Ghana: First Impressions

Alright, I am 7 months and 14 days into this Bristol year, and I know it has been quite a while since my last post! Okay, yes it was last year in November to be more specific, however, as they say, time waits for no one! I’ve been doing a lot of living away from the computer screen so bear with me! I may do some recaps of my four months in South Africa, or maybe I’ll just do a photo montage- however the latter may be a bit difficult due to the slow bandwidth of the internet here in Ghana, but this post is all about Accra!

As Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz says, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” well I am definitely not in South Africa anymore, and have once again been thrust into a entirely new country, new culture, new language, and totally different and new way of life. Needless to say it is a bit overwhelming trying to get readjusted, and I will definitely admit that I have been spoiled by the first world easy of South Africa, but there is something truly unique and special about this place.

I hate to say it, but here in Accra, it definitely feels like the “real” Africa. I mean there is no Tarzan and Jane running around in a totally unstructured jungle full of lions, rhinos, and elephants, but everything about this place does not leave you wondering if you got on the correct plane and landed, indeed, in Ghana.

First impression wise, Accra has reminded me a lot of India. The sights and smells, and the people selling everything from phone minutes, watches, water, food, maps and hangers on the streets! On my second day I was so impressed at everything that was being sold on the street. Men and women walk along the lanes of traffic selling everything from the buckets they have carefully balanced on their heads! I have never seen such a display of quality items for sale on the streets in my life! I must say, I have been reminded quite a bit of those first 3 months in Chennai.

While it is definitely taking some getting used to, I am feeling my sense of adventure again. Maybe it’s that I am no longer living in a pseudo “developed” nation and am pushing myself outside of my comfort zone- but whatever the case my be, I am rallying the troops for this second phase of my trip. Research wise, I really feel as though I have mastered the art of getting involved in the local hair scene, and although upon arrival I did not have any solid hair contacts, I’m making it work! Regardless of my short comings, and misgivings, I am definitely feeling a renewed sense of adventure, even though getting through this transition period is a little rough. Leaving the familiar and jumping into the unknown is always frightening, and difficult, especially because you never know where you are going to end up. My mantra for Ghana, well really this whole year long trip- adapt; however, the Ghana specific one: TIA (This Is Africa), just make it work! I am sure in due time I am going to be just as at home here in Ghana as I was in South Africa and India! Besides, now I have some great hair contacts and have been making great headway with my project! More to come on that in my next post!

I have been here now a total of 2 weeks, and am starting to get the hang of life here- at least a little. I am now mastering the Tro-Tro’s (shared taxi’s) around the city, and though I experienced probably more issues than necessary in getting a tourist visa here, bureaucracy aside, the people are so nice it is unbelievable! When I first arrived at the airport, my flight was early so while waiting for Dr. & Mrs. Kwamin to come and get me, four different security guards came up to ask if I was alright, if I had transportation to where I was staying, and even offered to use their cell phones to call the Kwamin’s in order to make sure they were on their way. Then, when Mrs. Kwamin “Auntie Tooks” as she has told me to call her, arrived, they stopped us at the door, and asked me if I was alright, and if I was sure that I was leaving with the right person. After reassuring them multiple times this indeed was the woman I was waiting for, they let me go, telling me that if I should need anything they would still be here, and gave me their telephone numbers out of genuine concern. Also, since I have a knack for getting lost on public transport, there has been many a time where I have found quite a few helpful people on the Tro-Tro’s that point me in the right direction!

Besides the overall helpfulness of the Ghanian people I have met so far, the food here is entirely different from anything I have ever tasted. First, if I thought Indians liked their spice, West Africans definitely have them beat! Spicy chilies are the number one ingredient in almost every dish I have eaten. As Auntie Tooks prepares each meal, the peppers are added in by the handful! Needless to say, each meal has my nose running, eyes tearing, and forehead and upper lip sweating! However, the flavors of the sauces and the different meats keep you coming back for more! Besides the spice, I have now been introduced into the world of Banku, Ghari, and yes, the infamous Fufu! I guess the best ways to describe the above mentioned foods are dough like balls with a semi bitter taste to them. You eat these with your right hand (like India) and use it to scoop up the peppery stew/ sauce that comes with it. We have had pepper and peanut sauce chicken, tomato pepper fish, and a spicy spinach, crab and fish sauce. While my system is still getting used to all of these meals, all I can say is yum!

This year has most certainly been teaching me a lot more than just hair, it’s giving me an education in life- to say the least. While some moments are a little uncomfortable, life is not all roses, rainbows, and sweet cuddly bunnies! So I am sure as this year keeps unraveling, I have a whole lot of surprises in store for me!

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One thought on “Ghana: First Impressions

  1. Hey Alex,
    Good to hear you have made it to the Black Star State. Yes Ghana is Africa! It is full of contradictions. I’m sure you are experiencing all of them! But Ghana is so important. The Ghanians are great people, and they know who we are.
    Make sure you get up to Elmira Castle it is so moving. The area around the castle will remind you of a fishing village in Bahia. So continue to learn, dance, and sing your song.
    You stay in our prayers,
    Auntie Wande

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