overlooking the Ashesi Campus courtyard
There are some moves that seem so difficult if feels as if the weight of the universe is against you. When unpacking from one of those moves, it quickly becomes clear we either moved too much, or didn’t give/throw away as much as we could have. “Now why did I save that?” Then there are moves that go so smoothly they seem like destiny, and unpacking feels a bit like Christmas, “I’m so glad I brought that.”
Our move was so easy it did feel like destiny, but the fact that I use the word brought, as opposed to moved signals to me the finality of this move has not penetrated. It still feels like a visit, a visit with a lot of baggage.
Is this what Alzheimer’s is like?
Everything about Ghana feels familiar, but slightly different. It is the place I learned to navigate by landmarks and dead reckoning, but after being gone five years, some of the landmarks are missing, or obscured by new construction. Roads that were a snarled mess of traffic have been completed, and feel like super highways; completely out of place in the Ghana I remember. So I feel a little lost most of the time, punctuated with moments of knowing exactly where I am. Is this what Alzheimer’s feels like, I wonder? I have the long term memory of what Ghana was like, but not the intervening five years of change.
Aside from the moments of confusion, it feels good to be back and living the adventure. Ashesi was kind to put us in one of the on-campus bungalows that were built for visiting faculty. We may stay here, or move to something more permanent off the campus. Right now we are enjoying our new home.
Our second week takes us to Accra to register as non-citizens and apply for the NON CITIZEN Identity Card. The process highlights how Ghana is changing, and depending on how you look at it, is either highly evolved or frustratingly bureaucratic. Scratch Cards. The idea behind a scratch card is to separate the collection of money from the distribution of a service or product. Pay as you go cell phone cards have long been handled this way. One buys “units” in the form of a scratchcard from a vendor on the street, scratches off the code on the back and enters the code into their mobile phone, and more connect time is added. Internet and utilities also utilize scratchcards.
With the Non Citizen ID cards, we buy the scratch cards at Cal Bank.
Had we gone last week, we would have had to pay in US dollars, but with the government of Ghana trying to stabilize its currency, it is now illegal to quote prices in anything other than Ghana Cedis, so that is what we pay with.
Next, we leave the bank, walk across the street, and present them to FIMS, along with our passports. For the next hour, no less than five different people handle the scratch cards, paperwork and passports before issuing us our official Non Citizen IDs.
Its not all that different
Life does not really feel that different here,
except we buy our fruits and vegetables from a lady by the side of the road,
except we watch the occasional scorpion, gecko, or huge chocolate millipede crawl across our floor,
except we are asked to vacate the bungalow because they are fumigating the campus for snakes (we went to the beach),
except we wear ironed underwear – because the Mango Fly might have laid its eggs on the clothes hung out to dry, and when those eggs greet human skin, they hatch, burrow into the skin and in a few weeks develop into fully grown maggots. It is worse than it sounds (really). So everything that is clothesline dried, gets ironed, including underwear.