Monday, September 05, 2005

Carrying Things the African Way

Among the thousands of pedestrians in Accra, an easy 40% of them are carrying something on their head. It's the coolest thing and makes me green with envy, both at the effortless way it's done and the excellent posture it ensures. Most, but not all, use a pad between their burden and their heads- twist a cloth or t-shirt into a rope, then coil it around itself in a circle about 5 inches wide, then tuck the loose end into the coil and place it on your head. Men, women, children- anyone with a load to carry makes uses their head. I'm sure I could give my neighbors a good chuckle practicing this myself, but I've spent so much time in the last three months being clueless and looking foolish, I think I won't go looking for new opportunities just yet. :-)

We have seen the most amazing things being carried on heads around here- huge wooden boxes with glass windows filled with meat pies, gigantic metal basins full of individual plastic bags of water, and every kind of food imaginable. Imagine a tray full of boiled peanuts, in the shell, all stacked up facing the same way, as the tray bearer darts among the stopped traffic at an intersection, bending to see into the cars, selling the peanuts, and making change, all without dropping a single nut. It's a thing of beauty, I tell ya.

And no one in Ghana carries a baby or toddler on their hip. I am so ticked off that I didn't know about this when Cooper was little (and HEAVY!)- they carry their small children on their backs, wrapped snugly with a long cloth that holds them tight to their mothers with their feet sticking straight out (it's all you can see of them when their Moms walk toward you) and their arms either popping out the top or secured inside with the rest of their bodies. 90% of these children are sound asleep and look so happy and content. I even saw a Dad with one tonight on the way to dinner. It's simple and ingenious. And about ten years too late for me. Maybe with my grandchildren....