Its 5.30pm they tell me as we hurriedly try to finish preparing dinner before the sun sets for the day. The Fufu is almost ready; women are pounding it with a bamboo stick one, two, one, two. The smell of the soup overcomes our senses; we are lucky to have some fish, which they have caught down by the river. It’s not every day they get to eat meat here in Frankadua. I am the special guest for the evening. The family brings me a chair to sit down as I watch them prepare the meal. The children are eagerly showing me things around their house, “Lily, look at this!” they say, holding up ball made from scrunched up paper stuffed into a sock, “wow, what’s that?” -“my football!” The meal is ready, we huddle around a small wooden table. I have the only chair in the house – the others sit on overturned buckets. We bow our heads in prayer and begin to eat, everyone sharing the food from one bowl. The Fufu is made from pounded cassava root,. physically tough to make and quite time consuming. The accompanying soup consists of chilli, onion and tomato broth in which they have poached the fish. The grandmother shows me how to use my right hand to pinch a piece of the Fufu dough and dip it into the soup, “don’t chew it,” they all remind me. Delicious. Its dark now and without electricity; the only light shining upon our food is that of the fire used to cook the meal. This is Ghana, a peek into the lives of the villagers in Frankadua.
At 5.15am the following day I am woken up by the sound of the town announcements coming from the megaphone in the marketplace. My shirt is damp from sweat. Crawling out from under my mosquito net I walk over to the window. The neighbour’s children are using palm branches to rake the ground. They carry buckets of rubbish on their heads and some are standing out the front bathing with a tub of water. I see other children walking past with heavy pales of water on their heads carrying them to the homes. The whole village is awake already, the mum’s are preparing breakfast and the dad’s have already left to go to their farms. I walk into the kitchen and take a bag of water. Our safe drinking water comes in 500ml plastic pouches. Biting off the corner I skull it in one go. Taking the plastic bucket from the shower room, I fill it with water from the large drums inside the house that are filled with water collected from an underground well in the village. I’m used to bathing myself with a bucket now, to be honest – it’s quite refreshing. I eat breakfast and get ready for school. Just before 8am there are some students calling me from the front door “Lily! Come, lets go to school,” they yell.
On the way to school, I pass baby goats and chickens running around at my feet. There are some children sitting underneath the trees behind the school “we have been kicked out of class for not paying the 30 pesewas (70 cents) class fee”- they say, and will not be allowed in school for the remainder of they day. Some of them were caned for it too; this is a common punishment here in Ghana. As I arrive to my class the students stand up and sing me a welcome song. My day has begun. I work alongside a local teacher Madam Martha in the kindergarten class. It’s challenging and takes a lot of energy to keep the kids attention. I am always thinking of creative new ways to help them learn. Today we are learning to write the letter M. Irene, the senior student in the class goes outside to fetch some sand. We pour it onto the tables in the classroom and I demonstrate, using a stick, how to write the letter. I observe as each of them have a try and once practice is over, we clean off the tables. It’s time to write in their books. At first break the kids run out of the classroom to the canteen where they can purchase local foods to eat. Many of them however do not have the money to buy food and will spend the day hungry. A group of girls approaches me and proceeds to teach me a local dance. My pathetic attempts make them giggle. The bell rings and back to class I go. The children are mucking up and playing until the headmaster walks in. They are scared of him most of the time because he will cane them if they are misbehaving. Once he leaves, they pay attention to me like military students. The school day finishes at 2pm for the juniors and 3 pm for the seniors. I am walked home with a posse of students around me.
Today is Wednesday; there is a market on at a nearby town 15 minutes down the road. I wait for my fellow volunteers to arrive home from their various workplaces. Standing by the side of the main road we hail for a ‘Tro Tro’ – the mode of public transport here in Ghana. Because we are only travelling a short distance I wave my finger pointing to the ground. Pointing upwards would indicate that somebody is travelling a longer distance. The Tro Tro approaches at a slower speed, a man hangs out the window and calls out – “where to?” – “Juapong!”, we yell. The Tro stops and we all climb into the van. Arriving at Juapong market the store holders try to get or attention yelling “obroni! (Foreigner)” or “yevoo (white)”, not meant in a derogatory way but solely to get our attention. I walk by with a smile and nod. The market is colourful and filled with fabrics, fruits, vegetables and household items. The still humid air has beads of sweat running down my face. The bustle of the market can be overwhelming, and I don’t enjoy staying too long. We hurriedly get back to the main street once we have everything we need. Motorbikes and Tro Tro’s pull up out the front calling out their destinations. Hesitantly, I agree to take a motorbike. Two of us squeeze onto the back of each motorbike. Holding on tightly and sandwiched between two others along with our bags of shopping, I take a deep breath. Here we go! Dodging multiple potholes along the way I spend the journey tensing all the muscles in my body. We are at 60, 70, 80km an hour and still gaining speed. “Phew” I say clambering off the back of the bike once we reach Frankadua, I’m thanking my lucky stars for the day! That was scary.
The children run up to us as they see that we have arrived back to the village, excitedly hoping we have bought them something at the market. Its dinner time now and we spend the evening preparing for the next days work, having a drink and dance at the bar or playing cards and games in the house. This is my lifestyle now, I have been here for almost two months and am absolutely loving it, I have formed incredible friendships, had a ton of laughs and received a deep insight into village life in Ghana. Each day brings new challenges and adventures, which I am grateful for. My day here never ends without a smile.