A funny thing happens when you mention having lived in Ghana to someone who’s never been to Africa full-stop. Often they give you a funny look and you realise that they don’t know where it is. West Africa, you explain. Then they give you a certain fascinated stare as if you’re some kind of fearless traveler. ‘West Africa,’ they utter, imagining all the conflict they’ve seen on TV. Can you blame them?
You wonder why this island of peace and friendliness is such a big secret. Of course, it has its downsides like everywhere else (definitely not for the impatient or high maintenance luvvies). On balance, though, it has a lot going for it, particularly for the nervous first-time traveler to Africa.
Below: up in Bawku where donkeys rule the roads
So, if you're wondering ‘what Ghana is really like…’
[Whispers] It’s not that bad.
It’s not the Africa you see on TV – war, famine and endless disease -- that Africa is half the story.
The much-neglected half of the story is that there are countries like Ghana (and Botswana and Malawi, for example) where citizens live in peace – poor, but peaceful. No war. Very little violence.
I recall an anecdote that my boss tells about such thing. An acquaintance of hers was accosted by a potential armed robber who held a knife up and demanded the backpack. The acquaintance, a traveler in Ghana replied, 'Oh, but I want to be your friend.'
'OK,' replied the suddenly demure armed robber who lowered his knife and accompanied the acquaintance to his destination. They don't say 'West Africa for the people' for nothing...(having your wits about you helps too).
Every day I see little kids charged with carrying full buckets of water on their head for the family’s needs grooving uphill all the way to the ubiquitous hip-life that plays along most streets all over the country. I don’t know if people are happier – happiness is rather relative – most don’t have much in the way of material possessions, but they certainly know how to eke joy out of thin air. ‘Why not?’ as your average Ghanaian is likely to retort if you ask why they love to dance.
Do you really need a reason?