Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Changes within Three and Half Months

14-22 October 2010
There are always periods of high and low in almost every aspect of life. This is true for one's mood, health, work and so many other things. One of my friend was complaining two months back about feeling low. I had not properly understood at that time what she was telling about.
In the last week however I could realize that I was also feeling low. They were not very big problems but they were not allowing me to feel very healthy and energetic. I had a strong feeling of inertia. There was this pain in the muscle of one of the arm which was recurring and made me stop my daily exercise routine. It was followed by cold which continued for one week and then low fevers which caught me for three consecutive days. There was a feeling of loneliness and feeling of having nobody around who could understand me whenever I wanted to express something. Sometimes there were thoughts which flashed in the mind and questioned me whether my decision about coming to this part of the world and spending an year in my life was right.
Such period of feeling low is what makes one really introspective. I realized that I had been very much extrospective right from the moment I set my foot inside Mumbai International Airport. I was taking on the experiences with different kinds of feelings. It was eagerness, enthusiasm, enjoyment, learning, movement and also impatience, fear and hatred, which were driving me to go ahead. I had little time and interest to do real introspection about the things happening to me and my surroundings. These very moments of inertia made me lie down on bed doing nothing sometimes, not even sleeping. It was like having a relook at the personal accounts, what have I gained and what have I lost.
I laughed at myself because first thing which came to my mind that I had lost 6.5 kg of weight within three and half months. That was not my objective of coming here as I was not overweight while in India. But nonetheless I feel that I am more healthy and energetic than I was at home. I had an interesting discussion with my friend Jason once. Till that moment I had spent almost a month in Bongo and he was asking me whether I felt weak or whether I had lost weight. I had not believed him at that time but now I realize that his question was relevant. He was telling about his observation that most of the men after coming here lose weight and most of the women remain unchanged. It has proved true in my case. All of my trousers are now fitting loosely and I have to fasten my belt tight these days.
My next question to myself was, "have I became really strong and adventurous enough to tackle the unknown situations in this part of the world which is still little known to me?'. Then came the answer from inside, "This is the process of learning. The first step of taking the decision to travel outside the country was new for me. My situation can't be compared with other volunteers with the same or lesser age as mine and having already travelled in many parts of the world. I don't have any strong support from the government back in my home country. They made me suffer even while issuing basic document like passport. There is no social security system except the informal bonds in the family and circle of friends. Is not that a big enough challenge which I have taken?" "Yes, I have changed and more adventurous than I was in India. I am seriously thinking of visiting a French speaking neighbouring countries like Togo and Benin while I don't know French at all." answered I.
Almost everywhere people around me are really friendly and they also expect me to be always smiling and to greet them as and when I see them. I do not do that regularly but I do it more often than I was doing it in India. I was not at all serious about keeping my face smiling and greeting people back at home. Only the people whom I knew well could get that privilege from me. Nowadays sometimes anybody on the street can get that smile and greeting from me. I think that is the very big change though I have not been able to do that in my own town of placement, Bongo. This is because of bad experiences of people I have been getting here. I have come across people seeing hungrily at the pack of food I am carrying, children and old women asking for money, insane people on the street, drunken people wandering on the road behind my house. I know that I am really living in an area which is distressed by its economic poverty but I can't keep that smile on my face while looking at such people almost every day.
I have discovered that I had a real interest in cooking and tasting food. I did not seriously think about it before, as living in a typically traditional Indian family where women are supposed to cook and do all the household chores and men are just supposed to sit and eat. Fortunately my mother was strict enough to make us take part in all the household work so that we won't face any problem anywhere. I was just ignorant about it as being traditional Indian women my wife and my mother have always done those jobs for me. Now reading through the recipe book which I have brought with me, experimenting with various recipes has become my favourite pastime. I could make a dinner for six people once. People who have tasted food cooked by me say that I am a good cook. Yes that's a big change. I am sure I am going to carry this hobby of mine back in India and it is going to permanently remain with me.
