Friday, June 17, 2011

New Beginnings, Same Ol' Habits?

Hi blog! Sorry for the five-month hiatus! Phew! What a cool couple of months!

So, I've been living NOT visiting or staying but actually living in Ghana for about two months now. My short stay, I must say, has been packed with much fun, crazy excitement about the unknown and, of course, frustrations! Ahhhh, who can live in Africa without getting frustrated, really?

Here's one for you:

I recently resolved an issue with some employees of Electricity Corporation who kept postponing an appointment to work on my electricity pole. It took almost one week for an issue as simple as tightening the wire on the pole to be resolved, a task only ECG workers are authorized to perform. When the electricity folks finally arrived at my house, the line's man to fix the problem tried to sell this cock-and-bull story about my wires being in need of replacement and that he could supply new cables, get this, for GHC 300 (roughly $200) and charge a workmanship fee of GHC 50 (a little over $30). Now, $200 for electricity cables and $30 workmanship fee aren't much if you live in the U.S. But to even sell something of this sort and for that amount in Ghana is simply ridiculous. Not to mention that my house is not a new building to be in need of new electrical cables! Oh my! Dude was obviously trying to find a quick way to make some bucks because he picked up my American accent, figured I was fresh in town, and thought he could dupe me! Ha! Little did he know my eyes are wider and brighter than an owl's!

I returned from work rather late that day only to be briefed on the story. Apparently someone from my household had given him the GHC 50, after which he promised to return in a few minutes to fix the problem because he needed to pick up equipments from the office. Mind you, this was about 8 a.m.and guess what? At 7 p.m. the line's man hadn't returned from the office to fix the problem after 13 hours! And oh, he had switched off his phone. I definitely went into flip mode. Now, there are absolutely no words to describe the fire that imploded in my chest at that moment. We'll just say the mad African woman in me emerged. Of course, I reported the incident to someone higher in command who apologized and told me the cable story was ridiculous! So after threats of taking this to the police and practically calling all phone numbers I had for the ECG workers, the line's man finally came the following day to fix the pole. Ummm, he fixed the line alright AND returned the GHC 50. That's what I call a consumer exercising his or her power..

I refuse to believe that a nation such as Ghana, the first African country south of the Sahara to gain independence, cannot empower its citizens to stand up to crooks like this line's man. That such a person can be given so much dirty power to be used at the expense of others. I understand the culture of giving "tips" for EVERY WORK someone does for you in Ghana, even if it means performing duties the person is already getting paid for. I understand that, although it doesn't make sense. But I REFUSE to give power to anyone whose only job is to take advantage of me and other citizens of Ghana. That's doesn't work.

I believe these issues can be solved only if Ghanaians would stand up to these people.We need to feel empowered enough to say, "No, I won't allow you to take advantage of me. I pay me taxes, Ghana is mine as much as it is yours. I respect the words of the national anthem and I take my country and her people seriously."

Now I'm getting ideas...