After a good night’s sleep in Accra, we boarded a 07:00 STM Coach to Tamale. I was well looked after and didn’t have to worry about purchasing the tickets, which could have been a bit tricky to figure out on a first day. The journey was 11 hours long with stops on the way for rest. Despite the distance covered, the time went quickly, this was definitely a great way to see the country. We passed many beautiful towns and villages and the scenery outside the window was simply breathtaking; it changed from green and lush rainforests in the South to drier savannah as we travelled North. It was nice to meet other travellers on the way, in this case two American exchange students who studied in Accra. The girls were travelling up North to see the rest of Ghana before going home for a Christmas break.
I was overwhelmed with how beautiful the country was! There were elderly men sitting outside their houses, young children were playing and women with beautifully flowered and coloured dresses were balancing fruit baskets or water on their heads, which was done with ease and so much grace! We passed many, many, many churches and business with Christian gospel slogans “Jesus Loves Fashion” or “Trust in God Hair Saloon”! This was a very religious country, with 68% of Christians predominantly based in the South and Centre of the country and 25% of Muslims mostly based in the North. It was good to see so many different religious institutions coexisting in harmony next to each other.
At stopovers, I had my first experience of the local cuisine and tried some special fried rice and chicken, which cost 7 cedi. The portion was big and I decided to share my meal with Alhassan. We both enjoyed the spicy chicken.
Before reaching Tamale, I had a crush course in everything Ghanaian including food, Dagbani (local dialect in Tamale) customs, culture, music especially the talented Choggu Boys from Tamale, current affairs and local religion! My head was spinning with information but it was great to get this insight from a local person!
Alhassan told me about the looming political elections and the biggest contest between two political parties, the Presidential Party currently in power known as National Democratic Party (NDC) and the biggest opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). It was great to hear this from a Ghanaian and to understand some of the issues, which Ghana faced; the political theme ran throughout the rest of the week until the elections, which took place on Friday, 7th December.
We arrived in Tamale in the evening and it was already dark. Stepping outside the coach, I was greeted by many taxi drivers but Alhassan quickly moved me away from the crowds and directed me to a trusted taxi driver. Not sure what to expect in the house, I was able to make quick shopping provisions in town before being dropped off.
On arrival, I was impressed with the standard of the accommodation Lively Minds had for its international volunteers. The house was secure, big and rooms were spacious. The kitchen was equipped with fridge and cooker, more than the average Ghanaian household possessed and here were two showers and bathrooms.
As I was the only volunteer in the house, I tried to make myself feel at home by exploring big spacious rooms. Mosquito nets and evening calls for prayer from a nearby local Mosque were such novelty and everything seemed strangely beautiful. Despite being so far away from home, I felt good to be here. A security guard arrived outside the house to look after the property. I slept well that night.