We arrived in Ghana on Sunday 2nd October, stepping off the plane into a humid Accra airport. It’s been just over 2 weeks since then and we’ve started to settle in, get our heads around our jobs, understand some of the quirks or our new life here, and (sort of) get used to/accept the heat!
Our first few days were spent at an induction in Accra at VSO Ghana’s head office, learning about everything from how we’ll receive our monthly volunteer living allowance of around £135 each, to which beaches are most common for muggings, to how marriages and funerals work here. With a driver taking us everywhere we needed to go, it was hard to get a sense of the city, but we were quick to learn about the capital’s traffic congestion problems! And our medical session at the local clinic provided a quick introduction to one of the very common questions asked of foreigners – our conversation with the doctor covered the perils of malaria, typhoid and cholera, and whether or not we go to church, of course.
After just a few days in the south, we flew up to Tamale in the Northern Region of Ghana where we will be living. Being joined on the plane by the entire Ghanaian national football team made for an interesting welcome to our new home town – our drive from the airport to our house was as part of a procession of fans celebrating the team’s (and of course our…?) arrival in the city.
We will have plenty of time, and blogs, to tell you about our work, the city of Tamale and the lifestyle here – Tom, just a week after arriving, said that “the word ‘luxury’ has already been totally redefined.” But for now, I wanted to share a little about our new home. (More photos to be added to this post soon.)
Our accommodation has been provided for us by VSO, and the thing that’s definitely not lacking is space. For the first (and possibly last, if we keep choosing not to get normal, paying jobs) time, we are living in a 3 bedroom, 2 sitting room, 2 bathroom, detached house with lots of outdoor space. We have power – mostly – and running water – so far, our back up tank has kept us going when the mains are off. But it’s hard to describe the place as anything other than basic.
The high perimeter wall spiked with broken glass bottles, concrete floors and bars on the windows give the place a somewhat prison-like feel, while the ‘back garden’ is more of a wasteland with a burnt patch where you can set fire to rubbish. We have a mismatched array of old furniture and kitchen utensils, and plenty of open water waste pipes and gaps in the roof and windows to let in all the insects and geckos. All of that aside, it is quickly becoming home, with much of our weekends so far spent in our front sitting room – the one with the fan!
We’re based 30 minutes’ walk or a quick, 20-pence-each shared taxi ride from the centre of Tamale. And luckily, with just a 15 minute walk to our new workplace at VSO Ghana’s regional office, we don’t have anything like the lengthy Accra commute to navigate and can set off for work each morning at 7:45. Greetings (a huge part of Ghanaian culture) are expected from almost everyone you pass, so our walk is accompanied by a regular “Good morning! You are welcome.” from the people on our route.
Life here will still take quite a bit of getting used to. Being told that we are welcome here every single day will definitely help that along though.