The other day driving out to the villages I had an overwhelming sense of being at home. As I drove along I saw sights that had been familiar for some time but were now something more, almost comforting. Another regular occurrence that seemed to take on more significance was the waving. This is a more than regular occurrence with children and even some adults but as I drove along I received waves from people that actually knew me, and were not just waving because I was white. Reflecting on this I realized that this had been happening more and more often.
When I arrived in the village I did the traditional greetings with everyone but once again I got the feeling that this was more than just simple courtesy, but rather that the groups of women were really happy that I was there and would often say my name as well—in one community someone had told the children my name and now when I arrive in the village I am meet with dozens of children say “Jeremy Jeremy Jeremy.”
I am also rarely returning home from a day in the villages without some sort of gift, yams, rice, eggs, or ground nuts. This took me a very long time to get use to—taking food from a subsistence farmer—but it is fruitless to resist and while they don’t actually become upset it is offensive to refuse a gift.
While I am very comfortable living here throughout the day I also have to remind myself not to lose sight of some of my western ideas or standards. This usually takes place after witnessing one of the many sights that make you go “no, that’s not normal,” such as seeing a child riding on a motorcycle, or seeing four children riding on a motorcycle—I routinely see kids that don’t even look old enough to walk perched on the gas tank of a motorcycle. Or kids playing in the dirt, now I know that kids everywhere play in the dirt but children here exclusively play with and in dirt—also due to the ever present goats this also means they are playing in goat poop. Also I have to remind myself that goats roaming around everywhere are not normal either. You see goats in taxis, on top of TroTros and trucks, on motorcycles, at school, crossing the main streets, in the market—including the meat section where they walk past their dead brethren—and sleeping outside my door when I return home at night. I don’t really have to remind myself that this next one isn’t normal because it’s too weird, but there is a Tamale Government Meat Van. It is an old white Ford Transit van that drives around with skinned cow carcasses cut in half and piled high dropping them off at the various small butcher stands. I’ve cooked beef here a few times but generally avoid it instead sticking to the chickens that are frozen rock hard.
Tamale often gets the reputation of a dusty provincial city that is more big village than city but along with many other volunteers it has fast become my home away from home—when we can avoid the robbers!