Sunday, May 28, 2006

Salaga - May 11th 2006

I have arrived. I am covered, head to toe in the red dusty soil of the Gonja district. After a seemingly endless tro-tro ride (let me pause for a minute; what is a tro-tro? Perhaps you are unfamiliar with it. If a vehicle was crafted from the highest grade, strongest tensile strength steel, it could not be more resilient than a tro-tro. It is a small bus/van, with “jump” seats – you have to step on the middle seat of the row to get to the back. And the road I took here, if you can call it a road, was so jittery that my teeth are still chattering. I am in fact wholly surprised this machine survived the journey…) I got off in central Salaga town. Many people approached me and began speaking all at once – in French, in the Ghanaian English that I’m yet unfamiliar with, in Gonja, in Dagbani. “Madame, where are you going? Madame, you are welcome! You are welcome!”

Besides the complete unfamiliarity of being addressed as “Madame” it hit me at that moment – I am completely alone. Last night, and this morning, I had attempted to contact my district director but it did not come through. I just arrived hoping I would find the Ministry Agric office. Luckily it was just down the road. The people were tremendously hospitable, and very friendly when I informed them in the odd accent that I have acquired (supposedly for ease of understanding, but I am sure they are laughing at it as we speak..), that I could walk to the Agric office. It is not far.

Three kilometers, one very shy friend (Salifu, he is 15 and looks around 12 years old. He offered to help carry my heavy bags on his bicycle – we compromised..) later, I arrived, exhausted, sweaty, hair a stringy mess, at the District Agric Development Unit – at the VERY end of Salaga town.

In my meeting with the director (a man I expected to be very imposing and old, but turned out to be maybe 35 or 40, a Ph.D in Veterinary Med from the former U.S.S.R) I realized, after this long journey, I hadn’t composed anything to say. So I ended up yammering on about genetics, and EWB, and working with farmers and Manitoba and the Ukrainians there and perogies. That’s right – I yammered.

After walking 3 kilometers in the dry heat, I was offered to drive another 400m to my home for the next three months. It is a pink house with a big open courtyard and nothing green, at all, in the front. All around the courtyard are different doors, and different rooms. I am staying in the Agric “demonstration house” – whatever that means. There are two housekeepers – with no husbands, an odd predicament in rural Northern Ghana – one very cute baby “Boncat”, one mechanical engineer working with bore-pumps, and a few other people.

The biggest surprise ever – there is a man, from Tamil Nadu, who speaks fluent Tamil, sort of un-fluent English, from Salem, who is working also on the bore-pumps! His name is Raju and when he found out I speak Tamil, he nearly cried for joy. The oddest things…

We have electricity, but we do not have running water. We must walk ¼ kilometer to pump water from the borehole into a bucket, and bring it back to bathe. There are toilets but they are in the backyard, concrete structures. Everyone keeps offering to carry my water and do my laundry, so it might be a struggle to convince them that we can do it together! But enough of cooping up in my room, onwards, to meet my new family for the next three months!

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