Monday, 18 January 2010, my new digs in Accra--
Every weekday, I call Desmond at noon or just about after. It’s 7am, then, for him, and his alarm is—without fail—going off every five minutes until it’s 8 o’clock, when he has to be at work. I wish him a pert good morning, as I’ve already been awake and moving for about six hours, and chirp on about how my sleep was and what I dreamt about, and how my day has been thus far or how hot it is—you know, basically all the simple, routine topics that aren’t really that important because I know he has yet to take a piss or brush his teeth or probably even open his eyes, meaning he isn’t really awake…which means it’s possible that nothing I’m saying is being registered…which means I should keep the conversation small and light.
The point for me is that I get to wake him up. It’s a part of my daily routine that I take unconditional delight in because it’s sweet and it’s comforting and it’s mine.
I don’t know what time it is where you are—perhaps you’re just awaking or perhaps you’ve been data inputting for a few hours—but did you hear what I just said there? Did you hear the key word in that last sentence? Routine! BAM. I somehow have a routine these days! As in, things that I do on a regular basis…favorite spots that I frequent for dinner or drinks…familiar roads that I travel, and people I pass. I know what time to expect hundreds of bats to leave the trees near 37 Military Hospital and take to the dusky sky, and I watch them return to their branches every morning on my way to work. It’s as if, you could say, I’ve settled in. Adjusted. Finally taken the clothes out of my suitcase, separated them accordingly and put them in actual, functioning drawers. It’s a good feeling, comforting and mine.
I made my official “move” to Accra this past Sunday, renting a room in a breezy, third-floor apartment in Nyaniba Estates. I was told—and given pitiable expressions when being told—that finding decent, affordable housing in Accra would be difficult, especially considering I’ll only be employed, and therefore living, in Accra through June. Apparently most landlords in Accra insist that you pay, at minimum, one year’s rent upfront—a popularly rigid, ludicrous prerequisite for many and, for me specifically, absolutely incompatible with my timeframe.
It was serendipitous, then, that I met Ryan at a bar in Osu as I was returning to my table after having gone to find the toilet (side note: NEVER go into a bar or anywhere else in Ghana for that matter with a preconceived idea as to what the bathroom facilities will be like). Ryan, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, had just moved into a new place with his girlfriend, Asha, and their dog, Cleo, and they were looking for a temporary roommate to help defray the cost of furniture, water, digital satellite (sweeeet; American football!), etc.
Enter me. Excited me.
Ryan and Asha’s place is a dream of an offer for someone in my position: new to the city, late-twenties (notice I did not say “young”), flexible, semi-transient, possessing NO furniture, cutlery, dishware or awkward artwork, etc. Available to me in this apartment is an actual bed, a bookshelf, a set of drawers, a WASHING MACHINE, two leftover crates of beer from a Christmas party, a pet, and—I’ve been told it’s coming soon—the Internet.
What’s more, Ryan and Asha are awesome. Ryan’s been living in West Africa for the past six years and gave me a tour of my new neighborhood on his motorcycle…a ride that was exhilarating, yes, and utterly unnerving. Almost unbelievably, a conversation we had about his PC stint in Guinea revealed that we have a friend in common: a fellow intern of mine at the State Department was a fellow PC Guinea volunteer with him. Small, crazy world J Asha is beautiful and cheery and chill. She’s from the Central Region in Ghana, which means her family is nearby and I hope to meet everyone sometime before I leave.
I’d also like to meet my crazy neighbor and strangle him. The first few nights I spent in my new bed were miserable, as some man was chanting himself into a feverish frenzy about God and Jesus going on two hours straight, from about 1am-3am. Truly, I’ve never wanted to choke someone as much as I wanted to choke this man and stop him from wailing. He’d start low and even, speaking gibberish or in tongues or in a language that doesn’t sound real, then his wails and chants would get louder and faster until he was “PAAAAA PAAAA PAAAPAAAPAAAPAAAPAAA”-ing nonstop and THEN he’d launch into English ravings about God and Jesus and thank you this and thank you that.
It was beyond maddening. It was infuriating. It was horrible. It was sleep-depriving and hate-inducing. I’m not kidding, I wanted to march down to wherever that man was and tell him where to go and how to get there, and please, don’t mind these 4 cedi I’m shoving down your throat, sir, it’s for the taxi fare, so go keep someone else up for hours on end with your lunacy.
Believe me, the pleasure would have been alllllll mine.