Sawa Sawa Le

February 14, 2012 § 5 Comments

If you know the original lyrics to this high life song by Erekosima “Rex” Lawson, please kindly send them to me. I know little about the song besides the beat and hook, and that it was a very popular tune for my parents’ generation. I’ve been told it’s a bit about Ashawo (prostitutes), and others have said it’s about the beauty of African women. Who knows, but I still find it catchy?

And speaking of Ashawo, I found myself smack in the middle…

Ok, let me start from the beginning. I’ve been staying out later than usual lately. Lots of rounds, people to see, traffic…I could come up with a lot of reasons, but I seem to get home late (for me 7pm is late). Anyway, I got to Madina from the city Thursday night to catch a bus back to my village around 7:30pm. I wasn’t sure if there’ll be any tro-tro coming back to the station for the few of us left, but we all decided to wait a while. Sure enough, one Benz 206 came through, and luckily, it was the last bus.

On the drive out, a station conductor who was catching a ride home pointed out to a female passenger in the front seat (seated next to him…I was behind the driver in the first row) a girl standing next to an empty stall. I didn’t catch more of the conversation, but I surmised he was referring to her as a prostitute, and I guess that was her preferred spot in the market. I have to admit, she was very attractive. We banked left in front of her and I glanced for a few quick seconds. On any other day and without prior knowledge of her chosen profession, she could be someone I wouldn’t mind getting to know. I’d heard about Ashawo plying their trade there after market closing, but I’d never had the opportunity to see this for myself. In fact, up until that Thursday evening, I’d never seen a prostitute in person before. For a brief moment, it felt cool to see my first one, but then my mood quickly turned down as I found it sad that she felt she had to do this for a living. I wondered if I’d see her again, but my mind switched to thoughts of the traffic ahead and everything I’d have to do the next day.

Friday evening came, and I found myself back at the market looking for a ride home. No luck this time. It was 8:30pm and no trucks were coming. About 20 of us waited another 15 minutes before quickly dispersing. As we waited, I turned a few times in the direction the tro-tro usually emerge into the station to see if any were coming, but I imagine I was also looking back at the night market in full swing. No, I didn’t see nor did I hope to see any persons getting it on. But the view from the bus the night before had wetted my curiosity appetite. They streamed in and out of this shady drinking spot tucked in a corner right in the station like waiters do at busy restaurants. There were a handful standing near a gate and this closed massage parlor. It was not so hard figuring out who was who. Tight shorts, short tight dresses, short skirts barely covering butts. It seemed the dress code was short, tight, shimmery, and pretty much anything that allowed quick and easy access.

As I walked out with the rest of the stragglers to the main street at Zongo Junction to find Adenta rides, I saw where and why all those girls had been bussing in and out of that drinking dive. There’s this tall back wall framing the market from the east and next to it was this unlit footpath where all these girls I guess had been taking their customers. I was a good 200 feet safely away, but it was one interesting view for someone who’s never seen the sex trade in all his life. For all you tourists who seem to dive straight to Accra Mall or Oxford Street in Osu to look for entertainment, you’ve been going to all the wrong places. Five minutes in the market around 9pm on a Friday night will do more than 2 hours at any of these places and it won’t cost you anything (i.e. if you’re not stupid)!

Past the wall is this street that runs parallel to the main thoroughfare, but mostly full of fresh foodstuff wholesalers- i.e. during the day. Night time, it turns out, makes this street where all the fun is usually had. Nearly the entire street is strewn with Ashawo! I felt like I was walking the plank or running the gauntlet (whichever analogy works best for you). It was strangely thrilling and embarrassing at the same time. I felt like I was the one on stage for everyone to look at. I was totally out of place with my black shoulder bag and very preppy look. Some were dancing in place; others were quietly getting friendly with potential customers. There was one-way traffic of cars you normally don’t see on that street and it didn’t take long to know why they were plying that route at the time of the day. I guess I had wandered too close to one of these girls as I’d been look straight up at the mass 50 yards in front of me.

“Do you want to go short?” she quietly asked in Twi.

I turned my head slightly to look at her. Then with a wry smile and a shy wave of my hand, I walked on. A neighbor friend joked later that “long” would’ve meant, I’d have to bring her home. She must have been no more than 20. It’s hard to gauge ages with the makeup, scantily-clad outfits, and all the accompanying accessories. There was no Julia Roberts or Pretty Woman in the bunch. Some were outright hideous, which seemed to confirm an old and crude adage I’d heard a long time ago: “cat” has no face. Some men, it seems, would go for anything as long as they get the desired end result. With each step, I grew more and more anxious and the quick daydream of those health clinic posters of pics of people with STDs really put me off. I’d had enough, and thankfully, I was near the exit of this long street and needn’t attract attention with the run out I was considering.

It wasn’t long before I got a tro-tro headed to Adenta, and the crazed taxi ride home (this guy’s head was barely above the wheel and he keep trying to overtake cars). I thought of that girl from Thursday night. I wondered how many 2ghc she needed from each client to make ends meet and for how long, and at what permanent and harmful cost. Oh, well…I had light-off and there were more pressing thoughts like where to buy candles at 10:30pm and which of my foods had gone bad. It was off to bed and the hope that my veggies were still good by sunrise.


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§ 5 Responses to Sawa Sawa Le

  • Chris says:

    Eeeeeeiii wo y3 akola b)ne!!! What are you doing strolling around ashawo hangouts? I can’t keep my eye off you for one second!

  • Chris says:

    dude, when we lived close to Circle, the hang out place was right on the Overhead Bridge. They didn’t even bother to hide as they “took care” of their customers.

  • Mike says:

    WOW! I’d heard about circle when we were younger, but thanks to school schedule, I was never around in the evenings to see for myself. You really had to be there last friday. It was too funny at certain moments.

  • D says:

    I’ve seen the shashiwos(think thats in a song too) that post themselves at Cantonments roundabout. Besides their extra short clothing, they look pretty regular to me.
    Shoot its hard to figure what a stereotypical prostitute looks like around here since I’ve been mistaken for one while visiting a hotel lobby/cafe for free wi-fi.
    Go short? trying to figure that one out.

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