Friday, 8 October 2010

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.