I truly miss my family back. I have been missing them since coming here but the feeling was never very strong. Now I realize that for my remaining period of placement in Ghana, I would have missed my very good moments with them. My son has started talking a lot but I can't talk with him for long because I am always on the expensive long distance international call and he is not the only one to talk to when I call home. I have lost those moments and have been very unhappy about it.
Liquor was one of the things from which I had always kept some distance. I had tasted only red wine once before coming here. I have now tasted some alcohol and can say for sure that self control is the best solution to not to become alcoholic. I have seem some people, who are not alcoholic but are in the habit of taking it once in a while, expressing the need to get a small booze because they are feeling unhappy. Getting a first hand experience in how alcohol works has now strengthened the premise of self control in me. That is a big change.
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Workshop on Inclusion

28-30 September 2010
This blog post can be better understood by the people who are working in the development sector. The terminology becomes more vague when one starts talking the language of development sector. "What the hell this development and inclusion means?", will ask a non development person. This is all about an interesting workshop which I attended in the last week of September. It was more related to my job as a volunteer and helped me to increase some of my personal knowledge as a development worker.
The workshop was held in a nice comfortable Miklin Hotel in the beautiful city of Kumasi. It was meant for bringing awareness about the concepts of inclusion amongst the volunteers and their employer organizations. VSO works through volunteers with various government and non government organizations in the sectors of secured livelihoods, education, participation and governance. There are certain thematic areas which cut across all the sectors such as HIV-AIDS and inclusion, so a volunteer working in any of the areas is expected to work on these themes and integrate them in his (or her) work.
Now coming to the real meaning of the words, development in the context of development field means the process of equitable growth of a society through fulfilment of human rights. Inclusion means process of promotion of equal rights, access and opportunities for everyone. The workshop revolved around those concepts. Various subjects related to development and inclusion were covered through teaching methods such as group discussions, role plays and picturisation. These subjects include, dimensions of inclusion, barriers to inclusion, ways of achieving inclusion, inclusion audit and rights based approaches to inclusion. In the process of development, many sections of the society get excluded due to various reasons. There are discriminations based on gender, race, religion, caste, disabilities etc. Some get left out because of economic poverty and geographical reasons. Identifying these sections of the society and working towards their inclusion in the process of development is the main job of any development worker.
There were many limitations to the workshop however because of the way VSO works. Since VSO places the volunteers with the organizations and there is very little control over the individual work plans of the volunteers and the organizational/ project work plans of the employer organizations. There is no assurance about the incorporation or implementation of the concepts learned in these workshops or training programs in the actual work of the volunteers and the organizations.
For me particularly it was very useful because I am working at the strategic and planning level where I have a scope to discuss those ideas and persuade people to incorporate those ideas. It surely is a difficult task to integrate them in any of the on-going projects without an organizational level initiative. I doubt about many people from the partner organizations, who had attended the workshop, whether they would be able to really take the concepts forwards with self motivation and by convincing their respective bosses in the organizations.
Something about TnT now. Ghana is a hot spot for international NGOs and funding agencies, as it is located in the ecologically vulnerable sub Saharan Western Africa. It also has advantage of having the most stable democracy and active government in the whole of West Africa. This flood of help from international agencies mean that people from local NGOs and government keep on attending workshops every now and then. The people who are arranging those workshops want them to be successful in terms of their attendance and they give every participant with some allowance which usually covers more than what they spend on food, transportation and accommodation. This system is called TnT- Time and Travel and even if some people not spend a single pesewa while attending those workshops, will expect something to be paid in return for the attendance. Many people sit in those workshops boringly waiting for the last day for their TnT to be paid. I heard an interesting story about workshop where people were sitting there for two consecutive days without taking any notes during the sessions and on the final day when one of the facilitator started giving references from the bible, everybody started to note them down.
VSO was not exception this time as it had to follow the culture of TnT though it could not promote it. Otherwise I think there would be problems with the organizations where volunteers are working as they might not receive very good co-operation from their colleagues with no TnT paid to them. As VSO also needs their partner organizations to participate in their workshops and receive good co-operation from them in the future, it can't just stop giving out TnT. I think VSO did not want to give TnT to the people but still could not let them go without TnT as well. A solution to this problem was worked out by paying them an amount equivalent to the spending on the dinner in the classy Miklin Hotel instead of giving them dinner. This served people with the amount which could be saved by eating some food on the street or some cheap eatery and could be considered as TnT.
