It is 8:20 here. Our training started at 8:00. We are still sitting in our hotel. They laugh and call this “Africa Time”. I don’t mind because it is expected. No one is at the training yet, so they do not want to pick us up until people arrive so we can be comfortable in our hotel. But I think about this time in cups of coffee I could have had, or minutes I could have slept. I always want one more snooze, or one more cup. I will share a few experiences of our day yesterday, but please know, I am not complaining, I am just showing you the differences, the dramatic culture change from home to here. I LOVE the Bethany staff, our trainees, and others we have met. I am enjoying every minute and soaking it all up. But, It is different and I can’t help but see things through my American mind.
Wed morning we were going to be picked up at 7:00. The driver arrived at 6:30. We were ready a few minutes after 7:00 and went straight to the office. We arrived there before 7:30. Everyone was in the office busily preparing for the training. They were loading the car with water and electric cords and paper etc. They took loads in a car to the training building about a 3 minute drive away. At 8:00 they took the last load and told us they would be right back. They gave us water and set us up on comfy couches. 8:30 came and went…9:00 came and went. The office was empty with the exception of us. Finally Joe came back saying the electricity was out at the training center so they loaded a generator in the car a few tanks of gas and we all piled in and headed over.
The room was very large, it was a Church so there were musical instruments and a very large wall painting of a black man (or someone) rising out of some brick furnace with no shirt on and a huge diamond on his chest. The background has pictures of stairs to heaven and the gates of hell. There were pictures of gladiators and airplanes and the New York City skyline… weird. The next 1/2 hour was spent setting up the generator, plugging in the computers and projectors and getting the microphones to work. We finally started around 10:00. The generator was VERY loud, even though it was outside the room with the doors closed. It was HOT and the air was still. And by hot, I mean Florida in August at 12:00 standing on black pavement hot.
The training itself went so well. The participants were interactive, insightful and interesting. Lunch was traditional Ghanian food. Fish with bones, some sort of spinach, tomato bean sauce that you dipped yams and plantains in. They gave us forks, they all ate with their hands. They also had a dish called Banku with another spinach and okra sauce for dipping. You eat this with your fingers as well. The Banku is a ball of fermented dough, it tasted similar to sourdough. I did not seem cooked. The idea is to break a piece off in your hand and dip it in the spinach okra sauce. Now I do not want to sound rude, but I want to give you an image of this sauce. It had the consistency of snot. It was stringy and sticky and when you tried to pull a bit out it slimy strings of it stayed connected. I managed one bite. Jill did not try. They eat with their fingers and if the fish have bones they just spit them out of their mouth. I know it is perfectly acceptable and normal to do, but I cannot bring myself to do this!
They also have a drink that is some sort of non-alcoholic Guiness. It is made with Hops and is a bit fizzy. It is dark brown. It tasted, to me and Jill, horrible. We tried some, but we just could not choke it down. It is so embarrassing not to be able to finish food, but some things are just so foreign to us it is difficult. Especially when we are training and have to be focused. The thought of strange food in our stomachs making feel yucky makes us stick to rice. We had a spring roll for a snack which was LOVELY!
After the training (did I mention how well it went?) we got back to our hotel (the one with no hot water) at 4:00. We did not want to sit all night so we decided to check out the mall. The front desk called us a taxi and off we went. Our taxi driver LOVED listening to rap. Loud. We arrived at the mall and told our taxi driver we would call him when we were ready to go. The mall was much smaller than we thought and the prices of everything were very expensive. They had very high-end clothing and jewelry stores. They had an Apple store! We browsed for a while and decided to have dinner in the food court. We got an Hawaiian pizza (people, I have given up on being a vegan this week, it is close to impossible here. I have avoided meat, but have had some cheese and muffins.
We enjoyed our pizza and people watching. Some man sitting next to us, was working on his Ipad and we talked for a few minutes. He was writing poetry so we read a poem. Another person was fooling around with his Iphone 5.
We picked up a few things from the grocery store and called our taxi. 1 hour later he arrived. “Traffic” he said. The other interesting thing to note is a song we have heard a few times. I think it is a public service announcement, but I am not sure. There are people singing (not words, just bebops) and every once in a while they stop the music and say “Water is good for you!” and then “If you drink too much your electrolytes will be unbalanced”. This music/talking went on for some time and then someone yelled out “AIDS is real!” then more music and then more thoughts on water. This went on for at least 5 minutes. Hilarious!
Just a day in the life….