This week I’ve started to feel more at home in my surroundings. I ventured out on my own on Tuesday and rode in my first tro-tro, followed quickly by my first taxi ride. I walked around my neighborhood several times this week and also experienced Nima, a nearby area of Ghana with a high level of poverty. Then I spent yesterday getting my hair braided.
For those non-Ghanaians who are wondering if I just made up this term, a tro-tro is a vehicle found in Ghana that is bigger than a taxi but smaller than a bus. Picture a 15 passenger van: now shrink its width and length a bit, but has more rows of seating in it. Beyond that, the quality of the tro-tro is a gamble and it’s hard to be picky when you don’t know when the next one is coming. So, I hopped into a relatively empty tro-tro and eyed the exposed wires on the ceiling, happy that everything still seemed to be intact.
At first I was almost giddy because I was so happy to be on board, after waiting over an hour for it, and was heading toward my destination. Plus, the ‘mate’, or driver’s helper who recruits passengers and takes their fares, didn’t overcharge me simply because I’m an Obruni. Then it started to fill up and, as is typical in Ghana, we got caught in traffic. At one point I counted 20 people on board; I’ve heard of more.
I also realized that, even though I knew the name of my destination, I had no idea what it looked like. Thankfully two women gave me directions and told me when to get off. From there I hailed a taxi and was able to quickly agree on a reasonable price, considering I was almost to my destination, Osu.
I didn’t take any pictures on this visit. I was told it would be better to take everything in at first. Plus, there’s a fine line that is hard to determine when it comes to photographing people’s everyday lives. It’s different when you’re in a touristy area where it’s almost expected, but here I did not want to offend.
Just as we started making our way down the road the sky opened up and a woman beckoned us under her tin roof. The rain quickly passed, though, and we were on our way again. The colors are what stood out to me the most. The homes and clothing contrasted the drab sky beautifully. And, even though the area is known for its poverty, happiness abounded. The residents had developed a sense of community that was palpable. I look forward to returning.
I’m enjoying walking around the neighborhood and discovering new areas. Already I’ve made friends with several shop owners. This evening I walked down a new road and took some pictures of the area. I especially like the chickens and goats that roam the streets; I may have already mentioned that!
I’ve been getting annoyed with my hair because it’s long and the wind just blows it all in my face. Which is not good when you’re trying to check out a new city! So yesterday I went to get my hair braided, figuring it would take four hours at most. Wrong. Try 9 hours. That’s what happens when you get extensions braided in with your hair.
I felt like I was on a makeover reality show, too, because the entire time I was facing the TV watching “En Nombre Del Amor”, Mexican telenovela. Five deaths, one pregnancy and lots of slapping/crying later, I faced the finished product. For the full effect, I took a before and after picture.