Update: We finally have water again at the house, and I just finished taking my first shower in about three days. Nevermind that the water feels like it's sourced from atop the Rockies, and may actually move slower than the speed of gravity, I still basked under it for as long as I could. Glorious.
I've been in Ghana for just over two weeks, but today was my first tro-tro adventure into central Accra since last year. Just as awesome as I remember it. And the price was the same: 45 pesewas. But, of course, the smell of diesel, rusted out roof, seeing the road flying by under your feet because there are holes in the floor of the tro-tro ... priceless.
Today was experts meetings day. One of the best things about doing research in Ghana is that everyone knows someone in whichever place you need who knows someone else in a place that you didn't think of. First stop was a labour economist at the University of Ghana I worked with last year ... a super-nice guy and Harvard PhD who's incredibly willing to help out anyone in need of contacts and research advice. I once attended a service at his Methodist church, and I must say it was quite the charismatic experience. Later in the afternoon I met another contact from last year, a senior official at the Ministry of Harbours and Railways (and an HKS grad!), and he assured me that I'd find people to talk with at various Ministries. All in all, a productive day. Which was nicely capped off with me pushing a broken-down taxi through the crowded streets of Accra. I'm sure the Ghanaians watching really got a kick out of that. Sadly, I did not have the camera with me. :-(
As I mentioned earlier, today saw my first tro-tro ride into Accra since last year. The minibus system here in Ghana is simply fascinating ... you would think that there would be insane amounts of competition between tro-tros, fare undercutting, much jostling to get passengers, etc. But I don't really see much of that, part of which may be due to the fact that these things are actually unionized. How that union came about and why I still need to investigate, but it's just amazing to see how well this informal economy runs. Mates know the price (45 pesewas into Accra), it's constant across tro-tros, and tro-tros that ply particular routes are usually well spaced to avoid too much competition for passengers. And you rarely have to wait more than five minutes for these things (because the dispatching stations only let out tro-tros at certain intervals! who announces these intervals? invisible hand i'd like to think).
In addition to the tro-tros themselves, the main stations are swarming with people hawking goods ranging from flip-flops to Walkmans to Fan Yoghurt, most of which are supplied from regional depots. Again, prices are constant for given goods, people know where given sellers are (i.e. if you want gum, they will yell someone down from 100m away). It's just incredible how it all works.
Which starkly contrasts with how much of the formal sector here works. Yesterday, a fellow RA saw a man die in the lobby of one of Accra's best hospitals. (It's possible he was DOA.) Basically, a Lebanese man rushes in, "my friend is dying! he's having a heart attack! help! get a stretcher!", to which the receptionist informs him that he must first fill out the paperwork. The man keeps pleading, but the receptionist continues to insist on the paperwork. Meanwhile, there's no rush from the doctors or from any of the nurses (a terrible attitude problem ...). The guy drags his friend into the lobby from the car and begins administering CPR, but to no avail. Eventually, a doctor comes around, but he simply states that there's nothing he can do. It's unclear whether the man being Lebanese played a role in the hospital's slow response, but it's not impossible. I used to think highly of the Ghanaian medical system (compared to the rest of West Africa), but I think the moral of this story is "don't get sick/injured here." Erghhhhh, bureaucracy ...
I think I had a bunch of other things to write about, but I'm pretty tired and have a morning meeting tomorrow. So I'll post a few pictures from Koforidua. At this time, my research restricts me from what I can post or talk about, but hopefully I can post more pictures in a few weeks. Again, because of bandwidth restrictions, these pictures are uploaded at low resolution. :-(
We stayed at the Ghana National Association of Teachers guest house, and there were plenty of anti-child labour posters.
This cat was kind of scary ...
A family in Oyoko. When the little girl saw my camera slung over my shoulder (lens facing sideways/slightly behind me), she would dance around in front of it, just in the corner of my field of vision. She would stop when I looked over. It was so cute.
One of our project managers bought a goat. No, TWO goats. And yes, the goats (the other is behind the black/white one) are, in fact, tied up in the back of a tro-tro. The most absurd part of this transaction is that the sellers literally tie up the goat's legs and -put it into a bag-, so that it can be transported easily (i.e. on top of a tro-tro, perhaps as a purse, etc.). Paper or plastic?
Update: I forgot to mention this earlier, but I noticed in a taxi ride today that some of the graffiti on the Sankara Overpass (between the Dutch Embassy and the Canadian High Commission) actually consists of Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation or something. Yeah, go education.
And tomorrow is a national holiday! Entire country will be closed.
The ghost in the machine, in drag
3 hours ago