Off course, I must start with the Nigerians.
I was hanging out at the hotel lobby waiting my for my workmates so that we could head out to town for dinner and then a night out in the Accra clubs and this Nigerian girl (one of the participants in the training program) comes up to me and tells me, “you wearing flats? I say “yeah” somewhat bewildered as to what was the point of her observation on my footwear is and she says “oh, I assumed everybody goes dancing in heels”. I and I told her “please send me the ISO standard on footwear for every occasion”. In my head off course. Strange Nigerian.
On our flight back, due to a ticketing error, I was allocated the same seat as this dangerous looking Nigerian woman who had her brood of 3 children with her . I got seated on the plane before her and was just settling into my seat and looking for something to read when I notice Mrs. Nigeria with her brood in tow hovering over me and she asks me “What is your seat number?” and in my firmest boldest tone and shoulders straight (you know what they teach about intimidating your adversary with your body language) reply “8A” and show her my ticket. She then proceeds to inform me that she also has 8A and since my number is 08A, I must have the wrong seat. In addition, she cannot be separated from her brood. Therefore, I should vacate my seat and ask the flight attendant for another seat. Excuse me? I told her I aint moving an inch and she should be the one asking the flight attendant for an alternative seat. I then proceeded to pretend to read my book all along expecting a smack on my head. I have heard many things about Nigerians and I was ready with an attack and flee strategy. To cut to the chase, I got upgraded to business class, from where I am writing this. To the ignorant, business class and economy is the difference between driving a Nissan Wingroad and a Mercedes.
We landed in Accra at around 7pm and I was too tired to notice anything. I was pleasantly surprised though not to be hit by a wave of sweltering heat as I had been warned that West Africa is always boiling. On this night, it was breezy with just a hint of light humidity in the air. I was later informed that this is the coolest part of the year in Ghana and we had been lucky not to travel in the Harmattan. The season where lips crack, hair falls and skin burns from the wind and dry heat.
For breakfast, I ate (among other things of course), the sweetest mangoes and pineapples that I have had. I was later to learn that Ghana imports most of its food including pineapples and mangoes and the fruits I indulged in had been grown in some tiny west African country called Togo. Where is that again? It’s a total shame that Ghana , Africa’s rising star cannot grow pineapples and mangoes to nourish its people. And what’s with serving beans and rice for breakfast? Aish.
And the main dishes ? I had only read about jolof rice, gari , fufu and deep fried plantain in the Nigerian novels and never tasted these. I give it to them for variety . I also give it to them for peppering everything. I was travelling with this group of Kenyans with very bland taste buds . Every taste of food was met with “too much pepper!”. And every time I heard this, I wanted to scream, shut up already and enjoy something different! One girl even said that pepper was making her nauseated. Seriously? How now? My favourite was the jolof rice and deep fried plantain. Oh, and they do sell peeled oranges on the streets. I thought Chimamanda had made that up in her novels. One Kenyan even asked, “how come they sell peeled oranges?” and I promptly replied “ because they understand the concept of after sales service”.
First trip to the Accra Mall and all I can see for at least 30 minutes is fleshy chunky chocolate coloured thighs of Ghanaian girls. From my extensive travels (in East Africa off course), they wear ridiculously short clothing. I bet you no one would walk on Nairobi’s streets in skirts that length without the layabouts baying for blood. Once I normalised and internalised those thighs ,the next thing that struck me was the African print. This country is obsessed with African print. Dresses, trousers, mens suits, purses, sofa cushions and even bikinis !
In this country, people go out to the mall to hang out. I don’t do that and I imagine most Kenyans don’t. I go to the mall to buy milk, buy medicine and take out cash from the ATM. Here, the girls in the African print mini dresses and the boys in the African print jackets – the Sauti Sol kind which I think is so fashionable– but then again, fashion is not one of my medals – go to the mall to hang out along the hallways with earphones in their ears as they sip on their soft drinks. Yes, like we see them do in the American movies.
Next thing I notice is the English. The average Ghanaian asking for directions will say ‘excuse me ma’am, which way to Independence Square?”. I bet you the average Kenyan does not even know the difference between “mum” and “ma’am”. Ghaniaans have a better grasp of the Queen’s language. Perhaps because English unifies all ethnic groups and they do not have a Kiswahili equivalent. Maybe, if we also did not have Kiswahili, we would have wider vocabulary.
Drive around Accra and they is a very Pan African atmosphere in the city. They are all these bigger than life (in its literary sense) portraits of prominent Africans. Off course starting with the father of the nation Kwame Nkurumah and others such as PLO Lumbumba and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. I don’t quite grasp what Pan Africanism stood for so I must save myself from that discussion as I do not want to loose your respect. Though someone did mention that it was African socialism.
The city is far cleaner that Nairobi. Traffic can build up though I don’t think any Nairobian got anything on the Acrra city residents as far as traffic goes. My good friend Mia, if you are reading this – I was wrong. The place that stirred something in me was the view of the Atlantic standing near the president’s residence and the Independence Square. If those slaves stowed away across the Atlantic had a chance to stand on the steps of the Independence Square overlooking the Atlantic, I’m sure they would surge with pride at the promise of Ghana (please visit
Accra also has a sense of art. There are artists and sculptors all across Accra running art exhibitions. For these many exhibitions, someone must buy the art. Sculptors of half-naked Nubians and abstract art do nothing for me. And it’s not for lack of trying. We went for an art exhibition and I spent 10 minutes searching for soul in the eyes of the half-naked Nubian woman and I was only left thinking “gee she must be cold standing with uncovered nipples all day long”. But then again, to each his own.