Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Arriving in Accra
Arriving in Accra the airport has the distinct feel of being close to the outdoors. Nothing like the enclosed, air conditioned and double-glazed insularity of Heathrow here.
Luckily, Charles, who has worked with CARE for a year and seven months, meets us at the airport entrance to drive us to our apartment. We don't have the address as no one has supplied it, so we just hope that he knows where he is going! I ask Charles if he likes working for CARE. "It's a lot of pressure," he says.
"Sure," I think, pressure. "You're a driver. What's to be stressed about? Rush hour?"
Then he tells me that he gets up each day at 4am to make the 27+ KM journey into the centre of Accra to CARE on public transport, arriving around 6am. If he leaves later he will be late for work. After working a full day he goes home on public transport once again, leaving the plush environment of his silver four-by-four car, air conditioned and shiny, for his home outside Accra, where he arrives at 9pm.
I have changed my mind.
In the CARE office on Monday morning, the clocks tell us what time it is in France, in Ghana and in Atlanta (though the latter's clock has stopped. Clearly the head office is timeless). There is a dusty smell and white plastered corridors lead the way to closed off offices. Far away are the cubicles and hot desks. We wait in the bustling reception whilst everyone comes to work, smiling at us and saying "Good morning".
My master bathroom
Fred, the caretaker / office go-to man, asks Amanda and me if we're married, and tells us "I like white girls" as he shows us around. He helps us find the wireless access (yes!) and the conference room, where, by chance there is a staff orientation happening on our very first day.
He also takes us - with Charles - to the supermarket, where an iceberg lettuce - something I realise I will have to bleach clean because of the risk of cholera - costs me 11 cedi (about £4.00) versus three huge ripe mangoes for 5 cedi (which I can peel so are not dangerous). Thank goodness for mangoes, since I can't get fresh milk either (also owing to cholera risk). Breakfast is served for the next two months!
Digestive and rich tea biscuits in orientation makes it feel like home, but the reserved silences of English orientations I've attended are not so much in evidence here. There are lots of silences at first, but when HR procedures are covered in the orientation, the talk soon turns to salaries and benefits. I would love to be a fly on the wall in my own office where the HR rep is grilled by 10 eager professionals interested in working for an organisation which works for them all, on a personal level.
First Ghanaian gin and tonic. So Good.
We walk home the two streets to our apartment to make our first dinner of chicken and (well cooked) vegetables in tomato sauce. I make preparations for the rest of my stay by installing my duty free Bombay Sapphire in the freezer, and make ice cubes from mineral water. There are some home comforts I'm happy to be able to recreate here.