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Sunday, July 02, 2006
ROAMING AND WORKING IN GHANA
This is the second installment's of Adam's first person account of his recent trip to Ghana. Be sure to read the first installment. Here we pick up the tale in mid-June.
I have done a huge amount in the last week and a half. After I emailed last I had one of the craziest/wierdest days I ever had. First I was almost arrested for jay walking and hit by at least 3 tro tros. About an hour later my friend Hugh used a public toilet. Afterwards we are walking along and this guy comes out of no where and grabs Hughs arm yelling "give me money, give me 500 cedis". We thought he was trying to rob us so we started yelling back but he wouldn't let go of Hugh's arm. I pushed the guy off Hugh and told him we weren't going to give him any money (although it may sound a little heroic & I should probably let it stay that way it really was not, we were in a crowded area). The guy kept yelling and I finally thought to ask him why he wanted 500 cedis (5 cents) which sounded like a ridiculous amount of money to ask for, let alone rob someone in the middle of a busy street. It turned out that it cost 500 cedis to use the toilet. We were both a little embarrassed and paid the man.
Thirty minutes had not even passed when we both bumped into a woman carrying her baby on her back with our back packs. The street was packed with people and there was no way to walk without collisions. The lady went absolutely insane screaming at the top of her lungs in an unrecognizable language. Her baby started crying and people started shouting. Needless to say we did not wait and see what would happen, we ran as fast as 2 obrunis with 50 pound packs on could possibly run.
A couple hours later on our way to Ada Foa we got off at the wrong tro stop (we needed to switch tro tros). We started asking around but no one understood us. One woman finally told us where we needed to be and we jumped into a taxi. I thanked her but before I knew it she jumped in the cab and was practically sitting on my lap. If this wasn't bizarre enough she started rubbing my thigh and wouldn't stop smiling at me. When we reached the tro station we thanked her again and told her we were fine by ourselves. She followed us to the tro tro and was expecting us to pay for her ticket to Ada Foa. We refused as it was 150,000 cedis and we had already paid for her cab fare. She started a huge scene in the middle of the station and started yelling and screaming and saying how we were abandoning her. Just to point out she was not homeless and looked better off then most people I have met (cell phone, name brand clothes, etc.). A crowd formed and they were all speaking in local languages so we had no idea what they were saying. It looked like she was lying to everyone and telling them that we ripped her off because we were getting dirty looks from everyone. She then told us that if we didn't pay for her the tro driver wouldn't take us. She finally stopped screaming and asked us if we were married. The tro pulled out and she slapped my arm as we drove off. WTF!
Ada Foa is a remote area on a small peninsula. We had to take an hour canoe ride to get to where we were staying. On one side was the Volta river and the other was the ocean. It was amazing to watch the local villagers fishing and their daily routines. We stayed in little huts made of bamboo. There was no floor to the hut (just sand) and the only thing in it was a bed. The place was absolutely beautiful. The bathroom consisted of a hole in the sand with a wood box on top of the hole and a small bamboo fence around it. At night we built bon fires on the beach. On Sunday I left with 3 girls and we began our trip up North.
I'm not sure if I had mentioned this before but I have really bad mosquito bites on my legs and they became badly infected. They are open wounds and a couple were really deep. On Tuesday night they were so bad that I was limping and could barely move my right foot. My right ankle was so swollen you could not see my bone. I really did not want to go to the hospital here unless it is an emergency after hearing many horror stories. I bought medicine at a pharmacy and by the next day the swelling started going down.
Anyway we reached our destination, MOLE National Park, on Tuesday after about 16 hours of being packed into tro tros. The last 3 hours were the worst. I was sharing a middle seat with no back with another person. There were 6 of us in one row and it was probably the most uncomfortable I have ever been. Half of me was on the seat and the other half was dug into a crack. Anyway we reached Larabanga and from there the only way to MOLE is to hike or bike. We rented the most rikety bicycles I have ever seen. The brakes didn't work, the tires were thin and not meant for tough riding, and the bikes felt like they would fall apart any minute. The ride was only 7 km but much of it was up hill and the sun was intense. The girls had to stop every 10 minutes to drink water and break so it took us forever.
MOLE was absolutely incredible and one of the coolest things I have ever done. The hotel was on top of a hill and at the bottom was a watering hole. From the pool you could watch elephants in the water. While we were eating breakfast a huge Baboon jumped onto the table and knocked over my coffee. Another time a Baboon grabbed this girls bag and pulled out her wallet and a granola bar and started running away. Luckily it dropped the wallet but kept the granola bar. On Wednesday we went on a safari hike with an armed guide. Guests had been injured in the past by stampeding elephants and water buffalo. Also a guide had been killed not to long ago by one of the many venemous snakes. They have Black spitting cobras and vipers. I never thought I would be so close to an elephant, literally 4 or 5 feet.
