12 Cedi

“Tsssssssss.” *Hand wave.*

Hissing is one way to hail a cab in Accra. It feels rude as hell, but hey, when in Rome…

*Taxi driver pulls over. I speak first.*

“Good morning my friend, how are you?”

“I’m fine, you?”

“Good, good. We are going to Dzorwulu (pronounced Jo-oo-lu), do you know it?”

“Dzorwulu, ahaa, which side?” Ahaa, I believe, means yes/exactly/precisely/yeah/yes in Twi.

“Dzorwulu junction, my friend.”

*Head shake, hand gesture to enter taxi.*

Before you enter, and there is some debate about this, agree on a price. You don’t have to, but from experience I would say it is harder to haggle once the service has been delivered. Go with however you feel most comfortable.

“Aaya sein?” How much?

“You give me two-five.” i.e. 25 GHS

*Laugh playfully* This is key. If there is something I’ve realized in Accra, it’s that you can’t be too serious.

“Oh boss, this is too much, we go there every day, I cannot pay so much.”

“How much you will pay?”

“I will go for 12.”

*Taxi driver chuckles.*

“Oh, but there is traffic, you pay 20.”

There is actually minimum traffic on my route to work.

“No, no, my friend, 12 is fair price, I will not go any higher. If you cannot do it, I will have to find another cab.”

“Tsssssssss.” *Hand wave.*

*Repeat entire process.*

*5 more times.*

Finally, you’re in a cab and on your way to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this process. It does get a little tiring after a while, but man, I have to say, riding in taxis can take credit for some of my better conversations in Accra so far.

The drivers seem to have similar stories. They come from all over the country to the city to work and provide for their families. Most of them seem to say they are renting the taxi they are driving, but some of them say they own it.

The fair price – why do I stick to it? Well, it’s the fair price. But to be honest, going up or down a few cedi wouldn’t change much in my life. But the way I try to think about it is as follows: I bargain because I don’t want to be ripped off, and even if you are still ripping me off after I’m done bargaining, I bargain nonetheless because I don’t want to feel like you are ripping me off. I want to be at a price where we can at least act like we’re being fair to each other.

You know, I once read a book where a foreigner in Mumbai, India had the thought process that he was fine with paying the “foreigner tax” because he had the privilege of being able to afford it and the man on the receiving end needed the cash probably more than he did.

I’m a strong believer in “to each his own”, so I think this approach is actually fine if this is how you want to operate. Heck, I behave this way as well at times.

Actually, I often catch myself thinking in Canadian dollars, and it’s troublesome. “Hm, 60 cedi for this shirt. I mean it’s nice, but that sounds like a lot. Wait, that’s only $20, screw it, I’ll take it.”

But at other times, I start thinking, I’m a foreigner trying to assimilate to a new culture. I want to live and be treated as the others do. If the locals bargain, I want to try and do the same.

In Toronto, I would spend $20 without thinking twice, but here in Accra, I’m sort of starting to see the need to think in the local currency – this helps in knowing the fair prices and can help in keeping me from over-spending. I find it helps me to be more conscious of my purchasing power.

Now, I feel this bringing me to a discussion on purchasing power parity and exchange rates, but because I don’t want to fall down this rabbit hole (really because I’m not all too knowledgeable on this front), I will stop here. Till next time.

Haroon

P.S. Ramadan is half way done! It’s been a breeze so far. Been to the mosque a few times – the experience is very similar to that in Toronto.  There is one very beautiful mosque called the Ghana National Mosque that is being built in Kanda, Accra by the Turkish. It’s not quite complete yet, but man it’s huge and beautiful. Shout out to Ottoman architecture doing it right!

P.P.S. I’m heading to Tamale, Ghana for a couple weeks on Saturday. Going to be staying with a family known to EWB to gain a little more North Ghanaian cultural understanding outside of the big city of Accra.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Re-reading this post I realize how all over the place I was – my bad.

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One thought on “12 Cedi

  1. Lol the PPPPPPPS gets me every time.
    You were actually not all over the place.

    I’m with you on the bargaining front. I never thought of it that way, but for me, it’s certainly about being treated as an equal as well.
    Slightly conflicting though: lots of times, I’ll catch myself haggling with people who are “poor” and then paying a white price without second thoughts for luxuries I know I can afford. Not foreigner tax, rather choice spending. I’m wondering, what expenditure is ultimately more meaningful impact. Large and white businesses can employ lots of locals, with safer job norms than careening through traffic?

    Tangent: And, maybe I have the wrong impression, but the Boda drivers I chat up every day are a little less open about their lives because I like to see them focus on fending off traffic…. But when we do get a chance to chat (most Boda guys speak really limited english and sadly my Luganda still sucks like hell), I find it’s hard to sustain a conversation. You have to commit to actually getting to know one of these guys. My experience 🙂

    It’s worth it though. They start to look out for you after a while. 🙂 you’re right, you realize what dangers these people do to sustain some sort of livelihood. And outside of that grunt aspect, how they endure being labeled (a lot of the time, as crooks). I hope Uber moving on doesn’t worsen their state.

    Nywae! YO YOUR VILLAGE STAY IS 2 weeks? That’s dope. Can’t wait for that post Haroon!! Thanks for your really thoughtful post on economic privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

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