From Volta to Ashanti: A Taste of Regional Ghana
I am the only current expo-worker to have lived and worked in more than one region of Ghana. Last term I was based in the Volta Region, which is well known for its beautifully scenic landscape and smaller, more sparsely populated farming communities. The whole of the region resides on the eastern shore of Lake Volta, which means you're never very far from the lake for a swim or a make-shift BBQ on the beach. But the open landscape and quieter way of living is not the only thing that struck me as totally different from the Ashanti Region in which I am now based with the rest of the Expo staff.
Fisherment at Lake Volta near Kpando
When you think of any singular African country you do not comprehend the sheer diversity within that country itself. Surely, you think, within each country there must be some parallels; separate communities that share in some mutual capacity characteristics to exist as a 'nation' as I understand a nation. Surely, you think, the African continent is diverse enough without there being acute diversities within individual countries too. How many diversities are there? You would agree, it sets your mind running in circles trying to comprehend such a thing.
Having said all of this, when I packed my bag for Kumasi, and said goodbye to my host family in Kpando, I didn't notice such a change that was waiting for me in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region. Yes, they still sell the same brand of tinned tomato paste on the sides of the road; yes there is the same bread variety; yes you can still hiss at people to get their attention (a habit that I have become questionably adapted to).
But there are also things that quite frankly overwhelmed me in my first week of living in the Ashanti region: the people who persistently keep speaking in Twi to my face while I stare blankly back at them. and the rat race that comes with living in a city – any city, be it London or Kumasi. People are out for themselves a lot more, you can see it in their faces as they push and shove to get on the buses to wherever they may be going. The strive is a lot more real here, what that strive is I'm not totally sure, but it's an energy that keeps the city moving, just as much as any other fast paced city.
Bright colored fabrics in a market in Kumasi
It's refreshing to see this rat race in a country like Ghana. It innately promotes development and the vibe is electric. It's the same feeling every time I go to Accra, which is exactly the same feeling every time I go to London. I love it. In African city life there is so much more happening in terms of growth and development: the landscape is constantly evolving, and it's as though the inhabitants are afraid to miss an opportunity. It's buzzing with potential and that is what struck me as the main difference between the two regions.
Volta is predominantly farming, and the people reflect a very laid back, peaceful existence. Their hearts ultimately lay with the land and that – for me personally – was the perfect introduction to Ghana. In my first weekend of Kumasi – the first time I had ever been to an African city that wasn't the touristy Cape Town or Marrakech – I was overwhelmed with the aggression and general in-your-face attitude of the people here. Now I have been here 3 weeks, I can safely say that yes, however lovely Volta is, I feel like I'm getting more out of Kumasi in terms of witnessing how development works and seeing the cogs turn in the minds of its inhabitants in how they can beat everyone else. It's a fast paced existence that I am being dragged along with, and even though I feel like I'm floating right now I have a clear view of all those who have learnt to swim and I’m enjoying the view.
Beautiful views of Adaklu Anfoe, Volta Region
A co-worker told me about a conversation she overheard in a spot, which is Ghanaian English for a bar. I thought it was really significant, but as every story sounds better in the first person, for the purpose of this blog I'm going to steal it from her and claim it as my experience. (Thank you Taylor.) I was in a bar the first few days I was in Kumasi and I overheard a conversation of 4 different Ghanaians talking at a table next to where I was sitting. One was from the Northern Region, one was from Accra, one from Cape Coast and the other from Volta. They were all talking about their experiences of the Ashanti Region. This is what I got from that conversation: they're the most proud Ghanaians you will ever meet (this may be why they're unperturbed by my blank face when they're speaking at me in Twi); they're aggressive (this is due partly to how successful they were at bagging themselves so much land); they're confident (on average I have had about 60% more people ask me for my number here than in Volta.) All in all, yes it's more intense, yes it's full on, yes it can be raw and not pretty, but if you want to see real development in full swing, and the real ego of a country throbbing in your face, the only way to see it is to join in the rat race along side them.