Alexis and Richard's adventures in Ghana travel blog

Health and safety in Accra!

Chatting while the stove warms up

Fanning the coals

Preparing lunch

Chop chop chop

Our new washing machine

Our lounge area


Our bedroom view - through the mosquito net


We’ve now been in Ghana a week and have been fully VSO orientated. One thing we’ve learnt the hard way is that Ghanaians have no concept of punctuality! Everything is done at a very slow pace and we’ve realised that when they say they’ll pick us up at 7.30 it means nearer 10. Frustrating at first but we are learning to embrace it and go with the flow!

We’ve been learning the local language Twi (pronounced shwee) which is quite tricky and doesn’t relate to any language patterns we’re used to. We’ve got the basics though and saying thank you and hello in Twi seems to please people. Although English is the national language, they don’t tend to speak it to each other.

Some current VSO volunteers turned up later on in the week and introduced us to local ‘spots’ (drinking places) and also let us loose on Makola market. We had a great time bartering for things and really starting to get a feel for the culture and people. We managed to barter and get some sandals down from 15 to 5 Ghana cedis – quite a bargain! Unlike markets in other countries, you are not hassled too much and are not pulled in all directions. Sellers are just happy to see you and want to chat or shake hands. We’re getting used to hearing ‘obruni, obruni!’ by children and some adults, meaning ‘white person’. Not an insult apparently, just unusual for them to see so they like to point us out.

Traffic is particularly bad in Accra and traffic jams tend to be the norm. There are lots of people selling food and drink on the road carrying them from car to car on their heads. They also wander along selling anything from footballs to Bob Marley framed drawings… always handy! People are always out on the streets in Accra, including very small children running around the streets, often barefoot, until late into the night. This was one of the things that started to highlight the big differences between developed and developing countries. There are plenty of open sewers around and it would be so easy for a child to fall in. That’s before you start thinking about the diseases that are spreading from the sewers and the malarial mosquitoes hovering over them. However, Accra does feel safe and people always seem happy to help you if you ask. Drivers are very erratic here and journeys are hair raising! The driver will often have to slam on his breaks for the odd goat or chicken that has wandered onto the main dual carriageway. Seatbelts aren’t widely used so we try to find the safest seat in the tro-tro (mini-van) and are ready to adopt the brace position at a moment’s notice!

We finished off the week with a cookery session at the VSO office making things like garden egg stew and fried plantain which was very tasty but again took 4 hours to make. Ghanaians don’t like to rush! After this we said farewell to the other volunteers who are travelling to northern Ghana for their placements tomorrow and set off for our new home.

After an hour of fighting through traffic we finally turned up at our accommodation. The top floor of this white-washed house consists of two flats which are rented by VSO. Both flats are left open so we can move between them at will. One flat is a bit darker and cooler than the other so we can sit in either depending on the weather. There are two other VSO volunteers here – Anne and Stewart – who are both welcoming and friendly. Within 30 minutes of our arrival the heavens opened and by the time it had dried out it was dark. We went out briefly to buy some soap and other toiletries from one of the local shacks. By about 9pm we were tired and felt it was time to go to sleep. We both had a shower in our new bathroom which was a slightly different experience to that of at home. The shower is in the bath but there is no shower curtain and the hose is only about a metre long so only reaches up to your waist. To wash our upper body we need to squat down. It seems a bit of a nightmare but we’ve used the shower several times now and it is amazing how you get used to things.

So far so good in Accra. Tomorrow we both start our voluntary work which we hope will be good. Although VSO have been very helpful this week it does seem that we have been in a bit of an Obruni bubble.

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