Today, the song “Africa” by Toto came on the radio, and it suddenly paused time and brought me to the time when I made the decision to move to Accra, Ghana to teach. In retrospect, it was a bold, and un-calculated move, but at the same time, it has brought me so many memories and learning experience that I would never imagine learning it anywhere else. I remember when the airplane started its decent to Kotoka International airport, the sight was atypical. Instead of the ligh
ts and buildings you would see in a busy metropolis, it was a blanket of darkness with tiny flickering candle lights from various local vendors. I said myself nervously, “this is my new home”. The car ride from the airport to our administrator’s home (hosting until the house was ready) did not help as we were stopped by a police check stop. I asked myself “Is this how it was? Did I make the right choice?”
As the time progressed from that first decent down to Kotoka Int airport, I experienced numerous life changing moments that carries me to this day. Water and the priceless luxury of clean water in any developed nation is completely taken for granted. There is no running water nor clean water in Accra. The water you get either came from water that’s held by a large polytank at the top of your house / apartment, or you purchase your water in 500ml bags. The water at the house I was staying at often ran out (due to unknown reasons) that flushing the toilet became an important decision you had to make. I never realized how much water one flush really took until I had to manually put water into the tank for one flush. Instead of having running water automatically drain into the tank for flushing, I cut and emptied the bags of water bag by bag to fill the tank. It took twelve 500ml bags to fill the tank for one flush. I couldn’t believe the amount of precious water I had to ‘waste’ for that one flush of the toilet. Those bags of water usually came in a package of 20, so using 12 out of 20 bags seem to be excessive. But here in many developed nations, we’d just flush the toilet like water is an infinite resource. I remember that it was raining during Canadian Thanksgiving, and I ran out with buckets in each hand to collect water.
Driving in Accra was like walking into a zoo without protective gates. You were on your own, and you protect yourself from others. Drivers in Accra make the best in squeezing in the smallest spots, honking to let others know that you are beside them, and go any where that your heart desires (at least on the smaller roads). Traffic jams were a complete dead lock, and on top of all of the chaos, trucks, and motor bikes, you had merchants on the roads selling anything that they can get their hands on. But you learn to be patient, you learn to care less that someone cut you off, and you learn that some times things just can’t go your way.
More to come…