My last day in Accra was bittersweet—I was looking forward to leaving the busy city behind and was anxious to arrive in Tamale where I will be working but I was also going to miss the people I had befriended. I started my morning by fetching water with Rita and then walking to school with the girls and visiting their classes. After that Mama Sheila cooked a feast for me over a charcoal fire. It started out with French fries and then proceeded to spaghetti with a delicious spicy sauce; she then added a fried egg and ended it with a pile of plantain chips. After that it was off to the bus station.
The bus station was a confusion of colors and packages—people were packing everything from TVs to mini fridges. And I was glad to see that an excess of luggage was not an uncommon thing, although most items were packed in grain sacks and not bright pink bags. The bus was nice and new but left late and was then put to stop by a flooded road which resulted in a two hour traffic jam and a mile of mud and water. The road was under construction and was being turned into a four lane highway—the current situation on the road was about 6 lanes of traffic—one each way on a finished section of the road in the middle and then two lanes of traffic on both shoulders; this all merged together at the lowest water point but still remained at about 6 lanes of busses, TroTros, trucks, and cars. By this time the sun had set on Accra and I settled in for a fourteen and a half hour bus ride over extremely potholed roads.
Tamale is a town where motorcycles outnumber cars and bicycles outnumber motorcycles. It is also a majority Muslim area and I saw many veiled women riding or sitting side saddle on the back of bicycles. We arrived just as the sun was rising and I was greeted by green fields of corn and rice. A stark difference from last time—what was dry and burning last April is now lush and green. The unloading was just as chaotic as the loading but I soon met up with Walisu, my contact in Tamale. After a quick breakfast at Walisu’s house—and my base for the next few months—we headed out to visit the villages in the RUSODEF community (RUSODEF stands for Rural Social Development Foundation) where I will be working and staying. They are a collection of villages on the outskirts of Tamale. Their distance is anywhere from 10-30 minutes by motorbike on winding red dirt roads.
First we visited a kindergarten that receives support from RUSODEF; it is a short walk from where I am staying and I look forward to visiting it often. It has two classes and its teachers are two young women who volunteer their time. In the first class I was given a counting demonstration to 50 and the second class I listened in as they worked on spelling and then the students introduced themselves to me with their names, age, and the reciting of a poem.
It had been a good rainy season and the rice paddies in the low areas are overflowing and the corn is standing tall on the tops of the hills. The horizon is also dotted with a variety of trees with the Baobab trees dominating the smaller kola nut trees and the shady mangos. This stunning landscape is dotted with villages of thatched roofs and Mosques whose colorful minarets thrust into the sky. However, all the rain has not been good for the roads—Walisu expertly negotiated a water crossing on the bike, or for some of the buildings—my first project will be repairing cracks in the wall of the school they built last year. We visited each of the communities and met with either the community focal person for ROSUDEF, the women’s group leader, or the traditional chief. This all involved a complicated series of greetings which I am still getting the hang of. Everyone was very excited for my stay. The two chiefs I met with were especially excited and I left with a bag of guinea fowl eggs from one chief.
Walisu was also keen on me acting as driver, so I was soon driving along rutted dirt roads avoiding goats, cattle, school children, and bicycles. The motor bike is a Great Haojin from China with a backwards gear box. I will be able to use the motorbike but I will also be getting a bicycle to travel to and in between the villages.
Walisu has a busy schedule planned for me and I am excited to get working and am excited to spend time staying and working in the villages, the fields, and the schools. The internet I am currently using is dreadfully slow so updates might be picture free for a while but I will try my best.
I have found the true Green Hills of Africa.