Urban Planning. What a concept.

I have been in Ghana now for about two weeks and one of the things that first caught my attention was the basic dysfunction in city services and urban planning. There are no waste removal services here. The only time I have ever seen a trash can was at a gas station and plastic bags are how EVERYONE contains their goods bought at a market. Water here comes in small rigid plastic bags, which I have watched people throw out of tro-tros (Ghanaians main approach to public transport, basically large vans stuffed in with up to 35 people in them.)

Children sorting through trash for plastic bags

I took the above picture on my way to visit the school where I will be teaching in the fall. It is not uncommon to see large hills of trash on the side of the road. Since there is no trash removal service, most people take to setting their heaps of trash on fire, causing toxic smoke to billow out into the village.  The children sorting through the trash were collecting the plastic water bags, some entrepreneurs have started businesses where they make reusable bags out of smaller plastic bags.  You can actually buy these bags from the states through an org here in Ghana called Global Mamas (www.globalmamas.org.) Other kids sort through trash to find items that could be made  into toys. I saw one boy who was dragging around a car made out of  a water bottle, with bottle caps for wheels!

Driving on highways in Accra can also be nauseating because taxis and other vehicles often take off their smog regulators in order to maximize their mileage. There have been several times on tro-tros where I have had to hold my breath because of the smog coming in through the windows.

Fact: More people here have cell phones than have plumbing in their homes.

And on a different note…..

As promised, a religious street vendor sign

This is one of the signs that I mentioned in a previous post. The prevalence of Christianity in every day life is really interesting to observe, yet I have also seen a fair amount of Muslims here and it seems that the different religions are observed in peace with no disrespect towards the other. I wonder if it is easier here because Ghanaians have a natural kindness to them, yesterday I was walking down a path with ingredients for dinner I had bought at market and my bag broke. Ginger and onions rolling in the dirt, two women with baskets on their heads came up to me and helped me fix the bag so it wouldn’t break and I could finish my walk home.



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  1. Bob Crothers says:

    You’re definitely your mother’s daughter, and I’m sure she is very proud of you.

    Long way from home, aint it?

    Stay well.

  2. Brian F says:

    A few thoughts-

    I saw some of the same issues with trash collection in Arab areas of Israel and the West Bank. You can tell an Arab section of generally Israel from the amount of trash you can see lying around on the ground. Arabs get much less in terms of state and social services from the Israeli government, actually get much less as a pecentage of all services that they are a percentage of the overall population. I myself saw people lighting trash piles on fire and people rummaging through trash piles in Arab sections of Israel. In the West Bank, the Palestinians Government is very underresourced and is struggling in general to meet many basic services, and it it appears the Israeli government is going to withhold the Palestinians tax revenues again Even when they try to engage in trash collection, Israeli military checkpoints restrict freedom of movement, making it difficult for things like trash collection.

    Didn’t make ti Gaza, but, as a rule, everything is pretty awful there. Tons of trash everywhere and debris also form the many rounds of fighting there

    As far as Christianity being a huge force, I saw the same thing in Liberia. I saw less trash because very few people are working and their is very little in the way of goods or services being produced compared to anything else I’ve ever seen. But the Muslim minority there and the Christians get along quite well (even intermarry!). Seems to be the way of things in West Africa, the notable exception being Nigeria…

  3. Nancy says:

    Carroll and I really look forward to your pictures and observations, Sy. So glad things are going well there. Take care and enjoy!


  4. Lila says:

    Yes, reminds me of Mexico… the smell of burning trash. The moment you get out into the rural areas there is no trash service and everybody is burning stuff.
    At least the kids are learning the value of recycling…be it to make a toy or turning it into something marketable.
    The girls say hi. Annika keeps asking when you are coming for dinner. I will let her know that you are busy cooking in Ghana. Have you had any issues getting LP gas for cooking?

  5. Donna Spencer says:

    I take trash collection totally for granted. I take so much for granted. Once more let me say thanks for making our world a better place.

  6. Jennifer Dickson says:

    Sy– I love living vicariously through you!

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