Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Big City Pros and Cons

Well I cannot believe that it has now been well over a month since I last wrote to you all, my only excuse is that time for me has been in turbo-charged fast forward mode for the last month. (Well that and the fact that the Internet has barely been working here for the past three weeks..) The reason for this is that March was a fantastic month, definitely the best of my seven so far here in Ghana, and when I am having fun time to a large extent stops mattering. The main reason March was so good is due to a couple trips, an AFS organized trip to Accra March 4th-9th, and then a trip with two of my fellow AFSers Rich and Boris to Kumasi for the last weekend of the month. Going to both Accra and Kumasi was incredibly interesting as they are Ghana's two biggest cities, and while on the two trip I couldn't help but think that my stay might have been a bit more interesting had I ended up in either Accra or Kumasi. At the same time though I saw ways in which being in a big city would be lacking, and so for today's post I want to talk about some big city pros and cons.Big City Pros: #1. More places to go, things to do, people to see. One of the most attractive things to me about Kumasi and Accra is that they are much more interesting places for to spend one's free time than Sunyani. While I am at home, here in Sunyani, my options are incredibly limited. I can just sit at home and read, which I do much of the time, I can come here to the internet cafĂ©, I can go to a local hotel pool and swim, or I can go to local restaurants or bars when a football match is playing on the TV and watch that. Much of the time though, I just end up sitting at home reading, or when my eyes get too tired for that I just end up sitting and doing absolutely nothing at all. In Accra and Kumasi by contrast, there is a much wider array of options for activities to keep my boredom at bay, albeit more expensive options. Accra for instance, just to name a couple, has a bowling alley, a couple movie theatres, and lots of actual cafes where I could go to get coffee and just hang out. Kumasi I don’t think has malls like Accra, but it does just have a lot of nice restaurants and places to hang out, which as I said Sunyani is sadly lacking. The other nice thing about the two big cities is there are a lot more volunteers and just more people from other countries in general, so I think I would have been able to meet a lot more interesting people who I could have gotten on well with. The movie theatres and malls that Accra has I can do without just fine, but I really do wish I had some place here in Sunyani where I could just go to hang out and meet cool people, if I had that I think my boredom problem would largely be solved. #2. People are more Accepting. While in Accra and Kumasi I can count the number of times I was called Obruni on one hand, and I have to say that it was a big relief to almost feel like I fit in after feeling like such a sore thumb here in Sunyani. Of course while I was in both the big cities I was by all means still a minority, still one white face in a crowd of black faces, but I think in those places people are more used to seeing Obrunis than here in Sunyani or other small Ghanaian cities, so they don’t feel the need to shout Obruni or other things I have said to me here in Sunyani. People here in Sunyani generally mean no harm when they call me Obruni, but it still gets a bit tiring day after day and it was very pleasant not to have to deal with that while in the big cities. #3. My third and final big city pro is the big city buzz. Sunyani as I have said is a pretty slow sleepy place, and that can be nice sometimes when I am wanting to be in a place that is simple and easy to navigate. However, while in Kumasi and Accra I was quite entranced with the feeling of being in a human beehive. There are so many people in both places and so much going on, and it is exciting to be in a place like that after spending so much time in a simply small city. In both the big cities there is always something going on, be it live music at a club or a football match, there is always something going that is exciting and fun, which I can't say for Sunyani.
Big City Cons:
#1. Transportation/Traffic. One of the worst aspects of visiting both cities, especially Accra, was the problem of getting from point A to point B in a timely manner. In Sunyani transportation is simple, I walk from my house to the road, stick my hand out for a taxi, ride in one for a few minutes for a mere 25 pesewas (less than 25 cents) and voila, I am in town and everyplace I need to go is within walking distance once I am out of the taxi. In Kumasi I actually didn't have too many problems with traffic, but Accra was horrible. While I was staying there I had to travel across town several times, and each trip took well over an hour. The traffic was absolutely horrible, and it wasn't helped by the fact that many of the roads are not very good. On top of that, it is very expensive to go long distances in a taxi, so the mode of transportation that is cheapest is a tro tro. Tro tros are big vans that when crammed full, and they always are crammed full, hold probably around 25 people, and although riding in one isn't terribly uncomfortable, it is certainly more of a hassle than my simple taxi ride here in Sunyani. #2. The second big city con is the availability of many western world things like malls and burger joints. I know I also listed this as a pro, but that was purely from a personal enjoyment point of view. I am sure that if I was in either Kumasi or Accra I would greatly enjoy having the option to chow down on the occasional burger or go out for a movie now and then, but if I look at my stay here from a purely objective point of view I am very glad that I do not have easy access to those things. This year for me has been about living like an average Ghanaian does, like my family members do, and and my siblings certainly do not have the money to go to a movie often or to buy a burger or a pizza, even if they had access to those things. #3. Big city complexity. Although there is very little to do here in Sunyani, it is nice to know the city very well and because of this be able to find everything I need with ease. As I have said both Accra and Kumasi are huge sprawling cities, and even if I had lived in those places for these past seven months I know I would still not know them nearly as well as I know Sunyani. Having a big hopping city is nice when I'm looking for fun, but on a day to day basis I definitely prefer having a place I know and can navigate easily. Well friends, that wraps up my writing for today. As of today I have been in Ghana for seven months and three days, which I really cannot believe. However, life as I have known it for these past seven months has recently changed as I have finished with school and am now volunteering at a place called Hanukkah Children's Home. I think this change will add a lot to my experience, and here in the next couple weeks once I have worked at Hanukkah for a bit longer I will certainly write about how this new chapter is treating me.

1 comment:

Eazy-O said...

hahaha wes im really enjoying your blog and im so glad you're have a blast in my country. the more i read your blog the more i miss home and it's funny how we are trading places now i was just in bellingham for a week but i came back to seattle. please enjoy each and everyday u spend in sunyani,accra or kumasi cuz you'll miss it like hell im telling all my friends and you'll hear from them too. keep em coming...hey eat fufu with nkrakra soup you cant go wrong with that..hahahaha peace out obroni. ONE LUV