Posted by: kristinej | May 29, 2013

May 29th, 2013

My first thought upon leaving the airport in Accra on Saturday was, “I’m home!” (Home being West Africa in general, of course). Within minutes, though, I realized that that was probably an exaggeration. In all reality, it’s been almost 3 years since I left Mali, 3 years in which I have become increasingly used to and expectant of all of the comforts and options that life in the US has to offer. Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations that Accra would be developed far and above Bamako (and in some ways it is, I’ve realized), but my first glimpses were of urban sprawl much like Bamako, where men with disfigured legs use their hands to push themselves along busy roads on what is essentially a skateboard, where you attract much attention while buying a cell phone in the market, and where the roads are lined with open sewers (which I will do my best to avoid falling into).

I was dropped off at my apartment in the Osu district, one of Accra’s nicest neighborhoods. I’ll have other IPA staff and interns staying with me throughout the summer, but for now it’s just me. The apartment is fairly nice – I have an actual bed, dresser, desk, and ceiling fan (!), as well as a common room, bathroom, and kitchen. The kitchen is by far the biggest improvement over my time in Mali since it means that cold drinking water is no longer a luxury and I can control my diet when I’m home. Still it’s a far cry from American standards – the water is only on for a few hours each day, so it’s good that I’m an expert at bucket showers. The walls are also quite thin, and I keep thinking that movements from a neighboring apartment are coming from my own apartment – a completely unfounded fear of course, except when it’s not and the cleaning lady lets herself in on Sunday evening to get hot water for the wound on her finger, or at 7am on Monday morning to wash dishes.

Still, I’m not complaining in the least. I’ve already discovered from walking around the neighborhood on my own that I can find Thai food, smoothies, burgers, and pizza, all within a 15 minute walk. The fact that everyone speaks English makes navigating much easier. There are plenty of other white people walking around too, which makes for excellent people watching, and I have yet to hear anyone yell “Obroni” which is the word they use for white person here. Although, I keep thinking that I hear people saying “toubabu” which is the word they use in French West Africa, and one that I grew accustomed to hearing about 1,000 times a day in Mali. I’ve even gone running a couple of times. Apparently the girl who lived here before me also went running so while everyone stared, no one seemed too shocked.

Yesterday was my first day at the office. The office is only a 10 minute walk from my apartment, and is air conditioned, which makes the business casual dress code much more comfortable. These first couple of weeks I’m mostly doing background reading, an ethics training so that I can participate in interviews and data collection, and an intern training. By next weekend I should be making my first trip up to Nkwanta in the northern Volta region, where the project will actually be implemented.

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Responses

  1. looks like you have come up in the world compared to Mali. Nice digs.


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