Our first few weeks in Ghana have been wild. Every time we step from our apartment out into the streets, it’s an adventure. Even a standard trip to the grocery store is usually an odyssey filled with bizarre sights, new friends, and at least ten stories I want tell everyone back home about. We’ve definitely been here long enough to make some good first impressions, and as we travel more widely throughout the country in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how these evolve.
Mike: Our visit to the Jamestown Gbekekii School, where the kids just mobbed us with their joyful and exuberant chaos. We felt so many different emotions during our time there: sadness at the state of the school, hope from the kids’ willingness to learn, frustration from the conditions under which they operate, and inspiration from the teachers who struggle on in the face of so much adversity. It was an experience we’ll never forget.
Jürgen: Setting foot for the first time in a country south of the Sahara will be forever etched onto my brain. Just walking around our neighborhood on our first evening left a huge impression on me: the people, smells, foods and traffic. It was overwhelming and wonderful at the same time.
Mike: For me, nothing beats red-red, which is a dish of black-eyed peas cooked in red palm oil, seasoned with onions and garlic, and usually topped with a bit of gari (ground cassava root). It can be served alongside fish or chicken, but my favorite is with fried plantains.
Jürgen: I love Gari Fortor. It’s similar in flavor to some other dishes. But I especially like this one because it’s beautiful to look at. Made of ground cassava root, with spices and onions, it’s often pressed into a form and then flipped onto a plate and garnished with fried egg, vegetables and pate.
Mike: It’s awful to say, but I was most surprised by how safe I’ve felt in Ghana. Having never been to Africa, I had only heard negative stories… these are the ones our media in Europe and the USA tend to share. Violence, AIDS, wars, famine, coups, etc. That’s, like, all we’re told about Africa. So, the fact that Ghana was safe was a surprise. In fact, I feel considerably safer walking around here at night, than I do back in the US!
Jürgen: Ghanaians are either extremely polite or they simply don’t register skin color. In many other non-white countries, people have laughed, or pointed fingers at us when we get on the bus, for example. Not here though. No double-take, nothing. Little kids though, can’t resist pointing out our presence with a happy shout of “Obruni”, which means white man.
Mike: It’s been frustrating to find Accra’s most iconic sights closed for business. From the Jamestown Lighthouse, to Ussher Fort, to the National Museum, the story is always the same. They’re all “closed for renovations”, though it’s totally obvious that no such renovations are on-going. But hey, there’s always a pushy guide there offering to give you a tour of the closed facility, so don’t feel abandoned; you’ll still have a chance to waste some money!
Jürgen: The pollution, and I’m not putting that on the locals, but rather the industries selling all the plastics without offering an ecological solution to recycle or eliminate non-compostable trash. Even worse though, is the shame I felt when I found out about the “Green eWaste” programs which countries like Germany operate, “recycling” their electronic equipment by dumping it in Ghana. More about that though later.
Mike: I have quite a list, but the weirdest thing for me is the Ghanaian propensity to just whip it out and pee anywhere, right in front of people. They don’t care. Nudity in general doesn’t seem to be taboo, and I’ve seen too many bits and pieces to count, in just a few weeks. I don’t really care, but it’s crazy to be facing some dude, literally a few feet away, and … yep. I see what you’re doing there! Enjoy yourself, and good day!
Jürgen: Not so much “funny” but cute… A few times, I’ve had a toddler spot me from some distance. Their eyes light up, and they run straight at me, headfirst into a big, heartfelt hug on my legs. Then they’ll run off again. It’s confusing, but I appreciate it!
How Expensive (Scale of 1 – 10)
Mike: 3. Ghana can be super-cheap, but it’s not always the case. There seem to be two tiers of pricing, and I think it’s because people are either quite poor, or very affluent, with almost no middle class. So you can get a full lunch on the streets for $0.80, and then walk straight into the air-conditioned cafe where a coffee can be over $4. It all seems designed to keep people separated by class.
Jürgen: 4. Everything apart from lodging is very affordable. And even more so, when you eat and travel like the locals do. Things like co-working places are oddly very expensive, more than back home.
People from Ghana Are…
Mike: The word I keep coming when meeting new Ghanaians is “cool”. The people here are just so cool… they’re friendly and welcoming, but not at all subservient or fawning over the foreigner. They’re simply normal: nice to talk to, interesting and funny. They’re also so unbothered by race, it’s almost unbelievable.
Jürgen: Incredibly friendly and helpful. We’ve never met so many nice people in such a short time, nor had so many interesting conversations with locals. For example, they’ll go totally out of their way to help with directions.
Ghana in Three Words
Mike: Welcoming, Exhilarating, Different
Jürgen: Fufu, Church, Coconuts