The Amazing Race, Ghana – Part 1
On October 1, 2010 | 0 Comments

The premier episode of The Amazing Race (AR), Season 17 began on Sunday, September 26. In this CBS reality TV show hosted by Phil Keoghan, several two-person teams race to a winning destination via multiple countries in which they must complete several kinds of tasks as they pick up various set clues. The last team to reach the pit stop on each leg of the race is eliminated and sent home, with the exception of the occasional “non-elimination leg.” So each week generally sees the reduction of the teams by one, until there are 3 teams left to battle it out in the final episode. The winning team receives a large cash prize. I have to say that some of the tasks are unbelievably difficult, both physically and mentally.

The team pairs always have some kind of life connection: husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend (there are also gay couples), parent-son/daughter, etc., and part of the drama is watching how they work together under the stresses of the assigned tasks. Last season there was a brother-brother team who in spite of their declared mutual closeness constantly got into furious arguments with each other.

However for me, the most fascinating aspect is experiencing different countries and cultures through the eyes of the AR contestants and the filming crew. In one season where the teams went to India, one or more of the contestants were brought to tears as they witnessed the brutal conditions of poverty. Before this experience, some of the AR participants had had no clue that people could possibly be that poor.

As far as Africa is concerned, AR Season 2 was in South Africa, host of the recent FIFA World Cup 2010, and Namibia, and AR-12 was in Burkina Faso for the infamous camel-milking episode. Not only did some of the camels refuse to cooperate, the team members performing the task had to fill a calabash up to the line and then drink the stuff. Yummy.

This Sunday, October 3, the AR teams will be in Ghana. At the end of last Sunday’s premier episode, the brief preview of this upcoming Ghana leg of the race had Phil Keogan’s voice-over saying, “Next episode, teams are overwhelmed in Ghana.” I’m sure there will be some unique incidents, but I think I can predict some of the areas in which the teams will have a difficult and probably frustrating time.

(1) The sweltering weather: In the unbelievable Ghanaian heat, whatever tasks they perform, the teams are going to be drenched in sweat and may even run the risk of severe exhaustion and dehydration. From the preview, it appears at least one team will perform a involving the use of a truck-pusher’s cart.

(2)The crowds: The teams will probably be in Accra, but whatever the city, they will have to navigate through and around dense collections of people.

(3)The traffic: I bet none of AR’s teams has ever seen the kind of aggressive driving and razor thin margins between vehicles as in Accra’s traffic.

(4) Getting directions and lack of street signs: the larger streets may be named, but the smaller ones will not be, and many locals (especially the young) will not know the names of most streets – nor will taxi drivers. Interestingly, elderly Ghanaians (in their 80’s or 90’s) often have a good knowledge of street names, especially in Old Town Accra. In my next novel, CHILDREN OF THE STREET, several streets are specifically named and are accurate to the best of my knowledge, but it required time-consuming poring over a map and my repeated visits to different streets to cross-check and match them to the map. Finding one’s way around in Ghana may be exasperating to foreign visitors because directions to a location or landmark will almost invariably be given as “near” or “past” yet another location or landmark.

Another potential shocker for the teams will be if they must pass through a slum area like the notorious Agbogbloshie.

Whatever happens, the teams will be in for something of a culture shock. Some may also have some great moments, though, as they encounter the engaging ebullience of Ghana’s people. Once this episode of The Amazing Race has aired, I will review it here on my next blog, so look out for it.