March 08, 2014

Arriving somewhere at night is not advisable. Arriving somewhere at night on your first day of travelling alone in Ghana is one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had.

I’m going to be honest, travelling alone for the first time is scary, it’s all on you, you make a bad decision and there’s no one else to blame or to go through it with. You’re on your own and you have to step up and handle the situation. As I sat on that tro-tro, constantly checking my signal to see if I could get hold of a guesthouse or anyone who could help, I was worried. Worried about going to the right place, worried about arriving somewhere in the dark, worried about where I was going to stay. But things have a way of working themselves out and as I look back what seemed like a stupid decision led to one of the most unique and interesting experiences of the trip. When I managed to get some signal I called my friend Baba (who also works as a tour guide) and he happened to have a friend in the town I was going to, who he said would meet me.

The car dropped me off at what seemed like some sort of abandoned garage. There was a group of young guys hanging out there who wanted to know what the obruni was doing in their hang out. It was the type of group that I would have avoided had I seen them at home, but in Ghana everyone is so kind and friendly I ended up hanging out with them while I waited for Rebecca to meet me.

Rebecca arrived with her daughter, son-in-law and grandsons in tow –the elder of which insisted on taking my bag and was later referred to by the family as ‘my future husband’. We walked across the garage, down a dirt track and into their home –which I had no idea I was being taken too. I met the rest of the family and ended up sitting in their living room chatting. I wasn’t really sure what was going on but decided to go with it. There’s nothing else you really can do in these situations. They asked if I was hungry and drove me to a nearby hotel where I could get ‘obruni food’ (chicken and fried rice). I felt somewhat awkward as they watched me eat and didn’t have anything for themselves, especially when I couldn’t finish it and they scraped the leftover chicken off my plate for the baby boy to eat later.

They took me back to the house and asked me to stay with them, there was a mattress on the floor in the living room which they made up for me. It was so kind of them to invite me into their home, I didn’t really know what to say- It’s the sort of thing you can’t really say no to. I felt privileged to have such an amazing opportunity to gain insight into Ghanaian family life. As bedtime came closer, most of the family disappeared back to their own homes. I think it’s lovely how close family life is there (in the morning they were all back to cook together and eat their breakfast). I was left alone to sleep in the living room with a bucket (in case I needed the loo –I decided I wouldn’t). I slept surprisingly well in their home, except for a strange banging at the door in the middle of the night, which Rebecca got up to quickly answer –I couldn’t work out what that could have been.

My Ghanaian Host Family

Obviously, being in Ghana, it was an early morning start. The women were cooking rice with onion for breakfast which I made every effort to eat all of this time. The children all took some with them in a thermos to eat for their lunch as well. It is interesting to see what they ate at home, although I did feel somewhat concerned for the lack of nutrition in the diet. Especially in a comparably middle class family (both Rebecca and her son-in-law were teachers –and he also drove a taxi), and their home was pretty nice compared to a lot of Ghanaians small homes.

I was told I’d be taken to to the monkey sanctuary later and spent the morning sat with the daughter and eldest grandson watching telly and bagging up popcorn that they sold at the school and on the street. I think I may have mentioned this but Ghanaian telly is pretty crazy and difficult to take in large doses –it was quite a long morning! In the afternoon the others finally returned though and we were able to go to Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary which really deserves its own post :).

This impromptu homestay let me into a world which I would never have seen otherwise. The daily life of Ghanaians, the way extended families are so close, their love for crazy tv shoes, the simplicity of just laying a blanket on the ground for the baby to sleep on when he got tired. It was an unexpected experience which I am so thankful for, a rare insight into family life, so normal for them and so different for me.