By an Indonesian who thought she has seen it all.
It was right in the middle of a very hot summer in Belgium that we found ourselves frantically packing our apartment down to move to Ghana. The decision came suddenly, but all we needed to do was look forward to another adventure. That was exactly what we did, and got.
August 2009, smooth touchdown at Ghana International Airport. The hot climate of Ghana was easy to cope with since we came from a
painful hot summer in Belgium 🙂 We had done some Googling research about Ghana but still we were feeling nervous apprehensive about it all. I tried hard to see the goodness of this new place. But I must say that the first impression was not impressive at all, well there’s no impression 🙂 . It is sad to say, but Ghana International Airport is the worst airport I have ever seen. Not only that we must ride on a tatty bus to get on and off the plane, the hassle of baggage claim and custom check seems to be endlessly chaotic very challenging.
But once we were in the car and on the road, my heart began to light up. I saw so many similarities between Ghana and Indonesia -my mother land 🙂 The banana trees by the road, the bougainvillea blossom everywhere, the street sellers, the shape of the houses, the big billboards everywhere and oh… the not so immaculate roads and streets. They even sell Indomie (= instant noodle) in Ghana! I was happy
but not for long. The Indomie they sell in Africa tastes terrible different. 😀
It didn’t take me long to find out that Ghana is nothing like Indonesia. In fact they couldn’t have been more different from each other. 😦 The first time I asked my driver where I could go shopping, he informed me that he could take me to Accra Shopping Mall. 😀 He described it as something huge and beautiful, and he used his hands gestures by waving them around to illustrate how big it is, and his sense of pride was infecting me with excitement. 😀 Shopping Mall…!! I like that…!! Coming from Asia where the best shopping malls are reigning the world, I am into shopping mall baby…! 😀
I proudly stuffed my wallet with some USD 100, a whopping amount for a developing country’s standard. So off we went to this shopping mall. Woohoo…!! 😀 I was celebrating Ghana until my driver parked our car in a parking lot of something that looks like an old warehouse, I stayed quiet. Then he showed me into this building. Still confused, I wondered if he misunderstood me and took me somewhere else instead. After a while of finding our way inside this building, I asked my driver “Can we just go to the shopping mall?” He replied innocently, “Madam, this is the Accra shopping mall.”
* Gasp* I felt like my heart skipped a beat, my mouth went dry, and my back started sweating. I bowed my head down and looked at the floor. It was not shiny, nor reflective. I tilted my head back and looked at the ceiling… there was no void nor mezzanine. Oh My Gordon Brown…! It is not a 10 storey, nor a 5 storey, but a one story building…! I looked around and saw some few small shops. “Are you kidding me?” The whole setting looks more like a shopping arcade rather than a shopping mall.
But it’s ok, I propped myself up and continued with my mission: my first ever grocery shopping in Ghana! It is all just a part of the big adventure, isn’t it? I looked around this medium sized supermarket (=Shoprite), clutching my wallet nervously, excited and scared at the same time, I decided not to worry. I had enough money
or so I thought. In Indonesia, USD 100 can buy a month worth of groceries, and in Belgium that amount would provide about 2 weeks’ worth of groceries. So what is there to worry about? I started to fill my shopping cart with one thing after another. All the basic stuff we needed like detergent, coat hangers, towels, disinfectant, etc.
But that was not all my dear friends… The biggest surprise came to me when we were at the cashier, paying for all the stuff we thought we were buying. A whopping amount of over USD 300 for the most mundane stuff I had in my cart. I thought I was speechless when I was proposed by my husband, but this experience gave me a new meaning to speechlessness. 😀 I had no choice but to cancel most stuff I had wanted to buy. I was left with some detergent, fabric softener, coat hangers, clothes peg, shower gel, cup noodles, and baby cereal. That came down to just over USD 100. I shamelessly asked my driver to pay the “just over” bit of the USD 100.
Gob-smacked, we drove back home and I didn’t say a thing. Being a developing country that is
not any better than like Indonesia, I thought everything in Ghana would be good value. But I couldn’t be more wrong. Ghana is simply the most expensive country we have ever been to. Even more expensive than Belgium, more expensive than UK! (I wouldn’t even start comparing it with America) I paid one US dollar for one stupid plastic coat hanger. One dollar! For something that normally wouldn’t have cost me no more than 20 cent.
On our way back, my driver asked me if we have a shopping mall this big in Indonesia. I said:
“with all due respect to all Ghanaians, that thing is not a shopping mall. In Indonesia, just the parking space for a shopping mall would be bigger than this entire thing”. “Yes, we do. It is nice”
When I thought I have seen it all, just a week later my maid pissed her pants in my car! Yes, she literally pissed herself whilst sitting in our clean and shiny Land Cruiser, and left the car smelling like an ugly public toilet. Curious? I’ll tell you about it later. 😀 Just keep reading…!
Dian Retno Wulandari. Going Ghanaian!
PS: To be fair to this country, I will also post about some good things in Ghana. It is, however, where our home is at the moment. 🙂