Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ghana Stories #4: Street Vendors

I promised this for my second blog entry. Sorry it is coming so late.
I want to describe the street culture as roads become parking lots at traffic lights all times of the day here in Accra due to the incredible traffic congestion. Standing in the heat, dust and exhaust at each major intersection are dozens of young men and mostly women, some carrying babies on their backs, most carrying heavy loads in bowls or boxes on their heads. They make their living day-in and day-out selling to motorists often running to catch up and give them their change or make their sale, constantly calling out in nasel voices, “Nice Plantain Chips”, or “Pure Water” or whatever it is they happen to be selling. It is dangerous as they constantly dodge traffic in a city/country where pedestrians have no rights. I will give you the list below of what we have seen for sale in the street so far. I have been writing them down as I see them so I swear to you that they are all truly sold in the street. It is amazing.
I don’t know how they do it, on their feet all day, money in one hand, the product they are selling in both hands, balancing the supply on their heads, some even dressed in tight jeans and long sleeves. It is a legitimate profession and not considered begging. Compared to our world at home, there is so little convenience here in Africa, but I would venture to say that this is one of the top conveniences in Accra. Instead of stopping somewhere on the way home from work, people simply get what they need as they sit in traffic. It is brought right to your window and they always have change. It is a service and they are often treated with the kind of respect or lack there of which servers receive in restaurants, but without the tipping. I don’t know how they are paid but hope it is more then just commission (I know part of it is commission because the are very eager to sell and come to your window simply if you look at them or point out what they are selling). Our very favorite item for sale in the street and the thing we buy from tro tros and taxi trips is the plantain chips. They are to die for. I gave up potato chips in Canada long ago, but I simply cannot resist the plantain chips here.
Here is a list of what we have seen for sale so far:
• 500 ml cold pure water sachets
• Bottles of drinkable yogurt
• Chocolate, strawberry and banana milk
• Trays of menthol mints, gum, etc.
• Baked goods, donuts and muffins
• Pringles
• Grapes
• Apples
• White or brown loaves of bread
• Eggs
• Bananas
• Sugar cane
• Popcorn
• Ice cube trays and dust pans
• Sunglasses
• Binoculars
• Fitted Sheets
• Sleeping pillows
• Watches
• Men’s fancy leather shoes
• Weed feed
• Tooth picks
• Leather wallets and cell phone holders
• Towels, cloths, sweat hankies and rags
• Framed wall hanging pictures
• Globe of the world
• Large maps to put on your wall
• Cell phone cards which buy more time for your cell phone
• Tools and electric drills
• Weigh scales
• Brief cases, knapsacks, computer cases and suitcases
• CD’s and pirated DVD’s
• Cowboy hats
• Toilet paper
• Leather belts
• Cell phone car chargers
• Flannel sheets/blankets
• Laundry brushes
• Brushes and other hair paraphanalia
• Pencil and CD and DVD cases • Calenders
• Decorative pillows
• Paper/document holders and plastic snap closed folders
• Toy airplanes and trucks
• Sling shots
• Blow up penguins
• Boys t-shirts and soccer shirts
• Kids shoes
• Soccer balls
• Cuff links
• Broaches
• Aprons
• Electric hand held massage gadgets
• Head phones and TV top antennas
• Super glue/crazy glue
• Kleenex
• Clothes Hangers
• Hand fans
• Exercise equipment gadgets like a “tummy trimmer”
• Booster cables
• Disposable shavers
• Men’s golf shirts
• Ice cream (it is stored in cardboard sitting on their heads 3 feet high and it miraculously stays frozen – I am stumped by this)
• Books like a popular one called “Chasing Elephants”
• Bike tires and pumps
• Pens and highlighters
• Flags (small on a stick)
• Flags (large for your wall)
• Walking canes
• Clocks
• Luggage tags
• Grab bag of toiletries and sewing kit items
• Air fresheners
• Laundry baskets and wash tubs
• Paint brushes
• “Shino” cleaner

And now for the top 3:
• Passports
• Polio immunization kits for kids
• Of course……..Plantain Chips

Sadly there is also some begging for money. Often it is someone walking with a blind person in the busy traffic going from window to window, sometimes it is children. There are also parapyligic people dragging their legs along with crutches and then worst of all are those pulling themselves along on a large sort of skateboard. We see all these off the streets as well, but it seems particularly sad seeing them in traffic.

So that’s it for now, if I see anything else, I will add it to a future blog.
Bye For Now

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