Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Markets and Meetings and Meals, OH MY!!

So I'm officially in Ghana, which I actually have been for a couple days exploring on my own. The rest of the NYU crew is here and we have started class and our itinerary... Our first site visit is to the Makola Market and the Art Center.... both of these places are crazy. They are crowded and hectic and disorganized... a sensory overload and anxiety inducing environment to say the least.

I found Makola Market less intense than the art center, even though it was much, much bigger, hotter and cramped. The people in the Makola Market were not as intrusive and overbearing then the people in the Art Center. I had been to the Art Center 2 days ago before the rest of the NYU team got here and so it seemed to me that I was already a "regular". I went to the market with a local who I was traveling with set up by a friend from NYC and he helped to guide me in buying and bargaining with the shop owners. Although he was there and helped me, it was difficult to know what to say and how to handle situations where you were not interested in purchasing an item and you just wanted to be left alone. The Ghanians are very nice, but they are also very persistant and intense, atleast when it comes to buying goods. I picked up some good items including sandals... which I forgot at home... some bracelets and drums. It is a strange experience being here as a White Person... or OBRONI as we are called (which means white person in Twi) We stick out like a soar thumb and the merchants run up to us to guide us to their stalls. It became VERY clear to me that you need to set serious boundaries at these markets in order to have a good experience.

By the end of the market trips I was glad to be out of there!! There are so many stalls, both large and small and so, so many people. Everyone you walk by wants you to come to their stall and some make try to make you feel guilty. For me it brought up issues of guilt because of course in America we have certain social norms that we abide by, and they are of course different in a different culture. I began to pick up the right lingo that would signal the shop keeps to chill out on bugging me but even still it was really difficult.

In terms of disability--- I only met one man name who was disabled in the market. I was suprised at the lack of disabled people that I saw in the markets, especially as the facts and figures say that there are 2 million disabled Ghanians in Ghana.. Where are they living and working? An important issue to note is the lack of accessability for those with mobility, sensory and mental disabilities. It would be incredibly challanging for someone to maneuver the markets as a consumer if they were disabled and also as a merchant. The merchants run back and forth to find you what you are looking for and they are hustling hard... a person with a disability is at a large disadvantage if they can not keep up with the hustle.
cracks, breaks, holes, gaps

Oh, excuse me American women I need to get by and there is not enough room for 2 people next to eachother let alone me to pass so I will need to step off the curb into the street. 

I am starting to understand very quickly how difficult it would be for a disabled person to function in the Ghanian society... and why we are not seeing disabled people around. The sidewalks are cracked, uneven and filled with huge holes and gaps. There are HUGE roadside drainage...moats?....if you will.... on the street that you need to almost jump over and the sidewalks are narrow. If you have a wheelchair or crutches it is extremely difficult to share the sidewalk. As for ramps... forget it. There are a few ramps here and there but none of them meet the standard for what a ramp should be, which is 1 foot of ramp for 1 inch of height....


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