ÖÖD – reflecting diversity / GHANA
ÖÖD inspires people to celebrate the beauty of any landscape through a game of reflection. Inspired by the passion for the outdoors, the ÖÖD mirror house that fits perfectly with the cool Nordic setting was facing a project in Ghana – the heat, the blazing sun, the palm trees, the sand, the ocean, the sunrise, the sunset, the people, and its many spectacular reflections.
Attracting interest in countries all over the world, ÖÖD has much to offer. Traveling around the world has given ÖÖD the possibility of speaking stories through reflections, surroundings, and people, but also through experiences. One is the experience of the ÖÖD people. Here is a story where ÖÖD meets Ghana and meets challenges, but everything gets solved with motivation, pushing boundaries, and a getting things done attitude.
The meeting of the four brothers
Brothers Bernard and Steve approached ÖÖD at UK Construction Week Trade Show in Birmingham in 2017 with the idea of finding a unique hotel for their business idea in Ghana. Brothers Andreas and Jaak were showcasing their new business venture ÖÖD, a unique hotel concept that was born in 2016 in Estonia, at their very first trade show. Little did they know that their meeting will realize as a project of five hotel units no sooner than in two years’ time. The understanding that they were all brothers managing their businesses together was a great ice-breaker at the time.
If the house in the trade show left some doubts in the air for the Ghana-born brothers, then seeing ÖÖD in its natural setting made all doubts disappear. The visit to Estonia to meet the factory, the ÖÖD team, and the house in the midst of nature was fruitful, and the brothers were instantly able to visualize the game of the mirror-glass on the beach in Anomabo. Although they were hesitant that ÖÖD as such a strong structure can be put up in the conditions of heat, humidity, scarce electricity, and lack of equipment on the far beach in Central Africa, they knew ÖÖD would be a perfect match for their business plan. They took on the promise of the Estonian-born brothers that they can do it. No problem!
At first, it was difficult to understand why Bernard and Steve were doubtful whether the houses can be put up in Ghana without witnessing human powers at their best. We had never had problems, why should anything stop us now? But once we had arrived in the heat of the blazing sun and understood that there really is nothing but the manpower to help us, we understood that we now faced a country of very different challenges.
Some interesting facts and haps:
- As soon as the A/C was installed ÖÖD house served as a human refrigerator. At times all 20 men at the same time, all happy as small children.
- Despite the fact that there are apartments in Ghana that cost as much as 800,000 dollars and people drive expensive cars as well as go shopping as their everyday pleasure, like we see every day here in Europe, just a few hundred kilometers further south there are people who live in very traditional Ghanaian buildings made of mud.
- One really needs some extra spare time to drive from one city to the other – getting back to Accra, the capital city, meaning more than 10 police stops on the way;
- “Have you seen the white guy?” A question that was repeatedly asked and everybody knew who they were talking about.
- Although we were repeatedly told that the people of the village don’t see white people very often, we actually got some proper proof for that. A child who had gotten stuck to a wire by his pants and was crying out at the beach escaped with zero problems and no further cries as soon as an unknown creature like Jaak had gone to offer the child his help. Two seconds was all he needed.
Let’s do it!
Without a crane or a forklift to unload the container, the help and strength of the local 15 men really came in handy. When handling the large and heavy glass panels of 170 kg the men often found help in singing, as they did while fishing, as we later found out. The spirits were high and the first day gave hope for the days to come.
We got our first horrific sunburn on the very first day when our traditional SPF 50 was far from enough. We understood that no measures apart from clothes, which was not an option, or working off-hours was enough. We quickly agreed that starting work at 6 AM was the best idea ever and happily resumed working at these hours.
We quickly learned that as the climate was not friendly also towards our equipment and as it was not easy to get access to necessary tools that were so common in our stores in Estonia, the team needed to be super creative. And we were. The Estonian and Ghanaian men joined forces. The missing tools were quickly reinvented, and the broken tools got either quickly replaced or fixed at a local TV repair shop. It was surprising to see how people of so different backgrounds and cultures found a common language so quickly and easily.
No problems, just solutions
Bernard has later given his feedback saying that this is the only way to get things done in Ghana and Africa in general. No problems, just solutions. The Estonian team was praised for being able to acclimatize and adjust to the Ghanaian way of working whilst instilling an efficient and effective Estonian ethic. Together with the strength and resourcefulness of the local men brought us the results we were looking for, without a day lost from the initial plan. Perfect cultural immersion.
Although the construction of an ÖÖD house is generally not too difficult, then the challenge lies in the ability to do it with primitive tools. Now we also know that to carry 170 kg glass panels or 6-meter steel beams for a kilometer and to install them without the necessary equipment is difficult, but definitely possible. Extra measures need to be taken and extra attention paid to otherwise elementary safety requirements, but this rather helped us stay sane in the long run.
We hadn’t spared ourselves a day more than in any other place where we have put ÖÖD houses up, so the first days with the broken tools and the hot days of blocked thoughts and sleepless nights should have got us super worried. Nonetheless, our main concern was that of different stomach diseases that seemed to threaten us every step of the way. The food we ate was definitely not something we had been used to, nor was the heat, and the scarce washing possibilities. The local bacteria, fortunately, didn’t find their way to us this time, and one of the major errors waiting to happen was kept away.
By the end of the second week, although we were physically functioning, our minds were done. It was very hard to make good decisions and use our wits to master the different situations that might come our way. This is when the sane minds of the locals came off another time to help. Starting groundwork for landscaping, our excavator was stopped by the local police on the grounds of suspicious behavior, possibly for gold mining. At first, it seemed funny, but when the owners were taken to the local police station, we really started to worry that our perfect plan might not hold. Luckily the problem was solved and we could hold on to our plane tickets as planned.
Later, at our last supper with the crew and the village people, one of the local men said that we were stopped because we had abandoned an important business tradition. Namely, every business is expected to start at the local Chief of Police Office (or in some cases with the King), drinking gin and ensuring, therefore, the luck of the business to come. Who knows.
Today we don’t feel that we are short of luck. We are very lucky and happy to read the nice words that Bernard sent us as feedback:
Tips for doing business in Ghana:
- Make sure you have the necessary vaccines done at least 10 days prior to departure;
- When obtaining visas stay away from Ghanaian Embassy in Germany, if possible. Choose the Embassy in Denmark;
- Your passports need to be physically sent to the closest Embassy in order to get a visa. This might be a problem if you travel frequently, so a second passport might come in handy;
- Fumigation was a mystery until our partner DSV helped to solve it;
- Apply SPF 70 every hour, indoors or outdoors;
- Plan to work early mornings and late evenings, if possible;
- Start with proper probiotics a week before your travel, and continue throughout the trip;
- Plan for a second, third and fourth share of work clothes;
- Get mentally prepared – for the heat, irregular sleep and sleeplessness, constant power cuts, lack of proper hygiene as well as home-made food, and worries about physical health