2 August, 11:30pm GMT - Nankese, Eastern Region
I've been assigned on this trip to work with North Western Eye Clinic, which serves the Eastern & Central regions and has only been a Unite for Sight partner since 2010, and Charity Eye Clinic, which serves and Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions and has been a partner since 2008. Today, we are on outreach to Nankese in the Eastern Region with North Western Eye Clinic, staffed by nurse Frank, driver Seth, and ophthalmologist Dr. Kye. Over breakfast, we met the other volunteers in Telecentre who are working with Crystal Eye Center: Brandon, Emily, Sarah, Hussein, Carrie, Diane, and Jeremy. From there, we visited street vendors to exchange money and buy phone credits and water.
We are staying at Nananom Hotel, which is dirty and cramped and has no hot water, A/C, functional toilets, towels, or any appliance besides two lights per room. I shared a full size bed with Lianna, and since we both have Sans Bug tents that take up a 6.5 x 3ft bed, we had to put them sideways in order to fit, which was extra fun for Lianna, who's 5'7". The bathroom was a challenge all on its own, since you had to walk through the shower to reach the rest of the bathroom, and the entire bathroom was about 2.5ft wide. Fortunately, our rooms were just GHC10 per person, and we spent most of our time on the terrace or in the village anyway.
The currency here is Ghana Cedi (symbol GHC, pronounced see-dee), which exchange for GHC2.02 per USD as of 7 August 2012, so prices in cedis are about double the value in dollars. Their cents are called pesewas (symbol p, pronounced pehs-wahs). The currency was converted on 1 July 2007 from old Ghana cedies to new Ghana cedis, where 1 new cedi is worth 10,000 old cedis. Still, some people will say their price is 90,000 when they mean GHC9; oddly enough, prices that include pesewas, such as GHC1.5, are always told as "1 cedi 50 pesewas" and never "1 50".
Everyone here carries vodaphone, glo, airtel, or mtn phones, and all four providers distribute crates, carts, and umbrellas to street vendors, so their logos are everywhere. Our phones are pay-as-you-go; minutes are sold as GHC2 - GHC10 scratch-off cards that you can find anywhere and will give you about 5 minutes of talk (even internationally) per GHC, so it's about 10 cents a minute. The volunteer who used the phone before me signed up for a GHC2/month program that doubles every credit I add, so I get to make calls for 5 cents/minute.
As for water, everyone here drinks 500mL bagged water, which comes in packs of 30 for GHC1.5, or 5 cents/liter. We were skeptical at first, but it's surprisingly easy to dump them into empty water bottles (which are GHC1.5 for 1.5L) or to drink them straight once you get the hang of ripping the plastic open with your teeth.
The van was scheduled to arrive at 8am, but we soon discovered "8am pickup" here means "the driver will arrive at some point between 8 and 10am, but expect you to be ready to go regardless". Welcome to GMT: Ghanaian Mean Time. We arrived at the first outreach site to discover that everyone was at the funeral of the local chief, so the outreach was cancelled. Instead, we walked for an hour along the main road of the village and stopped to watch a football game. After driving and wandering around for almost 5 hours, we finally got lunch, which for most of us was banku (fermented dough in a spicy soup) at Chris's Cafe. When we arrived at the hotel, the driver told us he would take us to dinner at 6pm, so we took a walk in the village nearby until then. An hour later, Brian discovered there was a terrace on the roof, so we had drinks there until Frank came up at 8pm to tell us the driver had fallen asleep, so there would be no dinner. We stayed up with Frank until around midnight instead.
Meals here don't seem to be a regularly-scheduled sit-down affair like in the US. Breakfast is often skipped because every hotel serves the same white bread, thin omelette, and nothing else; lunch is normally either non-existant or consists of snacks bought from street vendors; dinner is eaten if we can successfully get out into town, and many places only serve three dishes: jollof rice, banku, and fufu. Thankfully, I brought enough chips, crackers, protein bars, and dried fruit to cover lunch and some breakfasts for three weeks, and it looks like I'll need it.