First Day in Accra – Exploring the Market

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For the first few days in country you stay at a guesthouse and go over some training modules about things like Health & Safety, Policies, creating plans, etc.  Our guesthouse is actually a hotel, and it’s really nice, with two double beds (Alexis and I are sharing a room), air conditioning, and a proper bathroom with water pressure and hot water. 🙂  On our first night we saw a lizard who didn’t move so we thought he was dead, but in the morning he was gone, so I guess he was just pretending. 😛

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We had a random breakfast where the guy basically walked back and forth for half an hour, first bringing a cup, then silver-wear, then hot water, etc. until 45 minutes later we were eating breakfast (but thankfully today there was a buffet instead, much quicker – though I didn’t know how to ask for margarine, and got cheese instead, which suited me just fine!). We met some soccer coaches from Namibia who were telling us about how this was the “real Africa”, even though my guidebook calls Ghana “Africa for Beginners”.

 

We had a small session on “understanding yourself” before being sent off on an adventure, shopping in the market.  Our trainer (Lauren) took us to the tro tro station (they don’t have long buses with official routes here, instead they have mini buses that head in a certain direction) to catch a tro to Circle.  Once at Circle (a giant round-about) we thought we had to walk to the market and asked for directions, but ended up getting on another tro.  The people were really nice and we soon figured out how payment works.  Basically the driver has a “mate” who hangs out the sliding door, calls out the name of the stops, and collects money between stops.  You pass him a bill (often over many heads), and he collects all the money.  Then about 10 minutes later he passes back the change (somehow he has remembered how much each person has paid and how far they are going), which takes some getting used to, but feels fine once you know the system.  Since it was Sunday, the market wasn’t very busy, so it was probably a good introduction.

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Our scavenger hunt included items to buy and things to talk to people about (which we found a little harder and more awkward).  They did teach us some Twi and Pidgin phrases (local language and slang), but we had a harder time learning proverbs or getting people to teach us to dance.  The market is full of a lot of interesting smells, but apparently you get used to it!  There’s also garbage everywhere, as there are no cans to throw things in or trash collection.  I’m also very bad at bartering but we managed to buy some essentials like flip-flops & a scrubby cloth (for the shower) and some local cloth to wear as a wrap. There’s so many cool colours and patterns, I’ll probably have some clothes made for me eventually.  The people are a bit more touchy, and the guys often grabbed my arm to get me to come towards the tro, or buy their products.  However, they’re harmless, but it’s something I need to get used to since I think it will happen a lot.  You also get a lot of stares for being a white person, and all of the taxis honk when they drive by since they assume you must be going somewhere (and the sidewalks aren’t great, with no streetlights at night).  At least we can always get a taxi!

 

I got some ground nuts to snack on, which are like peanuts and come in a tiny bag.  Then we met these guys who wanted to be friends with us (everyone asks you to be friends with them and want your number or email, so learning to politely decline is one of the skills I’m working on…).  However, during one such encounter I happened to lean against the pole of a canopy while reaching over to shake a hand, only to find out it was electrified!  Not only was I shocked (literally and figuratively), so was he.  He looked terrified, and had no idea what was going on.  Eventually everyone understood and laughed, but it was a pretty crazy experience.  By the end of the excursion I was craving a Fandago, which is sold from a DickyD cart and is basically SunnyD… amazing when you’re hot and sweaty.

 

We decided that we had all the shopping we needed and headed on a tro back to Circle.  We could only find one restaurant, so we went there and got Coke, chicken, and rice (because that’s all they had in stock that day).  A teenage boy helped us to find our tro back to “American House”, since Circle is the biggest and most confusing of all the tro stations in Accra.  Since it was Sunday, a little boy starting singing hymns and preaching for money on the bus, and we also saw a random naked man walking down the street, so many interesting sights and sounds.

 

We took a tro tro to “Living Room” which is a bar, restaurant, and apparently you can rent private rooms to watch movies and satellite TV by the hour (I’m still not sure if this is code for illicit activities or not, but we’re going there for dinner tonight so we shall see).  Lauren lives nearby, so we got some beers and headed to her house to chat and make dinner with her friend Jacqueline. Her friend Sedem also came over with some delicious yam fries from a company he just started, I would recommend them.  (Canadians, don’t be confused, what we eat are not actually yams but just sweet potatoes.  Yams are white in colour and taste more starchy like potatoes.)  For dinner we had salad, chicken, and the fries, and had a great conversation about politics, the economy, and the president.  Sedem also taught us all about pineapples (he used to have a pineapple farm), and we had some sweet stuff for dessert.  I don’t normally eat that fruit but it was very good, I must say.

 

At the end of the night we walked back to “Living Room” with Sedem.  However, on our way some guys in a LandRover pulled over and stopped.  At first they were teasing about how he had 2 girls with him and should give one over to the guy in the car, and we just shrugged it off.  However, as we kept walking the guy in the car started to reverse and kept calling out different things to Sedem.  Thankfully, a taxi pulled up and the three of us hopped in, and we got to our hotel.  We got home safe and all was well, thanks Sedem!

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I’m excited for the days to come… where I will meet my new boss, start my new job, and move into my permanent house.  Unfortunately, that means taking all the stuff above, and shoving it back into my bags, not fun!  I did, however, add some cute patches to my bag which make it more cheerful.  There’s one from each of the countries I visited with the bag (Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile + Canada), and hopefully I’ll have a chance to sew on at least 2 more before the end of the year! 🙂

 

P.S. I no longer care about the order of my posts. Although ideally I would love them all to be in order, if I only wrote about the first thing I ever wanted to write about I would probably never write.  I’d rather put down on paper (er… computer) what I’m passionate about at the moment, and catch up with the rest later.  Hope it’s not too confusing!

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
This entry was posted in Ghana (2014) - Professional Fellow Placement (EWB), Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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