My arrival in Paga has coincided with two equally dramatic calendar events: the rainy season and Ramadan.
Both regularly provide loud and atmospheric reminders that this is their time.
The rains strike quickly but with some warning. An unbearably hot day of around 36 degrees with sunny blue skies will suddenly become so dark, within only a minute or two that you will need to turn on the lights just to read a page in your book. Angry black and grey clouds roar overhead bustling against and over each other, racing impatiently to their final destination. With them comes the wind. The first taste is a touch of a light breeze that makes the curtains flutter and brings with it a cool fresh relief into the stuffy house. A few minutes more and stationary fans will begin to move, powered by the uninvited wind tunneling through the house. There are no windows here, not as we know them at least. Instead there are a series of open glass panels whose angles you can change by forcing a leaver. You can never really close them but you can change the angles of their tilt should you feel the need for more or less air from outside. Soon the wind is racing through the house and then comes the thunder and lightening. Enormous pounding blasts of thunder that make the ground shake and warn everyone to take shelter ASAP. And then the sky empties. In only a few minutes the ground outside is a river and the rain so solid that you can barely see a tree just a few metres in front of you. To be in it for more than two seconds is to be soaked thoroughly to the skin. But nobody risks this. For once there isn’t a soul to be seen outside. No cyclists, no cars – not even a goat. I have seen more rain fall in ten minutes here then I expect Ireland gets in a good rainy six months. It’s biblical and fascinating to watch. The ground cannot keep up with the speed of the deluge and everywhere becomes one muddy lake within seconds. Soon into the storm the electricity goes out adding to the drama and afterwards the mobile phone networks go down. It’s like the opening scene of an apocalypse movie, every few days.
And then after a few minutes, or an hour, the sky has exhausted itself and just as suddenly it all ceases. The wind is instantly gone but the air remains cool and clean as if a brand new supply has just been delivered as a reward for the days of oppressive heat just gone. It will take a few hours for the sun to reach its full potential again, all the while the Ghanaians talk about how cold it is. I watch them shivering as I laugh to myself – the temperature will be around 20 degrees or so – a heatwave for Ireland!
Ramadan announced its commencement in as just an obvious manner. It was all the more startling as its triumphant arrival happened at 5am. We live opposite the tiniest mosque I think I have ever seen. It is a beautiful, unimposing building that has more charm than space and for the first week here I hadn’t recorded a single soul entering or leaving the building. I would estimate that it could hold 10 believers, at a squeeze.
Because of its inactivity I assumed that it had been abandoned for a more modern, larger version somewhere nearer the centre of town. And then, on the first day of Ramadan I was awoken by an abrupt deafening wailing that seemed to come from the corner of my bedroom. I shot up in fright and confusion and quickly recognised the Arabic lilt of the call to prayer. There was no imam hiding in my wardrobe – the source was clearly from the miniscule mosque that I had mistakenly believed to be dormant. I was utterly flabbergasted that a tiny mosque could make such an all consuming sound. I have travelled to many countries where I have been woken by such prayers but the volume here was clearly made to compete with any thunder that nature could throw in its way. Or perhaps their aim is to be heard across the border in Burkina Faso. If that was the case then they certainly succeed.
Not only is the call to prayer broadcast for all in the region to hear but so is their entire nightly service, and every prayer during the day and evening too: all at impressively godly volumes. It has got to the stage that I have witnessed the repetitive chants so often and with such volume that I have found myself singing them to myself while waiting in line in the local shop or while cycling to work, as if it were some catchy new pop song.
Who knows, perhaps a miraculous conversion is in the making. More likely however is that I am now so sleep deprived that my brain has resorted to repeating simple phrases over and over again, unable to deal with anything more complex.
Like the cool relief that the rains bring I am counting down the days for the end of the holy month – and the uninterrupted sleep which will follow. I expect it to be utterly divine.