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Reflections on a Year in Accra, Ghana

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By Avery, YES Abroad 2011-2012, Ghana

Public Transport – In some U.S. cities, getting around town without a car can be difficult. Ghana has a great setup with its Metro Mass buses and trotros. The buses cost anywhere from $4 to $12 to go between cities, and are fast and efficient. Our 5 hour bus ride from Takoradi to Accra cost us only $4 each. Each bus seats over 50, and usually takes under half an hour to fill up. Trotros can be used to travel both short and long distance, but tend to be expensive for long distances. Short distances – they’re great. It usually takes under five minutes to get a trotro from the roadside, and trotro stations hold hundreds of cars going nearly to every destination (you just wait for the car to fill up). With trotros, I can get anywhere in Accra for under $2.

Local Brown Rice – By far, this is my favorite thing to eat in Ghana. It takes hours to remove all the stones and cook it well, but it is well worth the time spent. The rice is perfectly plump, tender, and has a unique earthy taste. I definitely need to figure out how to ship some rice home to America…

Alvaro – First introduced to Africa in 2007 by the Coca Cola Company, this malt based non-alcoholic soft drink is outstanding! It’s available in three flavors: pear, pineapple, and passionfruit – with my favorite being the latter. It’s light and refreshing; at $1 per bottle it is my favorite Ghanaian soft drink (although coconuts still win overall).

‘Obruni’ Calls– No matter where I go, I receive endless calls of ‘Obruni’. It’s endearing to hear from children, although it admittedly can get old quickly. I attract attention wherever I go; it’s strange to think that when I return home, it’s back to being ‘one in 300,000,000.’ I have mixed feelings about being called ‘obruni.’ I realize that I may be the only white person for miles around, but does it really need to be expressed out loud? Ghanaians love it when I call them ‘Obibinis,” but is it morally correct to take part in referring to people by the color of their skin? I realize it’s tradition, but it still feels awkward and clumsy. Am I being an oversensitive American? Something interesting to think about…

The Clothing - Ghana has some of the best fashion in the world. Even though young Ghanaians often look towards the Western world for the latest fashion trends, in my mind the traditional prints are far superior!

Conversations with Strangers – While some people in the U.S. chat with strangers in the supermarket or while waiting on lines, it’s nowhere near the extent of how much I talk with strangers in Ghana. When I go out, I say, “Good morning/afternoon/evening (maakye/maaha, maadwo) to everyone I see along the road. People will always respond by asking how I am, and I usually wind up having lengthy conversations. These conversations often repeat, and I have many good acquaintances that I talk to whenever I go out (Mr. Kebab Man, Wood Shop Guys, Mrs. Yam Seller, and Ms. Cute Old Toothless Woman)