June 27th, 2015
During our time in Kumasi, we went to one of the largest markets in Ghana. Besides the classic American farmer's market, the only other market experience I've had has been in Nicaragua. At that time, I was overwhelmed with the variety of goods, the different sellers, and the twists and turns of the Nicaraguan market. However, now that I've experienced the Central Market in Kumasi, any other pales in comparison. First off, the traffic entering the heart of city was insane. Cars and trotros turning every which way just to get an inch closer to their destination and people weaving in and out creating a tapestry of humanity. All I could see when I looked out the van window were faces. Old, young, male, female. Human beings at the heart of living: culture and trade. We had to be dropped off at the outskirts of the market because there was no parking. As we unloaded, we were immediately faced with people shouting, laughing, preaching, and rallying. The market is not just a place to buy and sell, but a place to exchange ideas and preach your beliefs.
As we wove through the maze of stands and stalls, we passed people selling grain, street food, fruit, shoes, fabric, flags, undergarments, hygiene products, electronics, and so many others. Then we got into the physical market itself. We had a gentleman leading us to certain reputable fabric shops so that we could get quality products for a good deal. We turned left, right, walked down one alley, crossed an intersection, walked sideways through narrow market aisles, went over rocks and cracked stoops - any outsider would be lost in a second. We we were walking so fast with so many people and things passing us by it turned into a blur. All I could think of was "If this isn't cultural immersion, I don't know what is." When we finally arrived at our first fabric shop, we were in awe. In the small cramped stall was floor to ceiling fabrics, some monochrome, some sparkling with metallic threads and everything in between. The only thing breaking our trance was the people trying to pass us in the two foot wide aisle. We started searching for the fabrics we wanted and ended up climbing a ladder to reach the perfect fabric for each of us. Just inside the door the owner of the shop sat at a sewing machine creating new fabrics to sell. The creativity and color emanating from this market is overwhelming!
We purchased our finds and continued through the market stopping at stalls containing printed textiles and others with beads. As we made our way out, we crossed over old train tracks into the area where food was being prepared. On all sides of the path were cow's feet, pig's feet, fish, and other meats being chopped, skinned, beaten, and cooked, all while people were roaming and kids were playing. In the states my shopping experience is calm and quiet with air-conditioned stores nicely organized and soft music playing in the background. Here, the stores are smaller, the atmosphere is louder, and "calm" is nonexistent. However it was one of the best experiences I've had on this trip. We are all quickly learning that in order to truly experience a culture we must fully immerse ourselves. When in Ghana, do as the Ghanaians do!
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