Urban cow windfall

April 1

Yesterday was a good day. First, there was an amazing tropical downpour and Accra suddenly cooled off.rainstorm-accra.jpg The downside of rainstorms here is that everything smelly in the city that was tucked away in corners and underneath things gets to come out and float around, so the combination of puddles and flipflops is bad. The good thing is that it blows away the dense smog that blankets Accra, and for a few hours you can breathe fresh air. It also lowered the temperature into the 80’s – positively cool.

Then, chugging down the street in a trotro on my way home, we came across a small herd of cows just hanging out on the side of the road. Some were lying down having a rest, the others were chewing away on the roadside grass. I’d seen chickens and goats in unlikely places (see my picasa album, http://picasaweb.google.com/linnettaylor/Ghana, for goats in downtown Takoradi dodging cabs and buses), but these were my first urban cows since Chalco in Mexico, which is much more of a suburb. You have to drive for an hour from here to reach countryside, so these were some hardcore city bovines. They had an urbane quality – they were outside an internet cafe, so perhaps they were waiting to get online.

Today I chugged around town again, trying to interview people. It’s a hit and miss affair, due to the relaxed attitude to appointments here. Some are right on time (notably the accountants I’ve been interviewing). Others roll up an hour late, and some just forget they had an appointment at all. The latter can be extremely frustrating, and gave me a brief sense of humour failure in Osu, the tourist area. This was a mistake, because Osu is the place where you can most rely on being accosted, grabbed, subjected to sales patter and otherwise greeted in a standard Accra fashion. Today I tried to explain that I didn’t want to stop and relay my life history while being sold plastic beads, and it didn’t go down well. Because the gods like to test us, I also had a series of cab drivers who claimed to understand where I wanted to go, then just drove around at random for a while without letting me know they had no idea where they were heading. One stopped at a gas station on the main highway out of town and said hopefully, “you live here?” Another took an hour to find a major area of Accra, then asked for double the fare because he hadn’t realised how long we’d be driving around. I retreated home, switched on my fan, and am waiting for my sense of humour to return before I venture out tomorrow.

Still, 13 out of 20 interviews completed – there is light at the end of the sweaty, dusty tunnel. And I am heading for it in my trotro as fast as I can go. Accra will be easier next year – it’s a city that’s great if you have a flat of your own, and enough time to work so you can move at the same pace as everyone else. Every couple of days I feel as if the top of my head is going to blow off, then it all calms down again.

I’ve been buying presents for people – I managed to exchange the transparent child-sized swimsuit a major hotel sold me (on the understanding that it would fit me) for some cool Ghanaian carvings, and have obtained a poster of “Black Stars and their Mothers” (comprising headshots of the national football team, the Black Stars, with shots of their mothers and, for good measure, their cars). You know you’re famous when you can make your mum famous too.

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