After crossing the border between Aflao, Ghana and Lomé, Togo twice last week I have come to the conclusion that granola bars are incredibly valuable currency. The chocolates were good, too, but maybe too much as I think I overstepped my bounds with that gift. Oh, and the value of the Ghanaian Cedi is still the same. These are the lessons I took away from my little jaunt to Africa.
I understand the concept of a little gift, just to grease the skids. It is a way of life in many places and, indeed, in many places that don’t want to admit it. So I wasn’t all that surprised when I approached the immigration official at the border in Aflao, Ghana and she asked me what I had brought her as a gift. Okay, I was I little surprised. She caught me off guard and all I could think of that I had other than cash – and there was NO WAY that was going to happen – was a couple granola bars that I always have in my bag. They’re light, cheap (especially when pilfered from the Continental Presidents Club) and can generally be trusted to hold me over if I’m on the road and don’t have time to stop for a meal. And in this case they also made “F”, the immigration officer, very happy. We joked a bit, talked about where I was from and I thought nothing more of the incident.
Fast forward about 20 hours as I’m passing from Lomé back to Aflao. “F” is sitting at the same desk when I walk in to the building.
Hellooo, New York. Do you have any more granola bars for me??
Yeah, she said it with a cute smile, but she was quite serious in the request. But that wasn’t what really spooked me. The other woman working in the room was apparently a bit jealous. As soon as “F” spoke up the other managed to chime in that this time I would need to produce two granola bars to keep the peace. Fortunately, I did actually have two left and I got them out. I saved my Almonds but also decided to splurge for the rest of the agents and offered up some M&Ms that I’d had in my bag for a couple months. Apparently I aimed a bit too high with that one.
While I finished filling out the forms and got my passport stamped “F” got to walk around the office giving out the chocolates to all the others. Apparently I empowered her a bit too much. At least that’s the impression I got from the minor snarl I noted as the boss man stamped the passport welcoming me back to Ghana. Apparently I should have offered him something directly. Oh, well. Maybe next time.
“F” then came over to ask if I had an email address or was on FaceBook. Yeah, apparently they’ve got that problem in Ghana, too. I gave her a card and passed up the opportunity to ask for a photo with her – a decision I regretted immediately and still to this moment – and then headed back out into the hot, dusty world that is Aflao, Ghana.
I honestly doubt that the granola bars really affected my passage one way or the other. But sharing them – and especially being remembered for it on the return – was certainly entertaining.
As to the value of the Ghanaian Cedi being the same, well, that’s a story that I owe some thanks to Everton for sharing with me. The Ghanaian government adjusted their currency a few years ago, dropping three zeros off the end of all the values. But they did it in a manner that was non-inflationary. An old 10,000 note became a new GH¢10 note and the prices adjusted in kind so that either one worked to get the same goods. Of course, there was a significant PR push to convince the people of the country that the value of their currency would, in fact, remain the same. Hence this video:
Indeed, the value is the same, though there is no mention of what a granola bar converts to.
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