The Ghana Files: Run-in with the police.

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, our plan last night was to go out to a nearby jazz club. Two friends of one of my fellow volunteers arrived at the hotel to pick all 5 of us up in their mid-sized sedan. We were told to pile in, two in the passenger seat and four in the back. We questioned the legality of this plan, but were assured that it was OK. As we drove from our hotel through the neighborhood of Legon (a pretty swanky ‘hood) to this alleged jazz club, we came across a police checkpoint. Since there were 5 of us in a 7 person car, two people got out to walk through the police checkpoint as the other five stayed in the car and drove through. As we drove forward two armed policemen shone their lights into the car and motioned for us to pass. Shortly after passing through the checkpoint, we pulled over and waited for our other two friends to make it to the car. Piling them back in, we conned on to find this place that boasted live music.

Upon our arrival at the restaurant, it was dark and empty with no live music to speak of. We were disappointed, but hungry. We decided to stay for a bite to eat. I was excited by the signs advertising fufu, a popular Ghanaian dish that I have yet to try. When I ordered, I learned a valuable lesson about eating out in Ghana. First, it was made clear to me that fufu is not an evening dish. Apparently it takes quite a long time to make, so it is more of a lunch time thing. Second, most of the things on the menu probably will not be available. We were once again offered chicken and rice.

After we finished up, we piled back into the car and were headed back the way we came. At this point we were only six people, as one of the friends had been picked up by another friend of hers while we were eating. As we approached the police checkpoint once more, our driver did not instruct any of us to get out and walk. I guess he decided to take his chances this time, since there were only 6 of us crammed in. As we passed through it was the same routine, armed guards with their flashlights. Only this time they didn’t motion for us to pass. Our driver was told to pull over and get out of the car. At this point, we are all sitting in the car wondering what the heck is going on and what they could possibly be talking about. After several long minutes, the driver returned to the car and we asked him what was going on. Apparently the police officer was asking for a “fee” to let us pass without any trouble. This fee was originally 30 Cedis, but after being told we were volunteers the officer reduced it to 10. We gave in, paid the fee and were finally allowed to be on our way.

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