Ms. Obruni and The Incredible Spiderman

I have had the last few days off. This isn’t saying much, seeing as I barely work as it is. By barely work, I actually mean that my job hasn’t started, and my crazy boss (who also happens to be my only friend in country) has been MIA trying to run an entire NGO pretty much singlehanded. The result of all this is that I’ve been left to my own devices, which has given me time to explore, read, and master the ineffable Trotro system of Accra. While most days I still feel like I’ve landed in a scene from Star Wars where I don’t speak the language around me and everyone looks at me an though I’m from Mars; I’ve enjoyed getting to know my neighborhood.

First things first: I’m still living in the Ghana Registered Nurses Hostel close to the airport and the University. That is just about all it is close to–everything else on Accra (except the GS Plaza Hotel) is at least 30 Trotro  minutes away. What is a Trotro you ask? A TroTro is a West African Knight Bus from Harry Potter, except instead of expanding to accommodate extra people, it shrinks a little every time someone gets in, the result of which being that you can fit about 30 people VERY SNUGLY in a space meant for 12. The Trotro stop is marked with a red sign picturing a trolley on a white background.  This can be highly confusing, seeing as Trotro is NOT a trolley. In fact, it’s hard to think of anything further from a Trolley than a Trotro. The car itself is more like that van your mother always told you to stay away from as a kid, even if they offer you puppies, and candy, and a pet unicorn. But instead of locked (or even functioning) doors, normal seats with seatbelts,  and blacked out windows, a Trotro has 12 bleacher-esk seats installed with folding seats in the end of each row, one door (held on with rope) and constantly open windows, out of which hang as many people as possible. The rope usually secures the door to the frame of the car so that as it slides it can be easily retrieved, even if the car is (and it usually is) in motion. Trotros are beat to hell, notoriously dangerous, constantly dodging other cars, people, taxis, goats, and street hawkers. They also only cost 1Cedi to ride, which comes out to about twenty-five cents. Naturally I love them. But I digress.

Where was I? Oh yes, exploring the neighborhood. So far, I’ve met several of my neighbors who speak french, one very friendly girl who sells pineapple, almost all the staff at GS Plaza, and a couple of the nurses where I am staying, as well as Mr. Spiderman. Mr. Spiderman is probably my favorite neighbor so far. Everyday he sits at his MTN booth selling cell phone minutes and chatting with friends and other vendors while wearing a red beanie with the spiderman mask knitted into it, as though he was Peter Parker on a break from fighting crime and photographing bad guys being caught. Every time I pass his way (which is anytime I have to leave to go anywhere) he calls out “Obruni! Obruni!” At first this clearly annoyed me–my name is not “white girl” and the way he said it was so mocking, like he was really clever for seeing that I clearly didn’t belong here. And this is after I’ve gotten fairly used to people calling me names over the last few days; now I mostly just tune it out or smile and wave. But not for Spiderman. He gets special treatment, because with great privilege (like wearing a spiderman beanie) comes great responsibility. So yesterday morning when I walked by on my way to the bank,  I hollered back “Good morning Spiderman!” He looked like he’d seen a ghost, and then started laughing and said “Good morning Ms. Obruni!” I’m choosing to count becoming “Ms. Obruni” as a victory, no matter how small. On a related note, I still don’t know how anyone can wear a beanie in this heat; he must be the real deal.

As fun as it’s been to get to know this corner of Accra, I’ll be moving again soon. Jason called with some exciting assignment in the Volta and I’m to pack ASAP. I still don’t have a room to call my own, though we’re working on that. The place I’ll most likely call home is fairly close to work, has a mango tree and an avocado tree, pink walls and no running water. If I’m lucky there’ll be electricity and lots of local neighbor kids willing to bring water to “Ms. Obruni,” but only time will tell. For now, I’m enjoying the luxury of free wifi across the street, running water, and food cooked for me at a reasonable price. This all goes away starting Monday.

Much love from across the planet,

Clara

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