It was a battle.
I had decided days ago that I was tired of paying some neighborhood kid to fetch water to fill our two large plastic trashcans- in which we use for bathing, drinking and cleaning around the kitchen. I thought, Hey I could use the exercise, how hard could it be?
“Jerry cans” (pictured) are commonly used through out Ghana for transporting various liquids, yet I soon found out I was the only person in the town to use them for fetching water. You see, if you refer back to The Rules of Ghana post, rule number one clearly states individuals here carry everything on their head, including large buckets of water. Not me; I would be using muscle and a zealous overconfidence. This will be good for the shoulders, I thought…
The tragically heavy jerry cans weigh approx. 60 lbs a piece; the slim and jagged handles cut into my hands and put an astronomical pressure on just the first few finger joints. My hands had been too big to wrap around the entire the razor edged handle. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears, my breath shaky.
The whole neighborhood came out to watch this stupid white man struggle to get water 100 yards back to his house; a feat performed flawlessly everyday by the youth and women. There were many lining the path back to the house, and even more waiting by the water well to either receive more water, or to watch me and gossip. Kids walked beside me as sweat spewed from the edge of my lips expelling exhaustive breath; I was gasping for air. The children either taunted me or cheered me on screaming, “Come on now! Walk fast!” and booing when I set the jugs down; others started chanting, “Macho! Macho!” (Some of the adults also joined the cadence, yet I had a slight suspicion their voices were more sarcastic than genuine). Either way- I was the entertainment for the night.
Looking for a solution, I tried to assemble some type of grip system so that I could use my full hand and forearm strength to lift the weight. Like a rag-tag team of experts, the Della women jumped in and had several prototypes ready for me to try out. Each one failed, and I would stumble back to their creative hands and put trust in their designs. Eventually it was five o’clock and the women left, having their quiet giggles; but those women are awesome and I was grateful for their support in my mission. I was still moving water, slower and slower.
My forearms had turned to Jello, my fingers like spaghetti. An hour and a half after I started, I was done- and I don’t mean finished. I had only filled up one trashcan, but I was broken and somewhat embarrassed. I cursed happily at myself. I had lost, but at least I was done. I threw the jugs on the ground and joined them, making a sweat angel on the hot African earth.
This idea mostly came about from wanting to get exercise, get back into shape- well it must have worked because later that night as I trudged through the candle lit streets, three young Ghanaian women hit on me and asked me out (actually they asked me to buy them dinner, but it’s all the same here), and as they giggled I shoved fried eggs in my mouth frantically trying to recover. I again found myself smiling shaking my head slowly, simply amused by the oddity of my life thus far here in Ghana.
It was a battle.