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Archive for September, 2011

Signs: part II

Driving through Cape Coast, I started taking pictures of the various signs, bumper stickers and names of shops. Obviously there are too many to count, but I did my best to give you a feel for the religious connection here. You can click on the images to enlarge them!

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Two weeks from today I will be en route to Paris. Seeing as I’ll be spending three weeks in Europe, traveling via cheap airlines and the Eurail, I did not want to have to bring along my large suitcase. So, about a week ago I called Charles De-Gaulle airport to find out what my options were.

Now, knowing that I’ll be in France, I picked up a traveler’s guide to speaking the language while I was waiting to board my plane in Europe. Trying to put it to use, I asked the man who answered the phone, ‘parlezvous anglais?’

‘Yes, I speak English,’ the man answered in an oh-so-French accent.

He proceeded to explain that there is a service allowing me to store my suitcase at the airport for a fee. After getting all the details, it was time to thank him and get on to other things.

‘Bonjour,’ I said and hung up.

For those of you not fluent in French, I told him ‘hello’ at the end of our conversation. But really, most people know ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in a language.

I’m doomed. And also fairly certain that I’ll have many more flubs like this in my near future because it’s not just basic French I need to know. I’m also going to Italy and Germany, so I have a feeling I’ll be fumbling between the three, German being my strong point.

Oh well! Hopefully it will provide you some entertainment and I have no reason to be upset if that’s my biggest concern.

Aloha! (Thankfully a word that bids both hello and adieu)

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From Accra to Cape Coast and back.

Friday 9/23/11

The view from a tro-tro.

A car repair shop in Nima.

Dumpsters in Nima.

A sunset in Nima, a portion of Accra, illuminates the telephone wires and antennas.

A different view of the sunset as a shop begins to glow.

A station in Accra just after dusk.

A man selling children's shoes at the station.

Saturday 9/24/11:

An attempt at taking a picture of the ocean through the window.

After doing a little searching on google, I think this is a weaver bird of some sort. It's hanging on its nest.

Look at all of them!

A lizard and his shadow.

This crocodile positioned itself between me and my purse.

A hillside full of houses in Cape Coast.

A shop in Cape Coast.

Sunday 9/26/11:

View of the ocean on a sunny day in Cape Coast.

Looking out from the overhang at Brenu Beach.

Palm trees at the beach.

A cute little girl who wouldn't stop smiling in our shared taxi.

Accra's lights at night, blurred by the tro-tro's speed.

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Flying sardines

You know the game ‘sardines’? Where one person hides and everyone else has to find that person, squishing into the hiding space until the last one looking becomes ‘it’ the next round? Sometimes I feel like I’m playing that game when I’m riding on a tro-tro. Especially Sunday night, trying to come back from Cape Coast when there weren’t many options.

VYING FOR A SEAT

As much as I wanted to just stay in Cape Coast, I knew I had to go back to Accra and having to wait for a decent ride was frustrating. Sure there were some tro-tros and buses that pulled up, but they were either in bad shape or had a TV in them. You would think I would want to have a TV to help the two hours pass.

Wrong.

Ghanaian and Nigerian soap operas are the usual entertainment and the sound quality is bad. So when someone cries or yells in the show (which is often)  I feel like I might lose my mind or go deaf, or both. Yes I’m being dramatic, but it’s so loud and I can’t nap or listen to music, let alone hear myself think.

After waiting for an hour, we finally got a seat that many people were fighting over because it was a newer van. They packed us in, four per row, and we were on our way.

HURTLING ALONG

Again I asked myself, ‘what is overspeeding?’ (reminder that there are signs on the roads reminding drivers that ‘overspeeding kills’) Our driver did not seem to worry about the definition or consequences. I have yet to see anyone pulled over and my friend said it really only happens during daylight. Convenient.

The 50 km/hr ( approx. 30 mi/hr) speed limit was insignificant to him; we did double it and then some. Granted, the roads were paved, but when you have 22 people crammed into a van and do not slow down in the slightest for speed bumps, it is scary.

I’ve taken to closing my eyes at times when I don’t know what’s going to happen.

For instance, when we got stuck behind a line of cars who were driving slower than us our driver wanted to pass (they say ‘overpass’) them. Well as we started to do so, the car ahead of us did too. Regardless we kept going. That is, until a bunch of passengers started yelling at the driver, ‘take your time!’

NOT AGAIN!

Shortly after we had driven over another set of speed bumps as if they were non-existent, I heard a strange bumping noise. My mind flashed back to a tro-tro ride when the tire had popped and I glanced around the van to see if anyone else was alarmed.

