Tomorrow we approach exactly one month of our departure from the UK. 4 weeks in already and about to start the 5th week is insane. Waiting eagerly at the airport for one another, anticipating what the next 10 weeks would have in store for us only seems like yesterday.
Our 4th week in Accra and 3rd week at our business has been a good one. This week Kofi and I began planning our market research for the marketing plan we are creating for Asarco. Accra is a busy city and a very vey hot one! Therefore Kofi and I wanted to undertake our market research tactically over this week and next so that we don’t burn ourselves out travelling in the heat. I hate travelling midday- the sun is ruthless – you know what they say only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun- I definitely won’t be one of them!
Before I go on, whatever your idea of ‘market research’ is just throw it out now. That is what I have done- the idea that I possessed and most of you probably do too is a western perspective of ‘market research’. That concept doesn’t necessarily function in the same way in Accra. Open markets or street vendors are vey popular and selling here is a whole different ball game. Don’t expect to be limited to standing in a big supermarket or shops with your surveys to willing customers. Here in Accra, markets are far more appealing than the big supermarkets, as prices are lower in the open markets. Therefore I quickly had to change my perception when we visited Okaishie market in Accra. Instead of handing out questionnaire’s – which was not viable at all in such a busy and cramped environment- we conducted informal interviews. Even that possessed its challenges what with the heat, the loud speakers, the influx of people constantly manoeuvring around and the general hustle and bustle of vendors, each enthusiastically steering you to their stall. In addition to conducting the research we also tried to sell. The salespersons for Asarco were far more successful in their attempts than I was! It was quite an experience conducting market research there. Next week we are going to be going to the supermarkets as well as other open markets. In terms of work we have been working on the finances for our business, helping create a rigorous filing system that covers day-to-day purchases as well as a tool that will help create a cash flow sheet, balance sheet and profit or loss sheet.
As we were moving around so much this week I have to tell you about the transport system in Ghana. Besides your own personal car, the main form of transport for people are trotro’s. These are the equivalent of our buses but not in your typical form. It is often a crowded and hot journey home especially in rush hour when it is really hard to get a trotro. Some trotro’s have signs to inform passengers of the destination but the way that it works is that a man (called the mate) will shout out of the trotro the destination ‘lapaz, lapaz… kaneise, medina medina’ attracting everyone’s attention. People will then rush to the doors and board the trotro’s. The mate who sits with the passenegers is different to the driver and he is the one responsible for taking the payment of the journey. The trotro’s are super cheap – the lowest I have paid is 70 pesewas and the most is 2 cedi’s 50 peseswas which isa bout 25p-ish- it makes me realise how much we get ripped off at home!
Anything is possible on a trotro. So far I have witnessed a open display of breast feeding in a VERY crowded vehicle, preaching and sermons to passengers, the door of a trotro falling off and being tied with a t-shirt, actually driving with the door open, extremely old trotro’s with visible holes and spaces in the roof and between the door and the body of the vehicle and finally one of the mates practically sitting on my lap, as there was no seat for him to sit on, having ushered as many people as he could in! All you can do is just go with it- after a long day sometimes you just want the ease of an air-conditioned car but it is all part of the experience! Some of the trotro’s play music- one driver even played best of Whitney Houston!
There are some very distinct Ghanaian practices that I found very odd at the beginning, For example when trying to grab somebody’s attention people sort of hiss… it’s more of a ‘tssss’ sound. It was strange to me that people were hissing at one another but I guess it is better than ‘Oi’! Often taxi drivers will try and grab your attention by making a kissing sound- like pouting their lips and that noise that comes out- to be honest it’s so hard to explain- maybe I’ll make a video soon and upload it- haha! Some other cultural peculiarities I have noticed are that Ghanaians tend to apologise even when it’s not their fault! For example if I explained to someone that I missed my bus or that I had hurt my leg they would say sorry. I guess this is an extension of the general friendliness of Ghanaians we have experienced so far. People still call me obrunni or white girl but always ask how I am or wave and smile. It is definitely welcoming!
Do you know what GMT is? Let me give you a clue, it isn’t Greenwich Mean Time. Instead, as some of the counterparts express, it is ‘Ghanaian Man Time’. If you find yourself in Ghana, this is something important to remember. Arranging to meet somebody at 12 means meeting them at 2! ‘GMT’ is a real thing guys- even some of the UK volunteers are beginning to run on Ghanaian man time!
This week I have really been immersed into the culture – I helped make fufu! Okay so it was instant and not the actual thing where I would have to pound it but even stirring the fufu on the stove was ridiculously hard. At Henry and Razaks house, Charity the help made it look so easy! I told Charity that I love to cook and she has kindly offered to teach me how to cook some traditional meals- from next week I am going to be having lessons in my free time! I think after 4 weeks I know which foods are my favourite. Two of my favourite snacks are plantain chips and akara (it is made of beans and fried – it kind of resembles falafel).
Unfortunately we have not had running water since the first week of moving in, so my morning routine consists of fetching water in two buckets; one for the shower and the other for the toilet! At first it was a hassle but in all honesty I don’t think twice about it anymore- you adapt. Plus there is no way that you can avoid showers – at least two in the day. I’m not sure how this will come across but if I take a shower in the morning and then one in the evening- without fail the water isn’t clean- with all the suntan lotion and the mosquito repellent the dust literally sticks to you like a leech and when you shower you can really see how dirty you are! The worst is my hair- the breeze feels amazing but when I wash my hair I can see all that dust stuck in there from the wind – hence I say two showers are a minimum!
I am sure there will be many more cultural lessons along the way so I will be updating you along the way!