Marka in Ghana

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

He hoffed and he puffed.. and blew our roof off!

This past Saturday was by far the biggest rain storm I have ever witnessed. It came up just as I was getting ready for bed, so I quickly finished brushing my teeth and scurried to my room, thankful for my quiet straw roof and feeling a little sorry for the rest of the family who had to listen to the constant pounding on their zinc roof. Little did I know that soon I would be running to their rooms!
Normally the rain isn’t a big deal in my room; all I usually have to do is close my screen door and I’m fine. But within ten minutes I realized that screen door wasn’t cutting it and since my wooden inner door only locks from the outside, there was no way the wind was going to have it stay closed! Water started to blow into my room and I began to curse myself for packing so light, as nothing that I had with me would effectively block the door. So I ended up holding it closed. After about 15 minutes of holding my door shut, standing in pitch darkness, I got the brilliant idea to run outside, locking my door on the way out, and perhaps sleep on the living room floor until the storm passed. Before I had even locked my door, I was drenched to the bone. I scampered across my compound to find the door of living room locked. I yelled in, realizing within seconds that there was no way that they were going to hear me over the sound of the beating rain on the roof. So I ran to Zach’s room and luckily he was still up.
“Who is it?” he asked before opening the door, which is something I can see my real brother asking back home. I stepped into his room, and it didn’t take me long to form a puddle as we both just sat in the pitch dark looking in the direction of outside, once in a while being illuminated by the lightning. When the wind really began to pick up, you could hear our roof being pulled up a couple of inches, scraping against the thread of the screws and then slamming back down. I wondered to myself what would happen if it just ripped right open, like the lid on a can of sardines. I guess can’t get any wetter, I laughed to myself.
The storm calmed down after about 45 minutes and I head back to my room. As I flopped down onto my bed, still soaking wet, I realized that while my straw roof worked pretty well against the rain, it didn’t hold up so well against the dust. There was a layer of dirt coating everything in my room, the layer on my bed now coating me. Mmmmmmm.
The next morning I woke to Zach and Abel reroofing the straw room to the chicken’s hut beside mine, which had completely blown off. We had sustained minor damage compared to a few of my neighbours, many of which had their zinc roofs damaged and one had their completely taken off as I had imagined was going to happen to ours. I asked how much it costs to roof a room.
“About 1 million cedis for a pack, and you would need at least 3 packs.” I did some quick math in my head: that was just over $300. Minimum wage in Ghana is $2 a day, and while many may make over this, saving is not an easy thing to do here, especially saving $300.
“So what will they do if they don’t have the money?”
“Nothing. What can they do?” I was shocked by this answer, maybe because in Canada there are always so many fall back plans when tragedy hits. In this moment, I understood how the word vulnerability is used to describe poverty. It might not be too hard to live off of $2 a day, as I regularly do it many times during the week. (You can get a decent meal for 2000 – 4000 cedis, about $0.25- 0.50). But I can’t imagine raising a family on that wage. You would have to make sure that your health, and the health of your family doesn’t fail and that the roof on your house stays on during the rainy season, because you can’t afford to not eat for 150 days.

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