I think this TnT system will stop only when some big donor agency or the government itself says a firm no to it.
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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Bird Market at Zebilla

13 October 2010
As part of my work on development of local value chain of Guinea fowl, I have been able to see not only various facets of rearing of this indigenous bird but also the rural life in the northern part of Ghana. There are lots of similarities in rural life of India and this part of Africa. This region has been primarily an agriculturist cum pastoralist type of society as it is evident from the dominance of large variety of seasonal agricultural crops and small ruminants in the livelihoods of these people.
Guinea fowl, an indigenous semi domesticated bird from this area fits well in their lifestyle here. Though with the changing time there are challenges in this rearing of this bird as it is nowadays more seen as a source of income. With the good co-operation of Bongo District Guinea Fowl Farmers' Association and district office of Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), I have been able to track down most of the links of the local value chain and coming up with the strategies to promote this sector in the district. Now the challenge lies in convincing the government officials about results of study and developing projects around it, which may be a very tough task.
When I was explaining Mr. Henry, the livestock officer at MoFA, my completed study, he suggested me that we should visit bird market at Zebilla which is a small town approximately 50 km away from Bongo as the area has got a different breed of Guinea fowls that grows very large in size within shorter period and there we could also see if we would be able to source guinea keets for distribution to the farmers. (young chicks of Guinea fowl.)
We reached there by 9:30 am to find that we were late. There was large crowd of people holding various types of birds in their hands, guinea fowls, chicken, ducks, turkeys, pigeons and trying to find the customers. Some people were traders who were buying the birds in large numbers. Birds were being brought in various numbers and in various ways. If the number of birds was very less in 4-5, the people were carrying them with their hands or on bicycles. Some were being carried in Kusogs of various sizes. Kusogs are cages made from local straw. Kusogs were being loaded on bicycles, motorcycles, on the top of the buses and trotros or were carried on the heads. Majority of the sellers were small holders who had brought only a few number of birds (ranging from 1-10 numbers).
There was no weighing of birds with the scale, poor birds with their tied legs were moved from the hands of seller to the buyer and then given jerk to get a feel of their weight and then there were negotiations over the price of the birds. Most of the people who were buying the birds saw the symptoms for the diseases, age and weight. The size of the birds were really larger than those in Bongo. One interesting thing was that people were giving higher price to the birds having higher age and lesser weight because the birds lose their fat as their age increases and people in this area prefer tougher and less fattier meat. There was one buyer who was buying 4 months old birds in order to keep them for 2.5 months and fatten them for the Christmas when the price of the birds would be very high.
By the time we reached there major sale was over and most of the low quality type of birds had remained. There was strong smell of Pito (local alcoholic brew) in the air which was coming from a thatched hut in the middle of the market ground. It was full with people, men as well as women. Most of them were sellers who after getting some money were going in for a small booze, the most common way of celebration of income.
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Zebilla Bird Market scene- disabled not excluded
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Negotiations over a Guinea Fowl
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Kusogs full of birds on top of the tro

Tamale

01-03 October 2010
I left Kumasi to reach Tamale. It was my VSO Indian friend Raj who had been after me for visiting his place. I was planning to combine visiting Raj with some of the work which I was planning to do there. I felt really good that I have been placed in Ghana where there are many volunteers spread across many parts of the country and they are really welcoming to each other. This holds true for all the nationalities. Especially the four Indians, me, Raj, Rahul and Rose after touring in South Ghana together have become good friends.
The kind man Raj had come to receive me at Tamale bus station at the odd hour of 2:00 am. My morning was allotted for meeting an entrepreneur who specializes in processing of Guinea fowl. My interview with him however was disappointing as I had found information about him through internet. Raj traced his contact for me. I was really excited to meet him and make important discussion about helping farmers of the Upper East Region where I am working.
