Monday, January 22, 2007

Smokey the Bear Doesn't Live in Ghana

Burning brush (and trash and stumps and everything else that burns...) in Ghana is an unfortunate fact of life. The sky, at any given time is dotted with plumes of smoke, grey, white and black from open fires started for any number of reasons.

It's not like there is a lot of choice. We can afford to pay to have someone pick up our garbage- private
garbage service costs us $9 a month, which to you guys is cheap, but which to a Ghanaian is a ridiculous amount of money to spend when a box of matches is so much cheaper.

So. What's my point?

Well...we have no actual homes adjoining our property- just empty lots.

The north side is a long skinny lot with a house that is 25% finished and has been that way since before we moved in. Here's the satellite photo of our house and the lot next door (the lot in question is the top half of the picture- you can see the house doesn't even have a roof- just a foundation and some walls).

The whole place just sat there, ignored, until last week.

Then someone showed up to burn the brush. When they lit it, it went up like a tinder box and we heard the crackling flames even from inside the house with the A/C on.

By the time we twigged to the fact that our neighbors' yard was on fire, Stephen had already climbed our dry fountain to yell at them over the wall. We don't know what he yelled, but he had the language and cultural edge, so we left him to it with thanks.

All was quiet for a few days, and I was outside reading when I heard the familiar dry crackle of a new fire starting- unfortunately from next door again.

As I started toward that side of the yard, I saw flames popping up over the eight foot wall and watched in dismay as huge burning sheets of black ash came over the wall and started landing everywhere including in the pool and on my roof...

I climbed the dry fountain and started looking for someone to yell at and there was no one around.

Big surprise- throw a match and run before Stephen kicks your ass.

As I climbed down, I saw with horror that one of our beach towels was on fire. I grabbed it and threw it in the pool, then turned around and saw that one of the rattan lounges was smoking. I quickly found out it was smoking because the lounge cushion we had bought for it was also on fire.

I believe, as I grabbed pool water to pour on the chair and cushion I may have uttered some bad words, real loud, in the general direction of our "neighbors" to the north.

Meanwhile, in response to my yells, Ted has gotten the hose hooked up and dragged around the house (the hose hookup is on the south side of the house) and gone back to turn on the water.

I am standing at the north wall holding the hose, ready to go, when he wanders back, shrugs his shoulders and says... "No water."


See, we have a water pump to provide water to the house, but we can't use the tank to pump water outside the house, so if we have no city water, there is no water to the hose.

At this point we are very very glad we live in a stone house with adobe tile roof and very little wood anywhere- Accra has one fire truck and it would take it about 25 minutes to get here if there was NO traffic and you all know what the possibilities of that are...

Plan B (we have developed, in the last 18 months, a truckload of Plans B, C, and D). Ted gets a wash basin and while he stands on the dry fountain, I pass up basins full of pool water which he then dumps on the burning yard next door.

Take that evil neighbors.

Try burning soaking wet ground.

Since it was Sunday, Mark had finally, deservedly, taken some time off. Imagine his horror when he came home and found ash everywhere, holey towels on the line, and big burned gashes in the lounge cushion.

He was LIVID! It was pretty funny actually- certainly the most words he has said to us all at once the whole time we have known him. He went and found someone to yell at and gave them heck. He was so pissed off.

He said it's illegal to burn like that and they should take it out with machetes like he would have, and that the people who belong there swear it wasn't them. Mark's personal theory is they were smoking weed and....POOF!

Mark and Stephen have declared war on the firebugs next door.

Suffice it to say, if they ever finish that house and move into it, I will not be taking over cookies and my phone number.