By: Cassndra Diane
AFRICANGLOBE – As with life on the planet, there is always “good news” and “bad news”…and the Motherland is no exception. In all actuality, there IS nothing terribly bad to report but EVERYthing can’t be great about ANYthing.
Here’s the bad news first, as not to leave an un-fruity taste in your mouth at the end.
Coming from the richly abundant America the Beautiful and Convenient, everyday living in the Motherland has its challenges. The culture is modernizing swiftly with home appliances available at high-rise department stores, but these labor-saving equipments are not the “norm” and are ruthlessly expensive.
Clothes-washing is done by hand, either by YOU or someone in your hire – as is the dishwashing and cleaning! Our first house at Gold and Diamond Streets was a fully-furnished castle of a house advertising all of the modern conveniences of “home.” We were comforted that the description included an automatic washer and clothes dryer. Upon arrival, we recognized the nice heavy-duty washer, but were mildly peeved to find an indoor folding clothes rack made of wood with dowels on which to hang our wet laundry as being the “clothes dryer” they’d promised.
In Ghana, there is no recourse for slightly stretching the truth in advertising – our first lesson in “assumptions in Africa.”
Our next unexpected revelation was “load shed.” This is when your electricity gets turned off for scheduled lengths of time in order to accommodate the demand for power throughout the land. Every area of the city – and country – gets its turn being in the dark for 6 to 12 hours on alternating days throughout the week: off in the morning, on in the evening; on the next day; then off again the following evening, on the next morning and so on and so on eternally.
I guess we should count our blessings because in SOME neighboring countries, they only get lights on during the four hours between 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EVERY day. Our outages, however, do not include the unscheduled, unexpected and unwelcome “faults” we experience when there is a breakdown of equipment or the electricity plant catching afire – which is all too often. During a fault, we have been without power for as many as eight days! Sigh. Well, “Dis be Ghana,” as they say.
Bartering is king! Getting a fair price from the merchants in the markets directly depends on your auctioneering expertise. Unfailingly, upon hearing our “foreign” accent, the price of their wares increases at least 200 percent.
Just like the social security benefits applications office, you MUST refuse the first request! Make YOUR offer next and be sure to go low. On cue, the merchant will proceed to meet you halfway, wherein the bargaining process – which can often take some hard finagling – will garner each of you a happy medium.
A New Chapter
Now, for the “good news”: basically, EVERYTHING else! Ghana is Sankofa – “back to our roots” – when time ticked slowly, allowing us to savor life. Once I accepted the fact that living here is a new chapter in our Book of Life – unlike and incomparable to anything else we’ve ever imagined – I began to get comfortable for this extraordinary ride.
In my whole born days, I have never experienced the kind of reverent respect that we receive from the young people here in paradise. I always find myself reciprocating as the children I meet on the streets pause to curtsy or bow and greet me as “Madame,” making my day so very special.
They hunger and thirst for education – for which they have to pay – and make no qualms about asking for your help in obtaining it. They work hard, rising each morning to do family chores before going off to school and on weekends, knocking on doors asking for yard or laundry jobs. Yet their laughter permeates the peaceful air and their joys sparkle like embers in the night!
Computers shut down, phone batteries die, food spoils and ceiling fans cease to twirl during these fierce electrical outages, but I have learned to “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” Amazingly, I always discover something to do when I am abruptly torn from Facebooking and emailing.
I finally find time to catch up on some reading or do a little writing (with a pencil and paper for a change) or cleaning out the refrigerator or straightening underneath the cabinets or painting sea shells or working in the garden or playing chess with Baby or taking long walks or short naps or hanging out with family and neighbors who congregate on our front porch to share in these dark moments or just chilling out for a much-needed hiatus. Everything happens for a reason…even load shed.
The cost of living here is well under that of “waaaaaaaaaaay over yonder ‘cross the water.” Although inflation happens to us all, everything from building a house to getting your hair “did” is extremely economical. The US dollar vs. Ghana cedi currency exchange rate today is one dollar equals 3.59 Ghana cedis. That’s a pretty good bang for your buck!
Yep, as with the world, there is the good, the bad and the ugly here in Eden. I am becoming more and more immune to the snafus of daily maintenance. I warmly welcome the firm biceps and triceps I get from hand-washing, rinsing and hanging up clothes. I am learning the language and perfecting my Ghanaian accent when saying in Twi, “Wa ye sen?” (“How much is this?”) and “Te so” (REDUCE IT!!) and I certainly have a much better understanding of reading between the lines…AND in the dark.
Summing it all up at this point, I strongly concur with the local saying, “A bad day in Ghana is better than a good day ANYwhere else”.
In my best African tone and worst Louisiana twang, “Me daa si” (“Thanks”) for joining me and “Merekoo aba” (“I will return”) if the Lord says the same and the creek don’t rise.