First Impressions

Trip Start Apr 27, 2009
Trip End Aug 11, 2009

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Flag of Ghana  ,
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The first thing I noticed about Ghana as we began our descent to the airport was the darkness. Flying into Chicago, say, the lights on the ground stretch in all directions. Here, 80km north of the capital, Accra, it was dark. Driving through Accra later, there was a decent amount of hustle, but nothing on par with other world cities. Already, life was traveling at a different pace.
I had been met at the airport by representatives from the organization with whom I will be volunteering for the next two months. Together, we drove out of Accra and towards Ho, a town two and a half hours away where the organization is headquartered. Along the way, I was passed a cooler filled with pouffy plastic pouches, like the air-filled pouches that stabilize your purchase in an Amazon shipment. I didn't understand. Was there something in the cooler surrounded by these pouches I was supposed to take? Were they there to keep it cold? I started digging a little. Anani, one of the men with us shook his head and handed me a pouch. They were filled with water! This is how they drink water here! But how to drink it? I didn't want the bag leaking everything, and there were no Caprisun straws in sight. After a couple uncomfortable minutes, I had to ask Julie, the Peace Corps volunteer assigned to our project. She showed me how to take a corner in my teeth and rip off a bit of the plastic. Pretty slick once you figure it out. Didn't even spill water down my shirt. Now, however, I had another problem (yes, I know, such drama): I had sated my thirst and being impossibly tired, just wanted to go to sleep, but there was still water in my bag, I hadn't drunk the entire half-liter. I couldn't set it down, it would spill, but I also wanted to avoid a dark, side-of-road rest stop on the way to Ho, so I didn't want to drink it. In the end, I passed the remaining water to Julie and curled up to go to sleep.
In Ghana, the government is quite concerned that cars not go racing through towns along the main highway at break-neck speeds. To discourage such acts, they have constructed spped bumps in these towns. Excessive numbers of brutally bumpy speed bumps. It doesn't matter how slowly you go over these suckers, they'll still knock your car out of alignment. We hit the first set of these just as I was dozing off. So much for that plan. The bumps come in sets of three or four at the entrance and exit to each village and a strategic locations through the middle of it. By the end of the trip, I had a headache.
Ghana also ascribes to the West African Military Checkpoint Policy. The purpose of these checkpoints remains a mystery to me. I only know of their potential to increase corruption as officials can elicit bribes from passing vehicles. Nonetheless, at each checkpoint (there were 7 or 8 of them), we stopped, the requisite flashlights were shone into the truck to show no funny business going on, and we were given leave to carry on.
Finally, we arrived in Ho at the organization's house. I was introduced to the manager and the other volunteer in residence and just barely managed to make the appropriate polite responses before crashing into my bed and a dreamless sleep.
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