He was really very co-operative and knew lot of things about India. The man had earlier worked in the United States and returned to his home country with dreams of establishing big business. When I met him however he was talking about returning to the US to make some more money by doing some job over there. He was complaining about tough competition from the imported processed meat, lack of facilities provided by the government etc. There was also certainly some factors which had contributed to his failure, such as lack of proper assessment of market and mismanagement.
I found out that Tamale is a very traveller friendly city to get around. It is small compared Accra and Kumasi. There is not much of tourist interest in and around Tamale thought it is a major transportation hub for the Northern part of Ghana. The city is bustling. Majority of the population in the city is Muslim. It is called as NGO capital of Ghana as most of the international development agencies operating in Ghana have their offices here. NGO’s are there on almost every street and there is flood of signboards of them on the sides of the roads.
The next two days were spent visiting the market, meeting some Indian shop owners and Raj's friends, meeting newly came VSO volunteers and experiencing high speed internet café of Vodafone. The speed was really high and it was never experienced by me before even in India. There is some direct satellite link at this Vodafone cyber café. I found out that I felt that I had many things to do and very less time available with me. In reality, I had completed almost all of the planned tasks on the internet and seeing large number of new to do task list in front of me. "Making life faster and more stressed, that was the job of high speed internet," was my second thought.
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Exploration in and around Kumasi II

27 September 2010
We had decided to spend our second day in Kumasi by visiting Lake Bosumtwi and then visiting some more places in Kumasi city if time permitted. As decided our group of three, which included I, Rahul and Damien, headed for the lake. It was a journey by a tro tro to Kuntanase, a small town 35 km away from Kumasi and then a short ride by shared taxi to the village of Abono on the shores of the lake. We had taken guidance from the travel guide book to plan this journey and it was helpful. But one has to be aware about the information provided in the guide books as it gets outdated as the time passes.
We read in the book that on the way to Kuntanase to Abono sometimes there is an unofficial entry fees charged to foreigner tourists by some village youths. We had a lot of argument with the guy at the entry check post. The guy was giving us an official receipt and it turned out that it really was an official post set up by the district assembly and we had to pay the charges. Due to our arguments however, the guy seemed to be very reluctant to give any concessions after showing our volunteer identity cards and we had to pay the full Obruni (foreigner) fare.
There were not many tourists around since it was Monday. The lake has become a popular spot for tourists as well people from Kumasi city and it gets crowded on weekends. The Abono village has two privately run information centres. We entered one information centre as a person hanging around it told us that it was an official set up promoted by the government. After hearing that we entered in it and it had really good information displayed on its walls but then they started asking for some donations and it all started to look like a tourist trap.
We came out of the office. Then the man in the office came near us and started asking for the boat ride. We agreed for the boat ride but we were not very lucky as after completion of the half of the agreed time we started to see the rain falling in the opposite shore and the boatmen started to row back towards Abono shore. The lake is all surrounded by small hillocks and it has very beautiful and serene atmosphere. The lake has been created by an impact of falling of a huge meteorite and is the largest naturally formed fresh water body in the whole of west Africa. Due to rains our plans to walk around the shores of the lake and to take a dip in its waters had to be cancelled and we started back for Kumasi. After the tiresome, bumpy and noisy journey of tro tro we came back to Kumasi and found our way through the crowded central market area to the Cultural Centre.
This Cultural Centre is very well planned and better than its counterpart in Accra. It was first found by Asante King Prempreh II as Asante Cultural Centre in 1958 but then later converted into National Culture Centre by the first president of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The centre has a small museum which displays history of Asante Kingdom, an auditorium and a craft centre where there are numerous shops and also some training facilities. The museum was very good with well informed guides. Outside the museum we found a large calabash bush. The Calabash is a type of gourd with hard rind. The fruits of calabash are harvested and dried after fully grown. The fruit pulp is removed and the rind is carved into utensils for serving and storing food. Generally most of the gourds grow on vines which are annual in nature but the one which we saw there was a perennial woody climber and had almost grown into a bush.
An unusual thing which I came across in the centre was absence of toilets in its majority of buildings. They told me that it is there in the administrative building. I asked the lady at the reception about it and she handed me the key to the toilet. The female section of the toilet was open but the male section of the toilet was locked.
