This Time for Africa: Ghana, Day 1
Ghana is the most overwhelming place I’ve been (so far). It was quite a transition from the Americas, and I would say it was the most challenging country I have encountered. The first day in Ghana, a group of us decided to head to Accra, the capital, which is about 25 kilometers from Tema, which is where we docked. Our group consisted of Perri, Cameron, Alyssa, and Thuy and Other Alyssa, who got into a different cab with some other SASers and whom we subsequently lost after the cab ride. After having the overly-aggressive taxi drivers yelling at us, we finally agreed on a price of 40 cedi (Ghanaian currency) to take us to the city. Four of us squeezed into the back, and Alyssa sat up front. After stopping for gas, we entered the rat race to get to central Accra with the other thousands of drivers (traffic in greater Accra is awful). Immediately we noticed our lungs reacting to the powerful brown pollution that permeated the air, and the amount of trash carelessly discarded in every direction and on every surface (I guess the Ghanaian government has other priorities).
When we arrived at our destination, the taxi driver tried to tell us that our price was in DOLLARS, not in cedi, and we argued with him until we ended up paying anyway, just to get him to go away. That would not be the last time we got screwed by a cab driver. We walked in circles until we found the place we were looking for, the Osu Food Court. We were to meet several other members of our group to walk around with. We finally found them and then headed to Frankie’s, a place a local recommended we eat. It ended up just being basically a burger joint, and I made the unpleasant discovery that Africa sells Coke Light instead of Diet Coke (nooooooo!). After lunch, we all started walking to Global Mama’s, a store that we had heard about that employs underprivileged women and supplies them with income. Our journey would not have been complete without being bombarded on all sides by the street vendors, who would shake your hand and ask your name (“it’s nice to be nice!”), and start weaving you a bracelet before you could say no. We quickly realized they were only being nice to us so that we would buy their stuff, so we learned to be forceful and ignore them. I was hoping locals would actually be nice to us just to find out about us and teach us something about the culture, but it was not meant to be.
After shopping for quite a long time at Global Mama’s, Perri, Cameron and Jackie split off from the group and the rest of us decided to hop a cab to the culture center, which was recommended to us by our professor whom we ran into in Global Mama’s. We took 2 cabs and ended up at Makola market, a real African market that was quite overwhelming. We followed some other SASers to the cultural center, which basically turned out to be a lot of vendors selling various African goods. I bought a few things, including 2 African tribal masks, but the sellers hassled me to spend much, much more. It was really annoying despite how nice they seemed to be. We walked back out onto the street in the direction of the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. Kwame Nkrumah is the man who bloodlessly negotiated Ghanaian independence from Britain in 1957, and became Ghana’s first president. We realized that we had to pay to get into the park, so we stealthily took some photos from the outside and then headed to a restaurant Other Alyssa had been recommended to, but somehow it turned out to just be a place that served drinks. We decided to take cabs back to the Osu neighborhood, where we tried a place that was recommended to us, but just ended up being a fast food place where the employees wore red and yellow-striped uniforms. After a quick vote, we decided to try to find a more local place.
Out on the street, we walked up and down looking for a place that served Ghanaian food. It seems as if Osu is not the place to be for local food, although we did buy some roasted plantains from a random woman off the street that used printer paper to wrap them up. We ended up at another burger-type joint, because we were running out of time to look for a decent place. I had a chicken sandwich with fries, because I had been craving fries forever on the ship. Just as a note, Ghanaian ketchup is disgusting.
After eating, we went to Koala Supermarket to pick up snacks to bring back to the ship. The place was lit up with red light on the outside and had laser shapes projected on the outside of it, it looked more like a club than a supermarket. On the inside, we found lots of yummy British snacks and candy to bring back with us. It was a little pricey, but Salt and Vinegar Pringles are worth it in my book.
The group then headed to the spot where the SAS shuttle was to pick everyone up at 8 PM. We headed back to the ship tired, dirty, a bit wiser, and having been to Africa for the first time.