Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Day in the Life of Tamale

I’ve been living and working in Tamale, northern Ghana for almost three months now and well, it’s been quite the experience.
You know that story about Cockrell’s only singing once in a morning, normally at dawn? Well, I’ve discovered that it’s not true. In fact, they love a sing song before dawn and they tend to continue their tunes all day – I guess it’s not their fault they are awake so early though, the Mosque’s that surround my house probably woke them up before what is considered normal screeching morning prayer out of the speakers which are attached to the outside of their walls.
Every morning on leaving my host home I am surrounded by a small group of excited children shouting ‘hello Sliminga (white person), bye bye Sliminga’ and rushing up to high five me. Managing to escape the clutches of tiny hands, I flag down a taxi and squeeze myself into what is definitely a four person car with already five people in it, now six. I greet everyone, ‘dasiba’ (good morning) and a smile pops onto all their faces as they merrily speak to me in their local tongue – I explain that I only speak ‘small small Dagbani’ but that doesn’t dampen their mood.
After manoeuvring my way through traffic, a sleepy market and a lot of goats I arrive at Pagsung’s office, where I am based for my placement. Pagsung is a women’s owned enterprise with 33 member’s working on-site processing shea butter products. They make a variety of soaps, moisturisers and hair products, which we have all taken home to lather ourselves in their delicious-ness. The thirst for knowledge from the women who work here is inspiring; we presented a Health and Safety awareness raising session to them, a topic that comes paired with a long sigh in the UK, they listened intently and thanked us profusely for providing such a wealth of knowledge in such an excellent manner.
It’s currently rainy season in Ghana, which means it’s either incredibly hot and humid or a gust of wind (the only heads up you’ll get) will blow near by and you’ll be taken out by a tidal wave of rain. The goats, poultry and any other stray animals, who roam freely around near our office like to take shelter inside our office at this point and everything (I mean EVERYTHING) will stop. You want a taxi somewhere? You can’t. You want to nip passed the shop and pick up some biscuits? You can’t. And God forbid you want to leave your host home and attempt to find yourself that one rebellious taxi driver, you will quickly change your mind when the family look at you in horror and fear for your life as you attempt to wade through the river that is now your courtyard.
After work, there is an array of places to visit, ok bars – there’s an array of bars where you can pick yourself up a beer for about 5 cedi (£1). Someone will have arranged that night’s spot and on my arrival nobody will be there. Standard as the clocks here run on GMT (Ghana Man Time) which generally means ‘whatever time you have asked me to meet you I will be between 30 minutes and two hours late depending on the weather, I’ll probably never arrive if it’s raining’.
On arrival at home that evening the courtyard will be bustling with my host family member’s and between five to ten other people who I’ve never met before. A couple of my host sisters will be sitting around the firewood stove outside, another is pounding corn flour and water to make TZ, Fufu or Banku in what can only be described as a Giant’s Pestle and Mortar. Within half an hour a plate with the biggest portion of dough with a spicy soup is handed to you. I am still in training and the task of getting the slippery mixture from bowl to mouth with only hands as cutlery is no easy feat, normally around half of the soup and a couple of slippery doe balls will fall on the floor – the family will laugh and the cats will quickly come over to give it a sniff. They are a dab hand at hovering up the leftovers.

Before bed, I’ll go to have a quick shower (a bucket with a plastic mug to pour), go to turn on the tap and when nothing comes out my family call over ‘tap is turned off’, once again the water has been turned off somewhere up the road with no heads up or with any idea when it will be back on . I can only laugh and think to myself ‘TIA’ (this is Africa). 

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