It is August 22nd and we’ve been in Ghana about a month and a half. Having traveled many times before at durations of this length, I can say that there is something surely different from six weeks traveling and six weeks in the start of a nine-month journey. The length of time ahead of you can be overwhelming—not in the sense that it is unimaginable to spend that length of time in Ghana but that the friends and family that make your life so wonderful will be physically out of reach for that many days. At about the month mark, I was hit by these feelings—distance, time had emotional resonance. Thank god for telecommunications. The USB modem, cell phone, and Skype have certainly shrunk the distance somewhat and help me settle in. Yet the housing search was proving difficult and Anatoli and I were ready to have more space. The guesthouse at TICCS, where we have spent the last six weeks, has been a wonderful temporary place—a beautiful place with lots of plants, an affectionate kitty and great people that come by to visit—but it is just temporary. In the search, we were shown either houses that would make great sets for Nigerian movies or abandoned lots better suited for rice farming (that is, they flood). We were tired of telling agents that we really didn’t need a four-bedroom house with a living room, two bathrooms, giant gate and space to park six cars. On other occasions, we grew uneasy when clear signs of flooding were being brushed off as just “a need for new paint.” And the prospect of fully furnishing a house—especially as a siliminga where the prices given would be always over-inflated—was a major source of stress.
A trip to Kpegu Bugurugu outside of Tamale with our friend Daniel was a nice break from the housing search. It was great to return to the village and present the community with pictures we had taken in January. I will never forget the look on the Chief Imam’s face as he studied adoringly the photos of him with his children. Zaachi, the youth Chairman and a traditionalist, who was quite distant the first time we met him, was thrilled to see us again. For dinner the community fed us generous portions of delicious rice and beans, spicy koko (porridge), freshly slaughtered chicken with T.Z. and groundnut soup. Seriously one of the best meals we’ve had in Ghana, prepared with simple ingredients in an outdoor kitchen without the benefit of electricity. Finished the evening with a motorbike tour of Kumbungu. The moon was bright that night, illuminating the flight of bats and casting baobab and mango trees in a gorgeous glow.
While I had big plans to start my work as a “serious” farmer this trip, after our morning trips to the Chief and the Imam to thank them for the delicious meal, it was nearly mid-day by the time we made it to the farm. (African farmers are clever and know to avoid the hottest times of day—they get up at daybreak and work until about 1pm, then rest until about 4pm when they return to the farm). You can see my hard work of fifteen minutes of farming below. We then visited various plots where Mr. James, our host, showed us the different crops they grow and some of the problems they’ve been having with their crops. The community grows abundant maize and groundnut, as well as millet, yams, beans, okra, gourd, pepe, rope plant and tomatoes. The women harvest and process shea nuts on the floors of their compound. Neem and mango trees are other beneficial trees the community relies on. Next trip Mr. James promised to show us where they fish.
Daniel and I with the Chief Imam’s family. Notice the way that little girl in the pink is checking me out. Some kids get spooked by the white skin.
Dinner preparations at dusk.
The path out of Kpegu Bugurugu
On the return trip we skipped the tro-tro ride and got rides with Daniel and Mr. James on their motorbikes. (Though the last ride was quite eventful as it involved a passenger stopping the tro to pick up three goats, one was placed on the top of the vehicle and two were passed through the small opening in a window, tied with some plant material and placed on the floor by Anatoli’s feet. The poor baby goats let out cries as we hit every bump on the road, and there were many). Upon our return, we received a call from Dr. Salifu, a professor at the University of Development Studies who we have been working with and who was assisting us in our housing search. Dr. Salifu had offered for us to stay in the extension of his home. Initially, we had declined because at the time the place did not have a kitchen. Well, apparently while we had been searching for a place, Dr. Salifu and his wife had been building a kitchen and a spare bedroom! Dr. Salifu took us to the place and the feelings of stress just melted. The place is beautifully furnished with a master bedroom, spare bedroom, two bathrooms, kitchen, two wardrobes, two desks and two couches. And, unlike so many others, the place was CLEAN. No dead birds in the sink.
We said yes to the Salifu’s offer and will be moving in on September 1st. (The place had been rented by two other PhD students until the end of August by a previous arrangement). I realized that part of the feeling of homesickness was also because we had not made a “home” in a while—we’ve been traveling since May 30th and haven’t cooked since then. We eagerly await our move-in where we can unpack and make some meals once again! In the meantime, we will be traveling the super scenic route to Accra where we will pick up our residents permits. On the way: a night in Kumasi, a few nights at the Hideout Lodge on the remote beach of Butre, a few nights in Cape Coast and then onto the crazy capital!
Bye bye TICCS, it’s been great!