Merry Christmas from West Africa!

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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What I did

Flag of Ghana  , Eastern,
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I never ever thought that a) I would work in Africa or b) I would spend a Christmas here! After 29 Christmas' with family in Australia, this was one different to any other. The week and a half leading up to Christmas Day was a very festive mood across work. Everyone was winding down and drinks almost every day for workers going out on break/leave. There is only a skeleton crew remaining for the actual Christmas period (but quite a few enviro staff) with most having re-organised their breaks – some expats doing 10 weeks straight just so they could get Christmas off! I always knew that my roster fell over Christmas, so it didn’t really faze me. I have no regrets about taking my break in early December because it would have been very difficult trying to see everyone and do everything if I had returned for the Christmas/NY period. Anywho – first weekend back was a contractor party down at the Beige and then a swim at the contractor pool on Sunday. Fun times.

Before I get to the happenings of Jesus’ Birthday, a little bit about everyone’s favourite topic: the Weather. The season has definitely changed since I returned from break. A lot drier, with the greenery around camp dying off. It hasn’t rained once, whereas normally there is a storm almost every night. The worst part is the Harmattan. Hopefully the photos tell this story, but this is the Wikipedia explanation "The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March (winter). On its passage over the desert it picks up fine dust particles. The heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog". When I arrived in Accra, it was similar to a Perth day when those terrible prescribed burns blow smoke across the city and blanket us in haze. I still think a large proportion of this Harmattan thing is smoke haze – it has an odour of smoke as well. I’m told that some of the locals set fire to the bush to chase the animals out and then trap them for food. This adds to the dust problem and it’s probably cutting a few years off my life-span.

Ok, back to topic. The Enviro team had a small end-of-year function at the Beige in the week leading up to Christmas. Having been thru one or 2 of these functions, I knew what to expect and readied myself for a barrage of photos. At the contractor Christmas Party, I was almost mobbed by a crowd of Ghanaians who all wanted a photo with a white guy – I had to tell them enough; I felt like a Home & Away celebrity at Telethon ;-) I also was not looking forward to the food. The chicken was spicy to the extreme and it was so dark I couldn’t even tell what was in the rice. But the beer was nice. I tried a couple of different (new to me) Ghanaian varieties. Then the speeches…man, it seems every member of the group needs to give their thanks and speak. Plus, it is all in the local dialect. But I was fortunate to have one of the newbie graduates sitting next to me who was my translator or linguist – this is the title for the person who refers anything u say to the Chief and vice versa, because apparently u can’t talk directly to the Chief; odd and possibly not 100% true cause I have spoken directly to a Chief before…maybe it only applies in a formal setting.

I worked on Christmas Eve (Saturday), but from the camp offices because there was no one up at the construction site. I had a few quiet drinks at the bar with the others, but left before things got messy. There is a tendency here to blow out the night before the actual function. Not my style. I stayed in my room Christmas morning – spoke to family, unwrapped a few pressies from family, watched some Christmas inspiring tv. For once in my life, Christmas cards actually served a logical purpose; I was able to open cards from people I wouldn’t verbally speak to and read their greeting, very nice.

We then headed out to the construction contractors accommodation compound for lunch, a swim, beers and a game of monopoly. A very relaxing day and quite surreal to compare this Christmas to all that have gone before it. I can’t really say it was a Ghanaian Christmas tho because we were locked away from the real world in the compound and it would have been interesting to get amongst the real culture to see how they celebrate Christmas. But, I’m not that brave. Those that went too hard Christmas Eve, drifted back to main camp. The rest of us played monopoly which ended like almost every other game of monopoly I have ever played – without a clear result because someone gets bored, has a sad, goes to bed. Oh well, it was fun, with good people, and better than sitting in my room alone watching tv. The night ended about 1030 pm…much earlier and sober than I expected.

Boxing Day was quiet. I was able to watch a bit of the test match, obviously delayed but I really don’t care that much…I was just happy to hear some Aussie accents and make it feel like Boxing Day. I caught up on some personal stuff that had drifted while I was in Perth and then had a few drinks at the bar that night. The Tuesday was also a public holiday here so no local staff working. Another quiet day, but I have watched a few episodes of Angry Boys (Christmas pressie) and finally seeing what everyone was talking about 6 months or so ago.

So Christmas 2011 was quiet, but good. Character building in a way. I think spending a Christmas like this makes u value it more and not take it for granted. Bring on New Years Eve…it is sure to be very different too!!!

PS – I left my new Powderfinger CD in the hire car. Brought the album with me to Ghana, opened the cover and no CD! Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Plus, my Napster account no longer works outside the United States of Silly America and I have succumbed to installing iTunes on my laptop just so I can get current music. Blah.
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Jesse Steele on

Once you touch a mac there's no going back!

Now that you are on Itunes you can download the Bethel Church Christmas podcast from Redding, California.

travellingross on

hmmm, i'll put that podcast on the list Jesse...way down on the list.

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