Thursday, June 4, 2009

The trip north, south, north, and then south for good.

May was, well, interesting. We left the comforts of Accra behind, endured the 12 hour bus ride from Accra to Tamale, stayed in Tamale a night to recuperate, and then trotro'd it to Bolga and then on to Bongo. BUT, before we left Accra we bought a portable DVD player since, as many of you know, our laptop, may it rest in peace, is no longer fully with us but our "The Wire" and "Weeds" addiction would need feeding. But, as things go here in jolly ol' Ghana, the plug to the player "spoiled" after one charge (the night before we were leaving for Tamale). "No worries," we assured ourselves "it is only a 12V DC plug, how hard could it be to find one here?" Ah, 10 months in the country and yet still so naive! We scoured Tamale. Then we scoured Bolga. "Oh, they are finished," which does not necessarily mean that there were any to begin with and some guy bought the last one only minutes ago, for all we know they have been "finished" since the beginning of time. When we returned to our house in Bongo it was full of surprises (but still locked and safe, so none too horrible). First, our front porch looked like a goat latrine, piss and poop EVERYWHERE. I mean piles in some places. Then, we discover that someone used the plug that exists on the outside of our house and blew the fuse so now half of the house has no usable sockets (no more sleeping in the bedroom). The water was not running and, thankfully Mo spared me actually having to see it, but big red ants (we call them "latrine" ants because they hang around bathrooms and latrines) had made our toilet their new home. Mo said that the toilet was FULL of eggs and larvae. I was outside and all I heard was Mo going "Oh my god, oh my...I'm gonna puke this is so disgusting!...oh NO. WHERE IS THE RAID?!?!"

So, there we were up in Bongo with no work to do (the maps were not arriving in country for another 5 days) and suffering severe cases of Wire-withdrawal. After 3 days and both of us completing a book each, we decided to take a 10 hour bus ride down to Kumasi to meet the maps and the person bringing the maps there and say all of our Kumasi goodbyes so that we would not have to stop with all of our luggage when we make the last trip south.

The meetings in Kumasi went really well. I met with the Provost ("Dean") of engineering who was/is one of my "research contacts" here in Ghana and he was very impressed with all that we were able to accomplish in our 10 months here (yay us!). We met Deron, Lori and the boys in Kumasi as they were heading north to Burkina on vacation and then circling back south to stay with us one night in Bongo. It was nice, gave us that extra motivation to do some more touristy things in Kumasi. And (this is my bragging point) I was able to lead Lori through the 10% of the Kejeta market that I knew AND find the section/stalls that I was looking for (even though Mo says it was by mistake)! (I was impressed with myself even if you all aren't). Then, back on the bus for 8 hours followed by a 3 hour trotro ride all in one day back to Bolga, but this time with a variable voltage/plug converter box thing that was just about as large as our portable DVD player and a good pound heavier.... defeated the whole "portable" part, but it worked!!!

Handing out the maps to all of our contacts was extremely rewarding, it was the main purpose of the research. Some were neutral on the whole affair, but the majority were very thankful and, even more importantly, interested in my explaining the significance of what was represented. I had maps to go around (thanks to my mom and her laminating skillz) and most were enthusiastic to bring the results to their chiefs and local assemblymen. I also had a final meeting with the District Assembly Director where he actually called other employees to come hear what I had to say (which meant I had to explain my maps several times), which just made me feel amazing.

Then there was this one night while in the main room lying on my stomach with my feet dangling off the edge of our mattress on the floor watching The Wire, the sun had just set and since we can't turn on the overhead lights in the house at night because sooo many bugs find their way in as a result, we were in the dark, but had not yet placed the mosquito net around us. We were actually thinking that maybe we won't use the mosquito net anymore since it is really hot out. All of a sudden I feel something tickle my foot, but I just tap it and I don't feel it anymore. "Must be the mosquito net dangling over my leg, it must have brushed up against me," I tell myself. It happens again and again I bang my foot on the ground and again it goes away. The third time I feel it on my foot, then on my calf, then on my thigh before I jump up and knock it off. Now remember, it is dark, so all I see is a big shape scurrying across the mattress. I was figuring it was going to be a lizard, but now it is so big and moving like a bug that I am thinking a giant roach, but Mo finds the flashlight and it turns out to be the relative of the giant hairy orange spider that we trapped and threw outside! Now, completely creeped out, I go into what Mo describes as "flash dance" mode (but I could tell he was equally as creeped out since he promptly picked up the DVD player and we moved the operation into the room with a working overhead light. Not 15 minutes later, we see it (or another?) scurrying INTO the room and under the bed. After much noise making and strategic "flushing of the enemy", we get it out from under the bed (and spiders everywhere forgive us) slap a shoe on it. After careful inspection of the corpse, we see past the hairy legs to the large fangs and decide that mosquito nets are a necessity! (We actually have figured out what it

Then, after selling and giving away all that we could, we boarded our last bus "south" and settled in for a long ride. As luck has it, though, two hours into what amounted to a 15 hour ride, I fall ill (chills, headache, stomach ache, nausea) and start my "I will not vomit or poop myself" meditation. When we pulled into Kumasi (9 hours into the ride) (the first place with a "toilet" instead of just a "urinal" (yes, in the other stops there are only women "urinals" as well as men's)) I jump off the bus a roll of tp in one hand and my toilet fee in the other and run in the direction of the toilet wanting to make the most of this 5 minute stop...but...what?....the toilets are locked? Why? Because it is RAINING! "Yes."

Long story less long, eating solid food again, hanging out at Deron and Lori's and just relaxing our final days in Ghana in good company.


Sarge said...

You dun good kids!

Jen said...


You ARE amazing. Congratulations and safe travels.


Jen said...

ps - that spider is crazy huge. and scary.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Spider!!! Ack!

Well, aside for you getting sick, Katie, it sounds like a successful trip all around. I'm so glad that everyone was suitably impressed with your work.

Enjoy your last couple of days there, and come home safe!