Thursday, February 09, 2006

It's All in the Details, Part II

Here's a good picture of a cluster of signposts. Since well over half the streets in Accra have no name, it's necessary for businesses to have a sign pointing consumers their way. Notice that each little board has its own red or white triangle pointing the correct way to that particular place of business.

There are clusters of signs at most intersections, and they make me think of the signs that pointed the way to all the summer cabins in Wisconsin, except instead of 'Crane's Nest' or 'Whippoorwill Hill', they say 'Areeba' and 'Excel Logistics'.

Two things to point out:

...the signpost for Liberation Road. This is a major multi-lane street that runs from near our house on the far north side of the city all the way to the ocean on the far south side (because of our position on the African continent, our ocean beaches face south!), hence the street sign with an actual street name.

...and the sidewalk. It's made up of thousands of little pavers- three inch thick rectangles of cement that are put in completely by hand. We have watched them do this on the new interchange by our house, and marvel at the skill it takes to lay a reasonably level, reasonably solid surface like this with nothing more than your hands, a shovel, and some sand. Labor is cheap here, and machinery is expensive, so most of the jobs that are done in America by a couple of guys and some Caterpillar product are done here, instead, by a small army of people with their bare hands. The street sweepers here are not the big noisy slow moving behemoths that we are used to- they are just a couple of guys moving down the road with household brooms.

This second picture is a good illustration of a couple of things. These are the mid-range local stores (the low end is a table, the high end is a steel shipping container). They are plywood and always look just like this with flat roofs and little tiny stilts holding them 8 inches or so off the ground. They are used for everything- food sellers, clothing makers, auto supplies, you name it. They are on every roadside, all over Ghana, wherever there is space.

I don't know the requirements for having one as far as permits go, but these guys didn't meet them, so the city (AMA- Accra Metropolitan Something or other) came through and spray painted "citations" on them. "Remove Now" is painted along with the date. If you are building without a permit, they spray paint "STOP WORK" right on your building with the date.

These guys got painted on January 24, and all the stores are still there in the second week of February, so I'm not sure what happens now. I do know there are a lot of REMOVE signs around town painted on places that have dates from last year, so...

This last picture is of "local brooms". It's a common sight to see Ghanaians sweeping Ghana with these. They cost less than a dollar, and they work pretty well, especially for sweeping a smooth dirt area (like where people would sit in their yards and pound yams or hang their wash) and for the areas (like our driveway) covered with the rough pavers. They are laying on our driveway in the picture, and of course those pavers were laid by hand too!

When we first got here, I went out and bought a regular (for me) straw broom with a nice long wooden handle for our houseboy to use. I had seen so many people using the local brooms and it looked like a backbreaking task. Naturally, in my wise first-world way, I thought I would make his life easier with my modern six buck broom. He smiled and took the broom and occasionally uses it for suitable jobs, but what he uses 90% of the time is his local broom. It's more efficient for the work he does and much to the surprise of this Obroni, doesn't take much more effort than my fancy shmancy broom. I keep learning. :-)