Monday, 21 May 2012

Saturday's Change of Plans

We had originally hoped to go to the ocean on Saturday, but remembered that neither of us had beach towels or sheets to take to the beach. The temperature when we woke up was quite cool as well and so we decided it would be a good idea to run some errands.

After seeing the quilts on the tables at Chez Afrique, we decided we wanted to look at some African crafts. A great place to do this in Accra is at the Centre for National Culture. Because we have yet to learn the tro-tro system, our only option of getting there was by taxi. The taxi ride was about 30 minutes, and cost about 15 Cedis. We thought this seemed reasonable. 

Once we got to the Centre, there were many many many shops set up with crafts made by the locals. We stopped at the first shop on the right where the guy who owned the shop had hand-carved wooden statues of people and animals, jewelery, masks, and clothes. As we were perusing the tables, two Ghanaian men approached us and asked were we were from. We told them the United States and they asked which part, and we told them Michigan. They then asked "Detroit?" And we decided that was a good place to tell them because not many people would know about Ann Arbor.

At the sound of Michigan, one of the guys was really excited because his brother had married and moved to Michigan in Grand Rapids to live. We talked about Michigan for a bit and he asked us to stop by his store once we were finished looking at the first man's store. We persued the rest of the items and left. The guy with the brother in Michigan directed us to his store and he was so nice!

Once we got into the store, he asked us to look around and take our time, and to ask questions if we had any. A lot of what we saw in this store was very similar to what the first shop had...except this store had no pricetags on anything! Amanda and I looked around, not really seeing anything that caught our eye. The owner said he also had paintings done by another brother who was still in Ghana (and whom we met, along with a sister). I got excited to see some paintings, and they pulled out four rolls of canvas paintings that had at least 50 paintings in each roll. The rolls were unfolded and we looked at the paintings, the painter and the brother were explaing what a lot of the shapes were and what some of the signs and symbols meant. They liked to paint their women with "big booties" or big butts. It was really funny when they were talking about it. 

As we were looking at the paintings, the one guy called his brother in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had me say hi and tell him that I was in Ghana and it was kind of neat actually.  A little strange, but cool at the same time. 

I found a black and white painting I really liked and it was a night scene on the ocean side with some native huts and a few people bringing back baskets from the market. I fell in love with this painting actually and asked how much it was. The brother said 90 cedis, and I said I definitely did not have that much. He asked me how much I had and I said 30 cedis. He told me he couldnt sell it for that low because it took a week to paint with the different layers and time to dry. The man with the brother in Michigan stepped in and persauded the painter to sell it to me for cheaper because I was a student, 90 cedis was too much. He futher went on and said, "she is from Michigan, so she is our sister. It doesn't matter the color of our skin, these two girls are our sisters." The painter asked me one more time and asked for 50 cedis. I said I only had 30 and he said okay. I was definitely done shopping for the day.

Ashanti Mask on Left, Fante Mask on Right
As the bartering was going on, another shopkeeper, Ramone was watching. He asked us to come to his shop next and we did. He wanted to show us the masks that were a big part of Ghanaian history. He showed us two main types, Ashanti masks, and Fante masks. He gave us a history on both masks and why they were important. I was not so much a fan of the Ashanti masks, as I was of the Fante masks. Ramone didn't pressure us too muh into buying anything, which was nice. There was one more Ghanaian who pressured us into purchasing, and Amanda and I held our ground and said "no thank-you" several times. People in the market were so pushy, which I suppose is to be expected. This wore me down much quicker than I anticipated.

We decided to try and stop at the mall and purchase our towels or sheets for the beach. As we were doing so, our first thunderstorm came! The power went out in the mall for about 10 seconds which was kind of neat. We waited to leave until the storm subsided. Finding a taxi on the way back was much more difficult as people were charging 10-20 cedis to drive 5 or ten minutes. They said their rates were so high because the traffic was so bad. We couldn't walk home because we needed to get on some highway to get to the dorm. After many failed attempts, we found a driver who would take us home for 6 cedis.

On our walk back to our dorm, we were called obrunis for the first time, and it was nice. Amanda and I both enjoyed it. Obruni is an affectionate term the Ghanaians use for foreign travelers (both white and black) into their country. We knew it was going to happen at some point, but as Ramone in the market place told us, it is definitely an affectionate thing, and not an offensive word. Quick research online confirmed this.

When we returned back to our room, everything was covered in this fine red clay dust that must have blown into our room from the storm. We don't have a broom, so Amanda and I tried sweeping the dust with our shoes. Then we wiped everything down and tried to clean up our room a bit.

We then tried to go to the International Students Hostel (ISH) to try and grab some dinner at their cafeteria, but as we have come to discover, cafterias seem to be closed on the weekends here at the University.

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