Bribes in Ghana

I am sitting across from a lounging Ghanese man who is in charge of the largest solar unit division in Ghana. His largest sale is a 55 dollar solar lantern that is bringing light to rural areas. Changing life. Bringing light to rural areas, I will travel with his associates for the next three days.

So Africa eh? So good to be back. There is never a dull moment here. After 18 hours of travel I arrived in Accra, Ghana. My two seats were great on the flights, one was next to a British geochemical mathematician reviewing his students work from the semester. The British part of him was not going to have a in depth conversation with an over excited American. So I was quiet and watched The Rescuers on my in flight movie options. Going to the Amsterdam airport from anywhere in the world yields a very diverse plane. All of the world goes through Amsterdam when traveling across the globe. Touching down in Amsterdam I see chocolate everywhere. Chocolate and cafe. I endulge. Darn the Dutch with their conventional chocolate warfare. 13 Euros (25 US) later I have drunk a cafe, ate some chocolate, drank a smoothie and some other things. Off to Ghana the diversity of the plane cut in half. Black and White with only a few in between. I was sitting next to a woman who was born in Ghana and moved to NYC 7 years ago, had some children and is now bringing those children back to the country of her birth for the first time. There were 4 kids all full of life and the American enthusiasm I have grown to recognize.

18 hours of flights and I touch down and Ghana and the rush of 75 percent humidity meets me at the rear door of the 777 I flew. In 50% of the world you walk out of the airplane on steps down to the ground and catch a bus to the terminal. I had placed my bags in the remaining cubby wholes that had space. One was at the front of the plane, one was at the back. So I had to wait for 345 people to leave the plane to get my two bags. That is 345 people in front of me at the customs port too which translates to about 2 hours of waiting.  I am so happy to be in Africa that I don’t really care about the upcoming wait.  Then a customs agent calls me to the side. I thought I was busted for having photo gear or something. But that was not the case. “Why are you here?” She asked. “Why are you in Ghana.” I can not say to photograph or work and I can not lie so I have come up with, “My brother is getting married and I had nine days to be in Africa before that”. “I will take your passport to the front” She said. I said thanks and she waiting with my passport open motioning for a “gift”. I have learned never to say “How much” but to initiate with an offer. “10 dollars” I said. “20” She said. ” I will wait in line for that price. ” I said. “Ok, wait here”. she siad.

So I waited while she took my passport to the front of the line. 1 minute later she waived me up and I was through. Without any questions asked. I was walking through to a taxi a bit confused to how I had just bribed a boarder guard to basically smuggle me into the country. Good times in Africa.

I keep on forgetting that men greet female friends with a kiss in 60% of the world, not a hug. So awkward. Note to self, when in doubt go in for the cheek instead of the hug and if your wrong, blame the french.

I had dinner last night with the owner of my hotel who is Lebanese but was born in Ghana.  He invited me to dinner with a man from Latvia and another man from Lebanon. I had never met someone from Latvia. Everyone from Latvia is huge. This man was 6”7 and very strong. We talked about everything including the war in Angola I was in post conflict.

Of course, on my way to this interview I am about to do I saw a bus with the words, “God First” on the front. Praise him for his unexpected consistency.

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2 comments
  1. Torsonya said:

    Steve,
    I so envy you!
    Pray for me about that.

  2. Francy said:

    So cool Steve! looking forward to the updates! & pictures of course.

    ~ Francy

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