Canadian Thanksgiving (In Northern Ghana)

Originally Yazan was supposed to leave for Tamale on Thursday and I was to leave on Friday (because neither of us wanted to miss a lot of work), but the Thursday morning  bus was full.  Therefore, Yazan had to leave Thursday evening, and I figured I might as well join him, because travelling is always more fun with a buddy!  The bus was supposed to leave at 5pm, and we were running late so we decided to take a cab, but traffic was awful.  We were told the buses leave on time, so be an hour early… but we showed up with just 5 minutes to spare… and there was no bus in sight – oh no!  Thankfully, they told us it had not yet arrived (phew!) so we sit down to wait.  After about an hour we decided to get some dinner, and wandered over to the restaurant in the station.  The  food choices were the ordinary Ghanaian ones (fish or chicken with rice or plantains) but the quality of it was really good, and Yazan even went back for a second plate!  The bus arrived at 7pm and we quickly went to the bathroom before hopping on.  The bus was really comfortable, with big seats and armrests.

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The bus ride was pretty normal.  Some bad roads, while some were smooth.  Thankfully the driver didn’t play super loud music and blast the a/c… though he did drive fast and then slam on the brakes a lot (which is very common in Ghana – but makes it hard to feel safe or get any sleep!).  We stopped 3 times on the journey for about 15 minutes each, just to stretch, go to the bathroom, and buy some snacks – including a delicious glass of hot chocolate and some popcorn I really enjoyed!  I also had to finish up some work for MBC so that it could be sent out for the training sessions that were happening in a week… but it was really hard to format Word documents on the bumpy roads!  Eventually I got it finished, but I accidentally leaned on my screen and it cracked!  I almost had a panic attack (especially because it’s a touch-screen tablet) but thankfully it still works and I managed to send the work back to my office in Accra.  I’m still pretty sad about it though! 😦 I did a bit of reading, watched some shows on my laptop, and tried to catch a few Zs.

We arrived in Tamale at about 7am, and decided to go right to his house.  We hopped in a shared taxi and went to his house to chill for a bit.  He was planning to go into work, but I wanted to go into town for a bit.  So at around 9 we grabbed some egg and bread from a vendor near the house, and grabbed another shared cab back into the city (which is only about a 10 minute drive).  I took my fabric I had bought at the monkey sanctuary in Volta to a tailor that the Junior Fellows had recommended.  I asked if he could make me a skirt by Sunday, and chose a design based on the posters they have around the shop.  He said that Sunday wouldn’t work, and I was really sad.  But then he surprised me by saying they were closed on Sundays but I should come this afternoon to pick it up… awesome!  Yazan showed me the craft market, and we bought some groceries from the vendors on the street and the supermarket.  I headed back to his house with all of the groceries and he went to work.  Once back at the house I passed out for the rest of the day, I was exhausted from the bus!

At around 3, I headed back to the market and got my skirt.  I really liked it!  I was also able to get two of my long skirts hemmed and taken in so that I would actually be able to wear them back in Accra without them dragging on the ground or falling down.  I went to the market to buy some more fabric, and asked the tailor to make me a dress the next day, which he said would be no problem.  Yazan and I met back at his place and we headed out for dinner with some friends.  It was nice to meet new people, and it was my first time trying guinea fowl!  Everyone here loves it, and I’m not a big meat fan – I would say it’s equal to chicken in my books, but I’m no expert.

After dinner we took a cab to Gidipass, a local bar on a rooftop.  I like the rooftop aspect but there were way too many guys (I’d guess about 90%), and they’re very eager to talk to you and get near you, which wasn’t my cup of tea.  The music was good, but a few of us ended up going downstairs to the bar instead for some drinks and just sitting to chat, which I found much more enjoyable.  Once Gidipass closed at around midnight, we headed to Mike’s, which is near Yazan’s house.  The girls get in free, but the boys had to pay 15 cedi and they refused.  Plus the inside was packed, so we all grabbed some chairs on the patio and chilled for another 2 hours or so.  Eventually Yazan was falling asleep on the table (he did work all day while I slept), so we grabbed a cab and headed back to his house… it had been a long day!  Unfortunately, the gate was locked so we had to bang on the door to be let in.  They were not impressed, and Yazan felt really bad, but we didn’t have much choice.

