“I’m so proud I haven’t soiled myself” he confessed. I erupted into fits of laughter. I have been yearning for one of my favourite TV shows, Amazing race, to shoot in Ghana, and last night, Ghana delivered. The most amusing factor was that the 30 minute segment was a a snapshot of everything that is right with Ghana as well as elements of what is teeth-grinding wrong with the country.
The first challenge introduces the teams to madness number 1. Makola market. Here the teams meet charm and wicked humor as they try to sell sunglasses. In a moment of rib-breaking hilarity, a Ghanaian woman hijacks one of the sunglasses and she breaks into a song and dance comedy routine. She paid for the sunglasses, but not until she had teased the bee-jezuz out of the contestant. See in Ghana, we treat you like family .
In the second challenge, “Tuning” in or “Checking out” , the contestants are introduced to a problem most Ghanaians face – Slapping your TV into action. Only this time the teams were saved from the electronic violence by mounting a cable on the roof. In this instance as well, the warmth of Ghanaians could not be displaced as they smiled even as Brooke, one of the contestants, stepped on top of a home owner’s fridge to string cable to their TV.
In the “check out” challenge, we reveal our obsession with death. Ghanaians love people but we are obsessed with corpses and funerals. Where else in world are coffins crafted in the form of fish, cameras, pianos, cars or whatever earthly vocation of the deceased was. Ghanaian funerals can look like a colour coded block party where wailing mourners coexist with break dancers and fried goat meat.
I am always amused that people visiting Ghana fear diseases like Malaria, Yellow fever or Cholera when what they should really fear is Accra traffic!! At least there are vaccinations for the diseases, but you can NEVER be immunized against the horrific traffic that plagues our streets. In the poorly planned Accra grid, the teams experienced a touch of the many near-death moments taxi drivers put us through when they create their own traffic lanes. “I’m so proud I haven’t soiled myself” Connor whimpered. I laughed. I know that kind of taxi driver. You love him when you are in his car and he condenses a 2 hr traffic wait into a 15 minute ride. But you hate him for being a part of the problem. Truth be told, there is very little order in Ghana, and when things get really bad, we take matters into our own hands to get what we want, by any means necessary. The magical element of our madness is there is a method to it which keeps everything functioning. So here is my Ghana laid bare: It is a machine with chaotically assembled parts that creak and wobble, but, it keeps on moving. The heat, the coffins, the traffic and the warmth of the people makes it the best place to live in the world.