Say what??

This is Ghana: Get your mind right

This Tuesday I leave for de mudda lan’ – Ghana. I haven’t packed a stitch of clothing as of this morning. It really doesn’t matter, because 40% of what I enter the country with will be confiscated anyway.

I love my people, God knows I do…but I can’t STAND the way they hustle me for my belongings!

I can already tell you how this trip is going to go:

First of all, I’ve gotten off pretty easy this trip. I’ve avoided the God-awful ritual of 600 Ghanaians asking me to carry a perfume, a bag of shirts or a washing machine to their mother. Every Ghanaman assumes that their traveling brethren is some sort of substitute for UPS. It’s not that I mind taking a package back home for my friends: It’s just that that package is usually overweight, will cost me an extra $200 in fees, and said mother of said friend(s) will insist that I deliver the goods to her home at her convenience with little more than a ‘thank you and please be on your way’.

Having avoided that little quagmire, I can skip directly to the airport experience.

As soon as the cabin doors open, a burst of scorching hot air will assault me. I will then take in a deep breath, smile, and gingerly walk down the metal ladder onto the tarmac where a bus will eventually shuttle 3 of my 4 kids and I to the arrival hall. We will then wait in a long line in immigration before we are herded to baggage claim where only one of the three conveyors works.  An airport official will manually open every individual suitcase to check for contraband. Upon noticing that I have a plethora of candies and other goodies, he/she will comment on how “nice my biscuits looks” and eye me expectantly. I will then say “thank you” and politely offer the inspector a packet if they like. He/she will smile, rummage through the lot, and take the package of their choice.

A slew of porters will ask me if I need help pushing my bags on the trolly just 60 feet ahead to the exit doors. They will then forcefully take the handle of said trolly, as this is good “customer service”. Generally, I rebuff these services, but because I will be traveling with so many little children, I’ll let it happen. He will then push our bags to my father’s waiting vehicle and try to pack the bags into it. My father will scowl, smack the man’s hand and pack the vehicle himself. The porter will assume that I am an ignorant akata, and try to joss me for a $10 tip. I’ll give him a buck.

I learned last week that my dad’s pick up is in the shop, barely on its last legs. That truck should have been put to pasture years ago. He has informed me that he will arrive at Kotoka in a rented “bone shaker” (those lorries that jar you senseless as they hit every pothole because they have no suspension ). My children will either be giddy with delight or permanently traumatized.

As we leave the airport, beggars will swarm our vehicle at every red light looking morosely into the car. If I give then money, God will bless me – if I don’t they will mutter a slew of curses and hurl insults in my direction. I’ll take the insults and keep my pesewas.

As soon as we get home, my father will rummage through our bags looking for his requested items, and then ‘suggest’ I leave this shirt, that skirt, that bag and this shoe for one of my numerous ‘cousins’. I will of course oblige. This is Ghana.

In earlier days, my neighborhood friends would have asked me what I brought them from America. I don’t live in Labone any more and all my ‘hood friends are grown up, having kids of their own and live in different parts of the city. I have no candy bars and toys to dish out. Instead, the users of the group will expect me to pay for dinner when we go out (because after all, I just came from America where money grows on trees), the ones who have lived abroad themselves will pay for their own meal, and my best buddies will “spread” me just because they’re so glad to see me (that, and they know I really don’t have any money…all I have is a BUNCH of kids).

Next, I’ll have to get my mind right for utter nonsense.

I don’t know why Ghanaians love to litter. I will certainly be infuriated as I watch my father suck down his pure water sachet and toss it out the window as we drive though town. I will scold him for doing it, until I look along the dusty streets of Accra and scope a sea of black polythene bags, water sachets and all manner of ungodly discards.

Some politician on the radio will make an unfounded and asinine assertion that all female politicians are prostitutes. His superiors will not call for his contrition, even though his uttering is imbecilic. Dim witted female politicians will clamor for his promotion. “Ehhh, after all, what he said is true!” They will then list 6 women in power, accusing them of prostitution. An on-air slug fest will ensue, embroiling the country in NONSENSE and detracting from weightier issues.

At some point, I will go to the tailor with some nice fabric and they will invariably ruin my outfit/design.

“I asked for short sleeves,” I’ll say.

“Oh! But sista. Long sleeves is nice. This one will rather suit you,” they’ll say in explanation. I will then have to go berserk and insist that he/she cut my sleeves and give me the style I asked for!

In a week, I’ll go to get my hair braided and ask for brown extensions. Because the beauty shop owner has a truck full of gawd-awful red weave, she will try to pawn it off on me by saying: “Sista. This one is nice. This one will rather suit you.” Upon running her fingers through my natural hair, she will then suggest that she put some “small perming cream inside” to soften it up. Frowning, I’ll tell her to go and find some brown hair, keep her perming cream and hurry up and braid me. She will insult me in some local vernacular which I will pretend not to understand. You don’t fight with your hair dresser.

After making all the necessary rounds to greet half the country and let them know I’ve arrived, I will endure a cascade of shocked and disapproving statements concerning my weight.

“Oh! Malaka. This is too much. Why? Are you eating all the cake, cookies and french fries in America? You have to come down.”

No one knows this better than me. After all, I have to lug this 230 lbs arse around daily, don’t I? I will laugh it off and say that I will try to loose weight. My critics will then offer me a big bowl of fufu/banku/jollof rice – all loaded with complex starches, and none the harbinger for weight loss.

Later, I’ll go to the beach and watch the waves hit the shore, without a care in the world. The azure blue water will delight my eyes and gentle warm breezes will lull me to sleep. I’ll sigh inwardly, reflecting on how good it is to be home.  As I prepare to doze off, an enterprising young man will approach me, rouse me my moment of zen, and try to sell me sea shells. At the beach.


This is Ghana. Gotta love it.