Thursday, January 9, 2014

Akwaaba to Accra: Meeting the People of Ghana

Lindsey O'Brien: Accra, Ghana

Hundreds of people walking through the streets. Cars jam-packed bumper-to-bumper. Street vendors offering dozens of food choices and gifts. A layer of smog envelopes the air. No, this is not New York City, we're in Accra, Ghana. A bustling capital in a country lying on the western coast of Africa.
            Accra is very special compared to New York City, however. The people here are the most welcoming and friendly people you will ever meet. It is rude, in Accra, to ignore someone when they offer you a greeting as you walk down the street. You would be considered crazy if you walked down the streets of NYC greeting everyone that you saw.
            It is the people of Accra that make this city so great. After meeting a student at African University College of Communications (AUCC), Armstrong proceeded to purchase my lunch for me. In America, the intentions of Armstrong could be taken out of context, maybe even considered creepy. In Accra, Armstrong is simply extending a greeting and gratitude for my visit in Ghana. On my first day of my internship at The Daily Graphic, the largest newspaper in print in Accra, the reporter that I was assigned a story with purchased my lunch, as well. It is engraved in their culture to welcome and extend hospitality to everybody that they meet.
            Another common thing that a white person will experience while visiting Accra, is the word "oburoni", flying at you left and right as you walk down the street. In the most frequent language spoken in Accra, Twi, oburoni means "white person". This is not a word used for malice against those who are white, this is a greeting. As I have walked through the streets of Accra, I here someone calling out oburoni and I know that they are speaking to me and the people of Accra will say hi and ask how I am.  It is an easy way for them to gain my attention so they can extend the typical Ghanaian welcome. The children here, especially, love to call out oburoni so that they can wave to the white people.

            The most interesting thing that I think I have encountered here is the way the street vendors interact with the people. Although majority of the stereotypes about Africa I have learned are wrong, one common thing to see is men and women using their heads as a typical way of transporting items. The grace that the people here possess, being able to carry even massive items on their head, is amazing to see. While carrying all these items on their head, the people will walk into the busiest traffic to sell their items through car windows. While sitting in a car you can pay for anything through your window that you would like: pineapple, water, fish, chocolate, or even a steering wheel cover.

            Spending a month in this very chaotic city could be overwhelming at times, but as you settle in and find the hidden gems of the Accra, you come to love this coastal country of Africa

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