There is always something unexpected or quirky that happens while living in rural Africa. The other day, while I sat in the back of a broken down taxi in the middle of the jungle I thought to myself, “Typical.” I then realized that my life is definitely NOT ordinary and there was nothing really typical about the situation. I sat by myself in the back of the car while three men dressed in full traditional funeral garb (six yards of black and red fabric wrapped around their bodies) journeyed into the forest in search for water for the engine. The driver stayed by the car, scowling into the hood, as if making faces and noises of frustration would make the problem go away. Though we were miles from town, the men clearly knew their way around this part of the forest and came back within minutes carrying water. Cars constantly break down here due to lack of maintenance. The driver poured the water into the engine, the car started and we were on our way. He kept talking about how his car has been overheating, but from my experience with The Beast, my old Ford Explorer, it seemed like the car’s fuel filter was clogged. I didn’t speak up though—who is going to take car advice from the young white girl, and how could I ever explain it in twi? After letting the driver vent for a sufficient amount of time, one of the men turned to me and asked the all too familiar question, “Do you have a husband?” Exasperated, I told him no. All the men’s eyes lit up as they chuckled and focused their attention on me. “Well, then you will marry me!” he said confidently. Unfortunately, he was my fourth proposal of that day and another man had already earned the privilege of me telling him he could be my husband for the day. This time I used one of my favorite excuses, “Oh, I can’t marry you, you are too old!” Little did he know the man I said yes to was at least 65 years old. Somehow, we made it back to town. I parted ways with the men, who were on their way to the funeral. Before I walked away, they all shook my hand jovially, thanking me for my patience and being a good sport. It’s always an adventure here.
Friday was apparently my one-year in country anniversary. Had several of my friends not texted me “happy anniversary,” I wouldn’t have even remembered. It was just another day in the life.
I started out at 6:30 in the morning going house to house with my new counterpart, finishing up the house-to-house registration for the women’s group. Since I didn’t realize it was a milestone day, I also didn’t realize that it was kind of significant that that day was the first time I officially started working with my new counterpart. My old counterpart recently got a job in another district so I had to find a new person to work with. I’m actually thrilled about the situation. CK always complained about money and not having any employment options, so it’s great he got a job. Also, my new counterpart is awesome. His name is Wofa Atta (Uncle Twin) but I call him Agya (Father). He was born and raised in Adabokrom, completed high school in Berekum and came back in the mid-eighties. He has been running the child welfare days since 1987, and is known and respected by literally everyone in town. He’s kind, funny, and always eager to do more community health volunteering.
So early Friday we set out to start registering women for our new group. When CK and I would go, we would do one section a day, maybe two if we were on a roll (each section has 15 women). Agya didn’t want to stop, so we did three sections that morning (that’s 45 women, more than 50 households visited). I was exhausted, but obviously pleased. I went home to rest for a little bit before calling up my friend, Rashida, the new community sanitation officer to talk about sanitation projects we have in the works. She invited me to her house, so I came over to talk in person. She was hard at work stirring TZ (pronounced tee-zed thanks to British colonization), a common food from northern Ghana but something I had never tried before. She moved to Adabokrom a few months ago from Tamale, Northern Region, and we have a connection being outsiders, trying to improve the sanitation and change behaviors in town. We sat and chatted about various things while she worked, then shared a big bowl of TZ and okra stew. Usually I hate okra stew and I don’t know what she did to make hers different, but it was delicious. She told me her landlord, one of the oldest and most respected men in town, was sick and in the hospital. She was just getting ready to go visit him when he walked into the compound with an entourage of family and friends following. Within minutes about half of the elders showed up, as did the chief to greet the old man and see how he was doing. The women of the household, including my friend, rushed to the old man’s side, asking what they could do to ease his pain. Rashida, a fellow northerner and Muslim knew the man would like tea and hurried to make it for him. Apparently his ailment could not be treated at the local hospital, and he just stopped by to get his things to go to Sunyani, the capital of Brong Ahafo region, which has a much better hospital.
After a few hours and a ridiculous amount of TZ, it was time for me to go. Rashida says TZ is better than sleeping pills, which may be true, and the 100-degree heat didn’t help my sleepiness either. I took my usual afternoon nap and was awakened by Sandra around 4 pm. She came in my room, as she does every day after school, to say “Good Afternoon, Mam B.” I helped her change out of her school clothes and then we went out back to sit and play while her mom and our two newest family members, Eric and Sholpo (two teenage boys taken in by the family after Kennet died) pounded the fufu. Once we finished eating, Sandra and I practiced the alphabet like we do most nights. All in all, it was a very good day, and its nice to feel so integrated one year in.