I was not alone. We were trying to figure out what it was because the driver paid no attention to it. Right as I was envisioning us careening off the road on three tires, I realized the passenger in the front seat had not buckled and, while the van bumped along, his seat belt clanked against the door frame.

Crisis averted.

FRESH AIR, PLEASE

Throughout this 90 minute ordeal (naturally we made it back in good time, passing up a van that left at least 20 minutes before us) the smell of body odor occasionally wafted in my direction. The gentleman to my left was wearing a coat, despite the heat of the day, and kept dozing off while leaning on the seat in front of us. Due to his positioning, his armpits were exposed and he was also leaning into me when we turned corners. I nudged him a few times, then just gave up. I knew I needed a shower, too.

A SERENE WEEKEND

Thankfully, I had a good time in Cape Coast and it was sunny, unlike the overcast skies of our last trip. Along with the suspended walkway at Kakum and poking crocodiles, I also walked around the town a bit and went to a beautiful beach on Sunday.

Needless to say, I reflected on those calm moments while flying over speed bumps and holding my breath.

Brenu Beach, a relatively secluded spot just west of Cape Coast.

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Today I tried a few new things: ate some passion fruit, sucked on some cocoa beans straight from the large husk (you don’t eat the bean itself, just the sweet coating it’s in), a new type of nut  that I can’t remember the name of and touched a crocodile.

After walking the canopy bridge at Kakum National Park again (why not?) with my Irish and English friends, I wanted to stop at a hotel on the way back that had a restaurant overlooking a lake with crocodiles. I didn’t realize you could get your picture taken with one and again figured, ‘why not?’

That is, until I got within 20 feet of it! One of the female employees guided me toward it and ensured me that it wouldn’t bite me. The way it’s body was turned, though, I kept having visions of it whipping its head around and taking my arm off. So, I took a break and then tried again after Douglas did it.

It wasn’t much, just a finger, but his eyes were on me and his buddy was making his way up the banks so I figured I should call it quits.

Even though I was the one who said I wanted to touch the crocodile, she literally had to drag me at first!

As close as I got on my first attempt.

I touched him! Even though my finger is not actually proving it in this picture, it happened a second later.

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Memorial to Ghana's first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Wednesday was a holiday here in Ghana. It would have been the 102nd birthday of Ghana’s first prime minister and president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He helped to bring about the country’s independence from Britain in 1957; the first country in Africa to gain independence.

Before gaining independence, the country was known as the ‘Gold Coast’ because of the large amounts of gold found there, if you didn’t already guess that.

About two weeks ago I visited the memorial park that was built to honor him and holds his remains. Along with this newer statue symbolizing his quote, ‘forward ever, backward never’, there is another older, bronze that was vandalized when his government was overthrown by a military and police coup de’tat in 1966.

Personally I find it symbolic that, even though they removed his head, his arm is still lifted as if indicating his vision of Ghana as a republic will not falter.

A defiant stance.

The plaque explains that 'a patriotic citizen' returned this portion of the statue.

In the background is the mausoleum built for Dr. Nkrumah. In the foreground is one of the peacocks that were given as a gift to former President Rawlings.

And it hasn’t.

While the country has had some trying years, Economy Watch named its economy the fastest growing for 2011. There is some debate as to how true their assessment is, given that a large source of income is the newly discovered oil off the coast that foreign countries are vying for, but the point is that they’re moving forward.

Yes, I’ve complained a bit about the roads and infrastructure, but I know that when (not if) I come back in a few years, I’m going to be amazed by the differences. I do worry about the errors the country will make along the way, but I know it’s necessary in order for them to learn and continue to grow.

From what I have seen in the six week I’ve been here, Ghanaians are proud of their country and their history. That pride will, hopefully carry them forward and encourage

From back to front: a display of flags, a monument for the unknown soldiers and the bowl that holds an eternal flame. Directly behind this is a large open-air space with seating where national celebrations are held.

The Independence archway is also called Black Star archway. It reads, 'AD 1957 Freedom and Justice.'

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I got onto the tro-tro this morning in a daze. The 20 other people on it were all silent and I stared out the window, lost in my thoughts.

When someone started tapping on my shoulder, I turned around quickly and found that everyone in the back of the tro-tro was staring at me. They motioned to a woman on one of the back benches. I smiled, assuming she wanted to talk to the Obruni or something.

Their response to my smile was more gesturing and incredulous looks. I then realized that it had nothing to do with me. The woman just needed to exit the tro-tro and my seat was blocking her path.

I spent the rest of my 90 minute ride attentive and ready to move when necessary and was reminded that it’s not all about me.

In other news, the worms appear to be dying!

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