Last night, Amanda and I ventured a little bit out into Accra. We needed to go to the Accra Mall so Amanda could get a pillow and a towel and I was hoping to be able to find some sort of breakfast food I could eat that didn't require the use of milk (as we don't have a refrigerator yet--hopefully next week when we switch to a dorm with A/C!). The mall was too far to walk to, so we decided we would try our hand at trying to catch a taxi.
We didn't have a number for a taxi company so we decided to walk until we were able to catch one in a New York type of fashion with the whistling and the waving. There are usually some taxis waiting outside our dorm, but we were uncertain if they would take us all the way to the city or not. It was about 7 pm when we left and it was already dark! We walked to the edge of the city and stood there for a minute or so. A taxi came through in the roundabout and honked it's horn. We went up to the taxi and asked if he would be able to take us to the Mall. He said he could and off we went.
I read in a travel guide that a lot of taxi drivers don't have their driver's license and so when picking a taxi to ride in, you should look for a taxi that appears to be in good shape, the driver is dressed professionally or nice. It's a little difficult to tell the licensed drivers from the unlicensed drivers as no one seems to follow the traffic rules anyway!
When we left, we immediately hit stopped traffic. It took us a good while of sitting in a hot taxi before we could drive 60 km/hr down a four lane road. The breeze from the open windows felt so nice! As we neared the mall, traffic became congested again and loud honking of horns filled our ears as drivers honked to try and get the other cars to move, or to notify the other drivers that they were trying to switch lanes or that their car was there when someone else was trying to come into their lane. It was nuts. It took us a while, but we made it to the mall safely. The driver didn't seem to be in the best of mood, but we were relieved to be in one piece, so we tipped the taxi driver (tipping isn't usually expected like it is in the states so the extra cedi we tipped him made him smile) for a total taxi fare of 5 six cedis...about $4 USD. We thought this was a decent price.
We had some luck with the pillow and the towel as there was a Ghanian Walmart store in the mall called Game. I also purchased my first bottled water for 40 pesawas (.40 cedis). A lot of the stores in the mall were closed, but there was a store that had a pair of painted giraffes carved out of wood and I fell in love with them! For 40 cedis, I decided to wait to purchase them until the end of the trip in case there were any other souvenirs that might catch my eye.
While we were at one of the stores, a younger boy about 13 approached us and asked if he could get us a shopping basket for our items. We said no thank you and that we were about to check out. We continued up the last aisle, and then he approached us again and asked for our names so he could find us on Facebook. We decided it was safe to give him our names as we don't have to accept his friend request. Then three of his friends came up and asked for our names too! As of this morning, we have no friend requests. I read in a travel guide that kids in particular will go up to foreigners and they used to ask for their addresses, but now it must be they ask for Facebook names. One blogger said that it was akin to them asking for an autograph from a celebrity and that most times they don't follow through with sending mail, or sending friend requests. It was a little strange to us, but I don't think we will share our names again.
For dinner, we ate at this burger joint, which wouldn't let us order hamburgers for some reason. So we order chicken sandwiches and some fries which weren't terrible. We also got two chicken wings with our value meal....all for 5 cedis. This meal was not nearly as delicious as the true Ghanian lunch we had--and I believe there are rumors floating around that we might get to have the same thing (or somewhat similar) today for lunch!
We decided to try and head home as we were both tired from the long day (more so me than Amanda because I think I am suffering a little bit from jet lag). As we walked out of the mall, a taxi driver approached us and asked where we needed to go. I told him we need to go to the University, and while he didn't go there, he asked the other taxi drivers around if one of them could take us to our dorm. We found a taxi driver and the trip back to our dorm was much shorter than our trip to the mall. Once we arrived, he asked us for 8 cedis, which we thought was a bit high compared to the 4 cedis we paid on the way to the mall. We paid it anyway, as neither of us is comfortable enough yet to barter.
This morning, we talked to Henry and Justice and told them about our first taxi excursion, and they said we were charged too much. They chuckled in disbelief and they gave us a few tips for next time.
Amanda and I walked to the library this morning and it was definitely warm at 8:30 am. We are still uncertain about the acceptable length for shorts, so I opted to wear jeans today. I knew it would be hot, but I always see Ghanians wearing long pants and jeans, and thought it wouldn't be so bad. It was a bit too warm for my liking.
Justice is taking me to downtown this afternoon so I can get my cell phone to use during my time here. I'm not quite sure yet whom I will call, but I am excited to feel a bit more connected to the community.