After being bombarded with requests (from one person), I am here to write you about what a typical day here in Ghana looks like for me. Enjoy, for I plan to get descriptive.
5am – 6:15am – Rise and Shine!
Waking up occurs around the 4th or 5th rooster crow. I never sleep later than 6:15, and if I do, I can expect my host mama to come knocking. My first weeks here I used my phone as an alarm clock until I realized how unnecessary it was! A combination of rooster, the sound of sweeping, and voices in and outside of my room are guaranteed to wake me. I join my sisters in their sweeping of my room and the compound. The brooms consist of dried stick things tied together. It’s actually really effective, though it can be sore on the back because you have to bend over.
7am – Baff
“Go and baff!”
My host mama will yell to me if I’m sweeping for too long. The ‘th’ noise is pronounced ‘f’ or ‘d’ here. I grab my bucket and fill it with the pipe water located near our compound (I still have not taken this for granted since my village stay!). If I’m not feeling well, or it’s particularly cold, my mama or I will heat up some baff watah (bath water – gotta love the Ghanaian accent) on the coals – an amazing feeling. I get my wash cloth, soap, and watah, and step into the stall that doubles as a urinal. It’s lined with concrete, and opens up to the sky, making night baths amazing.
7:30 – Breakfast Number 1
My host family will usually eat leftovers from the night before, or go out into the market to get some breakfast ‘to-go’. The exception is my host mama and I. We now have a ritual, that I tried to shake because I didn’t like the privilege, but now I’ve accepted because I love it. I’ll go (or she will) down to the main road and get Kpandai bread (way worse than Tamale bread and known for it) and some milk, if it’s needed. I come back, and my mama and I will pull our chairs up to the little wooden table and take some tea with too much sugar and too much cream, and some bread. We chill out in silence, or chat about the day. I love this relaxed start to my day.
8am – Work Life
No two days in the office are the same! I’ll either bicycle or walk into work, greeting people along the way. If I’m feeling particularly friendly, I’ll stop with each greeting and converse with the people, and this usually means it takes an extra 15 minutes instead of the usual 5 minute commute.
At work, I’m usually the second or third person in the office. When I’m first, I go into the little compound across the path and greet the family there (they don’t speak any English). I’ll mime until I get the key to the office. I go through the entire office (two rooms) and greet everyone, which usually takes the first half hour of my day.
My work day will consist of any of the following, and usually all of the following:
– AAB meetings with AEAs and their farmer groups, and the transit to and from their village (this can take a full day)
– AEA ‘coaching’ sessions – these are essentially discussions about how their meetings are going, the needs of their farmer groups, their challenges and successes, business ideas, etc.
– Meetings with the officers and Director – updating on AAB, discussing MoFA and the current projects, etc.
– Random field experiences – meeting farmers, seeing the fields and current projects in action, etc.
– Computer training
– Developing workshops (results-based management, training on AAB, additional AEA training), writing blog posts, e-mailing home, etc.
10am – Breakfast No 2
I love second breakfast! At first I wasn’t taking it, until I noticed everyone else in my office would leave around this time and come back with various breakfast foods. My stomach would rumble and they’d invite me to eat with them (as everyone does). I now go and get my second breakfast with them. This is either coco, porridge, or egg & bread. Coco is the consistency of thick water, and usually tastes like ginger and some sweet and sour mixture. Porridge is the same, except with chunks of maize flour.
1pm – Lunch Time
Lunch lasts anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours here in Kpandai. I like to try different things from the women selling their food along roadside, but now that I’ve discovered my favourites, I usually stick to them. A lovely lady sells jollof rice with delicious chicken down the road. Watcha (can’t spell it) is rice and beans, and also yummy. Now that the first round of maize has been harvested, I can almost always find some corn on the cob to munch on. Fried plantains and beans, boiled yams with a sauce thing, all good stuff. And if I’m lucky, a woman will walk by yelling/singing “heeeere’s rice watah!” and I’ll get some warm, sugary, creamy, rice porridge for a special treat. In fact, just as I was writing this, I heard Madam Edith and her rice watah jingle and booked it outside – today is a good day.
Lunch is also a great time to run any errands – pick up some new threads from the seamstress, get your bicycle repaired, grab some phone credits, visit the carpenter to see if your stool is ready, etc. Also, if it’s market day (every 6 days in Kpandai), the number of goodies available to you increase tenfold. Everyone comes in on their market trucks to sell their wares. I adore market day.
5pm – Home Time
The office closes around 5pm. Yes, it’s an 8 to 5 job, by definition, but you’ll rarely be working the full 9 hours.
I head home, greeting along the way, usually feeling either very motivated from a productive day or very demotivated from a day where no one showed up in the office and therefore I spent my day with my laptop at the District Assembly sucking on a bag of groundnut paste (essentially delicious peanut butter). Luckily those days are the exception, not the rule.
Either way, when I start walking home and my little sisters run up to greet me and my mama asks about my work and my brothers are playing football outside the compound, all becomes well.
6pm – The Dinner Experience
Have you ever stirred T-Zed? No? Didn’t think so. Because it’s impossible to stir, so if you’d said you’d done it, I would not have believed you. I am now resigned to the role of vegetable cutter or fire fanner or soup stirrer, because I am not fit for the role of T-Zed stirrer. Imagine stirring concrete seconds before it has hardened. My two host sisters take turns with the giant lump of carbohydrate that will become my dinner. I actually love T-Zed. It, along with the other carbohydrate dinners such as Banku, Kenkey, Fufu, are served with a soup or stew. There is usually fish, or some unidentifiable meat the size of half a finger in the soup. Light soup is my favourite – it’s essentially watery, semi-spicy, garlicy tomato soup. I also like groundnut stew, and dry okru (a vegetable soup). Wet okru soup is like snot. Not my favourite.
Fufu is also a favourite – this is when boiled yams are pounded with a gigantic mortar and pestle. I love pounding fufu with my siblings.
If dinner has already been prepared by the time I come home, I’ll sit in the yard and watch my brothers play an intense game of football or volleyball – and occasionally I’ll join in, end up falling flat or diving, realizing I’m not on grass, and cutting up my skin on the dirt.
We eat around 7pm, just as it gets dark. Originally, my family wanted me to eat alone in my room with my chair and plastic table, which is what is shown as a status thing for guests. I then graduated to being allowed to eat outside, alone, with my table and chair. Eventually I broke this down to eating outside alone, without my table and chair, and I now eat with my host sisters, sitting on either stools or the concrete part of the compound. There have been times when I’ve eaten with my brothers as well. I like to stir things up. You take the ball of starch, use your fingers to ‘cut’ a piece of the starch, and dip it into the soup, then eat it!
Other Night Time Activities
Bucket shower number 2 is in there somewhere – most people here baff twice a day.
After eating, I’ll either watch football with my family on the grainy TV, help brother Joefere and his mates with their math, chat it up with my host sisters or brothers, or entertain Jessica and Janet as they brush my hair and tie knots in it. There are days when I need some solid alone time, and I’ll hide in my room with my laptop, my journal, or a book and relax. Usually Jessica will follow me regardless of my pleas and I’ll end up with a sweet hair do. “Your hair, it’s talia” says Jessica. I say thank you, assuming that talia means fine. It means macaroni.
I go to sleep around 8:30 or 9pm, and awake when the rooster crows for the fourth or fifth time.