Written by T Kirk Nov 2020
Just one glance at Shane confirmed that he too had found sleep evasive. Despite being on African soil for less than 12 hours, we both had dark eyes and drawn expressions, as much owing to the boys’ snoring orchestra than anything else. However, once up, we made ready to have breakfast at the seafront. Sitting 15 m behind a number of fishing boats we had the best view of the comings and goings of the locals. Jane explained that the work for the day was almost done and that the boats were steadily coming in with their haul. Even the children had been since 05:00am cleaning, preparing the day’s food and getting ready for school. It seemed rather strange to be sitting there awaiting breakfast to be served as people either heaved at ropes dragging huge nets in from the sea, or they prepared some stall selling fish, nuts, pineapple and some type of egg that I vowed never to touch let alone eat! The boys ordered mostly toast and cereal, although the toast went down far better than the cereal owing to the milk tasting rather odd. We had to explain that a lack of cows in Ghana meant that dairy products were difficult to come by – I think the milk was powdered, but needless to say we had to have our first ‘talk’ on not finishing meals particularly when there were children just metres away on the street feeling rather hungry.
The first task of the day was to visit the Chief of the village. Martial explained that this was a rather important and formal affair, and that there were certain customs that needed to be observed. If he gave us his blessing then we would be allowed to wander the village, if not…well, Martial explained that walking around the village might not be as ‘leisurely’. Now we were nervous! We should not have worried, the Chief and the elders were very nice and made a friendly speech translated by Martial. He then offered myself and Fin some form of liquid. It smelt rather petrol like so thankfully we did not to drink it (not sure what it might have done to Fin, who is already rather lively and adventurous!). We merely threw it on the floor before us and made some chants.
By this time the sun was beginning to stretch its arms, Shane being on sun cream duty frantically went round pasting pale limbs and faces (to which there were many). He must have forgotten his own face as his nose was soon a raging red colour, the sort that makes you grimace when looking at it.
The area that was to be converted into a football pitch had already been cleared of trees and bushes using diggers. Apparently they had found all sorts of reptiles, the reminisce of which we still sometimes to be found amongst the dust, the occasional shriek from the boys a clear sign that a snake’s head or something similar had been found. There also seemed to be a lot of plastic bags. Some of the boys thought collecting the bags might be an easier task than trying to unearth stones sunken in the cement-like earth, but their attitudes soon changed when they discovered that the bags contained more likely than not…someone’s faeces – definitely a polaroid moment. However, the boys and the small group of parents who had accompanied us on the trip did a grand job of clearing rocks, roots, rubbish and stones. At this point enthusiasm was still high and it felt good to get our hands dirty at last. Here the boys could very much picture what was to be achieved, but we only had 6 days to do it before the tournament on Friday.
I never thought tipping a bucket of cloudy water from a well over myself could be so satisfying. But that is the pleasure in which we revelled before getting ready for dinner at Big Millies. As this was the location of the previous night’s party, I think the boys were hoping (and perhaps more so the parents) that the revelry was perhaps a nightly occurrence. And so indeed it proved to be. Once again the loud African drumming, which was ever present day and night, provided the background to a relaxing and exhilarating evening in which we first took stock of where we were. The boys played table tennis and drank cola just like at home, but every breath, every sniff and every glance to either side confirmed that this was nothing like home.