Over the last several weeks we’ve spent a lot of time looking at new places to live once school returns, we’ve given directions to new expats in Kumasi, I’ve drawn maps and dropped ‘pins’, made phone calls on the side of the road asking for directions. Why you ask?
There aren’t street address in Ghana.
It’s completely nuts.
This is one of those completely crazy aspects of living here that become such a ‘normal’ part of daily life, that you kind of forget that doesn’t happen elsewhere. And I can’t believe I haven’t told you about it before.
Ok, I’m slightly exaggerating, but not by much. The address on our old lease reads something like “Property No.72, Block Z, Plot 17, West Nhyiaeso, Kumasi” (not the real address). But despite this everyone tells me I live in Ahondwo, not West Nhyiaeso. Hell, we even had a street name. But if I jumped in a taxi and told them to go to Comfort R. Brobby Lane; they may not have a clue. Look closely at the above photo. If you were coming to visit us my directions might start something like this:
“Drive along the Obuasi road towards Santasi Roundabout; after you get to the shops which are slightly set back from the road after the Beauty Queen Hotel, keep an eye out for the Joy Baptist Church sign which is at an intersection where the tro-tros stop, and make a right there…”
Can you see the Joy Baptist Church sign? And at every bloody intersection the two-tros stop (or seem to anyway).
My friend Camille, an avid walker, has taken to walking the streets with a printed google map in her hand, and noting down all street names and where they change, which is often. Where Kufor I Road becomes Oasis of Love Road…then at home she uploads it all to Google mapmaker. So if you ever move to Kumasi, and note all the street names around Ahondwo are mapped in great detail, please thank Camille.
Even major roads suffer the same ignominy. The main road into Kumasi, named after the Asantehene (the King of the Ashanti’s), the Otumfo Osei Tutu II Boulevard is the Accra Road (logical enough really). The major road linking the Ahondwo and Santasi Roundabouts is called ‘Dr. Osei Tuffour Bypass’ more commonly known as ‘the road between Santasi and Ahondwo roundabouts’.
Why though, you ask?
I guess a lot of smaller houses have been built together and suburbs have grown organically. Clusters of houses built without needing to consider sewage services, or power lines, or water mains. Many of the streets are named after the people who live on them. Camille lives on Dr. J.G. Wood lane, two doors down from Dr. Wood.
And Ghana Post doesn’t deliver. If you want a letter delivered in Ghana, you need a P.O. Box, or a friend that does. So coming from a time when people’s sphere of life was much smaller, street names were perhaps not such a necessity.
And yet it persists. Check out this one for a detailed direction:
Coca-Cola’s head office in Accra has an address of ‘Spintex Road, Accra’. Spintex Road goes literally for miles. Healthi Life, a major juice manufacturer has the slightly more precise address of ‘Off Spintex Road, Motorway Industrial Area, Batsonna, Accra’. Perhaps it’s next door to Coke? But as with so many things here, the lack of our up-tight Western necessities, like addresses, just don’t seem that important.
How anyone found anyone else before mobile phones though, I’ll never know.
And while we have a street name, because no one else uses it, I persist in this ever so convoluted, slightly wacky game of spot that landmark.
Turn left at Confidence Spot,
Make at Right at the Yazz Toothpaste sign
And my all time favourite (Thanks Raynard):
And given my Twi language skills are abysmal, don’t even get me started on pronouncing town names…