Saturday, August 29, 2009

Black Chinese

I have made three trips into Accra (the capital city) since my arrival at the Village of Hope. What should be about an hour drive usually takes about 2.5 hours due to the traffic. I should preface this story by saying that when a driver is going into Accra, they send everyone who has any business to take care with him. Therefore the truck always has more passengers than there is room. It is also safe to say that if you are going to Accra in the morning you will return until late in the evening.

I am not one to take Tylenol unless it’s necessary, but I learned very quickly that I should take a Tylenol before I even set foot in that truck. Sure enough my headache hit as soon as we pulled off campus. There were four of us adults crammed in the back of the pickup and there was a slight drizzle on the windshield (which the window wipers only succeeded to blur). The roads are full of potholes and speed bumps, and in Ghana when there is one speed bump there is 5. The driver always blares talk radio shows in Fante (the local tribal languages) which only accentuate my headache as we reach unpaved roads. Driving on these roads feels like someone grabbed hold of the truck and is shaking it up and down. I was gripping the seat in front of so as not to hit my head on the window or on the ceiling. (Dad, go ahead and take your Dramamine now!) There is no chance of reading on such drives, and my ipod is pointless as well. The driver’s radio is too loud for me to hear my own thoughts let alone my ipod. My only source of relief on such long drives is reading the business titles and logos stuck on cars. It is as if they all stand in line and draw a random english phrase out of a hat and then go slap it on their business. Some are religious phrases used to invoke blessings on their business. The rest I am sure they have no idea what they mean, because surely if they did they wouldn’t write it on their taxi or hair salon. These are a few of my personal favorites: Black Chinese (taxi), Onlookers are Worried (cell phone accessory stand), They Act As Lovers (junk shop), God Bless My Uncle Ent. (electronics), Sober Spot Drinking Garden, Enemies are not god (taxi),and Future is Unknown (chop bar).

Thursday the purpose of the trip to town was to extend my visa, along with two other Americans who also needed their visas extended. We didnt actually know we would be going into town that particular day to do that until someone showed up at our door at 8:00 and said let's go. As it stands now I am only permitted in the country for two months. We left at 10:00am and arrived at the Immigration office around 2:00pm. When we arrived we were given a form to fill out for visa extensions. We noticed that there was a spot for a passport photo but figured we could get by without one. Wrong. We were directed outside and across the street where some man had a passport photo station set up against the concrete wall. He had a plastic chair and a cloth draped over the wall as the background for the photo. We were cracking up laughing as he seated us, fixed our hair, and told us not to blink. He didn’t want us to smile, which made matters even worse. We could not stop laughing at how ridiculous the situation was. We finally received our expensive photos and returned to the office. We were then informed we had to a have a photocopy of our return flight itinerary. Lucky for us, there was some woman with a copy machine stand set up right outside as well. I think they were just inventing ways to get more money out of us. I didn’t have a copy of my flight with me, so I was unable to complete my visa extension and will have to return later to go through the whole process again. Boo.

The driver had been promising me for a week that he would take me to a village to buy good pineapple, so he took me on the way back to VOH. (the only pineapple in Fetteh is the yellow kind, and I love the white kind). We pulled up to the stand and they announced the prices of various sizes: 5 cedis, 2 cedis, 1 cedi. I thought they seemed expensive for Ghanaian pineapples, but decided to get 2 of the 2 cedi pineapples since we had driven out of the way. What I didn’t realize was that it was 2 cedis for the whole basket of pineapples that size. So, before I realized what was going on I ended up with 8 pineapples for 4 cedis! That is less than $3! I chopped up one and crawled in bed to enjoy my treat after a long day in the car.

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