Day 6 – Following our adventures in the Weiche Hippo Sanctuary.

I hated to say goodbye to Pam at the bus depot in WA.   We were having too much fun and I know I won’t be seeing her for at least a year.  Several hugs and pictures later, I settle into the back of the bus and bury myself in my Brandt Ghana guide.   Next thing I know, the little girl sitting next to me pees on the floor. I quickly move my luggage away from the stream.   I give an understanding motherly smile and attempt to make some friendly contact by offering the girl’s mother a handiwipe.

An hour and a half later, I arrive in the town of Jirapa where I had arrange to meet up with Toby and company.

Maddie and Dorina, two Toby’s students met me at the bus stop and showed me to the guest house.  Toby who is wearing a traditional Ghanaian smock greets me with a cold Star (local beer) and introduces me to the Cooper students he is supervising.

Besides working with Dave, Wendy and me on SociaLite, Toby is overseeing various student projects.   Dorina and Maddie are working on a fuel (wood) energy audit and promoting energy efficient cookstoves to women’s organizations in Jirapa.  Julian and Leila are building a house of bamboo and mud in Jirapa.  Jess and Billy (who I didn’t get to meet) are working on the water audit in Bongo in upper East Ghana.  Two other students, both named Karen, had already left Ghana after coming down with bad cases of Malaria and Typhoid.   (Helen and an another student also had bouts with malaria, but they are sticking it out.)

Dinner that evening was a local dish called Fufu– mashed cavasa rolled into a gooey ball and served with guinea fowl in ground nut sauce.  After dinner we watched the U.S.-England World Cup match on a 14 inch TV that kept losing reception.  Friendly rivalry between us Americans and Toby, the sole Brit in the crowd.

While everyone else was focused on the game, I was preoccupied by the potentially malarial mosquitos buzzing around the dining room.   Even with malaria meds and being covered in deet, there is no guarantee that you won’t catch malaria (dusk to dawn mosquitos) or dengue (daytime mosquitos).   What’s more, I was troubled by the mangy dogs and cats who roamed freely around the guest house and kept begging for my attention.  I’m not sure which caused me more angst– the pesky mosquito or the friendly dogs.  Toby and Helen tried to reassure me that the dogs were mostly likely not rabid.  Nevertheless, I wanted nothing to do with them.  The travel doctor had warned that you absolutely had to get to Europe or the U.S. for treatment immediately if you received any form of a bite or scratch.  Without testing, you can’t know for sure and rural hospitals may or may not have current and proper rabies vacines.   If proper rabies treatment is not administered within 24 hours of a bite, exposure can become fatal.   It’s nothing to mess with.  Death by rabies is so brutal that they virtually have to chain you to the bed.  I set up my mosquito net and retired early.

Up at 6am the next morning for Sunday mass at the Catholic church across from the guest house.  While I’m not a church goer, it seems like a good way to experience the culture.  Sunday in Ghana is something to experience.  The mood is festive with all the women dressed up, everyone is in leisure mode.  The church was packed.  Toby and I were the only two foreigners and I was most likely the only non-Catholic.    The services weren’t much of a culture shock… Curiously, I found them to be remarkably similar to the Jewish renewal services I attend in Berkeley…. clapping, drumming, endless sermons, women in bright African prints.  It was very Berkeley.

Sunday was market day in Jirapa and after church, Toby and his elderly friend Quochent took me around the market.    Quochent was Toby’s family’s gardener when they lived in Jirapa 50 years ago.  We stopped for some Pito (homemade local beer).  Wanting to be a gracious guest, while also trying to avoid swallowing the dead fly swimming in my bowl, I pretended to drink my pito.  But, it was a losing battle.   Quochent kept filling up my bowl and I was making no progress.  I eventually found a graceful way to share my portion with Quochent.

The Jirapa market was typical of those you see in developing countries with a wide assortment of goods… food stuff, spices, unidentifyable fruits and vegetables, cookware, soap, toothbrushes and other personal care, tools…  There are virtually no tourists in Jirapa (just a few Peace Corp volunteers and others on humanitarian missions).  For me, this makes Jirapa all that more appealing.  On the flip side, there is very little for the shopper in me to buy.  I took home a mango, a ceramic pito jug and some hand-waxed batik fabric to make a dress.  This led me to my next adventure which was to find a seamstress.

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