Tag Archives: Africa

Forward, forward, forward and forward-back

1982-3

First trip abroad: Phones in the post office and travelers checks and stamped mail

1986-1994

Phones in a home or hotel and a credit card and travelers checks and stamped mail

1997

Phones in a home or hotel or calling cards for pay phones and a credit card and stamped mail

2000

Phones in a home or hotel or calling cards for pay phones and internet access at a friend’s house and a credit card and an ATM card that works for local currency and stamped mail and email

2007

Cell phone with a local SIM card and internet access at a friend’s house and a credit card and an ATM card that works for local currency and and email

2011

Cell phone with a local SIM card and wireless access at cafes and at my neighbor’s house (and eventually at mine) and writing checks(!) for local currency at the cashier at work and email (and stamped mail if ever I get to Timbuktu). (Too much fraud for ATM and credit cards to be safe and most of what you buy is from small vendors). Sometimes the old becomes new.

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Top-off

I decided to go the pay-as-you-go route for a Ghanaian cell phone. That’s what everyone does. First after finding every store closed last Saturday I ended up at a Vodaphone place and asked for a SIM card with some amount of time on it. I learned they call it a chip here, and then you buy little scratch of cards with certain denominations to add money or “Top off” your card. You can top off your card in the store or buy the scratch-off cards from little kiosks of even guys sitting on a chair under a big umbrella (red for Vodaphone) like the guy a half a block from my house. My friend Nana’s sister told me most people have chips from all of the companies and top off according to which company has the best deal at the time. Vodaphone now has a bonus 2 for 1 credit going for the next couple of months. Buy 10 cedis worth of time which expires in about a 3 months, and get 10 cedis worth of time which expires in a week. (I’m finding 10 cedis is a little over an hour of calling to the US, which, at the current conversion rate is about $6.67, so it’s about 10 cents/minute.) At another time MTN will have a deal where it’s unlimited calling to another MTN phone, and some other company will come up with another deal. I’m glad I have an unlocked phone. Meanwhile, someone should design a little SIM card/chip wallet so I’d be able to keep all my chips straight (including my USA T-mo one).

Traffic

When my un-air-conditioned car gets here I am not looking forward to driving certain places and certain times of the day. I have never seen traffic jams like this—it’s worse than the north side of Chicago. In comparison Chicago traffic actually moves. It’s also more like Rio, where there are four lanes of traffic in a two lane road. Yesterday we were on a two-lane street with three lanes going north and one going south. (And the outer “lanes” are scary given that the edge of the road is a two foot wide by five-foot deep trench for water run-off that sometimes doubles as a urinal.) I suspect I’ll be living in first gear and melting in the car and will have to freeze gallon jugs of water for the 45 minute 2-mile trip to the grocery store. Or maybe I’ll tag along with someone who does have air conditioning. Or maybe I’ll just start walking with my little red wagon until I get hailed by a purple and yellow taxi.

Star-spangled countryside

Looking out of the window of the plane as we flew over Côte d’Ivoire at midday, I noticed the towns and cities sparkled—like the lights were on in the middle of the day. I’d never seen that before, and knew it couldn’t be lights, but I wondered what the sun could be reflecting off of: windshields? I was stumped until our descent over Ghana, where I noticed that many of the houses were covered with corrugated metal roofs. Eureka—my stars! I am now living in one of those midday stars, and last night I was treated to quite a symphony by one of our tropical torrents. Considering I love sitting in my truck during storms, I enjoyed this rhapsody in rain.