I believe that hawkers belong in the Things I Like About Ghana serial.

Traffic in Ghana, and particularly the Greater Accra Region, is nightmarish. Everyone moves bumper-to-bumper, roads are in a constant state of disrepair, people make hairpin turns without regard to pedestrian or crossing vehicles. I quake in fear of a twenty-car pileup every time my tro-tro is stuck in traffic directly behind a gasoline truck.

However, because traffic is so often at a standstill, half the things you might possibly want to buy in Ghana stream by your window in the hands of hawkers.

Hawkers also exist as you walk down the street, of course, but the experience is most vivid, and frankly most reassuring, from a car window. Reach a highly trafficked spot and suddenly your tro-tro is surrounded by people clutching wares in their hands–anything from handkerchiefs to meat pies and ice cream to keychains to energy drinks–screaming the name of the item, most often preceded by yes. “Yes plantain! Yes plantain!” “Yes Mentos!” “Yes pure water! Pure!” “Yes Christ!” (This last does not, in fact, refer to retail purchase of the Savior, though I guess that wouldn’t surprise me; one of the biggest bread bakeries near my workplace is called “Christ in You,” and all its bread bags bear this moniker.)

Often, the traffic will start moving again right as a transaction is being made. In this case, the purchaser continues to hold his arm out the window with the change clasped in his hand and either throw it (which seems terrifically rude to me) or wait for the hawker, now running at a pace approximately equal to the vehicle’s, to catch up to the window. It can be amazing to watch.

I’ll admit that the onslaught sometimes makes me feel slightly crazy and slightly claustrophobic, and that being singled out as a more likely purchaser to be harassed more directly gets under my skin (to coin a phrase), but it counts as a point in favor of the nation that half the things you want converge upon your car, ready for purchase, the instant you want them.

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