Walking 10 Miles in Africa

Walking 10 Miles in Africa

When I woke on the Friday morning, the day after I arrived, I sat straight up in bed and began thinking about the past weeks’ events and the days to come.  Always concerned with time, I immediately began making a mental check list—it was Friday morning and there was so much to get done in the day and it was already nine o’clock and I had to move into my hostel room that weekend—and so on (boy was I in for a rude awakening).  As I sat at the kitchen table, I started telling my host family all the things I had to do that day.  I had been warned that things move much, much more slowly in the developing world than in America, but I had to experience it for myself.  And although my friend and I covered a lot of ground that day, instead of moving into my hostel room that weekend, I moved in a week later; instead of getting a bank account opened in a day, it took a week (my checkbook has been delayed another coupe of days, too).  Here’s a look at some of the experiences I had during my first week in Africa.

 My friend and I first had to walk to the market to get a tro-tro to take us to campus.  Now I enjoy exercising as much as the next person, but that walk seemed so long.  In flip flops down a dusty red road we went, with me rotating my ankle every few feet.  Once we arrived at the market, I completely forgot about my fatigue as I was swept into the chaos.  Vendors were everywhere selling oranges, apples, pineapples, onions, and every food in between.  Clouds of black smoke flowed as women stood on eroded sidewalks cooking meat kabobs over smoldering grills.  As I walked behind my friend in single file line of pedestrians, the crowd suddenly gave way to a man barreling (literally, barreling) down the dirt path with a barrel of potatoes.  No horn or excuse me; his pace made it clear to get out of the way or be hit by a barrel of potatoes.  Car and person traveled side by side in an endless row of traffic—and it was only 10:00a.m.!  I was in awe.
My first morning at an African market, August 8, 2014

Street side vendors with fruits and vegetables of all kinds, August 8, 2014

We eventually came to a dirt clearing that had more vendors along the road.  My friend said we were about to hop a tro-tro to take us to campus.  I had read about tro-tros in my travel book, but had never seen one.  Before I knew it, vans full of people whizzed by with men shouting what sounded like “BOZ, BOZ, BOZ!”  My friend hailed a tro-tro in Twi, we jumped on, and were off from Tema to Accra.  I was amazed at how many people could fit into one of the lively decorated vans.  Not sure how many tro-tros we took in all that day, but each one had its own personality.  Some blasted reggae from the speakers, some had ripped seats or wooden ceilings.  Many sported stickers of a favorite soccer team or Star of David.  Most included an inviting message about Christ.
Hailing a tro-tro in Twi (my friend was doing the hailing!), August 8, 2014

Hopping the tro-tro, August 8, 2014

We ended up hopping two tro-tros to get to campus.  As our feet hit the pavement, it began to rain, but I was having so much fun it didn’t bother me.  I whipped out my camera and continued taking photos.  I’m sure I looked like a tourist, but I didn’t care—these photos were too good to pass up!  The campus was indeed huge, just as I had been told, and we took tro-tros and taxis in some places to get around the campus.  By the time we got back home that night, I was completely exhausted, but happy.  

On Saturday my host mother invited me to attend a wedding with the family.  I had been to a Nigerian wedding before (my brother and sister-in-law’s) but never a Ghanian wedding in Africa, so of course I said yes.  It was a traditional white wedding in a beautiful church about an hour from home.  We arrived late, but the wedding was still quite lengthy.  It reminded me very much of a church service.  There was a ‘love offering’, a choir, and a sermon.  Everyone was very nice, and the sun poured down as pictures were taken of the bride and groom’s wedding party.  I met family members of my host family and had a great time.  

A lively white wedding near Tema, Ghana, August 10, 2014

The ‘cork popping’ ceremony at the wedding (this is serious business), August 10, 2014

The reception was very loud and very lively.  The wedding colors, purple and fuchsia were everywhere, and everyone was having a good time.  Major culture shock hit during the cutting of the cake.  Like back home at a wedding, I expected to walk over to the cake cutting table after dinner and receive a nice piece of two or three layer cake.  As I looked around for the cake cutting table, a server drew closer with a platter of what appeared to be cake.  I was heartbroken when I saw a pile of wedding cake that had been cut into teeny tiny triangles!  As I took two pieces off the platter, it appeared that someone had scraped nearly all the icing off the cake!  It was beautiful during the cake cutting, but now it appeared to be a triangular piece of bread!  My host family explained that Africans don’t eat many sweets, and rarely have dessert after dinner.  The cake tasted ok, but I wondered how much better it would have tasted if it had had icing!

Where’s the icing?! August 10, 2014

On Sunday I went to church with my host mother.  This time we took her car instead of a tro-tro, so the ride from Tema to Accra on Ghana’s only motorway was a much smoother ride!  The service was held in a two story building.   The people at the church were very nice (as church folk usually are).  The sermon had three points that were very good.  Use the Sabbath to rest, spend time with family, and worship God.  God created the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath.   It was a good reminder for me personally to not be so attached to my list of things to get done every second of every day.  After church we ran some errands and headed home.  

Yes, a ‘selfie’ in the middle of a busy street, August 8, 2014

After our trip on Friday, my friend started using his watch-pedometer to measure how many kilometers we were walking each day.  Starting out after breakfast that Friday morning, I was focused only on checking off my list of things to get done.  However, I completely forgot that getting there is half the journey. Although my friend now uses his watch-pedometer to measure how many miles we walk when we hang out, but I’m convinced that Friday we walked 10 miles in Africa!

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