Notes from the Gold Coast: A lesson in patience

It has been over a month since I first set foot on Ghanaian soil and, I must say, my urge to do everything fast has been greatly reduced. Thanks to the laid-back pace at which virtually everything is done here, I no longer feel the need to rush things.

I came here in mid-May with four other students as part of the university internship program run by Journalists for Human Rights. Three of us, including myself, are posted in Kumasi, a metropolis approximately 250 km north of Accra. This is the fourth week that I’ve been working as an intern at Luv FM, a local radio station.

The learning curve during my first week was a steep one. There were many adjustments to be made to my expectations and my behaviour. There was the constant heat, the stifling humidity, the strange food, and the foreign (re: local) language, not to mention the myriad body language and expressions I just couldn’t grasp fast enough.

The most challenging adjustment I have had to make, however, has to do with my patience – or lack of it.

Things seem to happen at a different pace here in Ghana. Foreigners have an expression for it; GMT – Ghanaian Man Time or Ghanaian Maybe Time.

I got my first lesson on GMT during my first week on the job. I accompanied one of my colleagues to an opening ceremony for the Jubilee Oil Exhibition at the Kumasi Centre for National Culture. As we were driving out of the office, I read the programme for the event and noticed that it was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. It was currently 10.45 a.m. Alarmed (unreasonably, I now realize), I noted this to my colleague. He simply shrugged and told me not to worry. The event probably hasn’t started yet, he said.

He was right. As it turned out, we were far ahead of time. The opening ceremony actually began at 12.30 p.m. after all the respected dignitaries, including the Regional Minister, arrived. No one seemed overly bothered by the delay, apart from my colleague who had to meet the 2 p.m. daily news deadline.

The same laid-back pace applies to the food here as well. Street vendors are one of the more common places to get your daily meals. Many of them operate from make shift wooden carts displaying the words ‘fast food’ on the front. However, the food is anything but fast.

For almost every night since arriving in Kumasi, I have been going to the same fried rice vendor for dinner with my fellow interns, Chris Tse from Carleton University and Leah Wong from Ryerson University. Every night we would be invited to sit on a wooden bench behind the stall to field questions about our order – fried rice with beans, cream (mayonnaise), pepper and chicken (for Chris). It takes about 10 minutes for our order to be ready. This is despite the fact that the fried rice is pre-fried in bulk and our order is the same every night.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. A month ago my inner road runner would have balked at the Ghanaians’ lack of urgency that accompanies everything I do back home. I’ve learned that, even though there’s no rush in getting things done, things do get done here all the same. The food gets served, goods get delivered and children get to school just like anywhere else in the world.

Now I enjoy the calm that I feel when I get up in the morning. If I miss my tro-tro (minivans packed with extra seats) to work, I’d simply wait for another one to come by. After all, what’s the rush? I might be a little late getting there, but I’ll get there eventually.

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