Monday, March 15, 2010

The kindness and unkindness of strangers

Determined to get out of the village on Monday I waited nearly two hours for a trotro out of Abuadi. I didn't wait alone though. The kids had off from school in honor of 6 March, so a steady stream of wanderers kept me company.
I'm rarely alone, unless I am in my room. And sometimes I'm not even alone then if you count the random roaming child or the multitude of insects that I find living with me. Last night the women here had a big laugh at me. I had gone out to brush my teeth and when I returned there was a giant spider in the middle of my room. The spider and I stopped, and stared at one another, both frozen in fear. I thought about trying to squish the spider with my shoe, but really, I don't think my size 8s would have done the trick. Plus I hate killing things, even if they are huge and ugly and have too many legs. But I also knew there was no way I could go into my room, let alone sleep in there knowing that beast is in there.

I sought out Verity who was sitting outside, and through pantomine, I explained to her my predicament. Thus begins the laughing. She had her daughter fetch Favor, and when Favor arrived, they both laughed at me. I suppose when you live all your life just three degrees above the equator, the creepy crawly creatures that come with a tropical climate aren't really all that creepy.

Of course when we went to my room, Mr. spider had moved. Favor took her makeshift broom and started sweeping at all the corners and dark spots a spider might go, but found nothing. Now I'm really squirming...I'm not going in there. I'm just not. She was about to give up when the offending creature dropped from the door frame. I shrieked like a cartoon character and literally ran away. Laughing hard, Favor slayed the beast and returned order to the house. Akpe kakakakaka!

So back to the story at hand...Monday, around 9 a.m. I finally catch a trotro into Ho. In the tro, I ask the man next to me in which direction I can find the STC bus station. He insists on taking me there. Now, this has happened to be before, a few times. Half the time, the person is just really kind and leads me to where I need to go. The other half of the time, they are being kind because they want something in return...and when it comes to the men here, its hard to tell what exactly they are after, but usually its a wife, or a visa.

Gideon takes me to the STC station and we discover that I have missed all the buses out of Ho for the day. He then insists on taking me to the trotro station and insuring that I get in the right vehicle. While I appreciate this help, I'm awfully weary. At the station he does indeed help me find the right trotro but before leaving he asks for my number, so that we can "converse." I reluctantly give him my number, and he eagerly tells me how he can't wait to come to the US to visit his new friend: me. You see, most people here cannot get a visa to enter the US without a resident sponsor. Gideon called me four times that day...and contines to call me. Obviously his calls go unanswered.

This white skin of mine makes me such a target here. There is no blending in, and really, I just want to yell LEAVE ME ALONE to the throngs of people that clamor all over, asking for money or my phone number. "Hey you, white person, come here now!" "Obroni, give me money!" "Are you married? Be my wife."

Cape Coast was the worst. I literally couldn't go into the restaurant I wanted because of the gang of teenaged boys that were surrounding me, pulling on my arms, standing in my way. I've never gotten the impression that these people want to hurt me. They just want money, and things like my watch. I'd just like to point out that I'm wearing a $40 timex brought specifically for this reason.

In Elmina while I ate dinner at my hotel's outdoor restaurant, a security guard had to sit at the table next to me to watch over me. Even with him there, teenaged boys would come and interrupt my dinner, calling at me from the fence, or even brazenly coming to sit at my table. The security guard, who was just a little old man, would have to chase them away. Needless to say I ate quickly and went inside.

The taxi drivers are the worst. They are all greedy crooks, but these taxis are really the only way to get around. Most of the time you have no idea where you are going, and its too hot to attempt to walk there even if you do know the right direction. A shared taxi should cost no more than fifty peshewas (like fifty cents), but cabbies will ask for 5 cedis without even blinking. Yesterday a cabbie told me 20 cedi for a ride I know costs 10 even with the white man tax. Twenty cedi is a large sum of money here. I was so fed up with being ripped off and asked for money, that I attempted to walk 7km to the beach in the blistering sun. I gave in and paid a taxi 3 cedi, even though i know it should have cost only 2.

It is the kindness of that security guard, who took it upon himself to watch that I wasn't harassed, and this girl in the market at Accra yesterday that over heard my asking directions to the trotro station that ran up to me, told me I was going to the wrong station, and walked ten minutes out of her way to escort me to where I needed to be, that really make up for the negative greediness of others you meet here.

No one in Abuadi acts like this...No one. Its only outside of the village that a white person is beseiged with hangers-on. The village is a special place, and believe it or not, I was actually happy to be back here last night.

The power is out again in the village...ah, patience.


  1. Steph, I feel like I'm reading a fictional book!!! It doesn't even sound real! I hope you stay safe and come home soon.

  2. be careful and stay safe! wow! sounds like a difficult mission with few people that are really trying to help you accomplish your goal. But I have faith that you will get it done! =)

  3. Just think of it as material for your first novel.... soak it all up! Miss you much and be safe... I think of you all the time and share your story with many.... most can't believe you are doing this but I tell 'em it was your dream! (insert jokes here...) Looking forward to your return home and let us know the date/time.... you never know who will pop up at JFK!

  4. i miss you xo be safe, love you!

    ps - have you brought mugggggggggggg to Ghana, yet? ;)

  5. What an adventure! Miss you and hope you're having an amazing time... it sounds amazing!

    xoxo - Margs