Manny Hernandez (right) - One of the world's foremost builders of filter factories, and a chief consultant on this project, pictured here with Mr. Sabani, program manager of Pure Home Water
Susan Murcott - Senior lecturer at MIT and director of Pure Home Water
Tom Hay - MIT student, charged with addressing quality control issues
Leah Nation - MIT student, charged with documenting Manny's filter factory construction process, pictured here with Ruben, employee of Pure Home Water
Reed Miller - My research partner, charged with studying flow rate and removal efficiency of filters (pictured here, very dirty)
Zainab - Housekeeper at Pure Home Water's Tamale office
Bavna (with me)- Neighbor of Pure Home Water and daughter of Purkesh
Purkesh (at left) - Neighbor of Pure Home Water and owner of second largest sachet water vendor in Tamale, known as Aquaba, seen here with me and Jaya, manager of her family's second home business and wife of Purkesh
John - The foreman of the filter factory construction
Emmanuel - The mason of the filter factory construction
Lydia - A Ghanaian lab technician who will continue testing the flow rates and removal efficiencies of the filters once Reed and I leave Ghana.
My final day in Tamale. With Manny, Tom, Leah and Susan all gone, I still managed to wake up early with Reed to do a little work in the morning. I helped him soak the filters in a silver solution (the silver acts as a biocide, killing bacteria in the influent water), and asked if there was anything he needed, but he sent me back to the house. I napped, packed and headed out to the markets to pick up some gifts for the folks back home.
Tom and I have discussed our surprise at how comfortable we've become in this environment. It's not as though it's hard to tell I'm a tourist, but I'm a little less apprehensive now about the busy, mostly unmonitored roadways, the noisy markets with open sewers and open meat, the unknown rapid-fire language zipping around my ears. You can see how this place could be home. Indeed it has been, for the last month.
I finished shopping and return to the house, only to remember that today was the semi-final match of the Africa Cup of Nations! Ghana versus Nigeria, 4 p.m.! I made some quick phone calls and gathered Zainab and Ruben to come with me to Sparkles to watch the match. (Ruben's position is especially interesting, being a Nigerian-born Ghanaian. He said if Ghana lost, his family would call him and tell him he clearly never should have left home.) And, as we were leaving, who did we see but Mr. Sabani, returning to deliver some long-lost items to be taken back to "Prof," as he calls Susan. We piled into his car and headed out to see if we could catch the second half.
I was excited to watch the match in a legitimate Ghanaian bar, and looked forward to living and dying on every play along with the locals. Apparently, and I did not know this, if you want to find white people in Tamale, head to Sparkles Bar, near the cultural center. Perhaps there's a gravitational force there that attracts only the light-skinned, because that bar was weirdly populated with what must have been every single white person in Tamale at the time. This only numbered about 15, so at least half the bar still had honest rooting interest in the game, but where I expected mayhem I saw rather a fairly tame display of sports pride. Still, there were appreciative "oohs" and "ahs" on all the close plays, and though we arrived late to the bar and did not see Ghana's goal, we heard the country erupt when Asamoah Gyan knocked in a header in the 21st minute to put the Black Stars up 1-0. The patrons counted down the final seconds of the game, and when the referee declared Ghana's victory official, we found ourselves suddenly the only table still occupied, as everyone else had streaked out into the streets for celebration.
Zainab and I hunted down a nearby drum circle, where four men were pounding away on huge djimbes while twenty-somethings danced in a tight circle (why, why didn't I bring my camera?). The Modern City Music Store was blaring music, which mixed with the celebratory stutter of car horns. God bless the homeland Ghana! It wasn't quite the same as the riots after the Red Sox won the World Series, but it was festive nonetheless.
When we arrived back home, Reed was still curiously absent. But no matter, because who should join us upon return but Bavna, our gregarious next-door neighbor! I followed her home for a few minutes to collect a farewell picture with her, Purkesh and Jaya. The lure of another delicious Indian dinner waited seductively on the table, but I was so full from our time at Sparkles I was able to resist. Bavna and I returned to the house and continued our conversation, until presently Reed staggered through the door, red-and-black faced and bone-tired, with John and Emmanuel in tow.
The Gang's All Here! Every person I knew in Tamale had congregated, purely by happenstance, on our last day in the country. What a treat! A Guiness on me, and Sprites all around for they of the pristine livers!
We all said our goodbyes while Reed, God love him, collected the preliminary removal efficiency data from the first day's testing, instructing Lydia on the upload procedure to be performed over the next several weeks. Bavna returned a bit later with the leftovers from her family's dinner, which may have saved Reed's life, since there wasn't a scrap of food left in the house. And slowly, everyone trickled out, until only the MIT matriculators remained, luggage snugly tucked beside their beds, ready to rise at 4 a.m. to begin the long journey home.
A perfect last day. The experience certainly had its ups and downs, its moments of triumph and despair, but there's a lot to be said for leaving on a high note. Thank you Ghana. Watters, OUT!