Today is the second day this week that I have not had internet at work, that is on top of me not having any work to do. So my only options are to play another 20 levels of bounce on my ohhh so snazzy phone or to wonder around the premises looking for people to talk to….or I could write this. It’s been a while since I’ve written in this here trusty blog, I’m actually not entirely motivated to write anything now (I am feeling slightly out of sorts) but I thought I might as well do something constructive with the 8 hours of “work” I have today. The last few weeks at work have been excruciatingly slow, I can recall 2 busy weeks in the 2 and a half months that I have been here. I am constantly asking my boss, “what do we need to do today, is there anything I can help with, what is our work plan looking like for the next month, etc”, all to no avail. The lack of communication is very difficult and I’m hoping that things pick up a bit. As I have no work in my unit, I spend my day sourcing work in other departments- haven’t been too lucky yet. Twiddling the thumbs.
Since my last blog post, I have been to Togo and Accra and back to Accra again. We (Courtney, Lotte, Peter and I) left Tamale on the 5:30pm flight on Friday the 26th of April and arrived in Accra at 7pm that evening. Lotte and Peter were on their way to the beach about 45 min from Takoradi in Ghana and we were on our way to Togo. Before heading on our respective trips though, we all spent the night at Renee, Adam, Cassie and Rachel’s (the other AYAD’s) house in Accra, and went out for a delicious dinner to Toro (Spanish tapas restaurant) and out and about for a couple of drinks after. The next morning, we set off early on our respective adventures. Togo was grand, so different to Ghana; Lomé in comparison to Accra (capital versus capital) was dead, not many people or cars or motos on the flooded, unmaintained roads, very few people entering the dilapidated buildings that lined the streets, not as many vicious vendors actively selling their goods. On our first day in Lomé (after a reasonably comfortable 3 hour taxi ride from Accra and a fairly smooth border crossing) we consumed a copious amount of coffee, cheese, baguettes, ham and steak, visited the local fetish/voodoo market (http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/akodessewa-fetish-market-africas-voodoo-supermarket.html), searched for a non-existent, Lonely Planet listed- museum, had a couple of cold ones on the beach and on our hotel balcony and lastly we indulged in the delights of Lomé’s nightlife- yes, we went to a very very classy jazz bar with a great band. They played a lot of music that I grew up listening to Bob Marley, UB40, Earth, Wind and Fire, Lionel Richie, Simply Red and the like, I was in my element. Oh sorry, we in this particular instance refers to Courtney, Dun, Brandon and I. On our next day in Togo (day 2), after some swift French lessons from Brandon and Dun, Courts and I were left to fend for ourselves as the boys headed back to Ghana and we continued our trip inland towards destination Kpalimé for some hiking, peace and tranquillity. After seeing the boys off, Courts and I, with every confidence, caught a taxi to the “taxi rank/bus station” in order to find a means of transport that would take us to Kpalimé. We pulled up alongside a black Audi, somewhat flashy (by Lomé standards) at a filling station a couple of kilometres away from the city centre, we looked at each other as if to say, “this is the bus station”, before our imaginations could run away with us, the man in the Audi jumped out of the car and collected our bags. In a mix of broken English/French, he explained that he would drive us to Lomé for 2000 Cefa (the equivalent of 5 Australian dollars, for a 2 hour journey in a comfortable car), it seemed fairly reasonable and the driver didn’t come off as too dodgy (you become a gun at assessing these things when you have been living in West Africa for a little bit), so we got in. There was another lady who was also headed to Kpalimé that was already seated in the passenger seat. Courts and I smiled at each other, we were so happy at the ease of things. Normally, in trying to coordinate long distance trips like this, there would have been numerous issues that we would have encountered, even just getting to the bus station/taxi rank would have been a mission. We had been way too optimistic, however! As we drove through the streets of Lomé, we collected another passenger who joined Courtney and I on the back seat (she was a fairly big woman and we were quite squashed). The driver, however, continued hooting and shouting Kpalimé from his open window (which means he is in search of additional passengers on the anticipated route) we were in disbelief,” how could we possibly get more people in here for a 2 hour journey” and then the phrase T.I.A. (This is Africa) popped into mind and I while I was still laughing to myself about how crazy it all was, we had stopped again, this time a gentleman joined the lady in the passenger seat, they wiggled around, so she ended up sitting partly on his lap and partly on the handbrake. But wait, there’s more, a couple of