Adventures in a Ghanian street market

By Kase Knochenhauer | 2/21/12 12:05pm

The trotro ride to Cape Coast from Accra had introduced me to the world of street sales. Sure, back at home I thought I had been to a street sale. Those events when the streets shut down and retailers reduce prices from very overpriced to slightly overpriced. This was different. The trotro came to a stop and suddenly a mob of people ran towards us. Towards me! I thought I might be safe inside the small van.

The mob reached us, goods of all sorts balanced on their heads. Their hands reached through the windows holding dried plantains and fish, water sachets, watches, belts, and more. This was like nothing I had ever experienced. They surrounded the vehicle practically burying it with people, goods and energy. Every time the trotro stopped or slowed another mob of salespeople came. I looked carefully knowing I wanted only one thing: shower shoes. I repeated this to myself quietly as I tried to avoid purchasing a very affordable glow-in-the-dark Jesus cross. Who would not want a glowing cross?

During the journey I met two beautiful girls. One of them would not stop staring. Her eyes gazed up at me, black pupils the size of Frisbee disks. I bought her a bag of dried plantains, and she grinned with a smile so wide it looked as though it might tear a muscle. Then she leaned over, her eyes still locked to mine, and suckled her mom’s breast. UAHH! I tore my eyes away pretending I had seen nothing, afraid I had offended the mother. I glanced back to the women awkwardly attempting to see the emotional damage I had done. She laughed at her daughter’s enthrallment with me, an obroni, a white person. I sighed, relaxed slightly, then gave the mother a sheepish grin, unsure of where to keep my eyes; closed, out the window or with her lovely child.

The Ghanaian women and her two children spoke only Fante. I only speak English, but even so, I enjoyed communicating with this family. Her youngest daughter, maybe two years old, repeatedly chose to dump her plantain chips into my lap. After emptying the contents of the bag on my legs she would pick them up slowly piece by piece. Later she felt openly comfortable to poke me hard in the side until I barked with laughter.

The older daughter was bald, beautiful and about seven years old. She played on and off with the material tag attached to my pillow. This reminded me of my Minibear. Mini was my first love (or maybe obsession); she had a tag that I would rub together constantly until it rubbed raw and fell off. I was reminded how far home really was.

I had finally arrived! I entered the hotel room, the heat and humidity begged for a cold shower. I tore off my pants only to find I had forgotten shower shoes. I have a thing about feet. No foot can recover from a fungal attack if lodged in boots 16 hours per day. With this in mind, I stood outside the shower debating my deepest dirtiest thoughts. Dirty Feet vs. Really Dirty Shower. Then I did what any person with perfect logic would do. I showered with my boots on. Bent, crooked, and struggling I tried not to get my un-waterproof boots wet. For those of you that have tried this more than once, I give you props. You must be a real talent. After contorting my body just like those in Cirque du Soleil I climbed out, half defeated and half clean, blaming the situation on a goat.

I recalled several hours previous:
“Mehghhaaa.” The goat standing in the rear of the van spewed both anger and spit at my fellow trotro passengers. I laughed at the concept of 23 people and a goat being smashed into a small van. It was not until I climbed out of the shower that I realized it was this distraction that diverted my eyes. But it was too late. He had passed me by. I was unable to grab the attention of the shoes salesmen as he and the absolutely perfect pair of shower shoes glided smoothly by on his head.

Logically it is completely the goat’s fault.

Follow more of Knochenhauer’s adventures at his blog:

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