In the afternoon I followed a bunch of baboons around into the woods and got really close until an aggressive one leaped at me. There were also antelope and those huge pig looking things with the horns (i forgot what they are called). It was amazing to be so close to the animals especially the elephants. Some animals that live in the park that I would have liked to see but didn't were the lion, hyena, and leopards. It was an amazing trip and well worth the long uncomfortable tro ride.
On the way back to my village the tro driver ran over 5 goats crossing the road. It was absolutely crazy; he didn't have any expression or even slow down it was as if it was a daily occurance.
Yesterday I went to Shai Hills and hiked to a bat cave. We actually climbed into the cave and were only a few feet away from hundreds of bats which all started swarming, luckily not in our direction. At one point our guide said he didn't want to scare us but sometimes pythons crawl through where we were standing in the mud.
I am now in Accra for a couple of days. Tomorrow the political correspondant of a local paper will bring me to meet members of Parliament and said I can sit in on the Parliament session. Im having an incredible time and have mixed feelings about coming home.
Adam returned to his family's home the last week in June, after 6 weeks in Ghana. He wrote one more e-mail about the trip from suburban New Jersey (where toilets are toilets and there are no pythons.
It is really wierd being back and I miss Ghana. During my last week in Ghana I stayed in the capital, Accra for a couple of days in hopes of interviewing MP's. I had been assured that the interviews were set up for Monday morning. When I met the Political Correspondent that morning she informed me that we would go the next morning at 8:30 AM. I stayed in Accra that night and watched the Ghana vs. Italy World Cup Match. Although Ghana lost I felt that they played a good game considering it was their first World Cup match and was against Italy who is one of the best in the World.
The next morning I waited an hour and a half for the Political Correspondent to arrive. The plans were to interview members before the session started at 10:00 AM. Due to her extreme tardiness that idea was killed. I sat in on the Parliament session which was really interesting. Unfortunately afterwards all of the MP's had a full schedule and did not have time to meet. I did however have the opportunity to meet a Parliament Attorney who drafts legislation.
The next few days I spent painting a health clinic, playing frisbee and soccer with the kids, and hanging out with the volunteers. Friday night my friends flight was delayed 5 hours and this girl Tes and I agreed to go to the airport with him to wait. At the airport there was confusion regarding what time the plane would take off, so at around 1 AM he went through security and left us outside. We had planned to spend the night sleeping in front of the airport because it was too dangerous to walk or take a taxi anywhere that late. Luckily Tes starts a conversation with an Obruni in a business truck and swears that he is harmless. We ask him to take us to any cheap hotel in the area and he looks at us like we have 5 heads.
It turns out that he has lived in GHana for the last 5 years but in a luxury western lifestyle. He had no clue about cheap hotels and admitted he had never even taken a tro tro. He allowed us to stay at his loft for the night. As we drive up to his house I could have sworn we had crossed into another country. We entered a gated community, guarded by security, filled with mansions. I had no idea there were houses like this in Ghana. His company develops these communities for the
richest of the rich and he told us that many Ministers and MP's bought homes in the community. His house had electricity, a microwave, stove, oven, fridge, shower, televisions-- it was out of this world, - completely unheard of. Anyway it was kind of cool to see the rich side of Ghana. Poverty to riches and not much in between. His satelite television service is double the amount that most workers make a month.
I left on Sunday and it was upsetting to say goodbye. The kids begged me to take them with me but promised to write. I bought them notebooks, pens, and crayons and they were really excited. I also left many of my things I didn't need and would have thrown them out had the kids not wanted them. They even took my tooth brush and toothpaste. In the village most people use these sticks to clean their teeth. I gave my cell phone to Kwasi who was the forman for the building. The phone cost more money then he makes in a month and he can either keep it or sell it. Sunday before I left I sat in on the Church service and the Reverend dedicated almost the entire service to me. It was a really nice thing for him to do and I will never forget him, the kids, and all of the friends I have made. This was an AMAZING experience and I could not have asked for anything more. I would like to continue to help sponsor school scholarships to children in Kwamoso and any donations you are able to contribute would be greatly appreciated. The amount of money that it takes to fund a child's education is so minute to our standards that even $5 would be an extremely helpful gesture. (If you have a PayPal account and want to send $5 or $20 or... well, any amount, the e-mail address for Adam is firstname.lastname@example.org/) He has loaded his pictures online and if you would like please have a look.