Chapter 5 - They Just Live

It is fascinating to watch the way things work here. To me, there seems to be no sense of time or organization, and everything is confusing, and sometimes chaotic. It is the opposite for them. They all seem to work in tandem, and everyone just knows. I have stopped trying to understand it, but I think it is kind of beautiful how they just live.

On Friday night, I asked the kids what time (all-night) church was starting. They said “nine o’clock.” It became nine o’clock and no one was at the church, and I was still sitting around with all of the children. In the next thirty minutes, I asked them probably seven or eight times if they had to go to church. They kept saying, “not yet.” I wanted to ask: "why, how do you know, are you sure?" but I just kept playing. About an hour later, they got up and said, “We must go to church now.” And they went.

When you ask someone here directions, they always know. In a busy tro-tro* station, if people see you looking confused, they will ask what you are looking for. No matter which of the tons of places you are going, they say, “Oh it is that way,” and point you in the right direction. When I am standing there, it just looks like a parking lot full of these old vans with no rhyme or reason to how or where they are parked and when they are coming or going. There is no schedule. Sometimes there are signs in the window, but not always. They will leave when they are full, no matter how long it takes. When you get going, there are 2 operators - the driver and the guy who mans the sliding door. He sits right by it with his hand out the window and lets people on and off. He signals out the window and shouts the destination to other people on the side of the road.Sometimes he bangs on the outside, signaling the driver to stop or go or something else (I don’t really know). He will snap at you when it is time to give him money. Even if he doesn’t give you your change until the end, and even if there is 20 people packed in, he will remember how much change he owes you. It is pretty impressive.

Today (Sunday) was all-day church. All day, I saw people coming and going, dressed in their nice church clothes. All of the ladies out on nice long dresses, and some of them even wear heels. The men also look very nice, usually in long sleeves and long pants and many of them wear white. I have no idea how they make it look so graceful in the heat and the dirt, but they do. There are no signs of the brown dirt on their clothes, and they don’t look like they are sweating. All day, people seemed to just be coming and going; showing up when they get there, and leaving when they have to go. There seems to be no real stress for time or place or anything else. It is refreshing but also agitating. “African time” is a real thing.

Earlier in the week when I came back to the guesthouse I am staying at, it was the afternoon and particularly hot. I came back to find the lady who helps run it, Messi, sprawled on the tile. She looked up, smiled, and greeted me as she kept laying there. It was awesome. It was hot, and she felt like laying on the tile for that moment in time, so she did.

Everyone knows where everyone is, especially the kids. It is a thing here that when one of the adults needs something from someone else, they just send a kid to do it, and the kid always knows. All of these children are so competent and obedient in that way. They have so much freedom, but are also very disciplined. If I am at my room when Gloria cooks food, the kids come outside my window. If the computer teacher needs credit for the internet, he just picks some kid, gives him money, and the kid goes to the street and returns with it.

I am with these kids almost all day every day, and I just watch them. They have a funny balance of both looking out for each other and beating on each other that I don’t exactly understand, but I know I am not supposed to. There seems to be no worry about the next minute, they are just in the moment. It is inspiring. They just do what they do until they have to do something else. There seems to be no sense of urgency, and no worries about plans, or what is happening next. They just live.

*tro-tro: Ghana version of public transportation. They are old sliding door vans, usually on their last leg. They have 5 or 6 or 7 rows of seats. The “station” is just a word I use to describe an open dirt area where they stop to pick people up or drop them off.