Friday, February 13, 2009

It's not Walmart

Where Americans are used to large stores full of shelves stocked with an infinite variety of shiny new merchandise, Ghanaians shop in streets full of open air markets packed with an infinite variety of tiny stalls. Carts parked on the sidewalks make it difficult to walk there so the crowds walk on the roadway dodging honking taxis. I love the carts that sell used shoes hung on strings falling like a beaded curtain - each shoe unique -brightly colored high heels, neon colored sequined sneakers, and sandals all blowing in the breeze. The markets continue everywhere you look. A red dirt street off to the right is lined as far as the eye can see with farmers sitting next to their sacks and piles of green hued oranges. Further down the street, we see glimpses of market tables and awnings covered with food through an eyelet of an opening between two 19th century stone buildings. As we pass through the slot, a narrow path winds between stalls packed so claustrophobically close together that their roofs touch overhead. The women sit with their wares. Some of them smile at us, some ignore us or speak Twi which we can't understand. As we thread our way along, 3 children run headlong and laughing around our legs out toward the eyelet opening through which we had entered. At every turn, grain and beans, meat and vegetables, brilliant red palm nuts and pale yellow fragrant parched corn are mounded or stacked or spread out to sell. We come to a fork in the path. One way leads deeper into the bazaar and the other back to the street by a different way than we had come. A woman resting her head on the table in front of her never moves. Her wood and burlap display is covered with palm nuts so brilliantly red and purple they seemed magnetic.

I was feeling the heat and sun so Craig and I made for the street. The pressing, riotous profusion of smells and colors gave way to the relative calm and openness of the street. I hadn't realized how still the air in the bazaar was until we were out on the sidewalk again. Craig was ready to keep walking through the city, one thing making him more curious for the next. I told Craig I was done. Too much sun, too much heat and not enough water... We flagged a Taxi to take us the mile and a half back to the Seminary. Eventually we got there but not before we had gone to the wrong part of the city, had a 5 minute discussion with 3 perfect strangers, one of whom was able to understand us and explained our needs to the driver. I'm not sure if the driver was irritated or if he was just trying to get some breeze going in the car, but the weaving darting taxi ride back to the Seminary would have made a New York Taxi driver proud.

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