Friday, April 11, 2014

“Enchi Mama Holy Mama”

                At 11pm on Saturday we (Christy, Caz, Madso, and Joanna) arrived in Enchi!!
No words could express our delight and relief. At many points along the way we didn’t know if we would ever make it! Our day began at 6am when we left our guesthouse in Tamale – piling us and our many bags in a couple of Taxis. We took a 6 hour bus trip to Kumasi. The intercity buses are air-conditioned with roomy seats thus making that portion the pinnacle of our journey, aside from the customary chaos at the bus station. From there we again took taxis to the Kumasi Tro-Tro station. Two very trusting looking men offered to take us there, we agreed assuming they knew where that was. After an hour long extended tour of Kumasi including driving down the middle of a hectic and odorous market we realized they were completely and utterly lost. After being deserted by our drivers in the middle of said market with a pile-up of vehicles all honking behind us, we concluded we were either part of an elaborate kid-napping scheme, or our drivers were finally asking for much needed direction. Miracle upon miracle we arrived at the Tro-Tro station. At the station we had some delightful interactions with the local vendors, one of whom attempted to sell us men’s boxer shorts (he assured us that though we were women the boxers could still be worn by us, we assured him we were ok without them.) Another local man offered to marry us. We did enjoy buying fanmilk (icecream treats) a dough ball and a large loaf of bread from out of our Tro-Tro window. Finally after both our bags and our group members got packed into the Tro-Tro we took off on our supposed 5-6 hour trip with spirits high and the end of our travel day in sight…. So we thought.  Looking back on this portion of the journey with a couple goodnight sleeps behind us we would like highlight the positives of our Tro-Tro trip. We enjoyed the extra bonding opportunities created by the cramped space in our Tro-Tro and the q30 minute roadside breakdowns. Christy learned how to become a human pretzel. Caz learned how to make 8 hour long small talk with a persistent local Ghanian. Madso learned how to cope with near-death experience feels like. And Joanna learned the power of prayer. PTSD may be in our futures. Christy’s mother – we may need your counselling services upon our return home. If we survive our Tro-Trop trip back to Tamale. (i.e. we ever agree to get back on a Tro-Tro to return home). We also furthered our knowledge about how to (temporarily) fix an overheated Tro-Tro – you pour water into it and have 12 Ghanaian men look at it and occasionally remove parts of the engine. We also learned that remote village children are particularly enamoured about the prospect of meeting and talking with some“brunis” (white ladies). At 8:30pm we attracted a swarm of village kids who were waving, giggling, and pushing each other towards us, seemingly both excited at the prospect of touching our translucent skin. In our tired (delirious?) state we said goodbye and hid behind the Tro-Tro. However white ladies can’t hide in shadows very well and the kids followed us over to the other side. We made the mistake of asking “What is your name?” and received over 80 simultaneous replies. That is an English phrase they clearly know well. Eventually the Tro-Tro started up we said our goodbyes and off we went once again. 
We figured we must have been close to our destination when one of the fellow passengers who spoke English told us “this is where the road gets rough – put on your dust covers.” (The road gets rough now?!) We then proceeded to close our eyes, go to our happy places and pretend we were on the Indiana Jones Disneyland ride….fFor 3 hours. After some bouncing and bumping and synrochnized Hail-Mary’s we reached the end of our journey. Enveloped in dust and grouchy demeanors we arrived in Enchi, only to be told by the Tro-Tro driver “that time was running out and the Taxi services were closed for the night.” Once we figured out what that meant he agreed to drive us to our Guest House in hopes that it would still be open for us. Thankfully it was and we arrived to our wonderful gift basket of snacks and drinks from our Enchi Mama Philomena. Our hearts were warmed and we felt very welcomed!
In the morning refreshed and rested we had a closer look at the beautiful town of Enchi. We are thankful to be staying in 2 very comfortable rooms (including air conditioning and small fridges – we were beyond ourselves!) right beside each other.  We all wore our Sunday best (our new African dresses) to meet our Enchi mama Philomena. She took us on a walk around to see the town. Enchi is much smaller than any places we’ve been before and very green. We already love it. We also walked around the markets and bought some local snacks including avocados (butter pear they call it), pineapples, groundnuts, popcorn, oranges, and more. We enjoyed a picnic-style lunch with Philomena back at the guesthouse. She is wonderful. We already love her very much!
Our first clinical day went well. In the morning we had a tour of the Presbyterian Health Clinic by Philomena. We learned about what services they offer. In the early afternoon we presented our medical supply donations to the staff. They were very pleased by the items, especially the baby weigh scale! The minister who oversees the clinic came for the picture-taking. And as expected he laughed at our attempts to communicate to him in Twi (the local language).. We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to very practically support the clinic here and show our gratefulness  to them for having us.
This afternoon we are sitting in our cozy guest rooms sorting through donated items. Care packages for students in Ghana were donated by kids from Aberdeen Preparatory School after they learned about Global Health. The gifts have travelled far and will be given to kids at one of the local schools here in Enchi sometime this week.
Much love to our families, friends, and fellow students (We miss you already!)

 Enchi out.

Please note this lovely blog post was composed on Monday April 7/14, but we have not had internet access to be able to post it until today. 

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