October 7, 2009

I Spy With My Little Eye

As I walk down the side of the street, on the makeshift dirt sidewalk, trying to avoid slipping into the sewer trenches below, I spy with my little eye:

- A man blowing a horn and pushing a cart full of homemade pastries for sale
- A young woman sitting at an MTN kiosk selling minutes so you can 'top up' your mobile
- An older woman with her child selling vegetables and peanuts beneath an awning
- Construction workers renovating a concrete home
- Signs that read Amazing Grace Butchery
- A man sawing a rectangular hole in the middle of a wall
- Several taxis frantically honking and smacking at me for my attention
- A man on a bicycle, shouting, "Obruni!"
- A woman carrying a large blue tub upon her head filled with bagged up goodies for sale
- A woman on the side of the road with her pots and pans selling a traditional lunch to local businessmen
- A gentleman in a suit peeing in the gutter
- Young children dressed in school uniforms buying frozen yogurt in the hot afternoon sun
- Hundreds of small plastic bags once filled with fresh water strewn about the street and sewers
- Young men sitting on makeshift skateboards, their legs folded up, weaving in and out of traffic, begging for change
- An older man, a refugee from Chad, asking for some help
- Trucks loaded with large speakers, roaming the streets, blaring music, CD's for sale
- Nice cars, Mercedes, VW's, Toyotas racing down the street, abiding by no traffic laws
- A man carrying a large wooden tray full of sunglasses
- A man asking me if I want to purchase a small table, "Sister, I make you a good price!"
- A gentleman who claims to have taken Obama around the city when he came to Ghana. Who knows a lot about California and our Governator but whose pants appear to be falling down

What I do not spy with my little eye are street names. Or rather they may be there but nobody acknowledges them. It has proven quite challenging to make one's way around the city of Accra because of this. Say you are new and don't know your way around and wish to go to a specific restaurant you found in your Bradt guidebook. When trying to explain to the taxi driver the name of the restaurant he asks, where is it located? Being new to the area, you look at your printed map and spit out a few street names. He asks what is it next to? Is it next to such and such building, is it near the Police Station, the GLS building, the Novahill Hotel???? Ugh....unknown. So you get in and figure it out together.

Try pulling up Google maps for anything in Accra and it always puts the marker smack dab in the middle of the city.

Over time it gets easier, you learn where things are and you adapt.

1 comment:

  1. "- Signs that read Amazing Grace Butchery"

    Amazing irony. ;o) It's fascinating to me how Ghanians have integrated "Christianese" into their daily lexicon. The other signs you found were entertaining: "In Him I Trust Nail Clinic" and the "Abundance Grace" market. :o)

    "What I do not spy with my little eye are street names...
    "He asks what is it next to? Is it next to such and such building, is it near the Police Station, the GLS building, the Novahill Hotel????"

    Curiously, the industrialized nation of Japan is the same way. Some street names are printed on plaques of various styles embedded in the walls of street-corner buildings. But people prefer to give directions by referencing buildings and landmarks as waypoints. It's remarkable.