Updates are in order! First, my apologies to my two lovely grandmothers, I owe you both calls, and will try and be better about updating in future. Here’s the top 3 most exciting things that have happened:
1. MADE A FRIEND!!! Freya is an Australian Epidemiologist studying hemoragic fevers and disease control in Western Africa. She’s been showing me the ropes while I make sure that she eats. You know you’ve made a great friend when they swap you sweeping and dishes for cooking duty!
2. Done some actual work and I love it. My job is pretty varied these days, so far I’ve mostly gone and gotten a sense of the places we visit, the people I’ll be working with, and the women who want bikes. A lot of what I do is essentially journalist and data collection, which suits me fine. Over the last few weeks I’ve traveled to different regions visiting past program sites and asking people about their bikes and taking their pictures. Then I get to look at issues of ownership, transit, economics, skill sets and education for women and their bikes and find interesting solutions. Mostly this translates to me editing photos and writing stories and coming up with ways for women to keep their bikes after they buy them, ie decorating them. I couldn’t ask for a cooler gig.
3. Found a house! Rather, I crashed at Freya’s one night and never left. We currently live in Accra, right by the University in an area called Top Herbal. Yes it sounds like a type of tea. Freya leaves on Friday for Techiman, but I get her room.
So far I’ve done a lot of things I never thought i’d get to do in a million years. I’ve ridden an motorbike through the jungle in the rain, I’ve climbed the Highest mountain in Ghana, seen several snakes, eaten all manner of goat parts, been to three of the nine regions of the country, and made wonderful life-long friends.
Here’s the photographic evidence:
This is Rahimu, we have a secret handshake
This is Morro, Sammy, and Dauda–they’re three of our top mechanics.
Here’s the warehouse where we store the bikes before transporting them from Accra to the Bush.
This is the view from our office.
This is my bike! I’ve swapped out the stem and pedals, I’ll update the photo when I have time.
Yes, our office is next door to the local “spot” or bar.
This is the pool of the GS Plaza Hotel, where i used to steal wifi late at night. I owe a debt of gratitude to Immanuel, Philipe and the other staff there for being so kind and welcoming and giving me lot and lots of tea.
The price of cement is more stable than the rate of the Cedi so Ghanaians invest ost of their money in building elaborate structure piece by piece. This is one person’s house in the middle of a shanty town.
This is a Tro.
My commute to the office from the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA) passed through this small tin village where Spiderman lives.
Anything for sale in Ghana is labelled a “hotcake.”
This is Prosper, one of the mechanics, learning how to whatsapp!
Our favorite bar is right across from UN HQ, just in case we need some awesome blue helmets.
My first assignment.
You know you’ve found the best expat spot in town when they have a menu full of puns.
Never get on a tro where the driver has a crash helmet. The fire extinguisher is standard issue.
A little piece of home–found Zinnias in Gbledi Gbogama!
This is the school house in Gbledi Gbogama.
In Lieu of a school bell students are called to class and dismissed by drum.
The guys all thought that 885 meters was insanely high for a mountain.
Ebenezer taking a well earned break at the top.
Gbledi cemetery at the foot of the mountain.
I’ve started keeping track of Guinness prices as a way of monitoring town happiness. In Accra Guinness is 8-9 cedi a pint. Fume is the happiest town I’ve seen yet, 3 cedi a pint comes to about 1 dollar a pint.
This one’s for you Uncle Dan–Big Foot lives in Fume!
Paved roads make a huge difference in a community, especially when it comes to women riding bikes.
This is Simon’s shop. He and his wife and 5 children all live in the back and fix bikes all day long at the front. Like most Ghanaian mechanics, they’re constantly short of tools.
Here is Simon’s murdered freewheel remover next to a new(ish) freewheel remover.
Mr. George is not only the community organizer in Dededo, he also runs the local distillery. The moonshine he makes in famous (at least at Village Bicycle Project).
Compression wrap isn’t just for sprained ankles and wrists!
Slumber party at Freya’s and noodles to boot–pot of gold if I ever saw one.
This is Freya, my new epidemiologist friend/roommate who looks after me, even when I refuse her pity.
Sometimes we play hangman at work.
This is the road to Suhum. No that’s not a volcano, it’s a pile of cement for paving the road (eventually).
Clouds over Suhum
Storms like this are really common from June through October.
Storms coming int, they remind me of Chcicago.
There’s no point in wearing a rainjacket–you’ll be drenched no matter what.
Ghanaian names on coke cans are commonplace here. I keep looking for “Akweia” or “wednesday born” but so far I haven’t found her.
This is the school in Suhum where 15 girls were given bikes last February. My job is to track them down, interview them, and check up on the state of their bikes.
This is Charity, my new favorite student. When I asked if anyone could tell me how to change a flat she leapt right up and started teaching the other girls. The ladies of Suhum have skillz, but too often their brothers take their bikes and break them. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Charity told me she wanted to be a nurse. “Not a bike mechanic?” I asked. Everyone laughed. Ghanaian schoolchildren know better than to aspire to bike dirtbaggerey as a profession.
This is how excited that makes me.
Abotchi and Boss discuss bicycle imports at a container unloading.
Bright buys bikes from the container and sells them on the market.
Freya and I realized we’d missed the boat on celebrating my birthday, so we celebrated “International Blasphemy Day” instead with a rice cooker cake and tinned peaches.
One perk of living with an epidemiologist in a house owned by the London Zoological society is that you get access to the secret Accra Zoo. Never mind the danger signs and the fact that only half the animals are caged. So long as the Emus are behind bars it makes for a grand adventure.
Elephant vertebrae at the zoo.
This is the University of Accra, where I do laundry and grab breakfast on occasion. Don’t know if you can see them, but there’s horses grazing on the main lawn.
First day off! Apparently there’s a whole part of Accra that has things like Ice Cream and Art shops and Sushi. I asked my boss about it and he pretended it didn’t exist.
Awesome Claraiscoolosauraous has some strawberry ice cream.
Power is off, but we’re working anyways. Phd’s and field reports wait for no one.
We might have gotten distracted and made more dinos instead.
Bewitchings, curses, and other enchantments are a serious form of illness here. I asked my friend Proser how you can tell a “Body illness” from a “spirit illness.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said “If it’s a body illness you get better.” Apparently the solution to “spirit illnesses” is to find out who cursed you and curse them back. “Where There is No Doctor” may disagree. Thanks for the amazing book Elise!
Sick in bed looks the same the world over. As does my room; so long as there’s maps I’m at home.
Miss you all lots, hope all is well in California! I’ve started dreaming about winter and pumpkin flavored items and pea-coats and tacos. But mostly I miss the fog and Gus. I promise I’ll post some actual stories soon!