Natural Hair and Other Kinky Stuff

Day one in Accra, Ghana

In honor of Ghana’s Independence day, I am sharing the experiences I had there in 2009. My life was forever changed by this country of hope, turmoil, and love. 

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USAC students

After a some flight complications, I finally made it  to Accra around 10am. I had some anxiety about getting my bags. I was also worried about finding my program director. However, everything worked out well. The line for customs was not that long. My bags came quickly too. I exited the airport and immediately saw a young lady holding up a sign with my name on it.

Gina is a very nice girl who works for USAC. She is also a student at the University. We grabbed a taxi and stopped at a local pharmacy. I stayed in the cab when she went in. I wasnt going to leave my bags in the taxi unattended. Gina returned with a large bottle of water and a roll of pink toilet tissue.

I quickly realized that the locals drive very wild. Imagine the driving habits of New Yorkers and native Caribbeans combined. No one yields and pedestrians do not have the right away. This results in several accidents. However, the natives seem to understand this unorganized way of driving. I spotted a nice Benz. There is a wide variety of car brands including luxury vehicles that I can not afford. The most popular models are Toyota and Volvo.

I was actually the first student to arrive. The others did not come in until 7pm. Thus, I had the opportunity to spend my entire day with the program workers. Gina took me to my room first which is located at on campus in a student hostile. It looked just like the pictures. It is small, but not cramped. I put my stuff down and had some water. Then, Gina took me to the USAC program office. There, I met the other workers. In true Ghanaian style, they gave me a warm welcome.

Ghanaians are typically  very kind and hospitable people. I was immediately offered lunch and taken to a chicken restaurant similar to KFC. We (really Gina) hailed down a taxi so that we could get to the restaurant quickly.

I was concerned about my first meal. Afterall, I have had so many warnings about food borne illnesses. The chicken was decent. The flavor was quite bland though but I was happy to have a meal that did not upset my stomach.

When we returned to campus, I casually mentioned to the ladies that I wanted my hair twisted. They knew of several places and Abigail (the program director) had Gina take me to a salon. Gina said that people ride the troo-troo to save money. It’s basically a small bus that holds about 10 people. The get packed very quickly and we had to wait about 15 minutes before we found one that had space for both of us. The ride costs about 50 cent. We got off in the middle of the market. My senses were immediately invaded by different pungent aromas and picturesque sights. It was real life. Gritty. Real. Raw.

There were food stands and several different small businesses. The first salon had a  long wait so Gina took me to her sister’s salon. Two girls twisted my hair creating beautiful Senegalese twists that brushed my shoulders. They took about 3 hours to finish my hair. I kept falling asleep, causing my head to fall toward my chest. The girls politely worked around this obstacle. I was simply exhausted and jet lagged.

It was interesting watching the women interact. Their loud voices made me smile. Most of the time, I had no idea what was being said, but I felt like I was apart of the conversation.  It was a friendly environment. The small tv was playing African-American soap operas and American shows such as Girl Friends and The Bernie Mac show.

The woman chatted back and forth the whole time. Though English is the official language, few natives use English among themselves. Twi is the most common language spoken between friends and associates. I saw chickens and others small animals walking around the dirt road. The roads were sandy with dirt the color of clay. When I had to use the restroom, I was led from the salon into a small building nearby. I slowly climbed the steps to the second floor to access the toilet. There was no toilet paper or soap.

The lab is closing now. I will write again soon.

Peace

 

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