Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Anything You Can Do...

For the next edition of my lists blogs, I am going to talk about the 5 things that I think Ghanians do better than Canadians, and the 5 things that Canadians do better than Ghanians.  I am trying to keep this one from pointing out differences that would be 'solved' through development, more societal and cultural differences.

Warning: These are just my viewpoints, in no way am I saying that these are things that should be changed in Ghana or Canada.  The list is just based off of my personal views of what I enjoy - I am not trying to say that anything is bad in comparison, both ways have their merits!

I will start with the things that Canadians do better than the Ghanians

Cultural Museum in Ottawa
Museums - In Canada, a museum is a well designed facility featuring thought provoking and informative artifacts and exhibits with well written descriptions of the history and purpose of the items on display.  I have visited one museum in Ghana, and talked to a few people to confirm that the experience was similar elsewhere.  It was the Ghanian Military Museum in Kumasi, and it featured various items - but no descriptions whatsoever.  I realize that this is probably because of the various languages used, and that not everyone can read - but their was also a distinct lac of any sort of tour guide.

Something tells me I won't get my BigMac
Restaurants - Well, there are some really nice restaurants that I have seen in Ghana, and even been to a few - but the majority of take out / food on the go that you can get is at the street 'chop' bars.  These are the people who sell various food from stalls on the road.  Selection can vary, but the standards are fish, rice, spaghetti, stew and cow meat.  I have eaten from these places, but sometimes the sanitation and food quality has me a little nervous.  I may just be a little sore because I haven't had a fast food meal in three months.  I want a McNugget.

Bathroom Necessities - This one has everything to do with toilet paper.  It is not a precious resource and I think that it would be nice to be able to go to a guesthouse or public washroom without having to double check that my roll is in my backpack. I like the fact that in Canada I don't have to carry around a roll.

Kumasi is fun!
City Design and Planning - The main difference between the bigger cities in Ghana and the large cities in Canada I have seen is that when a city in Canada is expanded and grows there is a clear design that keeps traffic moving.  From what I can tell from looking at maps, In Ghana this does not happen.  It is more of a 'this looks like a good spot! Lets build!'  Lots of the streets are winding and maze together at seemingly random intersection points.  This problem is compounded when you get to a major intersection and the traffic signals are pretty much ignored, causing huge delays in even well designed intersections.

Shopping - Going to a shopping mall or a grocery store and finding everything I really need for a weeks worth of meals, and not really being concerned that someone is ripping me off is a nice thing.  One nice little thing that I have taken for granted is walking to a store and (for the most part) not having to worry about weather something is in season or not dictating weather it is affordable - see the blog on 'Westernization' for the info on price swings.

Now for the things that Ghanians rock out on

Workshops in Tamale!
Transportation - Mass transit in Ghana is an interesting system.  It involves shared taxis, tro busses, and larger 'greyhound' style buses but when you learn the system it is actually really efficient.  The benefit of shared taxis and tros is that there is pretty much a fixed price to get from Point A to Point B, and even though it isn't scheduled you can usually find a car and be on the way in a fairly timely manner.  The same goes for tros, but they are mostly reserved for longer distances, or more heavily traveled routes.  The buses can go either way, I haven't traveled via the private bus companies - but the STC (yes, the government bus company here is called STC - and no it doesn't stand for the Saskatchewan Transport Company).  The buses are really nice, and the price isn't too outrageous and they leave on a 'schedule' - I haven;t been delayed more than an hour or so, but apparently that means I am lucky.

Portable Water - The pure water sachets.  These things are available in most of the places I have been, excluding some of the more remote villages.  The biggest difference between them and Canadian purified water is the cost - 500ml is about 7 cents in Ghana, where in Canada a 500ml is around $1.50.  The bottles are more travel friendly - but the bags also produce less waste and consume less materials. 

Drinking good beer must have been a second year course
Bad Habits - These are the little pleasures that people enjoy on occasion, that everyone knows is bad for us in some way or another.  Booze is cheep.  I tell people the cost for a drink in Canada at a bar, or even to buy from a shop and they are blown away - a 'tot' (shot) of most of the hard stuff is around 25 cents, or you can just buy a bag shot (booze in something like a soy sauce packet) for the same cost.  Beer is mostly served in 1L bottles and is around $1.60 a bottle, and for the most part there are some pretty decent brews.  I haven't bought a bottle because I like to be able to see - but there is local moonshine on sale for 6GhC for a liter bottle.  Also, smokes are something like $10 a carton. 

Mobile Phones - The cost to call people in Ghana is soooooo much better than in Canada.  The network coverage is a little bit more spotty (almost like Rogers coverage in SK... but not that bad), but the cost is just so good.  It is around 3cents / min to call network to network and 5cents / min to call off network.  It is 9cents /min for me to call Canada.  That is 1/3 of the cost of making international calls from Ghana over skype!  The phones are pretty much all based off of prepaid cards, which are available from many people who sell them on the streets - easy to spot because they all have big umbrellas over their spot.

Now drive through this.  I dare you.
Shopping - No I am not going crazy.  I know that this is one of the things I put on the Canadians list - but this is one of those situational things.  I really enjoy the market atmosphere - the noises, the smells, the people!  It is really amazing when you are walking through and you see the cloth vender and stop and chat as you are eyeing up that nice bolt of fabric, then go over and spy some really good looking pineapple, then dodge the guy with the wheelbarrow who wouldn't stop if he could.  It is a real push pull between convenience and atmosphere.  I wish the farmer markets were more like this!

OK! Thanks for sticking around till the end - You may have noticed a small poll on the left hand side of the blog.  If you would be so kind in directing me to what you would like to hear about, give it a little click.

Till next time,


  1. Few comments:
    - If you zoom enough for the Mcdonald stand, it says "Sand rich" instead of sandwich ;P
    - I think that prices for food also vary in Canada, it's just that we pay less attention to the prices over there...
    - It's funny, I've actually made this post saying that the Tro system is inefficient. Coming from two different cities, I can see why ^^
    - I don't agree for the water sachets. Bottles use more plastic, but they are recyclable/reusable, even here. Whereas water sachets end up blocking the sewage systems.
    Have a good day

    1. With respect to the food I was more referring to the magnitude of the price swings, you don't see the price of things changing by a factor of 5 in Canada haha!

      I prefer the water sachets because the lack of recycling isn't a result of them being sachets it is because the system for recycling isn't set up. If there were recycling facilities I think the sachets would be easier to deal with than the bottles. When the bottles are reused they are ususaly filled with water from the sachets! haha

  2. I've been wanting to travel to Ghana. They say that it is the friendliest of all the African nations. Probably on my next vacation. I'll definitely check this country out.

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