A Day in Tamale

Most of my days follow a pretty set pattern. Part of this is just a consequence of the 9-5 job and the Ghanaian schedule (early to bed, early to rise) and part of it is that habits and routine makes it feel familiar and homey.

My day starts, most mornings, sometime between 6:15 and 6:45, when I get a gentle knock on my door. I’m usually already awake, listening to the compound come alive, guinea fowl carousing on my roof (actually incredibly annoying), but this is the thing that gets me up and out of bed. It’s a little girl named Rashika, with a bowl of hot koko (thin maize meal porridge with sugar). I sit at my desk, check my email, and eat my koko. Then, it’s time for a bath. I ask for water, since I don’t have access to a tap, and head to the shower – a little corner of the compound, tucked behind the building that houses my room, and bathe with a cup and a sponge. Lately it’s been cold, and I do it as quickly as possible.

I get dressed, leisurely, pack up, and head to work. I make sure to wish all the people in my compound a good day, letting them know I’m off to work and when I’ll return. I have a white bicycle, a big cruiser with a basket on the front, single-speed, apparently from Japan, that I love and that gets me around in good speed and fashion.

On the way to work, I stop at a spot underneath a huge, reaching mango tree about half-way to work. Two blue benches contrast with the red, dusty ground, just beside the road. Across the way is a field, looking abandoned with browning maize stalks twisting, and curling in the sun. I greet Sadiya, asking for some “egg-and-bread” and Nescafe. Other EWBers soon join me, and we relax in the slowly warming shade, planning for the day ahead.

After a leisurely morning, I finally get to work, in the third-floor, the top floor, of a big office building that houses the Assembly and the Department of Education. I enter the office, a small room with three desks and a couch in the which three Budget Officers, the three Planning Officers, and I somehow carve up enough space to get our work done. The slow drone of the air-conditioning provides welcome relief to the daily increasing heat. Throughout the day people are in and out, including myself as I go and speak with people or head to visit other Departments. The people I work with (Eva, Rafia, Sofia, Ibrahim, Hope, and Humu) are all wonderful, and we pass the time working at our computers and chatting about the weather, the best food, and our lives.

At lunch I’ll go for one of fried yams, fufu, or watcha (rice and beans), all right outside the office. There are some ladies who sell fruit and fried bread balls (bofruit), and I’ll visit them for a snack usually once a day as well. They never miss an opportunity to test my Dagbani, and nod in grudging approval on the very rare occasion I can get through the whole interaction without falling back on English!

I head home, sometimes stopping at Millenium Spot, basically a courtyard with some tables, to get some beef kabobs and a beer, and other days just heading straight home. Evenings consist of hanging out with the family I’m staying with, trying to learn some Dagbani, maybe reading or playing the guitar, and getting to bed by 10pm. I’ll fall asleep under my mosquito net, thoughts drifting away from the day and into tomorrow, waiting for the knock on my door.

Any questions on the day? Anything sound familiar? Leave a comment below!

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One Response to A Day in Tamale

  1. Belinda says:

    For your 9-5 job, is the work culture very “9-5”? In other words, do people show up at 9 and leave at 5 everyday or is it typical for people to have flex-time? Also, is staying at work late to get things done pretty normal? I’m curious to know, since I find most government-type jobs here in Canada are pretty right on the 9-5 (or 8-4, or whatever) culture. By the way, I’m joining you for these two weeks in the early to bed, early to rise schedule while I work at the Fisheries and Oceans lab in the lovely town of Sidney, BC.

    Since you mentioned quite a bit of food in this post, I think you should do a Ghanaian food 101 post with photos. Drool.

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