Monday, June 14, 2010

First Impressions

In case everyone is not already aware, I have arrived safe and sound (*knock on wood*) in Ghana. Brianna and I arrived at the Accra airport on Friday night, and we have been staying and will continue to stay at a small motel in Accra until our WUSC training is completed on Wednesday.

To be quite honest, I feel as though I have somehow cheated the IDS system of placement-going. After reading about the drastic things that happened to my friend Hridi who has been in Ghana for a month, I had mentally prepared myself to expect the worse. However, as I was able to travel with Brianna (not by myself as I had expected for the past 3 years), had a smooth and on-time flight, as well as an easy transition from the airport to a nice motel, everything seemed to be just too easy. To top things off, Hridi came to visit us on Friday night, and proceeded to show us the ropes in Accra throughout the weekend. We even had a great local driver/tour guide, Erick, who was a cousin of one of Hridi's friends in Toronto.. Everything has just been too strangely simple...But not that I'm complaining.

To paint a bit of a mental picture of Accra, I will highlight a few things that stood out to me over the past couple of days. When I first stepped off of the plane, I took my first breath in Africa and was met with pretty much the richest feeling of warmth I had ever known. The humidity immediately hit me like a wall and I remember a distinctly recognizable smell of warm things: pavement, sweaty bodies, red earth and motor exhaust. Since that time this sweet distinctiveness has decreased, but I think that smell will remain in my memory for a long time. The city itself reminds me of the developing version of a GTA subdivision: buildings sprawled over the landscape for miles without particular rhyme nor reason, nor with a particular point of centrality or focus. In addition, again like the subdivisions of the developed world, it seems to take forever to get anywhere due to high volumes of traffic and highway construction.

One of the most amazing contrasts to me was the sheer number of people in Accra. Always, there are people gathered outside, in front of shops, along the roadside, chatting, walking, working. Drivers yell out to other drivers, to pedestrians, and vice-versa: not in anger, just friendly words of greeting or directions. It seems everyone is in a constant state of communication, like long-time friends. Also, despite the seemingly wreckless craze of driving in Accra, most drivers are more than willing to slow, stop and wait for pedestrians to cross, or for cars to emerge in front of them in a long line of traffic. It is extremely rare for anyone to use signals or lane distinctions, and I have realized that honking instead is the main way for drivers to communicate these things.

Saturday night, Erick took us clubbing around Accra. It was definitely a fun experience, but likely one that I will not do again too soon... at least until I have developed an adequate booty. Like a lot of clubs in Toronto, guys definitely outnumber the girls. However, while in Canada it would be considered strange to see heterosexual males dancing together, here it seems to be a perfectly normal and acceptable practice. I really love this because it makes me realize that people here dance just for the sake of dancing and being together. Nonetheless, from what I've seen so far, all Ghanians seem to be born with the natural ability to dance and keep rhythm beautifully. This definitely creates a high level of intimidation for me, as I know that I am perceived as the awkward white girl that cannot even clap her hands to keep a beat, let alone dance to high-tempo African “hip life” music.

All in all though, the people are wonderful, the city is beautiful and the weather is a nice change from the ever-fluctuating Canadian climate patterns. I am very much looking forward to getting to Fotobi, the village I will be working in for the next 10 months, on Wednesday.

I guess that is all for now. I miss you and am thinking about you all. Although internet is unavailable in Fotobi, I am hoping to soon purchase a modem stick so that I will be able to have some internet access.


  1. You will definitely remember that smell forever! Yesterday, it was so hot in Toronto and there were BBQs and fires (like, actual ones with burning down buildings...) and I swear Harbord smelled exactly like Santa Elena. :)