Accra, Day 2: Venturing outside our hotel

The cool thing about being in a different country is that even the most mundane things become little adventures.

Take today for example. Here’s what we did:

  • Ate lunch at The Holiday Inn
  • Met with Vodafone at their corporate offices
  • Went to the mall to buy a phone
  • Went to a shop to buy some clothes
  • Ate dinner downtown

Had I done these things in Phoenix, they would barely warrant a recap to Charles at the end of the day. I mean, I probably still would anyway, but they’d hardly be interesting to listen to.

However, because of the very fact that I didn’t do them in Phoenix, they were novel and fun and interesting.

The day didn’t start out all that well for me. Jet lag hit me pretty hard and rather than getting a good night’s rest, I simply tossed and turned all night – though I did finish The Queen of the Tearling and quite enjoyed it, so the whole thing wasn’t a loss. I finally fell asleep around 5 only to wake up around 8 and stare at the ceiling. I finally dragged myself out of bed an hour later, rushed down to catch the free breakfast, and then headed back upstairs to get ready for the day. On three hours of sleep? Thank God there’s tea at every single meal here.

We had a meeting with Vodafone, one of the major telecommunications companies here. We decided to head there early in order to partake in the Holiday Inn lunch buffet which was situated next door and, weirdly, came very highly recommended. Yeah, I know, Holiday Inn. But one country’s mid-level party motel is another’s upper middle class hotel with a great lunch buffet.

food1

And, admittedly, it was a great lunch buffet. That white fruit at the bottom was the second best pineapple I’ve ever had (sorry Ghana, but the Philippines still got you beat in the tropical fruit round), while the fried plantains are the left are apparently a Ghanaian staple and one of my favorite things about the food here so far. They’re served at almost every meal and are delicious! You know what else is at every meal? Rice! Ghanaians know whats up. I also had something called red-red or red-red stew, which is at the top left on my plate and is another national staple and delicious (and vegetarian!). If it were not for the fact that many things are just slightly too spicy for my weak taste buds, Ghanaian food would probably be my favorite.

After lunch, we walked over to Vodafone and had a very, very productive and successful meeting. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that we walked away feeling buoyed and satisfied with the outcome.

From there, we stopped by Accra Mall to get a travel phone since the one we’d brought was no longer working. Now, I don’t know what it is about international countries and their malls, but everyone always seems inordinately proud of them. This was true in every city we visited in the Philippines and it was true here in Accra. To me, once you’ve seen one mall, you’ve kind of seen them all.

However, what was fun about this was that buying a phone here was such a different experience that 1: we looked really, really stupid and 2: because of this, I ended up a learning a lot. Such as – why it’s helpful to have a dual sim card phone (so that we can have a Ghanaian number and easily switch to a Kenyan number) and the fact that in Africa, you buy the phone, the sim card and the data all separately.

say-yello

Say y’ello! To your data and sim card kiosk.

There are no phone companies here – no Verizon or Sprint telling you what kind of phone you can get and how much data you should get and forcing you to sign your life away. You just buy a phone, buy a sim card and purchase whatever amount of data you think you’ll need (or can afford). Fascinating!

After the mall, we headed back out to city and went to Global Mamas, a souvenir store I’d seen on some “best of shopping” list and thought looked like a good idea. It also came recommended by a few people, so I was pretty pumped (I also just love shopping).

globalmama1

The cool thing about Global Mamas is that you get really great looking stuff that’s fair trade, so you get to feel good about what you’re purchasing too. The stores stocks a bunch of handmade things and profits go back to supporting women in the Ghanaian community.

globalmama2

But of course, my favorite wall was the one filled with dresses and skirts.

globalmama3

The fabrics are beautiful and the dresses are well-made. I wanted to buy about a dozen different things but ended up getting a wrap skirt for myself and a button up shirt for my brother.

I almost got about half a dozen dresses, but even though they were beautiful, they were also very bright and I tend to wear more subdued colors now – which is why I got the fairly simply skirt. I am, however, going back one last time on Tuesday before we leave to grab some things that weren’t in stock, so there’s plenty of time to reconsider.

Finally, after putting in a few hours of work at the hotel, we headed to Buka Restaurant, whose website tells me that they serve the BEST West African dishes. I can’t say for sure, having only tried buffets from hotels prior, but the food was exceptionally good.

food2

I asked for a very Ghanaian meal and was given jollof rice (wonderful, but a tad too spicy for me) with baked tilapia (absolutely delicious! Tilapia can be a very bland fish, but this was anything but) and a side of kelewele (fried plantains seasoned with spices which I literally could’ve eaten a vat of).

All in all, an ordinary day made extraordinary by context! Tomorrow, we present a workshop that I’m a little nervous about, but at the same time am very excited to hear from some of our secondary alumni Scholars and teachers about their experiences.

Hopefully I can fall asleep before 5am this time!

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