I am now in week 3 here in Ghana and can’t believe the experience is almost over! It’s flying right by, especially when I feel like I have graduated from an obroni (“foreigner”) to maybe, possibly an obibini (“local”). One thing that is truly surprising about this country is that Ghanaians are a fairly young population–and they love children. I should have known this from my rather large family, but it’s even more prominent while staying in the country. Children are great. They are funny, get excited very easily, and will always speak the truth—even if you do not ask for it! But reproducing and having children is risky, especially in this part of the world. Maternal mortality is an issue in Ghana. Many expecting mothers are expecting at a young age and do not get the prenatal care or treatment that they need to be healthy and produce healthy babies. And with the belief that family is integral and children are a blessing, the lack of available healthcare affects women’s health. This social cycle is exactly what we are studying in class and it’s very interesting to study reproductive health from a West African context. I always thought all and any African would be against abortion or even speaking about it, but I was surprised to research and study the Ghanaian abortion law. The law was made to protect women against maternal mortality and recognize that external actors may put women at risk. I can’t help but compare the information I am learning in class to the American context. I have never had a class on reproductive health and many of the aspects we spoke about apply to women and men in the United States as well. Taking this course is very eye-opening and shows the diversity in thought and progressiveness of the country.
Additionally, this past weekend, I visited Kumasi in the Ashanti region. Kumasi is a slower paced area where the greenery illuminates the city. I immediately fell in love with its rich history and suburban-type of feel. We were informed that the Asante (Ashanti) people resided in this region and given a brief history lesson. The Ashanti’s are an essential part of Ghana. They fought numerous times with European imperialists to preserve their own empire and market. Ashanti people are known for their royalty as well as their gold. Our first stop was a factory called Bonwire where kente is made. I had a chance to see the kente-making process and even try my hand at it. The cloth is woven right in the factory and different designs have been made for various people who’ve visited Ghana: including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Kente cloth is unique. However, if you want to buy it, you will have to bargain for it.
The art of bargaining is one that is learned then mastered, a skill not many people have—including me. In each shop or market that you go to, a vendor will offer a price for an item. It is up to you to accept the price for the good or offer a lower price. I learned early on that there are obroni prices and obibini prices. Obroni prices are fixed at a higher rate for foreigners. As soon as a vendor looks at you or hears you speak, he/she will raise the price, whereas obibini prices are lower for the local people in Ghana. I am always suspicious that I will be charged obroni prices even though I’m not quite 100% foreign, but still foreign enough to pay the price. Nevertheless, in the Bonwire shop after some hard bargaining, I settled for a strip of Kente for 40 ghs (Ghanaian cedi), only to be told by Brown, one of our CIEE program staff, that he’d get it for 10 ghs (Ghanaian cedi). I accepted my defeat but still came away with a beautiful kente strip. Some vendors continue to sell even at the door of your car which can be annoying. I frequently throw out Daabi’s (“No’s”) and “please’s” yet, some vendors are determined to make a sale. The misconception of foreigners having money is frequent and frustrating at times, especially when it is very far from the truth. So, it’s essential to be skeptical about what you buy and the price going in. Shopping and seeing sights around the Ashanti region was phenomenal but my bargaining skills–not so much!