Told you that last post wouldn’t be my last! As I’m sitting on the plane heading back home and to reality I thought I would write down some of the things I want to remember about Ghana and this trip. First of all, I woke up at the Amsterdam airport and really wanted to buy bo fruit. Or some other cheap and easy-to-access street food. I love how Ghana is completely laid back and totally chaotic all at once. The streets are lined with items to purchase and food to eat. When you drive by in a car or trotro, all you have to do is wave down a woman carrying a massive basket of banana’s on her head and she’ll come up to your window and sell you some. Usually this happens when stopped at a traffic light but if traffic starts moving the driver will just patiently wait. Or alternatively, the vendor will run alongside the traffic.
Ghanaians have a pretty good sense of humour about themselves. As a Canadian, I really appreciate that in a culture. They are also very polite but in a different way than Canadians. Ghanaians always apologize when something bad happens to you (specifically, when something bad happens to you that is completely out of their control). For example, if you are walking and stub your toe or trip on a rock, a Ghanaians immediate response is “Oh sorry, sorry!”. And it is such a sincere apology, as if they are really truly sorry that that rock was there and that you walked into it. It’s such a genuine display of caring that it really endears me to the culture.
Bargaining is also extremely entertaining. Well maybe not bargaining – moreso hearing bargaining strategies. Talking to my friends girlfriend (a Ghanaian who is well versed in the ways of bargaining) she was saying that to effectively bargain you have to react to whatever price they give you as the most horrendously offensive thing you’ve ever heard. You have to say “Ooooh!!” sharply and loudly, while wincing as if you’ve been punched in the stomach. Retort with one third of what they offered and then go back and forth until a price is agreed upon. All the while upping the stakes on how crazy and offensive the price is.
Bargaining can be fun but it also becomes tedious. Especially with taxis as you have to bargain the price for every taxi you take. Even if the driver has no idea where you’re going. I got in a taxi once, told the driver where I was going and he immediately says: “OK give me 10 cedis” I retorted with my price and we bargained a bit until we agreed on a price. As soon as we started moving he said “OK now give me directions” – clearly he had no idea where he was going. How he chose 10 cedis as the price for the unknown destination is unclear.
Directions are interesting as well. There are labelled roads but people generally base directions off of landmarks. The best way to find somewhere is to ask for directions very frequently along the way. Sometimes information gets lost in translation but a lot of time people are so concerned with you finding your final destination that they will walk with you for a bit until they feel comfortable that you are on your way. Alex and I one time were going home from somewhere we were not familiar with – an elderly man walked us all the way to a bus stop to go the direction we needed to go. As we weaved around buildings and different streets and roads I kept thinking we would lose him in the crowds. But every time a turn came up, he would stop, wait for us and make sure we saw him. Once we finally got to the bus stop he put us on a trotro and went his own way. It was quite sweet and something I don’t think you see happen everywhere. Unfortunately the trotro was not actually going where we needed to go but oh well! You win some you lose some.
I’m sure there is much more I want to remember but hopefully it comes to me in waves as I get settled back at home. The memories I’ve made in Ghana are sure to stay with me.