Humidity, Handshakes, and KFC

Sophie Coats, COS'19

As both a psychology major and someone with an interest in writing, I am always looking for ways to connect with people and hear their stories. I could not think of a better way of doing this than traveling to a different country through a dialogue of civilizations. I’ve always wanted to expand my worldview and my dialogue to Ghana will allow me to do so while also fulfilling some of the requirements of my major.

I was surprised at how much Ghana reminds me of Florida, but its got the same kind of heat Florida does. The humidity and thick hot air hit me like a brick when I stepped off the plane, but it was comforting in its familiarity. It’s the kind of midday Florida summer heat here, except it last pretty much all day. There are a lot of buildings with staircases outside and they are mostly short and bright colored also remotely similar to Florida building structures.

People can be really aggressive when they are trying to sell you things here. They sell things in the middle of the road and knock on your window to get your attention. I met a man when I came out of the bank who was selling art and it really was beautiful art, but I thought what kind of money savvy traveler would I be if I bought the first thing I saw. I told him I wasn’t interested in buying anything, but we still had a conversation. He asked me where I was from (I think my dark skin and braids kind of throw people off here. I could almost be African, but my posture speech and actions are clearly American). We talked about Boston and he asked if I was in a sorority since all the black people he knew that went to college in the states were in a sorority. He showed me how Ghanaians shake hands so that there’s a snapping noise as a result. I learned later that the handshake is only supposed to be between men.

Another guy conned me into buying a bracelet. He asked me my name then made me a bracelet and told me he was going to give it to me for free. I knew where this was going so I refused more times than I can count, but he followed me down the street until it somehow ended up on my wrist and he ended up 20 CDs richer.

I’ve noticed that people here are also not afraid of physical intimacy and they tend to be very friendly and easy to talk too, for example the guy who was trying to sell me the bracelet put his arm around my shoulders like an old friend, even the handshake feels a little bit more intimate.

There are a lot of parts of Ghana that are westernized, more than I thought it would be. We visited the Accra mall and it pretty much resembles a mall you would find in the U. S except for a few stores. There was a KFC and a hotel named after Obama.