Firstly, I must describe what happened last night. Will and I went into a bar called ‘Republic’ in Osu – an area where many expats frequent. We were supposed to be meeting volunteer Maddy Thimont Jack as well as others but they were late.
We got a Tro to 37 and looked around for a drop taxi to take us to Oxford St as travelling by Tro is inadvisable at night-time as they often don’t have functioning headlights! We approached a pair of men standing by a taxi and asked the price of a ride to Oxford St. One of the men replied with ‘one –fifty’ which we took to mean ₵1.50. After dropping us off he stated that he had meant ₵15 and that we’d hired a private taxi! He had previously said that he would ‘drop’ us meaning he was operating a drop taxi. We were not best pleased and after futile attempts at renegotiation, we paid and left quickly.
We eventually found Republic after some vague directions from Maddy and sat down with a pint of Club lager which was ₵4 (£1.30 ish) which is extremely cheap by western standards. It was a very welcome refreshment and over the course of the night, we had five more each. We were quite drunk by the end.
After our first pint, I noticed that some other Obronis had arrived. Lucy, who I had previously met, arrived with American (and future leader) Kristine, Dane Karen, Germans Miriam and Anne and Brit Amy. It was such a good feeling to have finally met some other volunteers who I could talk to normally in a social situation. They are all lovely people and I’m looking forward to working with them.
Maddy arrived later with Dane Line, Dutch Karina and Frenchman Freddie.
Local celebrity Noella began singing and dancing on the stage for the bar’s promotional launch of South African lager, Windhoek (which tasted like a mixture of beer and sweat). She sang her own songs as well as covering Shakira’s Waka Waka, Rihanna, Cher and Tina Turner. Perhaps her best and certainly most memorable song was ‘I need a man to rock my body which was catchy and got everyone dancing!
During her dance routine lots of people, nearly everyone who wasn’t white, began Azonto dancing which seems to be something that every Ghanaian is born with the ability to do. I hope that isn’t a generalisation it’s just that every Ghanaian I have met in a social situation has had good rhythm! I felt mesmerised by the dancers in the street; you just wouldn’t get this sort of experience in Britain. Even one Irish guy joined Noella on stage and made Obronis everywhere proud with his moves.
Last night we also met a guy who the girls believe is their personal bouncer. He gets them into clubs for free and stuff too. He introduced himself quite seriously as ‘Sexy Monkey’ and he seems really cool. We’re going out again tonight so hopefully I will get more chance to talk to him and the others.
Will and I went home at 01.00 at went straight to bed.
Coming in at that time proved costly as I woke up at 6 having only had four hours sleep. We decided last night that we would accompany the other volunteers to the Arts Centre in town which was an interesting experience. We got a taxi from Bernice’s friend Kojo who took us straight to the market for ₵10.
As soon as we got out of the taxi, literally the second we got out, vendors swarmed towards us trying to coax us to go and visit their shops, which all sold very similar things. We obliged, being newbies, amd were treated to an African drumming lesson. We didn’t buy anything at this shop but lied by telling them we’d return later after meeting our friends. We left this shop and immediately attracted more attention. After traipsing around following the friendly (at first) Ghanaians we got fed up and got a drink in the ‘Akwaaba Restaurant.’ We thought we’d be safe n here from eager vendors whilst we waited for Miriam and Maddy’s groups. We were wrong and were approached by four men on separate occasions in the space of 30 minutes! Their stories ranged from having many siblings to Rastafarianism and were interesting but possibly under the pretences of a selling us things.
We soon realised that we were the only actual customers in the whole, huge market. In a conversation with a vendor I discovered that genuine customers were hard to come by and competition between vendors was fierce. I suppose this was the reason we were pestered so vehemently.
It was a positive experience however as you quickly learn how to say no and how to haggle for a decent and fair price. For example I managed to get a beautiful painting down to ₵20 from ₵70. Admittedly, vendors purposefully quote high prices in order to get the best possible price for them. They expect customers to haggle with them. I still walked away from the transaction happy that I had bargained successfully on my first real day trip to the city without an escort.
I also bought a Ghanaian flag from the same vendor which Will managed to get for ₵10.
We decided to leave the market as there is only so much pressure you can take from sellers. On our way out we were offered some weed which we politely but strongly rejected. As we got into the taxi to Oxford St for lunch, we encountered the men that we’d lied to and let’s just say they were not very friendly.
We got to Oxford St and were again mobbed by vendors who refused to let us leave until we looked at what they were selling. This was extremely frustrating and four men shouting at me about different things was offputting. One of these men attempted to sell me another painting for ₵40 which was never going to happen. When I refused to pay he said I could have it for free if I gave him some ‘encouragement from the heart’. He meant he wanted money! I managed to shake him off and made to leave and was again stopped by a man named Frank and a boy of a supposed 15 years of age. He was making me a string bracelet with my name on in the colour of the Ghana flag. What I hadn’t realised was that when I wrote my name on a piece of card in the initial confusion, this boy had copied it onto the plastic board and was now half way through completing it. He was impressively nimble-fingered and had finished in very little time but as I had not asked for him to make it, I refused to pay for it.
He then told me that as his ‘brother’ – its all very family orientated here – I had to support this 15 year old urchin. Will had already walked down the road in protest as I was being held by this couple. Eventually I got the band for free after his third attempt as asking for ‘encouragement’ failed.
I managed to escape and we hurriedly made our way to Asanka’s local chop bar where Andi had taken us on our respective inductions. We were excited to find that Andi was there with a new volunteer, Kate Budzynski. We had previously spoken about the trip on Facebook before we came so we recognised eachother.
We ate lunch with these two; Will and I both ate fried rice and chicken and some water and fruit juice from ‘Don Simon.’ I need to remember to buy it in England. Andi had to go back to Circle to pick up Kate’s phone which she had left at Vodafone so we waited in the chop bar with her until he returned an hour later. This gave us chance to get to know Kate.
We are going out tonight so I will continue this entry tomorrow.