Driving Through Accra to Grandpa’s House
It was late when we pulled away from the airport, and several stretches of the road appeared deserted. The driver was driving extremely fast, and I strained to hear Grandpa’s conversation over the wind whipping through the car. “Nana, this is so and such”, he would shout. I would just nod, trying not to think about how fast we were moving and how the driver swerved in an out of lanes, signaling only seconds before turning. In the dark, some parts of the landscape reminded me faintly of land in rural New Jersey and Pennsylvania—wide stretches of brush dotted with the occasional cluster of homes or business. Most of it, however, was visually unfamiliar to me. As we drove through the more inhabited parts of the city, small matchbox houses seemed to dominate the land and many of them were painted neon colors that still flared brightly even at night. Every so often, I would see a person or two walking in some unknown direction close by the street. Often, I couldn’t see any buildings for long stretches of road when I spotted a person.
One of the most memorable images I retained from that first drive through Accra was all of the merchandise lying in dirt or grass paths beside the roads. Almost every imaginable item, it seemed, was sitting parallel the road, waiting to be sold. Furniture sets, televisions stacked one on top of another, clay sculptures, refrigerators, and so on. I wanted to take pictures, but felt weird doing so when my relatives were completely unfazed by it. I imagine it would be like taking photos of street signs or other banal objects in the US. I doubt I would have been able to capture anything that late, anyway.
We arrived in what seemed like thirty to forty minutes at a concrete house, one that I now know is far larger than I initially estimated. The house was fenced in and rather dark; a single blue tinted light bulb served as a “porch light”, perhaps more of a courtyard light. I didn’t get to spend much time outside because I was immediately taken into the living room where I sat by myself for a moment on a plump couch in the same blue light, which is in all of the rooms.
My uncle Old Man and my Aunt Mapokuaa (pronounced Mah-poh-que-ah) joined me for a dinner of fried rice and grilled fish. My mother told me about my adorable Aunt Mapokuaa before I left—I basically had a crash course of relatives that I honestly should have already known about a week before boarding the plane. She is young, only three years older than I am, but already taking time away from school to care for my ailing great-grandmother in Kumasi. My mother asked her if she could kindly leave for a week to take care of me while I was in Accra, and she came!
Mapokuaa brought my to my room, which was almost directly adjacent to the living room.
The opening to my door had a lace cloth draped like a curtain over it, “to keep dust and mosquitoes away”, she explained. My grandfather reappeared suddenly (I think he went to pay the cab driver, but I’m still not really sure where he went) to help me set up my mosquito net. We dragged this huge, throne like chair that was taller than Grandpa into the room, and he stood on top of the arms and tried to slip the silver ring onto a hook that protruded from the middle of the ceiling. He did it, but the net didn’t reach the floor at the least, entirely defeating the purpose of a mosquito net. So he hopped off and disappeared to who knows where again. Mapokua and I looked at each other with bemused expressions. In a little while, Grandpa returned with a newly shorted electrical cord, which he tied around the hook. That was how my bed was set up!