Obroni! Black American! American black boy! These are all of the names I received while walking through the Kumasi Market. Prior to this journey, I was Informed that the market was very chaotic for new comers, that many foreigners felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave, and that I would be given marriage proposals by women throughout the walk. I thought reaching and entering the market was difficult, but little did I know what I was bound to encounter on this once in a lifetime experience.
Thinking back on it now, I can say, “Wow, did I really see what I think I did and did I really just experience that?” The answer to those questions is yes! Traveling alone is different than traveling with Abrofou (a group of whites). When traveling in large groups, all eyes are on your every step, and your actions and interactions with those around you determine how you are treated. I enjoy being friendly and always try to immerse myself within the culture, so I enjoyed this situation. There are others in my group who are not shy, but who are not accustomed and willing to be in situations such as the one we were about to experience while entering the market.
In describing the market, I would state that there is a method to the madness. With hundreds of vendors and thousands of items to choose from, there is a system in place in which vendors are making profit and consumers are leaving satisfied with their needs and desires fulfilled. Filled with emotion, I wasn’t sure what to expect when first entering the market. I could just see rows and rows of people that were moving quickly in every direction. It reminded me of a stampede scene from an action movie in which people were moving at a certain speed and looking determined to reach their destination.
Was I truly ready for this? I thought to myself, “YOGO” (You’re only in Ghana once). When all 16 of us entered the market, it felt like time had stopped. The world had stopped spinning and everyone in the market turned to look at us! We were instructed to stay in a single file line and to try and keep up with the person in front of us. Rule #1: Don’t get lost or distracted! Proceeding through the market, we saw items of all sorts, people of all varieties and animals from each food chain.
A few minutes into the market, most of the group decided to stay in the cloth area but the rest of us were eagerly thrilled to continue our mission through more of the market. Our leader Sonny Lewis, who is a local, knew the directions in which to go in order to give us a slight but impactful glimpse of the market. Six of us continued and all six of us finished. Battling with the natives, we stayed together but at times were separated, particularly me. There was one point where I was so behind and lost that I stopped at three shops to ask for directions and to see if they had seen a group of Obrunis that looked amused and confused.
The aromas that filled my nostrils were indescribable. Some smells I couldn’t distinguish, while others made me smile in relief or frown in disgust. The smells of spices and fruit caused me to become hungry, but the smell of fish ended that hunger with a quickness. The smell of fish was so potent that it lingered with me for a majority of the trip. Walking through and seeing all the fish was astonishing! I saw fishes of all sizes, shapes, and types, but that smelled lingered with me all day and still rests in my t-shirt and shorts. The second most astonishing section was the “meat section.” Our guide warned us that this section was probably the most visual in terms of seeing things we’ve never seen before. He wasn’t lying! Intestines, cow heads, livers, ribs, sausages and feet were amongst the selections. I have never seen anything like this in my life before and don’t think I ever will again! There was a full cow head on the table, teeth included. Wow. I still can’t believe the things I saw and smelled in that market. These will be imprinted in my mind and nostrils for a long time to come.
Exiting the market, we heard loud music and saw people dancing in a large circle. We joined the party and began dancing with the natives. This seemed to amuse the people of the market and before we knew it, we had hundreds of Ghanaians surrounding us and multiple dancing with us. Come to find out, we had joined a funeral party and were celebrating the life of a late market vendor member. What a great way to celebrate life.
With all this being said, the experience was amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The format of the market is very similar to those in the United States, but the size and number of people are extremely larger. Exploring for an hour, we only covered 25% of the market. If I had the chance, I would definitely return and explore more and converse with more people. Growing up, I was told to always try new things before saying no, and this is an experience and story that I can tell that not very many others can.