At the same day, that I arrived in the country which would accomodate me for the next two months, I was going to visit the headmaster to discuss about school and my duties. So I and my Ghanian friends started the long way to La.
The public transportation in Accra is mainly by “tro tros”. Small vans that fit around 20 passengers (their capacity depends on their different size). The crew is consisted of two persons: the driver and the “mate”. The mate is always sitted on a specific place next to the door in order to open the rolling door, collect the money and indicate the route to the prospective passengers. He is practically putting his arm outside of the open window, making a distinctive gesture and announcing the destination in abbreviation. Cra- Cra- Cra, that means Accra, Ci- Ci- Ci, that means Circle. The trotros vary in size, decoration, colour, age, musical preference and religious beliefs.
For me to arrive at school would take a small trip everyday. Due to the heavy traffic and the fact that I needed to change two trotros, I would travel for 1,5 to 2 hours to my destination. Same to return. I wasn’t discouraged at all, as my 3-4 hour ride through Ghana’s Capital would give me the opportunity to peep into the locals’ life. I would observe the colourful clothes, the backpacked babies, the bizarre merchandise on top of women’s heads.
So we boarded on a trotro, whose mate’s strident voice was shouting Cra- Cra- Cra! Halfway, we got off and walked to the 37 trotro station. From the one trotro to the other, we crossed a small market, where you could find all sorts of products. Stationary, Dettol, buckets, bread, eggs, drinks, bracelets, biscuits, fish, underwear and so on. The smell of the food mixed with that coming from the sewage was a little unpleasant, but it is oddly also one of the things you get used to while in Ghana.
The market was loud and crowded. People were coming from all directions. A strong manly voice sounded magnified by a megaphone. He was talking in a local language, probably Twi. It was hard to grasp whether he was angry or excited and passionate. Must have been passionate, I decided. You could also discern a second voice, agreeing with the first man in an ecstasy. I soon realized that he was talking about God. Our trotro was parked a little further from the two men and the megaphone. While the ecstatic men’s voices were fading out a woman’s voice filled the atmosphere. The voice was recorded this time, also in a local language. After carefull hearing I was convinced that this woman was advertising herbs that will enhance your immune system against malaria. My conclusion was based on the two english words she kept repeating “Immune System” and “Malaria”.
The second ride lasted about 45 minutes. Now you could view much more green and big villas with a security booth. Then again the trotro turned and as if being in the knight Bus ( ref. to Harry Potter), the luxurious residences vanished. We had reached the community where the school was located. The houses around were made by shoddy, cheap materials, the streets were muddy, eneven and full of rocks. Kids were running around barefoot and half naked. The trotro stopped minutes away from school. We had to cross another house’s yard to finally arrive at the school’s small playground. The borders of the school and houses were indistinct. It was impossible to tell where the school territory started and the house privacy ended. The building is comprised by three classrooms on the right and one classroom on the left. Inbetween there is a house. There is also a bathroom, a kitchen and a small courtyard. The swings are destroyed and rusty. But that doesn’t stop the kids from having fun in their invaluable playground.
It was closing time for school and only a dozen of students were waiting for their parents, wearing their cute blue uniforms and their small bags. I was informed that when it is raining most of the parents do not send their children to the school. I speculated that the parents find it difficult to approach the school after heavy rain, as little mighty rivers are formed around it, having a moat effect. Another reason should be that the roof has small holes, permitting the rain to come in, and of course the absence of shed. The toilet is independently situated away from the classes and the kids, who do not possess umbrella, become “ducks” from the rain (= Greek expression that means soaking wet), when nature calls them.
For all the above, that day there were only the 1/30 of the total students in the yard. When I was noticed, in a split of a second, I was surrounded by beautiful children, around 3-4 years old shouting “brofonyo, brofonyo, brofonyo” (= white woman in Ga, their local language). They were all trying to hug me and touch me. I asked their names. I could only remember the name of the girl that first ran towards me and managed the most privileged place. It was Jessica. her hair was like many small antennae pointing to the sky. I was clearly moved, but i tried not to shed any tears. At that crucial time I made a promise to myself; i will not be swallowed by sympathy, frustration or sorrow. I was there to help, appreciate, live. We all deserve respect and pitty does not go along with it.Thus, no tears for Lilly!
Even my Ghanian friends were surprised by the children’s reaction. Frankly speaking the main reason of their enthousiasm was the fact that I was an “obruni”, a “brofonyo”. Nothing else is so special about me to magnetize kids that way. When I was released from my adorable new students, we decided to have a stroll in the community. We must have walked at least three times from the same paths, but I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Unfeasible to orientate. There were no streets proper for cars. The ground houses had small yards and there were sparsely some shops.We also passed by a shut down internet cafe.
One of my friend’s house was located right opposite the headmaster’s house. We were invited in while waiting for the appointment. His mother greeted us heartily. She looked as a strong woman that is indulging the fact that has born and brought up useful kids for the society. That was the trueth! Despite difficulties, her children had gone to college and were well qualified. We went in my friend’s room, without the shoes, and were offered a Malt. It is a strong flavoured non alcoholic brewed from barley, hops, and water.
The appointment with the headmaster took place an hour after the planed time. But it was in my Africa resolutions not to care about delays. In his porch a baby was staring at me with eyes wide open. His mom called me “Obruni, obruni” and encouraged me in broken english to come closer, because the baby liked me. So I did. The baby was still looking at me when the headmaster invited us in a room. We took off our shoes and were offered cold sachets of water. The headmaster is a truely kind man who is struggling to offer education to the kids of the less privileged households. He also underlined how important the contribution of the interns is, for they bring new ideas from their homecountries. He also mentioned a new initiative about the construction of a new safe building that will accomodate the primary school ( i will devote a whole article about it). Leaving his house I felt confident and happy that there was freedom of expressing new ideas and productive citicism.
Overflown by enthousiasm, that helped me to not collapse by 8 o clock, I made it back home. The living room was congested by boys who were watching feverously a world cup match. Many names were mentioned again, only to forget them next minute. Suddenly, I remembered that, I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I needed to be fed. One of my courteous friends showed me the way to thrylic “Mama Lit”, that was the main food supplier for the whole house. It is a small kiosk with ready made food. There is a fair variety of boiled eggs, fried chicken and fish, fried rice, noodles, jollof rice, rice balls, fried plantae, salad. Personally, i did not feel ready enough to taste the spicy ghanian cuisine, so I selcted safely fried chicken with rice. The rice was that much that made it difficult for the box to close. The price was 5 Ghanian Cedi (=1,02 euros).
My first day came to an end, with my eyelids closing heavy by exhaustion. Countless thoughts and pictures were parading in my mind. Am I going to be a good teacher? Will the kids like me? Am I going to find my way around in Accra? Is it all too much to handle? Thoughts shimmered and finally vanished. Finally i was in the arms of Morpheus. Tomorrow, would be a brand new day in Africa!