“Yesss pure.” If you’ve ever been to Ghana you know this sound well. It’s the sound of women advertising that they are selling pure water sachets. I’ve gotten so used to buying small plastic bags of water from a woman with a bowl perched atop her head while I’m sitting in traffic that I’m not sure how I’m going to quench my thirst on the run when I’m back in Canada. (However, I’m willing to give up this convenience for potable tap water.)
Sachet water is followed closely by cell phone credit as the most common things to buy on the street. However, I’m beginning to think that there are few items I wouldn’t be able to buy while sitting in traffic, a theory I test often.
I once sat at work and wished my roommate and I had Scrabble to play at home. That evening I acquired the game (albeit a bootleg version) from a man weaving between cars selling board games. Going on a long trip and no time to eat breakfast or pack snacks? No problem. I can buy bread, boiled eggs (with delicious pepper sauce), cookies, kebabs, juice and water from out the window of a moving tro tro.
Though making purchases in traffic is accessible and convenient, there are guidelines, based on my own experiences and observations, to make your mobile shopping experience as smooth and successful as possible:
1. Know how much you’re willing to pay. In Accra, It seems that there are fixed prices for food, whereas everything else is negotiable. But traffic can start as quickly as it stopped, so don’t waste time trying to decide how much you want to pay.
2. When possible have exact change ready. Vendors will jog alongside moving vehicles while making change, but that doesn’t make it safe to do so, so be considerate.
3. If you see something out of the ordinary that you want; buy it. The problem with shopping in traffic is that if you pass something up, you never know if you’ll find it again. A friend of mine has been trying to hunt down a politically themed stuffed elephant she saw weeks ago.
If you are ever stuck in traffic in Accra, here are some of the items for sale that may cross your path—or lane:
• Hologram posters of Jesus
• Television antennas
• Ice cream
• Computer programming software
• Car parts
• Kitchen utensils
• Shoe shine kit
• Lint roller
• Full-length mirrors