Instasweat: in-sta-swet. n. the sweat that appears immediately on the human body when exposed to extreme heat and humidity. “Holy cow, we just stepped off that plane and BAM instasweat!”
Not to be confused with permasweat, which is just when sweat doesn’t evaporate or go anywhere. It’s a lingering sheen of deliciousness. Disgusted yet? Gone back to studying or watching TV or creeping Facebook? I don’t blame you, it is a little gross (okay, a lot gross) but it has to be embraced in a country such as Ghana! So yes, we did step off the plane in Accra at around 7:30 pm and were instantly covered in sweat. Was it a nice change from the Alberta cold? Sure. But I’d give up my sunscreen and flip flops for a little bit of snow. Just for 10 minutes. Long enough to build a snowman and go for a sled ride.
Now, lets cover all the bases.
Flights: enjoyable. Decent movies. Good company. Great food. I did not sleep on my own but instead used some wondrous medicine (aka gravol and a few other concoctions) to help me pass out. Worked like a charm. And based on how hyper I was in Amsterdam, maybe too well. The Amsterdam airport was gorgeous, there was a Victoria’s Secret (just in case right?) a Rolex (last minute airport shopping of course) and a cute museum (only a European airport would have a museum – so classy). And we ate some delicious food!
Ghana: HOT. I think I mentioned that before though. It was soon obvious that landing in Africa in a long sleeve shirt was some what of a mistake. Luckily deodorant saved that fiasco. Thank you speed stick. Now I’ll set the scene: 10 exhausted and sweaty girls, 3 carts full of luggage, 1 tutor, 1 bus. Smoggy nighttime. It was a quick drive that included some laughter at billboards and some cuddling from exhaustion. We arrived at ISH (the International Students’ Hostel) and unloaded all of our bags. We then had a quick photo shoot set up by our tutor who so nicely told us that we looked weary, pale, and worn out. Just a few extremely appropriate adjectives. She proceeded to take the pictures and one of them is up floating around on the Internet this very minute. We all got our rooms and then lugged our bags up a few flight of stairs. I’m rooming with Carly, and all the other girls are rooming with each other too, which is awesome for a few reasons: no dress code within our rooms so whatever is the coolest outfit goes (go ahead and use your imagination), shared supplies (extra hooks, duct tape, and cliff bars), having a friend all the time (that’s probably the best one). Our room has now been scrubbed, organized and shifted around and completely feels like a home. Complete with malaria nets, hand sanitizer and a roll of toilet paper at the door. BONUS: Our wrinkled clothes do not require an iron. You simply put them on and walking around is like they’re being constantly steamed. Wrinkle free in Africa!
The first few days: we ran errands and picked up groceries, cleaning supplies and phones. We got to explore a bit of the city, experience some of the culture, and take part in what is possibly the worst traffic I’ve ever seen. I wish I was behind a car going 40 on 111th street. That would be a treat. Each day we participate in Accra rush hour. There are no speed limits (that we can see), no lanes, barely any traffic lights, some messed up traffic circles, and a lot of honking. Car honks is actually an old dialect here, we’re just learning it now (we think two beeps is friendly, but it also might mean something extremely rude). The heat, as mentioned above, is overpowering. Think hot yoga plus a few more degrees, but you’re walking around and working in it. So very pleasant. There is a lovely night market by our housing complex that sells fruits, hangers, beautiful cloth bags, and electrical converters. Pretty much anything you could want really. We’ve had a ton of fun walking back and forth from there and comparing all of our purchases! The food in our complex is also amazing! I recommend the fried plantains for any future Ghana visitors.
The hospital: SO different from home. From the way the patients act, to the diseases, to the treatment. Today was the first day we had clinical and I think we all experienced a few eye opening moments. Sterility is a bit out the window, as is medication administration. But I won’t get all technical now! The most wonderful part is that each patient and staff member acknowledges you in some way. Even if they are lying on their bed and can’t lift their head, they smile and slightly raise their hand to say hi. It truly is heartwarming. The set up for our clinical is pretty wonky, but I’m on a pediatric medical unit with another girl right now. Yesterday we played with the kids (who are BEYOND adorable) and watched a dressing change done for a little girl who has hydrocephalus. It was devastating to watch knowing that in Canada her treatment would be so different. Now, this sight plus the heat and lack of food and water were probably what caused me to pass out during the dressing change. Yes, I fainted. (But while everyone says it was a combination of all of those factors, I secretly did it on purpose to get out of clinical. I got to nap the rest of the day in the female ward. Jokes on the rest of them!) But seriously, it was a fine experience. I had a nice dream while I was out, got non romantically carried by a lovely doctor to a bed, and subsequently proposed to by said doctor. He decided that I was obviously underfed and we should be married so he can come to Canada to cook for me. In my dazed state I might have said yes. Today we actually got to do a dressing change, played with the kids some more and I didn’t faint! My fiancé was a bit awkward though.
Miscellaneous: so far besides the fainting no one has been sick! There’s been a lack of sleep, some drug usage for that problem, and a few delicious bathroom issues (including the water being out) but that’s all! We’ve learned that you can’t flush the toilet paper, that you have to bring your own soap for the washroom, that the glue on the hooks for mosquito nets melts in the heat and you WILL wake up when it falls on you, and that pedestrians have absolutely no rights here. Also, bargaining with cabbies is a skill. And the Ghanians are a wonderful group of people. When we meet someone new they say “you are welcome.” It is so sincere and heartfelt, they truly are happy to have us in their country.
In conclusion I think we are all loving it (I know I am!) Having a group of 10 girls is awesome. There’s always someone to share their bug spray, lend some cedi (Ghanaian money), or tell you if your skirt is see through. The girls are amazing! Last night we all went to the Canadian Consulate for hamburger night and to celebrate Kelsey’s 22nd birthday! Every first Thursday of the month the consulate becomes an exclusive club for those who say “eh” and can survive in -40 weather. We enjoyed some clean lettuce, some cold beer, and the company of a few other Canadians sweating their days through Accra! It was a great evening. We finished it off with some singing in the streets and an excellent cold shower. The lack of warm water is perfect! I’d quickly like to thank malarone for so far keeping malaria at bay, dukoral for obvious reasons, sports bras because they are the best creation ever, and buffs for keeping my face a little less shiny.
Shout out to Mama and Papa Nikel, Tay, Bailey and Ginny for almost making it a week without their little ray of sunshine (which is me and not the actual sun). I’ve been missing you more than you know!