Monday, January 17, 2011

Things about Ghana that I should at least mention before they seem 'normal'

-The Christian sayings and slogans EVERYWHERE: He lives, My Redeemer Liveth, His Carpenter, He saveth me, Jesus says Vodafone (that's a cell phone company)... and countless others with words like “everlasting,” “Christ,” “Jesus,” “Grace,” et cetera. Many shops will be named with these sayings so you'll have, for example, My Redeemer Liveth Sewing. And most taxis and tro-tros have these sayings on them too. (In fact, Global Mamas sells a hilarious coffee-table book featuring the sign culture in Ghana.)

-Answering to “obruni.” It's an unearned privilege in the US to forget the color of my skin at times. Here, it's a different kind of privilege to be made aware of it constantly; it's a valuable lesson precisely because it could not happen in like this in the US. A few Ghanaian's have asked how I feel to be called “obruni.” I say I just have to accept it; I'm not offended because it's true, I fit the description of a white person. It only bothers me when vendors or cab drivers try to rip me off because they think I'm rich. (I am in many ways, very wealthy comparatively, but I did get a scholarship and pay to come to Africa, and this is not a vacation, it's an unpaid academic internship.)

-Men asking if you are married ALL THE TIME. In fact, the first Ghanaian I talked to in Ghana was an airport employee and as he checked my luggage tags to see that I had taken the correct bags he asked if I was married. Then he told me that he liked me, thought I was beautiful and asked for my number. I told him I didn't have a phone, so he wrote his number on my luggage tag.

-Complete strangers, like my cab driver the other day, Frederick, asking for my phone number.

-Not wearing a seat belt. NO ONE does.

-Drinking water out of a plastic baggie. For 5 pesewas (the equivalent of about 3 US cents) you can buy a 500mL sachet of fresh water. You also eat ice cream out of a plastic sachet in Ghana.

-Ghanaians don't swear. Period.

-The pillows... so... weird.

-The mattresses—they're sort of like firm memory foam that takes several hours to fill in the indent of your hip or elbow. They are quite supportive, but after sleeping on the same mattress for 12 nights in Accra, I just hope that I didn't permanently damage the bed by sleeping in the same location the whole time.

-The dust. It's like a haze or fog, but you consciously know that it's dust. It also coats every horizontal surface: desk, bed, floor, leaves, and even the space in between the keys on my laptop. Granted it's Harmatan, so it won't be like this all year, only for the four weeks I'm here.

-No carpet anywhere.

-No ice cubes. I haven't seen a single one.

-No top sheet on the beds.

-The street dogs are tiny! I didn't see any in Accra, but there are many in Cape Coast. They have pointy, dingo-like ears and there all knee height or below. There's one puppy that hangs around my host family's house and I desperately want to pet it, but don't worry, I won't, he's too skittish.

-Street goats—yes, these exist. And their number probably exceeds the number of street dogs. They're also so adorable.

-Free range animals in general: pigs, sheep, goats, and mostly chickens roam everywhere. On my first day in Cape Coast, someone from the office—George—gave me and another Global Mamas firsty a tour of the town. He talked about everything and explained that the animals roam all day, finding food to eat in the streets, gutters, and on the beaches; they go to their respective homes at sunset (for a feeding, if the family has enough to feed them).

-The sun rises at about 6am and sets at about 6pm. I know this is more daylight than at home (7am-4:30ishpm?), but since the weather is so warm and reminds me of summer in the Midwest when it's light until 9pm; sunset at 6pm kind of throws me off.

Of course there are countless comments to make about differences between Ghana and home, but I consider this a healthy sample.

Until next time I remain,

A Dust-Covered Obruni.


  1. no top sheet?!?! sign me up! i hate those things!

  2. Oh so fun! You gave me such a visual in this post. I feel like I'm there with you!