Market

The centre of any Ghanaian town is without any doubt the market. The marketplace is often the only affordable way of buying necessities such as produce, materials, clothes, crafts and household items; it is relied upon by both buyers and sellers alike. In many cases it is hard to identify when the marketplace ends and the shops begin as many stores are openair and constructed of wood!

Bolga holds a market every three days. Rather than being undertaken on set dates the Bolga markets is literally conducted three days apart, which can get rather confusing. Nonetheless this makes sense as families and businesses are unable to buy and store large quantities of food. Three day markets therefore provide sellers with sustainable income and buyers with an affordable shopping schedule.

Image

Casual livestock having a walk round the market

As in many markets it is possible to haggle however I was surprised to learn that the barter culture in Ghana is weak. Instead prices are set according to convention, with customers generally knowing how much they should and will be paying. Yet at the same time it can be hard to keep up with convention as prices are constantly changing in line with Ghana’s rapid inflation. I have found that foreigners are at times given slightly higher prices, which is often met by laughter from passers-by.

It is not rare to turn up to a store one day and find it closed or even gone the next. Products also seem to go in and out of ‘season’ very quickly. The whole of Bolga has limited stock, with consumer choice being reliant on irregular deliveries.

In terms of food; ready meals and frozen items (apart from ice cream) are out of the question, every meal must be prepared from fresh ingredients, you can really taste the difference! Although I have yet to venture into the livestock segment of the marketplace it is obvious that if families own cattle, goats or chickens livelihoods can be changed dramatically.

Image

A more traditional market in Sandema

In a similar vein to the food, the best clothes Ghana has to offer cannot be purchased complete and must be crafted from scratch. Ghanaian fabric is brought in yards for an average amount of around 6 Cedi (£1.75) a measure. This is then taken to talented tailors and dressmakers who are able to make a vast variety of fitted garments. Although I am personally having a short sleeved poker shirt made (It is going to look awesome!) for 15 Cedi (£4.40) I have heard stories of other volunteers causing bewilderment with their tailors when asking for western crop top and play suit designs. However it’s not only individuals that consume fabrics. Highly skilled artisans will use the fabrics to make a vast variety of products such as baby carriers, floor mats, table cloths and pillow cases.

When it comes to transactions I have found Ghanaians to be very trusting. You never feel rushed to pay for an item and I have found that it is often myself indicating when I should pay vendor. To put things into perspective, I cannot see it being uncommon to pay for goods the following day, especially when they don’t have change.

In comparison to home you can really see the effort and raw materials that go into a finished product. As opposed to items being readily available on the shelf you have to think more creatively and it is noticeable that business is being done in a less competitive manner. There are very little luxury items on sale with a typical Ghanaian shopping trip consisting of buying necessities.

Home

After three flights, a series of orientation sessions and a 130 km/h journey in a truck I have arrived to represent International Service as part of the Trade Aid Project in Bolgatanga! Given that I am still becoming acquainted with my work and the Ghanaian lifestyle I thought a brief overview of my home for the next three months may give readers an introductory insight into what may be expected as part of the ICS volunteer programme.

So basically I am staying in a rented house along with 4 other volunteers and our team leader Therri. The closest thing we have to an address is literally:

Trade Aid Integrated

Civil Service Association Block                       

Near Regional Electoral Commission    

Our View from the Roof!

Our View from the Roof!

One of the many things that has already amazed me is the extent of unnamed roads. When asking for directions landmarks are normally used to signify junctions and local knowledge is paramount when describing the whereabouts of your home. In terms of our location, we are located a little off the main road and it is interesting to see how the established market town of Bolgatanga becomes so rural so quickly.

Within our bungalow we are fortunate enough to have our own room and some of us even have separate bathrooms. Aside from this, we have a general dining area and a kitchen. Another exclusive feature is our roof terrace which I will undoubtedly be using to sleep under the stars in the near future! In our small backyard there is a disused tractor, a number of chickens (I don’t think we will be eating them) and a friendly dog named Peace.

Our electricity has cut out once and I think our water was temporarily stopped last night nonetheless when living in such a spectacular and different environment these concerns become second nature and part of the experience. I have learnt all too well that a hot shower is neither available nor desired in Ghana, something I would never contemplate back in the UK.