minutes later, when I had resigned myself to the fact that we were now too full to take any more passengers, (plus, this driving around was taking too long, we needed to get out of Lomé and onto the Kpalimé highway) he stopped to collect one more. Another lady, fairly old, but very friendly, she now joined, Courtney, the fat lady (it’s not rude to say that in Africa, it’s actually a compliment) and I on the back seat. There were 7 of us in a 5 seater car for a 2 hour (what ended up being 2 and a half hours) journey. When we finally got to Kpalimé you can say that we were more than relieved. After checking into our hotel, we took a walk around the town to combat the pins and needles and numbness that had come about from our very uncomfortable taxi ride. The town is quaint with a picturesque view of the mountains in the background, it is beautiful and totally worth the trip there. We spent 2 nights in Kpalimé and our days consisted of hiking, learning French, eating delicious French food and reading on our hotel balcony. Heading back to Lomé from Kpalimé, was as painful if not more painful than the trip over there. This time we caught a tro tro back and Courts and I were on the back seat (where you feel most of the humps and bumps) with a lady with a baby and a gentleman. The tro was packed, we were all squashed in there like sardines and the whole way, the lady sitting next to Courts, ate. She ate and ate and ate and then woke up her baby to feed him, he would go back to sleep and 20 minutes later she would wake him to feed him again and then he would sleep, and so the cycle continued for 2 and a half hours. Upon arrival in Lomé, we went back to the hotel we had stayed at when we were there before for lunch, after lunch, we crossed the border onto the Ghana side and got a taxi back to Accra. This time we were more fortunate, Courts and I managed to join a man from Dubai (think money) in his taxi so it was just the 3 of us and the driver in there, amazing, the little things we take for granted. The following day we spent shopping in Accra, where we were able to buy food that we had been craving since leaving home. Accra is home to both Marina Mall and Accra Mall; these places are like heaven for people coming from Tamale. Marina mall has delights such as gourmet foods (you know, cheese, olives, curry pastes, shisha’s, prawn crackers, prosciutto, etc), a Delifrance, KFC and a hairdresser (those are the important things to list) and Accra Mall for fellow South Africans, Zimbabweans (who would go to Francistown for these things) and Batswana that have been living in Australia for a while (get excited), has a GAME and a SHOPRITE. J I was able to buy so many familiar snacks, cereals, toiletries, curry powders, and EVERYTHING I had loved growing up. Oh so nostalgic. We ended up having to buy Ghana-must-go bags (big, sort of hessian bags) to carry our goods back to Tamale. I was 3kgs over weight when I got to the airport, but they let me through without a peep. Nice. We were back in Tamale and at work at 8am on Tuesday the 2nd of May.
That week at work, we received an email from the AYAD program, summonsing us to head back to Accra for a security briefing and a welcome lunch for some of the new volunteers that weekend. Cara, Courts and I left Tamale early on Friday (the 10th of May) morning and arrived in Accra around 9am, we went to Osu where we had some coffee at Delifrance, browsed at a couple of shops in town, stopped at the UN offices to collect my ID card and then went to the WUSC offices for lunch and the security briefing (which was followed by drinks and snacks at a friend’s place) and then dinner and drinks at Lexington. The next day, Courts, Cassie and I went shopping at Marina Mall yet again, I was desperate to buy a shisha, but they were all sold out L. So Cassie and I wondered around and ate KFC while Courts got her hair cut. I was booked on the 3:30pm flight to Tamale that Saturday, so I could make it home on time for the French party, which turned out to be a ridiculous amount of fun. Lots of dancing and stupidity.
Last week at work I revised the budget for the launch of one of our big projects, edited an end of project document that had to be distributed to CIDA (the funding partner) and now I am back to doing nothing, hopefully things pick up as I really enjoy my job when there is work to do, it is both interesting and challenging. This past weekend was spent at various parties, azonto parties and pool parties with a pig (the new craze in Tamale is cooking a pig on a spit, in the 2 and a half months that I have been here, I have been to 3 parties with pig- I’m not complaining-scrumptious).
Some other things
We have been having some trouble at our house concerning issues with the guards, a difficult landlord, over-flowing septic tank, a broken water pump and the like, so we have decided to move out. We have informed the landlord that we will be moving out at the end of the month (30 May) and we are now desperately looking for a new place. Finding housing in Tamale is very difficult and with 9 days to go, we are yet to find anything. Keep your fingers crossed all. Thanks!
A few pics from the Togo trip