Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ghanaian Hospitality

“Ghanaian Hospitality” is a phrase that I have thrown around a fair bit since I started writing these blogs. Our homestay mother Bernice shows us what it means to be hospitable every day, as does just about everyone else we meet. But this weekend in particular, as I wandered around Accra by myself as a big-eyed, directionally-challenged foreigner, the outcomes of my travels were invariably positive only because of the many, many strangers that took time out of their day to help me. The end result of the weekend: I made it back in one piece to greet Sarah and Caroline with Ghanaian hair braids, a smile on my face, and a giant pizza when they arrived in Accra =) (see below).

So, I will use this blog to say “meda ase” (thank-you), for all the simple acts of kindness, and the people who did them, that I can remember receiving this week – I hope that it will paint a clear picture of the daily generosity that keeps us smiling and mostly comfortable in a country so different from our own.

1. Juli, the hair lady I met on the stairs by Kaneshi market while on a quest to get my hair braided on a Sunday – this is quite difficult because most people close to go to Church. She happened to be working, but all the bigger hair salons that stock coloured hair extensions were closed ; the single hair ladies usually just have black extensions. Juli walked with me all around Kaneshi market, going to each of the hair places looking for hair extensions. When she couldn’t find any in Kaneshi, she took me on a tro-tro back to her home village and went to a friend’s salon to buy them. Then she braided my hair right then and there at her house! When we were finished, she insisted on taking a tro-tro with me back to Kaneshie market, where she found me a tro-tro back to where I live.

2. Mercy, Juli’s grownup daughter. As Juli was braiding, Mercy left what she was doing to come down and neaten my hair braids for me so that we would finish faster, cutting the stray hair extensions so that my braids looked nice and smooth. I know that she did a great job, because some of the Ghanaians at work commented on how smooth they were.

3. An acquaintance of Juli’s in the market. He let her use his phone for free so she could call around to find out who would have the hair extensions we were seeking.

4. The “mate” (individual who works on the tro-tro collecting fairs and yelling out the destinations) at 37. He left his tro-tro to walk with me to where I could catch a tro-tro to Kaneshi market, just outside of 37 station.

5. The mate that “dashed” me – to “dash” is to pay someone else’s fare for the tro-tro (or in this case, waive the fare) as a chivalrous, romatic gesture.

6. The lady that was going back to my home village in the same tro-tro I was. When the tro-tro mate randomly decided he didn’t actually want to go that far anymore, she bartered for both of our fares back, then took me by the arm and moved us to another tro-tro that was going in the right direction.

7. The girl with the beautiful name that I can no longer remember. As I was trying to navigate to a friend’s house in Haatso by describing nearby landmarks (since Ghana generally does not have street signs), she got in the taxi with us to show the taxi driver where the landmark was. When she found out that I was seeking a friend’s house, she kindly took me straight to the only house in the area where white people lived – and it was the right one!

8. Bernice, who kindly let Caroline and Sarah stay over yesterday night. “Of course!” she said, “you’re family now”.

9. Sophie, Bernice’s sister. When she heard that the seamstress up the road was trying to overcharge me, she took me to her own seamstress and bargained the price down for me.

10. Theo, the secretary at KITE. Somehow, the day after I told a friend in the office that my favourite food was Red Red (a vegetarian dish with fried plantain, black-eyed peas and groundnut oil), it magically appeared on the lunch menu the next day. Coincidence? I think not.

RED RED! So Yummy!

11. Jackie, who also works at KITE. She both invited me to a wedding she was going to so that I would have the chance to experience her culture better, AND offered to make me a dress if I could acquire my measurements. All in one day.

12. Paula, who also works at KITE. She has patiently answered every question I have asked her with a smile (How do taxes work in Ghana? Does Ghana have a commodity index? What’s the best way to contact NGOs? How much should I pay to get my hair braided? How do you say in Twi?....) .

13. Amanda, Davina’s housemate, who offered to come back with me to the market to keep me company while I got my hair braided – even though it takes 3-5 hours!

14. Loretta and Amanda, both Davina’s housemates, who frequently take extremely inconvenient routes so that I am not taxiing alone at night.

15. All the ladies on the road back from work who are teaching me Twi one phrase at a time.

16. The many,many people who are currently trying to save my soul with the love of Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

  1. excellent post Heather! thanks for sharing these wonderful moments of hospitality.