My first week in Ghana
The first thing that struck me when stepping out from the Kotoka International Airport was not the heat, not the smell of food, not the new and unfamiliar language being spoken around me.
What caught my attention were the enormous, shiny new cars that drove on the streets, side by side with cars that probably would have been banned from plying the roads back home in Sweden.
Black clouds of air pollution swept in over the luxurious cars – the contrasts were sharp and impossible to neglect.
The economic fortune of Ghana have been reported world wide, but is every Ghanaian invited for the ride towards prosperity? A growing economy in a seldom seen rate – but how can money alone ever change the fortunes of an entire people? The air was reeking of combustion gases, and in my ears joyful local music was playing. The city was very much alive the very night that I arrived in Accra, Ghana.
I learned that Accra is comparably small in surface size, but rich in inhabitants, which inevitably makes it a crowded city. Transportation modes are many. Besides the numerous motor vehicles, people are seen riding their bikes in the midst of the busy traffic.
Hawkers were also making their way around the cars on the roads to sell their products. Sidewalks overflowed with pedestrians and vendors with their commodities. The big market in Accra was steaming with life, and the range of supplies offered went beyond my imagination. Most things were not at all so different from back home, and I instantly bought a couple of things that I needed.
All around the city, trash were seemingly thrown all over the streets, most of it ending up in the gutters by the streets, or in big piles which are not in strategic locations.
Luckily, awareness of environmental issues has spread throughout the community and there are now organizations working, for instance, by re-using trash in innovative ways.
Housing in the city varied from basic shacks to villas with enormous walls mounting up around them to keep away any uninvited guests. What impressed me beyond limits when I strolled along the streets was the fact that so many people were dressed up in proper business wear, something which I do not see even nearly as often in Sweden.
The streets would be dusty and the weather sunny and humid, but the Ghanaians looked fresh as ever, while I felt I needed a shower after five minutes outside.
The notion of contrast would hit me several times as I encounter this new country during my first week. On my second day in Accra, when I got on the wrong “tro tro” (public transport), all the passengers were engaged in a discussion about my unfortunate situation. Before I knew it, I had been transferred into another “tro tro” that took me all the way home to Mile Seven.
I experienced kindness that warmed my heart when my shoes broke and I walked barefoot up the street. Every second person stopped to express their regret on my behalf. Truly, it is not a coincidence that the people of this country are known as the most welcoming on this continent.
However, I ran into a saleswoman who did not hold back when expressing her dismay with my window shopping. Another vendor from whom I inquired about the spices he sold, subsequently lectured (?) me in Twi, before dismissing me with his waving hand. Oh well, I will agree that honesty is always the best way to go – regardless if to express joy or anger.
Sanitary notions of waste management seem to be lagging behind the fast economic development here, as are electricity and water supply to households. I have experienced a few power cuts already and gotten to know that they are not all that uncommon.
Nevertheless, big fancy shopping malls have been put up for the public to enjoy, and LCD flat screens, smart phones and other modern electronic devices can be found everywhere you turn.
Also, water supplies tend to vary, notably between households, even in the capital city – and so the contrasts continue to amaze me. So modern, yet so much still to be achieved.
Becoming acquainted with the traffic in the city of Accra, I wondered how I could ever be on time to any place or event. Back home in Sweden, the buses would have departure times such as 09:17, 09:29 and so on.
However, counting your life in minutes can be extremely stressful and that is what we do back home. The “tro tro” here in Ghana will unexceptionally come within a couple of minutes of waiting. Even though a comprehensible map (or a timetable) of the public transport system is yet to be created, it would probably only be useful for newcomers like me, since indeed there seems to be a bulletproof inherent system once you get to know it.
At what time will I arrive at my destination? No one could tell me, but once I had learned to stop counting the minutes of my life, that probably would not concern me as much.
Now, after a week’s stay, I happily jump onto the “tro tro”, worrying more about the state of the vehicle than the time it will take. I continue to see the brand new, ridiculously big cars swoosh by as I make my way from one place to another. I truly wish for the economic gains of this country to continue its spread to every aspect of public life, for everyone to experience it.
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