Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ghana Elections 2008 - Peace AND Prosperity?

The poll results trickle in uneventfully. The day awaited with a wary enthusiasm has arrived in Ghana. Election Day 2008. The third democratic election, the first time since the discovery of oil. Local and foreign media have been obsessing about Ghana and it’s chance to raise the image of Africa in terms of the democratic process, and the ability of an African nation to face it with calm and organization as opposed to violence and mayhem.

We stayed home today, taking it easy and keeping a low profile, as we’d been advised. I listened for gunfire or sirens but I heard roosters and birds chirping.
We tuned in to the local media stations and watched a relatively calm if not highly organized day at the polls for Ghana.

The most shocking thing to happen today is balloting materials turning up late at the polls and people being forced to break into two or three lines after having queued for hours in one line… Not earth shattering stuff.

Maybe Ghana will pull through tonight’s results like a fully democratic country, and accept the winner fairly.

There is a lot at stake though, and judging by the numerous posters and music videos by local artists, along with pleading commercials from pastors and politicians alike, begging the nation for peace, it seems that most are very afraid of something untoward happening.

I noticed today that the overwhelming message was peace. Is this the best an African democracy can hope for? That people do not tear into others with machetes, for supporting another party? Tribalsim plays a big part here in terms of who votes for which candidate and what party. This morning voters were told not to wear any partisan clothing or paraphernalia to the voting polls. One man didn’t heed the warning and was ‘almost lynched’ according to the local TV station, Metro TV.

Supporters of one or another of the two main parties take things quite seriously. We were caught up in a cavalcade of NDC supporters last night, and delayed over an hour on a short stretch of road. Buses and cars and motorcycles waving the NDC flag enthusiastically, surrounded us completely. There was a palpable frenzy in the air as the people swayed and sang and rolled their arms in the NDC campaign sign, indicating the need for change. One taxi stuck beside us for a long period caught my eye. It was an old station wagon, with three jubilant supporters waving flags and in the back seat a cow. Yes a live, full grown cow. Curled around itself in an impossible space, they would tap her head each time she tried to raise it… (these are the Kodak moments Ghana offers, when you just don't have your camera on hand!). Seemed like EVERYONE was out for the party. I guessed the cow would be part of the feast, either for the post election party or for the Eid celebrations which take place tomorrow for Ghana’s muslims.

For us visitors it’ll be the fourth day of a four day weekend. By the end of tomorrow we should know the winner. As we weaved along the road among the campaigners, I noticed as darkness fell on us last night in the car, each village we passed through, had no lights. No electricity yet. In 2008. The people came out of the dim lit rooms, paraffin lamps glowing within, to shout their support as we passed.

I wondered whether the new party would do more than maintain peace. I wondered if they would bring the basics to their people. Light in villages, schooling for the children, hope for the future.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Ghanaian Job

Or, The Expat Experience, or 'An Exercise in Frustration'...

So my friend and interior decorating inspirational counsellor and I conspired to revamp my son’s bedroom and bathroom recently.

In our attempt to do it all on the cheap in a company provided, 70’s throwback style house (which was incidentally the Libyan Embassy in Ghana before we lived in it…), one of the aspects of our clever plan was to paint the en suite bathroom walls gold (to bring out the best in the hideous tiles). I mean, seems natural enough? No? Well, you’d be surprised how difficult it is to find gold paint in Ghana. Or maybe you wouldn’t…

So, as we do, we picked a Saturday when we were feeling particularly brave and energetic, and headed into ‘the Market’, the infamous neverending rolling squalor of Makola…There is a saying that anyone who has traversed the pathways of Makola knows, ‘You can find anything in that market!’ … but you might not find your way back out!!

So true to it’s legend, as we trudged through with green solid slime gutters underfoot, chickens and goats skirting around, and a constant flow of hot pulsing bodies surrounding us under the oppressively beating sun, we poked in and out of crowded alleys and deeper and deeper into the abyss, and alas we stumbled upon some sellers with.. wait.. GOLD SPRAY PAINT!!! So I bargained and bought two tins. The seller assured me this would easily cover a small bathroom. (All the walls are tiled halfway up).

We found our way out of the maze, after walking the ‘gauntlet’ of used clothes sellers, and buying more than a few “Selection, Madam!” items…at about $2 each..

And as things go in Ghana, we didn’t actually plan to do the dirty work ourselves!
We’d have Eric, the house help do it… Therein lies the ultimate Ghanaian experience. You want something done. It seems simple and straightforward. You convince yourself you are too busy etc. and ask the ‘helpers’ to do it. What could go wrong???

Silly question, really. Monday morning I armed Eric with three week’s worth of old Sunday Times, an industrial roll of tape, and the two spray paint cans, with strict and precise instructions – cover all the tiles, ceiling, sink, toilet etc. with the papers…

Monday I arrived home from work and opened the door of the bathroom… drum roll please…

The two empty spray cans tossed on the floor caught my eye first. Then the white walls... What’s wrong with this picture?

Then I opened the door further and there in the back corner behind the door, on a 2 x 2 ft. section of the wall, was gold.spray.paint. Newspaper was taped to the tiles below, about a half inch below where the tiles begin (hence the top of the tiles is now gold spray painted), and every few inches a piece of tape, placed vertically, right into the spray painted area of the wall. So that when you remove the tape, there is a tape shaped white rectangle on the gold portion of the wall.

Question to self: Where is Zen when you need him? Deep breaths. This is funny, right? Cute even... Don't snap, just avoid Eric for the day...

Really I should just leave it. What did I expect when I said, tape paper over everything? That it was assumed the REASON for this was to create protection from the gold paint? And how else would one tape up the paper, if not with thumbstrips of tape?! You mean you wanted the paint to be uniform?

I looked up at the ceiling – a fine mist of tapering gold…

When I asked Eric, determined to stay calm, about all these absolute F^&%^ ups, not to mention the fact that he didn’t bother to spray across the wall but over and over on the same spot until both cans were completely empty… he shrugged and said “Oh Madam, the paint wasn’t plenty, o. The man who sold it to you was cheating… And I forgot about the paper for the ceiling. Also, I don’t know how to put paper up on the ceiling. Madam, please, it will fall. …”

I’m tempted to give up, just as is and leave the mess that is there. After all, TIG (like “This Is Africa”, but my more dear to the heart version, ‘This Is Ghana’…). But I just can’t. So I will painstakingly explain what I REALLY meant the first time about the tape and then describe how one goes about spray painting, and send Eric himself into the market to find more of the paint…

I’m a glutton for punishment and Eric may never find his way out of the market…
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