I feel that living in more ‘basic’ accommodation is empowering and in many ways necessary. By living locally can you think locally and this ultimately means that perspective that once seemed alien can adapt to normality. Perhaps one of the major reasons I undertook this placement was to build knowledge and although I will gain a far more detailed perception in the weeks to come I can already see my journey starting.

Always nice to have someone waiting for you at the front door,

Always nice to have someone waiting for you at the front door.

5 Alternative/Weird Films

I hate Hollywood telling me what films to watch! So rather than looking at what’s on at the cinema I scour around the internet for interesting plots trying to find that gem of a film nobody has heard of before ordering it on DVD. Hopefully fellow film scavengers will stumble upon this list of films aiding them in their quest for strange, underrated and simply different films. I like dark films with multiple interpretations and good twists which are generally quite modern, so if that’s your thing read on!

INLAND EMPIRE (2007)

In comparison to the others I believe Inland Empire to be quite a well known film but one which definitely plays very far from Hollywood! Envisaged by surrealist director Daivd Lynch the film quite frankly has no plot…. Before I was forced to start interpreting the film I gathered that it was about an actress who was remaking a film that was supposedly cursed. I think I read somewhere that the best way to understand it was to try and split the film into four separate stories after the initial proclamation and before the final climax. Lynch uses a number of interpretative symbols, carefully selected characters and musical numbers throughout the three hour ordeal and although with some research you may be able to read Lynch’s plot plot devices he readily admits that he was making up the script day by day during production. After my dazzled first viewing I spent days trying to decipher the incredible mess I had just witnessed.

See if you liked: Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway

DARK CITY (1998)

A film that is quite prominent on many people’s underrated films lists, since its inception Dark City has become a cult classic. With dark gothic and steam punk elements Dark City follows the story of an individual who wakes up to find himself  framed for murder in an unknown city. Pursued by a strange race of shadow like beings called ‘The Strangers’ the films plot evolves into a much larger mystery and breaks the bounds how you originally think it’s going to play out.

See if you liked: The Crow, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix

THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (1995)

A French film about a group of clones and a talking brain that live on an oil rig and kidnap children from the nearby city (Not your average film). Steam punk is mixed with adult fantasy and a variety of peculiar characters are introduced such as a set of conjoined twins collectively known as the Octopus who undertake a Oliver Twist Fagin type role and the lone Diver who spends his life scavenging for treasures on the sea bed from his underwater lair. What follows is a child like story which is put together in such a dark and strange manner that it results in total uniqueness.

See if you liked: Delicatessen

INK (2009)

Ink portrays a world where good and evil psychically come out to play once we have gone to sleep and started dreaming. The film follows a group of ‘Storytellers’ trying to save a small girl from the evil ‘Incubi’. The consequent quest involves travelling across many different multidimensional planes of  reality and engagement with a variation of unseen boogie-monsters. Incorporating a good number of visual effects and a well perceived enemy Ink illustrates the battle of our subconscious from a interesting perspective. Perhaps the most amazing feat of this film is that it was done on such a small budget showing us that massive explosions and the backing of a major production company is not always necessary to make a great movie.

See if you liked: Very unique can’t think of anything like it

FRANKLYN (2008)

Perhaps after my love for Star Wars this is the best movie I have ever seen. Franklyn tells four separate stories: the first is about an depressed art student, the second is an unlucky gent who has been left at the alter, the third is about a father looking for his son and the fourth (by far the most interesting) is about a vigilante who operates in the dystopia Meanwhile City. As you may expect all four stories cross over as the film progresses collating a collective dialogue of repair for their damaged souls. The visuals of Meanwhile city are the best interpretations of a Gothic and religiously driven metropolis I have ever seen and the film makes an incredible effort to constantly question the limitation of personal belief. To top it off its an independent film made in Britain; a homegrown sector which I believe deserves the support of film fanatics, especially when it produces masterpieces such as Franklyn.

See if you liked: 1984, V for Vendetta

So there you have it! I hope you check out some of these movies which in my mind deserve so much more credit than they have received. Let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions.