Chale Wote – Street Art Festival – Jamestown 2014 – Chale Wote is all about the community coming together (especially involving the youth) to create many different kinds of art. There were break dancers, painting (on canvas and on the street), installations, musicians, and performance arts pieces. One entire building was covered in burlap sacks which had painted squares sewed onto it all over (pictured above). The artists doing the murals were also super talented!
Jamestown is actually a poorer neighborhood, and there are hundreds of unsupervised children running everywhere. It’s obvious that all the expats were down there for the festival, but that the kids weren’t used to seeing so many white faces. They would often come pinch you and run away, and one girl even petted Curtis’s arm hair. Overall, they’re super cute though, and had amazing BMX tricks, dance moves, and soccer skills. In fact, I’ve never seen someone with one roller-blade and one flip-flop, using the blade as a little scooter and trying to jump over his friends who were lying on the street, was a pretty interesting day.
We were supposed to go to Cape Coast for the weekend, but I’m so glad I went to the festival instead. We basically just took a tro downtown and wandered until we found it. We walked all the way from the end of High Street to the Jamestown Lighthouse. Gordon (another EWBer who lives in Accra) couldn’t make it because he was out of town, but he recommended I meet up with his friend Jonas, so we hung hung out for awhile and he turned out to be really cool. It’s hard to make friends in Ghana (because everyone asks to be your friend but it’s hard to know their intentions), so it’s good to meet people through other people… I’m hoping it will help me hear about events and make friends with other groups of people I don’t know yet.
The event also had lots of vendors, selling everything from arts and crafts to food. I bought a whole bunch of hand-painted cards. The sculptures were beautiful but way too big to bring home! In the food-court area, we got some popcorn (you can choose between sweet and salty here – I always choose salty!) and went to a crazy juicing station. You could get almost any combination of juices you could imagine. They had at least 4 different kinds of fruit preparing machines… it was pretty intense. I got a watermelon, lime, and sugar cane combination… but it definitely wasn’t as good as the one Jonas got (pineapple, peanut butter and banana – sounds weird but it worked!).
Hanging with the JFs – I attended the festival with Curtis, and met up with Jonas there too. During the afternoon we managed to meet up with 5 other JFs who were in town on their way to their final debrief session before heading back to Canada on Wednesday. We sat at a cute little restaurant by the water, had some drinks, and watched the waves crash on the rocks. You could smell the salt in the air, and yes those are cows chilling on the beach, I’ve never seen that before! Then Curtis and I went to run some errands in Osu (which included buying super expensive imported groceries at the expat grocery store) while the others went back to the hotel to change and relax. We went to a Jamaican restaurant for dinner, and thankfully we had brought our own wine and cheese (I’m surprised they let us), because dinner took a long time to come out and we were all starving!
Late Night with New Friends – After dinner, 2 people left and the other 6 of us headed to Container for more drinks before the real night started somewhere else. It was basically an outdoor patio, and some JFs had disgusting shots of the local liquor. Then we went to Republic, which is basically a bunch of chairs and people standing around right on the side of the road, and people were constantly almost hit by slow-moving cars trying to squeeze by. Unfortunately, I still had groceries with me (I didn’t know we were going to go out), but I shoved them under a chair and got to socializing. Through Ingrid (a JF) I might a bunch of cool expat guys (Matt and Sidney). After all my friends had left to go back to the hotel, I decided to go with them to the Shisha Lounge. It was pretty crowded, but we danced a bit and it was fun to get to know new people. Then Sidney left, and the three of us headed to Shaka Zulu, which was dead, so they only had one drink and I just chilled. We decided the night was over and they put me in a cab. Overall it was a late night, but not particularly crazy… at least until I got home that is!
Getting Evicted! – So, I know I said I loved my room (which is true) but the truth is, I never really loved the landlord/housing situation. In Ghana you are supposed to pay the whole rent for up to a year in advance of moving in, which seems crazy to me. It seems to give the landlord all the power, and the tenant no power at all. Which is especially dicey in a country with a questionable legal system (compared to what I’m used to). On top of that, additional rules were given to me by my landlord during the first hour after I arrived. Some were totally reasonable (no open food in your room, it’ll attract bugs and no swearing – she has a 5 year old son). But other rules seemed really extreme from the beginning, such as no alcohol in the house, and no friends over. Mike and I tried on multiple occasions to compromise on these issues, but she wouldn’t change her mind. So we decided to look for a different house for the last 2 months of our stay (which we hadn’t paid for yet), and to follow the rules until we had made a decision. She also wouldn’t give us the keys to the house, so it was frustrating that we had to call her when we got home and wake her up, because she went to bed around 8, but she said it was fine, and that eventually she would make us keys.
So, I got home at 4am after a really fun night. On the way home in the cab I realized I didn’t have my phone, crap, I usually call my landlord to let me in if the gate is locked. Thankfully, the lock was on the outside, so I got into the compound. She had given me a key the day before but it only opens the back door, and she had instead locked it with a bolt from the inside. I tapped on her window and she woke up and let me in. I knew it was late but it wasn’t against the rules and she said we were free to come and go as we pleased. I got my groceries and went inside to get ready for bed. I had a nice skype chat with Steve and then went to brush my teeth. I heard her moving around in the living room and it turned out she was packing all of Mike and Curtis’s things and putting them by the door. She came to the bathroom and told me I should go pack my things as well, as I was no longer welcome in the house… what?!?!
We proceeded to have an argument where she said I had broken all the rules, and I told her I had broken none of the rules. I said what she was doing is illegal, and she must give me notice and return my deposit. However, she said what I had done was worse than illegal, and that I would have to answer to a higher power. Eventually I realized the discussion wasn’t going anywhere and went to my room to contact people from work, EWBers in the area, and Curtis and Mike (my roommates who were also being evicted without their knowledge). Everyone said that she technically couldn’t kick me out, but since she had a key to my room and controlled the gate, I was worried about what would happen to all my stuff when I left for work on Monday. So I went to bed for a few hours, resigned that I would pack my stuff and sort out a temporary place to live the next day.
Eventually Curtis returned to get his bags and I heard them outside talking. Unfortunately, my phone was lost and his was dead, so he had to speak through the window. Curtis decided to wait for me outside the gate, and I went back to pack my room. I tried reaching out to some EWB staff about everything, but it was Sunday morning, and a lot of people were out of town. Eventually we were recommended a guesthouse, so I packed all my stuff and dumped it outside tee gate. Curtis had a much smaller pile because he was already preparing to fly out, and my pile included all of Mike’s stuff because she kicked him out too. Curtis called a cab he knew, and we waited for a bit (at least it was a nice day, and I had grabbed some water out of the fridge before leaving).
I called Matt (since he had been driving us the night before) but he didn’t have my phone, and neither did any of the bars… oh well, it was a long shot! But thankfully Curtis lent me his old Nokia to use for a few days so I could call about houses and communicate with people at work. I got a room at the guesthouse for 46 cedi a night (about $15) and it had a fridge for my groceries and a private bathroom, so I was happy. I was totally exhausted, hadn’t eaten, and felt gross, but unfortunately the water was out. I passed out early and slept like a rock, and in the morning the water was working and I had an amazing shower, it was great. Just trying to take things one day at a time.. (which is so unlike me!)
New house, new phone, new life in Ghana… – Since Sunday I have realized what good friends everyone here is, and how they’re willing to help me out when times are tough. I got emails and messages of support from friends, family, and people I had just met. My boss and co-worker even spent a whole morning looking at houses for me to live in without me even asking them to. Monday I went to work but spent the whole day calling and emailing about potential places to live. I also spent the whole night travelling to houses and checking them out. Today I’m headed to get a new phone (since my old one was not found), and they’re okay with me not working for a little while to figure everything out. I was planning to do more house searching today but there’s torrential rain so it might have to wait. For now I’m just going to chill in my hostel, do what needs to be done, and hopefully have a new little home for Mike and I by the end of the week! *fingers crossed*