Saturday, October 2, 2010

Venturing into the Night

The dirt road was dark and uneven, and I had been walking for some indeterminably long time. I had tried to follow the directions given to me: turn left on Oxford Street and keep going on Papaye Down, but as anyone who has lived in Ghana knows, most roads here do not have commonly known names. I had walked, and walked, and walked. A hair salon, a mobile phone voucher hut, a series of makeshift homes... Nope. It was nearly 8:00; they were all shut up, and I was sure I was lost.

I finally conceded and called the new friend I was supposed to be meeting, but no answer. Finally I got to the end of the road, loitered for a moment trying to figure out what to do, and serendipitously saw him entering a nearby restaurant. I had made it after all. He brought along his roommate, Gabe, and the three of us had Thai food together. They were also pre-grad school students spending a year working a field research firm in Accra. We ate a light meal, and then, the three of us, ventured out into the night.

The first stop was an Irish pub popular with the local expat community. Walking in, I had such a bizarre sense of being in an entirely different place. The staff was African, but the customers were almost entirely white. I hadn't had such a reaction since I visited the Accra Mall, another truly bizarre experience to have in the middle of Ghana. According to local legend (read: my friend's educated speculation), the pub owner was an ex-MI6 agent. Ask him what he did before moving to Ghana and where he lived, and you get, "Oh, in the construction business. Where? Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia." Mm hm.

We had a couple drinks there and headed to our next destination, Bywell. When my friend, Ryan, asked me if I wanted to go, I said I had never been. At this point his roommate sarcastically chimed in, "But you want to take home a prostitute tonight?" Apparently this place had a reputation, but Ryan assured me that it wasn't all that bad. Once we got there, the bar turned out to be  actually quite cool. The space was smokey, and the air hung heavy with the fusion rhythms from the live band at one end. The popular style of music here is called hip life, Ghana's answer to Reggae, with musicians playing instruments spanning cultures and origin, from the trumpet and keyboard to African drums. The full gamut of people were here: new expats and old, rich locals and poor, and of course, gathered in one corner, a number of prostitutes and their prospective clientele. Overall, it felt kind of like I was in a strange variation of Casablanca.

We all had work in the morning, so Bywell was our last stop for the evening, but the night was surely a successful one, my first adventure into the thriving Ghanaian nightlife. 

1 comment:

Randy said...

Another excellent post! Interesting how the world's capital cities have lively ExPat contingents, typically Americans and Europeans. What you report reminds me of my early weeks in Bangkok back in 1968 when I was 22 years old (was posted there courtesy of the Army Signal Corps.)
Randy Summers