Akwaaba! This is the word on every Ghanaian's lips as a display of how welcome you are in their territory. Touching down in Kotoka International Airport for the first time in ten years presented us with quite an unforgettable akwaaba experience.
Firstly, after ten hours on the plane - yes ten, not the promised six - the aeroplane's wheels finally hit Ghanaian soil, (note to self: Ghanaians are seldom on schedule) and we were ready to begin our holiday in the Gateway to Africa. Or were we?
What is a Ghanaianism? In my definition, a Ghanaianism is that peculiar thing, a way of thinking, a type of methodology which makes sense to nobody else except for Ghanaians. At Kotoka International, we were hit by an obstacle course of Ghanaianisms. Here goes...
Ghanaianism no. 1: Immigration. The immigration officers were catching a feeling off me and Keera. Yes I tell you, those officers get the first pick of women who enter the country. They greeted us with "are you married?" while nonchalantly looking over our passports. I could be carrying Michael Jackson's passport for all they cared!
Ghanaianism no. 2: After immigration control, we were immediately faced with a big Akwaaba sign which also read, "Ghana does not welcome paedophiles and other sexual deviants". I learned right there and then that Ghanaians do not beat about the bush.
Ghanaiansm no. 3: Collecting our luggage from the circular conveyor belt was a task in itself. If I'm standing in a spot trying to get my bag, why cut in front of me without saying "excuse me" first, especially when your bag is nowhere near where I am standing? Silly me for thinking some politeness principles were universal!
Ghanaianism no. 4: One word says it all. CUSTOMS. We were ordered to open our suitcases for inspection. "What are these things for?" we were asked. "My family" responded I. "Are you sure?" Well, duh! Then he asks again, "what are these things for?" (By this time, I was getting mildly annoyed, but in hindsight, we did have the whole world and its mother in there. I'm talking suits, bags, tins of tuna, ipods etc. Note to self: if you are Ghanaian, NEVER EVER EVER tell your family you are travelling to Ghana. They will definitely make sure that all 46 kilos of your baggage allowance and your hand luggage is filled up!) Anyway, after being asked for the third time what the things in my suitcase were for, I 'fessed up, "half are gifts and the other half will be sold in my auntie's shop". Ooops! "You have to pay duty then", he replied coolly. Really? I actually though he was joking. "Come on Keera, let's go". I later found out that Mr. Officer was far from joking, and had just let us go without paying out of good will.
Ghanaianism no. 5: Just when we thought escape to freedom could actually be a possibility, we were slapped by another obstacle in this long obstacle course. The next thing is the official border, which once crossed meant you were officially in the Republic of Ghana. Keera was able to step over the border - no questions asked. But me on the other hand, yes, you guessed it, was stopped. "You don't have baggage stickers on your suitcases" he offered. Well duh! They only got ripped off by Mr. Customs when he insisted on opening our suitcases!! (These stickers, which are put on your bags from London have a number. The same number is stuck onto your boarding pass, so when you arrive, the sticker helps to identify you with your bag.) I was pissed by this time. My general mindset was: Great! my light skinned friend gets authorisation to cross over. Well excuse me for having black skin! But it turned out that I got stopped because I was pushing the trolley stacked high with our suitcases, while Miss Yellow Skin was only carrying our two hand luggages.
Ghanaianism no. 6: Last but not least, Ghanaianism no. 6 cracks me up the most. Imagine workers, not employed by the airport, but self appointed, who busy themselves with loading your bags into your waiting car. I was wondering why they were being so helpful, until they said to us "tip us" (tr. pay us) Paaaahaaa!! talk about self employed! Well, needless to say, they quickly scuttled away when I replied "ask my uncle".
What can I say? after all this is Ghana, the Gateway to Africa!