A true story, part II. Or is it possible to learn from our mistakes?

Hi Chrissie here. The kids and I are having a sweet sweet time in the Paris, but I thought I’d fill you in on our next exciting adventure of buying domestic airline tickets in Ghana.

Right, so after that debacle, which eventually got us to London, I swore: NEVER. AGAIN. WILL. I. LET. SOMEONE. DO. SOMETHING. LIKE. THAT. AGAIN. I understand and respect we have people whose job it is to arrange things like airline tickets, but those of you who know me, know that I am a pretty independant type of girl, and I am quite capable of organising a plane ticket. All by myself.

Lesson 1: Give yourself some time, plenty of time.

So, after dropping the kids off at school, I head to the airport, not once, but twice in 2 days to collect staff from the mine (I’ve become a errand girl in Kumasi, with the daily school drop off). Alas, day 1, the traffic is bad, and have no time to arrange a ticket, as my passenger is waiting for me when we arrive at the airport. Day 2, plenty of time. Stop at each of the 4 airlines which fly to Accra, and while I get pushed back in the queue, I do manage to secure the timetables. Notice however, that that ATM at the airport is broken. Right, moving on.

Lesson 2: Cash. Never forget it. Bill has already detailed the damn near impossibility of using credit cards in West Africa, but it still takes some time to adjust to having wads of cash on hand.

Lesson 3: A working ATM is a precious commodity in Ghana.

Day 3, drop the kids at school and steel myself for the excruciating experience of downtown Kumasi, Adom. Trip to DHL office: Done. Trip to Post office: Done. Trip to obruni supermarket and vegetable market: Done. Trip to bank to collect new ATM cards, despite having no idea what line to be in (etc. etc.): Done. Foolishly congratulate myself on a successful morning. I turn to the driver, Alex, and say “Right, lets go to the airport”. Feeling good. I’ve got this developing world gig under control. High 5’s all round.

Adom is adjacent to the Central Market. It’s busy, chaotic, the traffic starts busy, and by lunchtime is a snarl. It is everything a West African city should be. It is not however, somewhere you wish to drive across town to visit more than once in a day. Remember this.

I’ve driven around the labyrinthine streets of Kumasi, to kinda-sorta know my way around. I know that from Adom, down the hill means entering one of the seven circles of traffic hell. Alex turns left and we drive down….”Ah, Alex, where are we off to?” He replies “I thought you’d like to see the markets”. “Oh, ok”. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see the central markets, but just not today…not when I would like to get back to Konongo to get some ‘stuff’ done, and then turn around and head back to pick up the kids at 2.30. Time was feeling a bit precious…silly me.

But the markets are amazing, an ecosystem in itself. Driving, driving, admiring, driving, dead end roads, roads blocked by trucks. Have no idea where we are. Any polite queries to Alex as to the distance to the airport are met with a smile, but alas, no answer. And then he turns to me and says “And here is the Otumfo’s palace”. Nice. Nice. Didn’t really need the tourist route of Kumasi today, but well. The Palace isn’t visible bethind some very impressive gates, but there is plently of greenery about, which is not common in town. “Wow Alex, that’s very impressive. Can we head to the airport now?”

Careful reading of the above will reveal I missed one crucial aspect of buying an airline ticket in Kumasi.

I forgot to get cash from the bank.

*&#$^*())&$@$$%!!!!!

“Ok Alex, the ATM at the airport is broken, we need to find an ATM”. Polite smile. Language gap. “You know, cash machine?”.

I know there is one at a service station near the airport. Right, drive there. Ask where it is. Success. Snapped from the jaws of victory, it’s broken. More questions, always from car window. Apparrently drive aimlessly around general vicinity of airport. Hold on! I know where we are…if you turn right here…yes…just along here…is an ATM. Yipee! Ok, so its not broken, but just doesn’t have any money in it. Ok. We are smilingly assurred it will be 15 minutes.

