A few thoughts on life in Ghana thus far.
Why all the interest?
Friends have been far more interested in my time here in Ghana than they were in Mauritius. I was also more interested in coming here than Mauritius.
Perhaps Mauritius just felt like another tropical island, as similar as those off the east coast of Australia.
Perhaps West Africa feels far away. Australians seem to make the trek to South America more often than Africa.
So, about the conflict?
It is all very far away from the busy streets of Accra.
As a Ghanaian put it to me – why do you keep asking? It is miles away from here!
Perhaps they are used to it. But more likely that it feels just as far away as past conflicts in East Timor and Indonesia did to Australians.
First impressions of Accra
The first thing that struck me is the constant haze. I’ve hardly seen blue sky here at all. Next was the disparity in living conditions. My 3 star hotel home looks down onto a tin shed with an outdoor wood fire kitchen which a multi-generational family calls home.
Also similar to Mauritius, it has been hard to make myself understood here. This is despite English being the national language. Speaking on the phone is difficult, and AGAIN the problems with directions.
(But, I think I’m learning this might just be me.)
And there are SO MANY languages. Twi and Pidgin English in the office, Gaa elsewhere in Accra, Ewe with the hotel staff and the places I’ve been hanging out the east.
You try learning how to say “How are you” in 4 different languages at once!
So, we hear you had a car accident.
Ah, yes, the driving.
Firstly, may I point out they drive on the other side of the road. And I am driving the largest car I have ever driven. (Cars here seem to either be 4x4s or 20 year old sedans).
Driving here is quite aggressive. Cars will pull out in front of you and expect you to stop. In return, you must also pull out in front of other cars and trust they will stop.
But, people generally do not drive fast. And truly unsafe driving is completely frowned upon. Drivers are ALWAYS paying attention and driving defensively. You will get a short (friendly) honk if you are doing something wrong.
Which is especially appreciated by this yovo driving on the wrong side of the road.
This ties in with what I am currently reading in Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw”. He talks about risk homeostasis – where increased safety leads to people taking greater risks. As an example, the introduction of ABS saw taxi drivers become more reckless – driving faster, taking sharper turns and tailgating more. When Sweden changed over from driving on the left to the right traffic fatalities dropped by 17% in the following year.
But of course, people still make mistakes. The accident happened at about 5km/hr and I was rear ended by a tro-tro. (Mum, I am fine. The car is fine.)
And yes, yes, I am white
This is something I am reminded of frequently. Kids standing on the roadside in rural villages yell out “yovo” as I drive past. Architects in the office I work in will describe me to others as the “white lady”. The receptionist at a client’s office always remembers who I am as there are only two obruni’s who visit.
And the other is a man.
This is especially interesting for me as I am not considered white in Australia. Whites are from the UK or northern European. I am a wog.
Oh, the hilarity of it all
Luckily enough for me, Ghanaians have an amazing sense of humour.
They tease in the same way as Australians so I’m allowed to joke about everything.
My whiteness. How the cobbler told me he’d lost my shoes when he really just hadn’t finished. How my lunch lady charged me less every day that I visited her until she realised I was hanging around. How I misunderstand everything. How I’ve had about 20 marriage proposals since arriving. How I TOTALLY LOVE the food. How I paid a bribe without realising.
And how much I totally want to stay.