We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Afrikan Pot Spot and the loo there.
Contrary to its name, this friendly "joint" is just about food and drinks and serves, arguably, Ghana's best fufu. But this story is not about fufu.
As usual, I needed a toilet. A toilet means somewhere to do “No. 2” since urinals are only for peeing.
“Go out that door,” the waiter directed me, pointing to the darkness, “turn and go straight.”
I stepped through the darkened doorway and reluctantly headed towards a row of toilet-looking blocks sitting in complete blackness behind the building.
I stood there wondering which one I should attempt to enter when a figure suddenly stepped out of the closest doorway. I jumped.
“Are you coming to urinate?” inquired a young woman.
She looked into my face searchingly, as if nothing about this situation were unusual. The thing is, she was dripping water from head to toe, and stark naked. She must have been midway through washing herself in the pitch black when she heard my footsteps and stepped out to see if she could help another lost customer.
Since we were both women, her nakedness was perfectly acceptable. Srill, stunned as I was, anyone could have creeped up and whacked me over the head.
“Um, no, actually, the toilet,” I said.
She ushered me into the block where she had been taking her bath. I stood ankle deep in water, unable to see a thing. She wants me to defecate in her washroom? I thought to myself.
I knew that was definitely not OK. I had heard of a Peace Corps volunteer who was expelled from their community for defecating in the wrong place. I thought that was pretty harsh considering that you can almost guarantee spotting someone “relieving” themselves around Cape Coast or Elmina Castle, or anywhere along the beach, at any given time of day or night.
So, I decided to try and hold onto it. “I am ok, sorry to bother you,” I said, retreating back into the dim alley.
I was still acutely aware of her nakedness, of this being an “Only in Ghana” moment, and of the pure goodness of most Ghanaians.
“Do you need to urinate?” she asked again, with more urgency.
At a loss, I said yes.
Fortunately, she ushered me into the next stall where I could see the outline of a toilet in the darkness.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Fine, fine,” she replied, smiling, and went back to her cubicle to continue washing. Ghanaians don’t have the reputation for being among the most friendly people in Africa for nothing.
But, here was the problem. I now had to flatten my back against the inside wall (and I had all sorts of thoughts borne of very real experiences going to bush toilets as a kid in Australia of spiders and god knows what just sitting on that wall waiting for a lovely back like mine to press against them) to get inside and around the door, to close it. I don’t know why I thought I had to close the door, really, after all this time. Anyway, I did.
I was now standing in pitch black. And the toilet lid was closed. The fact that the toilet even had a seat, much less a lid, was incredible. It’s rare, to say the least. The problem was that I had to reach down and lift it up and I couldn’t see a thing.
Deep breaths. Scrunching up my eyes in what must be an instinctive prepare-for-the-worst reflex, I bent over and felt around with my index finger until I found the lip of the lid. I quickly flipped it up.
OK. So far, so good.
Of course, I had no way of knowing what was on the seat or in the toilet. So, for once, I actually squatted. (Usually I’m too lazy.)
Now, I was squatting like a spring-loaded cartoon character ready to jump up and out the door no matter what stage of “going” I was in if I felt something touch my feet in the blackness. But nothing did.
Exhale. I made it. Good. That I had no toilet paper was, frankly, the least of my worries. If you’d experienced the toilets at the STC in Tamale in early August 2005, you’d know this was luxury.
It’s amazing how your standards change (sink, some might say). It’s all relative.
By the way, Afrikan Pot Spot not only has the most helpful staff around, and toilets that actually work (as we now know), but also the best fufu and soups— ground nut, light, and palm nut, all—with the choicest pieces of meat, in Ghana. Perhaps it’s not appropriate to mention that, following the story above, as it does, but this is Ghana.
Suspend your views about how things “should” be and you’ll be fine.
You can find Afrikan Pot Spot on the way to Elmina along the highway to Takoradi. It's on the right before you hit "Hotel Junction". Ask any taxi driver coming from Cape Coast or Elmina. They'll know.