Okey dokey. We’ll wait 15 minutes. tick…tock…15 minutes pass. Alex goes out to chat (like most drivers, he seems to know every second person in this country). At least we’ve got a good car space out the front of the bank. I pull out the trustly laptop and mobile internet stick (how I love you), and in fit of blinding optimism, I try and buy tickets online (For those of us in Ghana, fly540africa is the only airline which accepts credit card payments. Just thought it might come in handy one day). All goes swimmingly, until I encounter the same nanny state bank issues as Bill did. BUT. I. REFUSE. TO. GIVE. UP.

I Skype the bank in Australia, 4 times. each time with rising insistence in my voice that…I am in WEST AFRICA. I NEED my credit card to work. I am ON SKYPE and liable to drop out….

….any minute. Which, of course it did. 3 times. But remember this, and remember to tell your kids this…

Lesson 4: persistence pays off.

My name is Chrissie, and I broke through the nanny state bank system.

My name is Chrissie and I had a credit card payment of airline tickets in Ghana.

A proud moment,

Until, the pop-up screen informed me, the payment was unsucessful.

%$@%^&*!!!!!!

Deep breaths. Keep calm. You are not a cat in a tin drum…or whatever he called me.

A patient and reasonable phone call to a patient and reasonable man at the airline office informed me the payment was approved. An email to the same effect greeted me 5 hours later. I love you internet.

And the end result:

One can hardly complain.

8 responses to “A true story, part II. Or is it possible to learn from our mistakes?

  1. Wow, In Accra, ATM’s do work most of the time actually (expect friday nights and sunday morning that they are usually empty of cash) so it is not so bad, from what I have read sounds like Kumasi is so much better than Accra, I think My husband (he is from Zambia) and I should take a trip up there and see how it is. Also I was wondering do you guys DHL stuff to Australia, I am trying to send some boxed but keep getting mixed information at DHL and Fedex and so on. If you can you let me know how you go about it and how much does it cost you usually? Ta.

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  2. Hello Chris & Will,
    Ref : Your blogs 6-7th. June.
    Why bother with airlines & ticket hassle ? Found your own airline.
    UK has surplus Harrier jump-jets for sale – only used twice in Iraq & Afghanistan.
    Can land / take-off in confined spaces.
    Available from all reputable UK scrapyards.
    Special offer applies : Buy one, get one free (BOGOF).
    May run on refined coconut oil – but not very well.
    Also available where flood conditions apply : One reliable aircraft carrier ‘Ark Royal’
    All reasonable commission rate offers considered.
    Bear in mind that the UK economy needs your support – GB is now a registered charity.
    When is your book on Ghana to be published ??
    Regards to you all.

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    • Hello Alan!
      CHrist, its beena long time! I hope you’re wellYou won’t be surprised to hear that we have had a few discussions about helicopters – but no-one to date has considered VSTOL jets. The only thing you failed to mentioned is if they come with munitions? Could be extremely handy for when sarcasm has no impact.
      Stay out of trouble,
      Bill

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      • Hello Will & Bill
        Didn’t know you had been cloned.
        It’s ironic that it’s easier to contact you in a hole in the ground in darkest Africa, than in the Newcastle metropolis.
        Anne & I have read through back issues of your web articles & have been impressed with your insight of the way of life in Ghana.
        The only thing we knew about Africa was Stanley’s quoted introduction to Livingstone. We scored zero in your quiz.
        Had assumed that Accra was a Ballymena crow.
        Hours of school geography lessons were made obsolete when names of countries were changed after independence.
        Had thought of sending out your old Lyndhurst bike to solve your transport problems but realised that what you really need is a chauffeur pedalled tandem in keeping with your new-found status. Street credibility is always important.
        Was it wise to let Chris loose in Paris – the city of designer labels ?
        Your bank statement will make interesting scrutiny !!
        Good to hear from you after all these years.
        Look after yourselves.
        Alan

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  3. Pingback: Photo of the week | six degrees north·

  4. Hi chris, As I suggested to Bill there appears to be an opening for a travel agent in Konongo/ Kamasi/ Accura. Something you could both do in your spare time !!!!!!
    Love Rob xx

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  5. Pingback: A true story — part three | six degrees north·

  6. Pingback: get into the groove | six degrees north·

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