Thursday, January 25, 2007

Great Expectations

I spent last night lying perfectly still. Moving created heat, and with the second blackout of the week, our air conditioner hung silently on the wall. At one point, I rolled over and said to Mark half joking "Can I go home?"

I have never experienced heat like West African heat. I looked in my closet this morning, and half smiled, half grimaced at the clothes I packed. All of my t-shirts will remain in the closet. The only things I'll be able to wear are sleeveless shirts, linen pants, and skirts. I'll melt away if I wear anything else.

Today, I also have blisters on my feet, and a few minutes ago noticed one is bleeding. Mark wanted to show me around the city yesterday so we walked from 11:00 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. We stopped periodically to eat, check in to the Internet cafe, and visit a couple of the JHR participants, but other than that, we walked. It was hot, but thankfully a cool breeze from the coast kept us fanned, and more or less content.

The streets are dusty, and there are no sidewalks, so we balanced our step between the sand at the edge of the road and the pavement where trucks and cars running on diesel left their black wake for us to inhale.

I've only seen a few neighbourhoods in Accra, but so far, there doesn't seem to be a downtown, or a central tourist district. "Is there any opulence in Accra?" I asked Mark. I was referring to my travels in China and Vietnam where cities clean up at least one area of the central district to impress tourists, and find ways of encouraging them to spend extra money. Mark said he hadn't seen this area yet.

Last night on our walk home from Koala, the western grocery store, we weaved in and around traffic to follow the path back to our apartment. It was dark, and I was thankful to have someone with me. We passed other ghanaians making the trek into the heart of the city as we were leaving it. Happily carrying my french baguette, goats cheese, and other western delicacies, I plodded forward, weary from my day in the dusty heat. Mark beckoned for me to follow him as we crossed the street. I looked up, checking both ways to watch for oncoming traffic but did not look down. I stepped forward and suddenly felt the ground disappear under my feet. Mark yelled out in alarm, but it was too late. I had stepped right into a sewer. My right foot went straight down three feet, and the baguette, having fallen from my grip went with it. A women, walking on the other side of the street, came running to my rescue, and Mark, alarmed tried to pull me back to my feet. Thankfully, I escaped with little more than a couple of bruises and a dirty wet foot. I now know that along the edge of every street in Accra runs a narrow sewage gutter. Whenever I cross the street, I will not only look both ways, but I will also look down.

The blackout last night affected our fridge. This morning, I realized we would have to eat all of the goat's cheese I'd bought the night before for breakfast. I was disappointed the expensive western delicacy wouldn't last more than a day, but was excited at the prospect of a nice breafast. I opened the cheese, and the smell that erupted, was so strong, I quickly closed the package. Perhaps the grocery store had experienced its own blackout and the cheese hadn't survived.

I am going to have to re-set my expectations for life in Ghana. I will not eat or live like I did in Saint John for the next 5 months. Cheese, yoghurt, and all things requiring refrigeration will be a thing of the past.

We showered in cold water this morning. Yesterday I longed for a hot shower. Today after a night without air conditioning, the cold water was wonderfully refreshing. I left the apartment optimistic and eager for today's new adventures.

Immediately upon leaving the apartment we learned there will be another blackout tomorrow night. Mark and I choked back a gasp. Maybe we can find someone to fan us in bed.

- Janet


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark and Janet.
We are so glad you have arrived Janet. What an experience you have had. I am sure each day will be better and hopefully you will be better today.
I guess we can't even imagine what the heat in Accra is like let alone the conditions.
We are going to look to buy a webcam this weekend so hopefully you can send pictures.
Take care of yourselves.
Love, Mummy and Daddy

RonJRoy22 said...

Hey Janet & Mark.
What a stark contrast to what Ron & I are experiencing here in Ottawa. We are freezing our booties here in minus 29 degree weather. The Ottawatonians (if that is a word?!) are happy to have the cold weather as they opened the Rideau canal this week for skating. I am bound determined to skate at least once on the canal, despite the freezing cold weather.

I am glad to hear that you made it to Ghana safely, Janet. I was thinking of you that night and hoping your flights would go well. I'm happy that we were able to have our lunch farewell at the Toronto airport.

Cheers for now!


Sandra said...

Hello Janet and Mark,

Sorry to hear about your stepping in the sewer Janet, I think that would want to send me home more than the heat.

Have you tried to get any local, traditional clothing? Maybe they know how to deal with the heat?

I look forward to hearing about your adventures.

Sandra MacDougall