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Making Friends in Accra

The weather in Accra has been gorgeous. Did not think I would be saying that. It has been low-mid 80’s, moderate humidity, and there is a constant light breeze. The nights are perfect. It is the rainy season, but it has only rained twice since I’ve been here and the humidity is actually lower than what I experienced in the dry season. While I do have a history of jinxing the weather, everyone has told me that this is typical of July in Accra.

Ghanaian Friends?

It is not difficult to meet people in developing countries when you have (or are perceived to have) money. What is difficult is sorting out who could actually be a friend. In the previous post, I was eating kenke at Joseph’s house. I met Joseph the day I arrived in Accra. He invited me to watch the game at an outdoor bar with some of his friends, asked me to stay in his home, and gave me a cell phone – all of which made me initially suspicious. In the week I’ve known him, he has been nothing but honest and generous. If I have any friends in Ghana, he is one of them.

Joseph and his eight-month-old baby, Olivia.

There are a few others I am cautiously considering as potential friends, but I have also met a handful of folks that have been a complete burden. Some of them are under the impression that whenever I see them, I’m going to buy them some food or a drink. Some of them assume that if I see them, I’m going to be spending the whole day with them and buying them food and drinks. Some are calling my phone every fifteen minutes regardless of the hour – I have received multiple calls between three and seven AM. In fact, I now keep my phone turned off at night. The calls are especially excruciating because they are often completely directionless.


Me: Hello?
Ghanaian friend?: Hello Phil, how are you?
Me: I’m fine. How are you?
Ghanaian friend?: I am also fine. I just wanted to call and see how you are doing.
Me: Oh. Well, everything is great.
Ghanaian friend?: Ok, Phil. That is good to hear. I am around.
Me: Ok.
Ghanaian friend?: Take care, ok?
Me: Yes, I will. You too.

You may read that and think I’m being unreasonable. Consider that I most likely saw “Ghanaian Friend?” two hours before this phone conversation. This use of the phone is partly due to the fact that phone credits for local calls are insanely cheap. It is also because Ghanaians are friendly and supportive. When I am out and about with Ghanaians I will watch as they call people and have the same conversation as above. I will ask, “why did you call them?” And they’ll say, “I just wanted to see how they are doing.”

I am currently deciding how much I want my feet to touch the ground in Accra. As I do this, I am deliberately cautious about who I spend time with – I do not want to bankroll drinking and dining excursions, nor do I want to be thought of as a gateway to America. At the same time, I need to open up to a different culture. Some of the Ghanaians I enjoy the most, call me at 3AM to see how I am doing.

Some Bits and Pieces

Don Simon

My birthday is today, but I am celebrating it tomorrow. Invited a handful of people and told them they could invite whoever. Might have been a mistake, we’ll see.

Thanks for the early birthday present Lebron. You want to know why I left the US June 30th? NBA free agency. Will not talk about it further.

New term that I’m hearing everywhere in Accra: Asamoah Gyan (name of the player that missed crucial penalty in Uruguay game). You say it whenever someone makes a mistake. For instance, I drop a bag water (called pyuuuuure watah) on the floor. A Ghanaian will look at me and say “Asamoah Gyan” or “Ohh Asamoah Gyan why?” I have started using it myself.

The weather is nice, but can’t underestimate the equator, still hot as hell if you are standing in the sun. I bought a hat to combat sunburn. Next step: buy a handkerchief to combat sweat.

Been making a habit of watching the MTN (cellphone company) movie at ten on Crystal TV (one of 6 channels) each night. Every home I’ve been in has a TV in one form or another, even if the home is just a concrete box with a bed and a chair. Watching Crocodile Dundee with Ghanaians was hysterical.

Currently staying at a simple guesthouse in a part of Accra called Newtown. It is on the way to another neighborhood called Pig Farm. When I am getting a tro tro home, I listen for “pig farm pig farm pig farm.” I have been told I can buy pork there. It is also a majority Muslim neighborhood. I asked someone if this was a problem for Muslims living there and he said “yes, some of the Muslims are undergoing some suffering because of the pigs.” I see. Been spending evenings on a balcony overlooking an energetic junction, working on music or playing cards, sometimes with friends, sometimes with the shifty Saudi Arabian rice traders that are also staying in the guesthouse. Plotting my next moves, and generally enjoying life.

Next up: what happens when you couchsurf Accra?

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • baby July 10, 2010, 1:37 am

    babies celebrating babies’ birthday from across the miles. miss you.

  • Christina July 20, 2010, 4:50 pm

    Beautiful pictures! Interesting people and motives…maybe we are just bad at “seeing how people are doing” so we don’t get it…

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