Global Service Scholar: Iman Hanif
I have been in Ghana for 3 weeks now, and I love it. I live in Saltpond, a small town about two hours west of the capital city, Accra, with the Yawson family. We live in a complex with multiple single rooms outside the main house. Mr. Yawson, Mama Pat and their two daughters (a third daughter is in boarding school and should be home for break soon) have been very welcoming. We also live with about five other families and seven other volunteers, so it is a full house. Saltpond is a very small and relaxed town so it has been very easy to fall into a routine with plenty of time to explore and spend time with the people in the community. My day is pretty much the same during the week so time has been passing quickly.
6:25 a.m.: My alarm goes off and I collect my clothes and toiletries so I can go upstairs and shower. Most days I don’t need the alarm to wake up because something or someone always wakes me up at 5:30 a.m. or as early as 4 a.m. Although I have gotten used to the constant noise and am able to fall back asleep pretty easily, I always seem to beat my alarm by a few minutes, which is good because I have to be careful not to wake up Centeera as I’m leaving our room. Even though I don’t have to be at work until 9 a.m., trying to get all eight of us ready in the morning can be quite difficult with just one shower, so I have learned to shower early and quickly.
7:00 a.m.: There are two breakfast times at our house, 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and although I don’t eat until 8 a.m., Elisabeth and I get up early to sit with Joanie, Brice, Martin, and Dew, who leave for work earlier in the morning. This extra hour helps us to get to know each other better and there is always someone with a crazy dream to share from the night before. A lot of us also bring our books to read while we wait for breakfast to be served.
8:00 a.m.: I eat breakfast later in the morning because when I used to eat at 7 a.m. I could barely make it to lunch time without being hungry. At this point all the early breakfast people have left for work at the hospital or various schools in the area. I eat with Elisabeth, Pep, and Centeera, and I have either tombrown, a thick soup-like dish made from roasted and ground peanuts, corn, and soybeans, or a toasted sandwich with butter and sausage (aka a hot dog). Most importantly, I take my malaria pills after breakfast.
9:00 a.m.: After breakfast, I finish getting ready and spend the leftover time reading my book until I have to go to work. I am one of the last to leave for work. Elisabeth and I walk just down the road (less than 5 minutes) to our placement in the office of Compassion housed at the Peter and Paul Child Development Centre (PPCDC) where Pep and Centeera work. Last week, I visited all of the local schools to make sure the organization’s 400 beneficiaries had their school supplies and necessary fees paid. Soon I will do home visits, but most days I work in the office filing, doing paperwork or working on various trackers and databases.
12:30 p.m.: Sometimes it can be hard to get out of the office for lunch on time, but Elisabeth and I usually walk down to the market (less than 10 minutes) to buy fresh fruit (mango, banana, or oranges) for lunch. Sometimes we get tempted by the ice cream being sold on the way back. If we ever need a snack, we buy fish spring rolls from a lady just at the edge of the road right by the office. Occasionally the staff will cook lunch for us, which is always a treat because it is free and gives us another taste of the local cuisine.
1:30 p.m.: By the time we get back from lunch, the nursery children at PPCDC are on their way home though a few whose mothers work in the office are still around. I have become friends with the oldest boy, Augustin, although I’m pretty sure he only likes me because I share my food with him and give him my phone to play on. My phone seems to get passed around the office quite a bit, even to the adults who get quite frustrated that a 5-year-old can beat them at Temple Run.
3:00 p.m.: Just like leaving at lunch, it can be hard to leave at the end of the workday because there is always one last thing that is requested of us right as we are getting ready to leave. We are always the last of the volunteers to arrive home from work, but it is always good to see everyone just hanging out after a long day. Sometimes we plan to go to Mankkessem, the large outdoor market (15 minute taxi ride), or to the beach (less than 15 minute walk). Most days we just relax and talk or read until dinner.
6:00 p.m.: Mama Pat is an amazing cook and always customizes the meals to fit our personal tastes and dietary restrictions. So far, my favorites are white pepper soup with chicken and rice, egg stew with sausage and rice, and ground nut (peanut) soup with chicken and rice balls. Jollof spaghetti or chicken and fried rice are also favorites. We always end dinner with some fresh fruit –oranges, watermelon, pineapple, or apples. We usually eat outside, but it has become more difficult since new volunteers seem to arrive every day. We always seem to find space around the small table. It would probably be easier to move dinner upstairs to the dining table but we have all become attached to eating downstairs.
7:30 p.m.: After-dinner plans always depend on how tired we are, sometimes we all go upstairs and play cards. Jungle Speed is a favorite for all of us, but it is difficult to go to sleep after because it really gets the adrenaline flowing. We also play UNO when we can’t find the energy to play Jungle Speed. But any game we play becomes very intense as we are all very competitive. When we are too tired to play cards, we will stay downstairs and just talk or read and slowly people will make their way to bed. Sometimes when the time zones and schedules line up perfectly, I am able to call my parents or friends, but that doesn’t happen every day.
10:30 pm: Most nights we are all asleep or in bed by 8:30 p.m., but game night always stretches later into the night. I finish my night by writing in my journal, reading, or playing on my phone. I always go to sleep listening to music because it helps block out the constant noise that seems to be going on and makes it easier to fall asleep until the roosters start to crow at 4 a.m.