Saturday, February 5, 2011

We really need to get those "sucker" stamps washed off our foreheads...

Collectively breathing a sigh of Anglophonic relief as we crossed the Togo-Ghana border, we were immediately intercepted by a moneychanger who, when told we had already converted our francs to Ghanaian cedis, advised us that we should wrap our larger cedis in smaller ones because the police would ask about it when we exited the border area.  Thinking that we might not have been allowed to change cedis outside of banks (Venezuela and Morocco both had similar currency controls), we pulled aside and quickly tried to cover our stack of 10 x 10-cedi bills with 1-cedi bills (provided by our new “friend”).  Despite trying to be discreet and blocking him out with our backpacks, our friend became very insistent and grabby, telling us we were doing it all wrong.  Tia pulled away, insisting we were fine, but he persisted, all the while attempting to pacify her by saying, “My sister,” in a bruised voice as Tia continued wrapping the bills herself.

He objects again to how she’s doing it and next thing you know he seizes the stack of cash!  Aaah!  We both inhaled an extra gulp of air, quietly panicked, and locked our eyes onto his hands.  No point in pushing and grabbing now because money could be lost in a scuffle.  He calmly shows her the best way to wrap each side, smacking cash for emphasis, before handing it back to her, in its entirety.  Convinced that we saw nothing out of ordinary, we speedily exited the border area (borders are stressful) and hopped on the first bus to Accra.  It wasn’t until we were settled in our hotel that we realized our stack of 100 cedis had become 50…  Yeah.  He Copperfielded half of the money while we both watched him. 

Despite reassuring ourselves that it’s just $33, we’re still pretty enraged whenever we talk about this border magician.  We’ve probably managed to avoid dozens of scamsters over the past seven months either through mental immobility or sheer ignorance; ironically, English worked against us because we otherwise would have just smiled and sauntered by.  And it’s true that constantly having to haggle for a fair price every time we walk outside, to shake our head at every guy selling belts or coat racks draped on his arm, to stone-face every hiss to get our attention (Tia particularly hates this) has truly begun to exhaust us…  It’s time for us to meet at the muster point for leaving Africa.

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