Watch your step!

On the way to the “Kwashieman Junction”, where we usually buy our foodstuff, we have to climb some stairs, which are all of different height. I don’t know how this happened. There might be a deeper sense behind it, which I don’t see. But it was most probably the sloppiness of the constructor.
It doesn’t matter anyway, because I doubt that anybody but us even cares.

Why am I telling you about the stairs? Because nobody cares!
If it was only for the stairs, no problem.
But just as unsteady as the stairs are, are the regulations and moods of many of the Ghanaian officials. And that’s what we just had to learn the hard way and what this story is about: A word i just looked up in the dictionary and probably never forget: arbitrariness
Actually it’s also about boundless belief in authority, as a reason for the arbitrariness.

But just read it yourself…

Last week Jeff, Ragna and I had to go to the ministry of Immigration to extend our visa, which will expire in a few days. Jeff’s application was approved, whereas mine, which was handled by another officer wasn’t. As our current occupation we had stated “volunteer”. But apparently the lady didn’t agree with that. Thus, she asked me to apply for a working permit, which would have been much more expensive and complicated to apply for. When we advised her on the fact that Jeff’s application had just been approved, she certainly canceled it as well. That’s how we started a discussion, given that everybody had told us different formalities and the homepage stated something else anyway. And then, at the moment they admitted that we actually are working as volunteers, the regulations changed again and even volunteers needed a working permit. I don’t have to tell you the rest of the one hour discussion.

The reason why those officials can just set up their own rules and why we had to leave the office without an extension of our visa is the daily Ghanaian mantra: never question authority! But where does this boundless belief in authority come from? People might call it a typical African habit.

I thought about that and was reminded of some good manners like respect for the elderly, which are deeply rooted in the Ghanian culture: In most Ghanian families you can still be seen as a child, even when you are getting to your 30’s. What still counts when you are talking to an elderly person is: obey! You’ve got a younger sister or brother? Good! Don’t hesitate to send them around to buy something or wash your clothes for you.

Another thing that comes into my mind is the ex-cathedra teaching you’ll observe in many Ghanaian schools. Children are not taught to ask questions, but to learn by heart what they are told by the authority, their teachers.

But then, the reason for it might be something totally different. I would probably have to write a dissertation to fully understand. Luckily, there is still some other work to do for Boa Nnipa and you won’t have to read more explanation attempts of a political science student, who starts to miss her university.

But I hope, I was able to give you an impression of the problems we’re facing here from time to time and the questions that come along with it.

– Carla


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