While I have gotten the fantastic opportunity to conduct my very own research project in an amazing country, Ghana, I did not set out on this month long journey with purely research ideals. One aspect of travel that I find particularly compelling—the aspect that keeps me asking for more—is cultural immersion. It is so easy to travel to a new place and stay in hotels, set off to the most famous tourist spots, and try a couple new foods. However, in my personal opinion, that kind of travel is easy and relaxing whereas cultural immersion takes courage and genuine desire. I came to Ghana to learn the ways of Ghanaian culture. I have been staying in Ghanaians’ homes, eating purely Ghanaian foods, learning to cook and speak the local language (Ewe), going to local markets to purchase necessary items, and spending late nights talking to new friends about life in Ghana and their international perspectives. I’ve decided to chronicle many of the things I’ve noticed while in Ghana that are different from life in the states- Ghana through the eyes of a Yevu (Ewe word for white person).
For my first installment, I’ve decided comment on the differences on the road.
Motorbikes– At home, there is no arguing that cars are the norm (unless you’re in Hells Angels). But here in Ghana, unless it is a taxi, covered cars are scarce. People ride around on run down motorcycles and the ever-common motorbike. Motorbikes carrying one to three people wiz by, nearly knocking you down, at every corner. Drivers honk abrasively at pedestrians in order to warn them to get out of their way, rarely slowing down if there is an animal or person in their path. Swerving around potholes and roadblocks of any and every kind is done at high and dangerous speeds. Even further astonishing, is the lack of helmets; it never ceases to amaze me, especially considering the degree of reckless driving. Cars are rare. In one village I visited, the whole town gathered to look at our pickup truck because there had never been a car in their village before. I can’t even begin to imagine the resistance I would receive from my parents if I opted for a motorbike instead of a car!
Taxis– Before coming to Ghana, I had yet to apply the principle of supply and demand outside of the classroom. In American cities, the demand for taxis is higher than supply, leaving you on the curb trying to hail a cab for extended periods of time. However, in Hohoe, the supply of taxis is greatly higher than the demand. Merely walking to the open market down the road, we are honked at by up to twenty taxis beckoning to take us for a ride. Rarely do we even use these taxis, thus further contributing to the supply. Yet the strangest part is not in the supply or the incessant honking to encourage pedestrians to take rides. Even if there is a party already getting a ride, the taxi will pick up another party, taking up to six passengers (2 in front, 4 behind) to several destinations. The taxi driver also does not ask the people already in the car if they are okay with picking up additional passengers, it just happens. In America, this is a breach of taxi privacy, not to mention having a stranger sitting in your lap a complete popping of the abstract, ‘personal bubble.’ I’m not saying it’s weird or shouldn’t be done, just another culture shock.