We headed for Zoo afterwards. On our way to zoo we came across huge trees with very big colonies of bats on it. Near those trees at the roadside, there were people selling numerous things. We bought roasted plantains and some tiga nuts. Tiga nuts are actually an underground tubers of a plant which grows in water. These are like water chestnuts. The taste of Tiga nuts is similar to coconut and it has become my favourite pastime munch. The next stall had some animals which looked like rodents and were being roasted on charcoal fire. They were placed on a stick and the woman was yelling something. The whole scene was very disgusting. We passed ahead of it but our curiosity could not keep us walking further. I went back to the stall and asked the woman what was she selling. She and and all the others around could not speak English and were not able to understand what was I asking them. Then a man could guess my question and showed the bats hanging on the tree. The woman started to tell us the price of it but we walked away from the scene. As I have always been keen on tasting new food items in Ghana, Rahul and Damien started asking me whether I wanted to taste the bats. I answered them that it could become my new limit after reaching the limit of eating dog meat which I have not reached yet.
Our experience of the zoo was not as uninspiring as the guide book had mentioned. The zoo was really very disorganized and not very well kept but the animals in the zoo were well fed. There were many animals which we had not seen before in India such as ostriches, grey coloured parakeets, baboons, large lizards, tortoises, warthogs and chimpanzees. We had fun time tossing Susubaras to the chimpanzees and seeing the expressions on their faces. Chimpanzees have lot of similarities with the human body and face as well.
After finishing our visit to the zoo, me and Rahul waited in the central tro tro station for the arrival of Rahul's employer. He is an old aged blind person. Rahul works for the Ghana Federation of the Disabled. We had a very hard time finding Rahul's boss in the crowded central market area. It was doubly difficult as Rahul's boss also has some loss of hearing ability due to old age. But we could at last find the location where he was standing.
One noticeable thing which I have to mention here is the discipline which the Ghana Police is trying to implement on the roads of Kumasi. Walking on the road by leaving footpaths can attract fines here. We did not know that and as per our Indian habits started walking on the road after seeing that footpaths were very crowded when a policeman caught our attention and told us to walk on the footpath. We found that the rule was being strictly followed. People are really disciplined in Kumasi than India for sure. Even in the evening hours where people are rushing back to their homes, in the crowded tro tro station, people were following queues to get into the trotros. India always tries to take the leadership of the developing nations. There are certain things which India should also learn from the nations which it is trying to lead. The discipline at the public places and roads, which even our national capital Delhi lacks, can be found in the remotest interiors of Ghana.
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View of Kumasi city
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Rain in the lake
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Giant Lizard in Kumasi Zoo

Friday, 8 October 2010

Exploration in and around Kumasi I

27 September 2010
It was Sunday and we had decided to roam around the Kumasi city. We had decided to wait for Rahul who was coming from Accra and he was to reach Kumasi by 9:30 am. We had to do breakfast and we went on the road to find something. After walking for two blocks, we came across a square where there were number of street side stalls selling various things. Most convenient and known to us was the stall selling fried eggs. The person could not speak English well and just knew the basic minimum by telling the prices of limited items on offer. We tried to ask him which part of Ghana he was from when another man sitting beside him told us that he was an immigrant from Mali and knows little English. Jillian spoke with him in French and he could talk with her. She is very skilled at striking discussions and speaking with unknown people. An omelet with two eggs, a large piece of bread and a hot cup of Milo (chocolate malt drink) made us full and we were all ready to start our exploration. Rahul came on time and we started for our first destination, Ntonso.
Ntonso is a small village, 10 km away from Kumasi and it is known for weaving of Adinkra and Kente cloth. These are traditional types of cloths worn by the people of Akan ethnic group. When we reached the village, the atmosphere was very relaxed as it was Sunday and most of the villagers were busy attending Church or funerals. Most of the people attending the funerals could be identified as they were wearing black clothes.
