I was received at the airport in Ghana by a person who shall remain nameless.I felt like a VIP having someone waiting for me and hearing my name over the loudspeaker.As I met up with this person, he whisked me past some of the checkpoints reserved for most passengers flying in.Before leaving the airport, I learned the first “P” in Ghana – Power.Before the night was over, my friend I was staying with informed me of the second “P” – Payoff. Both payoffs and power get you far in Ghana (as well as in other places in the world). America is king of “pay to play”. However, in Ghana and other places across the globe, power and payoffs manifest in different ways. After meeting up with my friend, I said goodbye to my chaperone and we headed to a bar close to the airport frequented by expatriates. While indulging in conversation, food, and drink, I witnessed the third “P”, prostitution – perhaps.My friend pointed out the rather odd couples that walked through the door, white males with scantily dressed black women.The pairing of the couples was extremely mismatched and my friend explained that this is common (white tourists experiencing all of the pleasures that Ghana has to offer). From a post-colonial framework (since I am studying post colonialism) this feeds into the concept of the fetish with the exotic “other”. Thailand comes to mind immediately when I think of men searching for this type of “adventure” in foreign countries.
While I have seen many images of Ghana from friends who have visited before me, the television, and the internet, nothing can replace the actual experience of encountering something with your own senses.No form of media could allude to the heat that greeted me at the airport and the days to come, the burning smell that lingered in the air, the sounds of the busy streets, roosters crowing, or the frogs croaking late into the night. As we left the restaurant, I couldn’t help noticing all the people.People were everywhere and this was just a taste of what was to come in the following days.Seeing all the people energized me.As we dashed in and out of traffic, I greatly feared for my life.The driving and traffic was worse than anything I have ever experienced.My friend indicated that almost anyone could get a license by paying off the agents that issue licenses. Although there were numerous police checkpoints inspecting vehicle registration, a lack of proper registration could be overlooked if the price is right.
So far, I thought Accra was similar to any other city I have visited; tall buildings, wide highways, horns honking, and city lights looming in the distance.But the closer we got to my friends house, there was a drastic change; the paved highways began to fade and the tall buildings were replaced with the provincial, residential homes. The roads went from smooth and paved to unpaved, uneven, and rocky. An all terrain vehicle would serve best in this environment and I was being transported in an SUV. But small cars edged their way through the streets dipping up and down causing the reddish/orange dirt to kick up in the air. We passed local shops, chop bars, and modest homes juxtaposed with gated fortresses. As I disembarked from my ride, I was overcome by a sense of euphoria; not so much because I finally got to visit the “motherland”, but because I was able to see another part of the world.As a little girl growing up in Coatesville, I never dreamt about traveling to far-off places. I was also elated to be able to stand in a friend’s living room and that we were able to share in each other’s company once again.With those thoughts, the long day of traveling behind me and the early day that awaited me the next day, I wrapped myself in my mosquito net and drifted into a deep slumber.