October 3, 2012
I arrive at:
I am finally here! Still quite incredible that I find myself here. It feels like a dream—one time I was planning it, the next time I’m actually living it.
The total travel time was not that bad – just 16-17 hours long. We had a stopover at Frankfurt. While I was walking to the boarding gate I was expecting to find Ghanians and only Ghanians waiting. To my surprise though most of them were Caucasians. Most of them were I guessed (and I guessed right) from Peace Corps. Some of them wore business attires, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the kind of work they do here. I did speak to one American on our way from the bus to the terminal. He asked me if I also came from DC, to which I said yes (later on I wondered how he even came to the conclusion). But you’re not American, he said. I said no, that’s right—I am not American but I work in the US. Do you work in Ghana? No I don’t, I am here for an HIV rotation. We later on talked again as we were lining up at the Immigration. Apparently he works in a healthcare –related industry, only that he’s on the Economic side of things. He was surprised when said it was my first time in Africa— not sure if it was because of me doing HIV work or that it was my first time at all in Africa. He said when he was in the Peace Corps, he had 3 months of training before being sent to Africa. I wonder though what sort of training that would be. I mean, how does one prepare to come to Africa anyway? I said, well I’m not sure if coming from a third world country counts. He had no idea Philippines was third world.
Anyway, to be honest with you I am a bit disappointed with the volunteer organization I am with. I mean fine, I didn’t come with high expectations with regards to their organization (i.e, it took 2 almost 3 months for them to give me a damn doctor’s cv), but I was expecting at the very least decent housing and for F to come pick me up as he said he would.
Well—he didn’t pick me up. Another man did (forgot his name, starts with an S), and he came late. He did carry a placard that said “IFRE,” in fairness to him (though later on I was craning my neck to re-check that it did indeed read “IFRE”). As I walked past the ‘waiters’ and greeters and realized that F was not there, I knew I was in for a treat. Nice. So I go to the side and an officer (he had an official ID, I saw) asked if I needed help. He said if I wanted to use his phone. I actually did. So I gave him F’s number. Another man, dressed nicely, came up and asked what was going on. He offered to help as well. So using the officer’s phone we tried calling F. When we finally got in touch with, not F but his surrogate, the nicely dressed man said I should wait outside to get fresh air. Once we were out, he said I should give the officer and him a tip for the phone use. He said, ’20 cedis (10 dollars) for the two of us.’ I said, no that’s too much. I said if I knew he was going to ask me to pay for the phone use I would have just bought a sim card and called F on my own. He said, well you can give him dollars and he will just exchange it and give you back the rest. How much do you have with you? He was standing so close to me too, that I felt my personal space was getting invaded. I said I have enough for myself, and I’m sorry but I feel like being coerced to do something I don’t want to do. I will not give you 20 cedis. I will give only what I want to give and that’s that. I knew 5 cedis was too much, but I already felt invaded and I feared that if I didn’t give them anything that they would do something worse like steal my bags. Argh. I hate being taken advantage of. But at least I wasn’t robbed of 20 cedis. Oh well.
As I was walking with the IFRE surrogate, who I will call ‘Sammy’ from now on, I had this sudden realization that oh my god a) I didn’t know who I was walking with, and b) I was in a totally foreign place in a continent where I did not know a single soul. The first thought that came to me was, ‘oh my goodness, I do have A LOT of faith in people!’ I mean what if IFRE was a hoax? And I was being brought to a really dangerous place where I would be prostituted? Crazy thoughts but oh my god they entered my thought. I just prayed so hard and trusted that wherever I am, God is with me.
It was already dark when we drove in the streets, so I couldn’t see much. I thought though that it looked a lot like Manila (as in UST area) and the poor side of QC. So yeah, it wasn’t much of a shock I guess.
What was a bit of a shock to me was the housing. When the taxi took a turn on a side street that looked dark and suspect, I felt my heart beat fast. Then it slowed down when I saw a red gate and then met the 4 other girl volunteers living in the house. So this is going to be my home for the next month.
It’s very dim here. I have a room entirely to myself. The 4 girls share a room. There is no sink with faucet and running water. They have a toilet. H (from Germany) said that they don’t flush for pee. If they have solid to flush, they turn on the faucet (which was on the wall) and then the flush. They brush their teeth using packed water and spitting onto the patch of land in the front yard. Hey, I can deal with this right? I’m a cowboy. I just suddenly miss home.
They tell me they have been going about on their own. This being my first day, I feel a bit intimidated at the thought of walking and using public transpo on my own. They tell me stories in the orphanages where they volunteer. They tell me stories of lazy teachers and uneducated students who get ‘caned’ and who expect to get ‘caned.’ They tell me stories of Ghanians not respecting your private space and their compulsion to touch your body. Holy cow. This is a good way to get me fired up, esp with my penchant for attracting these kinds of things in general.
It should be good though. The next 4 and a half weeks is just gonna be awesome with new and awesome experiences. I hope they don’t expect me to know a lot about HIV though, because I am here to learn about it. 🙂
I am raring to have Internet access.
I am so thankful for everything. I have a blessed, interesting life. I am here in Africa. I am, indeed, living the dream!
Oh, I thought it would be interesting to note that upon my arrival here I wasn’t greeted with ‘Akwaaba,’ but instead— with ‘Nihao.’
|Our Home Base|
|Our dining area. The two adjacent rooms that are both open are our bathroom/restroom.|
|P cooking in our kitchen|