Settling In

Moving In
Bob moving our bags from the courtyard to the house.

Well, we made it to our new home in Adiebeba, a small neighborhood in Kumasi, Ghana. And despite some challenges and minor discomforts, we are just as excited to be here as we thought we’d be. When we walk to market, the sights, sounds and smells are surreal and intoxicating.

I’m writing this while standing at the tiled counter in the spacious downstairs kitchen at 6:28am GMT, Greenwich Mean Time which also happens to be Ghana Time. It’s 2:28am Eastern Standard Time. Our neighbors are already outside on the dirt street, dressed in bright colors laughing and chatting in the lilting local language. A taxi has already come and taken Lauren to work.

Kingfisher on an electric wire on Dr. J. G. Wood Lane.

Bird calls fill the air, many of them foreign to our ears. This is a bird watcher’s paradise. We’re seeing Woodland kingfishers, Pied crows, flycatchers, sparrows, doves and perhaps Turacos. All our windows are open, letting in a delightful breeze. The sky is overcast as we head into the end of the rainy season. I don’t smell any smoke yet but it will come.

Most everyone burns their garbage. We like to joke that we love the smell of burning plastic in the morning. We are amassing our own pile of cardboard to burn but are affluent enough to send our plastic to the landfill because unlike most of our neighbors we can afford to pay for trash pick up. We are rich by local standards. Our courtyard is fenced in concrete and razor wire.

It’s a Monday and a local holiday which explains why the city water is not happening. On the weekends, when water usage is higher the water delivery system is unable to meet demand. Bob said he got up at 4am and was able to flush the toilet but this morning the tap is dry.

Fortunately, the house is equipped with a giant water storage tank which sits on the roof and fills with city water when it’s running. Happily, all the taps in the house pull from the storage tank except for two of the three bathrooms. Unfortunately, we don’t have a way to know how much water is in the tank. We’re hoping it filled up overnight. I foresee composting toilets in our future. Water catchment would be nice, too.

Jeremy and Bob carrying empty water jugs
Jeremy and Bob mimic the woman in front of them who is carrying a load of used plastic and paint cans by carrying our empty water jugs on their heads.

The Ghanaians always look clean and sharp despite the mud, smoke and exhaust. They are stoic or perhaps a little shy and even if you smile at them they don’t smile back until you say ‘good morning.’ When walking down the street, I notice a preference for oncoming foot traffic to pass on my right rather than on my left. One does not hand anything to another with their left hand. Water is a luxury so due to sanitary constraints, it is the custom to wipe with your left and eat with your right.

We stick out with our white skin and often hear the call “Obruni!” Another difference – we carry our stuff in back packs and shoulder bags while the locals carry their parcels on their heads. It is not unusual to see vendors with large trays of bananas or peanuts meticulously stacked for weight distribution. Some even carry big, square glass display cases, striding confidently between cars at the intersections. I have yet to see a slouching Ghanaian.

We don’t drink the tap water. To replenish our supply we call a taxi for a trip to the Palace Hyper Mart with our empty bottles. It was a big day when we got set up downstairs with our very own bottled water dispenser.

Despite defrosting yesterday, the temperature in the refrigerator upstairs remains at an alarming 65 Fahrenheit. We are storing perishables in the small refrigerator downstairs. This morning I got up at 5:30 to take the leftovers upstairs for Lauren to take to work for lunch.

Cookie cooking dinner
Camille puts the finishing touches on dinner.

We take turns cooking dinner for five on two portable burners. We plan on buying an oven so I can begin baking. Last night Louis told me he was wary of the local bread because he saw unpackaged bread stacked like bricks in the back of a truck being transported presumably to a place where people would put it into plastic bags.

We have no closet in our bedroom but have found another room to hang clothes in and are keeping our folding clothes in the pantry. In the absence of mirrors, I took a photo of myself in a new outfit before going out onto the street the other day just to make sure I looked presentable. We are looking into having a few pieces of furniture made, including a wardrobe with a mirror.

We chip away at our list, picking up little things like mayonnaise, duct tape and canned beans from the Melcom which is only a 10 minute walk away. When we buy too much to carry home, we hire a taxi for 3 cedis or about $1.50.

Jeremy has been here for six weeks and figured out easy ways to get the things we need. He took us to the circus Saturday, something I could never have accomplished on my own. He’s discovered an amazing taxi driver named Prince. Prince will be able to help us buy a washing machine, range with oven and refrigerator. Perhaps he may even know where we can get a can opener and a functional broom.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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