Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Roof With a View

Last week I was talking (online) to friends back in the States. I was asking their help with some song lyrics we had heard while sitting in our favorite rooftop bar and I realized that typing the words "rooftop bar" would evoke all sorts of erroneous images in their heads.

So this is a post about rooftop bars, Ghanaian style. Just to clarify. :-)

This particular place is fairly close to home and very close to Ted's office. It's called the Neighborhood Pool Bar and Grill. Downstairs is a bar, some high top tables, a small alcove with low tables, five blue felt pool tables (one is L shaped and we still aren't sure of its origin or rules of play), and assorted white naugahyde sofas and love seats around the edges of the main room.

Upstairs is the "smoking area" which is a section of roof (about 20X30 feet) with a half wall around the outside, a bartender's window with coolers, and eight high top tables with chairs, with music piped up from the DJ booth downstairs.

Since it's outdoors, what smoke there is gets blown away so we always go upstairs when we're there (we've only gone to play pool once- it's incredibly busy and the tables are always in use). We are, for some reason, almost always the only obronis in the place. Occasionally two or three young Lebanese men will show up briefly, but for now, we stick out a lot with our pale skin (and maybe more importantly, with our rickety old selves. The average customer age is about 25-30...).

You can get food (lots of big salads, some sammiches, kebabs) and at night the building is decorated with fairy lights (small single colored strings of lights) strung along the roofline and front walls, so the atmosphere is very cheerful.

What the bar looks out on is a typical neighborhood street. It's next door to a lot that contains a partially finished house (the foundation and support beams for the walls) that will be finished as and when the people who own the property have the money to proceed. It's not unusual for homes in Accra to be built over a period of years this way.

That's the "rooftop bar" where the man and woman are standing in the orange building, and the Shower of Blessings store is where you can pick up dry sundries. All the overturned benches and tables are in use on weekdays and at night- usually by the light of large citronella candles, then set this way for a Sunday when business is slow. One woman has a grill for plantains and kebabs and another has stacked, peeled local oranges. As we sit at the roof top bar, we can watch the people who live on this property going about their business, hanging clothes on a line, sweeping the dirt clean (a surprisingly good way to keep a dirt floor tidy!), doing roadside business, while their children play and yell and act like children everywhere.

The structure at the front right corner of this shot that looks badly whitewashed is one of two things on the lot with walls and a roof. We have watched many different people wander into and out of it, and assume when shelter is needed, everyone gets a space. The two stands in front of that are the kebab stand and the peeled local orange stand.

Directly across the street is this house...

It is farther along in construction than the lot next to the pool bar, and occupied while the owners wait to accumulate enough money to continue.
This is really typical.

Everything is smooshed together in Ghana- people out for a night of pool and music right next to people scratching out a living selling oranges one at a time. It has become so ordinary to us that until I typed the words "rooftop bar" the whole scene hadn't even seemed odd.