Our day at sea (or lake, rather) was a beautiful one. The landscape served as an immediate source of inspiration as it transformed from lush, forested mountains to flat, barren and rural land. Our boat stopped at several ports to drop people and supplies in faraway villages. When I picture “real” Africa, I picture these villages. Hidden and untouched. No sky scrapers. No medical centers. No electricity. Just a pair of clay huts with thatch roofs and a fire pit.
When I laid my head down on my pillow, the boat’s consistent humming brought back memories of my childhood aboard the ships my mother and I traveled on. When I closed my eyes, flashbacks engulfed my every thought. It felt the same, but that was over ten years ago. How time flies.
The waves tossed me awake in the middle of the night, which I thought was pretty strange considering we were on a lake. How bad could they get? I stumbled outside at 2:30 a.m. to the captain’s den to see what was going on. As I slipped around the corner, I peaked inside. I found a Ghanaian man with his feet propped up on a desk, steering with one hand. Not exactly the most comforting scene. I noticed a radar screen on the desk, its green and black screen picturing a huge mass that we were headed straight towards.
“So why is it getting so rough?” I asked another guy sitting outside, who was shining a flood light, scanning the water.
“Wind,” he replied.
“And there really isn’t a chance this boat would sink, right?”
“Of course not. Yapei Queen lives forever,” he assured me.
Duh. So after a short conversation I decided to sleep again, despite the questionable land mass that we were apparently heading towards. Of course it was a mixture of my semi-consciousness and unnecessary anxiety that made me actually consider that the boat might sink.
Anyways, the next day we were thrown back into the real world, in a small fishing town called Yeji. About five seconds after we stepped off of the boat we were approached by a young Ghanaian man who offered to help us find a place to stay. It was weird, but I’ve learned that this is truly just the welcoming nature of this culture, most of the time at least. A bit peeved, at first we tried to politely decline and walk away, but it was dark and we had no information about the village. So we agreed to let him help. He led us about half a mile down the main road, which was booming with life, to Ebeneezer’s Guesthouse. Seven cedis each. That’s about five dollars a pop for a bed, screened-in windows, a fan and a communal bathroom. We agreed, paid up and were handed the key.
After a dinner consisting of two water sachets and three small mangoes, we decided to call it a night. But no hotel or guesthouse is ever an easy rest, at least not the ones in our price range. The rooms heat up throughout the day, especially when no fan is running, and the hot air gets trapped inside. It was a relatively cool night, but we couldn’t enjoy it because of one little pest: mosquitoes. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes. During night-time you lock yourself inside and them out.
After a while though, your sweat coats you in a layer of consistent moisture and sleeping becomes bearable. Until that point you just have to wait for your body to adapt. The most painful part. So during this tedious time Ruth and I made a list. A “You know you’re in Ghana when…” list. This is how it goes:
You know you’re in Ghana when…
…you can see over the walls of public toilets.
…you are no longer “Mary” or “Bob” but “Oburoni.”
…water and ice cream come in plastic bags that you rip open with your teeth.
…commuting to work alone is a full-body workout. And so is doing laundry.
…you pay money to pee on a wall.
…you can make friends just by walking down the road.
…you find a pebble (yes, as in a small rock) in your dinner.
…the only reliable aspect about the government is that it WILL switch off the power regularly.
…getting a bus ticket is a blood bath.
…you sweat in places you’ve never sweat before.
…you are afraid of wild safari animals attacking you in the night.
…your cabinets fall apart because they were put together with flat screws.
…you think you’ve gotten a pretty good tan until you shower and realize it was just a layer of dirt.