Open skies and open sewers: the two-sided beauty that is Ghana

So there are three things that have become abundantly clear to me since my fellow compatriots and I touched down in Ghana a little over a week ago:

1. Life, unlike the traffic, moves at a much slower pace here.  A much slower pace.  I believe my partner in crime Leah has filled you in on the concept of GMT, or Ghanaian Man Time.  It is that intricate proverbial lock for which patience is the key.
2. Ghanaians like their food spicy, their water cold, and their obrunis (foreigners) susceptible to being hustled.*
3. I’m not in Kansas anymore.

*as in, a cabbie will try to put you in one cab and your bags in another so that you will pay both him AND his buddy.

Take everything I say, as usual, with a pillar of salt.  I’m sure not all Ghanaian cab drivers are con artists, and jollof rice is really not all that spicy once your taste buds regain consciousness.  If anything, it’s a clever way to regulate your body’s internal temperature so you’re less aware of how extremely hot it is on the outside.  SO extremely hot.  Listen, Mother Nature, I’m a born and bred Canadian boy who grew up in mild-mannered British Columbia where the winters are warmly wet and the summers are cooly comfortable (alliteration, you are a most underappreciated literary device,) so when my sensitive obruni skin gets a taste of that relentless Ghanaian sun and Equator-inspired humidity, it knows no better than to cry tears of frustration.  In other words, I sweat.

I sweat like a vegan in a deli, I sweat like a prepubescent kid at the grade 9 dance, and I sweat like the onions Mary puts on our breakfast salad every morning at the station.  And because I’m sweating so much, I also drink a lot of water.  Lots and lots and lots of water, which despite not being drinkable from the tap, is easily obtained through bottles of Voltic, a popular brand of filtered water, or the little sachets of “peer wada” that women carry in baskets on their heads, hawking them on literally every street corner and roadside imaginable.  Make no mistake, water is life when you’re sweating up a storm, and here in Kumasi, life can be purchased in quantities of 500mLs for 10 peswas (seven cents CAD.)

All that being said… Ghana is beautiful.  It’s a gorgeous country with lush greenery, peculiar little lizards (as plentiful as squirrels over here!) and a coastal beach scene that leaves this west coast kid aching at the heart.  And when the sun goes down at night, you can see stars.  For miles.  You can lie on your back and count them, if that’s the sort of activity that helps you sleep at night.  It’s like being in Saskatchewan, except minus the greenery, the lizards, and the coastal beach scene.  But the people are great.  And loud.  And lively as all get out, and while it gets a little overwhelming sometimes, the reality is that this is Ghana.  The noise and the heat and the sweat and the dust and the lizards and the peer wada — this is Ghana.


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About Chris Tse

Chris Tse is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. The 21-year-old, originally from Coquitlam, BC, is the president of Carleton's JHR chapter. He has extensive experience in print journalism as both a reporter and an editor, and his work has been featured in The Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen, and various magazines and community papers. Aside from print media, Chris also has training in radio and television broadcast journalism, online multimedia, and news blogs. He is an aspiring documentary filmmaker with a short 10-minute doc, "Dreadheads" to his name. In addition to journalism, Chris is also an accomplished spoken word poet. He is the captain of the 2010 Canadian poetry slam national championship team, Capital Slam, and has featured in shows from Vancouver to St. Louis. He will represent Canada at the spoken word world championships in Paris in May. His work has appeared on CBC Radio and CTV, and he is the author of a collection of poetry entitled "An Ode to My Afro", and also has a CD of the same title.

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