Sunday, April 18, 2010

Moments Only to be seen In Ghana

The BBC had this feature called "Only in Africa" which had amusing tales of uncanny encounters from across the continent. At first I thought it would be denigrating and full of stereotypes but I ended finding it quite entertaining.

The feature reminded me of when I first came to Ghana to live and everyday encounters were 'Only in Ghana' moments. Some left me amused, perplexed and others downright disturbed! Although these moments have become second nature now, a few new gems have come up recently: 

1. A puzzle that defies logic

You are working late on some mundane task with a young man who hasn't eaten all day.  The nearest  eatery is situated a 10 minute walking distance away. The hungry young man opts to head over to the eatery. You  decide to help out and hand over your car keys. This would also speed up the process and allow you to leave  earlier. The young man sets off. He returns to the office 45 minutes later!

2. Beware: our approach to punctuality MAY be contagious!
The other week I had a meeting scheduled for 2 pm on a
Friday with a young gentleman of Asian persuasion. Around 1:55pm on the day of the meeting, I get a text message from him saying he was coming from the beautiful port city of Tema (about 30 minutes by road) so would be running late due to traffic. I then call up the young man only to find he hadn't left Tema  yet (at 1:57pm) for a meeting in Accra at 2:00pm! Eventually, we rescheduled the appointment for 2pm on another day. On that day, the young'un shows up at 3:15pm with a barrel full of excuses! Later I found out he has lived in Ghana for 6 years. This got me thinking; is our rather flexible approach to punctuality infectious?
3. Planes, trains and fear of the witches
Some individuals in Ghana are mysteriously hesitant to tell you when they are planning on traveling abroad. I have always joked that people don't like to announce their travel plans lest they be jinxed , cursed or literally have planes blocked by witches flying alongside on their broomsticks. I'm beginning to think I may be right!
Just last week I was looking for a young lady who  occasionally works on our research project to discuss an upcoming field trip. She was nowhere to be found. She was last seen doing some "Bumper to Bumper" moves at our office retreat so I figured she may have taken ill during Easter. Turns out Sister-girl had boarded a plane and had jetted out of GH indefinitely two days after the retreat! Well, if she ever comes to me for a recommendation letter, I would definitely have to put down  somewhere "...displayed an inability to articulate her future plans".

4. Riding in cars with Policemen + Machine guns
Have you ever seen a Ghanaian policeman with semi-automatic rifle flag down a commercial vehicle (trotro) at a busy bus-stop in Accra? Chances are our man in blue is not  out to inspect brakes, check passenger satisfaction or glance through vehicle papers. Most likely, he's out to hitch a ride! If that's the case, our policeman and his machine gun are given 'special passenger status' up in front with the driver. I'm quite certain most of these rides are free. After all, who would like to ask a fully-armed policeman for 50 pesewas in fare? Besides, he may just start inspecting brakes, check passenger satisfaction or glancing through vehicle papers.
5. Taxis that defy understanding. 
Please consider the two following equations: 
*Taxi  -  Passengers = Dangerously slow-moving obstacle on the road travelling at 15km/hour
*Taxi + Passengers = Possessed hell hound dangerously weaving through traffic travelling at 80km/hr
If you try adding Passengers and then subtracting Passengers to the same equation, all you get is a stationary taxi. That's probably the safest taxi to have!

6. Grumblings at the Visa Centre
Speaking of punctuality and jet planes, I recently went to pick up my passport from one of those Schengen Visa centres. I got there 30 minutes early only to find EVERYBODY else had already assembled there anxiously. The centre started calling names 5 minutes late causing the masses to grumble. So the only time we observe time rigidly is when it has something to do with leaving/escaping form Ghana??! *Sigh* You would thinking we are living in Saigon in 1975 and the Viet Cong are approaching the city! 

*Sigh* All these scenarios could happen anywhere in the World but alas, I've experienced them "Only in Ghana". Do you have any to share? 

DISCLAIMER: This post is in no way meant to tarnish or denigrate the image of  the warm, beautiful, vibrant country that is Ghana. I have many "Only in New York" moments to share but I feel these may traumatise and permanently scar my readers. 


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I always enjoy reading your writings and they are always spot-on.

Sankofa said...

This was hilarious! I 100% agree with everything and I'm CERTAIN GMT (Ghana Man Time) is contagious. You couldn't be more correct about the taxi equation.

This has given me a good chuckle this morning.

Jemila said...

Haha! So true! And to think I'm eager to come back to all of it. No place like home. lol

Kwegyirba said...

Hahaha. Can't stop laughing at your taxi equation. But it's so damn true!

Abena Serwaa said...

@Nana Fredua-Agyeman: Thank you! I totally don't strive to be spot-on though ;)

@Sankofa: Indeed GMT is how we first I was not infected by GMT but after a while I started to give in!

@Jemila: *LOL* There are pluses and minuses to living in the big GH. Indeed, love it or hate it, home is home...

@Kwegyirba: Good to see you back in the blogosphere. Just yesterday some slooooow taxi driver proved that the equation is quite accurate!

kekeli said...

Funny!! I agree, the Taxi thing is so true and the drivers beep their horn a million times in 1 minute.

Mike said...

me! me! me!
I've got one.
The walls in Gh where you see "POST NO BILL" are exactly where you see the most posters.

Abena Serwaa said...

@Kekeli lol! Took me a while to realise some drivers beep when they round corners and reach intersections. Its like a noise pollution.

Abena Serwaa said...

Nice one @Mike! The 'post no bill' posters are classic.

Lara said...

Thought the time thing was peculiar to Nigerias, found your post really interesting

Nsoromma...Child of the Heavens said...

Only in GH indeed! And I have experienced the hell of Ghanaian's being on time which will permananetly scar me too! But this time it was when GH Airways decided to self-combust and I was stranded in Accra for two weeks after our holidays ended. People were so punctual the never left the airport! All other times everyone runs a minimum 2 hrs late! Ghanafuo paaaaaaaaaa!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Great post !