The shop where we went first had many types of cloths hung around but the mood in the shop was pretty relaxed as sellers were not telling anything about it. When a youth came from somewhere and started talking with us. Adams, as we found later, was a local volunteer in a community run project in the village which was started with an assistance of an American Peace Corps Volunteer. They have developed a small museum which gives information on this traditional art of weaving. As it was Sunday, museum was closed but he found the key for us and showed us around.
There is a story associated with this art of weaving. The Asante Kingdom defeated Gyaame Kings and enslaved these people. These people were known for their art of weaving cloth. These people were brought near Kumasi, the capital of Asante, and were settled in the villages around it. The art of these people were then adopted by the Asante and was made official. There are two types of cloths. One of them is Adinkra which is black and white and has numerous symbols which are made by using stamps. Other type, Kente cloth, is very thick and worn especially by people with royal heritage in earlier days. These days anybody can wear it. It is made by sewing number of pieces of cloth into a pattern.
There were no fees for the museum and he did not even try to persuade us to purchase anything. He seemed to have a true volunteer spirit. We then sat near a shop and had soft drink with him afterwards while hearing about his activities on HIV and AIDS.
Since we were really not sure about our next stop, we kept on asking each other. Finally we decided to go to the village which specializes in woodcarving. The Bradt guide book came in handy when the tro tro mate was not able to understand our pronunciation of the name of our destination. After a short tro ride, we got down at Ahwiyaa just near the shops selling wooden items. Heat was intense but by this time, relaxed atmosphere of the morning had changed into a busy one. There were many vehicles on the road.
We entered in a shop and then quickly found ourselves engulfed in the game of bargaining. Nobody knew the right price of the items. Some of the items were really good and beautiful. There were wooden masks, fertility dolls, sculptures showing human figures, various souvenir type of items showing Ghanaian flag colours, drums etc. The variety of items was huge and the sellers were very aggressive. Jillian and Rahul both bought some items by bargaining them down to 50-60% of the price and the guy gave each of us (including me because I helped them to strike a deal though I did not buy anything) a small leather bracelet as a dash. Dash means anything which comes free, over and above than the agreed. "Give me a dash," is a phrase commonly heard in Ghanaian markets. After seeing that we purchased in one shop, all the other shop owners started to aggressively persuade us to come to their shop and see the items they had. It was fun for sometime but afterwards it was too much to bear and then we left from the scene. Still it was worth recommending anybody to go over there and have a look at least as the village is really a centre of wood carving industry and at many places one can find the artists engaged in the work.
A police officer gave us a lift up to Kumasi, thanks to the skill of Jillian in begging lifts. After knowing that we were Indians, he told us that he used to work with Indian police forces in Cambodia for some time as part of the UN peace keeping force. He took us all the way up to our hotel.
 Colourful Kente cloths 
 

Wooden masks at Ahwiyaa

Reaching Kumasi or Story of Privacy amongst the Strangers

24-26 September 2010
This was one of my not so properly planned tour. It was something which was done because my organization was going to bear my to and fro journey expenses. I and my boss, District Planning Officer, Bongo District Assembly were chosen by VSO for the workshop on inclusion. I shall explain this vague sounding term in a later post. Our workshop was going to start on 27th September but they had made arrangements for the people in the hotel from the earlier day so we decided to take advantage of this arrangement and decided to reach one more day earlier and explore in and around this beautiful city of Kumasi.
From Bolgatanga the two of us Jillian and I started for Kumasi. Two more friends accompanied us on the bus. One was Pat, an ex-volunteer now. She finished her placement of two years successfully in the small district place called Zebilla, 45 km away from Bolgatanga. She can bake delicious cakes and breads. There was a farewell party organized for her on the evening before our departure. She went to Accra on the same bus as ours and flew to her home in Sheffield, UK on 26th September. Another friend travelling in the bus with us was Sophia, a Ghanaian. She knows to cook many Indian dishes. She was asking me more information about Indian Kenke. Kenke is a Ghanaian food and consists of ball of cooked fermented maize dough. Later through more enquiries, I could make out that by Indian Kenke she meant Idli.
