As with many major cities in the US, Accra is broken up into different neighborhoods. Accra Girls’ is right on the cusp between three different neighborhoods, but because it is a walled, totally enclosed campus, it is kind of an entity unto itself. However, directly behind Accra Girls is Mamobi. Most of these neighborhoods have a market of some kind and Mamobi is not exception. Some parts of Accra are very nice and others are “still developing”; Mamobi is one of the latter. However, I love going to Mamobi market. Here, there are 3 or 4 “grocery stores” in the entire city and they are ridiculously expensive even for American standards. Almost all Ghanaians do their food shopping (all of their shopping, for that matter) in the local markets. For these reasons, I do almost all of my shopping for food and other necessities in Mamobi market.
The first few times that I went to the market, was very nerve-racking. Everywhere I went people stared at me and in a 30 minute trip, I would here “obruni” at least a dozen times. But, with a little persistence, patience, and a lot of smiling, things have turned around and I now love going to Mamobi market. The fruits and vegetables are so fresh and good that they don’t really even compare to American standards. The selection may be slightly limited in comparison to US grocery stores, but there are many things here too that I do not normally cook with in the US (pineapple, papaya, mango, garden eggs, green onions, etc). The real joy of going to the market however, is not in buying the food (although, do not misunderstand, I do like food), but rather is talking with the people. Now, after 2 and ½ months, the people recognize who I am and actually call me by my name as opposed to obruni. Also, I have learned that I will go to the same ladies (ladies are the only ones who sell in the market, no men) and but the same things from them each time I go. One lady I buy milk and soap and cookies from, another lady I buy all of my vegetables from, another fruit, another bread, etc. All together there are about 6 or 7 different “shops” I stop at to buy what I need. This way I get to talk with the ladies and they get to know me as well. Now that they know that I will be here for a while and that I am not all bad, they give me real Ghanaian prices for things, not inflated “white man/tourist” prices. Even though I have been told on different occasions that I should not shop in Mamobi by myself, I feel more comfortable there than I do in any of the more well-established well-to-do areas. A place like Osu, which attracts many white tourists, in turn, attracts many pickpockets, scam artists, and prostitutes. In Mamobi, I am the only white person I have ever seen. Therefore, there does not exist the plethora of nare-do-wells that thrive on obrunis in other, more affluent neighborhoods. Although this culture is still completely foreign to me and I try to be aware of my surrounds wherever I am, I feel comfortable in Mamobi.
Last week I received two packages from home. In one of them was a bag of miniature Heath bars. The last time I went to Mamobi I brought my bag of Heath bars and gave one to each of the women that I buy from. They loved it! There is nothing like American chocolate to suck-up to a market vendor!