she’s a fixer-upper

The bus came to a halt, waking me from my half-sleep state. Hannah’s site. We had been traveling for eight hours with our counterparts (a person in our communities who we will be working closely with. My counterpart is Abukari, Sankpala’s Guinea Worm coordinator), and we were just an hour from Tamale. It was dark outside, no matter, I would never be able to recognize where I was. I slowly realized that Sankpala was the next stop, I would be leaving the comfort of my new American family to stay at my site for a week. The closer we got, the louder my heart thudded. I leaned my forehead on the window and watched the rain drops get thicker. Abukari turned around and motioned that we had arrived.

Here we go.

“Good luck Mariah,” Kimmie whispers. You too. I’ll call you tomorrow.

I had been stressing this week for a month. We had been coddled every moment of the day by Peace Corps staff and our Ghanaian families, and now we were off to our sites to depend on the hospitality of people we didn’t know. Or should I say, people not paid to take care of us. Scary. Meeting my counterpart for a three day conference did not ease my fears. He informed me that the three rooms I was told I would have was actually…one. When we talked about expectations about my service, he told me that he was hoping I would finish the “house for strangers” that a previous volunteer started and failed. It is what it sounds like, a house where future western volunteers could come and live. WHAT? A year of doctors and dentists and paperwork and leaving everything I know, two months of adjusting and brutal training, and you want me to build a home for future volunteers? If you know anything about my views on development, you would know this project would not sit well with me, and was a fear I had joining the Peace Corps (I will not be taking on this project my any means, I will mostly working with Guinea Worm. However, it was frustrating that accommodations for strangers was seen as a higher priority in one of the most impoverished regions in Ghana.) And then I was told that I was not the second replacement for this site, but the fourth. I don’t even know how that happened, but this is more frustrating than project PC palace. But I was ready to see my new home. I was ready to take in the joys and challenges as they came.

Abukari drops me off at my room and tells me that my landlord must be sleeping. He tells me he would bring me water in the morning. I completely panicked. “You can’t leave me here without any water! I’ve been on a bus all day! You have to get me water!” In fear he fled and returned with a jerry can of water, enough to bathe and brush my teeth. While I waited I assessed my room. We were told to expect no more than a table, chairs and a bed frame, we would be furnishing the rest. I had a bed frame and a thin mat that only took up a corner of the frame. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

I laughed.

I don’t know how my three rooms turned into one, but my landlord and counterpart attempted to close off my tiny porch and make it into a kitchen. There are walls and no door, they ran out of money to finish it. When I asked where the money was going to come from (playing devils advocate), they played a angry finger pointing game that drove me up a wall. No one seems to want to put up the newest volunteer, who can really blame them.

The next few days were filled with greeting the chief and assemblymen, meeting the nurses and midwife at the clinic, trying to communicate with the children, making some incredible contacts with the Carter Center crew I will be working closely with and mostly anxiety-filled tears. For the first few days I refused to accept that this would be my new home and instead wallowed in my dark empty room. The last few days were spent warming up to my landlord (Alhaji, who studied in the states and might be my sanity for the first few months), taking deep breaths and realizing that while it is going to take more time than seems bearable, this place will soon consume my heart and be my own.

this is my casa

my kitchen in progress

My new bath house, which I love. It isn't finished, but it is outside. Bathing under the stars is where its at.

door to my latrine is broken

this is my "flush toilet" Ha! Oh brother.


Heather said…
bathing under the stars IS where it's at.

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