Some general observations that I thought I'd share...
1) As if the roads are not dangerous enough, it appears motorbikes pretty much rule the place and can drive on pavements, as I found out today... They can also apparently go the wrong way up a one way, 3 laned road where nobody uses lanes, indicators or speed limits! All without wearing helmets...
2) One of the hardest things I am having to deal with is the number of street children who spend their days and nights begging. They congregate around the busiest cross roads, roundabouts and streets and either lean against car windows, walk alongside you or actually grab on to you begging for money. The policy appears to be to continue walking and not to give anything, but they really are pulling at the guilt factor. Of course, the parents know this. The parents tend to sit close by watching their children, and the minute they see an Obruni, direct their children towards us. It's very difficult and quite often the kids don't take the hint for a good 5 minutes or so. I've started reading into this, particularly in relation to disabled beggers, and the reasons behind some of this are very hard hitting. This is one to be discussed with work colleagues shortly I think.
3) On the subject of work colleagues, I got talking to a couple of mine recently about their home lives. Put it this way, I have no right to complain about anything pretty much ever again! One woman has 3 children, ranging from 6 months to 10 years. She gets up at 3am ever morning to start her household chores, before taking her older kids to school for 6.50am roll call. She then takes her youngest to nursery before making it to the office for 8.30am. She finishes at 2pm at which point she starts the long journey home to pick up her kids and start her evening routine. She lives in an area with a shared water pipe, however as 2 of her neighbours refused to pay recently, the whole supply was cut off. This meant she had no water for weeks and was having to find a way to fill up a drum of water on a daily basis. With 3 boys and a husband to support, this meant life was very difficult, and quite often she was unable to do washing. Her husband works, but is not on a payroll therefore the monthly income can vary. As such, her life is pretty much 'hand-to-mouth' in terms of wages/living. It turns out we are paid the same monthly wage. That really put it into perspective for me just how lucky I am, even in this situation.
Another colleague mentioned to me that he runs a poultry farm in order to make more money, as his day job does not pay enough. He is in early preparations for Christmas in terms of preparing poultry to sell to the markets, and it is very demanding.
Having looked around me and having taken in this recent information, I actually wonder when people sleep around here. They seem to start very early, work all day both in terms of manual labour/housework and their day jobs, they attend church often, and they work late into the night. In many cases, people seem to sleep during the day - quite often I see them sleeping in their shops, on walls, anywhere they can lay their head down. I actually felt quite guilty telling my colleagues about my fairly relaxed weekend (I thought it was busy at the time, but in comparison.....)
4) Another thing I have noticed is how weak I am in comparison to the women around here. The weights most of the women carry on their heads is incredible (I really must take some pictures). Their postures are amazing also. To put it into perspective, my neighbour and I went to refill our gas cylinders last weekend. The two of us struggled to take the empty canister down a flight of stairs. How ridiculous does that sound after seeing a young teenage girl carrying one on her head! Hopefully I'll develop some muscles by the end of my 2 year stay... :-D
5) I've discovered it's actually easier to give men my number and not pick up the phone, as opposed to trying to explain to them why I'm not giving my number. Today's two encounters saw the first guy hugging and kissing me as I tried to go to the bank and refusing to leave until I gave my number (at which point I said I still had a UK sim card, not a Ghana one) - took a while but I got away; the second guy would not leave me alone until I gave my number, then insisted on knowing when I would call him (I kept saying I didn't know as I'm busy the next few days but he wouldn't accept this). Eventually, he went away, and within 10 minutes was calling me! This continued all morning until he gave up and sent a text message, something along the lines of "Sweetheart, true friends are like mornings, u can't have them the whole day, but you can be sure they will be there when you wake up tomorrow, next year and forever. Have a beautiful day". Ghanaians really have a way with words! Needless to say, I haven't responded....
6) Ghana time is something I am definitely going to have to just accept and get used to. Today I tried to open a bank account. I went along armed with copies of my passport and a letter from VSO explaining about my resident's permit. After an hour of sitting trying to work out whether there's actually a queue or if it's just survival of the fittest, I was seen by a woman who, after taking her time and talking to various colleagues, decided that I can't open a bank account until I get my resident's permit (despite the letter from VSO explaining what's happening). Grr. Thankfully a helpful work colleague has offered to go with me next time, to see if he can make a difference.
That's all for now - no doubt more will follow!