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#3 Ashaley Botwe

Mosque man
Almost opposite the Kpipkis house stands a mini-mosque proudly boasting two loudspeakers screwed to the turret. Before every crack of dawn they slumber into action with a call to prayer. “Al-aaaaahhhh” they sing out and most days it’s not too loud or prolonged and even serve the noble purpose of an alarm clock. But ‘most’ days are sadly not every day: Fridays child is a simple repetitive tune that lasts for ages and it gets into my head so much it becomes my thoughts. Following an afternoon ‘breather’ it re-launches for most of the early evening accompanied by an orchestra of cats, dogs and high-pitched bleating goats. Sundays offering meanwhile is often a full-blown sermon starting at around 5am and lasting nearly an hour.
On such pre-mornings, I lay on the bed and contemplate the beauty of wire-cutters, axes and catapults. But on our second Friday the Ghanaian Government intervened with a powercut and I slept like a shiny-headed baby blissfully unaware of Al-aaaaahhhh’s daily requirement. The cuts have been occurring quite regularly since we arrived and they can last for a while. It’s not that not enough electricity is generated to supply the nation but that it is also exported to two other countries. The Government deals with the shortfall by selecting regions to disconnect at random times. They say it’s done fairly but certain wealthy areas don’t seem to ever get power cuts and I’m told they’re the ones where the politicians live.

Local shopping
Outside the house on the bumpy mud road are little hut shops. There’s a hairdresser and a few general stores selling phone credit, fruit, bread, water and house stuff. We’re with Vodafone who use a line called Ghana OneTouch and it’s much, much cheaper to text and make calls than in the UK – even international ones. We each have 5 cedi credit (£1 = 3 cedi) and it lasts ages. Bananas are smaller than in English shops and cost about 2 cedi for a bunch; a small-medium pineapple is 1 cedi but bread is sadly only a bit cheaper than England. Plaintain are big bananas in disguise but they chop them up here and fry them into chips – not to Tom’s liking at all but fine with us. There are great big Yam’s to buy and chop into chips. Think of a giant mutant potato to get the picture. Drinking water is sold in packs of 30 bags for just under £1 – you bite into a plastic bag and slurp yourself about two thirds of a pint.

Walking a bit further we’re out onto a main road littered with more hut-shops – some are making furniture and others have seamstresses in them, sewing garments. There are huts selling second-hand bicycles and ‘roadside’ food which we avoid even though they smell so good: it’s one of those sensible but annoying precautions that keep illness away. There’s also a taxi junction and a place to catch the tro-tro. The system boasts a rusty minibus, a driver, a sign saying something like ‘God is good’ or ‘Psalm 23’, and a conductor called the ‘mate’. The mate is usually a manic lad who screeches the general destination of the bus from the open side-door of the travelling bus and makes hand signs.

Pretend your forefinger is furiously squashing a hundred ants on the pavement and you will have the sign for Madina Market.
Now drop the same forefinger down to your groin and whoosh it up into the air at slightly high speed. Congratulations you now know the one for Accra Shopping Mall. Finally, position the forefinger at belly height and make clockwise mini-circles to become familiar with the ‘circle around Accra’ route. Would-be travellers make these signs to the approaching buses to get the right ones to stop for them as well.

Dropping or loading?
Finally, the alternative to ridiculously cheap tro-tros are the taxis. Dropping taxis pick you up and take you to your doorstep while loading taxis are lots cheaper and go to set destinations, such as a taxi station or near our new house is a police station. They’re cheaper also because they can load up with other passengers up going to the same destination – so they’re almost like buses. So when taking a taxi, it’s worth asking for a loading one, although sometimes such a taxi might wait at the picking-up point for more passengers before they leave.


Phil is author of A12 To Heaven a true account of the kindness and compassion of God immediately after the deaths of his daughters Claire and Jenny. Day after day for a whole year he recorded how his love just blew him away. “I cried uncontrollably so many times in his presence as he revealed to me so much about himself and the wonders to come.” Whatever your circumstances, if you think you’re alone, read this book and think again. “There is truly no one and no thing that we can lose that can surpass what we have gained in belonging to him.”



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    • Sue Johnson on 10 September, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Enjoyed reading blog 3. Will be more appreciative of shopping in my local coop in future. Interesting about the power cuts. So much unfairness. Looking forward to hearing about the teaching. Tom must be storing up lots of tales to tell his friends next year. God bless you xxxxx

    • John on 10 September, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I wasn’t too far off with the whole taxi thing then. Got them the wrong way round though.

    looking forward to more Mosque man adventures – made me laugh out loud (or, as I believe the young people say, LOL).

    • Jude Waddington on 11 September, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Hi enjoying your blogs. Sounds really interesting but noisy out there! Glad you are picking up the sign language. School continues much the same with meetings galore! The first staff meeting back was scary as there were so many new staff.I have a lovely SNITT student this year called Kerry who has already been very helpful with our ‘screamers’! Think it’s going to be quite tough in our department this year. good luck with snail eating!

    • Brent on 13 September, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Hi Stodds… I enjoyed that update. That’s Africa for you (taxis). Those alhaaa calls would just drive me crazy, so well done for being able to survive that. Tom, i was initially with you on the plantain…but if fried nicely they are actually very nice. Emily makes it nice. Keep well and look forward to future updates.

    • Angie on 13 September, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Hi all, looking forward to the next instalment! and Phil, no school`s not a ‘bundle of fun’. Are you coming back for Christmas?

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