Posted tagged ‘Tamale’

“There are no such things as curses; only people and their decisions”

October 7, 2017

The sun predicted for today has yet to appear. It is cloudy and damp. I could feel the moisture in the air when Gracie and I went out to get the papers. It made me feel a bit chilly and I wished I had put on a sweatshirt. The house, though, with all the doors and windows closed is warm.

We’re going out today, Gracie and I, to the dump, the market and Agway. My trunk is filled with trash from Thursday’s great cabinet clean-out. Gracie needs canned food and a treat or two, and I need the essentials for life: bread, coffee and cream.

My friends are coming on Tuesday for a couple of days. These are the friends I traveled with to Ghana last year. We first met in 1969 at Peace Corps staging in Philadelphia at the Hotel Sylvania. Staging is the first time the whole group of trainees get together before leaving for in-country training, and it is where we got shots, had interviews and were introduced to PC staff from Ghana. Right away we became friends and co-conspirators. The three of us skipped some of the orientation to tour Philadelphia. It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing. They were supposed to be posted in Tamale, a city 100 miles from Bolga. That would have made us neighbors. Instead, after Peace Corps found out Peg was pregnant, they were posted to New Tafo, in the south. I visited them every time I went south, and we traveled together. Just before our second year, there was an open post at my school. They were willing to join me in Bolga, and the principal agreed to make the request to Peace Corps so we became neighbors living in a duplex on the school compound. Bill had a red motorcycle. I had a grey one. We used to take day trips around Bolga. He’d take Kevin, their son, and I’d take Peg. We had adventures. I remember a couple of picnics during school holidays, one by a watering hole and another in the hills of Tongo where school boys stood and watched us the whole time. It was there an old man threatened us with the gods because he claimed we had desecrated a sacred rock by putting our small charcoal burned on it. The schoolboys said he just wanted money. We decided to take our chances. As we were leaving, Bill’s motorcycle stopped dead. It just quit running. We sort of chuckle and hoped the old man didn’t see us. The motorcycle did start right away, but it gave us pause.

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.”

June 7, 2016

So far today is another lovely day. When I got the papers this morning, I could smell the scent of the flowers from my front garden. I had to stop to look and to smell. The air was summer. This afternoon the storm is coming with rain, heavy winds and even the possibility of hail. Right now with sunlight, small breezes and the singing of birds the rain seems improbable.

My microwave just died after a long and useful life. I will replace it today if I can find one I like. The dead one was small. It fit on an old child’s desk in my kitchen. My African cookbooks were on top, and kitchen towels were in the space beneath the top where school books used to be stored. I figure I’ll need my neighbor’s help hauling the old out and the new in. My back doesn’t do heavy.

The flight to Ghana is booked. We’re leaving on September 20th and returning on October 7th. The only glitch is a long layover in New York, five hours, before we leave. We’re hoping that may change by September. If not, we’ll be lounge lizards.

Traveling with my friends will be the best part of this trip. They are funny, amiable and sarcastic, one of my favorite traits. They will be driving from New Hampshire to meet me in Boston. We have a few places already on our to visit list including the new lodge at Mole National Park (http://zainalodge.com). It is expensive, but we figured we deserved it.

We have decided to fly from Accra to Tamale. The land trip is long and tedious, and we’ve done it enough times that we don’t need to do it again. I flew that route a few times when I lived in Ghana. It was a luxury on my monthly pittance. After the lodge, we’ll rent a car and driver to go to Bolga where we hope to stay in a former student’s new house. She is hurrying to finish so we can stay there. All we need is windows and a bathroom that flushes. I hate aiming at a hole. AC would also be nice.

I always knew I’d go back to Ghana. Over the years I said it many times when people asked me. I don’t know what took me so long to get there. Now I’m going to make my third trip in five years. The first time back I remember getting so excited as the flight neared landing. When I got outside the airport so many memories rushed back at me. The air smelled of wood fires and trees and thick bushes. I could hear Twi being spoken and Ga, the local language. The Ghanaians were hustling to make money carrying bags. That too was so familiar. They use to rush us at bus depots and train stations. I felt the heat and the humidity. I started to sweat. Yup, that was Ghana.

 

“My first car was a motorcycle.”

July 23, 2015

Today is lovely with very little humidity and a cooling breeze. I slept in until nearly 10 o’clock. Last night I was tired so I went to bed early (for me) but was still awake at 3. To pass the time I watched a movie on my iPad, A Foreign Field. I kept thinking I’d finish it in the morning, but I watched it through to the end.

A flicker, a bird I haven’t seen in a long while, and a huge woodpecker were the stars this morning at the bird feeders. The usual complement of birds also dropped by, but they, especially the chickadee, looked tiny compared to the flicker. The red spawn hasn’t been by in a long while. I think it has to do with the spawn having gotten caught a few times inside the wire feeder while the full brunt of the jet spray of the nozzle was directed at it. The spawn just couldn’t escape fast enough to avoid the spray.

In Ghana, during my second year, Peace Corps relaxed its rules and allowed us to buy motorcycles. I bought a small motorcycle, a Honda 90. It was designed for modesty, with no middle bar, perfect for me as I had to wear dresses all the time. I learned the gears and the brake when I bought the moto, as it is called it in Ghana, and then rode it over 100 miles from Tamale to Bolgatanga. It was exhilarating. I loved the road and the wind on my face. The bugs were not so welcome. I learned to be exhilarated without smiling. A few inhaled bugs and a choke or two taught me that lesson. I rode along singing out loud to pass the time. I figure a few villagers told stories later about the crazy baturia (white woman) on the moto screeching as she rode.

