I've had some ideas percolating for a while. They're not necessarily related. At least I didn't think they were which is why I haven't written about them till now, but today It occured to me that they're all about life in Ghana, the highs and the ills. So i decided to write a piece in typical cosmo fashion entitled 5 ways to titillate your man till his toes curl. Just kidding. This piece is less exciting than that. What I actually want to share today are 5 things I love about living in Ghana and 5 things that I hate about living here.
Let's deal with the bad first
For two days in the past week, I think my dad forgot to spray my room with insecticide spray so I was under mosquito attack. With every bite, I dreaded that I would soon be coming down with malaria. In some ways, I miss malaria. No kidding. I haven't had it in so long that I think it wouldn't be so bad to get it so I can remember what it feels like. That's easy for me to say of course because I am not allergic to chloroquine so all I did whenever I got malaria in the past was to take my chloroquine course and presto! i'd be well again within 3 days. No big deal. So its not really the getting malaria part that I hate about mosquitos. It's the bites, how it itches, and the annoying buzzing, the droning, the wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee sounds the winged creatures make in my ears that I can't stand! Why did God make mosquitoes?
2. No Shopping
I've never really cared much for clothing shopping. I mostly shopped online when I was in the US, and thankfully, all clothes my size fit well. I don't have the trouble that many Ghanaian women do when they buy jeans and the hips fit but the waist is too loose. Hint, lose some of that behind. haha. But even if i'm not going to buy anything, it is nice to get up and go to the mall, try on some Lord and Taylor clothing, schlepp your boyfriend to victoria's secret, ogle lingerie and amuse yourself. I've always felt an odd sense of schadenfreude in such situations where I know i'm forcing the boy to come and he hates it, but i'm completely loving that even though he's uncomfortable i'm making him do it. haahaa. If you're a guy reading this, please tell us, do guys actually hate going to VS and shopping lingerie or do they just make like they don't like it? I think that if I were a guy, I'd love opportunities to go finger women's underwear, try on feminine scents like the amazing VS very sexy and angels perfumes and watch my girlfriend try on bras. What's not to love about that? But there's none of this in Ghana. I know someone is going to mention the paltry options we have at the A&C and Accra Malls but really, does that inspire anyone to dedicate a whole saturday to shopping?Also I miss Barnes and Noble. I miss bookstores that have a homey feel. It's not that shopping should be for imported stuff only, but the clothing made by Ghanaian designers are not for the average person's pocket. Nallem, one of the Ghanaian designers is selling clothes for GH 80 cedis, and his clothes aren't so many steps ahead in quality that the tailor in a kiosk somewhere in Ashale-Botwe can't make them, so one cannot exactly go clothing shopping for locally made Ghanaian clothes either.
I approached ghanaian-style laundry with enthusiasm, tried to be positive about it and see it as exercise. That attitude lasted two weeks, if that. The first time I washed, I had an allergic reaction to either the Omo or Brillant soap I used and the underside of my wrist became raw, itchy and sore by the time I was done with the laundry. What's really terrible is that in Ghana, it is hot, and I sweat (I'm not one of those women who perspire or glow or whatever, I sweat), and so I have to launder my clothes after I've worn them only once, and then if I pile up the laundry, it smells which means that the longest I can go without doing laundry is two weeks. It's not fun.
4. Nosy People
Ghanaians think they have a right to question a grown woman like me about why I don't go to church or why my hair is the way it is, or why I'm not married. All this prying and kvetching is making me rebellious. They seem to miss completely that I'm a 26 year old woman who owes them no explanations about why I don't go to church. It is especially irritating when you consider that they had no idea where I was or what happened to me in the past six years and never bothered to find out, and now they not only form an opinion about my hair but actually express it too. Hmph!
5. Potholes and Speed Ramps
Everywhere you go, speed ramps and potholes abound. I'm exaggerating but if you live at Ashale-Botwe, or Aben wO ha, or Madina, it sure feels that way. It's irksome to have to slow down so often to dodge potholes, negotiate them slowly or go over speed ramps. The frequent changing of gears kills me.
5 things I love about living in Ghana
1. People call me Woarabae
People in Ghana can pronounce my middle name, and they use it all the time. It is such a refreshing change from being just my first name and last name, neither of which is original or inspiring. But Woarabae, now that's at the very least interesting. And now that the original Woarabae has gone to the village ( i think they put stuff, and money in her coffin to help her cross the river that many Akans believe a person's soul crosses in order to get from our world to the next), I feel bound to keep the name alive.
2. Custom-Made Clothing
My aunt bought me 3 pieces of beautiful Ghanaian cloth (4 yards a piece), and then asked her seamstress to come to my house and take my measurements. I asked her to make me clothes that I'd seen in some Boston Proper catalogues that I brought along with me to Ghana from the US. I have no doubt that they clothes are going to turn out great and i'm going to end up with about 5 pieces of clothing all of it costing me no more than GH 60 cedis. That's pretty sweet.
3. Knowing People
Since I've been home, I don't think I've attended a single function without bumping into some old friend. It was such a great feeling to enter the "social center" (this is really a canteen) at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital today and know 90% of the medical students who came in while I was there eating or to go to the pharmacy to look for a friend, and the person I meet there is someone else I went to high school with, or to walk into Ecobank and see familiar faces all around. I received 3 calls this week from people I haven't spoken to in 8 years, and all because they happened to hear from someone that I was in Ghana, took my number and called me just to say hello, and be buddies again. And it doesn't even feel wierd. I don't think for a second that they're stalking me or worry that someone gave another person my number without first checking with me. I know these people, so even though I haven't seen them in so long, I'm excited to hear from them, and it feels good that they make the time to check on little old me.
4. Living well on GH 200 cedis
In the month of September, I had more fun than I have had in a long long time. I went out more times than I ever did in the US, and my total monthly expense- that is, the money that came from my own pocket -was a grand total of 200 cedis, which is equivalent to $200. The delights of living in Ghana! This does not include rent, or bills (Actually water and electricity cost very little), but still...
5. Random Acts of Kindness
During my first week at work, I mentioned in passing that I was hungry and a young engineer whom I hardly knew at the time brought me chinese food which he had in his car. I was floored! Why? Because I wouldn't have given my chinese food to a stranger who didn't even know I had food. I was so impressed and thankful and, I shared the food with one of our drivers who also shared his portion with two other people and the whole cycle of sharing that I witnessed was quite moving. Soon after, another old friend gave me two free tickets to a club, then yet another gave me tickets to a concert, and it seems as if it has been an unending cycle of giving. I mentioned earlier that my aunt bought me the pieces of cloth, and even a stranger paid my tro-tro fare for me one time from Madina to Ashale-Botwe. The fare cost 30 pesewas but I was so touched by it and thanked him effusively. I need to relearn how to give like that.