Interning in Ghana has been a wonderful experience thus far! My work as a Gender Advisor with the Ghana YMCA has been both challenging and rewarding; and being based in large city like Accra has its advantages. Accra is a bustling city with no shortage of things to do; from the beach and salsa dancing to taking in football games and productions at the National Theatre. But life in Ghana outside of Accra can be quite different. My work has given me the opportunity to travel and experience a different side of Ghana; and living in a major city has also made it very easy to travel during my free time and really be a tourist.
A few weeks ago, I traveled to the city of Kumasi, about five hours North of Accra, and the centre of the Asante (also known as Ashanti) Kingdom, to learn more about Asante history and culture.
The plan was to check out some of the museums and historic sites, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the city itself. Kumasi has all of the amenities of Accra, minus the seemingly endless traffic and incessant honking by taxis; plus actual sidewalks and a more laid back vibe. During a museum tour, my favourite tidbit of information was that anyone can meet with the current king. One way is to arrive with a gift and ask politely. Another is to be accompanied by a local who will introduce you, state where you are from, who your forefathers were and make the request on your behalf. I will be returning to Kumasi at the end of this month and meeting King Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II.
My other major discovery in Kumasi was The Central Market, which is known as the biggest in West Africa. The market is the exception to Kumasi’s laid back vibe. It is a massive outdoor space that engages all of the senses as you weave through the maze-like layout. The colours of the fruits and vegetables, and the rows upon rows of fabric and Kente cloth were amazing, if there is one aspect of the market that was photo-worthy, this would have been it. Sadly, whipping out a camera in the middle of the densely populated market would have been a bad idea.
The market is also apparently the place to go if you need to buy chickens. It seemed like they were everywhere! Chickens in cages, chickens in baskets on tops of heads, chickens being held by their owners. A man tried to sell me a live chicken, I politely declined. In case you were wondering, a live chicken here goes for between GHC10 and GHC30, depending on weight. That’s about $6-$18.
The market vendors were friendly, if only because they were amused by the “obrunis” (foreigners) in their midst. Stopped at a stall for my fellow Canadian friend to buy some shea butter, I noticed the women laughing but couldn’t understand what they were saying. I asked my local friend Gabriel for a translation: “The white girl is buying shea butter”.
I am looking forward to returning to Kumasi this month to carry out gender workshops with youth, but I am equally thrilled about exploring more of Ghana outside of Accra.
– Camaro West, Gender Advisor, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Ghana 2012