First week of work successfully negotiated and Accra is beginning to feel a little more manageable. I am even making some progress in my search for a place to call “home”.
When I do finally leave the Pink Hostel I am going to miss the place. The characters in it and my daily regime have been my only constants since arriving in Ghana eleven days ago.
My typical day starts with my first shower at 6.30. I am always the first up in the room. To my left is a snoring Pakistani UN peacekeeper, on leave from his tour of duty in Liberia. Perched up to my right is George (also snoring), a 27 year old Mormon beefcake from Washington state. He is in Ghana to buy and sell mining concessions in the Ashanti goldfields a few hours to the north. Despite his Christian credentials he seems to be involved in some fairly shady deals and seems unwilling to discuss any details. A soldier, an NGO worker and a miner is quite an odd combo but we seem to tolerate each other well enough. If we get a missionary and a doctor checking in tomorrow, room 2 will represent the history of foreign intervention in Africa.
Breakfast is at seven. I am always the first down before being joined by a bunch of gap year volunteers who have paid several grand for two months volunteering in a nearby orphanage. Breakfast constitutes chunks of fresh pineapple, which is AMAZING in Ghana, followed by a two slices of bread washed down by black tea. (There is no dairy industry in Ghana so it is UHT or no milk at all- I choose none at all)
Work is a ten minute walk away from the hostel. Asylum Down is pretty quiet even at rush hour and with the exception of cars beeping at me as they pass, it is quite a pleasant start to the day. I am greeted by the same women selling fruit on the side of the road and then the traffic wardens on the corner of Samora Machel Street. “Hey, white. How are you?” or “obruni, how are you obruni?” You are never allowed to forgot that you an obruni (white man) in Acccra. “I am fine black, how are you?”-mmm maybe not...
Work officially starts at eight but I tend to get in before that. The office is still cool and it gives me a good opportunity to socialise with my new work colleagues. Theresa , Raymond and Kingham are already in as they always aim to beat the rush hour from Teshi. The rest of the staff slink in and the working day starts at about ten past eight. I am based in a side office with Kingham and Anastasia. I am tasked with researching human rights issues in the other four Commonwealth countries of West Africa. I am currently looking into the conduct of elections in the Gambia and I am hoping to cover the plight of the five presidential contests which will be taking place in The Gambia, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Sierra Leone over the next two years. Hopefully I might be able to get a work blog going on the topic- watch this space!
Lunch is at twelve and Emma and I go to “Champions” a nearby food shack. Street food in Ghana is pretty good. My favourite meal is beans and rice topped with a chilli sauce, although others are trying to get me into “red red”- beans and plantain. You order food by quantity. I usually go for 75 Peswas (about 40p) rice and 75 Peswas beans. The scowling ladies decide how much they judge 75 Peswas to be, and reluctantly ladle my meal into a small black plastic bag. The quantity of my meal seems to fluctuate daily, depending on just how inconvenient I am being for buying their food. We stop for a coke form the lady on the corner with the unnaturally large bust and go back to the office to stuff our faces on the balcony overlooking the north of the city.
The evening is all too brief. I knock off from work at half four and go straight back to shower and into the comfort of an air conditioned room. I venture out again after dark for a quick beer and snack. Unlike elsewhere I have been in Africa, the streets of Accra are still alive after sunset. On every corner there is a little shack either showing premier league games or playing afro beats. I usually settle in for half an hour with some “Star” beer and fried goat.
Love to all back home. Happy birthday Nicky Strong and good luck travelling Will.