Monday, November 23, 2009

'Tis the season - Ghana supermarket style

When I moved to Ghana all those years ago, I had to leave behind all my Western consumerist obsessions – Diet Coke, Kraft Dinner, chocolate bars - even boxed breakfast cereals for my little boy were things of another world. Firstly, they weren’t available. Second, even if they were, on our volunteer ‘stipend’ we wouldn’t have been able to afford them.

But there were always days when, buried in the blur of culture shock, we all longed for a ‘taste of home’. There was a small Lebanese grocery store called Kwatsons that we'd visit, at the top of the Osu main strip, just admiring all the expensive imported foods. And once in a blue moon I’d buy a little block of cheese, or some real butter (as opposed to the cheap and readily available, non-refrigerated mystery bread fat), a jar of jam and a fresh baguette bread.

Kwatsons became Koala over the years, though I assume it’s the same family who owns it. They’ve grown and expanded and today you can pretty much buy anything you might want. And these days I don’t have to look longingly, I just get on with the grocery shopping.

Accra has a big mall now, up the other end of town, through throngs of traffic… but I still prefer the family run Koala. They really try. Last December, in the blazing heat, they set up a fake snow machine outside the door, so when you were at the check outs looking out, it appeared as a blistery winter’s day in Canada. (Now THAT’s trying). They acknowledge each holiday – from Easter to Eid and of course Christmas.

It could be said that they are just capitalizing on the season. That there’s no authenticity, no heart. That maybe the staff who string these things up have no clue of the cultural significance…

I was in Koala on the weekend, and noticed they’d put up a Christmas tree this year!

I just had to take a photo and share. Here it is (and no, I did not stand on my head to take the picture):

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24 comments:

LMJ said...

oh how interesting. I had never seen a Christmas tree like that.

Arnaud said...

"No clue" indeed :)

It reminds me a few years ago being in Burkina Faso in January and finding the Christmas decorations really odd. Then again, I was there sweating in my short-sleeved shirt while locals would wear hats and coats, so it was really Christmas cold for them.

Jungle Mom said...

OMG! I have a picture of a tree in our hotel lobby in a small town in Argentina put together upside down as well. We should start a collection of odd photos ...

ADRIAN said...

Brilliant, 9/10 for content 2/10 for execution. It's the thought that counts.

Anonymous said...

I feel perhaps the angry meat counter girl was assigned the task of putting up the tree this year.

Heather said...

Thats brilliant! i loe it! thinking of doing the same with mne this year.

The pale observer said...

Dear Anon - I Definitely think it was the angry meat counter girl!!! The one who wasn't in the meat counter boss's 'good' books this month...

Jungle Mom - definitely! Like Cake Wrecks (do you know that site?) - but only with Christmas trees! :)

Heather - we will be waiting for the photo up on your blog!

charlie said...

Looks like you've got a better supermarket that we have here! And they're definately in fashion with the upside down tree!

Zoe said...

When I saw the pic in the link my friend sent to me I just knew it was going to be Koala! I was there last year for the fake snow. It cracked me up. Xmas music usually makes me feel scroogy, but when you're overseas and away from family it seems to melt away the bah-humbug and bring on the fa la la la la. Thanks, your post brought back some fond memories and the picture is hilarious!

Land of shimp said...

That is absolutely marvelous. Perhaps the tree is attempting to point towards colder climates?

I know it can be said that it's all about cashing in, and I suppose there is some validity to that because profit is sought but more than one impulse can be present in any action. For instance, it could be about "driving up sales" but that doesn't entirely negate that it is also about having some seasonal cheer...and a good laugh on top of that!

Stacie said...

That photo is fantastic....

Joshua said...

I only wish my wife would let me decorate our tree this way.

-Joshua

Poindexter said...

There's a cafe in the Houston Heights that installs an inverted tree, gloriously decorated, for the Christmas holidays. At first I thought it was just quirky, but later began to think that it was to save precious floor space. The cafe is so small that removing even 1 table would not be a good thing. Perhaps that's the same logic in your grocery store - share some festive decor without inconveniencing the customer shopping experience. Anyway, that's my hypothesis... -Diane

Matthew said...

To be honest, I'd rather see that take on christmas (ie a little skewed) than the whole traditional alpine thing.

Living in a country where christmas happens bang in the middle of summer, it's the one thing I struggle with. It's a tough enough fit doing it the normal way - mess its hair up a bit I say!

Miss Angie said...

Very neat! I've left you a blog award!

http://agofish.blogspot.com/2009/11/new-award.html

Miss Footloose said...

Ah, Koala! It's where we did most of our shopping and they had finished the first part of their expansion when we left Ghana. We bought an artificial tree there and left it in Armenia at a children's home.

That upside down tree is great. And about them cashing in on all the holidays, hey, they are in the business of making customers happy, offering them what they want. More power to them. Wish I could walk in and see it . . .

NAWA said...

oddly enough, I don't think they just do it for commerical reasons. A couple of Christmases ago, on the 24th I was in the Cafe and everyone there got a little wrapped gift, and then, over in the corner, the son was teaching the staff to say "ho, ho, ho" and they wandered through the store handing out candies and tiny toys to the kids. You got to love Koala in holiday mood.

Trish

The pale observer said...

Zoe, Miss Footloose, Trish - thanks for the comments - makes me realise how much we all love Koala! Can't say that about any Supermarket in North America...

Diana - A also thought maybe they put it that way to save space... but knowing Ghana and Koala, it's just as likely the staff strung it up unknowingly.. I like to imagine it like that anyway - it better suits the place :)

Miss Angie - THANKS!!! Now I have 3 blog awards, unacknowledged... I feel guilty! I WILL do something about it this week, promise :)

Matthew - yes I've always thought it strange to be in hot climates for Christmas. Either it's snowing outside or it's not the festive season!! :)

Joshua - show your wife this photo - maybe she'll reconsider. It would definitely be a conversation piece over the holidays :)

julochka said...

that's hilarious.

but i'll admit i'm kinda horrified by the snow machine thing. that's just environmentally irresponsible--how much power did it take to generate snow in that heat? madness, i say. like that ski slope in dubai.

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