A couple of weekends ago, I went to the movies at the Accra Mall with a friend. Now, the Accra Mall is, in itself, complete sensory overload – just the way of any large shopping mall in any large city. There is a steady stream of middle and upper-class Ghanaians and Expats, glitzing along, waiting to be hooked. Flashy mannequins. Too many mobile phone options. Christmas trees and gigantic ornaments boldly declaring themselves for the ‘Christmas in July’ sale. Kids on trains, coming and going around an endless track while harried parents and nannies try to finish their chicken and chips. Imported beauty supply and hair care products. 300Gh pair of Birkenstocks. Ok, now please multiply the overload factor for all of those who have become accustomed to a slightly different lifestyle since arriving in Ghana. What number you multiply by can be determined by answering the following questions:
1. Do you have any money? If no, proceed to Question 2.
2. Do you in any way, at all, miss home? If yes, go to Question 3.
3. Does this place in any way, at all, remind you of home? If yes, proceed to Question 4.
4. Are you starting to, in any way, at all, feel greedy? Yes? Question 5.
5. Are you sure you don’t have any money? After all, the Programme Office pays you up front for the quarter. Maybe if you just budget really, really well for the next, like, 1-2 (3-4?) weeks, you can go to the movies and eat a disgusting amount of junk food. If this has occurred to you, go on to Question 6.
6. Did you notice that you were almost out of shampoo? And you realize that all you can ever find at kiosks is the “dandruff-free” variety? And it’s almost impossible to find any face wash in Cape Coast. You’d be almost irresponsible NOT to look in that store with the Imported Beauty Supplies and Hair Care Products. Look, they’ve got a bottle of shampoo that’s almost the size of a small child. Buying in bulk! You used to go to Costco all the time! So, you can just budget really, really well for the next, like, 3-4 (4-6) weeks. Next question.
7. Ok, seriously. You need to think very carefully about the current state of your footwear. No, you don’t want to rock the Birkenstocks, but there has to be a reasonably priced pair of shoes in this mall. Maybe if you just budget really, really well for the next, like...go to Question 8.
8. Christmas in July only comes once a year. You’re going to pass that up? I thought you had more shopping savvy. It’s just that your mobile phone keeps getting banged up, since you drop it all the time (you’ve always been a little klutzy). Look how cute those cases are! No, I recognize you’re not into bedazzling, but really, it’s just practical. And not even that expensive. So if you budget, just a bit in addition, a little bit more, really, really well for…
9. Stop it right now. Are you physically/emotionally incapable of leaving? No? Go to the movies.
So I have multiplied my Accra Mall sensory overload by 9, and rounded up to 10. I think that’s fair. I’m sitting in the dark theatre, in these fabulous rocking chair seats like they have in my favorite movie theatre at home. My friend and I are equipped with a ridiculous amount of junk food, because it pays to be prepared, right? I have more junk food than she does, I’m going to own up to that right now. The M&Ms taste funny, which is a shame. A little fishy, actually, and I mean that literally. The advertisements begin. A new comedy series is starting this summer, or maybe it already has. Looks kind of like an improv thing, of which I wholeheartedly approve. Supporting unscripted humour should be everyone’s lot. In any case.
Now comes the big electronics store ad. The husband and father (we know this because he tells us so) likes to come home from work, safe in the knowledge that his appliances are working well for his family. That’s admirable! So let’s see the goods. Flat screens, refrigerators, stereos, microwaves. At this point, it’s all just an ad. Then… washing machine and dryer. I actually gasp. Audibly, so that my friend turns to look at me. I didn’t mean to, it’s just that they looked so beautiful, all silvery metallic cleaning perfection. Oohhhhhh, I have changed, haven’t I. This is what happens when you wash by hand for 6 months, but sadly winding up with clothes that never quite seem clean. And sheets! Oh god, washing the sheets. And towels! Perhaps worse. Definitively, I can say that I would relinquish all movies, shampoo, face wash, shoes, phone cases, junk food (debatable, actually) and anything else I can think of just to have nice clean lovely fresh plumped laundry. That I didn’t have to do myself, by hand.
The movie was funny (“Horrible Bosses”). It was all-American, that’s for sure. Lots of swearing and excellent deadpan. Walking out of the theatre and back through the mall, I did miss home. But I missed home in Cape Coast, as well. My feet, walking down the road past Pedu Junction toward Fourth Ridge, don’t feel like strangers anymore. I enjoy that. Definitively, I can say that I would relinquish all rights to a washing machine and dryer, movies, shampoo, face wash, shoes, phone cases, junk food (still debatable, I found Snickers in a store the other day, and it wasn’t at all fishy), just to have what I’ve got right here. Well, I already did. But if I had to again, I would, again. You see my point, I think.
But let’s be real. At the Mall, I also bought the child-sized bottle of shampoo and face wash (surprisingly inexpensive…). I’m just going to budget really, really well, for like