The road home was a good one, paved all the way. It was called the road to Bolga and it went straight there so I never worried about getting lost. The ride was a long one so I stopped to stretch my legs and once I bought a warm coke at a store along the road. Kids from villages beside the road followed a bit and waved. I was even comfortable enough driving by then to wave back. When I got to the school gate, I honked so the gateman would let me in. He smiled a toothless grin and pointed to my bike. I smiled back and nodded.

I would love to have another motorcycle, but I dare not given how often I bang my leg or fall up or down stairs. Traffic here goes far too fast and hugging the sides of the road is a recipe for disaster. I’m liable to hit a giant rock or branch or have something from the sky fall directly on my head, such is my luck.

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

December 31, 2012

Today being the last day of the year and all I took a leisurely morning. First of all I woke up late, we’re talking 9:45 late, took my shower and then had an extra cup of coffee while reading the papers. I watched the birds from the window. It was like a convention of birds. One feeder had five goldfinches while other birds hovered just outside of it waiting for their seats at the counter. I felt bad for the doves as I had nothing for them. I have to go to Agway later to get Gracie food, sunflower seeds and thistle so I’ll also pick up a bag of assorted seeds to throw down for the doves. I’m so glad I filled the feeders the other day as the birds aren’t likely to find anything to eat with the snow.

Nope, I haven’t made a single resolution. Last year was a great year, and I didn’t make any resolutions then either. I’ll just let my life meander. That seems to work just fine.

I would like a trip this new year, but I have to go somewhere close and cheap. The last two Ghana trips depleted my savings, and I need some time to rebuild. Also, I’d like one more trip to Ghana, probably my last, in a couple of years, and that’s another reason for close and cheap. My friends Bill and Peg are going back to Ghana and Bolga in the fall. They mentioned that Duane, another volunteer with us from way back, would also like to go Ghana but he hasn’t yet planned the when. He was posted about 100 miles from us in Tamale, and I used to see him on my trips there, to the “big” city. He’ll have a bit of culture shock when he sees how big Tamale has gotten. It even has a store which sells real cheese.

I have no plans for tonight. My sister and I were laughing about that. In the old days, neither one of us would have been caught dead at home on New Year’s Eve. We’d be partying some place or many places, and we’d be wearing those silly hats and blowing horns. Tonight I’ll celebrate at home and be quite content. I’m thinking a bit of champagne and maybe even some shrimp. Just because I’m home doesn’t mean I can’t spoil myself!

Happy New Year, my friends. May this year be the best year!

That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel.”

July 24, 2012

I thought I heard rain this morning, but I just turned over and went back to sleep and slept in. I didn’t wake up until 9:30. I even went to bed early for me last night so this was a where’s my prince sort of deep sleep. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see the Seven Dwarves standing by my bedside. The streets were damp when I went to get the paper so it had rained, and that little rain brought us a cloudy day and thick humidity. The sun is appearing infrequently as if it doesn’t really care one way or the other. The paper predicts a hot day.

Sounds are always muted in the humidity. The thickness of the air drowns everything and brings a sort of lethargy. Even the leaves on the oak trees barely stir. The house is cloudy day dark and the window here does little to lighten the room. It’s morning nap time for Fern, Maddie and Gracie. The loudest noise in the house is the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

When I lived in Ghana, I had a Honda 70. It was the demure moto, as the Ghanaians call motorcycles, for a woman who always wore a dress. My first year volunteers weren’t allowed motorcycles, but when that changed my second year, I bought one. My first trip, just after learning to ride it, was the hundred miles from Tamale where I bought the bike to Bolga where I lived. I loved that ride. It was a freedom I had never felt in a crowded lorry with every seat taken, people sitting in the middle on small stools and a few chickens and goats along for the ride. That moto gave me the freedom to take back roads leading to the small villages which ringed Bolga. I always brought a canister of extra gas. My friends and I would usually go together; Bill took the baby Kevin safely tied in a backpack and I took Peg his wife on the back of my bike. We’d often bring lunch and stop for a picnic. Those were fun days as we found ourselves in amazing places. Once some guys hauled our bikes across a small pond and we sat by a village watering hole to have lunch. Small boys stood around and watched us. The guys at the pond waited for us to finish as we had given them half a cedi for one way and told them we’d give them the other half if they waited to take the bikes back. That was a lot of money in those days. Another time we went to Tongo. We had brought a small charcoal burner and hot dogs that came in a can to cook almost like at a real barbecue. We set up the burner on a rock. A bit later a man came and yelled at us in FraFra. The small boys in school uniforms who had been standing around and watching us translated. The man wanted money to appease the gods on whose rock we had rested the burner, but the rock had bird poop on it so we didn’t buy his story figuring it was another scam for money. His response was something along the lines of  misfortunes would follow us, but that too we ignored. We finished and packed up to leave. Not far from the rock, Bill’s bike stopped suddenly for no reason. We looked at each other wondering, but Bill’s bike restarted with no problem. We were just glad the old man hadn’t seen it.