Business, botany, and bribes

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monday was our first full day in Accra. We visited the University of Ghana for a tour of the campus and to meet with a faculty of the UG Business School. UG is the premier university in Ghana and has 32,000 undergrads. Kofi Annan is the chancellor. The campus was quite large and spread out, not unlike IU. One large difference is that the professors live on campus in whitewashed bungalows because the rent is very cheap. All of the buildings are white washed with red tile roofs that match the red dirt/clay here. I asked our tour guide if the classrooms have air conditioning (the heat and humidity is miserable)....he just laughed at me so I took that as a no. One thing I have noticed here in Accra and on campus too is the lack of trash cans (and definitely no recycling...though you can only drink bottled or bagged water) and amount of litter strewn about on the ground and in the gutters and rivers. I was expecting to see tons of bugs but I haven't seen a single mosquito yet or even worn bug spray.
University of Ghana library
Courtyard with faculty offices
Woot! Found the b-school!
After leaving the University of Ghana we drove to a town outside of Accra called Aburi. Aburi is well known for its botanical gardens which were started by the British in 1890 when Ghana was still a colony. We had traditional Ghanaian food in a small restaurant in the middle of the gardens and then took a tour. The garden is divided in different lawns that are each unique. The spice lawn had trees that produce spices such as cinnamon and mint. The best part of the gardens was interacting with school children who were walking through the gardens and trying to speak Twi with them. My favorite hobby on this trip is waving at all the adorable African children and getting them to smile back at me. So precious :) On our way back to Accra we stopped at a wood carving market to shop and practice haggling. The vendors are really pushy and all but force you to enter their shop. I made the mistake of picking up a few items I wasn't interested in - which prompted the vendor to ask how much I wanted to pay. I said wasn't interested and walked away, which made them try and make a deal with me even more. One guy tried guilt tripping me into making a purchase by saying he used the money to buy medicine. Mmhmm. Anyway, I bought a bracelet and got an idea of how much I should pay for items to avoid paying the obroni (white people) prices. Oh and I haven't been proposed to yet like when I was in Rome, but one woodcarver asked for my address and phone number. WTF...
Aburi Botanical Gardens
The color of the uniform denotes which religious denomination runs the school
A very big tree...

Later that night we rode a tro tro (crappy old vans that are used for public transportation) to a popular area named Osu with lots of places to eat and hang out. We ended up spending the evening there listening to African music and learning some dance moves from locals while they laughed at us. Ghanaians are amazing dancers! We had to take several taxis back to the hotel and one of our taxis got pulled over by a cop (this was sometime after 1am). Our tour guide told us the police aren't allowed to carry guns but this cop had some sort of machine gun with him and most likely pulled them over because there were 5 white kids in the taxi. Bribing is pretty standard here so my friends gave him 20 cedi/$12 but that wasn't enough and he wanted them to pull into the police station - baaaad idea. Danny ended up giving the cop 80 cedi/$50 and he let them go. The taxi ride itself only cost 6 cedi to put that into perspective. Our tour guide told us 80 cedi is probably more than he makes in a month.

Typical tro tro - totally legit, right...?!

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