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Posts Tagged ‘ocean’

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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From what I’ve seen in the month that I’ve been here, Ghana has a garbage problem. More specifically, a plastic problem.

Yes, goats will eat almost anything, but should they?

Animals eat it, children play in it and it clogs the waterways that run through the cities. While watching the waves roll into shore along a beach in Accra, the debris in the water came into focus. My friend Douglas explained to me that, when it rains (as it had the day before), all of the garbage that people throw into the sewers is emptied into the sea.

A stretch of beach in Accra, Ghana.

Looking down at the beach, I realized that the ocean was literally spitting everything back onto land. The Gulf of Guinea is saying, ‘No, thanks’ (maybe not as nicely). There’s no way for the ocean to regurgitate all of the junk, though. And it’s not just a problem in Ghana: all of our oceans are increasingly filled with plastic and garbage.

The water in most streams found in the city often looks like a science experiment gone wrong.

It’s not just the water, either.

For the most part, I’ve visually adjusted to the litter in the streets. But when I noticed the hollowed out portion of a tree lining the sidewalk had become an overflowing garbage can I was surprised.

A large contributor to this problem is that the ease of using plastic bags and water bottles has taken over here (as it has in the rest of the world). Unfortunately, recycling has not.

At least, not on a large scale. Efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Global Mamas, Trashy Bags and the Baobob Children Foundation to repurpose the plastics lying around Ghana are helping. Purses, wallets, rain coats and other accessories have been made out of the various plastic containers.

But I think the mindset of the larger population also needs to shift before sanitation improves.

In Tamale, a city in the north, I noticed that the streets aren’t as cluttered. I mentioned it to someone and he explained that it had to do with poverty and people reusing everything for monetary purposes. While that could be the case, I’ve seen a high level of poverty in Accra, too. And garbage. Why haven’t they followed suit?

One form of recycling that I’ve seen in Accra is both clever and interesting to look at: broken glass as a safety measure. Slather some cement on top of the wall surrounding your house, strategically place some shards of broken glass and ta dah! Your very own home security system.

Yes, I’ve seen garbage in other countries. I’ve never seen so much in one area, though. And what I find even more disheartening is that it’s difficult to pinpoint a solution. Charles Moore, an oceanographer, discussed the effects of our ‘throwaway society’ on the environment at a TED talk in 2009.

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