When walking down to Suame roundabout, the pressure from the vehicles on my left and the waves and shouts from the vendors on my right squeeze me into a narrow path that I follow carefully. Sensory overload is the easiest way to describe my mental state the first time we made that walk. As we have collectively experienced more of Kumasi and become more comfortable with navigating the city on our own, I have learned to manage some of those senses. First, I learned I cannot turn around to every “Hello, where are you going?” and trying to grasp everything I can see on the street at once is impossible. By managing, at least to some degree, my intake of sights and sounds, I have worked towards appreciating my surroundings more. Either by trying to interpret basic phrases in Twi or restraining myself from looking too far ahead, my interactions have become more personal and less rushed. As I give myself more time to interpret my surroundings, my understanding of the cultural and social norms has slowly progressed. However, I cannot seem to do the same for the smells. There is no way to separate the pleasant breezes of street foods from the aroma of the open sewer system.
These smells, in combination with the possibility of falling into the cement channels, have been an ever-present reminder of Ghana’s infrastructural challenges. In the first week, I had a lot of questions concerning the health issues created by an open sewer system; particularly, how accessible safe disposal methods for female sanitary products were. By great chance, my first day of work with PPAG including going to a local school where Girls Guides Ghana Association (http://girlguidesghana.org/ggg-events/) was hosting a Menstrual Hygiene Day event (http://menstrualhygieneday.org/).
Even though most of the presentation was in Twi, knowing that this information was being dispersed was very exciting. I have plenty of questions left about how menstrual and general hygiene is managed within Kumasi. If it wasn’t for the unfamiliar smell, however, I think I would easily ignore these important public health concerns