Saturday, August 6, 2011

Our Ghana Refrigerator Adventure!

Since we’ve arrived in Ghana (me, Sam and Julia), we’ve had a few driving adventures – getting completely lost and ended up on the road to Tema by mistake, taking wrong turns every which way. But we have always ended up getting back on the right track. We have maps, of course, but in Ghana, maps don’t go far considering that street names are not posted ANYWHERE and you have to navigate completely by direction and landmarks. We are learning. Slowly. Slowly.

We have been incredibly blessed by the presence and friendship of my graduate assistant Charles Prempeh who is a masters student at the Institute of African Studies. The Calvin students will love this guy – he is so friendly. He calls himself a “Zanga boy” which basically means, as far as I can tell, that he has no fear and fights for justice wherever he sees injustice. He is my guide to Ghana and I really couldn’t have made it here without him so far. He’s taken me into parts of the city that I would never ordinarily see and he knows the city intimately, so when there’s traffic, he knows a shortcut. Thank God for him! We are truly blessed.

We experienced Charles Prempeh’s sense of adventure firsthand when he took us to buy a refrigerator on Wednesday. Now, when we arrived, the Calvin refrigerator was “finished” as the electrician told me because it should’ve been hooked up to a 2000 watt transistor to stabilize the power. SO, I told Charles about this and he said he would find out the best way to purchase me a new one.

On Wednesday morning he asked me if I was ready for a “tro tro” adventure. Tro Tro’s are the wacky mini-van public transportation system in Ghana where there is a driver and a mate who helps to navigate and gather passengers, collecting a small payment from each passenger. I must admit that I’ve never driven in a tro tro in Ghana, but I was ready! Sam, Julia, myself and Charles made our way by tro tro down to “37” which is a public transportation mecca and there we met a friend of his who owns a large taxi (large enough to transport a refrigerator) and his friend Naida who lives in the same community which Charles and is his childhood friend.

Naida and Charles have completely different faith backgrounds (she is Islamic and he is Christian) and yet they are the best of friends. They are a testament to the kind of religious tolerance that exists in this country.

Anyway, we then hopped on this taxi and drove down to the Accra Central Market where we could not find a parking place. So, the taxi would just circle, while we went to the electronics stores to buy a fridge. We checked prices and in a matter of twenty minutes had purchased a nice new fridge at a good price of about 1000 cedis, plus we bought a transistor to regulate the power. Now, the problem is that we had to find a way to transport the thing back to where the taxi would be waiting.

Charles tried to hire some guys with a cart, but they wanted to charge us 10 cedis to pull the refrigerator four blocks. Charles and Naida said this was outrageous, but I totally would’ve paid it. He refused and instead hired a girl to carry it on her head the four blocks. Yes, on her head. Charles, Sam and Naida lifted it up and she placed it on her head and started walking. We made it to the taxi rendezvous point, but NO TAXI anywhere to be found. We let the girl set the refrigerator down. We waited. We called, we texted (the preferred method of communication in Ghana), but the taxi driver could not find us. Finally, after drinking water sachets in the parking lot and searching, Charles found the taxi and we negotiated a fee of only 5 cedis (about $3.50) for the girl carrying the refrigerator. Julia gave her another cedi for good measure.

I couldn’t believe the entire scenario. With the refrigerator in the back of the taxi, there was not enough room for the rest of us, so we walked to Accra Centra, drank coconut water in the parking lot (which was completely refreshing – if you’ve never tried coconut water after exercising or hard work, you should. It replenishes electrolytes faster than anything else). It was such a hot hot day and we hopped back on the tro tro to the University of Ghana, arrived, met the taxi with Naida and installed the refrigerator in our flat on the University campus.

Whew! What a great adventure!

We feel extremely blessed in so many ways! Not the least of which is the fact that we now have a place to store our food!

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