Settling into a developing country: things that don’t surprise you in Ghana
Written by Raz Benson, July 2015
Having been in Ghana for less than 2 weeks, we’re all still just learning the ropes – ‘Ghana time’ (catch-all excuse for arriving over an hour late) still doesn’t sit quite right with me. On the other hand, many things that might seem shocking back in England have already blended into normal life over here.
For example, this poster in the office where I work:
My placement is with the The Human Help and Development Group (THUHDEG), a goal of which is to end the violation of the fundamental human rights of women accused of witchcraft in Northern Ghana. Such women are often beaten and sent to live in the notorious ‘witch camps’, several of which are dotted around the region.
On a much lighter note: everyday on the way to work, overexcited school children greet us with “Siliminga! How are you?” In Ghana you say what you see – siliminga means white person, and is in no way intended to be offensive.
Motorbikes being the standard way for many locals to get around, it’s not uncommon to see a parent riding with their three young, helmetless children on board.
A half hour taxi ride costs under £3.
A woman sat next to me in a shared taxi with a new-born baby strapped to her back. I hid my relief when the baby started crying and was moved to its mother’s lap.
In Ghana, the left hand is traditionally used for unhygienic activities. It’s not uncommon for someone (usually elderly in my experience) to downright refuse to place an object into your left hand, without first hearing you say ‘sorry for left’.
As I settle into my placement I’m sure I’ll get used to more of the wacky things that go on here, and no doubt become immunised to more of the shocking features of everyday life. The constant challenge is deciding how best to regard them: what can simply be ascribed to cultural differences, and what is just unfortunate consequence of so called underdevelopment? And what should serve to remind us of the severe injustices that continue to exist in an otherwise vibrant country?