I’ve just spent my first night in Ghana. The flight over seemed endless. I have never had the patience to complete Sudoku puzzles, but after 10 hours I developed patience and worked through a couple in the Sky magazine on the plane. I also met a woman who owns an art studio (she designs a lot of furniture) in Accra who suggested a few places to visit.
Yesterday was pretty eventful. I arrived in the morning around 9 AM (my flight left JFK an hour late). After passing through customs, I walked outside to look for someone holding a sign with my name on it who would take me to my guest house. There was no one there and the phone number I had for the guest house did not work. So I decided to take a taxi to the place. I told the driver I wanted to go to Telecentre Guest House, and he assured me that he knew where it was.
About 10 minutes later I arrived at the Chelsea Guest House. Aside from having a different name, Chelsea looked nothing like the picture I had of Telecentre. At this point I’m a bit nervous, but my driver was a nice guy and suggested that I stay at a hotel temporarily and locate the guest house the following day (today). This was pretty much my only option. So, he takes me to the ATM to get some cash (cedi), provides me with a SIM card for my phone, and drops me off at a hotel down the street from Ghana Telecom University College where I’ll be doing some work.
I check in at the hotel, shower, and doze off for a few hours. Here’s the fun part. I wake up and decide to walk around. I walk to the street, take a look around to get my bearings and decide which direction looks more interesting. Now in America we learn early to look both ways – left and right. In Ghana, and most of Africa, you also need to look down. I discovered this shortly after taking my first step…into the sewer! In Africa, the sides of most streets are lined by trenches about 2-3 feet deep. Their purpose is for rain water collection but, since the trenches are exposed, other items find their way into the trenches as well (which might explain why the water here is so horrible). I quickly retrieve my clumsy foot and walk across the street, hoping that no one saw what happened, knowing that everyone saw it. I look down and notice that my entire shoe is black; it looked like it was covered in tar.
I walk down the street, and this guy asks
What were you thinking when you took that step?
All I could do was laugh, and ask him if he had some water to clean my shoe. He obliged and provided me with some water and a towel to get it clean. It’s still wet, so I may need to find another pair of shoes while I’m here since my only other pair are my dress shoes.
Question: If I give my shoes away, can I get a tax write-off?
Back on subject, I had a small meal of rice and goat (very tough meat) and returned to the hotel. I decided to call the guest house again, and was able to get in contact with someone there. He agreed to pick me up, and an hour later I’m where I should be. The guy who picked me up turned out to be my contact at the university, Dr. Osei Darkwa. We chatted, and I asked him what he taught at the university. I thought he was a professor; he simply says “I’m the president.” We continue talking and it turns out he owns the guest house I’m staying at.
After getting settled in my room, which is more than twice the size of my room at MIT, he invites me to dinner at his home. Ghana is currently in state of power rationing due to limited rainfall at their hydroelectric dam, so every 5 days the power in different areas is cut off for 12 hours. Osei’s area had no power, so dinner was by flashlight, and I didn’t see much of his home; however, I did notice that we walked down a couple of long hallways. As we’re leaving I ask him about the house. I’m stunned. It’ s 7 bedrooms!
Finally, I returned to my room, which has great wireless internet access, setup Skype, call home, and go to sleep. So life is pretty good in Ghana right now. I have the internet, a great room, and a driver.
If you feel like chatting feel free to contact me via AIM or Skype with username ccb621, or you can call me at (214) 556-5916. This number is a Skype relay, so expect delay. Also note that I am on GMT Standard Time, 6 hours ahead of Dallas.