“I like the way you talk to me,” says Brian, one of the many young street hawkers lining Oxford Street, Accra’s main drag, as I turn down his offer to make me a bracelet with my name on it. “You have been here before,” he declared, after hearing me speak with a slight Ghanaian accent.
Brian is right. This is my second time in Ghana and I’m surprised by how natural it feels to be here. I was here last summer for a three month stint in Kumasi, so this time around feels a bit like I’m retracing my footsteps.
It’s a very interesting process to revisit a place you’ve already been, it’s like rereading a book—you know what to expect, but you pick up on details you never noticed before. I do miss the wide-eyed excitement and the shock and terror I felt as a novice visitor to Ghana, but I’m enjoying the cosy way I have already settled into a routine and that I’m already familiar with some of the county’s quirks.
I can navigate the city without a map or the luxury of street signs and names. I enjoy riding tro-tros (a local mode of public transportation) to get around town, though I’m fully aware the vehicles are overcrowded and would likely never pass Canadian safety standards nor emissions tests.
I find myself weaving through the tumultuous traffic like a game of Tetris and leaping over open sewers, pot holes and many other obstacles in the roads with relative ease. I know that streetlights are often more for decoration than illumination and I enjoy the game of chicken I play with drivers on a daily basis—they usually swerve at the last minute in an attempt not to hit you.
I get a kick out of the how amused locals are to hear me answer their questions in Twi (the major local language) or how happy they are that I know my Ghanaian name is Akua (born on Wednesday), that the two main political parties are the NDC and the NPP, that I pronounce “Danquah Circle” (a major transit hub in the city) properly, and have tried and enjoyed many local dishes.
I can negotiate with street vendors and taxi drivers to get a fair price, I know that if someone hisses at me like a snake they are just trying to get my attention and I could swear people yell obruni (white person) at me a lot less often (though this is very debatable).
I have embraced GMT (Ghana Man Time)—I know that ten minutes actually means one hour. I’ve accepted that if somebody tells me they are “not far” that they probably are. And, I’ve realised that most meetings are thought of as tentative.
I realise this sounds like an overly romantic account of the country and I know I’m no Ghana expert. I certainly expect some paramount challenges and days when I’d like to stow myself away on plane back to Canada. I am, after all, only three weeks into my entire six-month stay. Perhaps I am still in the honeymoon phase. Maybe I am, but I’m loving it nonetheless…for now.