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On Saturday, Yazan wasn’t feeling so hot, and we both wanted to sleep in.  We chilled in our rooms until about noon and then started our food preparations.  Yazan was making a squash soup, and cooked the squash on the charcoal grill in the compound before scraping out the insides.  I was in his kitchen peeling potatoes.  Just before 4, we left to go into town.  Yazan needed some extra ingredients, and I was going to pick up my dress.  The skirt had been almost perfect and took no time at all, but the dress was a different story.  The style was not what I asked for and it was almost impossible to get it on and off!  Eventually they cut off the sleeves, took in the back, and made a few other alterations before I decided to just take it home.  It was 6 pm by the time we got back to his house and we still had to cook!  Yazan went outside to cook his soup on a big pot, and I started boiling the potatoes and mincing garlic.  By 7:30 we were both done our dishes, we threw on some clothes, and jumped in the cab that we had called.

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Of course we got to the party super late and most of the food was gone, so I ended up eating a lot of mashed potatoes (no complaints here!).  Apparently the other Canadians also enjoyed them, so I’m glad I made a good choice!  There was 2 huge tables of people (so probably around 50 people showed up total).  The food was mostly potluck style, plus a turkey made by the restaurant, and a bar where people could buy beer (or Smirnoff Ice in my case, which is pretty much the only alternative to beer at most Ghanaian restaurants).  I chatted with lots of people, a lot of EWBers and other Canadians, but also people from different countries and working in different professions.  After dinner was done they brought our dessert, which was impressive!  There was apple crisp, a big tub of ice cream, and 3 types of pumpkin pie!  The pumpkin pie was especially impressive, since it was made of local squash… and one of the pies was made by some boys from Denmark who had never actually tried pumpkin pie.

Once all the dessert was done, we headed to a party at this guys house – his name was Chris, from Nigeria, and apparently he knows everyone (plus it was his birthday).  It was really hard to get there.  The road has been closed, so they sent a guy on a motorcycle to come meet our taxi and show us the way, but eventually we found our way.  It was a great party, which started outside with a table for food (plus a guy on the grill), a table of drinks, and a live band.  People were dancing and chatting.  later on it moved inside where Chris was DJ-ing and we all danced the night away (though the music was super random).

By about 3 in the morning there were 13 of us left.  Since it was late, Yazan and I decided to crash on Lindsay’s couch, because we didn’t want to wake up his host family again.  5 people were headed in one direction, so they hopped in one cab… but there was still 8 of us left, and only 2 cabs, so we all got in the other cab!  There was basically two layers of people, with 2 in the front and 6 in the back.  It was quite a crammed ride but we made it back to her house.  There was some argument over the price, but the prices in Tamale are way less than in Accra, so I was willing to pay way more than the rest (especially since we didn’t have much option at that time of night!).  I got the couch, Yazan got the floor.  We put our contacts in a glass of water, borrowed some comfy clothes and a pillow, and went to bed.

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In the morning (aka. about 4 hours later) we were woken at around 9 am (ugh!).  Their coworkers were coming over for a work breakfast, but we were invited.  We had some tea and pancakes, so after eating I felt much better about the early start.  Around 11 everyone left and the house went back to nap.  We went to Yazan’s house, took showers, I packed, and then we had about 1.5 hours left before I was supposed to grab a taxi to the airport.  We decided to hit up the craft market.  I bought a purse, and ordered a screen-printed tank top from this guy named Jay, before we had to rush back to the house since my cab was waiting.  I was late for the cab but made it to the airport with more than enough time to spare, since there’s only 1 gate and one flight leaving.

Before leaving Yazan’s house, I decided to raid his bookshelf that had been left behind by previous volunteers.  I took a bunch of books from different shelves (categories) – including: Shopaholic (seemed like a good lazy beach read), Catch 22 (a classic I’ve been meaning to read), Barack Obama’s biography, and a book about climate change. Since I was only going for the weekend, I decided that 24 hours in a bus was just too much.  While I was in Accra, I visited the office of Africa World Airlines and bought a ticket on the plane home.  Even though the bus ride is 12 hours, the flight is less than an hour! The airport in Tamale is a bit out of town (a 20 cedi cab ride) but the airport in Accra is actually pretty close to my house.  I left at 4:30 and was back at my house by 6pm… not bad!  I even had time to unpack that night before going back to work the next day.  It was a jam-packed two weeks (between visiting Volta, Yazan visiting Accra, and the weekend in Tamale), but I’m so glad I got a chance to visit Tamale and meet lots of cool new people! 🙂

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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