This Could Be Anywhere In The World

Sometimes when I’m out and about, weaving my way into the social fabric of this place, I lose track of where I am. Sometimes I forget the history of all that surrounds me, fail to hear the international accents, feel comfortable as though it’s home.

Other times I’ll notice something or look beyond the lights and faces and see a world so different from the one I’ve known. I’ll glance past the glowing green Heineken sign and over the familiar plastic tables surrounded by laughing people and see a dirt road, an open sewer, a destitute begging child. I’ll push open the intricate door of that fancy bar with uplighting behind the bar and overly expensive glasses of wine and share stories with people from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau; people with histories and lives so, so different from mine.

“I’m in West Africa. Oh yeah,” I’ll say to myself, attempting to match my experience to the reality.

The reality is this is a place of contrasts, as many places are. Frankly, I didn’t anticipate Accra to be what it is, not even close. I didn’t think I could get a hot stone massage at a spa here, followed by an incredible Indian/Japanese/whatever meal. I didn’t think I would be spending my weekends sailing and sleeping at mansions. I didn’t think I would know anything about living here, but I do because it’s the same as what I’ve always known in so many ways. Accra is as cosmopolitan as many other cities in Canada and the U.S., and you can do and be and get whatever you’d like here if you have enough cedis (exceptions include McDonald’s breakfasts and decent mexican food, tragically).

Of course, I didn’t move here to be who I was and experience what I’ve known, but old habits die hard and I can’t say I’m not having the time of my life. Is this an “authentic” Ghanaian experience? Who knows (I hate the word authentic). What exactly would be an “authentic” Canadian experience? I would argue there’s no such thing. A place is what it is to you.

At the same time, I wouldn’t have written the above approximately a month ago, as it took me up until a week ago to feel comfortable with my surroundings and know the basic ins and outs of life here. I now have my hardboiled egg with pepe lady, my red red lady, my waakye lady, my rock bun lady, and my water lady (food post with photos to come). My negotiation skills have shifted from “giggly nice Canadian who half-heartedly negotiates” to “assertive expat lady who KNOWS this ride is 3 cedi not 5, mister taxi man.” I’ve spent some time in smaller villages with poorer people, and learned about the epic challenges some people face in this country every day (see: witch camps).

The culture is starting to meld into my daily life to the point where I barely notice when my afternoon work session is interrupted by insanely loud calls from the mosque, “Ode to  Joy” being repeated over and over a million times by church singers, or screams from loud speakers proclaiming election promises in languages I will never fully grasp. I don’t even giggle at the strange religious slogans scrawled across the back of tro tros in rainbow paint anymore. The hisses and kissing noises and honks from passing cabs? Just a normal part of my morning commute.

While I hope the new year brings my world a little closer to those whose lives feel so far away, I’m comfortable with where I’m at right now. I have great friends and regular restaurant spots and work goals and travel plans. Those moments of remembering I’m not in Kansas anymore aren’t jarring as they once were, but I hope they’re always noticeable. They’re a reminder that I don’t belong here, I’m just a visitor basking in the beauty of everything I have yet to learn.

One Response to “This Could Be Anywhere In The World”
  1. Reyes says:

    Hi there, I log on to your new stuff regularly. Your humoristic style
    is witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

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