Do you know how it feels to be 'bounced' a visa? You have collected various documents, begged your uncle overseas for an invitation letter and paid your bank almost GHC 20 for three months bank statement only to open the brown envelope to find your passport visaless and a letter telling you that you don't have traveling experience! But how will I get traveling experience if you don't give me the damn visa! You then rant and rave about how UK kwraa nothing dey there, and after calming down a bit, start moping about the visa fee which is gone forever. Anyway this isn't a post about the £3,000 bond payment. lol!
I was in the UK for 3 weeks on a course. I was here last year in Aberdeen and Kent and nothing really moved me to blog about my visit there. Too busy trying to stay warm. This time however, my blog eye was wide open and as I walked or rode a bus to city centers in Portsmouth and Chester, I couldn't help but compare Ghana and 'abrokyir' life in the most humorous and yet very realistic way my blog fuddled brain could fathom. It will make you laugh and yet also make you think of our attitude as Ghanaians towards safety, customer service and the structure of our social lifestyles.
Apart from being overwhelmingly confused about the wrong direction all the cars were moving in, I couldn't help but admire the respect vehicles gave to pedestrians and cyclists. Although the roads are small, sufficient space has been made available for cyclists and pavements also created for pedestrians. I had gone looking for a shop which had my dream dress, and was using Google maps on my Blackberry when I stopped at a confusing turn. I was so intent on determining my current location that I failed to hear someone asking me a question. The voice penetrated through my thoughts slowly and I raised my head in its direction to find an old man on a bicycle asking if I was crossing or not. In my confusion I looked around only to realize that I had been standing at a zebra crossing all the while. I apologized and told him no and moved away slightly. I noticed also how despite traffic or car movement, the streets were so quiet! No 'by heart' honking of cars or blaring of music.
You have to beg for cars to stop for you to cross at a zebra crossing. Kinda like flagging down a taxi before they grudgingly stop. Cyclists are knocked down everyday and many lose their lives as cars do not regard their presence on the road and many of these cyclists do not also regard road signs or pedestrians.
Joke I received recently, a girl crossing the road at a zebra crossing suddenly jumps back in shock as a taxi drives by narrowly missing her, she shouts at him, 'Driver, can't you see it's a zebra crossing? He shouts out, 'Kwasia! Wo y3 zebra?' (Nonsense, are you a zebra?)
The system and our attitude towards road safety needs to become more proactive. Every city or town in Ghana is noisy. From roadside drinking spots blaring out music to impatient taxi drivers honking at you the second the traffic light changes and to mobile local drugs 'Ab3v3 Tonic' sellers blaring infront of your house early Saturday morning.
I guess comparing the bus services here and in Ghana wouldn't be fair as the UK system is more advanced to our trotro death traps. But I can't help but admire how efficiently money is collected or cards swiped at the bus driver's side and how helpful they were in giving directions on which bus to take in case you are on the wrong one. How clean and comfortable the chairs also were. And most people thanked the driver after alighting.
In my trotro days, I once had my dress torn whilst alighting (stuck on a rusty metal of the car) from the bus, witnessed people fight the trotro mate over change owed them and fallen once straight into a gutter whilst alighting at my junction. I am sure everyone has had some form of experience with trotro's and can share more stories about them. I think its we who should be thanking Trotro drivers for getting us to our destinations in one piece! What happened to the 'Kuffour' buses anyway? The buses which are always being introduced from one government to another never seems to last long either in terms of maintenance or effectiveness.
I sometimes wonder if the sales attendants or tellers never get tired of greeting or saying thank you to each customer. Every shop I went into, whether it was convenience store or a major retail store, I never had a problem finding out information and there was always someone who had the patience to show me the right ailse. One guy practically walked with me to show me where an item I had been searching for was placed. In Ghana A sales attendant would point to where the item is leaving you to go figure. One time i went into one of the Una home shops in Accra and aside the fact no one acknowledged my presence, i was shocked to find the teller with one leg over the arm of the chair whilst talking to a guy by her! She couldnt be bothered to change her position as I came up to pay for my items. This is CLASSIC - I went to Frankies one afternoon to meet a friend, i chose the window seat as usual and waited for a menu. The waiter brought the menu, stood there for about 4 seconds and asked if I was expecting someone. I was beyond shocked? Why did i look like i couldnt afford to pay for a meal? In my shock i somehow managed to ask him why he was asking, (and you know the usual Ghanaian attitude) he chuckled quietly and said, 'Oh, nothing', and starts walking away. I call him back and repeated my question. He said, 'Oh, I thought you were expecting someone. I hope its your mother if you are.' Dumbfounded silence. He left me in a whirlwind of thoughts. Was the guy hitting on me? Which waiter hits on a customer? Customer service in Ghana has some long way to go.
I was on a bus one day when i heard an Obroni woman reprimanding her son for something naughty he was doing. He didnt stop. She repeated it. He kept doing whatever. Her voice went up an octave, 'I told you to stop it for chrissakes! That did it.
Ghana? The child will get a spanking and one or two insults, 'Shw3 ni ti bi,' 'Kw3m) kpa buulu anie3! or 'GowayYou'. lol. I think there is a disconnect in many homes in the UK. The social ladder there has lost a few rungs. Many elderly people (Grandma's and Grandpa's) live alone in apartments with little contact with their famly. A newspaper I read, told of how one 60 something woman died in her apartment and went unnoticed for close to 6 months before being discovered. Serious decomposition. I love family. Here in Ghana, the family unit is more extended and very communal. Many Ghanaians grew up in homes, where family meal times meant eating from the same bowl, sharing stories, talking about problems and enjoying life as one big family. Even when we fight, soon we make up and continue as before. But even this is gradually changing to be more nucleic.
Whatever is making the systems work in the UK, can it be implemented here? Would it work or our poor maintenance culture will wreck them in no time? Can we export good moral & family values (what we have left) to the UK to help them rebuild their lost social & family bonding? Instead of copying blindly some negative lifestyles from there? There is so much more i could compare and contrast between our two societies like fashion, food, music, etc. I will save that for another time. But you can share your experience on the first time you travelled to Abrokyir (any country outside Africa) or even to Ghana as a tourist. What did you notice, what irked you or made you laugh?