We started the day driving to the bus station to take a bus from Tamale to Kumasi. Ernest was surprisingly on time, which worked out well since we couldn't find the bus station for a while. We got into comfy seats, bought some snacks, and got ready for a long but comfy ride.
Nope. About an hour after we got on, the bus had still not left. It wouldn't until it was full. And full meant filling the aisle with stools and putting a person on each one. The woman next to my aisle seat took the arm rests from either side and decided that sitting with people one foot away from her on all sides was a good time to have a loud cell phone conversation. Cell phone etiquette here is that there is none. Whereas in the U.S., people scramble to turn off their ringtones as if getting a call were a huge embarrassment, here they let the ringtone just go on and on, whether they pick up or not. And when they do, no time is a bad time to take a phone call. In crowded spaces. While the nurse is trying to get the right eyeglass prescription for you. When you're in the middle of taking a visual acuity exam. There is no "excuse me, one moment" as you quietly take the call elsewhere. Nothing is more important than taking that phone call, and everyone else will just have to sit there and listen to your one-sided conversation until you're good and done.
On the way south, prayers were blasted at what must have been the maximum volume for the entirety of the ride. Lianna had smartly brought Bones episodes with her, whereas I had attempting to read as my entertainment. Despite it being the coolest month of the year, it was still humid and stuffy, yet the A/C vents sat unused over our heads. I pulled out my snacks and immediately felt bad for eating in a bus full of people fasting. I felt out of place with my head uncovered and my pants rather than skirt in a bus full of conservatively dressed passengers. As I hid a cookie behind my hand and munched on it as quietly as I could, I made plans for buying elaborate dishes at the rest stop. Then, I remembered that the rest area has a waterfall nearby that I wanted to visit. Finally, I remembered that the buses were eager to leave since most of their passengers were not there to eat, so the falls were lost.
As always, there is a bright side. Roxane lost her ticket when settling down in the bus (not difficult, since it was a scrap of newspaper the size of a nickel with a number scratched on it in pen). She went to go buy a new one, but Ernest fortunately hadn't left yet, translated for her, and she got back on without having to pay twice. At the rest stop, we ran into a British guy we had chatted with at the hotel in Mole National Park. He's also here with a volunteer team of mostly girls, heading south on a different bus. When he signed up for the trip, he didn't know when it was going to be, and unfortunately it ended up being during the London Olympics. We've also on this trip met a guy from Minnesota and a group from Canada/UK, including one guy from Aberystwyth, Wales, where some of my family lives. We also explored all the fresh food available at the rest stop, including an entire pineapple which I bought for 3 cedi. It came chopped in a baggy with no toothpicks in sight, so I ate it out of the bag with my hands, and it was so juicy and sticky sweet that I didn't care.
This is why I chose to finish these entries after the trip is finished. Every time I think about what I've seen in Ghana so far, I've realized that my perspective on the events has changed. I hope that you, the reader, will take my perspective of Ghana with a grain of salt, as they are not objective reports of my experience, but instead second-hand accounts through an occidental lens. There is no way I can explain all of the stories and experiences that formed the individuals and the culture they keep here, so my perspective may be one-sided and one-dimensional. I develop notions of cultural patterns based on my collective experiences, but when you only hear one perspective or one aspect about a person or community, you may find it difficult to realize that their humanity extends beyond that portrayal. I apply a broad brush based on how I interpreted my time here, but when you show a people as only one thing, rather than as individuals, you shut out the possibility that you may be similar to the community members, that they might be more complex than the perspective you know, and that you might connect with them as fellow human beings. I try my best not to assume I know the circumstances of each individual, yet I know I am committing, as Chimamanda Adichie puts it, the crime of a single story. I've tried to tell a wide spectrum of stories here from my interactions with hundreds of patients and thousands of Ghanaians, but there is more to every story. I've mostly emphasized our differences thus far, but everything I haven't said - nearly everything - is similar between North American and Ghanaian culture. Whenever I can, I include details from individuals I got to know to avoid treating Ghanaians as an umbrella group. At all times, I try my best not to pretend that North American culture is somehow superior to Ghanaian culture, though I know my perspective of their culture will forever be clouded by the standards of my own culture. As Adichie puts it in her TED talk, which I highly recommend, I try to reject the single story to regain paradise.
To close, here's a quote that sums this up nicely:
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein (illustrated beautifully by Zen Pencils)