Friday, November 14, 2008

Shopping - Ghana style

The 'profession' of street hawking is alive and well in Ghana.

Today, I 'snuck' out of the office to run some quick errands during business hours, and found myself in a quagmire of traffic, taxi drivers shouting, the sun beating down relentlessly, in a snake of cars longer than a few CN cargo trains chained together. Completely stagnant and unmoving.

Instead of fuming and cursing endlessly to myself about how useless the traffic police are, in dealing with the constantly powerless traffic lights, and the fact that despite the massive explosion in urban dwellers and vehicles in Accra over the past 5 years, the roads have remained tiny one lane rivulets, letting cars trickle through like molasses down a rough canvass...

Today, imprisoned in the jam, encapsulated in my airconditioned 4x4, I busied myself by jotting down each item that a street seller pushed up to the chilled window, and below is the list, as complete as I could muster...

1. Shoes for boys and men

2. Magazines - Ebony, Time, Elle Decor

3. Brightly coloured soccer balls - with a head bouncing display by the seller

4. Shears for shaving your head (I must be having a really bad hair day to be offered these!)

5. Kitchen knife sets including the extra large cleaver for those bone cutting jobs

6. Small coffee tables - inscribed with the Ghanaian symbol Gye Nyame 'Except God', and polished with red and black shiny shoe polish

7. Soy milk, in a bowl of water (for chilling?)

8. Homemade peanut candy, cut in triangles and arranged in a bowl on the seller's head

9. Chinese branded pineapple crackers... hmmm

10. Bathroom scales

11. Men's leather belts

12. Lanterns (electric I think)

13. Socks

14. Cufflinks

15. Television remotes

16. Suit ties in fancy silk lined boxes

17. Plantain chips

18. Bread in sweating plastic bags

19. Water in clear plastic sachets (sold for biting the corners, sucking the contents and throwing the non-biodegradable shriveled remains on the side of the road - very popular)

20. Chinese New Year decorations for hanging on rearview mirrors (I have a feeling I'll be seeing lots of these in taxis soon)

21. Wooden walking canes

22. Pleather steering wheel covers

23. Rat poison and cockroach chalk (same seller)

24. Chinese Etah-a-Sketch boards - I got a demonstration!

25. A textbook called 'Americans in Literature'

26. Yams

27. Bottles of coke

28. Chilled tins of Milo (malted chocolate drink) in cooler box

29. Bathing sponges in rainbow colours

30. Wind-up toy spaceships

31. Brass bracelets

32. Ghana maps

33. Nail clippers

34. Mirrors with ‘I Love You’ inscribed on the bottom corner - hard to resist those...

35. Keychains with expensive car logos

36. Mobile phone prepaid units scratch cards

37. Sunglasses

38. Pleather passport holders

39. Bath towels

40. The Real Life of Barack Obama – somehow I knew it was a matter of days before these books would be at every traffic light

41. Toilet paper in 2 roll packs and 10 roll packs

42. Ice cream

43. Toothpicks

44. Laptop briefcase style bags

45. Hankerchiefs

46. Lawn chairs (I’m not kidding)

47. The History of Rwanda (I wonder where the guy found this book?)

48. Oranges

49. Earbuds

50. Shoe shine kit

51. Green apples

52. Red grapes

53. Chinese fans – for all this heat!

45 minutes later I emerged on the other side of the traffic light, waved through with 4 or 5 other cars by the military men in full gear and white gloves. I was finally headed to my destination, knowing that shopping malls are the silly construction of foreigners and take so long to get to, one could just buy everything along the way and turn back upon arrival.
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Jen said...

Beautiful! You missed the generic version of the Suzanne Somers abdominal crunching device!! Those were my favorites!


The pale observer said...

They must have sold out this week! I do remember them though!

The hawkers are really diversifying in their wares!!

TC said...

Man, that's a heck of a lot more interesting than my socks-and-underwear shopping trips to StuffMart.

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