lights out

Yesterday there was a ‘lights out’ – our power went off at 7pm, then the next morning a planned outage happened (maintenance? religious tradition? no one knows), so although the rest of Tamale was only out for six hours, our neighbourhood was out for nearly 24. Fortunately my computer was more or less charged, so I was able to work. When I ran yesterday morning, the only building in the neighbourhood with power was the power station. Bastards.

I have been running all week, at 5.15am. This means I start by moonlight and finish just before dawn, when it gets too hot. The bats are just finishing the night shift and the birds taking over as I get back to the guesthouse. Goats are asleep on the tables at the side of the road, and a man studies every morning on the kerb in the fluorescent light from a shop. People are baffled to see a woman running, but there are athletes who train before dawn, and they say hi as they pass.

I spent all day yesterday with Latif, a temporary research assistant while I am in Tamale. He’s a young guy in college who runs an internet cafe, and since all the owners know each other he has been able to take me to the ones I would never find on my own. Some are down back alleys on dirt roads, almost outside town. There must be an optimal distance between them, like Starbucks branches, depending on the area’s features – literacy or age profile – since in the centre of town there will be two on the same block, but out where I was yesterday they are few and far between. I got 8 interviews in a day with Latif’s help, doubling my previous average. Most of them were really out of the way, like this one:

at neattech internet cafe, Tamale

at neattech internet cafe, Tamale

We ended the afternoon by investigating Savalugu, a district capital about 20 miles from Tamale to the north. Latif had heard there was a cafe there, and I need to visit each district capital to check, even if there isn’t likely to be one. When we got there, we found that there had indeed been one, but it had just closed down last month.

Riding a motorbike across the savannah is amazing – like being cooked in a very picturesque fan oven. It’s easily 110 degrees out there, so that even at 80 mph it doesn’t cool you off because the hot air is just forcing itself into your lungs at greater speed. Also, this was a small bike and the back seat was just a metal carrier, so it’s not the kind of thing you can do every day if you want to be able to walk around. For one day, though, it’s quite an effective strategy.

On the way out of town we passed a procession where a whole village was taking their chief in a palanquin to make a sacrifice. There was a junior chiefly person too, but he got a donkey instead of a palanquin, and a guy with a nice golfing umbrella to keep him cool.

Dagomba chief

Dagomba chief

Dagomba junior chief

Dagomba junior chief

Anyway, man kun meh, na on die so ho (I’m off now, have a good day).

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