Accra Quest 13 June 2008


Lenore, another 50+ PCT, said that the PC was doing our intro to Ghana just right. I agree.  We are being introduced small small(Ghaneese), one step at a time.  Today we went on Accra Quest. We caught a tro tro from our lodgings in Accra.  Tro Tros are a form of public transportion run by private individuals. They are basically minivans.  The PC tells us we should inspect any vehicle we are considering riding in to make sure it is in good condition.  And if it looks unsafe we are not supposed to get on it.  Well that is theory but in real life you stand at a tro tro stop and yell out where you want to go. They stop and herd you on and off you go.  They are old. They are run down. The seats are sometimes ripped but they run ok for the short distances we take them.


We set out in groups of threes, with a task and 3 Ghana Cedes each. My groups task was to find the price of a two yard.  Some day I will write of the joys of a two yard. it is amazing! We were charged to get to the main part of Accra ourselves. Meg, Steffan and I headed out to the road to catch atro tro. There is a driver and a mate in the tro tro. The mate hangs out a window making hand signs and yelling the final destination. I figure the hand signs have something to do with the destination.  Then you yell back your destination, if you don’t want to go to the final destination.  We yelled Accra 37 station.  Then mate helps you board and sometime during the ride takes your money. The price for a tro tro ride is not negiable, unlike most things in Ghana. 


The ride was crowded and loud. The mate yelling the destination. The driver honking at perspective riders or other tro tro drivers. Tro tro drivers could easily make it as NYC taxi drivers!  And the unwelcome of  sound of cell phones musically alertng the owner to a call or a text message. Cell phones are everywhere!


All the windows are open as you drive and as long as you move its not too hot. The best thing about tro tro windows are the people outside the windows.  Rachel, one of the volunteers who is a trainer, said ‘It’s amazing the things you can buy off peoples heads”.  People walk aloing busy roads with boxes, plastic tubs or even ice boxes on their heads selling stuff to people in the slow traffic.  Yesterday I bought Fanchoco, frozen chocolate milk and pine nuts. I shared the pinenuts with the other PCTs but they let me have the Fanchoco because they all knew I was cravng sweets. 


Our assignment was to go to Makola Market and find some “Obruni Wayroo” and the price of a two yard of batik. The first part of our assignment was completed as we waited out a downpour in a bank lobby.  The rain usually does not last long and shopkeepers let people come in out of the rain. In the banke we struck up a conversation with two men who lived in Accra. Stephan asked what “Obruni Wayroo” was.  After much repetiton and pantomime we discovered it meanse “dead white people’s clothes”  The Africans think that the clothes they get from America must be dead men’s clothes because who else would give away such nice clothes!  They assured us it was not an insult. One man shyly asked if it were true. Do we send dead men’s clothes to Africa.  I explained that some of the clothes could be dead men’s clothes but also Americans have way too many clothes so we dash them to you.  A dash is a gift.  He laughed probably as much at me using the term dash as at the idea that people would give away so many clothes.


Our second assignment was completed after the rain in the market. The market covers a large part of the city and pather lined with stalls wind all through the area.  Each section of the market sells something different, vegetables, meet, fish, plastic wear, drinks, or cloth. Shopkeepers called out to us as we walked by “Come come buy”.  They would extend their hand and close the fingers back towards themselves.  Now I know that means come here it’s like our come here hand signal except the hand is palm down. We did stop and talk to a few shopkeepers They were very interested in us, where did we come from? Why were we here? One woman and I talked about palm nuts and all the uses of palm nuts. 


With the help of many people we finally found the fabric area of Makola Market.  I visited two shops and go a green and brown patterned two yard for two Ghana Cedes.  (1 Ghana Cede is a little more than an American dollar as of July 6th.) After visiting a few more shops Steffan scored three yards for 6 Ghana Cedes.


It looks like there is no building code in Ghana or it is not enforced.  The stalls are little more than a few boards and a roof to make some shade. Some of the stalls have tin roofs and even some have tin sides but here in the hot sun tin is not that cool. I will take photos I promise so you can see some examples. I am being very careful about taking out my electronics. I will probably take my camera out in my village in a few weeks then post some photos to my flickr account. I do want photos of my first home in Ghana and my first ‘family’.


As Lenor said they are guiding us step by step into Ghanian culture.  Beside using the Tro Tro and shopping in the market we also learned that almost anyone on the street will help us find   things.  One man boarded a tro tro with us and took us to Makola market. Another woman lead us to a tro tro station.  We asked one man where we could eat our bag lunches and he took us to Accra Polytech’s dining room and told the matron we would be eating there. What a difference from New Yorkers who might say “What do I look like lady, a map!” accompanied with and inpolite gesture.


Meg Steffan and I found our way back to the PC Office in Accra where we were all debriefed. And of course another round of shots from the PCMO(PC Medical Officer)  A long ride home in the PC van.  Dinner. Packing for vision quest and yet another meeting then at last


sweet sweet bed!



Everything people said to me about the Ghanian people has proven true. They are friendly. The are warm and hospitable. After Accra Quest I would not hesitate to ask a stranger for help.


The market facinated me. Women and their children working in their market stalls. Friends were chatting together across the path and down the stalls.  The red palm nust,the bunches of orange carrots, the rough brown yams, the black and white Ashanti cloth,the multicolored batiks and the yellow scarves all added to the tapestry of the market.


I was glad I was with other people.  At time I felt bold and eager to try to communicate with the shopkeepers and at other times I was happy to let one of the others do it.  Sometimes I just wanted to observe as well.



1 Comment

  1. Danielle said,

    July 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Sounds Amazing! It is great to hear these descriptions!

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