Saturday, May 8, 2010

No worries, Ghana's got my back.

For this obruni in Ghana, there is no need for concern. When I meet a Ghanaian, before we part ways, they always ask for my number. Often guys, so they can call me repeatedly with no concept of social norms of frequency or time of day (so far, I have avoided all but one of these who is now code named "Ben the creeper' in my contacts). But for majority of Ghanaians, receiving a phone number, especially from a foreigner, is how they seal the friendship. It is taken with an unspoken responsibility to look out for me. Daily, I receive at least 4-5 calls from acquaintances I don't remember, just to to see how I am doing, if I am sick, and if I need anything. 

This same crowd heard I was looking to buy a car. You would have thought I was stranded in burning building by the force that deployed. Ghana is functions on a network of who you know. You don't go to the internet for information (yet:) , instead you phone your sister's boyfriend's uncle's cousin who knows some one who has probably heard of a vehical for sale. He calls his people who call theirs. Then they all ring you with arguments as to why you should purchase what they have and don't need what you want. 

Because of my obruni status, this network refuses to allow me to show my face or do any talking. My friend, Akousua has been dialing up connection saying "Hey, I need to buy a 4 x4 right now. I have the money but not much, nothing flashy but reliable and want it soon...(pause) no too much, do me a favor, come on. You must know some man with a wife out there unhappy with her 4x4 because it is not as shiny as her girlfriend's. Come on, think harder."   

We have yet to be successful but have a plethora of random options. Next plan is to go to a dealer with a few friends, check out all the cars, make a list of the ones I like. Then we will send a different group of guys 1-2 days later to negotiate and make the purchase.  We will see.

The moral of the story is, people here watch out for me, almost to the extreme, including Google. Today, I had a leisurely morning before heading to church. Around 10 AM, I check my phone - 9 missed calls and 27 work emails. As I don't work Saturday's, this seemed a little extreme so I check email and found a stack of 'URGENT" messages. Upon opening, it was apparent, Google was looking for me and had jump started an international security team across Senegal and Ghana. Apparently, our head of security, had incorrectly entered my flight details to Dakar which leaves tonight at 10:22 PM and arrives at 1:30AM tomorrow - as arriving at 1:30 last night. When I never showed up in Dakar and did not answer my phone, they imagined the worst, got the VP of Google involved and the entire Google Africa team....all while I was sleeping peacefully and sipping some coffee. 

Seems a little over kill but reassuring for my mother. Mom, this post is for you :-)

Other things of interest, I met some incredibly innovative and insightful people this week in the tech education space - Ashesi University President, MeltWater - some start ups, meet some government Ministers and attended a Internet policy discussion. LOTS of LONG working hours but I love it. Don't worry, I still manage some social time with a few nights out on the town a week :-)

My weekly highlight is my runs. I run a different routes around diverse parts of the city with few Ghanian guys and a former rugby coach from Cameroon. We run through areas with enormous homes, farms, military training, and compacted red dirt paths through shanty towns. Kids yell 'obruni' and run a few steps with me. Young men try to trot along but don't last long - when they give up, I smile, turn while running backwards and say 'that's it?' giving rise to laughter from their friends and family. Its running here is fun despite the unbearable heat. 

For real this time, I am going to Senegal tonight - please no security alerts!

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