This time, during the bus journey, I could sleep in spite of the loud Nigerian witchcraft movies played in the bus. It seems I am now getting used to them. Unfortunately our bus had a break down on the road. Most of the passengers were worried about the robberies on the road. Somebody knew the area very well and suggested that we should walk with our hand luggage to the nearest village. As everybody was doing that, we followed them and after a walk of 300 m we reached a house near the road. It was a farm house and fortunately there were some people who had stayed there for the night. It was very dark when we reached and there was no electricity but after sometime there was moonrise up in the sky and we could see around. Somebody from that house brought some water sachets for selling. People kept on discussing about the low quality of Chinese buses which companies purchase and passengers have to suffer. After hearing that discussion for long time, I also started to think seriously that low quality Chinese goods flooding the local markets is a serious global issue these days.
Approximately 4 hours after break down, the replacement for the bus came and we shifted ourselves to the new bus. Along with the luggage were also shifted live goats and guinea fowl, which were travelling with us, but fortunately in the luggage compartment. When the driver started the bus, the owner of the guinea fowls came asking loudly, "who has stolen my guinea fowls?" As per his claim, one of his guinea fowls had gone missing. He started searching if any of the passengers had hidden any bird under the seat. It took some time to calm that person down and the bus finally started on its way to Kumasi. That was my first experience of bus breaking down after arriving in Ghana. The bus reached to Kumasi 3 hours late. That meant the new bus driven by the new driver could cover 1 hour in spite of the bad road and they surprised us by showing a good Nigerian comedy movie. I had heard many stories about such experiences from people and now I had got my own story to tell to the people.
We reached Kumasi at 3:00 am and said bye to Pat and Sophia who went ahead to Accra. We had not planned properly for the day except the booking for a dormitory room of a hotel and deciding on the place where we could go. We decided to go the lodge where Jillian had booked the dormitory beds over the telephone. We requested them to allow us in the room at half the charge for half day as check in time was 12:30 pm. The reception clerk suggested us to wait till 6:00 am so that we would be allowed to check in the room and then could use the room till 6:00 am in the next morning. We snoozed in the lobby for some time and then checked in the hotel dormitory. First she told us that six bedded dormitory was full and we would be checked into the 8 bedded dormitory which was empty.
The attendant lady however took us to a 6 bedded dormitory. When we were taken to the room there was already somebody in the room. The man inside told to wait for a while. Then after long time of waiting, door was opened. We went inside. There were two persons, a man and a woman sleeping on two separate beds. The man was a white with darker complexion and the woman was a black. Man was hurriedly shifting his belongings to his own beds from the woman's bed. There were three two tiered beds. It was obvious that the reception clerk wanted to keep this a secret but the attendant lady had messed up with that secret. We took two of the remaining beds and slept.
I woke up at 7:10 so that I could be first to use the toilet and take a bath before others. I saw that woman was not on her bed. On the man's bed under the covers I could see the shape of the body and the colour of the skin of the feet which had came out of the cover and could easily guess that it was that woman. When I was getting out of my bed, the man came from outside and then took some bed sheets from the woman's bed and spread all along the length of the two tier bed thus creating a complete enclosure and then went inside their newly created hideout. I could hear some sounds afterwards.
After finishing my bath I was standing in the main balcony enjoying the view of Kumasi city, when the man came there. He offered me a cigarette which I declined. Then he asked me whether I was an Indian and which religion I belonged to. He told me that he was from Dubai and living in the city for last 10 years. From his accent and skin colour, I could guess that he was an Arab. He was in the business of providing some kind logistics support to the telecommunication companies. After hearing my profession of developmental work and volunteering, he could not understand what I actually did and did not seem to be very much interested in it as well. He was worried for me as I was living in the drier North instead of humid south. Then he gave me some advise which I had not asked for. It was about the best places for shopping and how I could save money by buying ready-made sachets of coffee and getting a hot water from the hotel staff instead of buying it from the restaurant. After a while he went away.
After some time I returned to the room the hideout was cleared and there was no man or the woman as well. They had made me wonder how could they act like that in presence of strangers like us and still the man could chat with me for a long time. There is a minimal probability that I shall be seeing that man or the woman again. I think it was the privacy amongst the strangers which they had taken it for granted.