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April 27, 2010


I pride myself as someone who is difficult to surprise, but two things came as a shock to me as I began to learn the art of shopping in Ghana.

The first was that most of the brands in the grocery were unfamiliar. I know, this was pretty naive of me, but in our part of the world it is easy to forget that US products do not flood the market everywhere, and besides, what is a tissue if it is not a Kleenex? And I’m sorry, but only a few companies really know how to make ketchup. It has been a whole re-education, trying new brands from Ghana, South Africa and Lebanon and determining which ones suit us best.

Hawkers selling their wares between the traffic on a busy street in Accra
Hawkers selling their wares on a busy street in Accra

The second thing was the hawkers pedaling their wares in between the traffic. It is quite convenient to be able to do some shopping as you wait in the frequent traffic jams on the major roads in Accra. Yes, the traffic moves slowly enough that men and women walk (illegally) between the cars selling everything:

   from the ordinary – food (including sugar cane sticks!), water and so on,
   to the useful – super glue, tire pressure gauges, phone cards and ties (you never know when you might spill some food on your tie on the way to work);
   to the bizarre – live puppies and sheep and rat poison (the seller will be holding a few dead rats to demonstrate its effectiveness).

Here are some other things you can purchase while sitting in traffic:

Plantain chips, water, juice, breath mints, bread, chocolate, nuts, grapes, bananas, onions, tomatoes, sugar cane
All manner of clothing and accessories
Walking Sticks
Panama Hats
Paper fans
Toys, games, puzzles
Arts and crafts, paintings, sculptures
Electrical adapters
Car mats
Wash rags
Paint brushes
Clothes hangers
Wall Clocks
Key rings
Pencils and pens
Hazard equipment (to use if your car breaks down)

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