Power and Potholes

Power and Potholes

20131105_152331It is now time to talk about two of the most troublesome aspects of living in Ghana – electrical power and rough roads. I can’t put it off any longer, as these two areas are the absolute worst that I have ever seen in my life. I have up to this point tried to keep from disparaging Ghana in any way, but I must be honest and up-front about some things. And especially if anyone is reading this Blog and saying “Hey, that sounds like fun. Maybe I’d like to relocate”. Before you take that step and join me in my adventure, you should have a better idea of what it’s really like here.

When looking at the roads in Ghana, many of them are paved and well-traveled. The main highways and streets perhaps even resemble those that we drive on in the U.S., though stoplights and “rules of the road” may be missing. Traffic is often very heavy, and the driving is hectic and wild on the paved roads. But once you leave the pavement, it’s another matter altogether. And I would hazard a guess that unpaved roads compose close to 75% of all surface road area in the country, with that percentage increasing with distance from urban areas.

20131105_152335I called them “potholes”, but that’s not quite accurate. What we’re really talking about is deep pervasive ruts. Ruts so deep that you actually rock from side to side, grunt as the vehicle drops suddenly, and cringe when noises are heard from the bottom of the car. The roads are nothing I would voluntarily drive on, but they are an accepted way of life here. No-one avoids them, because often they are the only path to the place you need to travel. Every time we turn a corner and I see the road we need to traverse, my stomach clenches along with my teeth, and I grab whatever is close to hold on. Sometimes I even close my eyes, but often I can’t help but stare in morbid fascination at the vision of where and how far we need to go. It is truly a test of nerve and bravado. I am actually amazed that the roads are not littered with mufflers, transmissions, suspensions and other paraphernalia. But I’ll tell you – I would not drive any car that I care about around this country.

Now, regarding power (or rather, the loss of), electricity goes out very frequently here in Ghana. How frequently? Well, it can happen at any time, for any reason – and often once every day! Sometimes it lasts for 10 minutes, or even 10 hours. The rule of thumb is, if you have something that needs charging, plug it in as soon as you get home! I don’t understand how any business that relies on power can be successful here. I would be very frustrated, as I am just trying to use my computer. In the U.S., power outages most often occur because of violent weather outages, but here there is no rhyme or reason. One moment it’s there, the next it’s not.