's become my staple here, the only variable the amount of spice.

A couple of things of note at the restaurant:
- The food is great but the bathroom facilities are not. Today I was led out the back door and down a filthy alley, and taken to an outdoor urinal with no door. A bunch of kids stood about 15 feet away, laughing at the white guy trying to pee discreetly.
- I finally made a little girl laugh, not cry - and I'm not referring to the previous story. When we entered the restaurant, a little kept laughing and chanting something at me in her native language. An adult translated for her - White guy, where are you going? White guy where are you going? We exchanged high fives with her and her friends and went inside.

The day was nice but considerably less interesting after that. I came home, stripped naked and lay on the bed with air conditioner going full blast. My clothes were soaked from the heat and humidity. I read the papers, listened to the radio. The big news of the week: in a small city in the centre of the country, a bunch of young people rioted because there had been several people murdered in the past month and the police hadn't been able to solve the crimes. The police compounded the problem by breaking up the protests, injuring a few people in the process. Mistrust of the police by the public and the media is a big deal here. Today the police held a workshop to encourage the media to cover the police more "fairly," which would in turn give the public a more balanced perspective on police activities.

I went to dinner with Darrell and Eva and had...surprise, and rice - but no beans this time. I may have to vary my diet a bit.

We came back to my place and played hearts on the patio. It's a very relaxing hangout.

- Mark

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