Tuesday, August 15, 2006
We have now been here for four days, and are getting settled into life in Accra. Tessa and I went to church on Sunday at the Legon Interdenominational Church. It meets here on the campus of the University of Ghana. The sanctuary is lovely, with high ceilings and fabric swags, and we were warmly welcomed. Other than that interlude, we’ve been spending much of our time here getting the structures in place that we’ll need for the semester, getting the house set up, and trying to figure out the rules of the road for driving.
Daniel Monfeh, who has been the driver for the Calvin program for several years, helped us out by driving for the first few days, as we tried to find our way around. Stores like Meijers and WalMart are non existent here, so it is necessary to visit several different stores to purchase a list of necessities. Food at one store, but no decent vegetables. For that we go to a vegetable stand—one with beautiful mounds of fruits and vegetable. Piles of zucchini (or courgettes, as they’re known here), green peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Yams and squash, watermelons and pineapples. The procedure at the stand is that one is assigned an assistant, one tells her what vegetables one wants, and she bags them and puts them in a pile. Once all the produce is selected, the owner of the stand, a beautiful, formidable woman named Julianna, is paid, and you carry your groceries to the car. They’ll loan you a basket if you’ve bought a lot of stuff.
On Monday I drove myself to the University. That drive is a relatively easy one, with the greatest challenges being huge speed bumps and an intersection with constant heavy traffic and no light, into which we need to turn left. The traffic doesn’t ever stop—you just edge the car out until someone takes pity on you and lets you across the first lane, and then you wait until a second driver lets you into the second lane, and off you go! I’ve been told everything in Ghana runs on personal relationships, and it seems that its true even of driving. At the University we were met by Samuel Ntewusu, who helped us get into the Calvin office, and who then took his life in his hands by accompanying me downtown to get some of the other things we needed for the house.
Driving downtown is a bit more challenging than driving to the university, but we made our way to several stores. Shopping is a whole new experience here. The household goods store, for example, is filled with all sorts of shelves, arranged by section (linens, plastic containers, pots and pans. Again, one chooses what one wants, leaves it with the attendant who writes a descriptive ticket, pays a cashier in the center of the store, and then returns to the aisle to retrieve what one has purchased. Not realizing this, we caused great consternation among the attendants by trying to walk off with stuff we wanted to buy. Not done! Once we figured out the system, things went much more smoothly, if a bit slowly.
Things get a bit overwhelming at times here, but people are wonderfully helpful, and generally willing to laugh at stupid American mistakes. We’ve been grateful for all the help people are willing to provide.