I think “A day in the life” posts are so clichéd. Sometimes it seems people try too hard to find the interesting bits in an otherwise totally mundane day. Other times it seems people let one extraordinary characteristic justify their prolonged marvelling over ordinary details. Sometimes, “a day in the life” posts seem to serve absolutely no other purpose than to highlight how exotic/foreign/alien someone else’s life is, drawing lines in the sand and calling attention to difference where in fact the similarities are just as striking. “A day in the life” posts can contribute to existing biases, can distract from more important issues, and, most importantly, can be downright boring.
And yet, as I planned out what to write for my blog postings that would best convey my time in Ghana, “a day in the life” was one of the first things that came to mind. So I wrote one (call me a hypocrite!). I’m sure it falls victim to all of the ills I have just described – it probably oversimplifies what life is like for a foreigner in Ghana, while at the same time sensationalizing aspects that really aren’t all that sensational at all. And it’s probably really boring to read. Sorry.
But I wrote it for a reason. I wrote it partly for posterity – because I want to remember every single mundane detail so well I can close my eyes in my suburban Canadian bedroom and conjure up images of Accra. And I wrote it partly for the next intern - so that they’re prepared for the early mornings and the early nights, and so they can rest assure that after the craziness of the first two weeks, a pattern (dare I say, a lifestyle?) emerges, and writing a clichéd, problematic “day in the life” post suddenly becomes a possibility. And that’s kind of cool.
5:00am – Press the snooze button for the second time (this is sometimes followed by some swearing under my breath, mostly directed towards the roosters that woke me up even before my 4:45 alarm…)
5:08am – Crawl out from under my mosquito net, turn on the hot water heater, and slowly get the day started.
Sometime between 5:30am and 6:15am – Leave for work. (The 45 minute window owes its existence to my four-year-old host sister, who sometimes decides her need to sleep outweighs our need to be punctual. I had forgotten what it’s like to live with a young family, and this was one of the best parts of living with my host family).
My host family lives in Oyarifa, which is about 45minutes away from the city centre, where both my host parents and myself work, and where my host-siblings to go school. With the morning traffic this drive can easily turn into a 3 hour ordeal, so we leave early enough to avoid the worst of it. I often fall asleep on the way, and sometimes we would buy some juice, fruit, or the deep-fried doughnut type bo-fruit for breakfast from one of the many vendors who walk up to your window as you sit at a traffic light. My host mom dropped me off every morning near the main trotro station, Tema Station, so that I could make the last leg of my commute on my own. No matter how soundly asleep I was in the car, the chaos of Tema Station never fails to completely wake (startle? traumatize?) me up.
7:00am (ish) – Arrive at the office. I might stop at one of the shops near the office to buy a loaf of bread or some cheese for breakfast, which I eat along with the other early arrivals (usually other interns) over a cup of instant coffee (instant Nescafe is literally everywhere. Fresh-ground medium roast, sadly, is not). This first hour before the work day really begins is a nice way to ease into things, read the news and catch up on all the internet-ing I missed out on while I was at home (no wi-fi where I live, although my host siblings are threatening a general strike until their dad remedies that situation. I support their petition, but living without constant access (or constant cell reception, for that matter) was kind of refreshing).
8:00am – work begins in earnest. My projects at HRAC have been super interesting – I’ve helped polish up a major research report on the causes and impacts of gender-based violence in Ghanaian schools and attended workshops designed to help guidance counsellors handle this kind of issue; I’ve helped re-design the medical form used in cases of domestic violence; I’ve helped develop background knowledge on next year’s 8 focus areas; and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people working on issues ranging from access to healthcare to LGBT rights.
12:00pm – Lunch time! In the neighborhood around the office there are a bunch of small food kiosks we all refer to by their main menu item. The waakye lady, the red-red lady, the fruit lady, the noodle lady, etc. After picking up whatever meal we each want, we all crowd around a table on the balcony of the office and eat and chat. By 1:00 we’ve usually laughed our hearts out and filled our stomachs, and it’s time to get back to work.
4:00pm – the work day is done! If it’s Tuesday, we all take a walk down to Oxford street where our favourite bar, Republic, has happy hour and some deliciously unique cocktails (Terrible Frozen Harmattan was my go-to) – not to mention Cassava chips that will make you wonder why on earth it took you so long to figure out what cassava is, anyway. We hang out at Republic for a few hours and then each make our way to our respective corners of the city. For myself, I hop in a cab and meet my host mom at her law school, where she takes classes every evening (trotros, and especially chaotic trotro stations, are not the most fun at night).
If it’s not a Tuesday then I jump in a trotro and head back to Tema station. From there I can walk to my host sister’s school and get a ride home with whoever is picking her up. The odd time she doesn’t go to school, I trotro all the way home, which means switching cars at one of the most overwhelming places I’ve ever been – Madina Market. Madina Market is a market and a major trotro station. It’s loud, muddy and smelly, and the boys are handsy and the market women can be pushy. The trotro mates (the young men who tell you where their bus is going and take your money and call out the stops) are lively and friendly the way all high school-aged boys are when a girl walks by. It’s fun to be part of the hustle and bustle, but less fun to be its topic.
6:30-7:00pm – finally home, I dig in to the food that my host sister has made for the family and grab a seat on the couch to watch a badly-dubbed but strangely addictive Spanish TV novella with the rest of the gang. We chat about the day and before I know it, it’s time for bed.
9:00pm – time for the second shower of the day, which is expected of everyone due to the inevitable layer of dirt and sweat you pick up over the course of the day. I iron clothes for the next day, take a few minutes to myself to read or listen to music, and then crawl back under the mosquito net.
10:30pm – I’m fast asleep, ready for another 5am start and whatever adventures Wednesday brings!